pre colonial africa

Ethiopian Orthodox priest celebrates mass

Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the 1st century AD, arguably the first nation in the world to accept Christianity (the other nation to debate this being Armenia) and this long tradition makes Ethiopia unique amongst sub-Saharan African countries. Christianity in this country is divided into several groups. The largest and oldest is the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (in Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተክርስትያን Yäityop'ya ortodoks täwahedo bétäkrestyan) is an Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia that was part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa Cyril VI. 

The largest pre-colonial Christian church of Africa, the Ethiopian Church has a membership of between 40 and 46 million, the majority of whom live in Ethiopia, and is thus the largest of all Oriental Orthodox churches. Next in size are the various Protestant congregations, who include 13.7 million Ethiopians. The largest Protestant group is the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, with about 5 million members. Roman Catholicism has been present in Ethiopia since the century, and numbers 536,827 believers. In total, Christians make up about 60% of the total population of the country.

Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Before Tattoos and piercings, the Amasunzu hairstyle was the epitome of individuality in Rwanda. Mother always scolded my brothers into cutting off their hair once their beautiful coils started to sprout from the scalp. I think as a child, I bought into the ill-education that ‘’real men’’ should not grow out their hair. Dreadlocks were for the ‘’no good-doers’’ and one millimetre hair peaking on bold were for the ‘’focused’’, goal achievers. Guys, hair is really political. Why do we call our own hairstyles/customs pagan while giving foreigners the holy badge? Even though this look was worn during the pre-colonial times in Africa, to me, this look also reverberates into afro-futuristic elements that I completely adore.

An East African native Askari holding the German Empire’s colonial flag.

In essence, Bismarck’s colonial motives were obscure as he had said repeatedly “… I am no man for colonies” and “remained as contemptuous of all colonial dreams as ever.” However, in 1884 he consented to the acquisition of colonies by the German Empire, in order to protect trade, to safeguard raw materials and export markets and to take opportunities for capital investment, among other reasons. In the very next year Bismarck shed personal involvement when “he abandoned his colonial drive as suddenly and casually as he had started it” as if he had committed an error in judgment that could confuse the substance of his more significant policies. “Indeed, in 1889, [Bismarck] tried to give German South West Africa away to the British. It was, he said, a burden and an expense, and he would like to saddle someone else with it.”

4

Why I talk about African history the way I do:

My blog is not solely dedicated to African history, or history in general, but I do occasionally talk about history. I’m not a professional historian or even particularly academic, but I am interested in these topics.

Lately I’ve been very interested in African history in particular.

Specifically what some might call ‘Sub-Saharan’ or 'Black’ Africa. Of the two terms I prefer Black Africa. Specifically because 'Sub-Saharan’ implies a sort of regional isolationism that didn’t exist, conjuring the idea that all blacks were stuck in their happy little 'jungle ghetto’ and never strayed out beyond the Sahara, with only exotic encounters with those other peoples from beyond that geographic boundary. Racially charged language there, but to illustrate a point.

I don’t talk much about Colonial Africa. Which means I don’t talk much about some very interesting black African figures and events. The reason I don’t is because, well, aren’t there plenty of other places that already talk at length about that specific story? The colonial period was not that long in the span of African history. It did do a great deal of damage in that short time. Damage that is in many ways irreversible. To the history of the continent and to the lives of its people. There are many people who write about that history, history that is in many ways still playing out today. They write about it very well. It’s good and important that they talk about it and keep that history alive.

But I’m here to talk about another part of Black African history. Pre-colonial history. I never guarantee that I talk about it well, only as best as I can. Sometimes I’m wrong or don’t have my facts straight. I’m not a particularly good historian. I’m not university educated.

But despite that, I can still put stuff out there that I’ve heard/read/seen. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

In my amateur studies I have poured over hundreds of articles, pictures, blogs and (actually not that many) published books. Hopefully what I’ve learned has been accurate. In that time I’ve read up on the lance armed knights of Mali. The Dahomey Amazons. The Nubian states, from the days of Rome, to the Christian period, to the Islamic Conquest. The Kingdom of Axum and its disappearance. Ancient Kush.

Over five thousand years of history. City-states, kingdoms, empires. So much stuff its hard to start some times.

I want to share as much of that stuff with the world as possible, because history is important. Particularly African history. Particularly Black African history, that looks beyond and before the years of misery and conquest.

The history of Black Africa doesn’t begin at White invasion and end at Ebola outbreaks.

Let’s talk about that other part of Black African history. Let’s tell these stories as well.

Watch on forgottenanimation.tumblr.com

KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS (1998)

a 1998 traditional animation feature film written and directed by Michel Ocelot. Drawn from elements of West African folk tales, it depicts how a newborn boy, Kirikou, saves his village from the evil witch Karaba. The film was originally released on December 9, 1998. It is a co-production between companies inFrance (Exposure, France 3 Cinema, Les Armateurs, Monipoly, Odec Kid Cartoons), Belgium (Radio-Television Belge) and Luxembourg (Studio O, Trans Europe Film) and animated at Rija Films’ studio in Latvia and Studio Exist in Hungary.

Why was it special?: GAVE PROMINENCE TO A CRIMINALLY UNDERUSED SOURCE OF MATERIAL

Ohh hell to the yes, this is another piece of animation that this month was absolutely made for. Not only that but this is one of those artsy movies that the snooty animation fans out there go absolutely gaga for.  It’s artsy in that the backgrounds are very catching, the character designs are unique and reflective of the setting the movie takes place in, and the presentation as a whole is just an absolute feast for the senses.

Unlike most artsy films that are content to show off the art and animation and not much more, this is one of the rare exceptions that manages to strike a good balance between telling a story and showing off the art.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, being that this is here and that it’s me talking about it you’re probably thinking, “he must have some sort of complain. He always has a complaint about everything.” Normally, I’d like to find a good balance between good and bad aspects, mostly bad because those are the funnest to make fun of but for once, I’ve got nothing but praise to give.

This 70 minute animated collaboration between French, Belgian, and Luxembourg studios that mixes many West African folk tales is positively special. I might be a little blinded by the fact that while I do like this movie very much, I also quite like what it represents.

I don’t have to tell you that there is a criminal lack of representation of African centric stories. With all the different countries, cultures, languages, cities, and tribes, many of us barely know anything about Africa, the continent, as a whole, let alone the stories, legends, myths, and tales.


This movie just gets me thinking that there are hundreds, if not thousands -maybe even more than that- of stories that we’ve never seen told before, in animation or any medium. Some of those stories have never even been written down, let alone released on a worldwide scale. For someone like me who loves writing, and loves to read, this just tickles my fancy in a way that would make me sound even more nerdy if I proceeded to over-explain it.

I gotta wrap this up.

It’s most definitely a must-see movie, and you’re cheating yourself if you don’t see it.

TRIVIA

  • the movie was so successful that it was followed by Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages, released in 2005, and adapted into a stage musical, Kirikou et Karaba, first performed in 2007. Another followup, Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes, was released in late 2012 
  • the film has been dubbed in French, English, Japanese, and Swahili 
  • The film contains several instances of female nudity, and male nudity to a lesser extent, as would be the norm in pre-colonial Africa. This was controversial enough in the US to delay the film’s release there until 2002.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I’ve said all that needs to be said.

The entire movie is available on youtube.

You know what to do.