Mungo Park describes Ségou in 1795

Mungo Park
Portrait of the Scottish explorer Mungo Park

Below is a description of the great city of Ségou (pronounce Segu) in Mali by the Scottish explorer Mungo Park in 1795. Here he describes the city’s population density, dynamism, architecture, and even their ways of life. He amply describes the roominess and surprised sturdiness of Ségou’s canoes which could host 4 horses. Mungo Park is simply astounded by the greatness of the civilization he encounters there, and concludes, “the crowded population and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence, which I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.” Note that the city is surrounded by high mud walls probably similar to the Tata of Sikasso: an African Fortifying Wall.

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Mali_Ségou_La Mosquée (AOF)
The Mosque in Segou at the beginning of the 20th century

Sego, the capital of Bambarra, at which I had now arrived, consists, properly speaking, of four distinct towns ; two on the northern bank of the Niger, called Sego Korro, and Sego Boo and two on the southern bank, called Sego Soo Korro and Sego See Korro. They are all surrounded with high mud walls ; the houses are built of clay, of a square form, with flat roofs ; some of them have two storeys, and many of them are whitewashed.

Mali_Segou_Palais d'Ahmadou Tall
Entrance to Ahmadu’s palace in Segou-Sikoro published in the 1868 edition of the book by Eugene Mage Voyage dans le Soudan occidental (Sénégambie-Niger), Paris: Hachette

Besides these buildings, Moorish mosques are seen in every quarter ; and the streets, though narrow, are broad enough for every useful purpose, in a country where wheel-carriages are entirely unknown. From the best enquiries I could make, I have reason to believe that Sego contains altogether about thirty thousand inhabitants. The king of Bambarra constantly resides at Sego See Korro ; he employs a great many slaves in conveying people over the river, and the money they receive (though the fare is only ten cowrie shells for each individual) furnishes a considerable revenue to the king in the course of a year. The canoes are of a singular construction, each of them being formed of the trunks of two large trees, rendered concave, and joined together, not side by side, but end ways ; the junction being exactly across the middle of the canoe ; they are therefore very long and disproportionably narrow, and have neither decks nor masts ; they are, however, very roomy ; for I observed in one of them four horses, and several people crossing over the river. When we arrived at this ferry, with a view to pass over to that part of the town in which the king resides, we found a great number waiting for a passage ; they looked at me with silent wonder, and I distinguished, with concern, many Moors among them. There were three different places of embarkation, and the ferrymen were very diligent and expeditious ; but, from the crowd of people, I could not immediately obtain a passage ; and sat down upon the bank of the river, to wait for a more favourable opportunity The view of this extensive city ; the numerous canoes upon the river ; the crowded population and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence, which I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.

 

Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed Under the Direction and Patronage of the African Association, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797.

Sego = Ségou

Bambarra = Bambara

Sego Boo = Ségou-Bou

Sego Korro = Ségou-Koro

Sego See-Korro = Ségou-Sikoro

*The four cities mentioned here are actually on the southern shore, but there are on the northern shore some neighborhoods to which Mungo Park attributed excessive importance.

The Sahara was Home to World’s Largest Sea Creatures

Sahara_ancient sea creatures
Some of the sea creatures that lived underwater in the location where the Sahara desert is today. (Source: American Museum of Natural History 2019)

Given that Africa is the cradle of humanity, it totally makes sense that it would also be the place where some the world’s largest sea creatures hail from. The excerpt below from the Guardian reveals that the Sahara was home to some of the world’s largest sea creatures. Enjoy!

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Scientists reconstruct extinct species using fossils found in northern Mali from ancient seaway

Some of the biggest catfish and sea snakes to ever exist lived in what is today the Sahara desert, according to a new paper that contains the first reconstructions of extinct aquatic species from the ancient Trans-Saharan Seaway.

Mali4
Map of Mali with its capital Bamako

The sea was 50 metres deep and once covered 3,000 sq km of what is now the world’s biggest sand desert. The marine sediment it left behind is filled with fossils, which allowed the scientists who published the study to build up a picture of a region that teemed with life.

Between 100 m and 50 m years ago, today’s arid, boulder-strewn northern Mali “looked more like modern Puerto Rico”; the sun shone on some of the earliest mangroves, and molluscs lined the shallow seabed, according to Maureen O’Leary, the palaeontologist who led the study.

Sahara_ancient sea creatures_1
Reconstruction of sharks feeding on a dyrosaurid crocodily form. (Source: American Museum of Natural History 2019)

The study also formally named the geological units, literally putting the area on the geological map for the first time, showing how the sea ebbed and flowed over its 50 m years of existence, and building up information about the K-Pg boundary, the geophysical marker of one of Earth’s five major extinction events, in which the non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.

With 1.6 m catfish, 12.3 m sea snakes and 1.2 m pycnodonts – a type of bony fish – O’Leary and the other scientists developed the idea that in the late Cretaceous and early Paleogene period, the animals were experiencing gigantism.

Evolutionary biologists have long talked about the phenomenon of island gigantism, where species that live on small islands can sometimes develop very large bodies, possibly because they have more resources or there are few predators, or both.

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Why the name: Bamako?

Map of Mali with its capital Bamako
Map of Mali with its capital Bamako

What does Bamako have in common with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Madrid? Of course it is the capital of a country, Mali, like all those other cities. However, the real similarity, is that it is located on the banks of a major river (like all those cities): the third largest river on the African continent, the Niger River, also known as Joliba (or the river of blood), near the rapids that divide the upper and middle Niger valleys in the southwestern part of the country. The city first grew on the north banks of the river, and later spread to the south banks as well.

Flag of Mali
Flag of Mali

The name Bamako comes from the Bambara word Bàmakɔ̌ meaning “river of crocodile“. It was founded at the end of the 16th century by the Niaré people, also called Niakaté, who are Sarakolés. The crocodile being the fetish of Bamako, in the olden days, a virgin girl was offered to it every year… however this tradition was abandoned a long time ago. A hunter from Lambidou (Kayes region) by the name of Simballa Niakaté chose the city’s site. However, it was his eldest son Diamoussa Niakaté who founded the city Bamako. The 3 crocodiles which symbolize Bamako found their origin in the 3 creeks that crossed Bamako: Lido, Diafarana, and Bèlèsôkô. The creeks come together in the city to flow into the Niger river. Just as the city’s symbol is 3 crocodiles, and so 3 creeks/rivers, it also comprises 3 major bridges which link both banks of the Niger River.

Mali Empire (Wikipedia)
Mali Empire (Wikipedia)

The area of the city has been continuously inhabited since the Palaeolithic era for more than 150,000 years. The fertile lands of the Niger River Valley provided the people with an abundant food supply and early kingdoms in the area grew wealthy as they established trade routes linking across West Africa, the Sahara, and leading to northern Africa and Europe. The early inhabitants traded gold, ivory, kola nuts, and salt. By the 11th century, the Empire of Ghana (this will be the subject of a post soon) became the first kingdom to dominate the area. Bamako had become a major market town, and a pathway to Timbuktu the center of knowledge via the Niger river. Later, the Mali Empire grew during the early Middle Ages and replaced the Empire of Ghana as the dominant kingdom in West Africa, dominating Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, and Mauritania. In the 14th century, the Mali Empire became increasingly wealthy because of the trade of cotton and salt. It was eventually succeeded by the Songhai Empire.

The Pink Market (Le Marche Rose) in Bamako ca 1900s
The Pink Market (Le Marche Rose) in Bamako ca 1900s

By the late 19th century, the French dominated much of western Africa, and in 1883, present-day Mali became part of the colony of French Sudan, and was its capital in 1908. Cotton and rice farming was encouraged through large irrigation projects and a new railroad connected Bamako to Dakar on the Atlantic coast. Mali was annexed then into French West Africa, a federation which lasted from 1895 to 1959. Bamako remained the capital of Mali after independence in 1960.

Bamako on the banks of the Niger River (Wikipedia)
Bamako, on the banks of the Niger River (Wikipedia)

Bamako is known as the crossroads of West Africa, since it is located 1000 km from Dakar (Senegal) and Abidjan(Côte d’Ivoire), 850 km from Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and 120 km from the border with Guinea. With a population of 1.8 million, Bamako is viewed today as the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth-fastest in the world. It is a buoyant city full of life. Enjoy a visit to the “river of crocodiles,” the crossroad of West Africa, and don’t forget to bathe in the centuries’ old history of great West African kingdoms in Mali, and its rich traditions.

“Le Mali en miettes. A qui le tour?” de Chems Eddine Chitour

Flag of Mali
Flag of Mali

J’ai trouvé cet article sur Cameroon Voice du Pr. Chems Eddine Chitour assez interessant. Depuis que les occidentaux se sont lançés a une reconquête du monde: Côte d’Ivoire, Libye, Syrie, et maintenant Mali… on se pose bien des questions. Les questions fondamentales demeurent: à qui le tour? Pourquoi cette politique de la gâchette facile? pourquoi acquérir ce gain si facile, pourquoi tant de paresse? Les Occidentaux devraient reconnaitre que leur systeme capitaliste a bel et bien été la faute de leur chute… et beaucoup de pays tels la France et les Etats-Unis devraient le reconnaître, et faire une réforme de leur système, règler leur dette, et non mettre le reste du monde à feu et à sang, et ensuite prétendre que la Chine est l’ennemi du monde. Franchement… c’est assez difficile de comprendre une intervention aérienne française au Mali, un pays du tiers-monde où les gens n’arrivent même pas à joindre les 2 bouts. C’est assez difficile d’accepter que des petits rebelles pourraient constituer une menace pour la France qui aurait même besoin du support militaire américain. Les attentats récents en Algérie contre des ressortissants américains semblent présenter l’Algérie comme le prochain pays sur la ligne de mire des sanguinaires français qui ont toujours rêvé de mettre l’Algérie à genoux en y commettant les plus grands genocides de l’histoire de l’humanité. Que le bon Dieu nous garde des paresseux, et des envieux! Ces derniers feraient mieux de se mettre au travail comme les Chinois!

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Djenné
Map of Mali

Ça y est! Comme nous l’avons prédit dans un article précédent, l’Afghanisation du Mali est en marche! Pourquoi l’engouement des redresseurs de tort de l’Empire et de ses vassaux pour un pays qui, en théorie, est un désert au sens qu’il ne contient rien de comestible à moins que nous n’ayons pas toute l’information sur les réelles potentialités de ce pays voisin. […]

Curieusement, ces dernières semaines notamment avec les accords de Ansar Eddine et du Mnla à Alger, qui devaient ensuite être reçus par les responsables de la Cédéao pour une solution négociée, avaient fait miroiter une possible paix sans intervention militaire. Tout s’est précipité. Une résolution fut arrachée aux Nations unies le 20 décembre 2012, elle autorise une intervention en cas d’échec de la diplomatie. Cette diplomatie qui n’a pas eu à faire ses preuves puisque trois semaines après, la France intervenait pour stopper les mouvements se revendiquant d’un Islam fondamentaliste, sans accord du Conseil de sécurité. [surprenant comme ce scenario ressemble a celui de la Libye avec les Nations Unies qui sortent des resolutions suivies des frappes aériennes franco-americaines]. […]

L’intervention au Mali a été engagée après le forcing français pour l’adoption, le 20 décembre 2012, de la résolution 2085 par le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU. Pour autant, aucune résolution de l’ONU n’autorise (ni n’interdit du reste) l’intervention française. […] Continue reading ““Le Mali en miettes. A qui le tour?” de Chems Eddine Chitour”

Francafrique: Raison d’Etat

After the joke of elections held in Egypt this past month, and with all the turmoil in Libya, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire, I thought it will be best to watch this great documentary by Patrick Benquet which stirred thoughts across French Africa since December 16, 2010, date of its official diffusion.  It tells you all about the tricks, and machiavelism of France (Africa’s policeman) in Africa, and of course the effect of the cold war on African leaders and countries. Enjoy the first part titled the Francafrique Reason of State (Raison d’Etat) and share with others! It is important to know!

La Charte du Mandé: Première déclaration de droits de l’Homme au Monde?

L'Empire du Mali a son apogee (1230 - 1545)
L’Empire du Mali à son apogée (1230 – 1545)

J’ai été admirablement surprise de lire la charte du Manden (Mandé), qui semble être la première déclaration des droits de l’homme au monde.  Elle fut prononcée lors de l’intronisation de Soundiata Keïta comme empereur du Mali en 1222.  Imaginez-vous ma joie: première declaration des droits de l’homme au monde, érigée en Afrique? en 1222? plusieurs siècles (7 siècles) avant la fameuse déclaration des droits de l’homme de l’ONU? Waou…! Et après on vous dira qu’il n’ya jamais rien eu en Afrique. Lisez, et rejouissez-vous, car au Mali, du temps de l’empereur Soundiata Keïta, il y avait le concept du droit de l’homme et l’amour de l’être humain.

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La Charte du Manden (Mandé)

Soundiata Keita a l'Assemblée constitutive de l'empire du Mandé avec les chefs de guerre (Source: Wikipedia.fr)
Soundiata Keïta a l’Assemblée constitutive de l’empire du Mandé avec les chefs de guerre (Source: Wikipedia.fr)

1. Les chasseurs déclarent :

Toute vie (humaine) est une vie.

Il est vrai qu’une vie apparaît à l’existence avant une autre vie,

Mais une vie n’est pas plus “ancienne“, plus respectable qu’une autre vie,

De même qu’une vie n’est pas supérieure à une autre vie.

2. Les chasseurs déclarent :

Toute vie étant une vie,

Tout tort causé à une vie exige réparation.

Par conséquent,

Que nul ne s’en prenne gratuitement à son voisin,

Que nul ne cause du tort à son prochain,

Que nul ne martyrise son semblable.

Assemblée constitutive de l'empire du Mandé (Source: Wikipedia)
Assemblée constitutive de l’empire du Mandé (Source: Wikipedia)

3. Les chasseurs déclarent :

Que chacun veille sur son prochain,

Que chacun vénère ses géniteurs,

Que chacun éduque comme il se doit ses enfants,

Que chacun “entretienne”, pourvoie aux besoins des membres de sa famille.

4. Les chasseurs déclarent :

Que chacun veille sur le pays de ses pères.

Par pays ou patrie, faso,

Il faut entendre aussi et surtout les hommes ;

Car “tout pays, toute terre qui verrait les hommes disparaître de sa surface

Deviendrait aussitôt nostalgique.”

Assemblée constitutive de l'empire du Mandé (Source: Wikipedia.fr)
Assemblée constitutive de l’empire du Mandé (Source: Wikipedia.fr)

5. Les chasseurs déclarent :

La faim n’est pas une bonne chose,

L’esclavage n’est pas non plus une bonne chose ;

Il n’y a pas pire calamité que ces choses-là,

Dans ce bas monde.

Tant que nous détiendrons le carquois et l’arc,

La faim ne tuera plus personne au Manden,

Si d’aventure la famine venait à sévir ;

La guerre ne détruira plus jamais de village

Pour y prélever des esclaves ;

C’est dire que nul ne placera désormais le mors dans la bouche de son semblable

Pour allez le vendre ;

Personne ne sera non plus battu,

A fortiori mis à mort,

Parce qu’il est fils d’esclave.

le Manding, berceau de l'empire du Mali (photo: Olivier Epron)
le Manding, berceau de l’empire du Mali (photo: Olivier Epron)

6. Les chasseurs déclarent :

L’essence de l’esclavage est éteinte ce jour,

“D’un mur à l’autre”, d’une frontière à l’autre du Manden ;

La razzia est bannie à compter de ce jour au Manden ;

Les tourments nés de ces horreurs sont finis à partir de ce jour au Manden.

Quelle épreuve que le tourment !

Surtout lorsque l’opprimé ne dispose d’aucun recours.

L’esclave ne jouit d’aucune considération,

Nulle part dans le monde.

Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l'astronomie et mathematique
Manuscripts à Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l’astronomie et mathématique

7. Les gens d’autrefois nous disent :

“L’homme en tant qu’individu

Fait d’os et de chair,

De moelle et de nerfs,

De peau recouverte de poils et de cheveux,

Se nourrit d’aliments et de boissons ;

Mais son “âme”, son esprit vit de trois choses :

Voir qui il a envie de voir,

Dire ce qu’il a envie de dire

Et faire ce qu’il a envie de faire ;

Si une seule de ces choses venait à manquer à l’âme humaine,

Elle en souffrirait

Et s’étiolerait sûrement.”

La grande mosquee de Djenne (Mali - heritage du grand empire du Mali)
La grande mosquée de Djenné (Mali – héritage du grand empire du Mali)

En conséquence, les chasseurs déclarent :

Chacun dispose désormais de sa personne,

Chacun est libre de ses actes,

Chacun dispose désormais des fruits de son travail.

Tel est le serment du Manden

A l’adresse des oreilles du monde tout entier.

Youssouf Tata Cissé

Texte réécrit par Youssouf Tata Cissé dans “Soundjata, la Gloire du Mali”, éd. Karthala, ARSAN, 1991

Djenné: the mud brick (adobe) city

Djenné
Map of Mali with Djenné

Djenné is a city of Mali whose history is closely linked to that of Timbuktu. It is well-renowned for its mud brick architecture, and today most of the city is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In no place in the world do you have a civilization entirely built on mud! Maybe that is why Malians are so renowned for their work on mudcloth a.k.a. bogolan! The Djennenké say that nowhere in the world would you find people who can build in mud like Djenné’s masons: their work with mud is pure magic, as illustrated by the beautiful Great Mosque of Djenné. The masons’ family lines stretch back half a millenium! They mix the clay from the surrounding plains with the water from the Bani river, and bring to life an architecture purely from Djenné rising with splendor.

Great Mosque of Djenné
Great Mosque of Djenné

Djenné has fallen victim of time, erosion, and particularly rain which deteriorates the mud structure. Recently, as part of protecting this UNESCO world heritage, restoration started. For this process, Djenné masons divide up the work according to whose ancestors originally built the houses, the families that inhabit them, and themselves: dirt from old brick is reused only within the dwelling which it came from, since it is believed to carry a blessing which cannot be transferred; this is a practice whose roots date back to 250B.C.. Before the arrival of the French in 1900s, Djenné’s masons built using the technique of Djennefere or the art of building with cylindrical bricks, as opposed to rectangular bricks introduced by the French. Recently, a Malian-American team of archaeologists found in the base of wall fragments, from about A.D. 1400, of a type of bowl Djennenké still place in foundations for protection; another fragments with Arabic inscriptions dating back to A.D.

Great Mosque of Djenné
Entrance

1118. This is important, since before Djenné, there was Jenné-Jeno (before 200 B.C.), the “city without a citadel” which had no royal palace or ruler with an army, but was made up of different tribes or clans with different specialties which formed a sort of democracy where they came together to trade and decide community affairs. After 1100, Jenné-Jeno shrank, and by the 14th century, it felt and a new city, Djenné, grew from the trans-saharan trade in salt and gold. Djenné was later on invaded by Arab traders who introduced islam to the city. Later, Djenné was part of the great Mali Empire, the Songhai empire, the Ségou Kingdom, the Macina Empire, and the Toucouleur Empire. In essence, in Djenné, the old and the new merged, the mud from the earth grew, and the learning was passed on from generations to generations, making Djenné, the city built on mud rising from the splendors and knowledge of the past!

Map of Djenné
Map of Djenné

Both Djenné and Jenné-Jeno are UNESCO World heritage sites. You can learn about them on the UNESCO WHC website, as well as on Wikipedia, Architecture in Mali, and Djenne Patrimoine. Enjoy:

Timbuktu, one of the world’s first and oldest university

Timbuktu
Timbuktu

Oh wow… I always knew Timbuktu (Tombouctou in Mali) because of the story of the great emperor of the kingdom of Mali, Mansa Kankan Musa. I knew it was the center of his empire, but it is only lately that I realized that it was one of the world’s first and oldest thriving university! Students came from all over the world to study at Timbuktu. Imagine that, students from the middle east, and Europe coming to Africa to study! oooohhhh … Goodness Gracious, that sight only would make me proud! Well, to those who say Africa only has an oral tradition, go and check out the 700,000 manuscripts at the great Sankore University in Timbuktu, and tell me what you think! Oh la la…

In one documentary, the speaker mentions that they translated one of the manuscript on Algebra from Arabic to

Sankore University in Timbuktu
Sankore University in Timbuktu

French, and sent it to France to be evaluated educationally; well, that manuscript revealed that the mathematics it contained was currently studied in 2nd year of university in France, and the speaker then says “and that was taught at universities in Timbuktu before the 16th century“!  Wow… my Goodness!

Timbuktu also houses some of the world’s oldest mud mosques, and every year the people of the city unite to re-do the walls of the mosque. It was added to the UNESCO world’s heritage list in 1988  (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/).

Read about it on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbuktu