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Greetings and welcome to this week’s I Feel Sooo....African Newsletter! We wish everyone the best of health and prosperity as we continue to forge through this global epidemic. This week’s topics focus solely on Kings of Africa and include:

  • PIYE

Tenkamenin was born in 1037 and was heir to the throne by virtue of being the son of the king’s sister. He was crowned at age 25.

During Tenkamenin’s time ( 830-1235 A.D.), the Kingdom of Ghana was one of the richest, most powerful regions on earth. His kingdom existed in present day parts of Mali and Mauritania and it was always noted that there were no poor or uneducated people in his kingdom.

Before Tenkamemin became king, there was mounting tension between the traditionalists and Muslims. Through reaching out to the people and sometimes joining his Muslim subjects in prayers, Tenkamenin was successful at getting rid of the tension that existed and he supposedly lived in the center of the kingdom to promote peace and balance.

One of Tenkamenin’s greatest strengths was listening to his subjects, which he visited to hear their grievances to settle disputes. When he conquered surrounding states, he allowed them to continue self-governing as long as they paid taxes.

Historians have documented that Tenkamenin’s system of governing and finance consisted of an imposed import-export tax, payable in gold, on spices, copper, ivory and ebony. He also controlled and taxed the sale of salt, a critical commodity while guaranteeing the safety of merchants who paid their taxes. Ghana became the hub for trade throughout Western Africa.

Tenkamenin helped establish an honor system of trade in his kingdom that encouraged fairness. He also had a form of tax on the region’s gold mines (all gold nuggets found went to him), while all gold dust was traded. Under that system, gold inflation was kept in check and he controlled the reserves.

King Tenkamenin ruled the Kingdom of Ghana with style. He insisted on good etiquette. His palace was filled with paintings and sculptures, he wore fine clothes and a tall gold cap, and he adorned himself with gold necklaces and bracelets. His horses were nearby, each with a gold-trimmed cloth while sons of lesser kings stood at his right, each with gold-braided hair.

His subjects approached him on their knees, sprinkling dirt on their heads as a show of humility and respect. When he traveled, it was to the accompaniment of beating drums.

Unfortunately Ghana’s time as a powerful nation did not endure. After Tenkamenin’s death in 1075, the kingdom’s central power diminished as wealthy merchant families intermarried and became larger players in governance. Muslims in the region became more influential, and some took up arms against their rulers. Trade routes were cut off, subjects of the kingdom became disenchanted with their rulers, and the region was decimated by a series of droughts. Ghana’s era as the “Kingdom of Gold” came to an end.


Mansa Musa was the fourteenth century African emperor of the Mali empire. He is most widely known for his elaborate pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in 1324. The pilgrimage introduced him to rulers in the Middle East and in Europe. Under his leadership, Mali stretched across two thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Chad, which included all or parts of the modern nations of Mauritania, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, and Chad. Under Mansa Musa’s leadership, there were decades of peace and prosperity in Western Africa.

Mansa Musa became emperor in 1312 following the death of his predecessor, Abu-Bakr II. When he was crowned, he was given the name Mansa meaning king. Mansa Musa was knowledgeable in Arabic and was described as a Muslim traditionalist. He became the first Muslim ruler in West Africa to make the nearly four thousand mile journey to Mecca. Preparing for the expedition took years and involved the work of artisans in numerous towns and cities across Mali. In 1324 Musa began his pilgrimage with a entourage of thousands of escorts. He also brought considerable amounts of gold, some of which was distributed along the journey.

The Emperor was accompanied by thousands of richly dressed servants and supporters and he made generous donations to the poor and charitable organizations, as well as the rulers of the lands his entourage crossed. During Mansa Musa’s stay in Egypt, the Emperor gave out so much gold that he caused a temporary decline in its value. It was over a decade later before Cairo’s gold market recovered.

After returning from Mecca, Mansa Musa brought in Arab scholars, government bureaucrats, and architects. Among those who returned with him was the architect Ishaq El Teudjin who was responsible for advancing building techniques to Mali. He designed numerous buildings for the Emperor including a new palace named Madagou, the mosque at Gao, the second largest city in Mali, and the still-standing great mosque at Timbuktu, the largest city in the empire. That mosque was named the Djinguereber. El Teudjin’s most famous design was the Emperor’s chamber at the Malian capital of Niani.

Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage boosted Islamic education in Mali by adding mosques, libraries, and universities. The awareness of Musa by other Islamic leaders brought increased commerce and scholars, poets, and artisans, making Timbuktu one of the leading cities in the Islamic world during the time when the most advanced nations from Spain to India were Muslim. Timbuktu was the center of Islamic Sub-Saharan Africa.

Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca brought Mali to the attention of Europe and for the following two centuries German, Italian, and Spanish cartographers produced maps of the world which showed Mali and which often referenced Mansa Musa. The first of these maps appeared in Italy in 1339 with Mansa Musa’s name and likeness.

Mansa Musa died in 1337 after a twenty-five year reign and he was succeeded by his son, Maghan I.


Egypt ruled Nubia at different points in their history and much of what went on inside of Egypt also affected the Nubians. Many Nubian rulers also reigned on the throne at various times in Egypt’s history. It was approximately 740 B.C. when King Piye ruled Nubia and Upper Egypt. During his time in power, he wanted to rule the whole entire land so he had to capture Lower Egypt as well. Piye waited until the kingdom was engulfed in inner turmoil when he made his move, so while the Egyptian leaders were fighting among themselves, he quickly moved his armies into Lower Egypt.

He then persuaded one of the Egyptian rulers to become an ally and started to attack key areas inside of Lower Egypt. Piye overthrew the cities of Memphis and Hermopolis and forced the kings in the Delta region to surrender. Pharaoh Tefnakt was the ruler of Lower Egypt at the time but he ultimately had to surrender to Piye.

Once Piye conquered Lower Egypt, he went back to Nubia and allowed the defeated rulers to govern the territory as long as they paid homage and tribute to Nubia. His conquest of Egypt marked the first time that a Nubian was able to control the Egyptian kingdom so Piye made sure that his victory over Egypt would be well remembered by the people.

He erected a statue made of stone wood that was used to record his victory. Piye had a detailed inscription of the battle created on his statue because he wanted to make sure that future generations would know about his accomplishments.

Most historians declare that Piye was the first ruler of the 25th Dynasty. Piankhi was his birth name but he was also referenced as Piankhy, Piy and Piyi. His Throne Name was Men-kheper-re, meaning "The Manifestation of Re Abides"). Piye ascended the Nubian (Kushite) throne as the successor of Kashta, which explains why some historians refer to Kashta as the founder of the 25th Dynasty. Kashta apparently had made some earlier advances into Egypt but it was Piye who consolidated the kingdoms of Nubia and Egypt. From the earliest dynastic periods, Nubia was always a matter of conquest for the Egyptian pharaohs, and as such, much of Nubia was often under the control of Egypt.

Piye left few monuments in Egypt, other than an expansion of the Temple of Amun at Thebes (current day Luxor). Later, Tefnakhte would again claim the kingdom and as the founder of the 24th Dynasty, rule at least the western Delta. However, later successors to Piye would consolidate their control over Egypt, at least for a time. Upon Piye's death, he was buried at El-Kurru, where he erected a small pyramid resembling the tall, narrow structures that had been built above many private tombs of Egypt's New Kingdom.


Samoure Toure was born along the upper Milo River in the highlands of Guinea. The valley along the Milo River was an important trade route that linked Guinea from the coast to it’s interior. Merchants from different areas eventually settled at key points along the route and many of them were Muslim.

In the 1850s, Toure learned the art of war while in conflict with the small states that competed for control along the Milo River. Toure eventually became a military leader among his mother's tribe and began training and organizing the local warriors into disciplined units. They became foot soldiers, mounted troops, and he taught them how to use imported horses and firearms. In 1874, Toure declared himself king and extended his military power over commercially valuable areas. As his state began to expand across a vast territory, he fought to defend it from the French, who were fervently colonizing Sub- Saharan Africa.

Toure embraced the Muslim faith in the mid-1880s and ordered his people to do the same as a way of binding them together beyond their military cohesion. Around the same time, he reluctantly signed a treaty of peace and trade with the French which caused some of his warriors to rebel against him. The rebellion came about because Toure had forced them to become Muslims, he suffered military setbacks, and he could not give them the loot and spoils of war.

Toure reorganized his army in 1888. Most importantly, he acquired repeating rifles and then recruited African soldiers who had fought for the French or British to teach his troops the techniques of European warfare. A few years later he decided to move eastward to discourage the French from settling on his land, and he ordered all the inhabitants of his kingdom to destroy their villages, take their food, and follow his army.

Toure conquered vast new territories during the 1890’s, including much of modern-day Ivory Coast. Although he hoped to find a region that neither the French nor the British were colonizing, he instead found himself trapped between French and British armies. In addition, he suffered uprisings by Africans who resented the abuses inflicted by his army and his practice of enslaving the people he defeated. The French captured Toure in 1898 when he was returning to Guinea and they sent him to Gabon where he quickly died of pneumonia. Toure successfully resisted the French for more than 17 years, and his capture was the final step in the French military conquest of West Africa.


Shaka Zulu is arguably the most infamous African warrior king, so we have compiled a list of lesser known facts about Shaka.

  • It is believed the founder of the Zulu clan was conceived through what started out as ukuhlobonga, a sexual act without actual penetration, allowed to unmarried couples, during which Senzangakhona and Nandi (Shaka’s parents) got carried away. As a consequence to his illegitimacy, Shaka was raised in his mother’s settlements. He was trained and served as a warrior under Dingiswayo, chief of the Mthethwa clan.
  • Senzangakhona, Shaka’s father, never called his son Shaka. He named him Sgidi and the child resented being called Shaka. The name he would eventually become known by was a reference to his illegitimacy. Nandi’s clan at first refused to believe she could be pregnant, as she was not married, and instead thought her pregnancy symptoms to be the result of a disease known as utshaka, hence the name Shaka.
  • Shaka was a curious person and wanted to know how things worked, regardless of the cost. Beyond the infamous event in which Shaka sliced a live pregnant woman’s belly open to see how the unborn baby occupied that space, European historians claim he once ordered a man’s eyes to be taken out so that he could observe how the man would adapt to his new circumstances. He sent one of his most loyal men, Sotobe, to England to learn more about the British invaders and their weaponry but he only made it as far as the Cape Colony and returned after learning of Shaka’s death.
  • Shaka sought to change things that did not make sense to him. He was a ruler who killed thousands of people, some of them his own, for the sake of unifying the Zulu tribes. He used warfare to achieve his political agenda and to instill fear and respect for his rule. In other instances, tribes like the Mkhize, Sithole and Luthuli were won over through patronage and reward rather than war and intimidation, and the chiefs of tribes who surrendered to him were made Izinduna commanders in his own tribe. Unifying the people of Zululand took him about 10 years, during which time Shaka exponentially expanded the Zulu clan.
  • Shaka prevented his troops, even old men, from marrying, as he believed that marital affairs would weaken the men’s combat skills. He would claim that he was saving them from the evils present in marriage.
  • Perhaps as a result of being fed up, Shaka’s half brother, Dingawe, assassinated him in 1828. He then assumed the throne himself and murdered all Zulus who were likely to remain loyal to Shaka Zulu. He had his half-brother’s body buried in an unmarked grave.
  • Several historians agree that Shaka was the think-tank and first implementer of the bull horn formation. This was a three-part attack tactic where the most experienced fighters would form the chest of a bull, putting the enemy at a vulnerable position. The youthful and aggressive warriors would then form the "horns ‘and trap the enemy within the semi-circle. The rest of the fighters would form the ‘loin' taking position behind the "Chest" to ward off any additional attackers.

Kwaku Dua I, previously known as Fredua Agyeman, was the son of the Asante Queenmother Amma Sewaa, and of the Nkwantananhene (head of one of the wards of Kumasi) Boakye Yam Kuma of Kumasi. He spent his early years in Dwaben, a founding state of the Asante Union, where his mother had taken refuge with her brother, the Asantehene Osei Kwame in 1798, and where she remained to remarry. Subsequently Kwaku Dua I returned to Kumasi, and was appointed Nkwantananhene by Osei Bonsu, who ruled as Asantehene from 1800-24. As a young man, Kwaku Dua I fought in the Asante campaigns against Gyaman, a state northwest of Kumasi in what is now the Ivory Coast. After the election of Osei Yaw Akoto to the Golden Stool of Asante in 1824, Kwaku Dua I was recognized as heir apparent. He commanded a division of Asante’s troops at the battle of Katamanso (Akantamasu) near Dodowa, in 1826, at which a coalition of British, Fante, Akyem, Akuapem, and other coastal states defeated the Asante. Although the battle was lost, Kwaku Dua I displayed much courage. His popularity was such that, after Osei Yaw Akoto’s death, he was elected to the Golden Stool seemingly unopposed.

It is said that because of his military experience, Kwaku Dua I swore never to use war as a necessary instrument and instead focused on peace, trade, and open roads. Fully accepting the treaty which his predecessor had negotiated with the British in 1831, Kwaku Dua I enjoyed cordial commercial relations with the British merchants on the Gold Coast. In his first year in office, he opened negotiations with the exiled Dwabenhene (ruler of Dwaben), Boaten Panin (Kwasi Boaten), which finally came to fruition with the return of the Dwaben refugees to Asante in 1841. In the same year Kwaku Dua I was obliged to dispatch forces to Gonja in the north, where a series of local disputes threatened the stability of the northern provinces of Asante.

Relations with the British began to deteriorate as British governors placed new and unacceptable restrictions upon the terms of the 1831 treaty, resulting in successive confrontations.

Commerce was much encouraged under Kwaku Dua I’s reign and both public and private sectors of the economy showed significant growth. A system of taxation which fell most heavily on the rich, staved off popular unrest while maintaining sizeable reserves of gold dust in the nation’s treasury.

Throughout almost the entire 33 years of his reign, Kwaku Dua I sustained against all opposition and in 1863 he gradually relaxed some of his control, recognizing that the opposition by then commanded a majority in the councils. Kwamu Dua I’s death on April 27, 1867 ended his years of reign.

•Tenkamenin: Prehistory to 1400: Africa By: LaRese Hubbard In: Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, & Africa: An Encyclopedia Edited by: Andrea L. Stanton, Edward Ramsamy, Peter J. Seybolt & Carolyn M. Elliott

•Djibril Tamsir Niane, “Mansa Musa” in New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds. (New York: Scribner’s, 2008); Djibril Tamsir Niane, Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (London: Heinemann, 1984): David C. Conrad and Djanka Tassey Conde, Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004).

•Spalinger, A. (1979). The Military Background of the Campaign of Piye (Piankhy). Studien Zur Altägyptischen Kultur, 7, 273-301. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25150056

•A Critical Note on “The Epic of Samori Toure” by Jan Jansen (a1) DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/3172161 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 May 2014. Volume 29 2002 , pp. 219-229

•Howcroft, P. (undated). South Africa Encyclopaedia: Prehistory to the year 2000, unpublished papers with SA History Online.|Who is Shaka Zulu? A short biography on a man with incredible vision Shaka, Zulu King [online] Pagewise [accessed 17 September 2009]|Anglo-Zulu War 1879. [online] About.com [accessed 17 September 2009]

•McCaskie, T. (1989). Death and the Asantehene: A Historical Meditation. The Journal of African History, 30(3), 417-444. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/182917