Located in what is now Senegal and parts of Mauritania, the Waalo kingdom was one of the strongest and oldest kingdoms in Senegal existing since the 11th century. Before the invasion of the Arabs, the people practised the matrilineal system which gave women equal rights and privileges as men.
When the French arrived in Senegal in 1855 to colonize it, the first resistance force they encountered was a woman. Her name: Ndaté Yalla Mboj.
On October 1, 1846, Princess Ndaté Yalla Mbodj became Queen of the Waalo (Wolof) Kingdom after the death of her older sister Queen Ndjeumbeut Mbodj who had ruled since she was a teenager after the death of their father King Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj.
Although her ascension to the throne was easy, her rule fast became a tireless one in her determination to preserve what was left of the kingdom while protecting her people from the Moors, French and Arabs who wanted to take their lands and totally colonize the kingdom. Despite being an overwhelming task, Queen Ndaté was able to lead her military into war.
Her first major and successful task as a Queen was in 1876 when she opposed the free passage of the Sarakolé people by sending a letter to the governor expressing her willingness to defend the respect of her sovereignty.
“The purpose of this letter is to let you know that the island of Mboyo belongs to me from my grandfather to me. Today, there is no one who can say that this country belongs to him, he is mine alone.
Ndaté therefore considered himself the sole ruler of the Kingdom of Waalo and throughout her reign she would challenge the French and wage a bitter battle against them. In 1847 she demanded the free passage of the population of the Saraokés who supplied the Island of St-Louis with cattle. In her letter to the governor, she writes:
“It is we who guarantee the passage of herds in our country; for this reason we take the tenth and we will never accept anything other than that. St Louis belongs to the Governor, Cayor to Damel and Waalo to Brack. Each of these leaders governs his country as he sees fit
Ndaté will not hesitate to plunder around St Louis and threaten verbally or by correspondence the Governor. The French will demand a refund of the damage caused by the looting and Ndatté will refuse categorically and proudly.
This is how it ends up making its rights to the Island of Mboyo and the Island of Sor prevail (current city of St Louis).
On November 5, 1850 Ndaté banned all trade in the backwaters of its outbuilding and pushed the French to the end of what they could bear. Faidherbe orders a battle against the Waloo troops who this time do not resist against the technological power of the enemy
In 1855, Queen Ndaté was faced with a French army of over 1500 men who planned to take over her Kingdom, dethrone her and colonize the Waalo which would make them have total control over Senegal.
Before then, the Queen had led several successful battles against both the Moors and the French and although her army made up of both males and females was small, the Queen led them against the French. Before going to war, the Queen gave a famous speech to her army saying:
“Today, we are invaded by the conquerors. Our army is in disarray. The tiedos of the Waalo, as brave warriors as they are, have almost all fallen under the enemy’s bullets. The invader is stronger than us, I know, but should we abandon the Waalo to foreign hands?” “This country is mine alone!
The Queen’s brave army was no match to the French and she lost the first battle. She led her army to sneak up on the French and defeat them thereby starting the Senegal War of Resistance which continued way into the 20th century.
Queen Ndaté was able to fight off the Arabs and her battles led to the creation of Senegambia. She was captured by the French and exiled into the north of Senegal in Ndimb where she remained until she died in 1860.
Although by the time of her exile the Kingdom was in ruins, her son, Sidya Leon Diop took over the throne and continued the war until he too was captured and exiled in Gabon in 1878.
To date, Queen Ndaté Yalla Mbodj remains a symbol of resistance in Senegal. A statue of the Queen can be found in Dagana, in north Senegal that was made in her honor.
Bunce Island in Sierra Leone, 20 miles up the Sierra Leone River, and a few miles north of the capital Freetown, was home to one of the most profitable slave trading operations in West Africa. Established in 1670 by English slave traders, it was the largest British slave castle on the Rice Coast where tens of thousands of African slaves were shipped to North America and the West Indies.
It was part of the over sixty slave-trading forts on the West African coast. The island was majorly operated by two companies one after the other — the Gambia Adventurers and the Royal African Company of England — from 1670 to 1728. It flourished during private management by a consortium of London firms from 1744 to 1807. Slave trading ceased on the island in 1808 after the slave trade was abolished but the trading fort was totally abandoned in 1840 and has been uninhabited since.
The selection of slaves from the Rice Coast, which stretches from Senegal right to Liberia through Bunce Island, was not random. In fact, Africans were particularly targeted on account of their skills – rice cultivation.
South Carolina, which became one of the wealthiest states in North America with an economy based on rice cultivation, benefited the most from these enslaved Africans from the Rice Coast. Nearby Georgia also insisted on using slaves from this region. At the time, during slave auctions in Charlestown (now Charleston), South Carolina, Savana and Georgia, slave selling advertisements specifically mentioned slaves from the Rice Coast or Bunce Island to assure buyers that they would get experienced hands. Buyers would then be willing to pay more for them.
Rice cultivation in America saw an uplift as more and more African captives were shipped from Bunce Island to work on rice farms.
Naturally, tracing descendants of enslaved Africans in the diaspora is quite cumbersome. However, slaves from Sierra Leone’s Bunce Island who are indigenes of the West African country can directly be traced to the Gullah peoplein the United States.
According to UNESCO, the Gullah community in South Carolina and Georgia still retain traditions in food, names and stories that draw heavily from their Sierra Leonean roots.
What makes the story of Bunce Island different from the likes of Goree Island in Senegal and The Elmina Castle in Ghana is that it became “the only instance where Africans were particularly targeted for buying and selling on account of their skills,” according to UNESCO.
Also, US Independence was negotiated, in part, between Bunce Island’s British owner, Richard Oswald and an affluent rice farmer and slave dealer in South Carolina called Henry Laurens.
Laurens served as the business agent for Bunce Island in Charlestown right before the American war of independence. When the war began, Laurens was made President of the Continental Congress. He was then captured by the British and bailed by his friend Oswald.
When the war ended, Laurens was one of the American Peace Commissioners who negotiated the United States’ independence under the Treaty of Paris. His British counterpart and friend Oswald headed the British negotiating team that led to the independence of the U.S.
Today, remains of the once very busy port that can be seen are the bastions, walls of the merchants’ quarters, the gunpowder magazine, and the gate to the slave house.
The remoteness of the island has helped in its preservation as there is no human interference. Nonetheless, a severe local climate has contributed to the degradation of the elements. Lastly, wild growth of vegetation in and around the ruins and coastal erosion are the biggest threats to the preservation of the site.
Fashion has always been a world-building up multiple trends in order to validate your resume of fashion addicts and to see how your creativity can reinvent those trends and make them yours.
There is a meaning behind everything, and sometimes we don’t necessarily pay attention to the cultural or spiritual aspect of what we wear. Fashion has demystified apparat, trendiness took out their real estate and the values that they encouraged.
We will talk about some accessories that we’ve seen on our favorite cover magazine or celebrity and give their ethnic aspect in Africa and for others in the world.
Cowries are now the trendiest accessory you can have in your closet this year. Traveling from Africa, Asia, their necklaces and jewelry are on every continent.
In the past, it was used as a currency in West Africa, one of the most successful in the world, especially during the great empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhaï.
Cowries had a strong spiritual value and cultural aspect, horns, fetishes were set with cowries used by both healer and sorcerer. These objects and costumes covered with them are found in Casamance among the Diola and in Eastern Senegal among the Bassari, where the traditional religion is still alive.
On the symbolic level, the cowries are frequently connected with the feminine.
Their shape being associated with that of the female sex, cowries can be used during fertility rites. Unfortunately, in most countries, cowries have lost its ritualistic and symbolic value, even though in some tribes it is still used and seen as a protective charm or divination tool by divine tellers, but now we can all give them another sense through fashion and we are loving it.
Beyoncé (Singer, Songwriter), wearing a Lafalaise Dion headpiece
Gold is the most precious metal in the world but guess which continent produced and register the largest goldmine? Africa. Egyptians Gods and pharaoh were always represented with gold, it was one of the most symbolic object to define royalty.
African history with gold despite of the blood spilled caused by covetousness, still remain one of the most common used material in our communities. You have seen gold in weddings, married couples were certainly dancing with their golden costume and jewelry. Gold implies wealth in our societies and nowadays shines on rings, necklaces, gourmets, etc
Meanwhile, it still has its same aspect in Akan tribes having a symbol of power, spiritual force by creating statuette that were worshipped and used as another language for educational purpose to the youngest. In Mali, the Dioula people use it as a lucky and protective charm. You will hear stories of gold being a present from the gods in countries like Ghana, Mali and South Africa that still have a strong relationship with gold and are the countries producing the most in the world.
Mansa Musa, was the tenth Mansa of the Mali Empire and made Mali the largest producer of gold in the world, and Musa has been considered one of the richest people on earth.
Bags and handbags have been noted throughout history as far back as ancient Egypt – hieroglyphics depict men carrying bags tied around their waist (similar to a modern-day fanny pack).
Peasants and farmers in early civilizations were known to carry seeds and grains in small bags and African priests have been known to carry beaded bags as a sign of luxury and power. They were shaped through fashion and adapted to every need from the smallest to the largest (Handbags, Backpack).
“Ghana must go” is a brand that we all have seen one day at the airport or we even ourselves carried to travel, this popular bag was used by several West African citizens, especially Ghanaians, to contain their belongings as they were forced to leave Nigeria during the 1980s. Now it’s getting appropriated by western fashion companies during their fashion shows.
Handbags have become a fashion accessory, that men and women cannot live without.
Some people still believe that Europeans are the ones that introduced shoes in Africa, that we were a land of naked and barefoot.
Let me warn you before you start realizing your ignorance. They were often reserved for ceremonial functions and for royalty. Traditional materials to make shoes, as discerned by anthropologists, were rawhide, leather, and metal; to mention a few. Interestingly, archaeologists have discovered that Ancient Egyptians made shoes for the right and left foot; unlike earlier European shoes.
The Hausa seem to have the most documented shoe history of the continent. Their leatherwork is considered legendary throughout West Africa and their intrinsic work has constructed the likes of boots and sandals. Ghana, in particular the Akan’s community, had
the Ahenema which is a local slipper that commands respect, majesty, and authority in society. The shoes were made using plant material, with climbing plants making the upper and gradually started to use leather in the shoes which were referred to as ‘chawchaw’ which were for the kings and a few queens in the kingdom.
It’s actually hard to precisely know who made the first eyewear in history. Some will talk about the Inuit’s who made rustic ivory sunglasses to protect their eyes from sunlight. Furthermore, it served judges in Ancient China during the trial, made of “smoke-colored quartz” it was used to prevent the prosecution and defense from being able to read the judges’ expressions and not be altered or influenced by accidental facial reactions. Egyptians have the most ancient lenses but we don’t really know if they had sunglasses.
Nowadays sunglasses are a must to have a classy, trendy and are a celebrity go-to accessory but it was either to protect your eyes or used as a microscope.
Why do you wear your accessories, would tell us more? Subscribe to our mail address we want to read everybody!
Written by Yao Boni.