“Ali Bonaparte”

In July 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt with an army of 35,000 strong. Egypt was invaded for strategic concessions but in truth, there were multiple reasons why the French chose to invade. These reasons include both commercial and colonial aspirations. It was also opportunistic in nature, taking advantage of a much weakened Ottoman state. Yet all these completion concerns may have also contributed to the expedition’s ultimate failure. It says the argument of this essay that the British and Ottoman resistance, as well as competing mission objectives found from amongst the French themselves, played a part in the French defeat and failure to annex Egypt.

Egypt has always been an enticing target for would be Invaders. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Romans had all claimed Egypt at different points in history. This was mainly because the river Nile made the mass cultivation of grain very easy. The Rivers flood season happens gradually, none violently, and predictably at the same time every year. So it was not an entirely random place to want to invade. Even in the 19th century when economic and political realities had to changed, Egypt still found itself in the center of world affairs. French interests in Egypt go back to the 15th century. When in 1536 France signed a treaty with the Ottoman Empire, who had ruled Egypt from the 14th century. This Alliance was mainly a marriage of convenience between the two nations who were both enemies of the Austrian Empire (Then called the Holy Roman Empire). From that time on wards Egyptian grain had flooded into the south of France from the Mediterranean trade route, and French traders found their way abroad to Alexandria using that same trade route. In 1798 this interaction had been the same for almost 250 years. The French, who had just come out of a revolution and were now fighting most of Europe including Britain and Austria, decided to invade Egypt because it was surrounded on all sides by continental enemies. Much of its colonial Empire had been taken away or were left to their own devices and vitally needed resources were not making their way to France.Invading Egypt for colonial expansion however, was not a new idea. The French had even thought about the colonial possibilities of growing sugarcane in Egypt from 1763 when France had lost most of her Colonial Empire in America to Great Britain. They even drew up plans to build the canal to join the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. It was these colonial interests that were brought up again in the wake of the war of the second coalition, in order to help France expand what it called “le grande Nation”. In July 1797 the French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand began to build on this older dream. In his view Egypt could be a new sugar producing colony for France.

Talleyrand was influential in the new French government of the day, the Directory.He managed to convince one of the Directors, a man called the Lazare Carnot, to order the expedition. At this time Napoleon Bonaparte had just completed successfully fighting against the Austrians in the Italy. He was given the job of trying to figure out how to invade Britain. When he heard about the ordered expedition to Egypt he had himself put in command, through the influence of his Talleyrand. Napoleon was a very effective self-publicist and he knew that whoever prosecuted this conquest successfully would be immortalized in France. He was granted the mission by arguing successfully that he could cut Britain off from her vital colony, India. From Egypt it may have also been possible to supply Franc’s ally in India, the Tippu Sultan of Mysore. Napoleon also romanticized Egypt writing, “Europe is too small; I must go to the east, the fountain of Glory.” Egypt was of course regarded as the Cradle of Civilization and Napoleon believed himself to be the ultimate child of the revolution. So he had a strong will to bring republican civilization to Egypt. This sentiment was echoed in France. One French Director pointed out, “what finer enterprise for nation which has already given Liberty to Europe and freedom to America then to regenerate a country which was the first time to civilization”. This opinion highlighted a sense of modern Western superiority, believing that modern Egyptian civilization had fallen from its classical grandeur. This was much more than simple rhetoric however, Napoleon would take a team of 167 intellectuals bringing with them everything from butterfly nets to printing presses. The French set their sights on Egypt for a multitude of reasons in the end, Egypt’s strategic value, Colonial and commercial possibilities, spreading modern French civilization and Napoleon Bonaparte’s towering ambitions.

Napoleon had printed a proclamation to the Egyptian people, which his soldiers distributed as they broke into Alexandria. He stated that the French had come to restore Egyptian freedom and destroy the Mameluke oppressors. The Mamelukes were originally a regiment of elite slave troops from the Caucasus. They had come to take control over Egypt, even though it was nominally still an Ottoman territory.Napoleon’s proclamation was tone deaf politically because even though the Mamelukes did not come from Egypt originally, they had ruled Egypt for centuries (1250-1517), long before the Ottomans came. They were certainly considered more Egyptian then the Ottomans were. In fact this proclamation promising Equal Rights for all men alienated many Egyptians who followed Sharia law, which enabled the ownership of slaves, had rigid social rules and set a clear societal place for women, as well as Dhimmi (Non Islamic but tolerated peoples), at the time. These gender politics cut both ways, as the Egyptians generally viewed the revolutionary agnostic and sexually liberated French as immoral. “I worship God more than the Mamelukes do. I respect his prophet Muhammad and the admirable Quran”. Bonaparte was trying to gain the allegiance of the educated elites and the Muslim clergy. He had even at one point said that he would convert to Islam. These grand statements were never taken seriously. These manifestos were also translated quite poorly into Arabic and they contained a mismatch of French Revolutionary ideas and Islamic references. The Egyptian cleric and scholar Al-Jabarti wrote a satirical commentary on these proclamations. Giving voice to the Egyptians Napoleon had hoped to win over. He wrote, “Here is an explanation of the incoherent words and vulgar Constructions put into this miserable letter”.

Meanwhile the actual military campaign was yielding un-even results. Despite capturing Alexandria and defeating the Mamelukes at Cairo. The French army who were used to foraging for food as they marched, found the desert not hospitable to this strategy. Many men died of dehydration, some even took their own lives along the desert roads. It was also hell on the Egyptian people as well, as French soldiers would routinely execute villagers who would not handover food. The Mamelukes were driven out of northern Egypt, but disaster struck on the 1st of August 1798 when Admiral Horatio Nelson destroyed the French fleet at Anchor at the Battle of the Nile. This not only trapped the French army in Egypt, but also cut off any hope of fresh supplies from France. This meant but the French Invasion had become an occupation. Napoleon however, displaying what had become his trademark energy as well as stubbornness, doubled down on his policy to try bring French civilization to Egypt. He set up a new government structure, creating new councils called divans. To serve on these councils he appointed legal scholars and religious leaders, from both the Muslim and Coptic Christian communities. He appeared to have learnt from as early a mistake of not appealing to the religious elites. This welding together of Revolutionary ideals and the Islamic world failed to mix well and people hated it. Napoleon was derisively called, Ali Bonaparte. It must be said however that some of the changes were successful. For example, the French built new schools, hospitals and post offices.The Egyptian population however, almost universally resented the French presence in their country.

The Ottomans were also about to make their move. The French ambassador had tried and failed to convince them that they were really just trying oust the Mamelukes from power. The Ottomans now joined in alliance with the British and the two factions planned two pronged attack. The Ottoman Army would march down to Egypt through the Levant (Syria, Lebanon and Palestine). The British Royal Navy would shadow the army. The French Army tried to pre-empt this by invading north through Syria. The French were stopped at the fortress town of Acre. Napoleon met stubborn resistance there because the Royal Navy kept the town well supplied with provisions and fresh Ottoman troops. The inability to capture the town coupled with the fact that the French Army had lost 3,000 men to plague demoralized the French. The French Army marched back to Egypt, fighting Mameluke and Ottoman Armies along the way. Napoleon left Egypt soon after to tend to matters in Europe. The rest of the French Army surrendered to the British. The French experiment in Egypt had failed.

The French Invasion was a failure in every respect except for perhaps one. Those 167 scientist and artist that Napoleon had brought to Egypt, brought back vital information about that country to Europe. They chronicled there finding in the much celebrated Description de l’Egypte. This work was a hit with the trendy Parisian elites who became obsessed with Egypt. The Rosetta stone had also been discovered and it was eventually translated by a French linguist named Jean François Champollion. Much of what we know today about Egypt is in fact in large part due to these non-military civilians who followed the army. It is for that reason that the invasion should be remembered, however by unintended consequence or not, the study of Egyptology grew out of this campaigned.

The Invasion of Egypt was doomed from the start. Napoleon had not researched the land he wished to conquer or the people he wished to rule. He arrogantly assumed that by using surface deep Islamic references and imagery he could appeal to the Egyptians to adopt French culture. Even before setting foot in Egypt the French seemed split in the intended objectives of the invasion. Some wanted to create a French colony that would produce sugar, others wanted to cut off Britain from India and some wanted to spread the ideals of the French revolution. Still others wanted a scientific expedition. By trying to achieve all of these aims Napoleon shot himself and the campaign in the foot. Added to this the Egyptian people were dogged and brave in their resistance. Not only silently objecting but as has been shown, often loudly and openly criticizing the occupation. This more than anything else ensured that Le Grande Nation would for the moment remain a little smaller.

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Unintended Consequence and African Dynamism

Nationalism in Africa was not a by-product of Word War 2. In some regions nationalist groups had been operating since before the beginning of even the Great War. Opposition to Colonialism in one form or another had indeed existed alongside Colonialism in Africa right from the start. It would be a mistake however to believe that The Second World War had no effect what so ever on anti-colonial agendas. Or that the new global situation proceeding the war did not provide a perfect opportunity for decolonisation to be realized. It is the central assertion of this essay that the aftermath of Word War 2 gifted African nationalist movements, which already existed, around the continent a means whereby they could agitate and win independence from the old colonial powers.

Economic turmoil of the colonial powers was one of the conditions created after World War 2 that helped inspire independence movements in Africa. Britain and France were the largest colonial powers in Africa, the war also wrecked their economies. Britain had spent 100 million pounds on India alone during the war and coming out of the war Britain had no reserves left. It is important to remember that Britain began colonizing Africa in order to maintain safe sea routes to India. So the maintenance of some of the African colonies vitally depended upon the trade from these routes. So when India achieved its independence in 1947 the justification to maintain control of colonies like Egypt (technically a protectorate of Britain), Sudan, Kenya and Somalia disappeared. Sudan and Kenya were originally colonized to secure the source of the Nile River from Colonial rivals such as Germany and France. So the colonial destiny of Sudan, Kenya and Somalia were tied up with Egypt, which in turn was linked to the destiny of India.

France’s economic issues stemmed from the fact that France was occupied for most of the War. Her colonies were administered from the puppet pro German Government in Vichy , in the south of France. The Vichy Government held the North and West African colonies, while the countries in French Equatorial Africa, Chad C.A.R, Congo, Cameroon and Gabon, defected from Vichy control and joined the ‘Free French’ led by Charles De Gaulle. Germany Occupied Vichy France in 1942 , using its economic resources from that point on. While providing The Free French forces a metaphorical home as well as manpower and basic supplies , French Equatorial Africa did not provide much economic benefit to the Free French. So the French economy was first cut in two and then existed independently only from its central African colonies.

A huge Economic and Political barrier to the further control of colonial empires was the USA. The USA’s economy had thrived during the War reaffirming its ‘super power’ status by the wars end. This was largely a result of their isolation during the first two years of the war. That and the fact that no axis power had really threatened mainland USA (except for Japan, very briefly) meant that vital industrial and economic output was not disrupted. The USA’s plan coming out of the war was to rebuild Europe. This was both because the USA wanted to build buffers against the Soviet Union and so that it could create all new market places for American goods. This initiative was called the Marshal plan. The USA would spend 13 billion dollars rebuilding Europe after the war. While the USA would pay for the rebuilding of Europe, it had no intention of paying for its colonial Empires. For example the USA put economic pressure on the Dutch in 1946, as they were trying to re-establish colonial rule in Indonesia. The USA also used similar tactics in 1956 when it intervened in the Suez crisis, Where Britain France and Israel tried to prevent the nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Egypt and put economic pressure on both Britain and France to leave the region. Even though Egypt was technically independent, Britain maintained a troop presence within the Suez region which undermined Egyptian sovereignty. After the crises it became clear that Britain and France had no political or economic power to keep its colonial possessions in Africa and decolonisation in the continent was rapid after that.

It was not only economic pressure that hastened decolonisation but political pressure too. Since the end of World War 1 the USA had been pushing for colonial powers to give the right of self-determination to their colonies. This was the unrealised vision of the Treaty of Versailles. In fact many representatives from colonies made the journey to Paris inspired by the rhetoric only to be disappointed. Ho Chi Minh was infamously passed over by Woodrow Wilson at the conference. In the World War 2 though the USA had more of a leading position than it had in 1919. So in 1941 it was able to lead the Allies in signing the Atlantic Charter. This Charter stated, among other things, that no nation occupied by the Allied powers during the war would stay occupied after it (Russia would ignore this) and that there would be universal self-determination for all those deprived of it. These principles were confirmed by the signing of the Declaration of the United Nations in 1942 , which became the basis for the United Nations formed in 1945. The United Nations, largely led by the USA, would apply political pressure towards decolonisation.

The destiny of the colonies however was not something that was out of their own hands. Opposition to colonial rule existed long before the Second World War. The ANC, for example, was founded in 1912. The Organizations comprising of representatives of many people was brought together to fight for justice for black African people in South Africa. “Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organizations.” That being a direct quote from the Organizations founder Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Even before this African people were resisting colonial rule. From 1881 to 1889 Sudan, led by Muhammad Ahmad, fought a bloody war against a then Egyptian state supported by Britain and then Britain itself. Efforts to throw off colonial rule were happening all through the period of colonial rule. Even though it became far more successful in the 20th century, decolonisation often took different shapes. Sometimes those differences were related to economics and politics. Sometimes they were related to the colonies relationship to its colonial masters.

Britain being resigned to give up its colonies, started to prepare them for the crossover of power. In West Africa educated individuals were able to organize themselves into trade unions and political parties. Many of these individuals, like Kwame Nkrumah for example, had cultivated relationships with the west and championed Pan-Africanism from outside Africa. Nkrumah even played a key role in the Pan-African congress held in Manchester. Advancing the cause of African self-determination. Nkrumah led his Native country Ghana (The Gold coast) first in semi independence and later in actual independence when Ghana became the first African country to win independence from British control in 1957. Power transition was not always smooth however. Violence erupted in Kenya in 1952 when the Kikuyu people rose in rebellion against the British, in response to colonial oppression. The rebellion failed as it never fully gained public support, the British succeeded in isolating the conflict from the rest of Kenyan people. What is significant is that putting down the rebellion cost Britain 55 million pounds , which significantly hastened the decolonisation process through economic pressure. Jomo Kenyatta also emerged as a Kenyan leader. Before the rebellion he actually went to England to lobby for his people, the Kikuyu, in 1929. He studied in London and Moscow. Like Nkrumah, he too was present at the Pan-Africanist Congress in 1945. He became Kenya’s first president in 1964.

The French were far more reluctant to get rid of its colonial empire despite economic or political realities. It saw its colonies as part of mainland France itself. This view was exemplified by the fact that French colonies were home to more colonial settlers that Britain had in its colonies. It is therefore understandable why colonial people began to chafe under the unequal French colonial system. Algeria was home to over 8 million Muslim Algerians and one million colons (European settlers). Yet it was the Colons who lived in better conditions, had the best jobs or were even paid better for doing the same job. All this despite the fact that Algerians had fought along Frenchmen in two world wars, 60 000 Algerians fought with the ‘Free French’ in World War 2. Yet despite being originally from what France considered to be an extension of France, they were not called French or given the same rights as the French. In 1952 Algerian Nationalist formed the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (CRUA) to initiate actions against colonial authority. CRUA form National liberation front (FLN) in 1954 and began conduct a guerrilla war in the countryside. 1954 was a pivotal year for France as they were decisively driven out of Vietnam by the forces of Ho Chi Minh at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. FLN took note of this French defeat and gambled on the time being right. By 1956 the violence had moved into the cities. The war caused the French government to topple and be replace by a more conservative one headed by Charles De Gaulle. The conflict was over in 1962 and in July that year Algeria had been proclaimed independent. The conflict had cost the lives of 300 000 to 1000 000 people, the majority being Arab civilians.

Groups had been making attempts to end colonial rule in Morocco as far back as 1921 , when an ethnic group known as the people of Rif tried to found a separatist republic. Then again in 1936 a group calling themselves the Moroccan Action Committee (CAM) tried and failed to lobby for greater Arab representation in colonial government. Experience of Moroccan soldiers during the Second World War would bring nationalistic movements in Morocco more closely together. The Independence party (Istiqal) petitioned the then king of Morocco, Muhammad V, for full independence of the protectorate. The king fully indorsed it in a famous speech he gave in Tangiers which angered the colonial government. The king continued to petition the colonial government on his people’s behalf until he was exiled in 1953. This was after political agitation had caused the banning of the new Moroccan Communist party and Istiqal in 1952. This galvanized the different nationalist groups and the French returned the King in 1955. France opened negotiations with various nationalist groups and the king through the year, which led to Moroccan independence in 1956. Of course events in not so far away Algeria also influenced the situation in that year and France must have been feeling a sense of colonial fatigue.

Portugal remained neutral during the war and as a result maintained a tighter grip on its colonies than that of Britain or France. Portuguese colonies were relatively isolated from the upheaval of the war. Therefore the Second World War did not play much of a part in the story of the decolonisation of its empire. Except maybe to give frustration to colonial inhabitants, who were well aware of the decolonisation process happening in other parts of Africa. Despite intense international pressure the right wing colonial Power, led by the dictatorship of Salazar , doggedly held on to its colonial possessions. Liberation would come out of bloody armed conflict, more linked with the Cold War than the Second World War.

The Second World War and its aftermath upended the social order and was a perfect catalyst for African Decolonisation. Colonial troops found themselves fighting not only with their colonial masters but also against Germany, which was a colonial power itself at a time. This helped shatter the view of European superiority. With the Allied powers it also called into question the morals of fighting against German Imperialism, while enforcing a system of imperialism on others. After the War a colonial empire was also not economically viable. Especially to a colonial power that had to prioritize rebuilding its own home. Finally political Pressure to give self-determination to subject peoples just became harder to ignore. All of these factors combined with nationalist aspirations created conditions whereby Africa could win its freedom.

How to stop a War but ensure it has a sequel

A favourite undergraduate assignment question is to examine the cause of World War 1. the idea is to get you to critically think about cause and effect within the world. I however find more and more, that the roots of the modern world began at the end of the war. In this essay I will discuss the most important factors that worked against Woodrow Wilson’s vision of a democratic and peaceful Europe after 1918. It is this essay’s assertion that Woodrow Wilson’s 14 point plan and the settlements drawn up in the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris Peace Conference, while ending the World War 1, failed to fully address and correct the conditions that led to the war. Creating just as many issues as they addressed and ultimately creating the economic and political conditions that not only made the Second World War possible, but highly probable as well.

Woodrow Wilson was the former United States president who had written a plan for an end to the war and for peace after that in 1918 that he called the 14 points. Summarised these points were:

  1. Open covenants of peace : there were to be no more of the secret treaties between nations that fed the conditions of political paranoia which had contributed to the buildup towards the war
  2. Freedom of the seas: No more unrestricted Warfare or even Naval Blockades
  3. Free trade: There were to be no tariff barriers among nations
  4. Disarmament: To the lowest point consistent with Domestic security
  5. The impartial arbitration of colonial disputes
  6. Russian self determination
  7. Belgium Self determination
  8. German troops to be withdrawn from France: France would also receive the region of Alsace-Lorraine.
  9. The Italian Frontier would be re-adjusted: To end Border disputes with Austria. These frontiers were re-adjusted along line of nationality.
  10. Autonomy for Hungary: Hungary would no longer be a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Autonomy for its territory would be guaranteed
  11. Assurities of Independence for Romania, Serbia and Montenegro
  12. Autonomy for the non-Turkish peoples of the Ottoman empire
  13. Independence for Poland: Poland had been absorbed between Russia, Prussia (Precursory power to Germany) and Austria in 1795 prior to this.
  14. A proposal for the development of a League of Nations

These points are both rational and reasonable, in terms of its approach to Germany, and largely failed to win support among the Allies at the Paris conference. This is because Wilson wrote the 14 points in January 1918 before the armistice, he was hoping to bring Germany to the negotiating table. However by the time of the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919 Germany’s situation had fallen dramatically, as a consequence losing a lot of bargaining power. The other Allied powers mainly that of Britain represented by David Lloyd George and France represented by Georges Clemenceau, did not share Wilson’s rational idealism towards peace.

David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau represented a vastly different view point to Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference. France lost one million buildings and six thousand bridges during the war, not to forget the two million who lay dead. Britain had lost a further million souls. Lloyd George also had recently won an election in Britain on a platform of punitive measures against Germany and her allies. France also still harboured resentment toward Germany for the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71. Germany was proclaimed as a Nation with in the Palace of Versailles’s hall of mirrors. This had only been 40 years ago and was still a source of national embarrassment. So at the Conference Wilson the idealist was out maneuvered by Clemenceau and Lloyd George. The Peace terms given to Germany would be harsh.

So what were these terms? They came in three themed packages that were Economic, Military and Territorial in nature. Germany lost a significant amount of territory. Alsace-Lorraine would go back to France, the Rhineland would be demilitarised and its coal and iron ore production sent to France, most of eastern Prussia helped to form Poland. The Austro – Hungarian Empire was split up into Austria and Hungary. With its territory stripped to create the countries of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. In this last example the Allies strung together different peoples, with their own ethnic tensions, in order to make states that could act as a buffer to Germany. This in particular would come back to haunt Europe as ethnic tensions led to civil unrest in those regions. First in 1938 in Czechoslovakia when Sudeten Germans given to Czechoslovakia at the end of WW1 agitated to be reabsorbed by Germany. Then in 1991 when decades of ethnic tension in the Balkans spilt over into the bloody Yugoslav civil war. Ottoman territory was also stripped and divided between Britain and France, who were awarded mandatory rights with the Sykes – Picot Agreement, despite the fact that the Arab people had been promised self-rule. Self-determination was sacrificed for the outdated political philosophy of the Balance of power. Here we already see violations of Wilson’s 14 points, mainly points one (the Sykes – Picot treaty was secret at first), five, ten and twelve. Some nations like Poland did get their own countries but others were strung together as uneasy ramshackle states, more were handed over to France and Britain to augment their colonial empires. The Treaty of Versailles would not solve the problems of Nationalism or Colonialism.

The Military settlements were aimed to de-fang Germany. The problem was perceived to be Germany, not everybody else. The Rhineland would be occupied by Allied troops (mainly France) for fifteen years, the German army was to be reduced to a hundred thousand men. Germany was forbidden an air force and its navy was reduced to six coastal battleships.

The economic settlements were very harsh and it is here where one can see the infamous ‘Guilt clause’ come into effect. The idea was to render Germany incapable of starting another war, but also to recoup Allied economic losses during the War. German coal and iron ore was shipped to France, its merchant navy was awarded to the Allies as well. Germany was to pay an indemnity of 5 billion dollars and reparations of 32 billion dollars. Ironically without its Coal and Iron Ore industry it was virtually impossible for Germany to pay any of that money back.

The Guilt clause can be found in Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles. It states that, “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” Now Germany’s confident arms buildup and blank check to Austria did contribute to the causes for the War. So did Serbian terrorism, Russian aggressiveness in the Balkans, Austrian aggression towards Serbia, French resentment of Germany and also the British sense of naval entitlement. Who ruled that they get to have the biggest fleet? Yet Versailles answer of the cause of the war combined with the fact that the German army had not been decisively beaten in the field and that no German diplomat had be consulted at the conference but rather summoned to accept the terms. All contributed to a feeling of German resentment that Germany had been stabbed in the back. That idea would be used to fuel the rhetoric of the next war, just 20 years later.

A further failure of the conference was the decision to shun Russia, which was a victorious member of the Allies. Russia had gone through two revolutions during the War, the first being is October 1917 which over through the imperial government and the other in November 1917 which put the Bolsheviks in power. At the time of the conference Russia was embroiled in a terrible civil war between the Bolsheviks and the Tsarist and democratic factions (calling themselves the White Russians). The Allied powers were actually aiding the White Russians out of fear that the Bolshevik Soviet government would spark revolutions all over Europe and even abroad. Russia was not represented at the conference for this reason and recent international disgust over the shooting of the Tsar and his family. This would contribute to Soviet isolationism and paranoia towards the West. Laying the foundations for the Cold War.

The League of Nations was chartered in 1919 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference. Its Mandate was to promote international co-operation and maintain peace and security. However it had no army, nor access to any of the Allied powers armed forces. There was actually no proviso for such a thing in the charter, which was noble but impractical. Added to this the USA under Wilson did not join, rather preferring isolationism. Nor did Germany as a shamed Nation, nor Russia as it was a shunned nation. This effectively made the organizations toothless. The League of Nations could intercede in small scale conflicts. For example, Finland against Sweden in 1921. In 1923 Italy invaded Ethiopia and The League slapped a wide array of sanctions against Italy, except for oil. This is because Britain and France needed Libyan oil, which Italy possessed. A year later The League could not stop France from invading the Rhineland when Germany was late on a reparation payment. The League of Nations was largely ignored by larger nations when it attempted to intercede with their conflicts.

Woodrow Wilson’s vision laid out within his 14 points largely failed at the Paris Peace Conference. The Only real success, The League of Nations, was a hollow one. Some Nations did achieve autonomy like Latvia, Belarus and Poland but others Like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, comprising of many different ethnicities and nationalities, were artificially welded together. This was also true of smaller regions like Danzig which remained German but found themselves encircled in Poland and the Sudetenland as already mentioned in Czechoslovakia. Tyrol was also clumsily split between Austria and Italy on a North South divide. The treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would become overwhelmed in the 1920’s and 30’s by the political, economic and ethnic tensions that it had helped to create. Its treatment of Germany would fuel resentment and give a platform to radicals. Wilson’s failed dreams in the Treaty of Versailles merely gave the War to end all Wars an uneasy intermission before its grizzlier sequel.

The implications of sound and creation found within cultures

Sound in Mythology

Humans living 4000 years ago would have said that the main difference between us and animals is that we can use words to illustrate our will. In other words we can use sound to construct greater meaning. This concept can be found in the creation myths of many cultures around the world.

In ancient Egyptian mythology words, especially spoken words, had a very real physical effect on the world. The Goddess Isis was known as ‘she who knows all names’. In ancient Egypt magic spells could only be effective if they were attached to a name. So you can imagine that knowing all names would make a person very powerful. Written spells could also be purchased from temples. Scripts written to be spoken later to cure almost any ailment as a form of medicine. This has clear Mythological routs as the deity Thoth is both the god of writing and medicine. Written script recording spoken words, constructed from sound, played a crucial role with how the ancient Egyptians perceived their world. In fact Thoth created the world through speaking the words that the god invented.

In Ancient India the syllables of ancient Sanskrit were believed to be the atoms of creation. The very first syllable(sound) AUM, created the universe out of void. This belief has informed the concept of the Mantra, which is a chanted phrase often employed to realign the body and the mind with the universe.

The Greek concept of Logos, which means ‘word,’ is the meaning found in the universe, from which we get the word Cosmos which is translated as; that which is ordered. So here we have the concepts of the world, words and that of order being linked together intrinsically. This is why Greek philosophers pondered the true nature of words because they defined creation, as they understood it.
The ancient Norse described a yawning void from which their universe was created. They have a perfect synthesis between sound and creation within one of their chief deities, Bragi. Bragi is the God of music, poetry and wisdom. Just like the Egyptian God Thoth, the concepts of sound, words and higher knowledge are linked together.

Aboriginal people speak of ancient primordial ancestor spirit walking the land and singing the immense landscapes of Australia into existence. These are known as song-lines and they have to be constantly re-sung to maintain the world. Song-lines are typically sung on Walkabout.

The meso-american creation myth, the Popul Vu, tells how the first humans were Sung into existence.

Sound, creation and destruction within contemporary culture.

These are examples from ancient antiquity but the truth is that you really don’t have to look far when trying to find examples of creation via sound. The Judeo-Christianity tradition starts by stating; “In the Beginning was the word”. It then goes on to state that the word was God. Now the concept of God is very interesting in Judaism. The name of God is often represented as YWHW, pronounced Yaweh and often anglosized to Jehovah. This is not a name used within religious practice. That name is Adonai, meaning ‘lord’ or the less formal Hashem, which means ‘The name’. This is necessary as God’s name is regarded as too sacred to be uttered. The name was the sound that was in the beginning. If it could create, could it destroy? We can find evidence of this by reading exodus 33:19, in which God tells Moses that by his name his will, will be done. God’s will in this context is the liberation of his people through the famous plagues. This has been typically characterised as a metaphorical passage but the precedent of actual power deriving from words was established already in Genesis. After all God said; “Let there be light” and there was light. The practice of treating the actual name of God with a muted respect can also be found in Islam. Allah is the Arabic word for God, while not being his actual name. Given the fact that the Abrahamic religions are linked, it is no real surprise to see similar cultural tropes regarding not only Gods true name but also the power of that name.

The Hare Krishna movement employs what is known as the ‘Maha Mantra’. Chanting the Mantra is believed to bring a person in greater Harmony with the universe. This stems from the Vedic belief that Sanskrit syllables are the very building blocks of reality. Mantra is also a core belief in Buddhism. Monks often chanting for hour in order to achieve a state of Nirvana. The Mantra contains a transformative power.

Conclusion

It certainly seems that for 4000 years, right down to this very day human groups have been defining their world in curiously similar ways. The use of words is the power not only to transmit ones will but also ones will over great distances and spaces of time. A power ultimately derived from sound. It is little wonder that early humans used this concept to differentiate themselves from other beings. All the while developing theories of their own to better understand this power.

Were the Ancient Egyptians black?

No. Yes. Kind of. No, not really. Some were……not all of them anyway.

I always found myself getting suspicious about this question. I am a 29 year old white male and I am prone to the same mental gymnastics that any white male person will have when they come up to any issues of ethnicity. So I found myself performing these gymnastics with myself for this question. Why does this question bug me so much? Is it because the idea of a black civilization offends me? But then I cast my mind to all the other black civilizations of History, the Zulu Empire, the great Mali Empire, Great Zimbabwe and many many more. The knowledge that these civilizations were black did not trouble me. So that could not have been the reason why the question of the ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians troubles me. I think however I came to the answer while researching a tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian general. It made me realise that we are robbing these people of their own cultural identity because we are desperately trying to find historical proofs for modern political questions. There were black Egyptians, there were even black kings of Egypt. Would it be correct however to say that the Egyptian civilization was a black civilization? I realised that people’s attempts to label ancient Egypt “black” or “white” is largely a modern phenomenon that really has no relevance to history. History is the story of the world, and the world is not simply categorised into black or white. I started to realise this reading the tomb wall of soldier.

Ahmose, son of Ebana was a soldier who served three Egyptian kings. While all the tombs of Kings normally get press, other tombs or perhaps more fascinating. There was a lot of protocol when building tombs for Kings. These were buildings that had to project the outward Majesty and power of the individual buried within it. On its walls were prayers for the dead king in the afterlife, and lineages that proved that the king was the progeny of a long line of older kings. There wasn’t much room for personalization. Egyptologist do however find traces of individuality in the tombs, but most of them follow a very specific template. The tombs of nobleman and private citizens however are different. They could afford to be a bit more personal, and such was the case with the Tomb of Ahmose, son of Ebana. Ahmose was a proud man. He was proud that he fought alongside not one but three pharaohs. He was proud that the pharaoh himself had given him a horse on one occasion, and slaves on other occasions(let’s try not to judge with 21st century lenses, we are talking about deep antiquity here. If Ahmose had lost a battle but survived, he also may have become a slave. I say this to illustrate weather widely practised custom this was in war at that point in time. Ugly and unpleasant but true nonetheless) This was a man who enjoyed hunting and fishing. He showed us he enjoyed these with pictures on his walls. He was also so fiercely proud of everything he had accumulated in his life that he listed it along the walls of his tomb. This told me two things. One was that these were people that were proud of their achievements and they wanted future generations to know who achieved them. My other realisation was more to do with present-day politics. I realise how wrong it was to try and enforce an ancient culture, one that lasted much longer than our present Culture has lasted, with 21st century ideologies, identities and ideals.

So that’s why I think the question of the colour of the ancient Egyptians skin doesn’t really matter. This is a modern-day concern and had very little relevance to the actual ancient Egyptians. It is intriguing though, why is there such intense debate as to whether the Egyptians were black? Where did this view even come from? It was born out of the Pan Africanist movement, and was an attempt to give black African people a sense of historical legitimacy. Which to me sounds ridiculous because I think black people have plenty of historical legitimacy without associating with ancient Egypt. There were lots of successful black African civilizations from the annals of history to choose from. So why ancient Egypt? Unfortunately the answer to that question lies in a Pro European, pro Western bias. The western Canon for a long time has considered Greece to be the Cradle of Western civilization. The Greeks themselves considered Egypt to be the Cradle of Civilization. So the west being dominant in the world for a long period of time, still be honest, led to a veneration of Egyptian culture through appreciating Greek culture. This only increased with the boom of Egyptomania that griped Western imaginations from the 18th century pretty much to this day. So by linking black African civilization to ancient Egypt, black African civilization would get a boost in Prestige to the outside world. The reason this was important is because very few westerners hear about any African civilizations. There is a Western bias that tends to reject non-western cultures. I don’t mean to paint it is completely cynical though. There were proofs offered for the ancient Egyptians being black skinned.

The most rudimentary of these proofs is that black people came from Africa, Egypt is in Africa, therefore they must have been black people in Egypt. Egypt is indeed in Africa, but it’s actually geographically closer to the region of the levant(Palestine, Lebanon, Syria) then Central and Eastern Africa. Egypt is also geographically isolated from the rest of Africa through deserts to its West and the near impossible to navigate Nile cataracts to its South. Migrations and population exchanges would of been far more easier between Egypt and it’s neighbours to the north east, the levant. Indeed a Modern study in genetics proved that modern-day Egyptians share 8% of their genomes with Central Africans, which is way more than the Ancient Egyptians shared. This 8% can be explained by the trans Saharan slave trade, which brought black African slaves into Egypt. This would also contradict the afrocentric theory that Egypt was inhabited by black people that were displaced by foreign Invasions that include the Macedonians, the Romans and the Arabs. The theory is disproved because Egyptian civilization lasted for 3000 years, the 8% of the central African Genome shared by modern-day Egyptians would of been introduced within the last 1500 years, when the Nile cataracts became less of an obstacle. That and Egyptian civilization existed before that 1500 year mark, long before.

Let us consider another proof offered by afrocentric scholars. This is the argument that the Egyptians identified themselves as black. The ancient Egyptian name for Egypt is Kemet. Their name for themselves was Remet en Kemet. Remet meaning people, Kemet meant black land. So the name that the Egyptian people had for themselves was people of the black land.Afrocentric scholars have long pointed to this as proof that the Egyptians considered themselves black. Yet this was a famous mistranslation. The Egyptians weren’t calling themselves black, they were calling their land black. You may say that this is splitting hairs and what is the point? The point is that’s the Egyptians viewed what happened once a year as magical, the flooding of the Nile. The Egyptians didn’t understand it completely. What they did understand however was that the Niles flooding brought with it pitch black soil, which we now know was rich fertile soil brought from the Ethiopian highlands, this black soil they viewed as the secret to their success. It was this soil that nurtured their fields and fertilised their crops. So when the Egyptians called Egypt the black land, they were literally referring to the colour of the land, not its people. Further proof of this is that the Egyptians never referred to Kush(modern day Sudan) as the black land. Black people lived in Kush. Why did the ancient Egyptians not include Kush into it’s boundaries if the black land referred to the people’s skin colour? Why wasn’t Kush called the black land?

Another proof to consider is in Egyptian art. Afrocentric scholars have a long said that based on the fact that there exists black sculptures of Egyptians, this means that the Egyptians were black. The Egyptians prized stone as a building material. They loved sculpting in many different kinds of Stone, from pink and black granite to white alabaster. If we are to seriously consider black granite sculptures as proof of ethnicity we would also then have to consider sculptures made from white Alabaster and pink granite. We should also consider then the sculptures made of wood. Quite frankly it’s not a credible argument, and ignores the other sculptures of which there are more than a few. The ancient Egyptians however did identify what colour they thought they were. They consistently painted themselves on walls having a red coloured skin. Ancient Egyptian art was not as individualized as modern-day art is. They were very definite standards and practices with regard to how you were allowed to depict things. Tried and tested methods were always favoured more than new ways of doing things. This is why ancient Egyptian art did not change in 3000 years. One of the advantages of this is that it allows you to clearly see how the ancient Egyptians represented not only themselves but other people groups over their entire history. They depicted themselves as having red skin, the Libyans to the west of Egypt as having a yellow skin, the Kushites to the South as having Black skin. They clearly differentiated themselves from the only black skinned people in the region.

So the ancient Egyptians were Egyptian, their own unique culture. Yet I feel I have to backtrack a little here because one cannot accurately say that there were no black ancient Egyptians. The truth is there were many. The ancient Egyptians were not racial supremacists and did not discriminate based on colour. If you lived in Egypt and wanted to be Egyptian than you were Egyptian. All through its history ancient Egypt pushed southwood further into Kush. As they did this more and more Kushites were brought into the borders of ancient Egypt. With the southward expansion of the ancient Egyptian Kingdom, Egyptian man and woman started to marry Kushite men and women. So it turns out that while the Egyptian civilization cannot qualify as a black African civilization, there were many black Egyptians.

I hate Eurocentric scholars and I hate Afrocentric scholars, for the exact same reason. They want to make the world a lot smaller then it actually is. If you’re anything centric it means that you are biased. Modern-day historians cannot be biased. We have to follow the evidence wherever it leads us. We also have to take evidence from every conceivable angle. You can’t only take archaeological evidence on its own without literary evidence, and you can’t take linguistic evidence while ignoring the artistic evidence, and you can’t take all these things and ignore the geographical evidence. You need them all or your findings are shoddy and incomplete, in my estimation anyway. The Eurocentric scholars flat out denied the existence of African civilization in history. They even ignored the notable evidence that there were many African civilizations at almost every point in history. That played very pivotal roles in World History. The Kingdom of Mali for example became so fabulously rich off their intricate trade routes that’s they flooded the middle age market with gold and nearly crashed the economy of the Arab world. The Swahili kingdoms in East Africa maintained vital trade connections with imperial China, this was at a time when most of Europe was unaware that China existed. These were very advanced cultures, and it’s huge shame that learn about them in school. I feel like the afrocentric scholars have forgotten these civilizations because a great deal of them are focused on trying to prove that ancient Egypt was entirely black. At this point it’s become largely political. The Kingdom of Mali and the Swahili Kingdoms and for that matter the later Zulu Kingdom did not leave behind as much as ancient Egypt did. So it’s almost like the afrocentric scholars feel that if they can claim the Pyramids anf the Sphinx as artefacts of a black civilization, they then can prove that there was black civilization in the first place. The greatest shame there is that the afrocentric scholars are not focusing on the actual black civilizations. Even within their own ancient Egyptian arguments they get it wrong. Many afrocentric scholars will say that Ramses the second,Tutankhamen and Cleopatra(who was actually Greek) were black. In their zeal to prove that ancient Egyptian culture was a black civilization, they have failed to mention the actual black Pharaohs of Egypt. There was a whole dynasty of them.

The 25th dynasty of Egypt were black Kushite Kings who had conquered Egypt from the south. This is just a fantastic story for so many reasons. List of all because it involves a much beleaguered Kingdom, which had been under the thumb of the ancient Egyptians for a thousand years, rising up and taking control. It’s also fantastic because the Kushites actually kind of saved ancient Egypt. At the time entrance Egypt was past it’s best, to put it kindly. Four Kings ruled a fractured State. A state that more and more was looking like it was gonna fall to the Assyrians to the North. In conquering Egypt the Kushites triggered a mini Renaissance in the Egypt. This was largely because After a thousand Years the Kushites had almost adopted Egyptian culture in its entirety. They worshipped the Egyptian gods, they bury their dead in Egyptian style to tombs and when they ruled Egypt they took Egyptian titles. One king, Shabaka, resurrected a Steala(A large stone with inscriptions) that read; “I who have rebuilt the wonders of the ancient, even better than it was before”. So it’s pretty clear that these Kings saw themselves as a continuation of tradition. This is why we call the Kushite Kings the 25th Dynasty, as opposed to Dynasty one of a new Kushite Kingdom. They themselves as Egyptian, as well as part of that tradition that stretched back 3000 years. The Kushite pharaoh Taharqa is even mentioned in the Bible as the king of Egypt. In the biblical story he rallies Egypt against the Assyrians and the night before the battle in the Angel of the lord comes down and slaughters many assyrian soldiers. Taharqa beat back the Assyrian conquest, at least for time. The point is the Bible story doesn’t name the Egyptian King, we know today that the king in that story was undoubtedly Taharqa, but the Biblical writer wasn’t aware that Egypt was under foreign rule. That’s how successful the Kushite administration of Egypt really was.

I want to address the central question. Were the ancient Egyptians black? My answer to that is yes, ancient Egyptians were certainly black. In recent years however it’s become increasingly common for people to state that all the ancient Egyptians were black. It’s become a matter of black pride. I think that’s wrong because that’s putting a level of political thought onto a people and culture that never asked for it. Ancient Egypt was a very variable place. There were dark skinned Egyptians, there were light skinned ones and this tended to change depending on the period of Egyptian history that we are talking about. Asking if the ancient Egyptians were black is exactly the same as asking if modern-day Americans are black. The answer is yes and no. There is nothing wrong however in Black pride, we need more of it. Students in schools need to learn as much about African civilizations just as much as they learn about the Greeks and the Romans. We also need to learn more about the black pharaohs. We need to learn more about Shabaka and my man Taharqa. These were powerful black leaders and if one wants to find black African influence within ancient Egypt. They would definitely find it here.

This article was not written with the intention of taking Down Black pride. It is written with the intention of illuminating Egyptian pride, because that’s what I think gets forgotten in the argument. Let’s go back to my friend, Ahmose, son of Ebana. Here was a guy who considered himself Egyptian and part of the greatest culture on Earth. People are so busy debating about who these people belong to. Yet the ancient Egyptians belonged to themselves.

Aggripa

Smoke drifted up to the sky from the pyres of the dead. Aggripa could smell the decaying flesh, he would of taken part in the feast but that impulse had been compelled away from him. The fighting had been hard and fierce, and Aggripa was not exactly sure who won. Day was rotting into twilight, the carrion birds were eagerly circling, waiting for the battlefield prowlers to finish. No one had come to collect him and he could see many of his masters laying about the ground. There were others as well. Strange beings that looked similar to the masters but were noticeably different. As Agrippa searched the field he noticed that these strangers possessed more fur than his masters. They were also significantly bigger, indeed he had noticed that it took at least two of the masters to take down one of these strangers in some cases. Where the earth was not blood red, it was burnt black. The fighting was terrifying, but the fires had been horrifying! The strangers had lit them to use against the masters, but fire was a magical thing that answered to nothing. It had quickly gotten out of control and engulfed stranger and master alike.

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“You mutts hungry? Good you will have plenty to eat today”. This is how it always began. The night before fights the masters always saw fit to deprive food. Aggripa could not understand the reason why. He may not return from the fight, indeed many had not in the past. It seemed cruel, after all the masters eat their fill right up until it was time to go. The camp was abuzz with motion. The morning sun blazed upon the chests and the back and the heads of the masters, and they made noises as they moved. A rich cacophony of noises that were very different from the ones he could create. One of the noises alerted Aggripa more than the others, he had been trained to listen for it. The sound of the call. He called at the bars of the cage. “Alright, you lot are up, hahaha. The Master came to let Agrippa and his siblings out. “Stiligo, why do the dogs have to go? They wear no armour. Surly they will be killed?” A second master, a lot smaller then the cage master had come up to converse. Aggripa could not conjure any understanding from the slurred speech of the masters. “Yes, by the score, but the more they are fighting the animals the less they are focusing on our men. Besides some will live and take down a few of the bastards for us.” The little master reached his hands between the bars of the cage and fluffed Aggripa’s ears. “You come back today and I will have two mice for you.” The little master had been nicer than the others, he would often sneak to the cage to bring food to Agrippa and the others. As the gate creaked open, the call sound blasted again across the field of tents and moving masters. Agrippa’s siblings bolted out towards the sound. He looked up at the small master before charging off to do his duty, passing masters under rippling red banners on their way to do the same.

The fires had actually proved a God send. Aggripa warmed himself by the pyres in between searching for his masters. There had come no call, no sound except for the anguished cries of the nearly dead and morbid silence of the recently dead. He had come across a few like him, but different, they had to given unto their baser needs and started to feast. They had growled at him as he approached. But these were not the sort that fought, they were naught but sinew and manegy fur. They were the after prowlers, masterless and without witts. Agrippa’s lip curled a half inch to reveal the tip of a tip of dagger like tooth, he let his throat roll into a deep and low rumble. The Prowler sensing danger scuttled off. Aggripa investigated the body. The caved in face hid the identity from view but it smelled like the Master of masters. No master moved without his say so. Next to him lay Proximo the halfling. Aggripa lost control for instant and let out a brief moan. Proximo was a veteran, Aggripa and the others had followed by his example. His fur was matted with blood, one of his legs had been sheared clean off. Aggripa could now see that he was not alone, all the around they were masters that he did not recognise. Bent over the bodies, searching. He knew that they must have been masters of a lesser form. Perhaps no better than the prowlers were. They paid him no mind, being more interested in the contents of the bodies. Agrippa charged at one of them bent over. He did not know why, perhaps the heat of battle had not entirely left him. The master prowler was sent running in a terror.

He halted when he reached the horses. These beasts were on the same side yet they were terrifying and best not trifled with. Their eyes were on the side of their heads, which gave Aggripa the distinct impression that they were always watching. Still it was their job to charge alongside these Beasts that the masters mounted. Masters were all meant to be listened to but some were more important than others. Even the masters had masters. The Master of masters was fearsome to behold. He always looked angry but this wasn’t necessarily because he was. It was just his way of not betraying familiarity. He mounted the biggest beast, the one that never failed to give Agrippa warning when he came to close. He was on the Beast with weapon raised in hand, shouting something at the masters. This was his way. At first Agrippa had thought that the Master of masters was angry, such was the fierce nature of his barking, but the other masters smiled and barked back in an answer. Always at the side of the Master of masters was Proximo. Proximo did not stay in the cage with Agrippa and the others but that was not the only thing that noted him as different. Agrippa and his siblings were short and muscular, Proximo was tall and Slender. He was also faster than the others. His fur was the grey of winter morning. Aggripa’s fur was the black of Night. Even though he looked less powerful, that was merely a deception. Proximo could easily best Aggripa or any of his siblings. He stood next to his masters Beast, without Fear, looking at the rest with contemplation. They were on the far right of the battle line, which contained rows upon rows of red shields. The Masters with silent in their discipline. A noise drifted from across the snow-covered field, from the woods. A fearful noise, a warning noise. The masters did not answer, except to draw their weapons. The call sound blazed, which was the signal for Agrippa to follow the masters on their beasts. They started out in a walk. Falling out in front of the main battle line, spreading out into a vast line themselves. Agrippa knew to keep behind the horses. Proximo however stayed by his masters side. They began to steer left across the battlefield. The masters who were on foot slowly began walking in their wake. The air was cold and brisk and the ground cold and hard. Aggripa could see movements from across the field, surely an answer to their own. Another call sound indicated that it was time to quicken in the pace to a mid run. That cold air was thinner and would make things harder the faster they moved. Teeth suddenly rained down over Aggripa, his siblings, beast and master. They largely over short the moving mass, he did notice however one of his siblings go down along with a few of the walking masters behind. Despite this new danger they kept their pace, they had been through this so many times before. Some of Aggripa’s newer siblings halted here and there for the briefest of moments, but were quickly compelled to move again by the forward movement from behind, a few even growled encouragement. Another mouthful whistle to past, this time more bites found their mark. They were clear of the main battle line now, to the left of it. Another call sound boomed. This one was louder and more urgent and it signalled that it was time to quicken even more. They all sped up to a full charge.

Snow began to fall, cleaning the earth and cooling the scorch. The howling wind made it hard for Agrippa to see in front of him. The only thing he had for direction where the flaming pyres burning in the distances of every direction. He began to pad to the nearest one, fighting the cold, the wind, as well as his own crippling hunger with every step. The groans had been replaced by nothing. Nothing had replaced the prowlers, both master and beast. Only snowfall, wind and nothing. Agrippa longed to go home. Not the cage that was his home when on campaign, but the home where he was born. The master there was nice, his sire would play with the young ones. The master himself was never shy with a pat or a bone. They would return home every season, but every season they would leave again. Leave to fight and die, many have died. Aggripa’s mother had died, Aggripa’s father had died and now his siblings had died. He had not died though. He would go back. The fire started getting closer as the smell of burnt meat wafted past him. Aggripa’s stomach let out a yearning turn. He ignored it. The fire came closer in the distance, and so did the masters. They were not his masters though. These strangers were much bigger, there’s speech more guttural and their fur was more abundant. One of them spotted him and clutched his weapon in reaction. The other raised his weapon, one of those projectile teeth. The third waved a hand in front of the other two and said something. Agrippa squated down, pulled back his ears and began to vibrate with the instant fury, that only his kind could manage. The third stranger knelt to the ground and outstretched his hand towards Aggripa. Aggripa did nothing, he was frozen except for his lips which were curling higher and higher. The third master krept a little closer, Aggripa let out a panicked bark in warning. At this one of them loosed the tooth, Agrippa pounced at him, the projectile whistling narrowly past under his gutt. Bowling the master over as he landed, Agrippa sneered at him and then snapped wildly at the other, who came to help his comrade. Sensing that he was hopelessly outnumbered he bolted for the tree line of the nearby Woods. The shouts soon receded into the loud nothing and the cold. Aggripa kept running though. When he reached the tree line he looked back and saw no one giving chase. Instead he saw the field in all its horrors, bodies upon bodies burning. Those that were not, were half covered in snow except for odd limbs here and there that stuck out, looking like grotesque plants. The night masked the smoke, but it’s stink was palpable. Aggripa had escaped all of this. He would live. Then he felt the dull ache from his belly.

Agrippa was running like the wind, hearing nothing but the screaming of horses, shouting of masters and his own laboured pants as he sucked in the air with every stride. They were all charging towards a line of Shields and glinting sun. His frenzy got the best of him and he raced to try and overtake the horses. Perhaps he could overtake Proximo and assert his dominance. The wall of shields broke and started running towards the river. This seemed to encourage the Master of masters who raised his weapon in a fearful shout. All of them sped up in an answer of some sort. There was no slowing down now, the earth rocked and thundered below their feet. The enemy had disappeared behind the crest of a hill, they would catch them Though. The summit of hillock was cleared in a second, Aggripa saw that the shield wall had reformed within the bend of the river. These masters were trapped with the river behind them and the forest beside them. Aggripa lept at an exposed throat, as a mass of noise exploded around him. His teeth bit deep into the neck and remembering his training he did not stop to maul his prey, but rather lept onto the shield of another. Overpowering his next victim to the ground he viciously ripped the strangers face. The enemy were no match for the masters on their horses. They looked like they were compounding, yet they fought on. Some even managing to dismount masters and kill them. Proximo was not grey anymore but a blur of deadly red. He was protecting his master, who was hacking at any one who came close. Yelps and cries began to replace the fevered and angry growls and shouts. Agrippa for a moment, a split second, felt fear. It was at that moment that angry yells began to stream out of the nearby woods. They were not the voices of their masters, but of the strangers. The call sounded again, this was the signal to run away. It was too late. The horses ran into spears and fell. Aggripa’s siblings began to do dwindle. Still they hacked and stabbed there way out of the trap. When they got back to the summit of the hill, their situation was lay bare for them. For while they were attacking by the river. The enemy had brought up their own horses to attack. The beasts fell upon the isolated shield wall and had shattered it. The ground had turned to a scarlet sludge, a few of the enemy had conjured fire. The wind had turned though. With it the intended target of the fires. Fury griped Agrippa as he charged with bared teeth toward another victim.

Aggripa padded through the snow further into the woods. He heard the quietest of sounds as he trailed. He stopped here and there to try and locate the source of it. He quickly turned behind to try and catch a follower by surprise, all he saw there was a bloody trail leading them to him. The blood steamed in the cold as it pattered on the snow. The best thing for injury was walk. Aggripa was fine, he would simply walk it off. A few more paces and he became aware at how hard it had become to breathe. Every steps in the labour. He limped over to a broad tree and nestled between its roots. Rest seemed so very important. He did not see the stranger at first but when he did, was too tired to do anything. The stranger was bleeding from a wound in his chest. Aggripa stared at the stranger for what seemed years, the stranger stared back. He came closer and sat next to Aggripa. Aggripa did not fuss, they could kill each other after they had recovered their strength. The dull ache from his stomach had become a sharp pain. Aggripa moaned. “Shshsh” the stranger said stroking at Agrippa’s fur. Agrippa put his head on the knee of the stranger and looked up to see the stranger smiling at him. “Shshshsh” the stranger continued. Agrippa closed his eyes and died in the strangers arms.

Abram Petrovich

Stolen as a boy of 7 years old from his Home in Eritrea or Ethiopia(even he wasn’t sure where). It looked as if he would just be another nameless victim to that blight on human history that we call slavery. The Ottoman Turks where not known for treating their slaves with any bit of leniency. Yet if it was the goddess Fortuna who selected him out of thousands to be a peace gift for the great Russian Tsar Peter, then it was his sharp intelligence and surprisingly cunning military aptitude that first endeared The Great to the Slave.

He followed Peter on most of his campaigns. Peter even became the boys Godfather when the Emperor decided to have the boy baptized. Seeing his potential Peter sent him to learn the art of war in France. The young Moor, as he was so often called, distinguished himself very quickly as an engineer and a cunning artillery man. He even fought in French wars against Spain. The French made him a captain. He went back to his adopted home and became a military engineer, and remained a sensation in the Moscow court. After his great patron and adopted father died he fell out of favour with the new Tsar, who exiled him to Siberia. Still Fortuna had not forgotten our Moor and he was brought back when the Tsar died early. The new Tsarina(Empress) made him a Major-General and a Prince of the Russian Empire!

All this and he was never technically ever freed in his lifetime! The Slave Prince of Russia. He died a National hero and a inspiration to many future Generals( He Tutored Alexander Survorov, Russia’s greatest General and inventer of “shock and aw”. His Grandson was the Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

His tombstone effigy reads “Fortune has changed my life entirely. ”

The Big Time

So when I started comedy I was quite happy to assume it would be just a hobby, one that loved and was very passionate about but I never believed that could take me places. I think that was due more to my low confidence more than any lack of confidence in comedy. The world of stand-up comedy is very competitive. While stand-up comedians are definitely brothers and sisters, we are the type of brothers and sisters that compete. That sort of thing has never been my game, I just never saw myself as a contender. I was wrong though. I could compete at the highest level and comedy definitely could take me places. last year it took me all the way to Joburg, where I got to perform for close to 1000 people, at the Newcomers Showcase.

The Newcomers showcase is an event where comedians, who have only been practicing for under 2 years, come from all over the country and compete for the Newcomers award at the Comics Choice Awards. It’s a huge deal for any new comic for many reasons. Also it gives you a bite sized taste of life at the top. It’s incredible, they fly you up and put you up in a fancy hotel, it is hard not to feel like a big deal. That feeling however does not last because as soon as you meet fellow comedians you become distinctly aware that you are competing.

Hours before the event there was a press junket. As the picture above indicates, I was less than prepared. I have always held the view that I would rather be comfortable than good-looking. To a large extent that has carried over in my stand up. I would rather wear comfortable clothes that allow me to move around with ease, then look good and restrict my act. I don’t think I’m better than people that do make an effort to look good, just my preference. On that day though I definitely felt as if I missed an opportunity to stand out and set myself apart; usually I would not care but by that point the competition had started to bleed into our group. Which is something that only intensified as the evening continued.

There was this one douchebag who spent the entire night trying to get into people’s heads. After the press junket we all went backstage and we were given our order of appearance. That’s when the butterflies in my stomach started to wake up. What compounded that feeling was the fact that we had a TV with a live feed to the show, so everyone backstage could see how you were doing. So put yourself in that situation, but add to it a douchebag who just won’t shut up. What made it even worse was the fact that, the gossip backstage said anyway, that this douchebag was the designated winner! I still don’t know if that was true. With hindsite probably not, because he didn’t win, but most people were convinced that the higher-ups had chosen him. While I don’t think that is exactly true; I do believe that he knew about the gossip. It definitely fuelled his ego that night. Still credit where credit is due, that guy was very very funny.

We kept on being asked backstage by the corporate sponsors to Tweet things. I had a Twitter account but it was basically unused. I still don’t really know how to use it properly. It didn’t really help with the nerves, but I got it, no free lunch right? When one of the gorgeous promo ladies came around to ask me to tweet, I surrendered my phone and let her do it for me. Then they called my number!!! I ran to the centre of the stage. Looked at the audience, I just had to take it in. Even if only for a second. Then weeks of rehearsal took over and I performed my set. I started off a bit robotic, but after the first jokes landed with laughter I became more and more confident in my performance. Halfway through my set the 1% of my brain that wasn’t engaged in my set though;’ this is actually going quite well, you’re getting some decent laughter here’. Perhaps the confidence overtook me because by the end of my set I was so pumped that I ripped my shirt off! It basically killed that particular jokes chances of making it on the broadcast. Which is a shame because the audience loved it, and it’s a great joke. Even if I am being biased.

All in all it was a fantastic experience. One that I was really sad was over, not least because I had made so many new friends. I remember feeling sad because I thought I would never be able to perform for a crowd like that again. I thought I would never be at that level again…… That’s what I thought anyway.

A Barbershop Peepshow

I need a haircut, I’ll get a haircut. He thought as his reflection passed through the window panes of adjoining shops. He recalled when he was younger that he could not wait to grow up, but that younger self did not have this image in mind. He knew he was never going to be super thin or anything, he reasoned to himself, but he thought by now he would have…… He didn’t now. He started looking for excuses to justify the “or anything” line that he had briefly given himself. Diabetes, scary but in an odd way, he understood completely. It had totally gamified his life, days were devoted to keeping blood sugar scores down. If they were down enough for that day, he won. How many people get to win every day? He thought this is as he glanced at the Wimpy Next Door. The reflection also suffered from hair loss, which was also quite infuriatingly contradictory. It was true though, his head looked like a seemingly mighty forest, the tree line of which was the facade for the deforestation wreaking havoc within. He smiled warmly at his reflection, “ I still got it”. The elderly shop clerk on the inside smiled awkwardly at him and waved.

He had planned to go across town to his regular barber, but the winds of destiny must of been blowing that day. If they were he would not of known, being that he was inside of mall. Still what else could explain the fact that his reflection had strayed into the glass of a barber shop? Rotating white and red pole, looks legit. ‘The Cutting Edge’ He read to himself, I see what you did there. He turned away. What stopped him from doing a full turn was the proprietor. He then realised that the shop was empty, and his reflection across the window must have elicited hope of business for this barber. “Hi I’m just looking for cut, nothing fancy at all.” He added this last bit, as he stepped through the Barber’s threshold, to establish a modest impression. The Barber silently smiled. “You want a five or a six, maybe?” How did the Barber know? He nodded curtly with a smile as the Barber traipsed an apron over him. How did I get into this chair?. The barber seemed adept at his job. Still he was aware that he had embarked on a new relationship and adept as the Barber seemed to be, he didn’t know if he was ready. What did one say to a barber anyway? He had forgot.

“So what do you want?” Without knowing it the Barber had asked him the question that always stumped him when he visited hairdressers. When he was a young boy his mum had always ordered, “short back and sides please”. Well that was when she did splurge on a barber, mostly she had just cut his hair herself. To varying degrees of humiliation. One time he was just hanging out with his friend Danny, his mum forced a haircut on the both of them. “Eeeeeek!” Danny had exclaimed, “I look like a chicken”. With hindsight that comparison never really made sense, as his mum had buzzed most of Danny’s locks off. He’s supposed it made sense only in the way that stupid things could only make sense to kids. Of course the most famous incident of his mums bad haircuts came in high school. The first day of high school to be exact. Now when you’re a teenager, standing out is not really what you want to do. Of course you would like to be denoted as special……. In a good way though. The acceptable conformist way. The night before his mum had decided to give him a table top. I guess she thought that lumberjacks or American truck drivers were cool. Anyway he need not have worried. He would have gone to school that day sporting a that haircut, had she been even vaguely competent at cutting hair. Instead he went to school with what can only be described as a table that had sustained serious water damage, that had cause the middle of the table to sink downward. That or, Come to think of it, a half pipe for a simpler analogy. “short back and sides” he hopingly ventured. The Barber nodded politely. Oh good.
Snip,snip,snip the scissors whispered but he was more preoccupied with trying to figure out where the Barber was from. The Barber looked Middle Eastern, still he didn’t want to assume. Did it matter? Well no, he was just curious. Maybe that was the problem, maybe only him and racists cared about where people were from. Did he do a racism? He thought to himself very worriedly. “So, where are you from?” He asked hating himself. “Oh, I am from Morocco”, the Barber answered as he cut pieces of fringe. He knew Morocco! “Oh what part of Morocco”, he was very good at geography, mainly football geography because he had misspent his youth playing football video games, as a result he had come to learn about a lot of the football clubs from around the world. Indeed he believed he could name at least one club from every country. This germinated into finding out more about the cities in which these clubs played. “Ah, I am from Fez”. He searched the rickety rusty old cabinets of his memory, and thumbed through the alphabetized files until he came to entries under Fez. Dam it! He only knew of a football team in Casablanca, Raja Casablanca. Why couldn’t you be from Casablanca? He had split seconds to react, and only that. If he remained silent too long he would look like an unworldly fool! Suddenly though, as he was about to remain silent and admit defeat. A file appeared in his mind that was labelled, dye. A memory of a travel documentary surfaced, one in which Fez and it’s historic dyeing pits were the focus. He launched into an explanation in which he tried his best to play off that he knew even the most minutest details of Fez’s dyeing industry. He smiled, as a falling branch of hair brushed his lash, and thought that the Barber would certainly be impressed. “ah yes, as it has been for thousands of years” the Barber said almost bemused, not quite reaching the enthusiasm that he thought merited such an obscure fact. He was going to have to try a little harder, “yeah….. I only like things dyed the traditional way.” The Baber smiled a toothless lip stretch, as he replaced the scissors in his hands for a comb and a pair of clippers. A disagreeable fan gently moved newly cut trimmings around the floor. Outside the rotating hum of the barber pole punctuated the end of ,what he thought was, a successful breaking off the ice.

“So are you a local?” The barber asked as he grasped more hair in his hands. He thought about what to say, it seemed like a no-brainer but there also seemed to be reasons for a milliseconds amount of contemplation. For one thing, there was the outside chance that this barber could be a serial killer. He hadn’t heard any reports of people going missing recently. Still some poor unlucky person had to of been there every serial killer’s first. Maybe he wants to know so as to build up a hunting area of victims. It would make a lot of sense, maybe cutting hair is a crossover skill from his true passion. Yet that was always unlikely. A better reason for the pause was that he had a chance to tell the Barber anything. He could become a new person, just for however long time is left in the haircut. “I live just up the road”. The truth, nerves had gotten the better of him. Come on, he thought to himself. You’re never going to see this guy again. “and what do you do for work?”. His mouth watered, this was a juicy prospect. He could say he was an archaeologist just back from an exotic site. Most people don’t know that being an archaeologist is nothing like Indiana Jones, triggering booby traps in tombs and fighting Nazis. It was more about spending years in a dirt pit, and getting nearly inappropriately excited when finding small pieces of pottery. If he played his cards right though, to this Barber, he could be Indiana Jones. “I’m a teacher”. What the hell is wrong with you? The Barber was starting to move his attention to the back of his head, he hoped that boils on his neck would not put the Barber off. This was an outside fear that was ever present whenever he had his haircut. “That’s great, I really respected my teachers, what do you teach?” He was not going to fail this time. What to choose though? The possibilities were endless. Could he say that he taught astronauts? No that’s stupid. Astronauts don’t come from South Africa, except for the one guy but he was a millionaire. No, he just decided to forget the whole thing and tell the Barber the truth. “I teach ancient history”. Liar! He shifted uncomfortably in the chair, which creaked accusingly at him. The Barber merely smiled politely, as he always did, and gave the brief nod. He supposed that teaching ancient history only really sounded cool to him.

“so what brings you to South Africa?” Was that question to forward? He supposed that all depended on his tone. “it is not so easy to be a barber in Morocco.” What does he mean by that? He pondered the meaning of ‘difficulty’. Was it difficult because hairdressing was seen as not being a man’s job? Or was the difficulty because he was gay’ An angry chide shop across his field of thought like a referee brandishing a red card. Don’t make assumptions! That was quite true, male hairdressers being homosexual was a stereotype. Still he wondered why the Barber could not practice in his homeland. Everyone has a cross to bear. He decided to remember that more often. “I wanted to go to Spain”, the Barber began. “As it is close to –“. Oh God my head is itchy. “- so then a friend told me –“. Please combed that spot, please, please! “- then a few years ago I came here-“. It was very hard to concentrate on what the Barber was telling him, what with the fantasies of a comb, a nice pointy comb, sawing at the irritated patch of scalp. His eyes suddenly brightened up as he witnessed the Barber lifting his combing hand. The Barber whisked through his hair, almost telepathically reading his mind and starting at the itchy point. It was all he could do not to sigh as a tiny quiver of pleasure and relief vibrated through his body.

It seemed to be over, the Barber’s final trick was to wave the apron from him. He nodded approvingly as the Barber presented the product of his labour through a mirror. It was hard not to see the loose clumps of hair round the chair as the many throw away thoughts that now similarly unburdened his mind, just as the hair did not weigh on his head anymore. He rifled through his wallet as he moved to the cash register. The Baber told him the price and he gladly paid the man. As he palmed him the money. He noted with regret, that he had spent most of the session conversing with himself. Perhaps that’s as it should be, perhaps this is what haircuts are for? Still he smiled warmly and decided he would like to see the Barber again. The Barber smiled politely and nodded “Come again”.
“I will thank you.” He said as he stepped out of the threshold of the shop, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he meant what he had said.