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Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

Article

Stanley M. Burstein

grammarian, historian, and the author of the most important surviving accounts of ancient northeast Africa and the Red Sea basin. Unfortunately, little is known of the details of his biography. The only sources for his life are a few autobiographical remarks in the fragments of his works and a notice in Codex 213 of the Bibliotheca of Photius the ninth century CE scholar and patriarch of Constantinople These references indicate that Agatharchides was born probably about 200 BCE in the city of Cnidus on the west coast of modern Turkey and that his origins were comparatively humble Probably in the early second century BCE he immigrated to Egypt where he came to the attention of an official and adviser of Ptolemy VI r 180 145 BCE named Cineas who made Agatharchides his protégé It was probably Cineas who also introduced him to another Ptolemaic official the historian and diplomat ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese evangelist and translator was born in Gombe a village inhabited by Kakwa speaking clans in the northeastern corner of the modern day Democratic Republic of Congo This community suffered greatly from slave raids launched by Zande chieftains like Zémio and Mopoï living to their north in the late nineteenth century However the threat of northern raiders was hardly the only challenge for the young boy His name Akudri signified one who waited since he was born after his mother was pregnant for more than nine months He also bore his father s name Dada which means one who has no family This would indeed be Akudri s own fate since an epidemic of meningitis killed his parents and all his siblings when he was very young The boy barely survived himself A grave was dug to prepare for his funeral by other people in the village but he managed ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Jacob Emmanuel Mabe

the first African and black professor and philosopher of the European Enlightenment, was born in the coastal Ghanaian town of Axim. The background of his travel to Europe can only be speculated about. It is only certain that Amo was given over to Herzog Anton Ulrich von Wolfenbuettel-Braunschweig in 1707 as a slave of the Dutch West Indies Company. At that time he could have been eight years old, because he was baptized on 29 July 1708 in Braunschweig. In addition to German, Amo could speak Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, and English.

In 1727, Amo entered the University of Halle, where he studied philosophy and law. On 28 November 1729, he presented his first disputation, De jure maurorum in Europa (On the Rights of Black Peoples in Europe which unfortunately remains lost In this work Amo acts as an advocate of the equality of all people ...

Article

Lutz Marten

Tanzanian linguist and academic, was born in Mwanza, Tanzania, on 1 January 1947, as the eighth child of Michael Masalu, medical assistant, and Melania Humbo. The family lived in the suburbs of Mwanza, a provincial town in the northwest of what was then Tanganyika. Before his birth, two of his father’s cousins had come to visit the family, but, because his uncle had mistreated him when he lived with them as an orphan, his father turned them away with the words “batiboyi abakanibyaala It is not them who gave birth to me These words were used to call the newborn child in the Sukuma culture Batibo s ethnic group children are named according to events or circumstances at the time of birth The long name was soon shortened to Batibo and used as his surname At Batibo s christening the Bavarian priest administering the baptism found the ...

Article

Frances J. Santiago

a sociolinguist specializing in ethnology and the study of the Creole language, was also a devout Guadeloupean wife, mother, and grandmother. She was born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on 7 April 1935. She was the granddaughter of a plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and her father married a mulâtresse who was an agricultural worker on his father’s plantation. Bébel-Gisler has said that her education stemmed from the paternal heritage, yet her rich cultural background and the imagination it cultivated stem directly from her mother’s humble origins.

As an adolescent Bébel Gisler was sent to France for her high school education In France she studied in Toulouse where she prepared for admission to college studies Demonstrating her great talent in French she was the only student to receive the Prix Spécial de Français which brought with it a grant that gave her access to the Grandes Écoles prestigious higher education establishments in ...

Article

Rasheed Olaniyi

Ulli Beier, author, curator, and publisher, is preeminently associated with Yoruba art and culture, through which he distinguished himself as a quintessential poet, photographer, curator, author, translator, and publisher. Despite the cultural differences, Beier effectively integrated into Yoruba cultural norms and values. He joined the Yoruba society in 1950, and literally never departed. Beier interpreted his childhood through Yoruba cultural norms and worldview. He was a twin (ibeji), abiku child (a child “born to die”), and a dada child (one distinct in birth). As he noted, if he had been born Yoruba, he would have been a Sango devotee. He referred to himself sarcastically as Obotunde Ijimere, Sangodare Akanji, and Omidiji Aragbabalu. His colleagues and admirers refer to him as “Blackman in white skin” and “German-born Yoruba man.” He was known as the “white African” who defended African cultural heritage.

Beier was born in Glowitz Germany ...

Article

historian, Egyptologist, educator, and Pan-Africanist, known popularly as “Dr. Ben,” was born in Gondar, Ethiopia, the son of Krstan ben Jochannan, a lawyer and diplomat, and Tulia Matta, a native of Puerto Rico, who was a homemaker and midwife. Both parents were Jewish: his father was a member of a Jewish Ethiopian people then called the “Falasha,” or Beta Israel, and his mother was descended from Spanish Sephardic Jews. The couple met in Madrid, Spain, where Matta was attending college and the elder ben Jochannan was a diplomatic attaché. Soon after their marriage, they traveled from Spain to Ethiopia where their son, Yosef, was born.

Ben Jochannan spent his earliest years in Ethiopia but after age five he was raised in the Americas He said in later interviews that in the 1920s the Ethiopian government sent his father to Brazil to help develop the coffee trade of that country ...

Article

Roxanna Nydia Curto

best known as one of the founders of the Créolité movement, which sought to forge a uniquely Creole identity and reject the central tenets of Negritude, was born in Lorrain, Martinique.

Trained at the University of Paris V, Bernabé completed his doctorate in Antillean Creole in 1982. His thesis “Fondal-natal: Grammaire basilecticale approchée des créoles guadeloupéens et martiniquais” was published in 1983 by L’Harmattan, and is the first large-scale study of an Antillean Creole by a native speaker of the language. He is also an agrégé of grammar and holds a docteur d’état in linguistics. Bernabé is currently professor emeritus of regional languages and cultures at the University of Antilles-Guyane, Schoelcher campus. During his time on the faculty there, he served as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for several years.

In 1975 after becoming a professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

Jonathan Brennan

African Seminole Black Seminole leader warrior and interpreter was born in the mid eighteenth century and joined the Seminole nation in Florida one of the many groups of African Seminole Indians who fought to maintain an autonomous and independent nation There are few written records to reveal the early life histories of the many escaped Africans and American Indians in the maroon communities across the Americas and Caesar s life proves no exception By the time his exploits were recorded in U S military records Caesar was well acculturated to Seminole life and politics and thus he had probably been a longtime member of the Seminole nation His work as an interpreter between Native Seminoles and the U S military however reveals his early upbringing among English speaking Americans He grew up in a time of intense conflict between the Seminoles and European colonists and had become a seasoned war ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

North African translator, was born near Tunis in the early eleventh century (scholars estimate between 1010 and 1015). Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) was famed for introducing many principles of Arab medicine and scientific enquiry to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The first known biographies of Constantinus Africanus were written and modified by Christian monks from the monastery of Monte Cassino. This occurred several decades after his death. As such, much of the information on the life of Constantinus must be seen trough the lens of these monastic sources. As a convert from Islam to Christianity, he was held up not only as a rare success of conversion but as an example of the intellectual accomplishments of Monte Cassino.

The writings of Petrus Diaconus a monk at Monte Cassino who wrote one of the earliest biographies claimed that Constantinus Africanus was born in Carthage and traveled throughout the ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

classical and modern philologist and university administrator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Mary Ann Fennick Davis (1853–1892) and Prince Nelson Davis (1838–1910). After early training at the Avery Normal Institute in his hometown, Davis matriculated at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation he taught Greek and Latin at the Howard Academy from 1907 to 1911. In June 1911 he earned his M.A. from the department of Latin at the University of Chicago, with a forty-nine-page thesis titled “The Conditional Sentence in Terence” (1911) on the use of the conditional clause in the work of the African-born playwright Terence (fl. 170 bce). After returning to Howard, Davis served as associate professor of Greek and German from 1913 to 1919 and professor from 1919 on. By 1920 he was teaching courses on Demosthenes and Euripides as well as Goethe Lessing ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean-born Ethiopian linguist, Africanist scholar, and political activist, was born in Asmara, Eritrea. He was fluent in several European and African languages including Italian, French, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, and Tigrinya, his mother tongue. His main area of expertise was linguistics, with particular focus on the Semitic languages of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but his intellectual interest covered a broad spectrum, including history, policy studies, and culture.

Demoz graduated from Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1957 and later studied linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received master’s and PhD degrees in Semitic languages in 1959 and 1964, respectively. Demoz started his professional career at Haile Selassie University, where he taught and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1964 to 1967 He was also a ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

early Congolese Protestant, skilled translator, and author, was born to a Kikongo-speaking family in the town of Padwa, located in northern Angola. At a very young age, Dundulu became the ward of his powerful uncle Tulante Mbidi. Dundulu’s uncle was the chief of the village of Lemvo and a regionally renowned ivory and slave trader. This territory was under the domain of the Kongolese monarch Dom Pedro V, who brought the British Missionary Society minister William Bentley to Dundulu’s village in 1879 Bentley was trying to learn Kikongo and found Dundulu to be an excellent instructor With the consent of Tulante Mbidi and the Kongolese king Dundulu became Bentley s teacher and colleague He displayed his gift for language by quickly learning how to read and write Bentley called him Nlemvo after the name of his home village Bentley believed this word meant obedience in Kikongo but it later ...

Article

Emilio Jorge Rodríguez

was born Nidia Maria Enrica Ecury on 2 February 1926 in the fishing village of Rancho in the western region of Oranjestad, Aruba. She was the daughter of Nicasio Segundo “Shon Dundun” Ecury, a first-generation freeborn Aruban businessman and honorary consul of Haiti in Aruba, and Ana Paulina Wilhelmina Ernst, of German descent and a native of Curaçao who was a famous pastry chef. Nydia was the younger sister of the Aruban war hero Boy Ecury (1922–1944), a member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II, who was captured and executed by the German forces occupying the Netherlands. The family mansion where Nydia was born is a fine example of colonial architecture and is now the home of the National Archeological Museum of Aruba.

Ecury completed her studies in English literature and journalism in Canada and established herself in Curaçao in 1957 where she worked as ...

Article

Charles Geshekter

Somali linguist and cultural historian who devoted his life to demonstrating the inestimable value of the Somali cultural heritage, was born in northern Somalia. An alternate spelling of his name is Musa Haji Ismail Galaal. He grew up as a camel herder and, during this period, learned oratorical skills that made him a superb public speaker. He attended qurʾanic schools and maintained a lifetime commitment to Islam. Galaal served in the British military during World War II, then became a teacher, and was selected in 1951 to work with the linguist B. W. Andrzejewski at the University of London to help develop a system of writing for the Somali language.

Muuse recognized the inextricable connections between the Somali language and Somali oral literature He tested potential scripts by transcribing oral poems recited by old men of frail health and then reading them back aloud He spent many weeks at the bedside ...

Article

Ethan Michael Key

active in Naqamte, Western Oromia, Ethiopia during the first half of the twentieth century. She is most remembered for being part of an Oromo language translation project in Eritrea, which produced both the Macaafa Qulqulluu (Holy Bible, 1899), translated by Onesimos Nasib, and the Jalqaba Barsiisa (Oromo Spelling Book, 1894), co-authored by Aster and Onesimos.

Born around the year 1870 in the independent Oromo kingdom of Limmu Ennarya in the Gibe River region, Aster was “enslaved by way of reprisal when her people refused to build the king of Limmu a new residence” (Arén 1978: 295–296). In 1886 she was on a ship crossing the Red Sea when the Italian coast guard intercepted liberating the slaves onboard because the Italian government sought to increase its presence in the Red Sea including its future colony of Eritrea After this she went to the Swedish Evangelical Mission at Imkullu ...