africa in history

1554 map of Africa by Sebastian Munster. This is one of the earliest maps of the whole content after Vasco Da Gama’s travel to India and back in the late 1490s. The map reveals European ignorance about Africa, including one-eyed creatures in west Africa and the mythical Christian kingdom of Prester John in the east. 

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( Second photo) This is by far my favorite shot of Black Panther so far! My love for Angela Bassett is endless but I do want to take a minute to share a quick history of the Zulu inspired headdress she’s wearing:


The flared shape of these Zulu women’s hats (isicholo), dyed with red ochre, reflect the original design of the hairstyle on which they are based. Originally a mother would sew her daughter’s hair into this complex design for the initial stage in the series of ceremonies associated with her daughter’s marriage. The hats are a relatively new aspect of Zulu traditional dress that were developed in the late 19th or early 20th century and are based on the cone-shaped hairstyle that indicated the wearer’s maturity and marital status. Marriage and its affirmation of maturity is one of five key rites of passage in the life of a Zulu woman alongside: birth, naming, death/burial and ukubuyisa, “bringing home of the spirit”.


Once Zulu culture accepted hats as an alternative to the hairstyle, a young bride-to-be would begin sewing her hat as soon as she knew to whom she would be married. They are made by overlaying dyed string on a basketry foundation. Isicholo play a role in the ukukhehla ceremony, the second ceremony in which the future bride and groom exchange gifts and thanks before the actual wedding. For the majority of the ceremony the hat (or originally the bride’s hair) would be protected by a wrap of white fabric. At the appropriate moment in the wedding songs, the groom-to-be removes the wrap and pins a note to the headdress. Once married, a Zulu woman would wear this hat on a daily basis to signify her married status. The hat was one of very few adornments worn by married women, who, although part of a culture where beadwork plays an extremely significant symbolic role, wore nearly none.

Today the isicholo is no longer worn on a daily basis, but it continues to be used on special ceremonial occasions, when it is commonly worn with an imported scarf tied over the hat to keep the read ochre pigment from rubbing off on the wearer’s clothes.

(Side note: I am literally securing my wig because I am NOT ready for how great this movie will be!)

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Malcolm X and Maya Angelou in Ghana, 1964.

Malcolm X on his last visit to Accra had announced a desire to create a foundation he called the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His proposal included taking the plight of the African-Americans to the United Nations and asking the world council to intercede on the part of beleaguered blacks. The idea was so stimulating to the community of African-American residents that I persuaded myself I should return to the States to help establish the organization. 

We all read Malcolm’s last letter to me.

Dear Maya,

I was shocked and surprised when your letter arrived but I was also pleased because I only had to wait two months for this one whereas previously I had to wait almost a year. You see I haven’t lost my wit. (smile)

Your analysis of our people’s tendency to talk over the head of the masses in a language that is too far above and beyond them is certainly true. You can communicate because you have plenty of (soul) and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground.

I am enclosing some articles that will give you somewhat of an idea of my daily experiences here and you will then be better able to understand why it sometimes takes me a long time to write. I was most pleased to learn that you might be hitting in this direction this year. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful woman. You know that I will always do my utmost to be helpful to you in any way possible so don’t hesitate.

Signed
Your brother Malcolm 

(Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s memoir A Song Flung Up To Heaven)

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Amphitheatre of El Jem

El Jem (Thysdrus), Tunisia

238 CE

35,000 spectators

The amphitheatre is built of stone blocks, located on a flat ground, and is exceptionally well conserved. The amphitheatre of El Jem is the third amphitheatre built on the same place. The belief is that it was constructed by the local proconsul Gordian, who became the emperor as Gordian III. 

Let’s make sure the Black Panther movie has a debut like no other movie ever.

Let’s make sure that in all of 2018 no other movie can surpass the kind of debut Black Panther will have.

Let’s break the box office!

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“Through contemporary eyes, the static shots and urban milieus of Black Girl seem to solidify Sembène’s filmmaking as an aesthetic neighbor to the emotionally-walloping neorealism of the Italian De Sica. Black Girl may not evoke the immediate adoration of something as universally beloved as De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, although the latter film’s deft interweaving of personal-is-political social commentary with the rueful, everyday messiness of the lives of the marginalized working class began a storytelling tradition that is gloriously carried on by Sembène. Black Girl has all the skillful stylistic simplicity of your typical piece of neorealism but also packs a sharper bite and it’s electrifying to watch Sembène craft a twisty drama with the piano-chord tautness of a thriller that is nonetheless coated in such a rare and wryly intimate form of humanity.”

Read more: OUSMANE SEMBÈNE’S BLACK GIRL IS ONE OF THE YEAR’S MOST IMPORTANT CINEMATIC EVENTS by Matthew Eng

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February 11th 1990: Mandela released

On this day in 1990, the South African activist and politician Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Mandela had spent twenty-seven years in prison for his role as an anti-apartheid activist at the head of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which translates as Spear of the Nation. The controversial organisation served as the militant armed wing of the African National Congress political party, born out of a frustration among anti-apartheid activists that their non-violence was met with brutality by white authorities against black citizens. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life in prison, during which time he was largely condemned as a terrorist by Western nations. He served most of his twenty-seven years on Robben Island, then Victor Verster Prison near Cape Town, and during his imprisonment his reputation grew as a significant black leader both in South Africa and internationally. Mandela was finally freed after the ban on the ANC was lifted by the apartheid government. Upon his release, Mandela led the ANC in the successful negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid, and was overwhelmingly elected President of South Africa in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, serving until 1999. In 2013, Nelson Mandela died aged 95 and has been mourned around the world as a hero who fought for freedom in South Africa, and as a symbol of resistance for oppressed peoples everywhere.

“Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”

Basically the era where being thicker than a midget was a crime just because Africans happen to be thick. Sarah (Saartije) Baartman was a Khoisan (South African) woman who performed under the name “Hottentot Venus” in 19th century England and France. She is the original video vixen: discovered at home in South Africa during her late teens, she was offered money and fame in Europe as a singer and dancer. Little did she know that she would be exploited and put on display for everyone to gaze at her large butt, long clitoris/labia, small waist, big breast and kinky hair– all traits that are very common amongst Khoisan women. As her shows attracted more fans, she was forced against her will to have sex with men AND WOMEN who gave enough money to her exploiters. Sarah got none of the money, as she was once promised. After her act got old, she was forced into prostitution, where she died of std’s and alcoholism. The obsession with Saartije lasted after her death as well. For more than 100 years, visitors and “scientist” were able to examine her dissected body parts in Paris museums. The 19th century shapewear, the “bustle” was inspired by her in order to give european women her unique physique. Yes, an old school booty pop. On behalf of Nelson Mandela’s request, Paris returned Saartije’s remains to South Africa in 2002. Black men, it’s time that you start respecting the black woman’s body, because this act of objectifying it was taught to you. #sarahbaartman