Who/What do we Celebrate in Africa in 2021 ?

Although 2021 has globally been a tough year, there are still events that lend to celebration. As we turn the page of 2021 and delve into 2022, it is good to note that in 2021, a lot of “firsts” have taken place on the African continent. Below are a few of the events that brought joy. There are many more, of course, but I selected 11. Enjoy, and add in the comments other celebratory events that have marked the continent this year.

  1. Hulda Swai_1
    Professor Hulda Swai

    Tanzanian professor Hulda Swai wins the 2020 prize of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental Awards for Scientific Excellence in February [Professor Hulda Swai of Tanzania Wins Distinguished Science Award: ‘Women are as good as men’]. This is a highly prestigious scientific award in Africa.

  2. In May, a Malian woman gives birth to 9 babies (from natural conception). This marks the first single birth and survival of nonuplets in the world. Halima Cisse, a Malian woman, has given birth to nonuplets, 5 girls and 4 boys, in a hospital in Morocco [World Record: Malian Woman gives Birth to Nine Babies].
  3. Herero_chained
    Chained Herero men

    Germany agrees to pay Namibia €1.1bn over historical Herero-Nama genocide in May of this year. This is historic, late, and probably not enough compared to the loss in human lives… yet it is important! The money will be paid over 30 years in aid programs…  (probably a way to siphon money back to Germany, while appearing to be giving something), and pales in comparison to the billions worth of Namibian diamonds and cobalt mine that will profit German companies in fine print [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century].

  4. Laurent Gbagbo
    Laurent Gbagbo

    In June, after 10 years of imprisonment, and over 20 years of persecution, Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Cote d’Ivoire finally lands home amidst celebrations from his supporters in the country and abroad [Laurent Gbagbo is Back in Cote d’Ivoire]. Although there have been subsequent disappointing actions on his part, it is nonetheless a victory over the International Court of Justice, and all the persecution Blé Goude (How long shall they kill our prophets…?), him, and countless others have gone through, and remains a major cause for celebration, as it shows that, for a just cause, perseverance and determination always bear fruits.

  5. In June, Petra Diamonds pays Tanzanians for its abuse [Petra Diamonds pays £4.3m to Tanzanians ‘abused’ by its contractors]; this is significant as it shows that it is not impossible to demand reparations from these giant companies that pollute our lands and abuse us. It sets a precedent.
  6. Tokyo2020
    Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

    Late July marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after one year of postponement, and Africa wins new victories. Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui offers the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming; Hugues Zango of Burkina Faso gives his country its first ever medal at the Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the men’s triple jump; while Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends his Olympic title at the marathon becoming the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons [African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics].

  7. In October, Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah is awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature, making him the fifth African to win the illustrious prize [Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah awarded Nobel Prize of Literature]. As you can see, the African literary scene is flourishing.
  8. Somalia_The Gravedigger Wife
    “The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Khadar Ahmed

    A Somali love story, the Gravediggers’ Wife is this year’s FESPACO winner [Somali Love Story, The Gravedigger’s Wife, is this year’s FESPACO winner]. The FESPACO, which is one of Africa’s biggest film festival, took place this year after the pandemic and lockdowns, and an 8-months delay because of security reasons [FESPACO 2021: One of Africa’s Biggest Film Festival is back!].

  9. 100 years after René Maran, an African wins the prestigious French Prix Goncourt. The award was given to Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. This is the first time that a Sub-saharan African person wins the prize, and the third time for a Black person in the almost 120-years history of the title [100 years after René Maran, An African wins the Prestigious Prix Goncourt], even though people of African descent make up so much of the French population over the past century.
  10. Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
    Benin Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin man shark (Musee du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac)

    In November, France returns some artifacts of the kingdom of Dahomey to the present-day country of Benin; these were looted when the French burnt down the capital of King Behanzin at Abomey over 120 years ago [France returns 26 Artifacts from Behanzin’s Era to Benin]. Similarly, the Benin Bronze cockerel held at the University of Cambridge from the famed Benin Kingdom [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground] has been returned to Nigeria. This is still little, as they should all be returned to their rightful owners; it should not even be up to negotiation.

  11. Congolese Rumba has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. Congratulations to both Congos, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for working together. We do hope that this is just the first step in a collaboration that will extend to other domains including economic success and beyond [Congolese Rumba Wins UNESCO Protected Status].

Now, there are a lot more such as David Diop winning the International Booker prize for his book “At Night All Blood is Black” which focuses on Tirailleurs Senegalais; or the Senegalese influencer Khaby Lame being ranked number 2 on Tik Tok for his wordless humor which transcends language barriers and cultures (he is the fastest growing Tik Tok influencer with 120 million followers); or even Madagascar’s secretary of police, Serge Gelle, swimming for about 12 hours to reach shore after his helicopter crashed in the Indian Ocean off the northeast coast of the country. When rescued, Gelle said “My turn to die has not yet come, thank God.” So let us all be grateful for this year, and for the people and events who have brought joy to our lives, and let us move forward to a new year. 

Who/What did we say Goodbye to in Africa in 2021?

2021 was no doubt a tough year the world over, with a continued global pandemic, stressed economies, and much more. What a year! Africa said goodbye to quite a few people, events, and more. Below are a selection of 10 events of 2021. I am sure that I have left quite a few out…

  1. John Magufuli_2
    President John Magufuli of Tanzania

    In March, President John Magufuli of Tanzania changed dimensions. It was heartbreaking to see someone who had done so much for his country go away so suddenly. Nicknamed the “bulldozer” he had a reputation to be incorruptible [So Long to President John Magufuli of Tanzania: The Bulldozer], and under his leadership Tanzania saw growth and development. Magufuli was focused on Tanzania’s economic success and sought to implement ambitious projects that would lift more of his people out of poverty. Under his reign, he expanded free education, and rural electrificationTanzania was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, thanks to his hard work [President John Magufuli in His Own Words].

  2. SA_Goodwill Zwelithini
    King Goodwill Zwelithini (Source: sahistory.org.za)

    In March, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu people of South Africa passed away. He had been king of the Zulu for over 50 years, since 1968 when he had succeeded his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu. Over these 50 years, he saw his country change from the apartheid regime to the Rainbow nation. At the time of his passing, the King’s Great Wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini was appointed as interim leader of the Zulu Nation under the title of queen regent from March 2021 to April 2021, when she passed away suddenly. King Goodwill Zwelithini was succeeded by his son King Misuzulu Zulu.

  3. In June, the very popular Nigerian pastor T.B. Joshua departed from this planet. He was a legendary charismatic pastor who was visited by presidents, and people from around the world; it is said that his church was Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction.
  4. Kenneth Kaunda
    Kenneth Kaunda

    In June also, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, first president of Zambia joined his ancestors. At 97 years old, he was one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders. To a generation of Africans, he epitomized the Africa struggle for independence. Affectionately known as Mzee, Kaunda worked tirelessly towards the freedom of the whole of Southern Africa from white rule; he supported the fight of other countries against repressive, racist regimes in South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Why the name: Zimbabwe?). It took several years, but his support never faltered.

  5. In September, Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya of the Bamun people of Cameroon perished at the hands of the virus which has paralyzed the planet. He was the 19th reigning monarch of the Bamun Kingdom in the Western province of Cameroon. He had succeeded to his father, the sultan Seidou Njimoluh Njoya in 1992. He has been succeeded by his son Nabil Mbombo Njoya. At 28, Nabil Njoya is now the 20th in the Nchare Yen dynasty of the Bamun people.
  6. In November, F.W. De Klerk, former president of South Africa, and last president of the Apartheid era, passed away. He is known for releasing Nelson Mandela from prison, after 27 years, disassembling the apartheid system, and sharing the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.
  7. Ethiopia_flag
    Flag of Ethiopia

    Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis started bringing tears to our hearts… Not sure how to explain the Nobel Peace prize given to Ethiopia’s prime minister Ahmed Abiy in 2019, when I see him choosing the war path instead of peace now. He is presiding over a protracted civil war that by many accounts bears the hallmarks of genocide. This leads to skepticism towards these “prizes” handed over by the “international” community. It has been over a year now that Abiy ordered a military offensive in the northern Tigray region with the promise to have it resolved quickly. Thousands are now dead, 2 million people displaced, and much more.

  8. Mozambique_Flag
    Flag of Mozambique

    Loss of peace in Mozambique. Last year, I told you about this amazing oil fields and precious minerals found in Mozambique, and all of sudden the presence of Islamic insurgencies [seriously?… Islamic insurgencies… I think these people probably take us for idiots] starting there right after Total signed one of the biggest contracts ever for over $14 Billions, and the united nations of thieves [seriously check it out, banks for Japan, EU, France, India, US, etc…] descended on the country [Who/What did we say goodbye to in Africa in 2020?].

  9. King Kêfa Sagbadjou Glèlè, monarch of the once-powerful Dahomey kingdom, in the country of Benin, has joined his ancestors. Bear in mind that King Kêfa descended from the Agoli-Agbo line, the one installed (not the rightful bearers of the traditions) by the French after King Behanzin was deported to Martinique and then Algeria.
  10. South Africa_Desmond Tutu_1
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Source: The Namibian)

    Just the day after Christmas, we learned that Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic anti-apartheid fighter was deceased on December 26. As the tributes pour in from around the world, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said, Tutu had “inspired a generation of African leaders who embraced his non-violent approaches in the liberation struggle.” At 90, Archbishop Tutu had lived a long fruitful life, battle-tested by life under apartheid. The plans include two days of lying in state before an official state funeral on 1 January in Cape Town.

France returns 26 Artifacts from Behanzin’s Era to Benin

Behanzin, king of Dahomey
Behanzin, king of Dahomey

Last Wednesday, on November 11, 2021, artefacts that had been looted by France 130 years ago were finally returned to Benin. As you recall, on November 17, 1892, the colonel Alfred-Amédée Dodds led a French expedition into the Kingdom of Dahomey. The colonizing troops broke into the palace of King Behanzin at Abomey, and looted a huge number of royal objects, ancient statues, royal thrones, sacred altars, and much more. Upon the troops’ return home, Colonel Dodds donated the stolen objects to the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadero in Paris; they have been housed at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac since the 2000s. It took 130 years for them to be returned to the homeland. So you can imagine the joy of the people and celebrations that followed. The collection – known as the Abomey Treasures – will remain in a room at the Benin presidency while the museum is in construction. As a slight note, only 26 colonial-era artefacts have been returned at this point, as you can imagine these represent only a fraction of the 90,000 artefacts from Sub-Saharan Africa still held in French museums. 

Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
Benin Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin man shark (Musee du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac)

This is nonetheless a step forward, albeit small, and Benin President, Patrice Talon, said, “The stars have been aligning for Benin for some time now. The symbolism of the return to Benin is about our soul, our identity – to use a word that is easier to put on it to understand. This return is testimony of what we’ve been. The testimony of how we existed before.”

For more information, check out the articles on Euronews, and ABC. Enjoy!

 

Amilcar Cabral on the Colonizer installing Puppets

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

As you all know, we have seen in recent coups and throughout history, that the colonizers/oppressors in Africa tend to install fake chiefs, or rather puppets to serve their interests. Remember when Agoli-Agbo (French puppet) was installed after King Behanzin was deposed in 1894? or Patrice Lumumba with Joseph Mobutu in 1961, or more recently Thomas Sankara by Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso in 1987, and countless others … history repeats itself. This behavior is not just observed at the top of the country, but even at the levels of the local traditional chiefs… where the successions are contested thus breaking the will of the people, and the passing on of a culture, effectively destroying the oppressed. I could not have said it better than  Amilcar Cabral, himself during his February 20, 1970 speech, as part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. Enjoy!

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

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the colonizer who represses or inhibits significant cultural activity on the part of the masses at the base of the social pyramid, strengthens and protects the prestige and the cultural influence of the ruling class at the summit. The colonizer installs chiefs who support him and who are to some degree accepted by the masses; he gives these chiefs material privileges such as education for their eldest children, creates chiefdoms where they did not exist before, develops cordial relations with religious leaders, builds mosques, organizes journeys to Mecca, etc. And above all, by means of the repressive organs of colonial administration, he guarantees economic and social privileges to the ruling class in their relations with the masses. All this does not make it impossible that, among these ruling classes, there may be individuals or groups of individuals who join the liberation movement, although less frequently than in the case of the assimilated “petite bourgeoisie.” Several traditional and religious leaders join the struggle at the very beginning or during its development, making an enthusiastic contribution to the cause of liberation.

But here again vigilance is indispensable: preserving deep down the cultural prejudices of their class, individuals in this category generally see in the liberation movement the only valid means, using the sacrifices of the masses, to eliminate colonial oppression of their own class and to re-establish in this way their complete political and cultural domination of the people.

… among the oppressor’s most loyal allies are found some high officials and intellectuals of the liberal professions, assimilated people, and also a significant number of representatives of the ruling class from rural areas.

… Without minimizing the positive contribution which privileged classes may bring to the struggle, the liberation movement must, on the cultural level just as on the political level, base its action in popular culture, whatever may be the diversity of levels of cultures in the country. The cultural combat against colonial domination–the first phase of the liberation movement–can be planned efficiently only on the basis of the culture of the rural and urban working masses, including the nationalist (revolutionary) “petite bourgeoisie” who have been re-Africanized  or who are ready for cultural reconversion. Whatever may be the complexity of this basic cultural panorama, the liberation movement must be capable of distinguishing within it the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from the reactionary in order to characterize the master line which defines progressively a national culture.

Confronted with such a necessity, the liberation struggle is, above all, a struggle both for the preservation and survival of the cultural values of the people and for the harmonization and development of these values within a national framework.

Queen Ranavalona III, the Last Monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

Today we will talk about the last queen of the Kingdom of Madagascar, Queen Ranavalona III. She reigned from July 30, 1883 to February 28, 1897. Like many African kings and queens of the late 1800s and early 1900, she was deposed by the European colonizer, in this case the French, and sent into exile first on the island of Reunion, and then later in Algeria (just like the King of Dahomey, Béhanzin) where she died, never to see her native Madagascar again.

Map of modern-day Madagascar

Who was Ranavalona III? Well, as her name goes, she was the third Malagasy queen with the name Ranavalona. She became queen after the death of her grand-aunt, queen Ranavalona II. Ranavalona III was born Princess Razafindrahety in 1861. She was raised as a protestant, and taught by instructors from the London Missionary Society. Upon completion of her education, she married nobleman Ratrimo, but he died under suspicious circumstances in May 1883, just 2 months after Queen Ranavalona II’s passing. Rumor had it that the prime minister Rainilaiarivony had poisoned her husband, Ratrimo so as not to relinquish power. The young princess then ascended the throne of Madagascar at the tender age of 22, on July 13, 1883. It is said that she was chosen over her older sister, Rasendranoro, because of her conciliatory nature which the prime minister and other members of the Andriana looked for.

Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony of Madagascar

At the time of Ranavalona III’s ascension, Madagascar was navigating a shift from absolute rule (power in the hands of the king/queen) to constitutional monarchy. Under the new system, true authority was vested in the prime minister: in this case, Rainilaiarivony, who secured his grasp on power by marrying the newly crowned—and recently widowed—queen. In accordance with tradition, Rainilaiarivony had previously wed both of Ranavalona III’s predecessors, Ranavalona II and Rasoherina. Lucky man, wouldn’t you think? One man married to 3 successive queens! Probably the only one in history (this will be the story for another day)! Rainilaiarivony largely oversaw the day-to-day governance of the kingdom and managed its foreign affairs.

Illustration of France implanting its protectorate on Madagascar

As a queen, Ranavalona III inherited a kingdom which was assaulted by the French who wanted her country to be part of their protectorate. Throughout her reign, she tried to strengthen trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain, in an effort to keep the French at bay. In 1886, the queen solicited U.S. intervention to help protect Madagascar from the French but was ignored. She, like many kings and queens of Africa back then, was probably not aware of the scramble for Africa, and the Berlin Conference (Selection from the 1885 Berlin Conference Final Act, The Berlin Conference 1884 – 1885 – Final Act (Continuation)), where Europeans allocated areas of the continent to themselves. She was forced to sign a treaty that gave France a certain control of Madagascar in order to prevent war, but the French wanted full control over Madagascar and did not back down. Ranavalona III successfully kept the French at bay until 1896 when the French declared Madagascar as their colony. Repeat French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital city of Antananarivo ultimately led to the capture of the royal palace in 1895, ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom (French Colonial Treaty in Madagascar : 18 January 1896).

Queen Ranavalona III

The newly installed French colonial government promptly exiled prime minister Rainilaiarivony to Algiers, Algeria. Ranavalona and her court were initially permitted to remain in Madagascar as symbolic figureheads, but the outbreak of a popular resistance movement – the menalamba rebellion – and discovery of anti-French political intrigues at court led the French to exile the queen to the island of Réunion on February 27, 1897.

Queen Ranavalona III with her grandniece Marie-Louise ca 1905 in exile in Algiers, Algeria

Rainilaiarivony died that same year in Algiers, and shortly thereafter Ranavalona was relocated to a villa in Algiers, along with several members of her family. Despite Ranavalona’s repeated requests, she was never permitted to return home to Madagascar. Like many African kings and queens, she was deported (Deportation of African Heads of States). She died of an embolism at her villa in Algiers on May 3, 1917 at the age of 55. Her remains were buried in Algiers but were disinterred 21 years later and shipped to Madagascar, where they were placed within the tomb of Queen Rasoherina on the grounds of the Rova of Antananarivo (Rova de Manjakamiadana). you remember Queen Ranavalona III, remember that she was a queen who fought against the foreign invasion to the best of her ability, but above all remember that all she wanted was the independence of her people and culture.

French Colonial Treaties: In Dahomey 03 Oct 1890 between France and Behanzin

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of King Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

Below is one of the treaties signed between the French and the King of Dahomey, Béhanzin. This treaty was signed a few months after one of Béhanzin‘s unanswered letters to the French president , and two (2) years prior to King Béhanzin‘s defeat by the French, whose kingdom then came under Protectorate of the French Republic on 3 December 1892. Translated to English by Dr. Y. on http://www.afrolegends.com

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3 October 1890

Agreement between France and the Dahomey

In order to prevent the return of misunderstandings which have brought between France and the Dahomey a state of hostility prejudicial to the two countries’ interests, –

Us, undersigned

Dahomey_Bertrand_de_Montesquiou-Fézensac_(1837-1902)_10
Bertrand de Montesquiou-Fézensac

The king’s messengers

Aladaka

Do-De-Djé

Assisted by:

Cussugan – acting as Yeroghan* 

Zizidoque – cabécère† 

Zououhoucon – cabecere†

Aïnadou – Treasurer of Gore

Designated by his Majesty the King Béhanzin Ahy Djéré

And

Ship Captain de Montesquiou Fezensac [Bertrand de Montesquiou-Fézensac] commanding the cruiser Le Roland – artillery Captain Decoeur, designated by Rear Admiral Cavelier de Cuverville [>Jules de Cuverville] Commander-in-chief of the land and sea forces acting as governor of the gulf of Benin, acting on behalf of the French government.

                Have jointly agreed on the following arrangement which leaves intact all past treaties or conventions agreed upon between France and the Dahomey.

I

The King of Dahomey agrees to respect the French Protectorate of the Kingdom of Porto Novo, and to abstain from all incursions on the territories forming part of that Protectorate.

Dahomey_Jules Marie Armand de Cavelier de Cuverville
Jules de Cuverville

He recognizes the right of France to occupy Kotonou indefinitely.

II

France engages to take such action, on the King of Porto Novo, as to prevent any legitimate cause of complaint being made in future by the King of Dahomey.

By way of compensation for the occupation of Kotonou, France will pay an annual sum, which will in no case exceed 20,000 francs (in gold or silver).

The blockade will be lifted and the present arrangement will take effect from the day of the exchange of signatures. However this arrangement will become final only after it has been submitted for ratification to the French government.

Made in Whydah on the third of October eighteen hundred and ninety.

*someone who governs a city on behalf of the King – a governor

† a sort of nobleman from court

Description of King Behanzin’s Army on 13 March 1890

Behanzin, king of Dahomey
Behanzin, king of Dahomey

Below is a description of the army of King Béhanzin by a French prisoner made on 13 March 1890. This Frenchman is stunned by the number of warriors in Behanzin’s army, by their discipline, strength and muscular stature. More importantly, he also describes the Dahomey Amazons (locally known as Mino), the Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey (in present-day Republic of Benin) who formed the king’s special bodyguard unit, and his secret weapon! Remember that in Behanzin’s Farewell Speech in Dahomey, the king had sung praises of his beloved Mino. Here the narriator is amazed by their sight and confirms, “Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to contemplate. Just as muscular as the Black warriors, their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, …”  Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

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Dahomey_Amazones a 1890
Dahomey Amazons ca 1890

We are right in the Dahomean camp!

At least 15000 men are in front of us, arranged in order of battle in front of their tents made up of palm leaves, immobile, in such a deep silence that at 100 meters from our prison, in the same courtyard, separated by a simple wall, we could not have imagined their existence.

It is really a painting of a sublime horror and which painfully squeezes our heart. Fifteen thousand men, armed with guns and machetes! There is nothing to say, they are beautiful robust and muscular warriors under their white loincloths, which brings out the ebony of their stature even more. Not a cry, not a single movement, not a noise.

Quiet ourselves and deeply moved, we cross the hay that they form, lined up like the long rows of ears on a wheat field. Black and human harvest of which the one who is there can freely pick or mow heads.

Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (painted by Frederick Forbes in 1851)
Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (painted by Frederick Forbes in 1851)

The main officers of the army came to surround us. Our group starts to walk, it takes us more than a quarter of an hour to cross the first rows, given that their battle ranks are so deep. Then we cross an empty space, on the other side of which the Black army continues. Here it is no longer just warriors. The second line, in fact, consists of amazons in three tight ranks, surrounding in a huge circle the very throne of the king whom we cannot yet see.

They are there the four thousand female warriors, the four thousand Black virgins of Dahomey, bodyguards of the monarch, immobile under their war shirts, gun and knife in the fist, ready to pounce on a signal from the master.

Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to contemplate. Just as muscular as the Black warriors, their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, lined up like them in ranks.

An Amazon warrior ca 1890
An Amazon warrior ca 1890

The chiefs are in rows, at the head of the columns, recognizable by the richness of their shirts, by their proud and resolute air. Such are the amazons at rest with their arms. There is a long way from this discipline, this order, to the savage and barbaric hordes that we imagine. His Majesty Behanzin can be calm, these viragos will not let him be taken away easily. The triple circle that they form is immense, without a void, gap, or hole.

E. Chaudoin, extract from the Illustration of 26 July 1890, Les Africains Tome X, Editions J.A., 1978, P. 250

 

 

 

France urged to change heritage law and return looted art to Africa

Pendant Ivory mask representing Queen Idia, Iyoba of Benin City (16th Century)
Pendant Ivory mask representing Queen Idia, Iyoba of Benin City (16th Century) – exposed at the MET

France, like so many European countries, is being urged to return looted art to Africa. Below is the article. For the full article, go to the Guardian.

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A report commissioned by Emmanuel Macron will call for thousands of African artworks in French museums taken without consent during the colonial period to be returned to the continent.

Unless it could be proven that objects were obtained legitimately, they should be returned to Africa permanently, not on long-term loan, said the authors of the report, the Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr and the French historian Bénédicte Savoy.

They have recommended changing French law to allow the restitution of cultural works to Africa, after Macron announced that he wanted it to begin within five years.

… “I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries is in France,” the French president said last year in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. “There are historical explanations for this but there is no valid, lasting and unconditional justification. African heritage cannot be only in private collections and European museums – it must be showcased in Paris but also in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou. This will be one of my priorities.” [Politicians always make promises, but never deliver. Let’s wait and see if Macron can do anything. In 2015, Francois Hollande, then French President Acknowledged French Genocide in Cameroon while in visit in Cameroon, without ever apologizing!]

Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
Fon statue symbolizing King Behanzin, the Man-Shark by Sossa Dede (c. 1890) – currently exposed at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris

The extent to which France, Britain and Germany looted Africa of its artefacts during colonialism is not known, but according to the report, which will be released this Friday, about 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage currently lies outside the continent.

The report’s authors travelled to Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and Benin and looked through the works held by the Musée du quai Branly, a museum focused on non-European cultures in Paris, and found that about 46,000 of its 90,000 African works were “acquired” between 1885 and 1960 and may have to be returned.

… To start with, they [the researchers] have recommended that palace doors, thrones and statues stolen from Abomey be returned – something the modern-day country of Benin has long requested [especially given that Béhanzin, the King of Dahomey, was one of the last African Resistant to French Colonization, and had been deported to Martinique and then Algeria – Deportation of African Heads of States]….

French Colonies in Africa: Dahomey under French Protectorate

Combat de Dogba au Dahomey le 19 Septembre 1892
Combat de Dogba au Dahomey le 19 Septembre 1892

Below is the notification by Alfred-Amédée Dodds from the French Republic stating that the Kingdom of Dahomey is now under the Protectorate of the French Republic, with the exception of Whydah and certain other territories, which were declared by a French Notification issued on the 3rd December, 1892, to be annexed to France.

The following is a Translation of that Notification :—

(Translation)

le general Alfred-Amedee Dodds
le general Alfred-Amedee Dodds

In the name of the French Republic:

We, Brigadier-General, Commander-in-Chief of the French Settlements of Benin, Knight Commander of the Legion of Honour.

In virtue of the powers conferred upon us,

We declare :

That King Béhanzin Ahy-Djere has been deposed from the throne of Dahomey, and has been banished for ever from this country.

Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey
Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey

That the Kingdom of Dahomey is, and remains, placed under the exclusive Protectorate of France, with the exception of the Territories of WhydahSaviAvlékétéGodomey, and Abomey-Kalavy, which constituted the ancient Kingdoms of Ajuda and Jacquin, which are annexed to the Possessions of the French Republic. The limits of the annexed Territories are: to the west, the River Aheme; to the north and to the east, the River Savi and the north-east frontiers of the Territory of Abomey-Kalavy; to the south, the Atlantic Ocean.”

Done at Porto-Novo, 3rd December, 1892.

Alfred-Amédée DODDS

Deportation of African Heads of States

prempeh_i
Prempeh I of Ashanti Kingdom

History repeats itself! Over 100 years ago, African Heads of states, Emperors and Kings, were deported by European colonizers for defending their people, lives, independence, land, livelihood, and themselves. Some were killed, and others were exiled. In those days, they were deported to other territories in Africa, far from their lands. Today, 100 years later, they are being deported to the Hague or to some other African lands again. Here are a few, and I am sure you know others.

Prempeh I, Asantehene of Ashanti Kingdom deported to Seychelles in 1896 by British forces. His throne is still displayed at the Royal Signals Museum in Blandford, England. He was allowed to return after 24 years in exile.

asantewaa
Yaa Asantewaa of Ashanti Kingdom

Queen Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Kingdom was deported to Seychelles in 1902 by the British. She arose her people to fight against the British. She died in exile.

Samori Toure, Founder and leader of the Wassoulou Empire, was deported to Gabon (on an island of the Oogoue) in 1898 by the French. He died in exile.

Samori
Samori Touré

Behanzin, King of Dahomey,was deported to Martinique and then later Algeria by the French. He died in exile in Algeria in 1906.

The Oba of Benin Kingdom deported to Calabar by the British in 1897. He died in exile.

Gungunyane, King of Gaza in Mozambique, first sent to Lisbon, and then later to the island of Terceira on the Portuguese Azores. He died in exile in 1906.

Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey
Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey

Cheikh Amadou Bamba, of Senegal, deported to Gabon in 1895 by the French. He was brought back 7 years later in 1902, but deported to Mauritania in 1903 for 4 years, before being brought back to Senegal. He died in Senegal.

Nowadays, Laurent Gbagbo, President of Côte d’Ivoire, deported to the Hague in the Netherlands 2011 by the French and the Ivorian Ouattara. He is still there.

Laurent Gbagbo
Laurent Gbagbo

Charles Ble Goude, Youth Minister of Côte d’Ivoire deported to the Hague in Netherlands in 2011 by the French, and the Ivoirian Ouattara. He is still there.

Moussa Dadis Camara, President of Guinea, shot and almost left for dead, deported to Burkina Faso(let’s call the cat by its name). …

And the list goes on… How long will it last? Can we not judge our people ourselves? Is this a choice by the people for the people? Are we really independent?