Saturday, 10 April 2010

QUEEN Of ZARIA (1588-1589)

This queen of Zazzua, a province of Nigeria now known as Zaria, was born around 1533 during the reign of Sarkin (king) Zazzau Nohir. She was probably his granddaughter. Zazzua was one of a number of Hausa city-states which dominated the trans-Saharan trade after the collapse of the Songhai empire to the west. Its wealth was due to trade of mainly leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals. At the age of sixteen, Amina became the heir apparent (Magajiya) to her mother, Bakwa of Turunku, the ruling queen of Zazzua. With the title came the responsibility for a ward in the city and daily councils with other officials. Although her mother's reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina also chose to learn military skills from the warriors. Queen Bakwa died around 1566 and the reign of Zazzua passed to her younger brother Karama. At this time Amina emerged as the leading warrior of Zazzua cavalry. Her military achievements brought her great wealth and power. When Karama died after a ten-year rule, Amina became queen of Zazzua. She set off on her first military expedition three months after coming to power and continued fighting until her death. In her thirty-four year reign, she expanded the domain of Zazzua to its largest size ever. Her main focus, however, was not on annexation of neighboring lands, but on forcing local rulers to accept vassal status and permit Hausa traders safe passage. She is credited with popularizing the earthen city wall fortifications, which became characteristic of Hausa city-states since then. She ordered building of a defensive wall around each military camp that she established. Later, towns grew within these protective walls, many of which are still in existence. They're known as "ganuwar Amina", or Amina's walls. She is mostly remembered as "Amina, Yar Bakwa ta san rana," meaning "Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.

QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt the land of the blacks) (69-30 B.C)

Although known to be of African descent she is still deliberately portrayed as being white. She came to power at the tender age of seventeen and the most popular of seven queens to have had this name. She was also known to be a great linguist and was instumental in making Kemet(Egypt) into the world number one super power at that time.


Alexander reached Kemet (Ancient Egypt) in 332 B.C., on his world conquering rampage. But one of the greatest generals of the ancient world was also the Empress of Ethiopia. This formidable black Queen Candace, was world famous as a military tactician and field commander. Legend has it that Alexander could not entertain even the possibilty of having his world fame and unbroken chain of victories marred by risking a defeat, at last, by a woman. He halted his armies at the borders of Ethiopia and did not invade to meet the waiting black armies with their Queen in personal command.



She fought against the Arab incursion in North Africa where under her leadership Africans fought back fiercely and drove the Arab army northward into Tripolitania. Queen Kahina was of the Hebrew faith and she never abandoned her religion. Her opposition to the Arab incursion was purely nationalistic, since she favored neither Christians nor Moslems. Her death in 705 A.D by Hassen-ben-Numam ended one of the most violet attempts to save Africa for the Africans. She prevented Islam's southward spread into the Western Sudan. After her death the Arabs began to change their strategy in advancing their faith and their power in Africa. The resistance to the southward spread of Islam was so great in some areas that some of the wives of African kings committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the Berbers and Arabs who showed no mercy to the people who would not be converted to Islam


QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt the land of the blacks)(1503-1482 B.C.)

One of the greatest queens of ancient Kemet was Queen Hatshepsut. While she was known as a "warrior" queen, her battles were engaged with her own rivals for the position of power in Kemetic hierarchy. A born dynast in her own right, Hatshepsut proved to be an aggressive and overpowering force. However, it was not in war, but in her aspiration to ascend to the "Heru (Horus) consciousness," she displayed the strength that has given her a place in history. She adopted the Truth of Maat and became involved in the elimination of undesirable people and elements from Kemet. Determined to be revered in times yet to come, Hatshepsut depicted herself in as many masculine attributes as possible, i.e. male attire, king’s beard, etc. Although she ascended to the throne upon the death of her king-brother Thutmose II, she exerted her rightful claim to the throne. In exercising her power, she involved herself in foreign campaigns, a concentration on domestic affairs, extensive building and commercial ventures. The most famous of her commercial ventures was the Punt expedition in which goods and produce were acquired from the rich market there to be brought back to Kemet. While it would appear that her opponents were not antagonistic regarding her sex, they were so regarding her non-aggressive philosophy.

Even before becoming legal ruler, Hatshepsut, was actively pushing things dearest to the hearts of all Africans leaders: the expansion of foreign trade, international diplomatic relations, perfection of national defense, vast public building programs, securing the South and the North through either peace or war and, one of her "pet projects", building a great navy for both commerce and war. Her success on most of these fronts made her one of the giants of the race.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Our Great African Kings Part II


Imhotep was the royal advisor to King Zoser during the Third Dynasty of Kemet. Regarded as the world's first recorded multi-genius, Imhotep was an architect, astronomer, philosopher, poet and physician. As an architect he was responsible for designing the Step Pyramid and the Saqqara Complex. During his lifetime he was given a host of titles, among them:Chancellor of the King of Lower Kemet, the First after the King of Upper Kemet, High Priest of Heliopolis and Administrator of the Great Palace. As a physcian, Imhotep is believed to have been the author of the Edwin Smith Papyrus in which more than 90 anatomical terms and 48 injuries are described. This is well over 2,200 years before the Western Father of Medicine Hippocrates is born. Some 2,000 years after his death, Imhotep was deified by the inhabitants of Kemet and was known later as Asclepius, God of Medicine, to the Greeks. His very name, Im-Hotep, translates as the Prince of Peace. His tomb near Memphis became a sacred place and the site of pilgrimages for those seeking a cure. As a philosopher and poet, Imhotep's most remembered phrase is: "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we shall die." There still remain many bronze statuettes, temples and sanatoria bearing his name, as is depicted in the picture of the statue above.

KING OF THE OPOBO (1821-1891)He was the founder and leader of the territory of Opobo an area near the Eastern Nigeria River. This area was very favorable to trading. This trading route soon attracted the greedy Europeans who seek to capture this trading route. Ja Ja put up fierce resistance to this outside intervention. This resistance lasted for many years until at an older age of 70 he was finally captured by the British and sent into exile to the West Indies. The greatest Ibo leader of the nineteenth century never saw his kingdom again.


Khama distinguish his reign by being highly regarded as a peace loving ruler with the desire of advancing his country in terms of technological innovations. He instituted scientific cattle feeding techniques which greatly inproved his country's wealth and prestige. During his reign crimes were known to be as low as zero within his country.


The Father Of Pyramid Building (2551-2528 B.C)
King Khufu, who is also known by the greek name "Cheops," was the father of pyramid building at Giza. He ruled from 2551 - 2528 B.C. and was the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetpeheres. Dates Built: c. 2589-2566 B.C. Total Blocks of Stone: over 2,300,000.
Base: 13 square acres, 568,500 square feet, or 7 city blocks. The length of each side of the base was originally 754 feet (230 m), but is now 745 feet (227 m) due to the loss of the outer casing stones.
Total Weight: 6.5 million tons. Average Weight of Individual Blocks of Stone: 2.5 tons, the large blocks used for the ceiling of the King's Chamber weigh as much as 9 tons.

Height: Originally 481 feet (146.5 m) tall, Khufu is now, 449 feet tall as the top stones have since fallen off or been removed. Until early in this century, this pyramid was the tallest building on earth.
Angle of Incline: 51 degrees 50' 35".
Construction Material: limestone, granite.

KING OF MALI (1306-1332)

A scholar, a great economists and a true man of the arts, Mansa Mussa is well known for the impact he created with his flamboyant style. In 1324 he led his people on the Hadj, a holy pilgrimage from Timbuktu to Mecca. His caravan consisted of 72 000 people whom he led safely across the Sahara Desert and back, a total distance of 6,496 miles. So spectacular was this event that Mansa Mussa gained the respect of scholars and traders throughout the world. Also during his reign, Mali was one of the most prestigious and wealthiest empires in the world. This empire at this time also contain one of the worlds most prestigious university in Timbuktu.


Menelek II united many independent kingdoms into the United States of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The feat of pulling together several kingdoms which often fiercely opposed each other earned him a place as one of the great statesmen of African history. His further acomplishments in dealing on the international scene with the world powers, coupled with his stunning victory over Italy in the 1896 Battle of Adwa, which was an attempt to invade his country, place him among the great leaders of world history.


Moshoeshoe was a wise and just king who was as brilliant in diplomacy as he was in battle. He united many diverse groups into a stable society where law and order prevailed. He knew that peace made prosperity possible, so he often avoided conflict through skillful negotiations. Moshoeshoe solidified Basotho defenses at Thaba Bosiu, their impregnable mountain capital.


The year was 1440. The King was Mutota. In any other European country he would have been known as Mutota the Great. He and his council was quick to see that even the most advance states each standing independently and alone, were doomed to European criminal exploits unless unified into a single nation with a strong central government. This also should be achieve through voluntary association if possible. Mutota and the new leaders understood this very well. Therefore, Mutota, in 1440, began the campaign to carry out his grand design. This was a great plan aimed at nothing less than uniting Africans into a vast empire that cut across South Africa below the Limpopo river, and covered Zimbabwe with an indefinite boundary beyond the Zambezi River in Zambia, and on over Mozambique to the Indian Ocean, sweeping southward again to re-posses the entire coastline fronting the New Empire. This area contained the majority of the world precious metals such as gold, copper, tin and iron held in over 4000 mines. After 30 years of struggle, unity was finally achieve in 1480 into the Empire of Monomotapa.


Narmer or Aha was called Menes by the Greeks. Regarded as the founder of Dynastic Kemet, he led an army from Upper Kemet in the south to conquer Lower Kemet in the north around 3200BC. Upon victory Narmer united Upper and Lower Kemet into one nation after which thirty dynasties would follow. It was at this time that hieroglyphic writing or any type of writing in the world for that matter, made its first appearance, in the tombs and treasures of the pharaohs. One of Narmer's first tasks was to build a city on his newly conquered lands. Here he was met with a difficult task as the Delta region was covered by an immense swamp. To remedy this situation, Narmer drained the swamp by actually diverting the course of the Nile River. Upon this new land he built a city which he named Men-Nefer:The Good Place. This city served as the capital of Kemet for several centuries. An Arab traveler writing as late as the Middle Ages reported the city "stretching a day's journey in every direction." The Greeks would rename Men-Nefer "Memphis," a name that even today honors an African king who lived nearly 5,000 years ago.


KING OF ASANTE (1680-1717)
Osei Tutu was the founder and first king of the Asante nation, a great West African kingdom in what is now Ghana. He was able to unite over six different nations under his leadership. The Golden Stole became a sacred symbol of the nation's soul, which was especially appropriate since gold was the prime source of Asante wealth. During Osei Tutu's reign, the geographic area of Asante tripled in size. The kingdom became a significant power, that with his millitary and and political prowess as an example, would endure for two centuries.


King of the Sudan (1830-1900)
The ascendance of Samory Toure began when his native Bissandugu was attacked and his mother taken captive. After a persuasive appeal, Samory was allowed to take her place, but later escaped and joined the army of King Bitike Souane of Torona. Following a quick rise through the ranks of Bitike's army, Samory returned to Bissandugu where he was soon installed as king and defied French wicked exploits in Africa by launching a conquest to unify West Africa into a single state. During the eigthteen year conflict with France, Samory continully frustrated the Europeans with his military strategy and tactics. This astute millitary prowess brought him respect world wide.

Senwosert I was a Twelfth Dynasty King of Kemet (1897BC). Also known as Kepre Kare Senwosert I, he was known to the Greeks as Kekrops and Sesostris. Interestingly enough Herodotus, Greece's Father of History, reported that Greece had once been conquered by a king named Sesostris. Greek mythology also indicated that the legendary founder of Athens was an Egyptian named Kekrops.

KING OF THE ZULUS (1818-1828)

A strong leader and military innovator, Shaka is noted for revolutionizing 19th century Bantu warfare by first grouping regiments by age, and training his men to use standardized weapons and special tactics. He developed the "assegai" a short stabbing spear, and marched his regiments in tight formation, using large shields to fend off the enemies throwing spears. Over time, Shaka's troops earned such a reputation that many enemies would flee at the sight of them. He built the Zulus into a nation of over a million strong. He was also sucessful in uniting all the ethnic groups in South Africa against the despicable vestiges of colonialism.


KING OF NUBIA (710-664 B. C.)
Taharka is probably one of the most famous rulers of Napatan Kush. He was 32 when he became king and was heir to a kingdom that included not only Kush but KMT(Kemet) as well. He is said to have commanded military campaigns in Western Asia as far away as Palestine and led expeditions all the way to Spain. Mention of his great campaigns can be found in the Bible (Isaiah 37:9, 2 Kings 19:9). During his reign, Taharka controlled the largest empire in Ancient Africa. He was able to initiate a building program throughout his empire which was overwhelming in scope. The numbers and majesty of his building projects were legendary, with the greatest being the temple at Gebel Barkal in the Sudan. The temple was carved from the living rock and decorated with images of Taharka over 100 feet high.

The country of Ghana reach the height of its greatness during the reign of Tenkamenin. Through his careful management of the gold trade across the Sahara desert into West Africa, Tenkamenin's empire flourished economically. But his greatest strength was in government. Each day he would ride out on horseback and listen to the problems and concerns of his people. He insisted that no one be denied an audience and that they be allowed to remain in his presence until satisfied that justice had been done. His principles of democratic monarchy and religious tolerance make Tenkamenin's reign one of the great models of African rule.

PHARAOH OF KEMET (1504-1450 B.C.)
Thutmose III was a member of one of the greatest families in the history of royalty anywhere in the world, the 18th Dynasty of Kemet (Ancient Egypt). He is credited with strengthened the sovereignty of Kemet and extended its influence into Western Asia.


Tutankhaten became pharoah after the death of Smenkhkare, and became one of history's most famous royalty. Tutankhaten's story has since come out, and we know more about this boy-king than we do about any other person in the Kemartic period. Tutankhaten became pharoah at the age of nine . He married Ankhesenpaaten and ruled from Akhetaten. Four years after he became king, Tutankhaten moved his capital back to Memphis, and changed his name to Tutankamun, in honor of the God Amun. Tutankamun, ruled for nine years, until he was 18. The mummy discovered in the Valley of the Kings has an injury to the skull, and it is believed that Tutankamun was either the victim of an accident or he was assasinated. His tomb is one of very few that have been discovered almost untouched by theives.

Ramses II (the Great) was one of the most prolific builders of ancient Egypt. Hardly a site exists that he did not initiate, add to, complete, or build entirely himself. Some of the greatest monuments on any tour of Egypt bear his stamp: Abu Simbel, Karnak and Luxor Temples, the Ramesseum, and many others. He also commissioned the largest monolithic statue ever, a seated statue of himself at the Ramesseum. Now lying in pieces, the giant red-granite statue inspired many.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Our Great African Kings - Part I (Remember Where You Come From)


KING OF THE KONGO (1506-1540)

Afonso I was a visionary, a man who saw his country not as a group of separate cultures, but as a unified nation fully equipped with advance knowledge and technology. He was also known as the first ruler to resist the most despicable act ever known to man, the European slave trade.


The Creator of Monotheism
(1375-1358 B.C)

Akhenaton was the first ruler in recorded history to believe in the concept of One God. He also taught this concept to all his citizens. He built a new city in the desert that was dedicated to religion, art and music. This new city, Akhenaton (now Tell el Amara), with its lush gardens and magnificent buildings is where Akhenaton and his wife Queen Nefertiti changed Kemet's culture so radically that their influence is felt for centuries right up until today. Akhenaton was also the first Pharaoh of whom a true likeness is recorded as shown in the picture to the left.


KING OF SONGHAY (1493-1529)

Askia Toure united the entire central region of the Western Sudan, and established a governmental machine that is still revered today for its detail and efficiency. He divided his country into provinces, each with a professional administrator as governor, and ruled each fairly and uniformly through a staff of distinguished legal experts and judges.


THE KING SHARK (1841-1906)

Behanzin was the most powerful ruler in West Africa during the end of the nineteenth century. He strongly resisted European intervention into his country. This was done with a physically fit army which included a division of five thousands female warriors. He is often referred to as the King Shark, a Dahomeyan surname which symbolized strength and wisdom. He was also fond of humanities and is credited with the creation of some of the finest song and poetry ever produced in Dahomey.



Hannibal is well known as the greatest general and military strategist who ever lived. He used his overpowering African armies to conquer major portions of Spain and Italy and came very close to defeating the Roman Empire. His audacious moves-such as marching his army with African War elephants through the treacherous Alps to surprise and conquer northern Italy and his tactical genius, as illustrated by the battle of Cannae where his seemingly trapped army cleverly surrounded and destroy a much larger Roman force, won him recognition which has spanned more than 2000 years. His tactics are still being studied in many military schools today.


RULER OF BORNU (1580-1617)

He is credited with re-uniting two of Africa's Kingdoms, the kingdoms of Kanem and Bornu. This union lasted many generations with sustain peace becoming a part of the Bornu.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Some Of Our Great Black Inventors...

Benjamin Banneker

Invented America's First Clock
In the Stevie Wonder song "Black Man," he sings of Benjamin Banneker: "first clock to be made in America was created by a black man." Though the song is a fitting salute to a great inventor, it only touches on the genius of Benjamin Banneker.
Like a lot of early inventors, Benjamin Banneker was primarily self-taught. Benjamin was the son of former slaves and although recieving early education from a Quaker school, his advanced knowledge came from reading, reading and more reading.
His clock invention was to make his name and propel his reputation. In the early 1750's, Benjamin borrowed a pocket watch from a wealthy acquaintance, took the watch apart and studied its' components. Due to this exploration, he created a fully functioning clock carved entirely out of wooden pieces. The clock was amazingly precise and carried on ticking for decades. As a result of the attention his self-made clock received, Banneker was able to start up his own watch and clock repair business.
As if that wasn't enough. Banneker borrowed books on astronomy and mathematics and enveloped himself in the subjects. Due to his newfound knowledge he accurately predicted a 1789 solar eclipse. In the early 1790s he also he also wrote and published his Almanac and Ephemeris of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, and even sent a copy to secretary of state Thomas Jefferson along with a letter urging abolition of slavery.
Jefferson commanded Banneker to be a part of the surveying team to lay out Washington, D.C.
Benjamin Banneker was many things - inventor, scientist, anti-slavery proponent - his legacy lives on to this day.

Dr Patricia Bath

Inventor of a tool to remove cataracts

Imagine living in a world ranging from hazy, clouded vision to that of total darkness for 30 years. Before 1985, that was the plight of those with cataracts who did not want to risk surgery with a mechanical grinder.
As a noted Opthamologist and famous black inventor, Dr. Patricia Bath has dedicated her life to the treatment and prevention of visual impairments. Her personal belief that everyone has the "Right to Sight" led to her invention in 1985 of a specialized tool and procedure for the removal of cataracts. With the Laserphaco Probe and procedure, Dr. Bath increased the accuracy and results of cataract surgery, which had previously been performed manually with a mechanical grinder.
The difference between the old method and her new invention was the difference between the use of highly accurate laser technology and the somewhat subjective accuracy of a mechanical device. The Laserphaco Probe combined an optical laser, irrigation system and suction tubes. In use, the laser is inserted into a tiny incision on the eye; the laser then vaporizes the cataract and lens material, which is removed via the suction tubes. A replacement lens is then inserted on the eye.
With the Laserphaco Probe invention and the development of the procedure for its use, Dr. Bath helped restore the sight of several people who had been blinded by cataracts for up to 30 years.

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

While home security systems today are more advanced than ever, back in 1966 the idea for a home surveillance device seemed almost unthinkable. That was the year famous African-American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown, and her partner Albert Brown, applied for an invention patent for a closed-circuit television security system – the forerunner to the modern home security system.
Brown's system had a set of four peep holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look out each one. Anything the camera picked up would appear on a monitor. An additional feature of Brown's invention was that a person also could unlock a door with a remote control.
A female black inventor far ahead of her time, Marie Van Brittan Brown created an invention that was the first in a long string of home-security inventions that continue to flood the market today.

Garrett A. Morgan

Traffic Signal and Gas Mask Inventor
Many of the world's most famous inventors only produced one major invention that garnered recognition and cemented their prominent status. But Garret Augustus Morgan, one of America's most successful African-American inventors, created two – the gas mask and the traffic signal.
Born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to former slaves, Garrett A. Morgan was only formally educated to a sixth-grade level. Fortunately, like many great inventors, Morgan had an innate mechanical mind that enabled him to solve problems. And, unlike most other inventors, he also was a skilled entrepreneur.
After moving to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 18, Garrett Morgan's business sense and strong work ethic led him to almost immediate success. He started his own sewing equipment repair business, and even established a newspaper – the Cleveland Call.
But Morgan's most prolific accomplishments came in his role as an inventor. He received a patent for the first gas mask invention in 1914, but it wasn't until two years later that the idea really took off. When a group of workers got stuck in a tunnel below Lake Erie after an explosion, Morgan and a team of men donned the masks to help get them out. After the rescue was a success, requests for the masks began pouring in.
Similarly, Garrett Morgan's other famous invention – the traffic signal – was also invented to help save lives. After witnessing an accident on a roadway, Morgan decided a device was needed to keep cars, buggies and pedestrians from colliding. His traffic signal was designed to stand on a street corner and notify vehicles and walkers whether they should stop or go. After receiving a patent in 1923, the rights to the invention were eventually purchased by General Electric.

African Odysseys - Such Inspiration!

This is a must see! Let's come together and learn...

Explore the African roots in world cinema through

the monthly matinee programme of films and courses

Each screening will be introduced by a key speaker and followed by a discussion.

This programme has been devised in conjunction with the African Caribbean

consultative group at the BFI Southbank.


Sat 24 Apr 14:00

Jemima and Johnny

UK 1966. Dir Lionel Ngakane. 30min

Archive drama short set in a racially tense

Notting Hill Gate of the 60s.


South Africa 2005. Dir Norman Maake. 90min

Post-apartheid drama from the experience of

acclaimed filmmaker and writer Zola Maseko,

a former ANC ‘MK’ soldier.

Sat 15 May 14:00

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro)

Brazil, France, Italy. 1959. Dir Marcel Camus.

100min. EST

Spectacular drama with the music, costume

and dance of Brazil’s Rio Festival, and a

discussion on the contribution of carnival

to wider popular culture.

Sat 12 Jun 14:00


Idea, Image, Script:

Short-film Script Workshop

Explore the creative process of taking

your ideas and images and turning them

into scripts.

Sat 10 Apr 11:00 – 16:30 £15.00 (£12.00 concs)

With thanks to: Black and Asian Studies Association (BASA), Black History Walks, Institute of Race Relations,

Black Cultural Archives, BFM, Images of Black Women, Ligali Equality for African People, African and

Caribbean Voices Association, Elder Charlie Phillips

Matinee tickets £5