Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sarkodie chose his job over dumsor vigil - KSM

Famous Ghanaian satirist Kwaku Sintim-Misa, popularly known as KSM has waded into the controversy surrounding the decision of rapper Sarkodie to travel outside the country ahead of today’s celebrity vigil against the power crisis in the country.

In a post on his Facebook wall Saturday, KSM said it appears the ‘rapperholic’ has made a decision between the vigil and his job.

“TIME IS MONEY. Sarkodie weighed the options. "Do I VIGIL or Do I shoot a VIDEO?

“The CHOICE was clear. TIME IS MONEY!” KSM wrote.

Sarkodie, one of the lead organisers of the much touted celebrity vigil against the power crisis, left the country Thursday just two days to the protest March.

The popular rapper is currently in the United States recording an album with popular US-based artiste Ace Hood, a tweet from his official twitter handle indicated.

The “M3GYE WO GIRL” singer and his colleagues including, actress Yvonne Nelson, Van Vicker and Lydia Forson are organising the #Dumsormuststop vigil to compel the John Mahama-led administration to find immediate solution to the blackout.

Many other celebrities from different fields of the industry have also declared their support for the power campaign.


Dear Non-Black friend,
Some of you have been asking why my friends and I have started a hair blog. It’s just hair right? Why blog about it – aren’t there more important things going on in the world? Well, no and yes. No, it’s not just hair! It never has been!
Black[1] hair has a very sad history of which I will summarise. Centuries ago during the trans-atlantic slavery, black people were indoctrinated with the belief that they were ugly. Their dark skin was ugly. Their ‘ruly’, “unkempt” afro-textured hair was ugly. Black hair was seen as something that needed to be “fixed” or “tamed”. Not only were they constantly reminded of this verbally but it was instilled in other ways. For example, the black women who had a lighter skin tone and straightened hair were given the more prestigious jobs working in the house as opposed to working outside in the plantation fields. This was because they appeared “neater” and “cleaner” so therefore ‘more presentable’ to their masters. Lighter-skinned, straight-haired slaves also commanded higher prices at auction than darker, more kinky[2]haired ones. This internalised the idea that black people with very dark skin and kinky hair were less attractive and worth less into our consciousness.

 black slaves on plantation fields…
Naturally, these ideas and beliefs were passed on from one generation to the next. Black slaves spent up to 18 hours a day working on plantation fields and so did not get a spare moment for personal grooming, including tending to their hair. When slavery was abolished, the indoctrination continued in other ways. Black people who had straight hair were given jobs over those who did not. It’s easy to judge now but imagine if you had a family and you had spent months and months looking for a job and the only thing keeping you away from it was a hair straightener to make you more competitive? What would you do? So the standards of beauty encountered by black people were the privilege associated with fair skin and straight hair in contrast to the negativity and disadvantage associated with people who had dark skin and kinky hair. So black people got accustomed to and adjusted themselves to the Western standards of beauty to survive – literally.
During the civil rights movement 1960s, the words  ‘black is beautiful’ emerged more frequently and there was a movement away from western ideas and standards on beauty for a while, but that lasted a very short period in the 600-year history of blacks in the Americas and Europe. We continued to ‘straighten’ ourselves. So you are sitting there and asking me what does this have to do with you? You were born in Africa. Well yes, but the same principles and ideologies were imported into Africa during colonialism and again our hair and skin color were under attack. I have recently shared my story on regarding how I felt about my hair. Unfortunately many black people still believe these ideas, whether its consciously or subconsciously.
diff2Civil rights activist Angela Davis rocking her fro..
So what does that mean for me and other people in similar situations? Well it means there is a generation of black women who have always had their hair chemically straightened and do not know how to take care of their natural hair. This is why the blog Different Strands exists. To provide a forum for people to come together and share different hairstyles, hair care techniques, their love-hate relationship with their hair and all other things natural hair related.  The blog is meant to be a support and educational tool for the people who choose to rock the hair that is naturally theirs, because believe it or not – I am still more likely to encounter a black woman with straight hair or extensions than one without. So on the surface it may appear to be yet another beauty blog but it’s a little bit more than that. Its an appreciation of the perfection that we already are naturally and a rejection of the lies we have been told for so long.
Another reason that the blog exists is because it needs to. I am an African living in Australia. If you have looked around recently, there aren’t many of us. If I am not making my own hair products for my natural hair in the kitchen, I have to get them from overseas or pay a huge markup  at that shop in Newtown or Parramatta. I can’t just go to Coles or Woolies. The blog allows every naturalista to share information on where to easily (and cheaply) get products in Australia and recipes for natural hair products for those DIY chicks like myself.
And finally, have you perused a Vogue, Madison, OK or Harper’s Bazaar magazine lately?  Flip through it from cover to cover. How many black people are in that magazine? How many of them are wearing their natural hair out?  Oh, you spotted Beyoncé did you? Well my hair does not naturally grow out looking like Beyoncé’s hair, and neither does Beyoncé’s. It is more likely to grow out looking like her sister’s hair, Solange Knowles.

diff3Beyonce Knowles…

amfAR Milano 2012 - ArrivalsSolange Knowles..
So keep flipping through that magazine until you get to the make up pages. Yes, make up tips – for light skin – of which I do not possess. If I took on board most of those tips, I would look like a circus clown. Finally, let’s turn to the hair section. I am seeing that you are getting my point now. Yes – no tips on how to take care of my Afro hair. So that’s why the blog exists. Mainstream media is not very diverse. It does not cater for people like me.
So like I said before – it’s not just hair. The effects of slavery and colonialism have made black hair a big deal. The legacy of these practices in many areas have been long lasting. Blogs like Different Strands encourage black women to love their different strands. Hopefully one day you will be more likely to meet a black girl wearing her Afro hair out. Hopefully one day you get to a stage where seeing an Afro will not cause you to stare because it will be the norm. That’s why the blog exists.
So here are a few tips from your black friend on how to deal with your other black friend who is natural headed:
1. Do not use the N-word, nappy, like ever. Just like the other N-word, it will get you in a bit of trouble. Nappy has been used to describe black hair in a derogatory way over the years. However, just like the other N-word, I get a pass to use this word. That’s just the way it works folks. Other words to avoid are kinky, hard, unkempt, steel wool, frizzy….
2. If you see a black person with their natural hair out, don’t ever ask “Did you (forget to) do your hair today?” or “What’s wrong (happened) with your hair today? Don’t ask this question please. She probably did. She probably spent a few hours preparing her hair to get this style. She probably tried out a new style that didn’t work. She probably just washed it this morning and just came into work and that’s how it looks. My point is she probably did her hair today and by asking her you are indirectly confirming her that her natural hair really does appear unkempt and that maybe she should just take the plunge and straighten it again so it looks “neat”. I know that’s not what you meant to do. But because of the history associated with our hair those are the connotations. Its just like when someone says something midly racist or something that you think is a joke to another person. It’s not because that they said that one racist thing that the other person gets pissed off. It’s because they have heard it all their life and you are just adding salt to an already open wound.
3. Please do not touch our hair – without our permission. Why would anyone plunge their fingers into someone’s hair anyway? That’s just not normal behavior. If you have assessed us as being close enough, then you can go ahead and ask. I will probably say yes because I understand your curiosity. If on that day I say no, please don’t take it personally.  It may because a) I don’t feel like being petted like an animal at the zoo that day b) you are the 10th person to ask me if they can touch my hair that day and I just can’t indulge anymore c) I am into personal space d) I have had an oil treatment and don’t want your hair in there getting all greasy e) I spent some time getting my hair done and you touching it will ruin my hairstyle. Whatever my response, don’t take it personally.
diff5whatever the reaction…do not take it personally
4. Please don’t stare at our hair. Well there is that stare that says “wow that’s amazing” and there is the other that says “wtf”. We know the difference and we prefer the former. On that note, please compliment. It confirms that we made the right choice – that black hair really is beautiful after all. Since I started wearing my hair out naturally, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I have received a lot of compliments. But I have also been stared at, pointed at, laughed at (whilst someone was pointing towards my hair) and had photos “secretly” taken of me – and this is supposed to be 2013!
5. Hair changes. Yes she has a different style every other day. Our hair can shrink up to 90 percent of its length when wet. So I can have short hair in the morning and long hair in the afternoon – no hair extensions required. I can also have twists, bantu knots, cornrows, braids, straight extensions, kinky extensions and wigs done and I do – often. So just sit back, enjoy and compliment, but don’t ask too many questions.

diff7the diversity of black hair..
It takes a certain kind of person to go against the grain and wear her hair out naturally when the rest of the wold is not. So if your partner decides to go natural, support her. If you are an employer conducting an interview and someone with an Afro walks in – be open minded, because you have just met someone a little bit special!
So you asked me before, aren’t there more important things going on in the world? Isn’t it also important to do a little something to help a group of people that have been denigrated for so long to slowly start loving the way they were created? To say to them, you are perfect just the way you are?
Yours sincerely,
Your black friend!

[1] I am using the word black here to include people of African origin and of African descent.
[2] Kinky is another word used to describe afro-textured hair.

Phoebe Mwanza is a child of the world. Born in Zambia and raised in Zimbabwe, she has called Australia home for the last 11 years. During the day she works as a lawyer, but during her spare time she is the President of the ACT Chapter of the African Professionals of Australia and a natural hair blogger! Read more on For this and other similar articles, like Different Strands on Facebook to receive updates on new articles and tips on how to care for your natural hair.
T: @DifferentStrand
I: DifferentStrands


In 1996, Vanity Fair’s Leslie Bennetts featured the quirky life, work and aesthetic of the man who discovered Iman and continues to ‘capture’ Africa from an entirely unique perspective.  Whether you think he’s a playboy or genius, world-famous photographer and artist Peter Beard, described as “half Tarzan, half Byron” is a fascinating individual. 
We’ve excerpted the VF feature to give you a glimpse into his life and ethos: 
As a renowned wildlife photographer, Peter Beard has been obsessed with images of death and loss since he made his reputation more than 30 years ago with The End of the Game, his chilling chronicle of disaster at Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, where tens of thousands of elephants starved because of encroaching civilization and conservation mismanagement. And as a lifelong adventurer, Beard has always been notorious for flaunting every caution. He thinks nothing of swimming in crocodile-infested waters, has personally witnessed less fortunate acquaintances being gobbled up, and once sprinted away as a colleague on safari was gored and thrown by a charging rhino.But in September, after decades of defying danger with reckless abandon, Peter Beard finally succumbed to the odds. Photographing a herd of elephants on the Tanzanian border, Beard riled a cow elephant, who charged. As she tried to impale him, Beard—attempting to evade her tusks—hung on to her leg. She crushed him with her head, pressing him to the ground and fracturing his pelvis in five places as well as slashing his thigh. Other elephants crowded around, nosing him with their trunks. When Beard arrived at Nairobi Hospital, doctors warned that he was bleeding to death from internal injuries; as he was wheeled into the operating theater, he had no pulse.
But, after a long operation to piece his pelvis back together, using an external scaffold pinned to hipbones through the skin, the bleeding was stopped. The most immediate danger became the risk of infection: at the very least, Beard faced weeks in the hospital and up to a year of recovery.
As shocking as it was, the news proved less than surprising to Nairobians who have long watched Beard’s antics with a mixture of fascination and horror. “People have been expecting it,” says Terry Mathews, the former safari guide who was savaged by a rhino on a Beard expedition. “He was playing the fool with elephants 20 years ago, back when he was married to Cheryl Tiegs. Everyone knew he was either going to hurt somebody else or hurt himself. Now he’s done it.”
Only a few weeks earlier, Beard had been quite chipper as he welcomed me to Hog Ranch, a ragtag assortment of tents topped with thatched roofs. Fresh off a plane from Paris and the couture collections, which he photographed for French Elle, he rolled a joint and sipped a cocktail of gin and passion-fruit juice as we settled down in front of a campfire while a smiling African servant passed around a tray of hors d’oeuvres.
Just beyond the congenial ring of leather safari chairs, enormous warthogs snorted and snuffled around a mudhole, their tiny pig eyes almost invisible above their gnarled snouts, each of which sported a curly pair of tusks. In the distance, the four raised knuckles of the Ngong Hills turned intensely blue in the dusk; Beard’s ranch adjoins the land once owned by Isak Dinesen, back when she was a coffee-plantation owner named Karen Blixen, and his view of the Ngong Hills is the same one she described in Out of Africa.
It has been more than 40 years since Peter Beard first came to Kenya as a teenager infatuated with the romance of Africa. More than three decades ago, he bought the 45 acres he has clung to ever since, despite the steadily encroaching suburbs, the rising land prices, his own increasingly desperate financial straits, and even some nefarious attempts to drive him off his property (including trumped-up charges which landed him in a Nairobi jail several years ago).
To a first-time visitor, Hog Ranch seems peaceful and exotic. Lying in an open tent in the middle of the night, gazing out onto a landscape brilliantly illuminated by a full moon, one hears the rustling in the underbrush and the voices of countless creatures chattering and yowling in the mysterious darkness. It is easy to imagine the leopards that used to stalk the place after nightfall; once one ate a monkey right outside the tent where I slept, leaving behind only a fluff of fur.
But Beard—whose endlessly repeated theme over the last four decades has been the destruction of the Africa he knew and loved—has never been mollified by the beauties of his adopted continent; he has always been preoccupied with the ravages of civilization. “Listen to those dogs barking,” he told me just after my arrival. “The wilderness is gone, and with it much more than we can appreciate or predict. We’ll suffer for it.”
At 58, Peter Beard is remarkable for many reasons. “Half Tarzan, half Byron” is how Bob Colacello described the Beard of a quarter of a century ago in Holy Terror, his book about Andy Warhol. The wives have come and gone, the decades have rolled by, but Beard remains what he has always been: an internationally known photographer who has contempt for photography; a diarist whose densely adorned volumes have influenced artists as disparate as Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon; a rakishly handsome playboy; an enthusiastic drug user who always seems to have a joint lit (unless there are magic mushrooms or cocaine available); a trust-fund spendthrift who is perennially broke; a magnet for controversy.
And to everything, including the feuds he so relishes, Beard has always brought his characteristic exuberance. “One of his great attractions is his enormous passion and enthusiasm for whatever he involves himself in,” says Lee Radziwill, a former lover, adding that Beard possesses “an extraordinary charm.”
Equally at home in the hippest Manhattan nightclubs and the most remote reaches of the African bush, Beard is forever spouting dire warnings and apocalyptic predictions about the fate of a doomed planet. It is a vision he has always expressed most hauntingly with his work, an extremely eccentric oeuvre that transcends every genre and resembles nothing outside of its creator’s fervidly bizarre imagination. This fall marks a certain milestone with a major retrospective exhibition opening November 5 at the Fondation Rothschild’s Centre Internationale de Photographie in Paris.
But even before his accident, Beard found himself poised uncertainly on the brink of his own future: sickened by much of what he sees in today’s troubled Africa, even more broke than usual, since much of his trust-fund income has been diverted to support his estranged third wife and child, and inching ever closer to the dismaying watershed of his 60th birthday. Should he replace the dilapidated safari tents at Hog Ranch or give up on the place entirely? Is it finally time to move on, to leave Kenya—the most sustained passion of his life—behind?
“I’m an escapist,” he tells me unrepentantly, a bad-boy twinkle in his eyes. “I’m not a planner; I’ve never made a decision about anything in my life. The good thing about Africa is that you can escape forever. You can do what you want, without someone looking over your shoulder.”
It was the thrill that drew him here to begin with, lured by the whiff of romance he picked up as a child in the African Hall at the American Museum of Natural History. He came from a privileged and patrician background: his great-grandfather J. J. Hill had founded the Great Northern Railway, and Beard’s grandfather was tobacco heir Pierre Lorillard, who founded Tuxedo, New York, and invented the tuxedo. Peter and his two brothers grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in a nine-room apartment with Daumiers and Corots on the walls.
Although he was a terrible student, Peter managed to squeak through Buckley and Yale, where he was a member of Scroll & Key, but his first taste of Africa changed him for life. “It was total authenticity—something totally real,” he recalls.
Peter’s own curious art form is a combination of photography and collage. While the large scale is relatively new, the form is one Beard has used for decades, most notably in his notorious diaries, which are nothing if not original. “When you look at his diaries, you think, The man is mad!” observes his friend Iman with affection.
The diary habit began back when Beard and Radziwill were lovers and Jacqueline Onassis gave him a leather-bound journal he proceeded to fill with all manner of debris. Year by year, the diaries piled up, overstuffed volumes grotesquely swollen with the detritus of a life, each page densely layered with photographs and an astonishing assortment of other items: tiny rodent skulls, candy-bar wrappers, keys, buttons, flamingo feathers, a pocket from a pair of velvet jeans, peanut shells, dried leaves, plastic cocktail stirrers, a piece of a cereal box, mysterious newspaper headlines (woman saved from slime!), bones and rocks, smears and dribbles of blood (always Beard’s favorite artistic medium), intricate line drawings and elaborately inscribed quotations, cigarette butts, rubber gloves, matchbooks, fish skeletons, plastic ketchup packets, a desiccated lizard, a dung-beetle foot—the variety is endless.
A veritable time capsule of their era, the diaries are also crammed with pictures of the rich, famous, and beautiful people who have populated Beard’s life. Always enamored of models, he was Veruschka’s favorite photographer, a longtime friend of Lauren Hutton’s, and pals with dozens of others, from Janice Dickinson to Paula Barbieri. A frequent guest on Aristotle Onassis’s yacht, Beard spent months on the island of Skorpios with Jackie and Lee, and once won $2,000 when Onassis bet him he couldn’t stay underwater for four minutes. (Jackie clocked him at 4:20.) Beard used to baby-sit for Caroline Kennedy and her brother, John, whose childhood drawing of a monkey is still tacked up in the kitchen at Hog Ranch.

An encounter with Iman

As Iman sweeps regally into the garden restaurant at the Essex House in New York, heads turn, as they always have. Impeccably groomed, she has a neck like a black swan, the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen, and a dazzling smile. Now married to rock star David Bowie, she has enjoyed a long career as an internationally famous model—a career she readily admits she owes to Peter Beard.It has been more than 20 years since Beard first accosted her on a Nairobi street. “I have this man in a sarong and no shoes following me,” she recalls. “He finally stopped me and said, ‘Have you ever been photographed?’ I thought, Well, I’ve heard lines, but this is ridiculous. What do these white people think? That my parents never took a picture of their family?”The daughter of a doctor and a diplomat, Iman was a student at Nairobi University. Her family, in exile from Somalia, had just moved to Tanzania; Iman had earned a one-year college scholarship but was trying to muster the fees for further schooling. When Beard offered to pay her a year’s tuition, she accepted.
But after sitting for a photo session, she started getting calls from the Wilhelmina agency in New York, asking her to come to the United States and become a model. After weeks of importuning from Wilhelmina and Beard, Iman agreed to fly to New York. There she found that he had planted an astonishing fairy tale about her in the papers.
“He hypes it that I’m six feet tall; I’m barely five feet nine inches,” Iman says indignantly. “He claims I didn’t speak a word of English; I spoke English, Italian, and Arabic, as well as Somali. He says he found me with goats and sheep—that I was some kind of shepherdess in the jungle!” She shakes her head, still amazed. “I never saw a jungle in my life.… But Peter lives in a fantasy world. He loves the idea of being my Svengali.”
Iman, who was promptly hailed by Diana Vreeland as “Nefertiti rediscovered,” became enormously successful, but Beard never had an affair with her and never profited in any way from her career; he seems simply to have enjoyed the drama of it all. And Iman eventually resigned herself, with a sort of amused exasperation, to his enthusiasms—even his nostalgia for the bygone culture of the British colonialists he so admires. “Peter loves the myth of Africa more than I do,” Iman explains. “He ‘loves’ Africa, but we always have an argument about what Africa really is. Is it the animals and the landscape, or is it the people? He has no respect for Africans, but it’s their continent—not his. For him, there are no people involved; they get in the way of his myth.”

Beard and the art of mythmaking

The question of Beard and his mythmaking has had eerie reverberations over the years, and in at least two disputes his veracity became a major issue. Nine years ago ABC filmed a television special called Last Word from Paradise: With Peter Beard in Africa. The producers engaged old friend Terry Mathews to serve as a consultant for the show. Stalking big game with cameras rather than guns, the team managed to enrage a massive female rhinoceros which was trying to protect her calf from the intruders. Beard got out of the way, but Mathews stood there yelling “Bugger off!” as the rhino charged. Goring him through the thigh, the beast slashed 16 inches upward into his pelvic and abdominal cavities, breaking six ribs as well as his leg and stopping within a quarter-inch of his heart.
Miraculously, given the extent of his injuries, he survived, but he and his wife subsequently filed lawsuits against Beard and ABC. The case dragged on for years and was finally settled out of court, but its repercussions still roil the social waters in Nairobi, where opinions remain polarized.
Beard blames Mathews alone for his fate. “This was an outrageous show-off blunder of total stupidity,” he maintains. “The lawsuit was just an amazing crock of shit. There isn’t one ounce of culpability on any of our parts.”
Mathews tells a different story. “I think Peter wanted to get this animal to charge,” he says. “When she chased after him, he ran back past me, directly toward the camera crew, who were loaded up with gear, and I felt responsible for those guys. I think Peter just wanted a sensational picture.”
Another controversy arose in the early 1990s, when Beard and Gillies Turle published a book called The Art of the Maasai, which purported to reveal ancient tribal artifacts they were bringing to public view for the first time. Turle, a former antiques dealer, wrote the book, a hefty coffee-table volume published by Alfred A. Knopf, and Beard shot the photographs of a stunning array of items, from ceremonial pipes to medicine-mixing bowls, many carved from contraband materials such as ivory and rhino horn. “This is the most important African art discovery of the century,” Beard insists. “These things are hundreds of years old. These are major museum pieces—collector’s items!”
Both Beard and Turle have a significant financial investment in that view, since they’ve been collecting this material for years. But the academic community remains unconvinced. “I find it hard to believe that a class of art objects could be discovered so late in this century, when Maasai anthropologists have been around for well over a hundred years,” comments Richard Leakey, the former director of the National Museums of Kenya. “Now there are thousands of these things on sale in art galleries all over the world. I’m just uneasy about it—why the Maasai I’ve talked to don’t know about these things, and why there are suddenly so many of them. Are any of these things genuine? Some certainly must be fake, but are they all?”
Others are less diplomatic. “There isn’t any controversy here,” declares Donna Klumpp Pido, an anthropologist and expert on Maasai beadwork who wrote a scathing review of the book forAfrican Arts magazine. “There is universal agreement in academic, scholarly, museum, and curatorial circles that these things are fakes. If you’ve handled a lot of stuff, you can tell a fake patina when you see one.”
If the artifacts are fraudulent, the question then becomes whether their champions knew about the hoax. “When I wrote my review, I was making the kind assumption that Beard and Turle had been bamboozled by some Maasais, but it turns out that that’s not the case,” explains Klumpp Pido, who lives in Nairobi. “They’re both perpetrating a fraud. I can’t imagine they could be so dumb as to believe this stuff is real. They know bloody damn well it isn’t.”
Recalling Beard’s fabrications about Iman, Klumpp Pido adds, “I must say, the guy’s got balls: artistic balls, social balls, every kind of balls you can think of. He’s a genius, but he’s a fruitcake.”
Beard and Turle scoff at such criticism, maintaining that further research will eventually vindicate them. “You cannot say a whole genre is fake without producing evidence,” declares Turle. “I think the history of these artifacts will be traced back hundreds of years, if not thousands.”
Indeed, expert opinion is not quite as unanimous as Klumpp Pido claims. Roderic Blackburn, an anthropologist and former research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, did extensive fieldwork among the Maasai to investigate the artifacts. “I could not find any reason to doubt the authenticity of these objects,” he reports. “I don’t see much basis for the doubts that have been cast.”
Meanwhile, Beard freely admitted to me that he has been smuggling Maasai artifacts out of Kenya; he was positively gleeful as he described how he sneaked them past customs at the Nairobi airport. But he claimed he’s not selling them; he said he just wanted to include Maasai objects in his show this fall, along with his photographs and collages.
“I’m really into these collages now,” he told me. “I’ve got so much material from my whole life stacked up. Time has made most of it so rare. It’s just a lucky coincidence that most of the things I’ve photographed are destroyed—and rarity is value. The subject matter is over, but I can wheel and deal it now.”


You know those clothes you plan to give away to the Salvation Army/Goodwill in the holiday spirit of cleaning out your closet? The charity probably won’t be able to sell them to anyone in the States. Mostly because it is already inundated with the literally tons of secondhand clothing donations that come in every day, not to mention the spike it takes in over the Christmas, and New Year and holiday period. Textile recyclers will take the bulk of your donation off the charity’s hands, then sell it to rag merchants who go on to sell it to African entrepreneurs.  These African businessmen and women then retail the used clothes to a ready market.
In Ghana, these secondhand retail points are known as “bend down boutiques” in reference to the fact that buyers have to stoop to browse the bins of clothes for sale, spread out on the ground. Ghanaians call the clothes in the bins “obroni we wu” or “white man’s deads” and in Togo, they are also nicknamed “dead yovo” or “dead white person” for their assumed former white owners. But in Kenya and Tanzania, they are known for their sheer volume—“mitumba” or “bales”—a good indication of their impact.
Between 1989 and 2007, the U.S. exported nearly 7 billion pounds of used clothes  to over 100 countries. These clothes are Tanzania’s number one import from the States. With recyclers netting an approximate $2 per pound for wearable clothing, and even the dregs fetching in the neighborhood of 25 cents per pound, the global trade in secondhand duds is a multi-billion dollar industry.
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, America exported over $605 million worth of used clothes in 2011 alone. The market is so lucrative, reports, some charities and for-profit clothing recyclers are engaging in a donated clothing war, with the latter looking to cut charities out as drop-off middlemen.
This booming market disproportionately favors the American and European players—and in many ways, undermines the ability for an Africa-based fashion industry to grow. With most Africans living on less than $3,000 a year, designers, seamstresses, tailors, and retailers based on the continent are competing with the low prices of used clothes. Add the fact that imported secondhand threads enable African fashion-philes to rock the global styles they see touted on countless blogs and in international fashion magazines, and the competition becomes steeper.
Though more and more fashion weeks are sprouting across Africa with Vogue Italia and Mercedes Benz sponsoring high-profile events in Ghana and South Africa respectively in 2012, the lack of a widespread buying infrastructure where retailers buy and distribute designers’ wares make it difficult for more than a handful of African fashion industry stakeholders to thrive.
So what’s the solution? Should you donate those clothes to Goodwill after all?
New York-based journalist Abi Ishola visited Ghana and Nigeria to report on the issue. In her opinion, African governments need to subsidize the homegrown fashion industry, from designers to retailers to exporters. “China…has come in and they’re counterfeiting a lot of the wax print and… selling them at cheaper prices,” she observed, explaining they can do this because the Chinese government subsidizes their fashion and exports. “So it’s easier for the Chinese to, you know, not charge as much as the designers in Ghana or in Nigeria.”
Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, says part the solution lies in promoting the craft—and value—of fashions specific to different regions. “What we’re seeing even in the United States is, ‘Oh wait, yes we are able to walk into a store and buy a $5 dress,’ but,” Cline continues, “we lost all of these incredible craftspeople, and people with so much knowledge and skill.”
Cline adds, “In America where we’ve gotten to the point where that history has almost virtually been erased and now we’re trying to reconnect with it, hopefully, in other countries it won’t go that far before someone says, ‘Wait, this heritage needs to be preserved. This knowledge is important.’”
Aisha Obuobi, founder of the wildly popular Ghana-based fashion label Christie Brown, would agree with Cline.
“Although our clothing has a modern/contemporary feel, the whole idea is to infuse African elements in each piece… this is something that can’t be found in “secondhand” clothing.” She says designers and all stakeholders in a successful African fashion industry need to understand that the African market is not the American or European market, and treat it accordingly. “It is important to observe and understand the African consumer’s buying behavior and retail needs and tailor our products, services and merchandising efforts.”
With so many Africans earning wages below the poverty level, the main consumer need is affordable price. Obuobi says, “Being able to mass produce is really what will drive down the cost / retail prices of the clothing. Once that takes off, I am certain that will birth retail outlets that can easily support lower income consumer needs.”
To that end, Nora Bannerman, CEO of Ghana-based Sleek Garments, has opened a factory in Accra with the capacity to mass produce garments at competitive prices. This needs to happen en masse across Africa with the support of government and private sector investment.
In the meantime, Ishola says go ahead and give that old coat to Goodwill. Even with all the challenges, your donated clothing has potential to benefit the African economy. Textile recyclers say the secondhand clothing trade has created over five million jobs in Kenya alone. In Nigeria, where the government has banned the import and retail of secondhand clothing in a move to protect their homegrown fashion industry, the trade thrives on the black market, also creating jobs. One used clothing trader told Al-Jazeera, “If you close [the] Nigerian border today, within two, three weeks, the Republic will be shaken.” He said the countries that supply the secondhand traders with the illegal clothes would feel the pinch too. “The revenue they get from Nigerians who import these goods in this country goes a long way.”


When tourists visit sub-Saharan Africa, they often wonder “Why there are no historical buildings or monuments?”

The reason is simple. Europeans destroyed most of them. We only have a few drawings and descriptions by travelers who visited the places before their destruction. In some places, ruins are still visible. Many cities were abandoned when Europeans brought exotic diseases (smallpox and influenza) which started spreading and killing people. Most of those cities lie hidden. In fact the biggest part of Africa history is still under the ground.
(Please note – the research supporting this post is mostly derived from Robin Walker, a distinguished panafricanist and historian who has written the book ‘When We Ruled’, and by PD Lawton, another great panafricanist, who has an upcoming book titled “The Invisible Empire”. All quotes and excerpts below are from the books of Robin Walker and PD Lawton. I highly recommend you to read Walker’s book ‘When We Ruled’ to get a full account of the beauty of the continent before its destruction. You can get more info about PD Lawton work by visiting her blog: Robin Walter and PD Lawton have quoted quite heavily another great panafricanist Walter Rodney who wrote the book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa‘. Additional information came from YouTube channel ‘dogons2k12 : African Historical Ruins’, and The Ta Neter Foundation work. Most drawings are from the book African Cities and Towns Before the European Conquest by Richard W. Hull, published in 1976. That book alone dispels the stereotypical view of Africans living in simple, primitive, look-alike agglomerations, scattered without any appreciation for planning and design.)
We begin with Benin City.  At the end of the 13th century, a European traveler encountered the great metropolis in West Africa (present Nigeria, Edo State), writing:
“The town seems to be very great. When you enter into it, you go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes street in Amsterdam…The Kings palace is a collection of buildings which occupy as much space as the town of Harlem, and which is enclosed with walls. There are numerous apartments for the Prince`s ministers and fine galleries, most of which are as big as those on the Exchange at Amsterdam. They are supported by wooden pillars encased with copper, where their victories are depicted, and which are carefully kept very clean. The town is composed of thirty main streets, very straight and 120 feet wide, apart from an infinity of small intersecting streets. The houses are close to one another, arranged in good order. These people are in no way inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness; they wash and scrub their houses so well that they are polished and shining like a looking glass.” (Source: Walter Rodney, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, pg. 69)
The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.” – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire”, PD Lawton, Source-YouTube, uploader-dogons2k12 `African Historical Ruins`
“Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . . Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”
Sadly, in 1897, Benin City was destroyed by British forces under Admiral Harry Rawson. The city was looted, blown up and burnt to the ground. A collection of the famous Benin Bronzes are now in the British Museum in London. Part of the 700 stolen bronzes by the British troops were sold back to Nigeria in 1972.
Here is another account of the great Benin City regarding the city walls “They extend for some 16 000 kilometres in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They cover 6500 square kilometres and were all dug by the Edo people. In all, they are four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.” Source: Wikipedia, Architecture of Africa.” Fred Pearce the New Scientist 11/09/99.
Here is a view of Benin city in 1891 before the British conquest. H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, Barnes and Noble reprint. 1968.

Did you know that in the 14th century the city of Timbuktu in West Africa was five times bigger than the city of London, and was the richest city in the world?

Today, Timbuktu is 236 times smaller than London. It has little to show of a modern city. Its population is two times less than 5 centuries ago, impoverished with beggars and dirty street sellers. The town itself is incapable of conserving its past ruined monuments and archives.
Back in the 14 century, the 3 richest places on earth was China, Iran/Irak, and the Mali empire in West Africa. From all 3 the only one which was still independent and prosperous was the Mali Empire. Eventually China and the whole of the Middle East were conquered by Genghis Kan Mongol troops which ravaged, pillaged, and raped the places. The Mali empire lived on under the rule of the richest man ever in the history of humanity, Mansa Musa,  emperor of the 14th century Mali Empire which covered modern day Mali, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea.
At the time of his death in 1331, Mansa Musa was worth the equivalent of 400 billion dollars. At that time Mali Empire was producing more than half the world’s supply of salt and gold.
Here below are some depictions of emperor Mansa Musa.
Mansa-Musa-2Mansa Musa
When Mansa Musa went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, he carried so much gold, and spent them so lavishly that the price of gold fell for ten years. 60 000 people accompanied him.
He founded the library of Timbuktu, and the famous manuscripts of Timbuktu which cover all areas of world knowledge were written during his reign.
Witnesses of the greatness of the Mali empire came from all part of the world. “Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: ‘Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated.’
The Malian city of Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 – 5 times larger than mediaeval London.
National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.
“Many old West African families have private library collections that go back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private collections in Niger.
In Timbuktu today, there are about 700,000 surviving books. They are written in Mande, Suqi, Fulani, Timbuctu, and Sudani. The contents of the manuscripts include math, medicine, poetry, law and astronomy. The world’s first encyclopedia was created in Mali in the 14th century, eons before the Europeans got the idea 4 centuries later.
A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his friends – he had only 1600 volumes.
Concerning these old manuscripts, actor Michael Palin, in his TV series ‘Sahara’, said the imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . . Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”
The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold.
Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around 1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.” Excerpt from Robin Walker’s book, ‘WHEN WE RULED’
Those event were happening at the same period when Europe as a continent was plunged into the Dark Age, ravaged by plague and famine, its people killing one another for religious and ethnic reasons.
Here below are some depiction of the city of Timbuktu in the 19th century. 
Kumasi was the capital of the Asante Kingdom, 10th century-20th century. Drawings of life in Kumasi show homes, often of 2 stories, square buildings with thatched roofs, with family compounds arranged around a courtyard. The Manhyia Palace complex drawn in another sketch was similar to a Norman castle, only more elegant in its architecture.
“These 2 story thatched homes of the Ashanti Kingdom were timber framed and the walls were of lath and plaster construction. A tree always stood in the courtyard which was the central point of a family compound. The Tree of Life was the altar for family offerings to God, Nyame. A brass pan sat in the branches of the tree into which offerings were placed. This was the same in every courtyard of every household, temple and palace. The King`s representatives, officials, worked in open-sided buildings. The purpose being that everyone was welcome to see what they were up to.
“The townhouses of Kumase had upstairs toilets in 1817.This city in the 1800s is documented in drawings and photographs. Promenades and public squares, cosmopolitan lives, exquisite architecture and everywhere spotless and ordered, a wealth of architecture, history, prosperity and extremely modern living” – PD Lawton, 
Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.” – Robin Walter
The beautiful city of Kumasi  was blown up, destroyed by fire, and looted by the British at the end of the 19th century.
Here below are few depictions of the city.
In 1331, Ibn Battouta, described the Tanzanian city of Kilwa, of the Zanj, Swahili speaking people, as follows ” one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world, the whole of it is elegantly built”. The ruins are complete with `gothic` arches and intricate stonework, examples of exquisite architecture. Kilwa dates back to the 9th century and was at its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries. This international African port minted its own currency in the 11th -14th centuries. Remains of artefacts link it to Spain, China, Arabia and India. The inhabitants, architects and founders of this city were not Arabs and the only influence the Europeans had in the form of the Portuguese was to mark the start of decline, most likely through smallpox and influenza.” – Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre, excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” byPD Lawton
In 1505 Portuguese forces destroyed and burned down the Swahili cities of Kilwa and Mombasa.
The picture below shows an artist’s reconstruction of the sultan’s palace in Kilwa in the 1400’s, followed by other ruins photographs.
Kilwa277332452Songo Mnara
“A Moorish nobleman who lived in Spain by the name of Al-Bakri questioned merchants who visited the Ghana Empire in the 11th century and wrote this about the king: “He sits in audience or to hear grievances against officials in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials. Behind the king stand ten pages holding shields and swords decorated with gold, and on his right are the sons of the kings of his country wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold. The governor of the city sits on the ground before the king and around him are ministers seated likewise. At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree that hardly ever leave the place where the king is, guarding him. Around their necks they wear collars of gold and silver studded with a number of balls of the same metals.” - – the source of the quote is given on wikipedia as p.80 of Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West Africa by Nehemia Levtzion and John F.P. Hopkins)
Here below are few depictions of Ghana Empire.
In 15th when the Portuguese, the first Europeans to sail the Atlantic coasts of Africa “arrived in the coast of Guinea and landed at Vaida in West Africa, the captains were astonished to find streets well laid out, bordered on either side for several leagues by two rows of trees, for days they travelled through a country of magnificent fields, inhabited by men clad in richly coloured garments of their own weaving! Further south in the Kingdom of the Kongo(sic), a swarming crowd dressed in fine silks’ and velvet; great states well ordered, down to the most minute detail; powerful rulers, flourishing industries-civilised to the marrow of their bones. And the condition of the countries of the eastern coast-mozambique, for example-was quite the same.”
Another example is the Kingdom of Congo in the 15th Century was the epitome of political organization. It “was a flourishing state in the 15th century. It was situated in the region of Northern Angola and West Kongo. Its population was conservatively estimated at 2 or 3 million people. The country was fivided into 6 administrative provinces and a number of dependancies. The provinces were Mbamba, Mbata, Mpangu, Mpemba, Nsundi, and Soyo. The dependancies included Matari, Wamdo, Wembo and the province of Mbundu. All in turn were subject to the authority of The Mani Kongo (King). The capital of the country(Mbanza Kongo), was in the Mpemba province. From the province of Mbamba, the military stronghold. It was possible to put 400,000 in the field.” – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” by PD Lawton
Below is an depiction by Olfert Dapper, a Dutch physician and writer, of the 17th century city of Loango (present Congo/Angola) based on descriptions of the place by those who had actually seen it.
Depiction of the City of Mbanza in the Kongo Kingdom
King of Kongo Receiving Dutch Ambassadors, 1642 DO Dapper, Description de lAfrique  Traduite du Flamand (1686)
King of Kongo Receiving Dutch Ambassadors, 1642   DO Dapper, Description de lAfrique  Traduite du Flamand (1686)
Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609)
Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609)
Until the end of 16 century, Africa was far more advanced than Europe in term of political organization, science, technology, culture. That prosperity continued, despite the European slavery ravages, till the 17th and 18th century.
The continent was crowded with tens of great and prosperous cities, empires and kingdoms with King Askia Toure of Songhay, King Behanzin Hossu Bowelle of Benin, Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, King Shaka ka Sezangakhona of South Africa, Queen Nzinga of Angola, Queen Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana, Queen Amina of Nigeria.
We are talking here about Empires, Kingdoms, Queendoms, Kings, emperors, the richest man in the history of humanity in Africa.

Were these Kings and Queens sleeping on banana trees in the bushes? Were they dressed with tree leaves, with no shoes?

If they were not sleeping in trees, covered with leaves, where are the remainder of their palaces, their art work?
In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”
The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.” Robin Walter
Loango City in the Congo/Angola area is depicted in another drawing from the mid 1600`s. Yet again, a vast planned city of linear layout, stretching across several miles and entirely surrounded by city walls, bustling with trade. The king`s complex alone was a mile and a half enclosure with courtyards and gardens. The people of Loango had used maths not just for arithmetic purposes but for astrological calculations. They used advanced maths, linear algebra. The Ishango Bone from the Congo is a calculator that is 25 000 years old. “The so-called Ishango bone`s inscriptions consist of two columns of odd numbers that add up to 60,with the left column containing prime numbers between 10 and 20, and the right column containing both added and subtracted numbers.” Source: Ta Neter Foundation. It is on view in a museum in Belgium. – Excerpt from “The Invisible Empire” by PD Lawton
The beautiful city of Loango was destroyed by European fortune hunters, pseudo-missionaries and other kinds of free-booters.
“On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”
On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”
In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . . in itself no mean citadel”.
A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.
One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.
Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis, according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective of town planning.
The Nigerian city of Surame flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”
The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.
In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.
In Southern Africa, there are at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies court”.
The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in size to that of London of the same period.
Bling culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption: “Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”
On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”
Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”
Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”
In, 1571 Portuguese forces invade Munhumutapa, and started the destruction of the place. In 1629, Emperor Mavhura becomes puppet ruler of Munhumutapa on behalf of the Portuguese.
Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five stories high”.
“Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns. Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.
The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.
The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.
A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.” Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built.”
Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets, which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears”.
In 1961 a British archaeologist, found the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall, galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.
The Bamilike structures of the Cameroon are of mind-blowing architectural delicateness and beauty. The Bamum and Shomum scripts of the Cameroon are similar to those of Ethiopia. There are over 7000 ancient Bamum manuscripts and the Bamum Palace is still perfectly preserved.” Robin Walter

As historical sources described above the continent was full of monuments. Where are they?

The sad truth is that Europeans invaders have destroyed most of them either as punitive actions or under the scramble for Africa ‘Terra Nullius’ law.
During the scramble for Africa by Europeans, the main way to prove that a land was qualified for colonization or take over was ‘Terra Nullius”, a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning “land belonging to no one”, which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished sovereignty. Sovereignty over territory which is terra nullius may be acquired through occupation”
Many islands were acquired that way when it was possible to slaughter the small population and easily prove that the land was empty before the arrival of colonial powers.
But very soon, the colonial powers were in difficulty to find “land belonging to no one”. Africa was not a Terra Nullius. Consequently,  the terra nullius law was altered to include land inhabited by savages and uncivilized people.
Again, very quickly the colonial power found it difficult to prove that Africa was a land of savages and uncivilized people. Instead they found, as demonstrated above, queendoms and kingdoms with great palaces and highly developed political and social norms.
At this stage, the colonial power have to destroy any sign of civilization.
From then on, the colonial power spent a lot of energy to destroy and burn African historical buildings and monuments, slaughtered the African elite of engineers, scientists, craftsmen, writers, philosophers, etc.
There is a museum in Paris with 18 000 human heads of people killed by the French colonial troops and missionaries. It’s called “Musée d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris”.
Among the heads are the ones of African kings, kings’ families, african engineers, writers, army officers, spiritual leaders, but also ordinary men, women, children that the french found unusual, exotic enough or interesting to kill to enrich their Museum of natural history where they display mainly animals skulls to represent bio-diversity and evolution.
France was not alone in the european competition to behead the maximum of variety of exotic people. The skulls and heads of many Africans still could be  found in museums and unusual places around Europe.
Another consequence of the Terra Nullius law defined as a land inhabited by savages, lead to the capture of Africans to display in zoos and public events around Europe, in primitive conditions, to demonstrate the inferiority and barbarism of the African people.
From that moment till now, most Europeans still think Africans are savages, inferior, grotesque, unintelligent people. They more an african would display features that would fit that stigma, the more he or she would be liked by them.
Sadly, little is left of our ancestors. When Europeans invaded Africa they applied the 4 basic principles of any occupant forces:
1. First, Kill the strong and loot the place
2. Second, Breed the weak
3. Third, Kill, Deport or Exile the smartest and the skilled ones
4. Fourth, Impose the golden colonial rule “My way or the Highway”.
The Kings and their descendants were all killed. Additionally, 3 centuries of transatlantic slavery exported over 12 millions of the finest men and women from Africa to America, tens of millions have died in the process.
Imagine what would happen to any country or civilization when almost all writers, storytellers, engineers, craftsmen, artists, leaders are killed or exiled? And, Any sign of heir past glory and ingenuity destroyed or burned? Their books and records of knowledge stolen or destroyed.
Who will transmit the century accumulated knowledge to the ordinary men and women?
It’s that broken link to knowledge and leadership for the last 3 centuries which has plunged the whole continent into a dark age, its people left without guidance.
Our fearless warriors and civilization builders are gone. Our global traders, pyramid, Kingdom and Empire builders are extinct.
Unsurprisingly none of these generations have being nurtured in creating empire, and waging wars, defending their territory, protecting their children and women.
Reason why we don’t have anymore the modern version of the fearless African Warriors and Civilization builders.
When some people ask why are they so poor, we answer they are not poor, they have been made poor.
Today, if you want to see the glory of Africa, you have to go to Europe, where thousands and thousands of stolen arts objects, civilization artifacts are in public museums and private collection (in UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Germany, etc.). If you want to see the wealth of Africa, you have also to go to Europe where they are stored in private and public accounts. 5 centuries of plundering and destruction brought the continent to its knees.
As PD Lawton put it “From Egypt to the Sudan, from Mali to Tanzania, from Zimbabwe to Mozambique, Africa is full of the testimony to her past. In many cases the complete destruction of structures has not been through natural elements but deliberate acts, most notably of the British Empire. The museums of Britain and Europe are full of the results of` pillage and plunder`. There are numerous ancient structures that are in a state of good preservation but in the case of many of Africa`s cities, palaces, temples and trading ports of old we are left with nothing other than the written reports and drawings of traders and travellers from medieval times to the final days of complete destruction in the late 1800s.In terms of beauty and even on occasion scale the architecture of Egypt`s pyramids pale in comparison to other African historical structures. The diversity of architecture from this continent is staggering. The use traditionally of what is termed fractal scaling in building highlights a religious tradition practiced throughout the continent. Fractal scaling is the `Mandelbrot` idea of architecture where the smallest parts of a structure resemble the largest parts. This cultural/religious tradition was/is practised in all aspects of life from weaving, to grinding cereals to the building of homes and palaces and is the incorporation of `history` and explanation of the Universe and our place within it, into everyday lives, lest we forget.” – “Africa Before The 20Th Century” in “Invisible Empire”.
We need to invest time and resources to unearth ourselves the ruins of our old cities to strengthen the faith of a young generation in our ability to rebound.
It’s time we revive in the mind of a new generation of Africans the true nature of their ancestors, the past glory of their empires, the pride of its warriors, conquerors and civilization builders, and clearly make them understand that the 5 “Centuries of Shame” under European occupation shall end with a new generation of Leaders and Builders!

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