Kush and Axum Kingdoms
By Max McDonald
Glimpse of Africa
The Kingdom of Kush was formed after the Egyptian pulled their people out of Nubia, an area that is now Northern Sudan/Southern Egypt. The Kush kingdom was fortunate in its wealth, with easily access to iron, gold, and ivory. The nobles of the Kush thought of themselves as Egyptians, for the Egyptians had influenced their architecture and their religion. However unlike the Egyptians, the people of Kush did not have to worry about the Nile's annual flooding and they needn't rely on it for good soil, the area the kingdom was in received plenty of rainfall year round so their soil was generally good for crops. In terms of accomplishments, the kingdom was one of the first (we believe) to make iron tools in Africa, they fought and won many battles against their Egyptian neighbors and created their own language and culture. The Kush kingdom was formed prior to this but when the natives African were forced to migrate out of Egypt because of newcomers, they greatly enriched the culture of the Kingdom of Kush, it wasn't for a thousand years until the Kingdom fell. It happened when a nearby Ethiopian kingdom grew until Kush was overshadowed, finally being attacked and destroyed.
Thus was born Axum, Kush's successor kingdom. Located in the Ethiopian Highlands, it eventually controlled much of Arabria, modern day Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. Axum was the seed that grew into the legendary kingdom of Ethiopia. Axum became a Christian nation and was the first to become that in Africa, mixing it's prior polytheistic beliefs with the new found Christianity is how they approached the matter, almost setting a precedent for other tribes and people. The thing that I think of most when I think about the Axum empire is their Stelae, these stone towers served to mark graves and represent a magnificent multi-storied palace. They are decorated with false doors and windows in typical Axumite design. The largest of these obelisks would measure 33 meters high had it not fallen. The Stelae have most of their mass out of the ground, but are stabilized by massive underground counter-weights. The stone was often engraved with a pattern or emblem denoting the king's or the noble's rank. The fall of Axum came when Islamic groups began contesting trade routes. Eventually Axum was cut off from its principal markets in Alexandria, Byzantium and Southern Europe and its trade share was captured by Arab traders of the era. The Kingdom of Axum also quarreled with Islamic groups over religion. Eventually the people of Axum were forced south and their civilization declined.
The Swahili language is native to the tribes of Eastern Africa in places like Tanzania and Kenya. The reason that it spread to today's number of nearly 15 million people is that that region was a key trade route for connection between Africa and Arabia. So the the whole East coast being a trade region, it makes sense that the language spread through there as well.
European Colonization of Africa
*I focused on the French and Mali* The French came into Mali in 1892 as part of the African land grab race where all the European powers were looking to expand their countries by taking land in Africa, where in their opinion, nobody had claimed it. The French came in and named the land Soudan Français (French Sudan), which didn't sit well with the natives. In the early 1900's the French gained a strong grasp over the colony but resistance continued from the native people. In 1960 Mali finally gained its independence and continues to keep their peoples' culture and tradition to this day.
The fight for independence continues still, not so much in fighting the French, but among themselves in a way. Right after the people managed to kick out the French rule, the military leaders decided they should be in charge rather than the populace's belief of a civilian ruled nation. This occurred until the 1990's when more and more people backed the idea of a democratically ran nation, in the 2000's constitutions were drafted in order to limit the power and time in power elected officials had and since then things have ran relatively smooth for Mali. Apart from the civil strife of course, power seeking militia groups, democratic supporting militia groups, and the Taureg rebels fought over these issues until in 2013 a peace treaty was signed by both groups.
For starters, the Zulu people are more of an Ethnic group in South Africa rather than a tribe, but their traditions and culture are still alive just the same. Located in South Africa, their economy isn't tribal driven, but rather it is in stride with the nationally economy of South Africa because the majority of people there are Zulu. A big part of Zulu art is woodcarving, this includes headdresses and masks more more commonly figurines and such. The women are the ones that keep Zulu tradition alive, the men go away to work in cities and leave their wives home to raise the kids and keep tradition. Music is a way to keep tradition alive and to keep their ancestors' spirits with them, a main instrument used is the drum. In terms of Rite of passage the only one that is still strong today is when the females hit puberty, they are eligible to write letters of interest to men, if the man feel sthe same then the two families discuss marriage. Religiously, the Zulu people were exposed to Christianity by the Europeans so a majority of the people there practice that, they keep in touch with God through prayer but they also tell stories to keep their ancestors spirits with them, sort of mixing the old and the new. Their creation story is that the creator send a Chameleon to give his people eternal life, but on the route the chameleon stopped by many flowery bushes to look and adore, this angered the creator and he sent a lizard who was speedy to take away the eternal life he was originally going to give them. When the chameleon finally arrived it was too late, the lizard had already sentenced the people to their fate, thus in Zulu tradition it is seen as a blessing from the creator to live to old age. Zulu proverbs include "The burning stick has returned with the firemaker stuck to the firemaker" "You are sharp on one side like a knife" "The cow licks the one that licks her" and "the honey will end".
My tribe would be called Maxico. It would be located in central Africa and the economy would be tourism, we could show people the rain forests and what it's like to live there and such. We would practice tribal Tattooing, our only Rite of passage is when you are ready to become a man or woman you must get the tattoo of your family, showing all who you are. Our art would be masks that would allow us to connect with our spirits but also wear into battle to allow the spirits to guide us, so they'd be more like helmets I suppose. We'd drum and dance to the rhythm to connect to the spirits surrounding us. We would worship the trees and the spirits residing within them, our drummers would drum with drums made out of the best trees which hold the most powerful spirits, allowing us to connect with them the best we could. Our creation story would be that the creator created our tribe to allow us to worship the tree spirits properly because those who were before us weren't good enough at it. Our proverbs would be, "Wisdom is wealth" "to get lost is to learn the way" "War has no eyes" "Unity is strength, division is weakness".
African Mask - Teke
I chose to base my design off of this mask because it typically is considerably larger than the head of the wearer, granted while mine was not that was the reason I chose this mask. I like that aspect because to me it gives the feel of the importance of the mask and how it symbolizes something much larger and more powerful than the one chosen to wear the mask, whether it be an ancestor's spirit or animal's, it shows that they hold themselves in lower regards when compared to their deities.
The Teke people are part of the Bantu cultural group, their difference being that they speak the Teke language. Teke people are located in the central Africa region with minorities in the West. Teke masks are mainly used in traditional dancing ceremonies such as wedding, funeral and initiation ceremonies of young men entering adulthood. The mask is also used as a social and political identifier of social structure within a tribe or family. They are round flat disk-like wooden masks that have abstract patterns and geometric shapes with horizontal lines that are painted in earthly colors. The masks have narrow eye slits to enable the mask wearer to see without being seen. They have holes pierced along the edge for the attachment of a woven raffia dress with feathers and fibers. The mask is held in place with a bite bar at the back that the wearer holds in his teeth. The dress would add to the mask's costume and conceal the wearer. Conclusively, I did not find anything that identified the mask as representation of spirits or deities, therefore making my reason for choosing the mask less awesome.
African Slave Trade
*Upon rereading I noticed I focused on the US's involvement, while in reality rival tribes and kingdoms took many slaves, Europeans and South Americans took them as well. Africa was screwed over in the sense that they were behind in technology so people just took them without second thought because they saw them as lesser humans.* In the early stages of the slave trade, people used slaves mostly for personal use, like servants or laborers at smaller business because slaves were expensive. However as time went on and ships got bigger and transportation got cheaper, more and more slaves were brought over from Africa to the US for commercial use as well as personal use. The height of the slave trade came as the growth of the US took off, with plantations being built in the South and the realization that having a personal slave was a useful tool for life in this new and consuming world. Additionally more money from the plantations allowed for more/bigger ships to take people from their homes and ship them into a life of slavery. It came to an end right around the time the civil war started, because with the South becoming the Confederacy they needed a navy to defend from the superior armaments of the North which allowed for less slaves to be traded.
British and Africa
The English involvement with the slave trade is simple yet very impact full, they began with less ships shipping fewer number of slaves to Spanish/Portuguese settlers in Latin and South America. The true height of their slavery began when they started to colonize the Caribbean, they needed people to help make a new life on these islands so they went to Africa and picked up more laborers, although it was forced labor... With the sugar cane plantations springing up in the islands the demand for slaves increased and the British parliament didn't hesitate to comply.
In total, it is estimated that roughly 12,500,000 people were taken from their homes in Africa to be slaves for others, with the number of trips made for this endeavor being somewhere in the millions as well.
After the civil war in Somalia, the Somali navy, and fisherman were all disbanded and the waters left unguarded. People began to fish unlicensed and fish stock eroded. Pirates took advantage of this and robbed people on these unprotected waters, people saw the probability in this actually began funding the pirates for a share of the wealth. That was when it was at its height, since then there have been put into place anti-piracy task forces that patrol those waters protecting commercial fishermen and preventing pirate raids.