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The Afro-Guatemalan population is not a large one today. Although specific numbers are difficult to determine, it is reported that Afro-Guatemalans comprise just 1-2% of the nation’s people.

However, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “Chronic under counting of Latin America’s Afro-descended population” as well as “biases inherent in self-reported ethnic identification, especially in a Latin American context where such categories are less diversified than in many parts of the world” allow one to deduce that actual numbers are likely higher than reported.

Zambia’s first president and champion of African independence Kenneth Kaunda has died at the age of 97, the country’s president Edgar Lungu announced on Facebook Thursday evening.

Zambia will have 21 days of mourning, said Lungu.

Kaunda’s son, Kamarange Kaunda, also gave the news of the statesman’s death on Facebook Thursday.

“I am sad to inform we have lost Mzee,” Kaunda’s son wrote, using a Swahili term of respect for an elder. “Let’s pray for him.”

Kaunda had been admitted to the hospital on Monday and officials later said he was being treated for pneumonia.

The southern African country is currently battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and the country’s founding president was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Center, a military hospital which is a center for treating the disease in the capital, Lusaka.

At the time Kaunda asked for “all Zambians and the international community to pray for him as the medical team is doing everything possible to ensure that he recovers,” according to the statement issued by Kaunda’s administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo.

The Afro-Bolivians are descendants of Enslaved Africans  that arrive during the Spanish Empire from the 16th to the 19th centuries to work in the mines of Potosi, a city in southwestern Bolivia. But most of the about half a million Enslaved  that arrived in Bolivia (then the colonial territory of Upper Peru) could not adapt to the cold weather of Potosi.

So by the beginning of the 19th Century, they were relocated to the Yungas where it was warm to work on the Spanish-owned hacienda plantation estates. There, an unofficial kingdom was formed among a group of enslaved Afro-Bolivians in 1820. It would take decades before this kingdom would be officially recognized by the Bolivian Government

Afro- Bolivans: People Of African Descent In Bolivia

Mururata, a village, has been the “center of this kingdom”. And it is where Julio Bonifaz Pinedo lives and “rules” as the king of the Afro-Bolivians. Afro-Bolivians, numbering about 26,000, have over the years lost much of their history including their languages and religions but not their royal heritage. They still have their king, who is highly respected.

Living in the small village of Mururata, about a two-hour drive north of the capital La Paz, the 78-year-old king does not have a throne or a court, though he does have a cape with gold embroidery and a metallic crown. He doesn’t wear them all the time – only on special occasions like local festivals, according to AFP. In fact, one might not be aware of his presence among his community’s 2,000 residents. His home, where he lives with his wife, the queen Angélica Larrea and their son, doubles as a grocery store that sells oil, bananas, soft drinks and canned sardines.

Pinedo, who has mostly worked in agriculture, still goes out to the fields often to farm coffee, citrus fruits, and coca. His wife helps him manage the grocery store while their son and sole heir, Prince Rolando, is studying law at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. “I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he told BBC.

His father Pinedo is the first king to be officially recognized by the Bolivian state. This was after Bolivia’s minority ethnic groups were acknowledged by the state in 2006. Pinedo, who inherited his title from his African ancestors and was crowned in 1992 by the community, was in 2007 crowned again by the government of La Paz. This helped raise awareness of Afro-Bolivian customs and traditions, including their kingdom, according to one account.

Pinedo’s title is mainly symbolic. He is not recognized as a political authority and does not collect taxes. “My title [as king] is mostly symbolic,” he was quoted by BBC. “I’m not like these rich kings of Europe, but I represent the Afro-Bolivian community, and this is a huge responsibility to me.”

How it all started for Pinedo

Pinedo is a descendant of Uchicho, a prince from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo who was brought to Bolivia as a slave by the Spaniards in 1820. Uchicho worked at the estate of the Marquis of Pinedo, whose name he adopted. In 1832, he was crowned by other enslaved people in the Yungas. He was succeeded by Bonifaz, next José and Bonifacio.

King Bonifacio, who was Pinedo’s grandfather, was crowned in 1932. “King Bonifacio only had daughters, so one generation was skipped, leaving the kingdom without a king for 38 years until Pinedo was crowned in 1992 by the community,” the BBC report explained.

Years after Pinedo’s official coronation ceremony in La Paz, his image has become “a strong source of cultural identity and belonging” for Afro-Bolivians, Jorge Medina, the country’s first black congressman, told AFP. Medina and the king however believe that there is still a lot of work to be done to tackle discrimination faced by indigenous people, including Afro Bolivians and other vulnerable groups.

Did you know Afro-Bolivians are still around today?

Afro-Bolivians are descendants of the enslaved West Africans brought by the Spanish between the 16th and 19th Centuries to work in the mines of Potosí, a city in south-western Bolivia that was more populated than London in the early 17th Century. According to Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, the mines are notorious for claiming the lives of roughly 8 million enslaved indigenous South Americans and Africans over a 300-year period – many of whom died as a result of being overworked, underfed and suffering in the region’s extreme cold.

It is believed that the natives thought that darker skin was more attractive, which is why they were impressed with the skin of the Africans when they first began arriving to Bolivia. For this reason, it is no surprise that many of the Afro-Bolivians would intermarry with the Aymara, adopt many of their cultural elements such as their style of dressing, and even become an Aymaran speaking subculture.

Afro-Bolivian Royalty

According to the latest Bolivian census in 2012, more than 23,000 people identify as Afro-Bolivians and most of their roots and even King Pinedo are in the Yungas.

The Afro-Bolivian Royal House is referred to as a ceremonial monarchy. It wasn’t until 2007 that the tribe was officially recognized by the Bolivian state as a kingdom and Piñedo was finally acknowledged as king— despite a history that spans more than 500 years.

Piñedo discovered that he was a descendant of Bonifaz, a tribal king from Senegal. Before Bonifaz was Prince Uchicho, who is regarded as the founder of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy.

The trajectory of Prince Uchicho’s life changed after he was enslaved by the Spanish. He was a prince of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, a kingdom that has a history from the early 1300s and survived until 1914.  When the kingdom came in contact with Portuguese traders, it became a source of African slaves.

Victoria Santa Cruz: The Afro-Peruvian Woman Who Awakened The Black Pride in Peru In The 1960s

Prince Uchicho became enslaved in Bolivia after a struggle for the throne with competing sons and chiefs. When he arrived, he was quickly recognized by other slaves because of his body decoration.  The royalty of the Kongo Kingdom was known for their royal tribal markings on their torso to set them apart from others.

Uchicho was chosen as the leader among Enslaved Africans and recognized as a king in their new home of Bolivia in 1823, which ultimately, began the lineage of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy. He was succeeded by his son, Bonifaz Pinedo: a name he took from the plantation owner. It’s the name still used by the Afro-Bolivian royalty today.

Julio Piñedo is a different kind of king. He isn’t dressed in a silk robe giving out orders. In fact, he’s a farmer and like so many others in Mururata, you will find him tending to his crops.

King Piñedo and Queen Larrea have a son, Prince Rolando—  a law student at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. His major is reportedly influenced by his father’s impact and potential role as the future king.

 “I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he said in a statement.

Burkina Faso’s former president, Blaise Compaore, has reportedly been indicted by a military court in the country’s capital for the 1987 assassination of political revolutionary, Thomas Sankara. Hailed as a national hero, Sankara was assassinated alongside 12 other government officials in a coup led by Compaore before he ascended to power. In 2014, Compaore was forced to resign from his 27-year-long rule and seek exile in the Ivory Coast after continued mass demonstrations. Thirteen other people were charged in connection with the killing, including Compaore’s former right-hand man, Gen. Gilbert Diendere. Charges against Compaore include undermining state security and concealing corpses, according to military documents seen by The Associated Press

According to AFP, lawyer to the family of Sankara, Guy Hervé Kam, responded to the news saying, “The time for justice has finally come. A trial can begin. It will be up to the military prosecutor to determine a date for the hearing.”

The indictment is certainly a pivotal moment in the now 34-year-long quest for justice for not only Sankara’s family, but the entire nation. While Compaore had repeatedly denied calls to exhume Sankara’s remains during his time in office, following his resignation, Sankara’s remains were exhumed in 2015 and described by his widow, Mariam Sankara, as having been “riddled with more than a dozen bullets,” Al Jazeera reports.

Sankara, who was known as a vocal Pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist, was beloved among the Burkinabe people with his assassination at the tender age of just 37, cutting deep into the socio-political fabric of the country even till today.

In four years as president, he became the first African leader to denounce the menace of AIDS, took a stand against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and promoted women’s rights by opposing female genital mutilation and polygamy.

 

While a date for the trial has not as yet been set or announced, Kam is optimistic that it will be soon. There have also been several attempts to extradite Compaore in the past, however, Ivory Coast has refused to hand him over.

 

Fete Gede, also known as the Festival of the Dead, is a key celebration in Haitian culture. It’s a national holiday centered around Voodoo culture. Haitians across the country join each other in song and dance to celebrate lwa or spirits of Voodoo.

What’s Fet Gede?

Fet Gede (also knows as Fèt Gede or Fète Gede) is like its Haitian celebrators: joyful, resilient, and unordinary. This celebration offers time not only to celebrate death but to face it. Let’s take at the origin of Fet Gede and why it’s important.

Origin

Fete Gede isn’t just a celebration of spirits; it’s also an ode to Haiti’s endurance. Fet Gede originates from the long-standing history of slavery in Haiti.

Before 1804, Haitians were enslaved under French rule. Haiti, or Saint-Domingue as it was known back then, was a violent place for slaves. They lived in dirty conditions and were often mistreated.

Voodoo was an outlet for slaves to stay emotionally healthy and remember their homeland. The practice of Voodoo stems from West Africa and started as far as 6,000 years ago. It‘s an ancient religion that centers around ancestral beliefs.  Enslaved Africans often masked Voodoo rituals under the disguise of Catholic traditions.

In fact, Haitians believe Voodoo is the reason for their freedom. It served as an inspiration for Enslaved Africans to rebel against the French. In a now-famous ceremony called Bois Caïman or Alligator Woods, thousands of Enslaved Africans came together in a Voodoo ritual against the French.

During the ceremony, EnslavedAfricans  leaders were possessed by the lwa spirits. Everyone danced, sang, and prayed that the white men would be defeated. Ultimately the ceremony was successful, as

Haiti is one of the few colonies that won its independence thanks to its slave rebellion.

Voodoo left a significant impression on the Haitian culture. It’s not a surprise that Fet Gede continues to be the most important religious holiday on the national calendar. It brings the community together to bring the dead alive again.

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Significance

As mentioned before, all followers of Voodoo in Haiti celebrate Fet Gede. In Voodoo, it is considered to be an honor to communicate with spirits. The spirits follow and guide followers throughout life.

The significance of spirits is especially crucial for Haitian funerals, and like funerals, Voodoo priests and priestess perform special rituals to summon the spirits.

During Fet Gede, Houngan (priests) or Manbo (priestesses) perform rituals as well. Spirits “mount” or possess followers. There are hundreds of spirits or lwa in Voodoo.

However, Fet Gede is a celebration of the Guédé (Ghede or Gede) family—spirits of the dead.

Date

Haitians celebrate the Gede spirits during the entire month of November. Many cultures consider the early days of November to be the most sacred. Then, the spirits of loved ones can return earthside and advise their family and friends. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic celebration in November to remember the dead, just like Fet Gede.

Fet Gede falls on the same day each year, as people take to the streets on November 2nd to connect with the dead.

Music and dance

Both music and dancing are important expressions of devotion in Voodoo. For the gede to fully possess worshipers, the houn’torguiers or Voodoo drummers play intense music. The fast-paced music and dancing allow the worshipper to lose control of their body. Participants may scream and flail or even faint.

The possessed person can bless the people around him or her. They can connect with the dead, share their stories, or even reveal how they died. Without Voodoo rhythmic dance and beats, the ritual is impossible.