Archaeologist Skillfully Destroys Many People's 'Distorted View of Africa' in a Run Down of West Africa's Precolonial History

University College of London Institute of Archaeology professor Kevin C. MacDonald tells host Anthony Costello about some of the amazing historical facts about west Africa through his continued excavations and archaeological digs.

According to MacDonald, west Africa had towns and urban centers by 1200 BCE with as many as 20,000 people living and working together.

“In Nigeria, you have some of west Africa’s earliest art traditions,” he explains. ” In central Nigeria, you have a very sophisticated figurative art tradition, terracotta tradition by 800 BCE, going hand-in-hand with iron metallurgy in that area.”

The expert points out that the European land-grab for Africa came at a low point in the continent’s history. It would be a different outcome if Europeans tried invading 200-300 years earlier.

“… At that point any European attempt to control Africa would be repulsed,” MacDonald believes.

To him, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the determining factor in the downfall of many of these great west African empires.


Aya  (2007) by Marguerite Abouet

Art by Clément Oubrerie

“Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too–an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa–seems fueled by something wondrous.

Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business.”

Aya tells the story of its nineteen-year-old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya, her easygoing friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It’s a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City. An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful, and resilient–Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Clément Oubrerie’s warm colors and energetic, playful lines connect expressively with Marguerite Abouet’s vibrant writing.”

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From illiterate child bride to famous Nigerian novelist

The story of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, the woman giving Muslim Nigerian women a voice in fiction.

The bookshelves in her modest two-bedroom bungalow display all nine of her novels - well-known titles, some of which are even listed in the secondary school curriculum.

“These days, I’m fortunate: When people see my name on something, they want to read it,” Yakubu says, leaning back in the couch in her sitting room and rearranging her white chador.

Her popularity did not come overnight. After she published her first novel in 1987, religious leaders would preach against her, and she would receive threatening letters denouncing her and her children, which she described as “the most hurtful thing you can do to a mother”.

She was taken out of primary school at the age of 12 to marry a man in his 40s whom she had never met before. At first, Balaraba Ramat Yakubu enjoyed the presents she received at the wedding and the golden ornaments decorating her new home, but she had no idea what marriage was about.

Today, that illiterate girl who didn’t even know how to boil water and who, one year and eight months after the wedding, was finally sent back to her father’s house in disgrace, has become one of northern Nigeria’s most well-known writers and the first female Hausa-language author to be translated into English.

“If you know where I came from, you’ll realise how much I have fought,” says the 57-year-old author of nine novels.


The Ghanaian Goldilocks

Set in Accra, Ghana, The Ghanaian Goldilocks is a modern twist on the classic Goldilocks fairytale. Like traditional kente cloth, West African culture and themes are woven seamlessly into the story of a boy with sun lightened hair named Kofi, better known to his friends and family as Goldilocks. 

Like the Goldilocks in the traditional tale, Kofi has been known to get into some trouble here and there, but it’s an unexpected visit to a neighbor’s house that teaches him a valuable lesson of a lifetime.

By Dr Tamara Pizzoli (Author), Phil Howell (Illustrator)

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Jollof aka Wolof Rice is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries, similar to European Pilaf or Paella, and possibly a progenitor of the Louisianian dish Jambalaya. It’s consumed throughout Mali, Togo, Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, and Ghana. There are many variations, but usually it contains rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, salt, spices such as nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cumin, and chili peppers; optional ingredients include vegetables, meats, or fish. Because of the tomato paste and palm oil, the dish is always red in color.
Ghana’s textile trade unravels due to cheap Chinese imports

Isaac Eshun watches closely as reams of newly printed fabrics flow down from the giant rollers overhead, vast sheets of cloth with intricate orange and blue designs tumbling from the factory’s whirring machines. The 53-year-old technician has spent almost half his life working at this textile company in Tema, a coastal town around 10 miles from the capital of Accra, yet such a career is increasingly rare in Ghana’s once thriving textile industry.

Update: Links on authenticating Ghanaian textiles and shops


Watch This: How One Woman Is Using Wrestling To Help Girls Fight For Change

In Senegal, wrestling is more than just a sport. Laamb, the style of wrestling practiced there for centuries, has long been a major cultural rite of passage. Now, Isabelle Sambou and other female stars of the sport are trying to open the ring — and the opportunities that come with it — to more women.