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    1. #1
      Fenix's Avatar
      Fenix is offline aFROdemic

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      Brief Look at a Few West African Kingdoms


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      I've been meaning to do this for a long time. Anyway, a few notes on Ghana, Mali and Songhay from From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr. Hopefully these will be expanded as I get more time to organize them. Let's start with Ghana.

      The Classical West African Kingdom of Ghana sprang up about 500 miles from what we now know as Ghana. The kingdom was also known by the name of its capital city, Kumbi Saleh. Ghana's written history extends back to the 7th century but evidence exists that suggests the kingdom's political, social and cultural institutions extends to the very early Common Era.

      Ghana began as an unbounded collection of settlements. The people of the early Ghanaian kingdom were skilled farmers but the area was often plagued by droughts which eventually led to the desert being extended into their farmlands. As such, a booming trade economy grew out of Kumbi Saleh which soon became an important commercial city during the Middle Ages.

      As the influence of Islam spread, Ghanaians adapted and by the early tenth century there was a Muslim area in Kumbi Saleh and people across the kingdom began to gradually accept Islam. With the spread of Islam, Ghana's power grew and so did the kingdom's prosperity. By the eleventh century the king of Ghana had adopted Islam and Ghana's army had grown. Trade routes extended across the desert, bringing wheat, sugar and fruit from Muslim countries along with textiles, brass, pearls and salt in exchange for Ghanaian ivory and gold.

      With the rule of the Sisse Dynasty, Ghana reached the apex of its influence. Beginning in 1062 Tenkamenin took over as ruler of the prosperous kingdom. Tenkamenin headed a religion based on the belief that every object contained good and evil spirits which must be satiated to ensure the continuing prosperity of the people of Ghana and of the kingdom itself.

      In 1076, the Almoravids, a band of Muslims, invaded and seized the capital of Ghana, bringing the city under its religion and rule. The invasion caused strife across the kingdom and soon droughts diminished the flourishing economy. Under these circumstances, Ghana weakened and fell to wave after wave of conquerors in the 12th and 13th centuries, leading to the kingdom's ultimate destruction.

      Next: Mali.
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

    2. #2
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      Mali


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      Another kingdom emerged from the shadows as Ghana began its decline. Mali (aka Melle) has a rich and extensive history that extends to the beginning of the seventh century. It wasn't until the eleventh century that Mali grew in significance and when the mansas (kings) of Mali began to spread their influence and the year 1235 marks the beginning of the organized kingdom.

      Mali's legendary Mansa Sundiata Keita was largely responsible for consolidating and strengthening the kingdom. It was in 1240 that Sundiata Keita defeated the Soso and destroyed Ghana's capital.

      Another member of the Keita Dynasty, Gonga-Musa (Mansa-Musa) ruled from 1312 until 1337, and took the kingdom of Mali to all new heights. His kingdom included much of what we know as "francophone" Africa. Under the rule of Gonga-Musa, Malian people were encouraged to engage in various crafts and mining in addition to agriculture.

      When Gonga-Musa passed away in 1337, Mali was easily one of the most powerful and well organized political states of the period. Under Gonga-Musa and the successor to his throne, Suleiman, Mali boasted a flourishing economy, well established schools, booming international trade relations (mostly with Muslim nations) and a stable nation that spanned from the Atlantic Coast to Lake Chad. With Islam as the state religion, Mali developed international ties that helped its tremendous growth.

      It was not until the 15th century that Mali began to decline under attacks from Songhay and the Mossi but continued to exist as a small, semi-independent state.

      from From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr.

      Next: Songhay
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

    3. #3
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      Fenix is offline aFROdemic

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      Map of Pre-Colonial Africa


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      Just to offer a visual view of the kingdoms and civilizations...



      Source
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

    4. #4
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      Songhay


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      The origin of Songhay can be traced to the 18th century. Unstable and small, Songhay fell under the influence of Mali. By the 15th century, Songhay began to chip away at the power of Mali. Rising to great heights under the rule of Sonni Ali (1464-1492) by 1355 Songhay flexed its muscles and completely asserted its own sovereignty.

      When Sonni Ali took the throne, most of West Africa was ripe for conquest; Mali was on the decline and the smaller states had not the resources or the necessary leadership to dominate the region. By 1469 Sonni Ali had taken over Timbuktu, Jenne, and other major cities. Soon after these conquests, he successfully attacked Mali.

      Sonni Ali was met with much resistance because of his hesitance or unwillingness to embrace Islam. He spent most of his reign fighting to keep his power. At the time of his death in 1492, he had successfully turned Songhay into the dominant kingdom in West Africa.

      In 1493, General Askia Mohammed overthrew the dynasty of Sonni Ali and took control of the Songhay Empire. He would come to be known as the kingdom's most brilliant ruler. From 1493 to 1529 Askia Mohammed dedicated himself to increasing the prosperity of his people, strengthening his empire and encouraging education.

      Askia Mohammed, throughout his reign, established schools all over the kingdom, creating intellectual centers in Gao, Walata, Timbuktu and Jenne. It was there where West African scholars were in high number and there that people from Asia and Europe came to study. Scholars including El-Akit and Bagayogo were educated at Timbuktu, a distinctly Sudanese literature began to emerge and the University of Sankore educated young Africans.

      Civil war, massacres and unsuccessful military expeditions followed when Askia was dethroned by his eldest son. The empire began to crumble under increased pressure from the Moors who viewed the area and its resources covetously. With the help of Spanish renegades, Moroccans overthrew the Songhay empire and began their brief rule in Timbuktu.

      from From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr.
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

    5. #5
      Sourakhata's Avatar
      Sourakhata is offline Proud Son of West Afrika

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      Asante Sana Fenix..! Your updates on West Afrikan Kingdoms are short but accurate.
      Through those Kingdoms one can see that Islam has been playing an important part in the lives of our ancestors for a very long period of time.
      I look forward to read the one on the Puulaar/Fulani Kingdom under Shaykh El Haddj Umar Tall, or even Shaykh Uthman Dan Fodiyo.

      And no matter what game they play
      We got something they could never take away
      And it's the fire (fire), it's the fire (fire)
      That's burning down everything
      Feel that fire (fire), the fire (fire)
      No water could put out this fire (fire)



    6. #6
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      The Sao


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      I actually need a little help with this one. My research is thin to say the least. If anyone can point me to any books, articles or websites, I'd be extremely grateful!

      What I do know, from Basil Davidson's The Lost Cities of Africa is that the Sao settled in the areas around Lake Chad. Some sources trace the origin of the Sao civilization to the 8th century and others to the 5th. Similarly, some sources mark the decline of the Sao civilization at the 10th century while others claim it lasted well into the 15th century.



      There the Sao constructed towns, elevated women to positions of influence in the government, developed complicated burial rituals, fashioned extravagant pottery, "cult figures", toys and animals from clay and worked with bronze. The bronze work was similar to that which we would see in Benin later.

      The mode of life of the Sao seems to be a mixture of Eastern and Western African traditions. Davidson says that The Sao are to Kush as Kush is to Egypt. That's a very dense statement that I will have to attempt to parse out later.

      Perhaps due to the advanced society built by the Sao, early historians attempted to identify them as descendants of the Hyskos but there is evidence to suggest that the Sao originated from an area just north of Lake Chad and were in fact African ("Black" African, whatever that might mean). Legend refers to them as giants, and perhaps that is based in truth and the Sao were "Nilotic" as people of that classification were (and are still) unusually tall.

      I know this post was a bit disjointed. Any additional info would be appreciated. Hopefully I will be able to get it polished in the coming weeks.
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

    7. #7
      Elisa Keisha's Avatar
      Elisa Keisha is offline Moderator

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      Fenix, thank you sooo much!! ASANTE SANA! This are fantastic briefs. You are giving enough info to get a global (and chronological) idea, and helping a further search for those interested. Like now, i can research myself about some of the kings you mentioned, the universities, etc. This is great! Please keep them coming.

      Thats interesting the Sao were reffered as giants, it sures make sense that they were Nilotic people.

      On a different note, the past week in my Islamology class, the teacher was talking about Al-Andalus times (Muslim name for Spain) She said its inhabitants (that were mostly bereber and iberic, but always tried to deny their roots saying they were arabic = descendents of The Prophet) once needed help to get rid of i dont remember which non-muslim force, and therefore called the Moors from southers Afrikan kingdoms (probably Ghana or Mali, cause we are talking about the 11th century), who had a very strong army and were known for defending Islam.
      She (my teacher) also explained how al-andalus people were afraid of calling and welcoming Black people that will pervert their suppossed arabic "royal" (that in reality WAS NOT) blood. She mentioned a book that tells the story but i havent searched it yet.

      Elisa Marvena Nyarai




      SANKOFA Asociación Cultural
      www.myspace.com/sankofacultura
      http://sankofacultura.blogspot.com

    8. #8
      Sourakhata's Avatar
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      Don't worry Sistren, your article is helpful & very instructive, as a matter of fact i did not know about the Sao Civilisation at all.
      It's up to us to make some further research if we are interested. How can it be otherwise?
      A lost civilisation of unusually tall afrikan warriors, wow!!

      Wikipedia's article is not too bad.

      "A. Masson-Détourbet suggest that the civilisation may have been the link between the advanced civilisations of the Nile and the Niger rivers."
      I found that extremely interesting.

      Sao civilisation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      I found another article which seems to be quite thorough but i just briefly read it.

      "The Emergence of social complexity in the southern Chad Basin towards 500 BC: Archaeological and other evidence"

      "Everywhere in the former Borno Empire, the most prominent pre-Islamic
      inhabitants are called Sâo, Sâu, Sô or Sôo. They are said to having been giants
      who built large buildings and produced high, thick-walled clay pots. Hence
      Kanuri consider them town builders and producers of much larger containers
      than in use nowadays. In Kawar and southern Fezzan they are thought to
      have been the builders of mighty castles.53 The Kotoko likewise ascribe to
      them the imposing clay architecture, the former town walls, and the large clay
      pots that served as storage and burial containers.54 We are apparently faced
      here with old and relatively precise traditions common to Kanuri and Kotoko,
      which refer to craftsmen no longer in existence.

      The Sao were not at all the autochthonous inhabitants of the Borno Empire as
      is often assumed.55 Various traditions confer to them a far-away place of origin
      comparable to the Yemenite provenance of the Sefuwa. Among the Kanuri of
      Kawar (Bilma) it is said that they were descendants of Noumouroudou Kinana
      (Nimrod Canaan), a Biblical figure also known elsewhere in the Central
      Sudan.56 During their immigration from their home region – probably Canaan
      – they are said to have followed a route via the Nile Valley in the east or a
      route passing through North Africa.57 Only among the Kanuri of the
      Komadugu Yobe region might a local origin of the Sao initially be considered to
      be correct. This opinion, however, results from the contrast between the
      Sefuwa immigrants from Kanem and the local people. It only corresponds to
      the traditions of the ruling dynasty and not to - so far unknown - traditions of
      the local population.58 Further to the north the legends of the Saharan Kanuri
      clearly indicate an early connection with Canaan.
      According to older Kotoko traditions, the Sao originated from Syria or Palestine
      in the Near East.59 Informants of the colonial period trace the origin of the Sao
      to northern towns with stone walls and mention the crossing of a desert. They
      furthermore explain certain customs by reference to the behaviour of their
      ancestors who lived in far-away towns abandoned by them at the edge of the
      sea. In particular they refer to ancestral Sao who inhabited a coastal town of
      the bahr N’Gouloufoun (bahr, Arab. ‘sea’) on the other side of the desert.60
      Other traditions connect the Near Eastern origin of the Sao with a pair of
      twins of a woman from Jerusalem. Her descendants, the Sao, are said to have
      inhabited the dark island of Goulefou which was located in a black sea without
      sunlight, illuminated only by shining metal, the “living gold”.61 Traditions
      published by anthropologists in post-colonial times distinguish between
      hunters with spears, hunters with bow and arrows, and fishermen. The
      hunters are believed to have originally lived in Kanem or further north or
      northeast. The fishermen are said to have come from the north, from Lake
      Fitri, and from the region of River Benue.62 Neither general Kotoko traditions
      nor those of the individual city-states support the idea of a purely local origin.
      Even behind the place names Kanem and Fitri, which prevail in the more
      recent accounts, one may suspect the previously mentioned relations with North Africa and beyond. The legendary locality N’Gouloufoun or Goulefou, at
      the sea shore or on a small island, might have been a coastal town at the edge
      of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It may hypothetically be identified with
      either the harbour town Byblos, called Gubla in Phoenician and
      Jubayl/Gubayl in Arabic, or Tyros situated on a small island in the see.63 Both
      towns were located amidst a region which during the neo-Assyrian period
      received large numbers of deportees from Mesopotamia.64
      In addition, among the Kotoko circulate stories with strange biblical
      connotations. According to one narrative, the Sao had left their home at a
      “black river” close to the Red Sea after the destruction of their harvest by the
      Deluge.65 Following another story, the Sao boarded Noah’s Arc and left it at
      Moussoro, east of Lake Chad. It is also said that Noah saw, from the mountain
      Hadjer al-Khamis, his people in a pirogue on Lake Chad. On attempting to
      reach them, he fell into the water and the pirogue capsized. After this the Sao
      emerged from the fertile mud of Lake Chad – out of Noah’s body? The
      ancestry of the Sao is sometimes traced back to Iwčtche, son of Anak
      (Henoch), son of Sita (Set), son of Adam and Eve.67 This tradition may be
      compared with the genealogy of the Sefuwa kings of Kanem-Borno transmitted
      by the D3w1n, which has with one exception all the names of the Biblical
      patriarchs from Abraham to Adam.68 The suspicion of a loan from Islamic
      written material can be shown to be unfounded in the case of the D3w1n since
      some of its biblical names have more authentic forms than those transmitted
      by Arab authors.69 Although the biblical stories of Kotoko oral traditions
      likewise have an authentic flavour because of their closeness to oriental
      mythology, Islamic feedback can in this case not be formally excluded. With
      respect to these biblical elements, note should also be taken of the Israelite
      impact on the early culture of Kanem-Borno as witnessed by the Mune-
      Symbol, which Ibn Furt5 in the sixteenth century considered to be identical
      with the Arc of the Covenant of King Saul.70
      So far, it is unclear whether the Sao were strangers or simply ancestors of the present carriers of these traditions. They are mostly regarded as giants, able to
      erect large buildings and to produce huge pots, but who rejected Islam. As
      pagans, they stood in opposition to the Muslim people of Borno. Sometimes it
      is purported that they had tried to trick the Yemenites (Kanuri) into death.
      However, more frequent are traditions according to which the Kanuri tricked
      the Sao without any previous enmity. In the region of the Komadugu Yobe and
      in Kawar the story is told that the Kanuri overwhelmed the Sao in a
      defenceless condition after they had beguiled them into letting their hands be
      tied together in order to have them henna-dyed.71 According to these legends,
      the Sao must have lived for some time side-by-side with the Kanuri before they
      died out or were forcefully eliminated.72 Other narratives claim that the Sao
      had disappeared already or moved to other places when the Kanuri arrived.73
      It would appear that these stories are told by present-day people who prefer to
      dissociate themselves from any Sao ancestry. This is the prevalent tendency
      among all the Kanuri speakers. Only with respect to the Ngwma of southeastern
      Borno do some informants suggest an earlier Sao identity.74 Also it
      should be noted that modern researchers tend to press local traditions into
      the mould of ethnical constructs. This is most apparent in the usage of the
      ethnonyms Kanuri and Kotoko as opposed to the term Sao, a contrast which
      local informants even today do not perceive in the same way.75
      In the first quarter of the twentieth century people in various places insisted
      on ethnic continuity between the Sao and themselves. It was then possible to
      meet individuals who used the term with positive connotations. That was the
      case with the majority of the inhabitants of Yau on the Komadugu Yobe who
      called themselves specifically Sao-Ngissim (not Ngizim). The village head of
      Yau considered his own father to be Sao and his mother Kangu. In Gumsai
      Gagala close to Birni Gazargamo, the village head (lawan) and his
      representative (bwlama) likewise claimed for themselves and fifty other persons
      in the village Sao ancestry. In Monguno further south 150 Sao families were
      recorded and the office bwlama was said to be reserved to the Sao.76 Here it
      was even believed that the newcomers from Kanem in the area of Birni
      Gazargamo speaking Arabic learnt the Kanuri language from local Sao.77
      These statements would seem to refer to a section or a clan of the Bornoan society with handicraft specialisation akin to the Magumi Duguwa or the
      Ngalaga likewise marginalised by the Sefuwa.78
      Among the Kotoko the opinion of an original Sao identity was even more
      prevalent. In particular, it was generally believed that all the pre-Islamic kings
      of Kotoko towns were Sao while the people themselves had Sao ancestors.79
      The common designation of formerly prestigious predecessors associated with
      the birni complex can be taken in itself as important evidence of an ancient
      cultural hegemony exercised by the Magumi – first the Duguwa, then the
      Sefuwa – on the city-state societies of the firgi land. Among the Kanuri and the
      Kotoko four factors led to a growing dissociation from the Sao: increasing
      identification of the Sao with paganism, loss of craft skills connected with pre-Islamic practices and rituals,80 association of the Sao with people of unusual gigantic size, and preference for clan names not bearing negative connotations.
      Attention should further be drawn to the prominence of an individual Sao in
      the traditions of central Borno. Arriving in the region of their future Bornoan
      capital, the Sefuwa are said to have first met So Dala Gumami, an individual
      who was the mai, “king”, of the Sao or just their leader. He is the one who
      interacted with the newcomers and built Birni Gazargamo for them, not the
      Sao people in general. When after some time of cohabitation, war broke out
      two different sets of traditions refer to the consequences. In the area of Birni
      Gazargamo it is believed that the Sefuwa exterminated the Sao only sparing
      their friend So Dala Gumami who left for Kano.81 In Yau, 120 km to the east,
      people have a different opinion on the outcome of the war. Dala Gumami
      having already died, his son Duna is supposed to have been slain by the
      Sefuwa. But subsequently the women united and killed the Sefuwa king in
      turn.82 This victory and the subsequent survival of the Sao explain why the
      inhabitants of Yau could still recently claim to be of Sao origin.83
      Sao traditions of Tedjerhe, the most northern Kanuri locality situated in southern Libya, ignore a people of that name and only deal with an individual
      called Sôo. He is said to have been a giant who built not only the castle of
      Tedjerhe but also those of Agram/Fachi und Brao/Djado in Niger and Traghen
      in Libya.84 In Kawar people tell the story of an individual Sao who usually
      travelled in half a day from Tedjerhé to Fachi but died in a well in southern
      Libya.85 Going one step further, we note that according to the tradition of
      Makari, the most important Kotoko town, the city was founded by a hero
      called Ma Sougou, “king” Sougou, whose people were called Sougou or Sao.86 It
      would therefore appear that certain traditions preserve the memory of a “king”
      of the Sao, others of an individual Sao and still others of a fuller name
      Sougou/S5g5.
      In connection with an overall history of the Central Sudan it may be
      worthwhile considering the possibility that the quasi ethnic label Sao is itself
      an abbreviation of an originally more complete name such as Shango. Like in
      Magumi > Maami elision may have reduced the name Shango/Sango to Sao:
      Sango > Sago/Sugu > Sao. It should be noted that yangű itself was the
      priestly name of Assyrian kings which is widespread in West Africa.87 In the
      light of this etymology the previously noted marginal Sao traditions insisting
      on royalty, individuality and the full name S5g5 may in fact reflect traces of an
      older form of the Sao tradition focussed on an ancestral individual king called
      Shango/ yangű.
      Evidence for a survival of the Shango title among the Kotoko is provided by the
      kinglist of Makari, the traditional centre of the Kotoko: In the seventh, eighth
      and fifteenth position of the list it has the names Sungu dumu (Kot.: “Sungu
      the strong”), Sungu yim2 (Akk.: yangű yanű “Shango, the second”) and Sungu
      dal,.88 These names were formerly wrongly written as Sug Dumuh, Sug Smé
      and Sug Dalé because they were solely rendered on the basis of a transcription
      of their written Arabic form and not on account of their local pronunciation.89
      In the list, they follow names of apparently Kassite and Assyrian origin which
      are similar to those of other Central Sudanic kinglists. Furthermore, with respect to the importance of the Shango name for the Sao-Kotoko, it may be
      noted that the founder of Gawi, the most eastern Kotoko town, is said to have
      been Dongo, the slave of a Babaliya king.91 The slave status of a Shango city
      founder of the Kotoko matches well with the subservient position of the Sao
      vis-ŕ-vis the Magumi – Duguwa and Sefuwa – ruling groups. It seems to reflect
      a reversal of destiny of the Assyrian ruling elite owing to their defeat by the
      Babylonian (Babaliya) army.92 Assyrian traditions are most strikingly
      preserved in the former Kotoko town of Sangaya, a name apparently derived
      from yangű, where the founding heroes are called Adimun and Adisun, two
      names which figure in the Assyrian kinglist as Adamu and Adasi in the 2nd
      and 47th position, the second being considered as a dynastic founder.93 South
      of Lake Chad, certain political entities would appear to have perpetuated the
      names and traditions inherited from their ancient Near Eastern forebears. In
      Kanem-Borno as in other states of the Central Sudan, the name Shango – in
      this case apparently shortened to Sao – could thus originally have referred to
      the ancestral figure of an ancient Near Eastern group of refugees perpetuating
      the tradition of Assyrian rulership. The supposition of a specifically
      Mesopotamian connection of the Kotoko is further supported by the dragon
      killing myth of Makari and the associated triadic structure of the town and of
      the whole country.

      Conclusion

      Contrary to the theories of the colonial period claiming that the city culture of
      the Sao-Kotoko is of Mediterranean or ancient Near Eastern origin, the
      tendency prevails today to consider only local factors for the emergence of sub-
      Saharan cultures. This approach, rooted in the post-colonial paradigm, has
      undoubtedly contributed to the decolonisation of African history. Its continued
      pre-eminence in African historical research is likely to be an obstacle for
      further progress in the attempt to throw light on the period most relevant for
      the emergence of social complexity.
      Admittedly, the absence of North African importation items in the older layers
      of settlement mounds south of Lake Chad has reinforced the impression of
      purely local developments leading to the rise of the birni complex and the
      state. However, non-archaeological evidence points to the likelihood that early
      slave raiding inhibited normal trade relations and thus distorted considerably
      the archaeological record. Therefore it would be one-sided and misleading to
      base consideration concerning the early history of the firgi people solely on archaeological findings.
      In spite of the noted shortcomings of the proposed historical reconstructions,
      the results of archaeological research provide important evidence for the reevaluation
      of the early history of the Central Sudan. By dating the first protourban
      settlements to the middle of the first millennium BC and by revealing
      manifold connections between urbanisation, agricultural and craft
      innovations, archaeologists have highlighted new aspects of the beginning of
      social complexity in West Africa.
      Nevertheless, climatic models should not be
      considered in isolation from a number of possible political factors contributing
      to the explanation of the sudden emergence of the birni complex south of Lake
      Chad. First, the likelihood of a slightly earlier rise of the nucleus of the Kanem
      Empire in the region north or northeast of Lake Chad. Second, the plausibility
      of an ethnic contrast between the state builders of the north and the
      inhabitants of the proto-urban settlements south of Lake Chad, as evidenced
      by the linguistic distinction between Nilo-Saharan Kanuri and Chadic Kotoko.
      Third, the probability that the Kotoko and a fortiori the Ngwma had adopted
      major characteristics of the Kanem-Borno state and town culture associated
      with the name Sao. Fourth, the possibility that the defeated inhabitants of the
      marginal firgi lands of the west used in the mid-first century BC the central
      firgi lands as a region of retreat, thus protecting themselves against further
      slave-raids. Fifth, the expectation that defectors and interlopers supported the
      process of cultural transfers including the transmission of the concept of the
      birni, but excluding at first the spread of the militarily important technology of
      iron production.
      Apart from local aspects of history, any attempt at historical reconstruction
      should take into consideration the inter-continental context. None of the sub-
      Saharan societies of West Africa had the same favourable possibilities of
      contacts with North Africa as the societies of the Lake Chad region. Major
      innovations might thus have reached the Lake Chad region by groups of
      refugees from the Near East shipping through the Mediterranean Sea, passing
      by the coastal cities of Tripolitania and crossing the Sahara.95 Such a process
      of direct cultural transfers would of course have more far-reaching effects than
      the normally considered indirect transmission of innovations by way of the
      Saharan Berbers.96
      Neglect of these possibilities leads to the overemphasis of the post-colonial
      paradigm and consequently increases the intellectual one-sidedness in spite of
      the tremendously greater research potential of our time as compared with the
      colonial period. In fact, cultural parallels between sub-Saharan Africa and
      ancient Near Eastern societies are myriad, they only have to be looked for properly.97 In our time of globalisation it is of greater interest than ever before
      to examine the question of a possible participation of the great Sudanic
      empires, especially Kanem, in the history of the ancient world. "


      http://dierklange.com/pdf/recent_art...complexity.pdf

      And no matter what game they play
      We got something they could never take away
      And it's the fire (fire), it's the fire (fire)
      That's burning down everything
      Feel that fire (fire), the fire (fire)
      No water could put out this fire (fire)



    9. #9
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      Sis Elisa, thank you for sharing that interesting story.

      My hope was that this thread would encourage further research or some sort of dialogue. I am not an expert by any means but if you stumble across any road blocks, please let me know and we can try to work through them.

      Bro Sourakhata, thank you for the article!

      I didn't even think to try wikipedia because information on the Sao is so rare! But I will check both these out in some detail later.

      Thank you both for contributing. Let's keep it up!
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

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      Kanem-Bornu


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      Kanem was not only the largest of the many states that emerged in the Sudan, but it is also the longest lived of all the states of the Sudan. The origins of Kanem go back as far as the eighth century and studies show that the kingdom lasted well into the 17th century.

      The history of Kanem can be broken into two eras, the Old Empire (8th century-13th) and the state of Bornu (13th-17th).

      The rulers of the old empire of Kanem evolved new forms of government, centralized government. Kanem also developed more effective types of warfare and conquest which centered on the state's involvement in ironsmelting and international trade. Kanem is known to have seized the trade routes and caravan trails that led northward through the Fezzan to the Mediterranean coast and eastward to the Nile.

      The old empire is associated with the rul of the Sefuwa Dynasty which emerged from a pattern of tribal feudalism. The Sefuwa Dynasty exercised rule through a great council of 12 officers of the empire who were tasked with discussing and applying the decisions which were handed down from the ruling Sultan.

      On the subject of Bornu, I have little knowledge so I am asking for help!

      It has been said that "Kanem was truly in the Middle Ages the civilizer of the central Sudan just as Mali, the inheritor of Ghana was the civilizer of the western Sudan. These were the centers which saw the elaboration of Sudanese civilization as we know it today."

      From Basil Davidson's The Lost Cities of Africa
      "Oh Africa! When shall be the term of thy long degradation? Behold here, even now, I pledge thee, O my Mother, that I shall devote my years to thee, shall work for thy redemption, shall love thee and be proud of thee and glory in thy power now lying dormant and shall strive to bring it to the light. Take my youth, my labors, my love, my all and do thou when I shall have died for thee, take me to thy bosom, an untamed, untamable African." -Hubert Harrison

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      Kanem-Bornu & The Hausa States

      Ghana, Mali and Songhai had come and gone on the African stage. Near central Africa another great empire called Kanem would rise around 1200AD. Kanem was originally a confederation of various ethnic groups, but by 1100AD, a people called the Kanuri settled in Kanem and in the thirteenth century the Kanuri began upon a conquest of their neighbors. They were led by Mai Dunama Dibbalemi (1221-1259), the first of the Kanuri to convert to Islam. Dibbalemi declared physical jihad (holy war) against surrounding minor states and so began one of the most dynamic periods of conquest in Africa.

      At the height of their empire, the Kanuri controlled territory from Libya to Lake Chad to Hausaland. These were strategic areas, as all the commercial traffic through North Africa had to pass through Kanuri territory. As a result of the military and commercial growth of Kanem, the once nomadic Kanuri eventually turned to a more sedentary way of life.

      Pictured here is a painting of the king of Bornu in royal procession arriving at one of his provincial residences around 1850AD.




      Pictured here are Bornu horsemen trumpeters sounding the Frum-Frums.



      In the late 1300's, civil strife within Kanuri territory began to seriously weaken the empire. By the early 1400's, Kanuri power shifted from Kanem to Bornu, a Kanuri kingdom south and west of Lake Chad.

      When Songhai fell, this new Kanuri Empire of Bornu grew rapidly. The Kanuri grew powerful enough to unite the kingdom of Bornu with Kanem during the reign of Idris Alawma (1575-1610).

      Idris Alawma, a fervent Muslim, set about building an Islamic state all the way west into Hausaland in northern Nigeria. This state would last for another two hundred years, but in 1846, it finally succumbed to the growing power of the Hausa states.




      Bornu Horsemen



      The Bornu were well known for their cavalry. These trumpeters may have served to lead the medieval African kingdom's powerful shock troops into battle.


      The Hausa States


      Around 1100AD hills rich in iron ore dotted the landscape of the region that would come to be known as Hausaland, between the eastern reaches of the Niger River to the west and Lake Chad in the east. Until the 1100's, Hausaland was made up of a number of decentralized agricultural and pastoral villages.



      Map of Hausa Kingdoms:



      There are different versions of Hausa origin myths that allude to several of these high places as sites of important hill-cults. On these sacred grounds, priests or cult-guardians exercised religious and political power within local societies active in agriculture and trade.

      Scholars disagree about the precise nature of Hausa growth. Some have argued that the Hausa came from the north (southern Sahara), others from the east (Lake Chad), still others that the Hausa were the indigenous inhabitants of the region. But most generally agree that sometime around 1000AD, localized cult sites and markets began to evolve into walled towns called "birane" and ruled local rulers called "sarkis".

      These rulers were no doubt intent on exploiting the agricultural and mineral wealth of the surrounding countryside and its inhabitants. This growing political power of the cities led in time to an extensive "Hausaization" of the lands between the Niger and Lake Chad. Beginning in the late twelfth century, these villages combined into several kingdoms ruled by partly divine kings. The first of these centralized kingdoms was Daura.



      1959 picture of Kano, a city that traces back to one of the early Hausa kingdoms.


      Being in close contact with one another, these kingdoms all shared a common language, Hausa. In the late 1300's Islam began to filter into Hausaland through traveling merchants. But the pace was relatively slow. It was not until the 1450's that a group of people from the Senegal River, known as the Fulani, began immigrating in large numbers into Hausaland that a strong Islamic presence took root.

      The Fulani immigration was driven by the desertification of north and western Africa. A pastoral people, the Fulani were in search of a land that could support their herds. Devoutly Muslim, with a great deal of indigenous beliefs intermingled therein, the Fulani not only brought Islam and its teachings, but also began to set up Islamic schools and learning centers all throughout Hausaland.

      The Hausa, particularly after the influence of Islam, were closely allied with Kanem-Bornu to the east. Because of the military presence of Kanem-Bornu, the Hausa kingdoms were relatively stable and peaceful.

      Pictured here is the 11th century Gobirau Minaret at Katsina, Nigeria. Mosque architecture reflects a synthesis of local African and imported traditions, some of great duration.





      black university neo port adapter at neo-kem.com

      ---------- Post added at 03:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:24 PM ----------

      Ancient Ghana



      It is generally accepted that the ancient state of Ghana emerged sometime around the 7th century AD. Its oral records however, which list over 144 kings, place its existence sometime around the 7th century BC. The actual name of this state was Wagadugu. It was the Arabs and Europeans who would mistake the word Ghana, meaning ruler, for the actual name of the state. The kingship of Ghana, as with all Sahelian monarchies to follow, was matrilineal. It was the sister of the king who provided the heir to the throne. Ghana's kingdom consisted of a monarchy quite different from those of their contemporary European counterparts. The king was assisted by a People's Council whose members were chosen from the various social strata. This social organization indicates a long evolution of political development that extends well beyond the kingdom's founding.



      Fueled by its economic vitality, the kingdom of Ghana rapidly expanded into an empire. It conquered local minor states, requiring tribute from these subordinate vassals. This tribute, however, was not the main form of Ghana's wealth. Ancient Ghana boasted a mixed economy of extensive agriculture, iron smelting, stonemasonry, carpentery, pottery, goldsmithing, and cloth manufacturing. A strong trade emerged in goods that passed from western Africa east to Egypt and the Middle East. This trade primarily involved gold, salt, copper, and even war captives to be sold as slaves. Pictured above is a gold weight from the Akan people of Ghana. Evidene connects the Akan to the great Kingdom of Ghana. It is seen in names like Danso, shared by the Akans of present day Ghana and the Mandikas of Senegal and Gambia, who have strong links with the medieval kingdom. The matrilineal practice is also shared.

      The kingdom of Ghana never converted to Islam, even though northern Africa had been dominated by the faith since the eighth century. The Ghanaian court, however, allowed Muslims to settle in the cities and even encouraged Muslim specialists to help the royal court administer the government and advise on legal matters. Unlike the Ghanaians however, their northern neighbors the fervently converted to Islam. In 1076, calling themselves Almoravids, they declared a holy war, or jihad, against the state of Ghana. The Almoravids destroyed the kingdom, converting a great deal of northern Ghanians. After this however Ghana ceases to be a commercial or military power. For a brief time (1180-1230), the Soso people, who were strongly anti-Muslim, controlled a kingdom making up the southern portions of the Ghanaian empire, but the Almoravid conquest effectively halted the growth of kingdoms and empires in the Sahel for almost a century. It was to be Mali who would later pick up the legacy of the Sahelien states.




      Ancient Mali

      Located in west Africa is the second great Sahelian kingdom: Mali. The Sahel is the savannah region south of the Sahara which, after 750 AD, became the center of culturally and politically dynamic cities and kingdoms because of the strategic importance of the Sahel for trade across north Africa. The historical founder of Mali was a mystic by the name of Sundjata Keita or Sundiata. An historic figure, was said to have begun as a royal servant and magician among the Soso peoples who then ruled the Ghanian empire. According to African oral histories the small state of Kangaba, led by Sundiata defeated the nearby kingdom of Soso at the Battle of Kirina in 1235. The Soso had been led by king Sumanguru Kante. The clans of the heartland unified under the vigorous Sundiata, now king of the vast region that was to become the Mali Empire, beginning a period of expansion. The rulers of Mali nominally converted to Islam, but held strong ties with traditional Mande religions. Sundiata was said to have ruled Mali from 1230-1255. Under Sundiata and his immediate successors, Mali expanded rapidly west to the Atlantic Ocean, south deep into the forest, east beyond the Niger River, and north to the salt and copper mines of the Sahara. The city of Niani may have been the capital. At its height, Mali was a confederation of 3 independent, freely allied states (Mali, Mema, and Wagadou) and 12 garrisoned provinces.





      The most significant of the Mali kings was Mansa Musa(1312-1337) who expanded Mali influence over the large Niger city-states of Timbuctu, Gao, and Djenné. Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim who built magnificent mosques all throughout the Mali sphere of influence. In 1324 Mansa Musa made a pilgrimage to Mecca with an entourage of 60,000 people and 80 camels carrying more than two tons of gold to be distributed among the poor. Of the 12,000 servants 500 carried a staff of pure gold. It has been said that the gold markets of regions such as Egypt were ruined for months or years after Musa's visit through their respective kingdoms. Mansa Musa's fame as well as that of his state was known far and wide. This panel is of the Catalan Map of Charles V (1375). It is entitled, Mansu Musa: Lord of the Negroes of Guinea. (Photo courtesy of History of Africa)





      It was under Mansa Musa that Timbuctu became one of the major cultural centers not only of Africa but of the entire world. Under Mansa Musa's patronage, vast libraries were built and "madrasas" (Islamic universities) were endowed; Timbuctu became a meeting-place of the finest poets, scholars, and artists of Africa and the Middle East. Even after the power of Mali declined, Timbuctu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa. Timbuctu's sister city of Djenne was also an important center of learning. Recent archaeology has placed the antiquity of Djenne at 200 to 250BC. After the death of Mansa Musa, the power of Mali began to decline. Losing its sphere of influence, its subject states began to break off and establish themselves independently. In 1430 Tuareg Berbers in the north seized much of Mali's territory, including the city of Timbuctu. A decade later the Mossi kingdom to the seized much of Mali's southern territories. Finally, the kingdom of Gao, which had been subjugated to Mali under Mansa Musa, gave rise to a Songhay kingdom that eventually eclipsed the magnificent power that was once Mali. Pictured above is the famous Mosque at Djenne. (Photo courtesy of World Heritage City)


      Songhai: Africa's Largest Empire


      With the decline of Mali, the kingdom of Gao reasserted itself as the major kingdom in the Sahel. The people of Songhai were farmers and fisherman who lived along the Niger River of West Africa. After centuries of trade with merchants from across the desert, they were converted to Islam around the 1200s.

      A Songhai kingdom in the region of Gao had existed since the eleventh century AD, but it had come under the control of Mali in 1325. In the late fourteenth century, Gao reasserted itself with the Sunni dynasty. Songhai would not fully eclipse Mali until the reign of the Sunni king, Sonni Ali, who reigned from 1464-1492.

      Sonni Ali aggressively turned the kingdom of Gao into the Songhai empire. Ali based his military on a cavalry and a highly mobile fleet of ships. With this military, he conquered the cities of Timbuctu and Djenne, the major cities of the Mali.



      Great Mosque of Djenne


      He also appointed qadis, Muslim judges, to run the legal system under Islamic legal principles. These programs of conquest, centralization, and standardization were the most ambitious and far-reaching in Africa at the time. However, while urban centers were dominated by Islam non-urban areas retained traditional African spiritual systems. The vast majority of the Songhai people of the time, around 97%, retained traditional African spiritual practices - even when accepting Islam. Thus within West African Islam itself, the many cultures that made up Songhai shaped various African traditional beliefs around it. This fusion of African spirituality and Islam was reflected in everything from philosophy to architecture
      The Berbers, who had always played such a crucial role in the downfall of Sahelian kingdoms, were driven from the region.

      Roughly around the same year Christopher Columbus reached the western hemisphere, Askia Muhammad Toure (1493-1528), established the Askia dynasty of Songhai. Muhammad Toure continued Sonni Ali's imperial expansion by seizing the important Saharan oases and conquering Mali itself. From there he went on to conquer the land of the Hausas.

      The vastness of Askia Mohammed's kingdom covered most of West Africa, larger than all of the European states of the era combined. With literally several thousand cultures under its control, Songhai ranked as one of the largest empires of the time.

      In order to maintain his large empire Muhammad Toure further centralized the government by creating a large and elaborate bureaucracy. He was also the first to standardize weights, measures, and currency, causing culture throughout Songhai to homogenize. Muhammad Toure, a fervent Muslim, he replaced traditional Songhai administrators with Muslims in order to "Islamicize" Songhai society.



      Rendering of West African Gold Merchants Using Weights and Measurements:


      He also appointed qadis, Muslim judges, to run the legal system under Islamic legal principles. These programs of conquest, centralization, and standardization were the most ambitious and far-reaching in Africa at the time. However, while urban centers were dominated by Islam non-urban areas retained traditional African spiritual systems. The vast majority of the Songhai people of the time, around 97%, retained traditional African spiritual practices - even when accepting Islam. Thus within West African Islam itself, the many cultures that made up Songhai shaped various African traditional beliefs around it. This fusion of African spirituality and Islam was reflected in everything from philosophy to architecture



      The Mausoleum of Askia Muhammed, at Gao Mali


      Under the leadership of Askia Mohammed, the city of Timbuctu once again became a prosperous commercial city, reaching a population of 100,000 people. Merchants and traders traveled from Asia, the Middle East and Europe to exchange their exotic wares for the gold of Songhai. Timbuctu gained fame as an intellectual center rivaling many others in the Muslim world.

      Students from various parts of the world had long come to Timbuctu's famous University of Sankore to study Law and Medicine. Medieval Europe sent emissaries to the University of Sankore to witness its excellent libraries with manuscripts and to consult with mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, and jurists whose intellectual endeavors were said to be paid for out of the king's own treasury.

      Unfortunately for Songhai it was to be its very size that would lead to its downfall. A vastly spread empire, it encompassed more territory than could actually be controlled. After the reign of Askia Duad, subject peoples began to revolt. Even Songhai's massive army, said to be over 35,000 soldiers, archers and chain-mailed cavalry, could not keep order. The first major region to declare independence was Hausaland; then much of the Maghreb (Morocco) rebelled and gained control over crucial gold mines.

      The Moroccans defeated Songhai in 1591 and the empire quickly collapsed. Their victory was due in part to new forms of European weaponry acquired from Spain and Portugal. The Songhai rulers were forced to retreat southward to the Dendi region near the Niger River. They would retain ruler ship for a time over their own people, but the powerful military and prosperity of their empire would never recover.

      Under the Moroccans the scholars at Timbuctu were arrested for treason and some even killed or taken back to Morocco. The university of Sankore destroyed. Ahmed Baba, an African university scholar of the time, is reputed to have lost over 1,500 books from his personal collection alone under the Moroccan occupation. By 1612, the remaining cities of Songhai fell into general disarray, with Morocco unable to keep the empire intact or same from attack under their rule. Numerous states broke off to form smaller independent kingdoms or federations. And one of the greatest empires of African history disappeared from the world stage. Not since then has any African nation rose to prominence and wealth as did mighty Songhai.

      For more information see the following:

      Adeleke, Tunde. Songhay

      Hale, Thomas A. The Epic of Askia Mohommad

      Hunwick, John. Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sa 'Di's Ta'Rikh Al-Sudan Down to 1613 and other Contemporary Documents

      Koslow, Philip. Songhai: The Empire Builders

      Mann, Kenny. Ghana, Mali and Songhai: The Western Sudan
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