The Khoikhoi were semi-nomadic pastoralists (herders of sheep and cattle), who hunted game and gathered edible plants, nuts, roots, berries, and honey to supplement their diets. There was a division of labor between men and women: men hunted and tended the cattle while women looked after small stock and gathered food in the surrounding countryside. One of the implements used by women was the... Read More »
In the late 17th century, an anonymous artist did a series of impromptu sketches and set pieces showing Khoikhoi at the Cape of Good Hope. The artist seems to have been interested in capturing natural movement and depicting actual articles of Khoikhoi clothing or activities in which they engaged, rather than falling back on the stereotypes that tended to be perpetuated in European books about... Read More »
Bonaparte’s secretary naively complained how the hopes of the French invasion were shattered by the reality of the situation in Egypt. He clearly expected that the invaded would regard the French as liberators instead of attackers.
The same image can be valued differently over time and in different cultures. Take, for example, the long journey in time and space of images and hieroglyphic writing that cover the surfaces of the coffins of mummies from Egypt. In their own period, several thousand years ago, the presence of the images and writing were an essential element in the ritual of death and burial of an important... Read More »
The photograph at the top shows two children gazing into the soft light of a fanoos [fan-NOOS], or traditional Ramadan lantern. In the photograph below, Ramadan lanterns are hung outside a shop in a section of medieval Cairo. As far as is known, the tradition originated in Egypt, perhaps as long ago as pharaonic times, when it may have announced the Nile flood. The tradition in its current... Read More »
This source comes from the travel book of Ibn Battuta (1304-1369), a Moroccan Berber scholar and explorer. He began his travels with the pilgrimage to Mecca expected of observant Muslims, and then continued on to Persia, down the east coast of Africa to Kilwa on the Swahili Coast, back north through Syria to the Central Asian steppes, then south again to India, where he became an official of... Read More »
In 1526, the king of the Kongo, Nzinga Mbemba (who by this time had adopted the Christian name of Afonso I) began writing a series of twenty-four letters to the Portuguese King Joao III appealing for an end to the slave trade. While a trading relationship had been in place between Portugal and Kongo since the 1480s, Afonso was increasingly unhappy that the relationship between both countries... Read More »
One of the very first slave narratives, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), served as a prototype for the well-known slave autobiographies of the 19th century written by such fugitive slaves as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. First published in 1772, the volume recounts Equiano's kidnapping in Africa at the age of 10 or 11, and how he was subsequently shipped to... Read More »