How European Exploits Shifted World Economics
Many of the resources of Africa are now in the hands of multinational corporations which generate high profits but pay little tax (For example: the largest mining company in the world by revenue, Glencore International AG, which is based in Switzerland). Whatever benefits they might bring to the people of Africa, can scarcely be determined.
A map of Africa created by Simran Khosla of GlobalPost, showing the most valuable economic resources exported from each country
(Sources: Public Radio International, CIA World Factbook)
Why are the nations with the most natural resources in the world also the poorest nations in the world?
How did some nations gain their wealth and how do they maintain their place above the nations that are "poor"?
We find the roots as we study our history.
Tom Burgis, an investigative journalist with Financial Times, explores these roots in his book The Looting Machine.
"In colonial states...The British or Portuguese would cultivate a small group of local people who would fuse political and commercial power to control the economy."
He found that in Angola, the government acts as "a service for the elite," crushing public dissent against policies relating to its massive oil industry, and ignoring calls for accountability. A similar situation exists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which relies heavily on its natural resources for its revenue, but does not actually control the mean of extraction. Such nation-states and their people are constantly at the mercy of international corporations.
South Africa, Botswana, and Nigeria have adopted methods to escape this economic quagmire such as developing their skills in other areas of these industries or diversifying their overall economy away from them.
Burgis submits that oil and mining firms play a major role in the system, aided and abetted along the way by warlords, tycoons, and smugglers.
"The multinational companies hold enormous economic and political power in post-independence African countries. In this way, there is a pretty straight line from colonial exploitation to modern exploitation."
As it turns out, this is all part of a global design that we all support one way or another. There are corporations that harvest the labor of Africa to exploit Africans. There are people who cooperate with them.
Burgis offers a solution for first-world consumers:
a global public registry of companies and trusts to counter the use of shell companies in illicit deals.
The problem is that corruption is widespread and deep-seated. It is essentially part of the business model for industry giants operating on African soil. The system of transparency known as the Kimberley Process was established for the diamond industry in 2000. Today, it works with the European Union and the United Nations to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds.
However, there are other blood resources and there is yet to be a comprehensive system of accountability initiated by Africans themselves to regulate the power of these industries and the continental dominance of their respective nations.
When these international corporations are confronted, they do not hide the truth. Rather, they admit that they know their production process is tainted by exploitative practices.
From cobalt to chocolate, their stories are all the same. Someone profits and someone suffers. And whenever there are calls to accept responsibility, there are denials of guilt. They say they are working on sourcing "their" chocolate responsibly. They say they are working on sourcing "their" cobalt responsibly. They will be working on it for a long time. How can we count on them to hold themselves accountable when they have already proven they are not serious about accountability?
You see, "their" artifacts are only the beginning.
From the days of institutionalized slavery until today, a social structure is being reinforced so that some of our human family are left behind so that others can continue a life of luxury. Furthermore, European and Asian companies have been intentionally supporting destabilization campaigns on the continent through their business strategy. China has become a dominant player in this game. They KNOW what they are doing.
History finds a way to repeat itself. Just like in times past, some do the killing, some do the labor, some do the manufacturing, some do the lying, and some do the buying. The innocent are guilty and the guilty are innocent.
This is all to maintain the status quo, or as Zuri put it...
...to maintain the lie.
It is fair to say that another version of Wakanda and its vibranium does, in reality, exist today. In fact - some of these very resources of this Wakanda have been weaponized just like vibranium was in the Marvel Universe (think enriched uranium). And Israel, with all its walls, is not the only candidate, either. There are quite a number of them. North Korea may have a national dictator, but there are plenty of international dictators all around the world, who only listen for the demands of their own people and dictate to everyone else.
But their time is up.
Now, it is Africa's time again.
People are starting to wake up to to the reality of an Africa without colonialism.
The global support for the story of Black Panther speaks for itself.
A Change Is Coming.
From the people who wore costumes inspired by real-life tribes (the Maasai, the Himba, the Dogon, the Basotho, the Tuareg, the Turkana, the Xhosa, the Zulu, the Suma, and the Dinka) and used real-life languages (South African Xhosa for the Wakandans and a West African Yoruba dialect for the Jabari Tribe) to the architecture (modeled from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia), to the scenery of the waterfalls which were modeled in-part after the real-life Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), to the music score, the real-life Africa was represented in fictional Wakanda. (This is despite the fact that no scenes were ever actually shot on the ground in Africa.)
Wakanda was mentioned as a location on a S.H.I.E.L.D. monitor in Iron Man 2 (2010). The location pinpoints the country as being situated at Lake Turkana, on the borders of Kenya and Ethopia. The region in real life is special for holding great mineral deposits (properties similar to Wakanda).
According to the Marvel Database, the Kingdom of Wakanda also shares a border with Somalia. Another map, shown by Everett Ross in the comics, placed Wakanda between Sudan in the north and Democratic Republic of the Congo in the south.
Wakanda On The Map in a screenshot from Captain America: Civil War
(Source: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki)
Director Ryan Coogler compared the Wakanda vibranium mines to the real-life situation of the Congo mines, where the valuable mineral coltan (used in manufacturing digital products, found only in the Congo region) is being mined.
So will we also allow corporate greed to outweigh calls for justice and human equity today?
While the cynics claim that advocates for change are only "stirring the pot" and "race baiting" and that we all need to "get over it", there are entire nations being held in perpetual servitude to other nations in the 21st century all because of things that happened a century ago.
For example: France is a country that demands other independent countries give them free money, keeps them from their own money, and prevents them using their own money how they see fit for investments in other countries. Those nations are not in Europe. They are in Africa.
These African nations have tried to challenge this policy of economic enslavement many times since it was established only to be met with the crack of the whip (sabotage and assassination).
This situation is nothing but colonial looting all over again. You can not get over something that has not yet ended.
It is time for Africans everywhere to stand up like Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo did in December 2017 and say that as Africans, we are capable of managing our own affairs.
For foreign aid, Akufo-Addo said Africa is grateful, but as for colonialism and neocolonialism, which offer perpetual dependence in place of everlasting independence, this is not a statement that says "No, Thank You," but "NO MORE AND NEVER AGAIN."
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has echoed these sentiments as well in saying that African countries gain by trading with each other and not seeking external finance, begging other countries for aid.
So will the western world get over it?
Will we all get over this obsession with colonialism already?
Will we all get over this need for the exploitation of other lands and their people?
Maybe then we will all get over this fixation on ending its scourge.
A royal wedding is nice, but it does not change the fact that the Crown Jewels are made from the "Star of Africa I" (or “Cullinan I"), the largest known diamond in the world.
It was found in 1905 by Sir Thomas Cullinan, at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, which he owned. He sold the diamond to the Transvaal provincial Apartheid government, which presented the stone to Britain’s King Edward VII as a "birthday gift." The second largest stone, the “Star of Africa II” or “Cullinan II,” as well as the “Cullinan III,” are on display in the Tower of London with Britain’s other crown jewels. Today, the Cullinan I is mounted in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter, while the Cullinan II sits in the Imperial State Crown.
110 years later, the next largest diamond, the "Lesedi la Rona", or “our light”, in the Tswana language of Botswana, where the massive stone was unearthed eight months ago by the Canadian-owned Lucara Diamond Corp at its Karowe mine in Botswana.
In the months after its discovery the diamond was exhibited in a world tour in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, and Antwerp, Belgium, a major center of the world diamond trade....almost everywhere except Africa where it was unearthed.
It is hard to shake hands with someone as they wear your stolen glove. There is no honesty in pretending it is yours or hiding it either. And how can you have true comradery in any relationship without fairness and integrity?
At the present moment, Africa has a rather awkward relationship with the rest of the world. ('Schizophrenic,' someone says) The truth is that while Africa is dependent on the world in some ways, the world is also dependent on Africa in many others. This is particularly true of the west.
One report, authored by 13 UK and Africa-based NGOs and published in 2014, found that
...while western countries send about $30 billion in development aid to Africa every year, more than six times that amount leaves the continent, "mainly to the same countries providing that aid".
It further revealed that
...foreign multinational companies siphon $46 billion out of sub-Saharan Africa each year, while $35 billion is moved from Africa into tax havens around the world annually.
Companies operating in Africa route their profits through tax havens, and the UK is "at the heart of this" with more tax havens under its jurisdiction than any other country.
Despite the common perception that Africa is primarily suffering due to corruption, GFI [Global Financial Integrity] estimates that this only constitutes 3% of illicit outflows.
Despite another common perception that the problem of Africa is overpopulation, the truth is that underdevelopment plays a far greater role in the overall state of affairs just as over-consumption does in the United States and Europe. The reality is that Africa has more than enough resources to sustain itself, but some other nations of the world want those resources for their own people instead.
The history which built this framework cannot be made any clearer than Walter Rodney in his 1972 classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa:
Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation, but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called mother country. From an African viewpoint, that amounted to consistent expatriation of surplus produced by African labor out of African resources. It meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped.
You can read more quotes from this text here.
Dr. Hakim Adi said it best:
From the middle of the 15th century, Africa entered into a unique relationship with Europe that led to the devastation and depopulation of Africa, but contributed to the wealth and development of Europe.
$192 billion flows out of Africa annually.
On average, each person in Africa loses $62 every year
The report states that the emigration rate of skilled professionals from Africa is almost double the global rate. 70% of the countries that lose the most of their health workers to aggressive recruitment campaigns in other countries are in Africa. Most of these workers migrate to any of the 35 countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), none of which are on the continent of Africa (South Africa is the only African non-member partner). Coincidentally, this group, based in France, was originally established to aid the US-sponsored recovery efforts in Europe after World War II.
As a result, Africa loses at least $2 billion and spends an additional $4 billion to employ "Northern" experts from outside the continent to fill in the gaps. There were only two doctors in Sierra Leone, where Ebola spread from neighboring Guinea that very same year. Tanzania and Liberia had one doctor for every 100,000 people. Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola and Liberia all have emigration rates over 50%, losing valuable workers in the "brain drain" and especially to the OECD. In 2004, the value of Ghanaian health workers to UK health service users annually was estimated at £39 million (about $50 million).
Even wealthier African nations such as Nigeria have struggled to maintain sufficient amount of teachers limiting the amount of applicants to universities in order to compensate for their deficits in native professors.
In 2016, Kenya had only three specialized pipeline welders. They were forced to look for workers outside the continent to install an oil pipeline. But this story also serves as a model for how Africa can resolve its shortage of skilled workers. The government is already working to turn this situation around by training 12 Kenyan welders who will be expected to train more welders.
With these successes, poverty is still a barrier to opportunities in education. While Nigeria is the seventh most populous country, the country has the greatest population of people living in extreme poverty.
14 out of 18 countries where poverty is rising are in Africa. Based on current estimates, if current trends persist, 90% of the world's poorest will be living on the continent by 2030.
This toll can only be expected to escalate in the wake of the migrant crisis to the North and the resurgence of Black African slavery in countries such as Libya. Many die at sea and in the desert. On average, 30% of the migrants who die each year are from Africa.
Meanwhile, the United States faces shifting demographics, with increasing pressure to embrace that diversity, and Europe faces population decline as well, with increasing pressure to consider immigration as a viable solution.
The member nations of the European Union have started to enter into discussions about addressing this crisis from within the African continent itself.
The study authors concluded
If the rest of the world continues to raid Africa at the same rate, $580 billion will be taken from the African people over the next ten years.
Africa is not poor; but a combination of inequitable policies, huge disparities in power and criminal activities perpetrated and sustained by wealthy elites both inside and outside the continent are keeping its people in poverty. The UK and other wealthy governments are at the heart of this theft.
Why do western countries continue this devastation of the continent?
In the case of the French, they want to continue their lucrative exploitation of African nations because they depend on it for their very survival. French leaders have outright admitted to this. Once again, they KNOW what they are doing.
If the funneling of Africa's resources to these wealthy nations cease tomorrow, they will slide down to the rank of third world powers. If all the items collected from their colonial legacy were returned tomorrow, will have no history to speak of.
For Europe to lose the benefits they gained through slavery and colonialism, they would become as powerless as an insecure Bruce Banner minus the Hulkbuster armor and the ability to morph into The Hulk.
For the United States to lose the benefits they gained through slavery and colonialism, they would become as powerless as Captain America minus his ever-resourceful star-spangled vibranium-steel alloy shield, the super-soldier steroids from the U.S. Army's experimental serum, and his memory - just another ordinary, frail, and broken Steve Rogers to fix.
Cap and Thanos have an arm-wrestling match
(Credit: Marvel Studios via Vox Media)
("I am Steve Rogers" still doesn't have very much of a ring to it now, does it?)
And the partnership of the power-starved Thanos with the powerful Gamora is all too familiar.
According to Marvel's canon story, Thanos decided to train "the deadliest woman in the universe" as his personal assassin. He traveled back in time to "rescue" infant Gamora and altered her perceptions so that she would not see how evil he was. Eventually, she learned "his true nature" and tried to stop him, but he slew her.
I was a child when you took me.
I saved you.
Marvel encapsulates The Mad Titan's purpose for gathering the Infinity Stones in this description:
Obsessed with order and fate, the god works tirelessly to bring all living things to heel--to make the universe as he sees it should be.
Gamora revealed that Thanos wanted 'to wipe out half the universe.'
By cutting it all down to size, everything would be easier for him to manage.
This is not 'business as usual' for Gamora or for Planet Earth.
Meanwhile, Africa is still under attack!
Like Thanos, The West has yet to act in light of its role in the current imbalance of economic, political, and propagative power in the world and its responsibility in reversing its continued path today.
This is not mutualism, nor is it commensalism on agreeable terms. This is parasitism.
This is not simply a broken relationship.
For Africa, this is insanity. For Africa, THIS IS RAPE.
So how can we end this dynamic as it currently exists?
And what are some steps we can take to begin the process of restoration?
We have to start somewhere. If we ever hope to bring a prosperous and self-sufficient society like Wakanda into existence on the African continent in the modern world, these are the questions we ought to ask ourselves as members of a global community.
As we examine history, do we continue to vilify those whose greatest aspirations were of world domination by way of their own racism, their own religion, and their own "reasoning"?
There are many sites, monuments, and calendar days around the world dedicated to people who actively campaigned against equal rights and even carried out deliberate acts of violence against other people to advance their interests above the rest of humanity.
Perhaps we could ask Wakandans in the motherland what they have done with the knowledge of our history...
The descendants of African slave owners and slave traders have actually recognized the role of their ancestors in the trade. They have expressed remorse (See here and here). Formal apologies (even religious apologies) have been delivered to the descendants of slaves from the Americas and despite economic shortcomings, offers of land have been made.
Not all Africans have felt this way about the history of slavery. There are some in the general public who do not see how it was a problem. But for the majority of cases in which the people have seen the fault in this aspect of their history and acknowledge the impact it has had on the descendants of the most immediate victims, the message is clear: our home is your home.
Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain its independence from colonial rule. It was also the first to formally invite African descendants across the diaspora to the motherland under their first president Kwame Nkrumah. The "Right of Abode" law was passed in 2000 so that people of African descent can apply to live indefinitely in the land of their ancestors. There is actually a ceremony of apology there and memorials.
If they were in a position to establish an outreach center or two, I'm sure they would.
To ask why Africans have not been doing more is to ask an African today
"where's I'm from...when black folks started revolutions...where was Wakanda?"
We all know the answer to that question.
Your turn "Western Wakandans".
The plunder of Africa's resources by opportunists continued all the way into the 1970s.
There are still ongoing attempts at restitution of land and of objects seized under European colonial administrations from the people of Africa.
When the kingdom of Dahomey in modern-day Benin was annexed by France in 1894 after two consecutive wars starting in 1892, its artifacts ended up in French museums and private collections.
In 2016, Benin became the first sub-Saharan African country demanding in an official capacity that France return its artifacts.
As Irenee Zevounou, Benin’s ambassador to UNESCO (the United Nation’s cultural body in Paris), stated, some of the looting was carried out by missionaries who 'robbed communities of what they considered to be charms.'
French-Beninese art historian Marie-Cecile Zinsou is the daughter of Benin's former prime minister Lionel Zinsou and the president of the Zinsou Foundation, an organization in the main city, Cotonou, that promotes African art. Of the roughly 5,000 artifacts Benin is asking for, she said:
"We have nothing left in Benin — we have copies, but no original trace of our history."
In sharp contrast to the response of his predecessor, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed recently to make the return of treasures from former African colonies a top priority of the government.
"I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural patrimony of several African countries is in France. There are historical explanations for this, but there is no valid, durable, or unconditional justification for it."
"Over the next five years, he said, the conditions must be met 'for the temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa.
France's Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac, at the forefront of ethnographic museums with a budget of $62 million, has also shown interest in the debate for restitution. The museum's president Stephane Martin, told Paris Match magazine earlier this year that they own the national collection of France and that much of their collections were donated by soldiers during the colonial period. It is estimated that 4,500 to 6,000 objects in France are from the conquest of Dahomey alone. Some of it is on display at the Quai Branly.
Indeed, the acknowledgement on their website is telling:
Initially presented at the Musée du Louvre, these principally American collections gradually found their place in specific museums within the Musée du Louvre, called in turn the "Musée Dauphin", "Musée de Marine" and "Musée ethnographique". In parallel with this development, the collections were enhanced by means of instructions for the collection of objects given to the sailors and scientists who undertook voyages around the world.
(Some other museums like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston make no secret about the shady origin of the artwork they possess.)
Martin, whose museum holds 70,000 artworks from sub-Saharan Africa, continues with his position on restitution, saying that an argument for the return of artifacts on the basis of historical crimes is illegitimate. He cites the case of The Isle of Man, saying that the British monarchy cannot be expected to return the island to the rightful original owners after laying a political claim to it since 1828.
An example that is far more relevant to the discussion and which would have held more equivalence to other national treasures is the British possession of the Stone of Scone. However, this would not fit in well with Martin's agenda because that is a situation in which the right thing was done. Britain returned a national treasure to Scotland within the last few decades. This rock, used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish monarchs, was stolen by British king Edward I in 1296 AD and officially returned by British prime minister John Major on November 15, 1996. (Talk about a statute of limitations!)
There are other cases for repatriation, which do not involve reclaiming an entire island.
Europeans have had their eyes on national treasure ever since the mythical legends of "The Fountain of Youth" and what came to be known as the Golden City of "El Dorado." In the Black Panther film, Klaue revealed as much to Agent Ross when introducing the wonder of Wakanda.
"It's all a front. Explorers searched for it for centuries. El Dorado. The Golden City. They thought it was in South America but it was in Africa the whole time. A technical marvel. All because it was built on a mound of the most valuable metal known to man."
The legends of the lost island Atlantis and of Prester John, the imaginary king of a Christian land in Africa (and sometimes India), had tickled the fancy of treasure hunters (read explorers) across the European sub-continent from the High Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance era.
In January 1938, a man discovered 13 brass and copper heads by accident while digging a house foundation at the Wunmonije Compound in Ife, Nigeria. The compound was located just behind the palace of the Ooni of Ife. In early 1939, four more heads and the upper half of a brass figure were found in the same location.
Here is a refresher on the story of Ancient Ife from the British Museum:
According to the oral traditions of the Yoruba people, Ife is the place where life and civilisation began. Ife is regarded as the legendary homeland of the Yoruba-speaking peoples and its sacred ruler, the Ooni, is still revered as the descendant of the original creator gods. Ife is located in Osun State in modern south-western Nigeria.
Portrait of Leo Frobenius holding a cigar
(Source: The Library of Congress)
German archaeologist Leo Viktor Frobenius (1873-1938) was tipped off about the find. He traveled to Africa, dug up the ancient sculptures 'out of holy groves,' and brought some of them back to Europe.
Most of these artworks have been retained by the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria but one of them is at the British Museum, another at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and yet another was dispersed from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin to the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
An exhibition of Ife "Bronzes" at the British Museum
(Credit: Sola Rey)
Triumphantly, Frobenius claimed to have found 'one of the ruin sites of Plato’s island Atlantis in western Sudan, in the hot backlands of Lagos and Benin, an island that must have had a high and unique culture.'
These were referred to as "the remnants of an ancient, long sunken wonderworld."
Karl Woermann, a museum director in Dresden, Germany, remarked:
Here we have stone heads, bronze heads, and especially terracotta heads that do not at all look like Negro heads despite their enlarged lips, but are rather curiously noble, straight-nosed, high-forehead types that are artistically modeled completely throughout with an amazing sensitivity in all details. No one would think of today’s Negro art in relation to these creations.
According to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, these life-size portrait heads used 'techniques far in advance of anything available in Europe or China at the time.'
This was something Frobenius had been searching for ever since he coined the term "African Atlantis" in 1904 - a lost civilization built by "immigrant 'Whites' of Mediterranean origin" which provided the foundation for all of native Africa's future development.
Crowned head, Wunmonije Compound, Ife (12th–14th century, copper alloy)
The New York Times published an article in 1911, which described the first of these heads Frobenius uncovered the year before during an excavation in the German 'possession' of Togo located 'between Dahomey and Ashantee on the gold coast of the Gulf of Guinea':
It is entirely devoid of Negro characteristics, and there is no doubt that it cannot have been of local casting. The features are of faultless mold, finely traced, and of slightly Mongolian type.
He was a sort of adventurous guy - something like a real-life Indiana Jones, if you will. (He even wears the signature stetson hat and coat.) In fact, the exiting stories of his 12 expeditions helped to inspire that stereotype we readily associate with the anthropologist/archaeologist today.
Harrison Ford in a scene from the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
© Paramount Pictures
He was just that sort of guy.
Thus, when Frobenius saw a golden opportunity, he took it.
This ambitious gentleman offered to buy, on the spot, what he believed to be the head of the water deity Olokun for £6, a bottle of Skotch, and a tumbler. It would have been quite a steal! Fortunately, a British officer put an end to his exploits that day. He was forced to return the treasure.
But nothing would stop him from putting his pen to paper.
That same year, Frobenius already published On the Road to Atlantis (1911) about his travels to Western Sudan and the Volta region and he went on to publish On the Ruins of Classical Atlantis about his travels south of the Sahara (1912/1913). With his new "evidence", he was ready to write a new "pre-history" of the African people - Mythology of Atlantis.
It his early life, he would be exposed to a society thrilled with the prospects of human zoos. He was in his 20s when he worked for the Ethnographic Museum of Bremen. From its director, Adolf Bastian (1826-1905), he learned certain methods and concepts, which were popular among the leading anthropologists of his time.
Frobenius, embraced "diffusionism." He compared works of art from different cultures to map a secular chronology of world history and human development. For the prominence he gave to African history and African cultures in his presentations, he came to be known in Europe as "The Voice of Africa." He even published a three-part volume he called "Africa Speaks."
In 1934, he was pronounced director of the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt, Germany, largely in credit to his life's work - unraveling the 'mysteries' of Sub-Saharan Africa.
This is the myth of "Exploration".
In reality, colonizers in search of these lands and artifacts left with empty hands and returned with emptier hearts. Such was the case with the Golden Stool, a symbol of the Ashanti Kingdom.
The National Flag of Ashanti
adopted by the Ashanti kingdom nation's Emperor Asantehene Prempeh II in 1935
Wooden Stool (Dwa)
(Source: Brooklyn Museum)
The Golden stool was a sacred symbol of power, unity, "sunsum" (soul), and fortune. It embodied the spirit of the entire Ashanti nation: past, present, and future.
This information comes from PBS:
According to legend, the Golden Stool -- sika 'dwa in the Akan language of the Ashanti -- descended from heaven in a cloud of white dust and landed in the lap of the first Ashanti king, Osei Tutu, in the late 1600s. The king's priest, Okomfo Anokye, proclaimed that henceforth the strength and unity of the Ashanti people depended upon the safety of the Golden Stool.
In the Ashanti tradition, no one sat on the stool. The king would pretend to sit upon it three times and then sit on another stool and rest only his hand on the Golden Stool. It was so revered that once, when a neighboring king made a replica, the Ashanti went to war against him, cut off his head, and a mask of the disgraced king was made from the fake stool to hang upon the real Golden Stool.
As you may recall, the Ashanti had run-ins with the British before. At the climax of the First Ashanti War (1823-1825) on January 21, 1824, the Ashanti king Osai Tutu Kwadwo and his nearly 10,000 warriors ambushed and annihilated the 500 or 600-member army of Sir Charles McCarthy (1770-1824), who was appointed governor of Sierra Leone in 1812. The king, confident in a victory, prophesied that MCarthy's jawbones would be used as drumsticks and his skull as a drinking cup. Sure enough, for half a century afterwards, the upper part of McCarthy's skull had been rimmed with gold and used as a goblet by all the kings at Kumasi. His heart was eaten by the principal chiefs and his bones sent around as charms until his body parts (most of them) were salvaged by the British and taken back to England.
The British were only able to claim a war trumpet from the Ashanti on that fateful (or glorious) day.
In 1838, a similar conflict took place between the Dutch and the Ahanta elsewhere in modern-day Ghana when their king Badu Bonsu II was captured, hanged, and beheaded by Dutch soldiers after himself beheading two Dutch emissaries and displaying the heads on his throne. The head of Bonsu, which made its way into the anthropological collection at a university in the Netherlands, has since been returned (with some reluctance on both sides) to the Ahanta.
In 1869, a German missionary family and a Swiss missionary had been taken from Togo to Kumasi. They were treated hospitably but held for ransom. In 1871, Britain purchased the Dutch Gold Coast from the Dutch, including Elmina which was claimed by the Ashanti. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate.
The individuals identified in these studio portraits are Mr. Friedrich August Louis Ramseyer, Mrs. Rosa Luise Ramseyer-Bontems, Rose Ramseyer (the child), and Mr. Johannes Kühne.
They were still being held there when the Third Anglo-Ashanti War kicked off in 1873, initially over a dispute regarding the issue of slavery.
The British destroyed Elmina Town on June 13, 1873. Later that same year, using seaborne artillery, the British flattened ten different towns on the Gold Coast.
Inhabitants of Kumase in flight
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
On February 4, 1874, the British raided Kumasi and looted the Asantehene's palace.
General Garnet Joseph Wolseley led this 5-day campaign with 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian [fellow 'Black' brothers] and African troops. Not only did he order the looting, but he received several honors when he returned to Britain. In a pocket-book for soldiers, published that same year, he outlines bush-fighting tactics that he recommends for facing off against "brave savages" like the Ashantis and natives of "Kafirland". He even describes a cypher (a secret code of communication) "used successfully during the Ashanti war."
A trophy head, the largest piece of gold work from anywhere in Africa outside of Egypt, was taken from modern-day Ghana along with a throne and other symbols of the kingdom. The royal jeweler, Garrard and Co. Ltd, picked it up and sold it to the wealthy collector Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890) in 1874 for 500 pounds along with other Asante regalia, including swords, knives and gold rings. Proceeds from the "charitable auction" went to "the wives and families of soldiers killed or incapacitated" during the war.
According to the Wallace Collection in London, the head was probably part of a ceremonial sword and depicts "a decapitated high status enemy". An assistant curator, Ada de Wit, introduces it in the short promo film here.
It is now on display as part of an exhibition celebrating 200 years since the birth of the museum's founder. You can see three other photos of the bust here, here, and here.
On February 6, 1874, they bombed the stone building and torched the city.
British troops set fire to Coomassie (Kumasi) on February 4, 1874 during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War, engraving from The Graphic
(Source: British Library via Flickr)
15-year old Kofi Gyan witnessed these events and recorded them in his diary. The novel The Boy who Spat in Sargrenti's Eye, published soon after the 140th anniversary of the sack of Kumase, tells his story.
On March 14th, the Asante under King Kofi Karikari (c. 1837-1880) signed the Treaty of Fomena, which required them to pay a fine - 50,000 ounces of gold - and end the practice of human sacrifice.
One source identifies that within a decade after his death, a golden death mask was stolen from the royal mausoleum during another British Expedition.
After three wars, the British had an idea about what they were up against.
Portrait of Sir William Edward Maxwell
(Source: Modern Ghana)
The Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I (1872-1931) was not able to pay the large sum levied on the kingdom during his reign and therefore, he was not able to honor the terms of the treaty. As a result, a new war began in December 1895.
These photos, taken in 1894, show a regiment of Hausa artillery under the commend of British Army Captain Lapham. They were in Abetifi for 3-4 weeks, sent by Governor Maxwell to give protection to Nkoranza (an 8 days' march into the interior), which was under threat by the Ashanti. (Take a good look at that firepower.)
Queen Victoria inspected some of the British troops herself before they went off to war.
"Black British troops after the conquest of Kumase 1896"
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
The war ultimately ended with the arrest of Prempeh.
Certain claims were made by Europeans about what took place during the surrender of the Ashanti chiefs. According to the historical record, the monarchy was publicly humiliated before the people. Here's one account:
The head of the British expedition ordered king Prempeh to vacate his seat and to sit on the floor. When king Prempeh sat on the floor, he sat on Prempeh's official seat and started verbally abusing the king, the Ashanti kingdom, and Black people in general with all sorts of derogatory words. When he was done abusing the king, he asked the king to come forward to kiss his boots (his right and left foot) and the king did so.
The perspective of the authors must be considered when viewing the images below, which appeared in the media at the time.
Governor Maxwell compels King Prempeh and the Queen Mother to make an act of submission to him in accordance with Ashanti custom - they accordingly bend down in front of him and Sir Francis Scott and Colonel Kempster and clasp their legs.
January 1896, Published in The Graphic
(Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
You can see this illustration in color here.
The submission of King Prempeh to British officers in the second Ashanti war,
as rendered by the Illustrated London News in 1896
(Credit: Edward A Ulzen Memorial Foundation)
After the king was humiliated in the presence of the whole village, Prempeh was held at Elmina Castle for 4 years, deported first to Sierra Leone and then to the Seychelles. He is seen below with members of his family.
Various artifacts from the Ashanti were sent for exhibition in England.
In 1900, the British Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Hodgson, learned about the Golden Stool and demanded to have it so that he could sit upon it an declare his supremacy in the land. These were his exact words in a meeting with Ashanti chiefs on March 28th:
"What must I do to the man, whoever he is, who has failed to give to the Queen, who is the paramount power in the country, the stool to which she is entitled? Where is the Golden Stool? Why am I not sitting on the Golden Stool at this moment? I am the representative of the paramount power in this country; why have you relegated me to this chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool and give it to me to sit upon?"
An article in the Toledo Blade stated that it was the British government, which directed Hodgson to secure "the gold stool, and any other royal insignia if possible." Hodgson sent out out a secret search party. Ashanti traders informed the kingdom. In a council meeting at the Anantahene’s house, an oath was sworn never to reveal the location of the stool.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of the municipality Ejisu, assumed command of the Ashanti army known as the sahene.
This quote is attributed to her:
"Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware I, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken without firing a shot. No White man could have dared to speak to the Chief of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the White men. We will fight till the last of us falls on the battlefield."
After this, the men vowed their full support and the army went to war with the British for four months to defend the kingdom.
"The expedition ready to march into Asante
According to Rev. O. Ladrach, ex-chaplain of H.M. troops, on 22. Jan. 1947, this photograph was taken in July 1900 in front of the Basel Mission chapel in Kyebi."
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
The Ashanti fought fiercely and held the British forces of 700 at their colonial Kumasi fort until reinforcements of about 1,400 soldiers arrived from the coast to subdue the Ashanti.
"Englishmen and the Ramseyers, Kumase"
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
"In the fort of Kumase. The besieged during the rebellion of the Ashanti in 1900" [At the back, from left to right:] U. Grundy, Dr. Macfarlane, H. Brench, Dr. Chalmers - [Middle:] Miss. Weller, Miss. Jost, Capt. Armitage, Dr. Garland, Capt. Read, Dr. Graham - [Front:] Cap. Digan, U. Ralph, Capt. Aplin, U.
taken by Friedrich August Louis Ramseyer
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
On July 17, 1900, the Ashanti kingdom officially surrendered to the British. However, they were not finished.
The San Francisco Call reported that a detachment of "500 men and two guns" led by Major H. R. Beddoes suffered heavy losses against an army of 3000 to 4000 men on July 27th. Beddoes and two other officers of high rank were "severely wounded". The fighting continued well into August.
Arrival of the Governor and his wife Lady Hodgson returning from Kumase after the siege in July 1900. The Accra Volunteers line the streets in their honor. Accra, Ghana
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
Eventually, the kingdom was defeated by the British army and became a part of "their royal colonial possessions" the following year.
Yaa Asantewaa and other leaders were captured and sent into exile (to the Seychelles). A model of the queen's cell is at the Nana Yaa Asantewaa Museum in Ejisu, Ghana today.
Kumasihene with his immediate Elders in position awaiting His Excellency's visit
The Golden Stool can be seen on his immediate left.
January 31, 1935
(Source: UK National Archives)
On January 1, 1902, the kingdom was annexed to the Gold Coast colony. However, it is the Ashanti who would have the last laugh.
The Golden Stool with its immediate caretaker
January 31, 1935
(Source: UK National Archives)
That stool in the United States is undoubtedly either a model or a fake like the brass stool the Ashanti delivered to appease colonial authorities because in 1920, the original Golden Stool was discovered during a construction project where it has been hidden underground.
"Ex-King Prempeh of Asante in exile, with teacher"
(Source: Basel Mission Archives)
During his captivity, the king had acquired proficiency in English. Starting in 1907, Prempeh himself instructed his own secretaries to write a book on the history of the Asante monarchy as he dictated it to them. This valuable text is available for purchase today.
In 1924, the king was granted permission to return to Kumasi.
Reinstatement of King Perempe in Kumase 1926
The Ex-King, Queen Mother, and Their Attendants in 1926 After Their Reinstatement
What may be another photo of the same king or of another king with a stool can be seen here. A similar scene of Osei Agyeman Prempeh II and the chiefs of the Ashanti waiting with a stool to see Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Kumasi Sports Stadium (Baba Yara Stadium) in Kumasi, during their Commonwealth Visit to Ghana, on November 16, 1961 can be seen here.
Today, the Museum of National Culture in Kumasi preserves artifacts of the kingdom.
Now French museum president Stephane Martin rightfully states that "In Africa, everything is gone." He further claims that "most of the works were the Africans themselves who took them out by selling them." He cites the case of villagers selling a Djennenke statue from the 11th century to the museum to build a garage, remarking that, "We are Muslims, the statue no longer represents a sacred element." This artifact is considered the museum's most prized piece.
Mr. Martin alleges that African nations have not demonstrated that they are serious about preserving their history through the development and maintenance of such facilities (as if such facilities do not already exist).
Mr. Martin also ignores the most obvious fact that a collection of objects is necessary to even have a museum to begin with. Just last year, a single White man from Europe was able to start a museum in Africa with his own collection of African artifacts through the aid of other White men with colonial ties. This establishment is now the first contemporary art museum in Africa. However, the collection still belongs to its founder, who ultimately decides the perspective from which its stories are told.
Martin's next point on why museum initiatives in Africa are unsupported is that either Africans are liable to neglect the training of more experienced western institutions or they will resist "international cooperation" in their efforts because they view it in the framework of "neocolonialism".
To this sort of rhetoric, Prince Edun Akenzua of Benin has said:
"It's a bit like if someone were to steal my car in Benin City and I found it in Lagos, and could prove that it was mine. And the thief told me, 'OK, you can have your car back if you can convince me that you've built an electronically controlled garage to keep the car. Until you do that, I will not return it to you.'"
Let us touch on 'neocolonialsiam' for a quick second, shall we?
BLACK FACE CANNIBAL - WAMEGO KANSAS STUDIO - circa 1908
(the listing as sold on eBay)
This is how colonizers have represented us since the dawn of colonization. This is how they have always represented us, even today (Trust me - there is PLENTY more where this comes from). This is also precisely why OUR perspective on OUR OWN history and culture is essential. We need to be in a position in which we can represent OURSELVES to the world and the world needs to hear our story in the way that it is at its purest form - untainted by the colonial gaze and mentality that persists in the 21st century.
As Senegalese author Amadou-Mahtar M'BowDue puts it in the preface to UNESCO's Africa under colonial domination, 1880-1935, due to slavery and colonization, racial stereotypes became "so deep-rooted that they distorted even the basic concepts of historiography."
It did not help that colonizers had traveled the continent and lived among its people.
It did not help that they recorded their impressions of Africans and that they made visual representations of what they saw.
It may have led to a total transformation of trade and communication.
It may have helped to shape outside opinions of Africa.
But NONE of this work contributed to the proliferation of African societies in the 20th century, which were already established before colonization. Rather, the work of colonization interrupted it.
Not only that, but those who took part in this process (and their descendants) have left for their counterparts the most profound of questions about how the modern world came to be and in classrooms east and west, these questions remain unanswered.
Chancellor Williams makes it plain in The Destruction of Black Civilization:
No matter what the factual data were, all the books written about Blacks by their conquerors reflected the conquerors viewpoints.
Is it really possible for historians to twist the truth of history or to outright omit certain facts in favor of a political agenda? If true history tells us anything, the answer is YES!
For the history of Spain in Central America, Mexican scientist and journalist Joseph Antonio Alzate y Ramirez proposed the following treatment in 1791:
Let us not say that a few hundred Spaniards conquered New Spain.
This man was an authority on government affairs, who established the methods for collecting population data, leading to the first official census of Mexico.
This is actually a big deal because the racism of a handful who agreed to marginalize some people who they felt were not important in their society has had such an effect that this policy remained all the way into the 21st century. It wasn't until 2015 that the Mexican government formally recognized their "Afro-Mexican" population. An entire group of people with a distinct history and culture will finally be counted on the upcoming 2020 census.
Therefore, post-colonial Europe and America cannot be the central authorities on African history. Africans themselves must take the initiative to reclaim the study of the African past from the outside designation of "ethno-history" and re-establish its foundations upon genuine African perspectives.
For this to be a reality, Africans need to maintain collections of their own artifacts, their own archives, their own research journals, their own libraries, and their own museums.
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central
Black Research Central
In-Depth Info on History and Science from another perspective.