41-60 of 633 Results

Article

ʿAlī Eisami Gazirmabe  

Richard Anderson

ʿAlī Eisami Gazirmabe, later known as William Harding, was one of an estimated 99,752 “Liberated Africans” intercepted by the British Royal Navy from slave ships at sea and taken to the colony of Sierra Leone as part of Britain’s 19th-century campaign against the transatlantic slave trade. Eisami was born in the metropolitan district of Borno. He was enslaved c. 1812–1813 during the jihād waged by Hausa-Fulani jihadists against Borno. He was taken westward through the nascent Sokoto Caliphate and eventually to Oyo Ile, the capital of the Oyo Empire. For four or five years he was enslaved to a member of the Oyo aristocracy. In 1817, a Muslim uprising at Ilorin prompted his enslaver to sell Eisami to European slave traders on the coast. British naval forces captured Eisami’s slave vessel at sea, transporting him to the abolitionist colony of Sierra Leone. In Freetown, ʿAlī Eisami took up the name William Harding. In extensive interviews with the missionary linguist Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle from 1848 to 1852, he provided detailed accounts of his native Borno. This included stories, historical accounts, and poetry in his native Kanuri, as well as a substantial narrative of his enslavement. Harding’s linguistic work with Koelle represented an important step in the study of the Kanuri language, while his “Biographical Sketch,” as published by Koelle in 1854, has become a canonical account of enslavement in Africa. Eisami’s eyewitness accounts are important sources on the 19th-century jihād movement, experiences of enslavement in Africa and the transatlantic slave trade in its final half-century of existence, and the experience of being a Liberated African in Sierra Leone.

Article

The Almohad Empire, c. 1120–1269  

Amira Bennison

The Almohad empire was founded during the mid-12th century by a militant religio-political movement that originated among the Maṣmūda tribes of the High Atlas Mountains in what is now Morocco. At its height, the empire extended across North Africa to modern Tunisia and also incorporated the southern parts of modern Spain and Portugal. The original religious leader of the movement was Muḥammad b. Tūmart, but the empire was ruled by a dynasty known as the Muʾminids after ʿAbd al-Muʾmin, Ibn Tūmart’s successor as leader of the Almohads. The empire was one of the largest Islamic political formations of its time and played an important role in the western Mediterranean and beyond prior to its demise in the mid-13th century. The empire was distinctive in several ways. The Almohads saw their interpretation of Islam as a revival of Muḥammad’s message to which all Abrahamic monotheists should convert, a radical position leading to a black myth that they were persecutors of religious minorities, although the limited reach of medieval government meant that they could not always implement their objectives. As a Maṣmūda-backed empire, the Almohads also promoted public use of the Maṣmūda language, one of the Berber or Amazigh family of languages, alongside Arabic, and created an imperial elite from across their empire. They are also famous for their promotion of new styles of urban architecture, especially their huge square-tower minarets, and for patronage of the arts and sciences at court, making the Almohad century one of intellectual ferment as well as religious and political change.

Article

al-Nafzaouiya, Zaynab  

Hasna Lebbady and Hiam El Hilali

Referred to as the best-known Amazigh malika (queen), Zaynab al-Nafzaouiya was centrally involved with the building of the Almoravid dynasty of Morocco and its empire in the 11th century. The Almoravids were Sanhaja tribesmen who, led by Abdellah b. Yasin, started off as religious reformers and developed into empire builders when they embarked on a campaign to regain control over trans-Sahara trade, which the Sanhaja had lost the previous century. Two Almoravid leaders, Abu Bakr b. Umar and Yusuf b. Tashfin, married Zaynab, who had already been married twice before, and brought her to the world’s notice. The sources, in which she receives brief but significant notice, mention her only as her life touches upon those of the Almoravids; however, they depict her as playing a pivotal role in both the cultural and the political spheres of Aghmat (near Marrakesh), in which she was based. Although some called her a magician, Zaynab was actually just intelligent, knowledgeable, and capable of benefitting from the intellectual and cultural affluence that characterized her era. She was, moreover, gifted with political acumen, making her a good advisor for Abu Bakr b. Umar and a good co-ruler for Yusuf b. Tashfin. Her understanding proved to be particularly helpful concerning the founding of the Almoravid empire, stretching from modern-day Senegal to al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), which the two emirs were instrumental in building. They were both virtuous men who possessed considerable military skills; however, they were basically nomads from the desert. It was Zaynab who was familiar with the more settled and refined way of life in Aghmat, enabling her to advise them diplomatically concerning the politics of the area to which she was accustomed. She was even able to advise Yusuf b. Tashfin on how to handle Abu Bakr b. Umar, enabling him, with her at his side, to take over the leadership of the dynasty and launch the extension of its empire all the way to al-Andalus.

Article

Al-Shabaab  

Oscar Gakuo Mwangi

The Somalia-based Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujaheddin, commonly known as al-Shabaab, is a violent nonstate armed actor that has been designated a terrorist group. Its origins are a function of domestic and international factors that include the resurgence of political Islam in Somalia, the Afghan War of 1979 to 1989, state collapse and the prominent rise of the Union of Islamic Courts in the country. Consequently al-Shabaab adopted Islamism, in particular Salafi jihadism, as a political ideology to achieve its objective of creating an Islamic caliphate in the Horn of Africa. Since its formation in 2006, al-Shabaab’s organizational structure, its strategies and tactics of radicalization, recruitment, financing, and military warfare have been based on Islamist doctrines. Al-Shabaab’s effective use of Salafi jihadism to pursue its objectives has made it the greatest threat to peace and stability in Somalia. By establishing links with international groups that advocate a similar ideology, such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has successfully managed to transform itself from a domestic to a transnational actor, thereby also constituting a threat to international security.

Article

Amílcar Lopes Cabral, 1924–1973  

Abel Djassi Amado

Amílcar Cabral, the founding father of Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau, was one of the African political leaders who masterfully exercised key and decisive roles in the twin realms of political action and theoretical development. As the founding leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde, Cabral wore several hats: he was the chief diplomat and the commander in chief of the liberation movement; he was also the master organizer of the party and of the incipient state in the liberated areas. Yet, Cabral was far from solely a man of action; he developed a complex and sophisticated political theory of national liberation that gave substance and meaning to political action.

Article

Aminu Kano  

Mohammed Bashir Salau and Oyedele Oluokun

Aminu Kano was born into the family of Mallam Yusufu and Malama Rakaiya of the Sudawa quarters of Kano city in 1920. He obtained Islamic education and attended various local Western schools before serving as a teacher at the Bauchi Provincial Middle School. After leaving Bauchi, he attended the University of London, where he became more politically active. Upon returning to Nigeria from London, Kano served in different capacities, but mainly as a politician, a statesman-parliamentarian, and a cabinet minister. In the context of serving in these capacities, he was primarily committed to attacking the corruption and oppression of the emirate system, fighting for the liberation of women, fighting for Nigeria’s independence, promoting the democratization of Northern Nigeria, and fighting for Nigeria’s unity. By 1980, Kano’s focus on such issues had led to some important victories including the weakening of the emirate system. By this same date, Kano had had many wives even though he never embraced polygamy. In 1983, Kano died of a stroke. However, his ideas and work still have an impact on 21st-century Nigeria. The primary materials for the study of his ideas, work, and legacy include those Kano himself wrote, those written by other individuals, and oral data. Some of the extant literature based partly on such materials have primarily provided biographical details on Kano, while others have considered either his social and political thoughts or his legacy. Despite this, there are still significant gaps that exist in the relevant literature, which provides future research opportunities.

Article

Ancient Developments in the Middle Senegal Valley and the Inland Niger Delta  

Alioune Dème

The study of West Africa has contributed to the expansion of comparative arid-lands floodplain prehistory, from both the data collection (cultural and historical) and the theoretical aspects. The neoevolutionary approach that often pictures Africa as a backward continent has been successfully challenged. In the Middle Senegal Valley and in the Inland Niger Delta, research on their societies’ complexity done along these two subcontinent’s floodplains has described new processes (including urbanization) that were not previously featured in the archaeological literature. The two floodplains, because of their ecological diversity, with the richness of their ecological diversity, attracted Saharan populations affected by drought at the end of the second millennium and the first millennium BC. However, after their initiation occupation the two areas took different trajectories in complexity and settlement organization. Large complex settlements have been found at Jenne-jeno and in the Ile a Morphil that illustrate whole new trajectories of civilization. These forms of complexity, found in areas with historically known polities, were not included in the range of possibilities predicted by standard complexity theories regarding civilizational development. Ethnographic and historical data, reveal the existence of societies with a central authority embedded within and balanced by a diffuse, segmented and heterarchical power structure; often as a strategy to resist the individual consolidation of power. These societies exhibit evidence of horizontal differentiation and consensus-based decision making. All these types of organization are characterized by the presence of several sources of power vested in corporate entities, such as lineages, age groups, cults and secret societies.

Article

Ancient Egypt and Southwest Asia  

Jana Mynářová

Relations between ancient Egypt and the neighboring regions of Southwest Asia, which began to form already in prehistoric and early historic times, underwent a significant development consisting of a series of booms and declines before reaching the Iron Age (c. 1150–586 bc). The geographic conditions stand out as a crucial element in this formation process, as these enabled the essential communication between the respective cultural and political entities. In these historical periods, the relations were realized on several bases, and the presence of Egyptians in the regions of the Levant, as well as “foreigners” in Egypt, is well attested both by means of archaeological and textual evidence.

Article

André do Couto Godinho  

Lucilene Reginaldo

André do Couto Godinho was born in 1720 in the Brazilian captaincy of Minas Gerais, in the town of Mariana, and died in the Kingdom of Kongo, probably around 1790. Born not only a slave but the slave of a slave, he went on to obtain his freedom, becoming literate, later studying at a university, and finally going on to serve as a missionary in Africa. Between the beginning of his life, in Brazil, and its end, in Africa, he spent a number of years in Portugal, in the cities of Coimbra and Lisbon. While his life story is certainly extraordinary, it provides a window into the possibilities of, and strategies for, social and geographic mobility of free and freed black people in different parts of the Portuguese Empire during the second half of the 1700s. Retracing André Godinho’s footsteps is an exercise in micro-history, a technique that, when used as a counterpoint to a more global analysis, offers fresh insights into familiar subjects, with the seemingly insignificant details of an individual life raising questions that would have gone unnoticed in a strictly macroscopic analysis. André’s path in life, as a free man of color helps understand the larger historical contexts that defined the possibilities, choices, and limitations of his personal history. Godinho’s story provides insights into African descendants’ possibilities for social ascension, also clarifying the limitations imposed by emerging social hierarchies based on skin color and slave origin.

Article

An Environmental History of Southern Africa  

Jasper Knight

Southern Africa has experienced significant environmental changes since the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent, starting around 180 million years ago. These environmental changes broadly reflect the interplay between tectonic and global-scale climatic drivers, which in combination result in changes to the properties and dynamics of land surface physical and ecological processes. The preserved record of such processes can be used as proxy indicators to reconstruct past environments and climates. In southern Africa, different types of proxy indicators have formed and are preserved in different geographical areas, broadly corresponding to their individual climatic and geomorphic contexts. Three significant time intervals over which landscape evolution have taken place are the Phanerozoic, the late Quaternary, and the last 200 years. A critical outcome of this analysis is that the record of environmental change in southern Africa is highly variable and only partly preserved, and that there are spatial and temporal gaps which mean that it is difficult to construct a continuous or unambiguous environmental history either for all areas of the region or for all time intervals. Changing physical drivers and environmental controls over time, including land surface feedbacks, are now being supplanted by a stronger imprint of human activity in the Anthropocene.

Article

Animals in African History  

Sandra Swart

Animal history in Africa—the multi-species story of the continent’s past—as a separate subdisciplinary “turn” is both recent and tentative, but as an integrated theme within the broader historiography it is both pioneering and enduring. Historians of Africa have long engaged with animals as vectors of change in human history and, of course, at the same time, understood that humans were a key agent of change in animal histories too, especially in the long-lived and extensive writing on epizootics, livestock farming, pastoralism, hunting, and conservation. African animal histories should resist the imposition of intellectual paradigms from the Global North.

Article

Animating African History: Digital and Visual Trends  

Paula Callus

Contrary to popular belief, the animated moving image on the African continent has long and diverse histories across many countries. Although it shares both the technology and some of the formal aspects of cinema, its historical development followed a different trajectory to that of indexical film, both in Europe and in Africa. This may be because of animation’s ability to draw upon a range of artistic practice, which means it can take many guises; at times it appears like a cartoon, or sometimes like puppets or sculptures that come to life; at other times it is a metamorphic drawing or painting, or even a photographic montage. In addition, while animation tends to be associated with content specifically intended for a children’s audience, it has in fact been an effective vehicle to conceal sociopolitical critique that would otherwise be considered problematic. Different animators in Africa have used animation to this end, presenting subversive and social-realist content within the unrealistic depictions of fantastical stories, the parodic, comedic or allegorical, or culturally located visual metaphors. African animators have also used animation to safeguard and give permanence to the stories, myths, and legends they grew up with. These legends have occasionally also informed animated superheroes in games such as the Kenyan mobile phone application Africa’s Legends, or the cast of an Afro-futurist setting such as the Nigerian “Afro-anime” production Red Origins. With the onset of digital technology, the landscape of animation in Africa has seen a blossoming of activity from expert and non-expert prod-users. Their work circulates in formal and informal settings, whether visible at a festival, on television and mainstream media, in online social networking spaces or on video streaming sites such as YouTube or Vimeo. The prolific characteristic of animation made for digital spaces has resulted in a paradoxical simultaneous visibility and invisibility. Networks of African artists have benefited from the visibility and distribution that the Internet and smart phone technologies offer; for example, Kenyan multimedia artists Just a Band were quoted as saying that they were discovered online before they were discovered in Nairobi. However, the ephemeral quality of these digital spaces can also be problematic from the archivist’s perspective as digital traces change. For this reason it is increasingly important to capture the traces that African artists leave in this dynamic space as they reflect the zeitgeist.

Article

An Introduction to the Lower Niger Bronzes of Southern Nigeria  

Philip M. Peek

Southern Nigeria is rich in copper alloy cast works, such as those of the 9th-century burial goods of Igbo-Ukwu, the busts from 13th-century Ife, and the heads and plaques from the early 16th century from Benin City. Much scholarship has been devoted to these centers and yet there are other, perhaps even more historically important, works which have barely been acknowledged. The label “Lower Niger Bronzes” was proposed in the 1960s by William Fagg to account for those few pieces which did not fit with the three well-known centers’ works. On closer examination, these bronzes are far more numerous and of greater antiquity than previously realized. The quality and composition of these works indicate that most were likely cast prior to the European coastal trade in Nigeria which dates from the late 15th century. Leopard skull replicas, humanoid bell heads, small hippos, scepter heads, and masks make up only a portion of the works now under study. Without their original cultural contexts, these artifacts are somewhat mysterious, yet with careful study of their compositions and forms, much is revealed of a period of southern Nigerian history which predates the current arrangement of ethnic groups.

Article

The Anlu Rebellion  

Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué

From 1958 to 1961, Kom women in western Cameroon cast aside their regular domestic and agricultural duties to engage in a revolt against British administrative interference in agriculture—normally their domain—and the alleged plan by the ruling political party, the Kamerun National Congress (KNC), to sell Kom land to Nigerian Igbos. In keeping with the practices of anlu, a centuries-old women’s organization generally deployed against people who violated the Kom moral code, women interfered with burial rituals; hurled insults at men in public; demanded the closing of schools, courts, and markets; set up roadblocks; destroyed and burned property; and defied both traditional and British authorities in the Bamenda Grassfields of western Cameroon. Their tactics included stripping naked in front of men. While local men considered the sight of the vagina in public to be a bad portent and thus understood the seriousness of the revolt, flabbergasted British officials had no idea what was to come. By seizing control of resources and demonstrating in public, Kom women disturbed local political power, and protested against British rule in the Southern Cameroons. They were a crucial force in the victory of the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) in 1961, which brought a restoration of political order at the time of independence.

Article

Anthropological and Ethnographic Methods and Sources  

Constance Smith

For scholars of African history, anthropology offers a number of valuable and invigorating methodological avenues, from engaging directly in ethnographic fieldwork to analyzing anthropological data compiled by others. Given the asymmetries of written documents and the biases of archival material for Africa, anthropological methods and sources offer a different type of access to those who, for various reasons, tend not to appear in other forms of documentary record. The materials of past ethnographic research—texts and material objects, produced and collected by anthropologists and their assistants as well as by missionaries, government officials, travelers, and others—constitute one of the largest categories of written source material. However, the contexts in which such research was conducted can present certain challenges when using these materials as sources. For example, the complex entanglements between colonial governance and the making of anthropological knowledge make it imperative for historians to be aware of the discipline’s intellectual history and how its ways of seeing and ordering have shaped portrayals of Africa’s diverse cultures. Methodologically, historians are also experimenting with field methods that draw heavily on ethnographic techniques. The emergence of historical ethnography has developed a rich, syncretic approach, in which communities’ own relationships with, and understandings of, the past are brought to the fore. Although ethnography is known for its immersive and long-term fieldwork, elements of the technique can also be incorporated into other historical methods. This is in part a matter of approach, rather than of different source material. For example, engaging ethnographically with archives can offer different insights into issues of governance and the production of knowledge.

Article

Anthropology and the Study of Africa  

Jessica Johnson

Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures. It developed from the 19th century with a focus on the study of societies located outside Europe, often colonized peoples. It has since transformed and diversified but maintains an interest in cross-cultural comparison and social and cultural diversity. Anthropologists often conduct long-term ethnographic research, or fieldwork, living among a community in order to learn their language and become familiar with local norms, ways of life and cultural assumptions. The method is also referred to as participant-observation, which captures its dual nature. Anthropologists aim both to join in, and learn though participation, and to maintain a degree of critical distance from which to observe and question what they see and hear around them. Their findings are generally written up in the form obf ethnographic monographs and articles detailing their research and discussing their observations in relation to the work of other anthropologists working in similar and/or distant locations. Africa has long been central to anthropological research, particularly for British-trained anthropologists. This is in part a reflection of British colonial history, as colonialism afforded opportunities for anthropologists to travel to Africa and live among African communities. African scholars and research assistants have played important roles in developing the anthropology of Africa and continue to do so. Contemporary ethnographic writing tends not to be holistic in the sense of aiming to produce a exhaustive account of a particular people and their way of life, but rather focuses on particular issues of interest in connection to wider debates, both scholarly and policy-oriented. In the 21st century, anthropologists of Africa study a wide range of topics, from gender relations to religion, development projects to social media.

Article

Arab Spring  

Ahmed Abushouk

The phrase “Arab Spring,” “Arab Awakening,” or “Arab Uprisings” refers to the series of prodemocracy protests and demonstrations that erupted in the Arab world. It began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to other countries, most notably Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, in 2011. The demonstrators expressed their political and economic grievances and called for regime change: “The people want to bring down the regime.” Under the increasing pressure of the mass protests, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (r. 1978–2011) fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011; Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (r. 1981–2011) resigned on February 11, 2011; Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (r. 1969–2011) was deposed on August 23, 2011, and killed on October 20, 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the National Transitional Council took control of the city; and Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh (r. 1990–2012) resigned in favor of his vice president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Hadi became president for a two-year transitional period on February 25, 2012, but Yemen remained deeply divided between government supporters and the Houthi rebels who killed Saleh on December 4, 2017, in Sanaa. This change of leadership did not improve the political and economic situation in the Arab Spring countries but rather led to a contentious struggle between remnants of the old regimes and prodemocracy supporters, which finally turned into devastating civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. The second wave of the Arab Spring took place in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon, confirming the persistent conditions that led to the outbreak of the first wave against tyranny and exploitation in the early 2010s. The two waves of the Arab Spring have drawn global attention. Tawakkol Karman was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her role in organizing peaceful protests in Yemen. Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda won the 2011 World Press Photo Award for his photograph of a Yemeni woman carrying an injured family member, taken during the civil uprising in Yemen.

Article

Archaeobotany: Methods  

Louis Champion and Dorian Q. Fuller

Archaeobotany’s goals are to investigate the interactions between human societies and the plant world in the past from the botanical remains preserved in archaeological sites, including the environment people exploited and the foods they extracted from it. Archaeobotanical research in Africa has tended to be less widely practiced than in many other parts of the world, and systematic archaeobotanical sampling is still only incorporated into a minority of archaeological field projects in Africa. Nevertheless, there is potential for archaeobotany to contribute to a holistic understanding of Africa’s past. The general scope of archaeobotany is outlined before focusing on how typical archaeobotanical remains relate to agriculture and food production. A short overview on the practical side of collecting archaeobotanical samples is provided. Archaeobotany’s two general themes are discussed: hunter-gatherer subsistence and the origins of agriculture.

Article

Archaeology and Heritage of Slavery in Eastern Africa  

Lydia Wilson Marshall

Despite its long history in the region, slavery in Eastern Africa has attracted little archaeological attention. This deficit is partly due to the reticence of many Eastern Africans to discuss slavery, a historically painful topic. In addition, some archaeologists have expressed skepticism about the material visibility of the practice. That is, they question whether slavery can be archaeologically identified. Given these concerns, those archaeologists who have pursued the study of slavery in Eastern Africa tend to focus on the 18th and 19th centuries, when historical documentation of the practice is well established. Archaeologists in the region have considered slavery in a variety of settings—including not only plantations but also contexts of slaving and emancipation. Research in Eastern Africa has helped to challenge and complicate definitions of slavery rooted in American historical experience. Yet, perspectives on slavery from outside of the region continue to shape public memory in Eastern Africa; increased outside interest and investment in the heritage of slavery has begun to influence both memorialization and the practice of memory itself. For example, heritage funding from UNESCO is tied to particular expectations for how slavery is defined and what counts as heritage. In this context, archaeologists studying slavery in Eastern Africa grapple with their responsibilities to many different stakeholders and audiences. In particular, they continue to work to make slavery research and memorialization more meaningful to Eastern Africans themselves. In addition, researchers have begun to develop methodological tools to push the study of slavery in Eastern Africa to deeper time periods less undergirded by historical documents.

Article

Archaeology of Botswana  

Carla Klehm

The prehistory of Botswana concerns the sophisticated environmental knowledge, economic strategies, and social networks of the hunter-gatherer, pastoralists, and agropastoralist communities that have called Botswana home. Diverse subsistence strategies and societal structures ranging from heterarchical to hierarchical have coincided and responded flexibly to climate and environmental variables. Botswana has also played a central, but often overlooked, role in precolonial trade within the interior of Africa and across the Indian Ocean. Botswana contains well-preserved archaeological records for the Middle Stone Age, Late Stone Age, and Iron Age periods, including one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world at Tsodilo Hills. The prehistory of Botswana extends over 100,000 years and includes successful, innovative, and adaptive occupations in a wide variety of environmental zones, from the Okavango Delta to the Kalahari sandveld, and better-watered hardveld areas in the east. Stone Age peoples adapted to both arid and wet lands, and the archaeological record includes early evidence for freshwater fish exploitation. Hunting with bone points dates to 35,000 years ago, with additional evidence for poisonous, reversible arrowheads between 21,000 and 30,000 years ago. Evidence for ritualized behavior through rock paintings, rock carvings, and the intentional destruction and abandonment of stone tools at Tsodilo Hills provides further insights to the social dimensions of early peoples. In the Iron Age, hunter-gatherer communities and agropastoralists participated in a regional and later protoglobal trade across the Indian Ocean for a thousand years before European involvement; as the regional economy intensified, large polities such as Bosutswe and even kingdoms such as the Butua state emerged, controlling access to resources such as game, ivory, salt, specularite, and gold. In the modern era, the historical archaeology of sites such as Old Palapye (Phalatswe) provide additional insight to historical documents that can contradict Eurocentric understandings of Botswana’s past.