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With a magnificence gesture Saif ordered that this inventory should cease and bade

the learned Moses ben Bez Tubawi distribute these treasures among the people. And

the crowd on their knees kissed the ground in a frenzy of faithful gratitude



Bound to Violence

By Yambo Ouologuem


  The Night of the Giants

[Or a Satire on Leo Frobenius]


A year and three months later--July 13, 1910. three foreigners, a family of Germans--Fritz Shrobenius, his wife Hildegard, and their daughter Sonia--who had arrived in Nakem five days before, left Vandame in Krebbi-Katsena and, rifles slung from their shoulders, drove to Tillabéri-Bentia in a truck chock-full of trunks, crates, baggy trousers, short-sleeve shirts, and tropical helmets.

Informed first by his agents, then by government emissaries, that these tourists explorers were anthropologists wishing to buy three tons of old wood regardless of the cost and a carload of native masks, Saif ordered a sumptuous welcome.

He sent the learned Moses ben Bez Tubawi, mounted and accompanied by a large retinue, to meet them outside Tillabéri-Bentia. At a league from the city three native delegations, followed by a large body of griots and domestics, approached the visitors, who had slowed their truck to a crawl.

Magnificent, they advanced in groups caparisoned in gold, leather, and brass, amidst a tumult of drums, horns, and other sonorous instruments, prancing in single file in a manner recalling the processions of olden days in celebration of victories in battle. Three or four groups on foot chanted verses from the Koran, and the massed chorus gave the responses. from time to time a cry rose from the entire crowd, piercing the air and seeming to fill it with litanies in praise of the governor, of his Royal Magnificence, Saif ben Isaac al-Heit, and of the German visitors, "for the exploits with which they have honored Nakem."

All Saif's men returned to the palace in the order in which they had left.

Arrived at the palace, Fritz, Hildegard, and Sonia descended from the truck and went to meet Saif, who was awaiting them in the great Courtyard of the Acacias. The crowd was so dense that they had a hard time making their way through it.

Beside his son Madoubo on a high dais Saif enthroned--he could be seen from far off. His throne, of gold, ivory, and wood skillfully carved in the manner of the country, harmonized with his magnificent dashiki of ocher velvet, veined with strips of silver through which his damask blouse could be glimpsed. On his head a crown of finely chiseled gold; nonchalantly both he and his son waved Oriental fans, mounted with mother-of-pearl. Moorish pantaloons and babouches completed Saif's accouterment.

Stepping before Saif, Shrobenius made a low bow, and his wife and daughter did the like; the royal personages returned their greeting and in token of welcome presented them with the traditional sip of water. then the visitors were bidden to be seated.

These courtesies completed, the anthropologist, in the presence of the attentive populace, set forth--with Karim Ba as his interpreter--the purpose of his visit. he opened the door of the truck and a domestic unloaded various pieces of cloth, in addition to which the anthropologist displayed, with all due reverence and respect, silver coins, garments, and jewels. 

With a magnificence gesture Saif ordered that this inventory should cease and bade the learned Moses ben Bez Tubawi distribute these treasures among the people. And the crowd on their knees kissed the ground in a frenzy of faithful gratitude, while prayers poured from their lips, a quivering litany of words which died down, then revived from time to time like the flame of an almost extinguished fire.

Later on, Saif, whose popularity had risen to new heights, took the German to a place removed from the niggertrash, where, in the presence only of his wives and his most esteemed courtiers he examined the remaining gifts--but this time very slowly.

After displaying numerous offerings intended for the notables' wives, Shrobenius presented His Royal Magnificence with five pounds of gold bullion. The bargain was concluded.

Next day the anthropologist began taking down the words of informants sent by Saif; his wife tripped up and down the corridors, harassing Karim Ba with interminable questions. or strolled about between her daughter and Madoubo, who spoke indefatigably of symbols, as did his father, who spouted myths for a whole week. "The night of the Nakem civilization and of African history," droned the prince, "was brought on by a fatal wind sprung from the will of the Most-High."

Saif nodded gravely. Shrobenius's head teemed with ideas. Reeling off spirituality by the yard, the men paced the courtyard with anxious, knit brows. The lean, long-legged Hildegard tagged after her husband, a large stout man, the type of the bel Allemand, red side whiskers, florid complexion, blue eyes, grave and full of feeling, nascent paunch, wèrèguè wèrèguè!

Saif made up stories and the interpreter translated, Madoubo repeated in French, refining on the subtleties to the delight of Shrobenius, that human crayfish afflicted with a groping mania for resuscitating an African universe--cultural autonomy, he called it--which had lost all living reality; dressed with the flashy elegance of a colonial on holiday, a great laugher, he was determined to find metaphysical meaning in everything, even in the shape of the palaver tree under which the notables met to chat. gesticulating at every word, he displayed his love of Africa and his tempestuous knowledge with the assurance of a high school student who had slipped through his final examinations by the skin of his teeth. 

African life, he held, was pure art, intense religious symbolism, and a civilization once grandiose--but alas a victim of the white man's vicissitudes. Then, obliged to acknowledge the spiritual aridity of certain manifestations of social life, he fell into a somnolent stupor, no longer capable even of sadness. having run out of inspiration, he consoled himself by driving down to Yame in the truck and filming the hippopotamus and crocodiles. 

There, during the hot siesta hours, he would lie in wait, soon relieved by his daughter, an opulently beautiful blonde of twenty with flashing teeth, who would take his place amid the tall grass and the foliage. With her exquisite freshness, her long white neck, her green almond-shaped eyes, her blue lashes tinted with mascara, her pink, firm lips, she made one think of the delicately colored nacreous scales of the fish that furrowed the unknown depths of the Yame.

Madoubo often came to keep her company. He would stand leaning against the truck, listening to the slow music of her phonograph or explaining in murmur why Zobo island in the Yame was interesting for its pieces of ancient art, how these pieces had been preserved, and roughly from what periods they dated. And he invented as vividly as if he had been there in person. . . .


Saif . . . shrewd ideologist that he was, raised . . . the prices on the Negro art exchange, cooking up, to the sauce of tradition and its "human values," a stew of pure symbolic religious art which he sent to Vandame, who passed it on to his correspondents who (may the Lord bless their innocence) peddled it to the curiosity seekers, tourists, foreigners, sociologists, and anthropology-minded colonials who flocked to Nakem. Qualities of la, sterile, anachronistic redundancies; henceforth Negro art was baptized "aesthetic" and hawked in the imaginary universe of "vitalizing exchanges."

"Ever so often," Saif improvised, "the tools used to carve a mask were blessed seventy-seven times by a priest, who, all the while flagellating himself, gave blessings until the third day of the seventh year after the tree to be felled was chosen amid incantations revealing the genesis of the world."

"The plant," Shrobenius went on, "germinates, bears fruit, dies, and is reborn when the seed germinates. the moon rises to fullness, pales, wanes, and vanishes, only to reappear. Such is the destiny of man, such is the destiny of Negro art: like the seed and the moon, its symbolic seed is devoured by the earth and is reborn sanctified--imbued with the power requisite to its fulfillment--in the sublime heights of the tragic drama of the cosmic play of the stars." Negro art found its patent of nobility in the folklore of mercantile intellectualism, oye, oye, oye. . . .

But the audience of the All-Powerful is infinite; to the vast satisfaction of all concerned. he inspired Shrobenius to make known--a notion stamped with the genius of lunacy--the civilization and past of Nakem: 

"But these people are disciplined and civilized to the marrow! On all sides wide, tranquil avenues where we breathe the grandeur, the human genius of a people . . . It was only when white imperialism infiltrated the country with its colonial people fell abruptly into a state of savagery, that accusations of cannibalism, of primitivism, were raised, when on the contrary--witness the splendor of its art--the true face of Africa is the grandiose empires of the Middle Ages, a society marked by wisdom, beauty, prosperity, order, nonviolence, and humanism, and it is here that we must seek the true cradle of Egyptian civilization."

Thus drooling, Shrobenius derived a twofold benefit on his return home: on the one hand, he mystified the people of his own country who in their enthusiasm him to a lofty Sorbonnical chair, while on the other hand he exploited the sentimentality of the coons, only too pleased to hear from the mouth of a white man that Africa was "the womb of the world and the cradle of civilization."

In consequence the niggertrash donated masks and art treasures by the ton to the acolytes of "Shrobeniusology." O Lord, a tear for the childlike good nature of the niggertrash! Have pity, O Lord! . . . Makari! makari!

Secreting his own myth, Shrobenius molded his personality: brilliant but easygoing, waggish but pessimistic, attentive to his publicity--but scoffing at a society that had given him everything.

This salesman and manufacturer of ideology assumed the manner of a sphinx to impose his riddles, to justify his caprices and past turnabouts. And shrewd anthropologist that he was, he sold more than thirteen hundred pieces, deriving from the collection he had purchased from Saif and the carloads his disciples had obtained in Nakem free of charge, to the following purveyors of funds: the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, the museums of London, Basel, Munich, Hamburg, and New York.

And on hundreds of other pieces he collected rental, reproduction, and exhibition fees. "We often hear," he perorated in the castle that Negro art had earned him, "of the universe of this, that, or the other Nakem ethnos. The universe of Nakem is a familiar setting, the inner landscape which the people bear constantly within them, in which they find their true selves, from which they derive new strength. thus the Nakem artist has no universe. Or rather, his universe is a vast solitude; no: a series of solitudes. . . ."

If anyone pointed to the contradiction between this solitude and the cosmological religiosity of the symbols from which Fritz molded the Negro artist, the anthropologist replied that the other had "failed to grasp his intention," which, however, he hastened to transmogrify. . . .

An Africanist school harnessed to the vapors of magico-religious, cosmological, and mythical symbolism had been born: with the result that for three years men flocked to Nakem--and what men!--middlemen, adventurers, apprentice bankers, politicians, salesmen, conspirators--supposedly "scientists," but in reality enslaved sentries mounting guard before the "Shrobeniusological" monument of Negro pseudosymbolism.

Already it had become more than difficult to procure old masks, for Shrobenius and the missionaries had had the good fortune to snap them all up. And so Saif--and the practice is still current--had slapdash copies buried by the hundredweight, or sunk into ponds, lakes, marshes, and mud holes, to be exhumed later on and sold at exorbitant prices to unsuspecting curio hunters.

These three-year-old masks were said to be charged with the weight of four centuries of civilization. To the credulous customer, the seller pointed out the ravages of time, the malignant worms that had gnawed at these masterpieces imperiled since time immemorialist, witness their prefabricated poor condition. Alif lam! Amba, koubo oumo agoum.

Source: The above passages are an excerpt of a satire of the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius from the chapter "The Night of the Giants" in Bound to Violence by Yambo Ouologuem; translated by Ralph Manhein. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. New York, 1971. As is the intent of the novel, this excerpt undermines the Western romanticizing of Africa and of African culture, in this instance, African art.

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African RenaissanceKwame Nkrumah, Kenyatta, and the Old Order / God Save His Majesty  

For Kwame Nkrumah  / Night of the Giants /   The Legend of the Saifs  /  Interview with Yambo Ouologuem   

Yambo  Bio & Review     African Renaissance (Journal)

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Our African Journey

We stood in El Mina slave dungeon, on the Cape Coast of Ghana on a recent trip to West Africa, overwhelmed by despair, grief, and rage. Without needing to verbalize it, we were both imagining what reaching this spot must have felt like for some long-ago, un-remembered African ancestor as she stood trembling on the precipice of an unknown and terrifyingly uncertain future.

It was hard to process the fact that for over three hundred years, millions of women, men and children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, brothers, potters, weavers, had begun their long and brutal journey of being captured, kidnapped, sold, and enslaved from the very spot where we now stood the portal now infamously known as the door of no return.
Growing a Global Heart

Belvie and Dedan at the Door of No Return

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The Slave Ship (Marcus Rediker) /Strange Fruit Lynching Report / Anniversary of a Lynching

  Willie McGhee Lynching  / My Grandfather's Execution / Dr. Robert Lee Interview / African American Dentist in Ghana

African Aid breeds African dependency

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Speaking Truth to Power: Selected Pan-African Postcards

By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (Author)

 Salim Ahmed Salim (Preface), Horace Campbell (Foreword)

Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem's untimely death on African Liberation Day 2009 stunned the Pan-African world. This selection of his Pan-African postcards, written between 2003 and 2009, demonstrates the brilliant wordsmith he was, his steadfast commitment to Pan-Africanism, and his determination to speak truth to power. He was a discerning analyst of developments in the global and Pan-African world and a vociferous believer in the potential of Africa and African people; he wrote his weekly postcards for over a decade. This book demonstrates Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem's ability to express complex ideas in an engaging manner. The Pan-African philosophy on diverse but intersecting themes presented in this book offers a legacy of his political, social, and cultural thought.

Represented here are his fundamental respect for the capabilities, potential and contribution of women in transforming Africa; penetrating truths directed at African politicians and their conduct; and deliberations on the institutional progress towards African union. He reflects on culture and emphasises the commonalities of African people.

Also represented are his denunciations of international financial institutions, the G8 and NGOs in Africa, with incisive analysis of imperialism's manifestations and impact on the lives of African people, and his passion for eliminating poverty in Africa. His personality bounces off the page—one can almost hear the passion of his voice, 'Don't Agonise! Organise!'

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (1961-2009) was a Rhodes scholar and obtained his D. Phil in Politics from Oxford University. In 1990 he became Coordinator of the Africa Research and Information Bureau and the founding editor of Africa World Review. He co-founded and led Justice Africa's work, becoming its Executive Director in 2004, and combined this with his role as General Secretary of the Pan-African Movement. He was chair of the Centre for Democracy and Development and of the Pan-African Development Education and Advocacy Programme in Uganda and became the UN Millennium Development Campaign's Deputy Director in 2006.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly  

Derrick Bell   Dies at 80

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Zone One

By Colson Whitehead

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.

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Jefferson's Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson's Pillow, Wilkins returns to America's beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America's founding, Jefferson's Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007

By Matthew Wasniewski

Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 beautifully prepared volume—is a comprehensive history of the more than 120 African Americans who have served in the United States Congress. Written for a general audience, this book contains a profile of each African-American Member, including notables such as Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual profiles are introduced by contextual essays that explain major events in congressional and U.S. history. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading "Former Black Members of Congress." Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: Interview of Yambo Ouologuem  The Legend of the Saifs  Night of the Giants  Yambo Bio and Reviews