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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

Don E. Walicek

in the study of Creole languages, was born on 13 June 1933 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His parents were Coleridge Alleyne, a builder and contractor, and Carmen Alleyne, an elementary school teacher. He has two children, Malou Alleyne-Harrison and Trevor Alleyne.

As a young man, Alleyne studied in Port of Spain’s Queen’s Royal College. He was later awarded a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies. This allowed him to complete his B.A. in Spanish and French in Jamaica. Alleyne completed graduate work in linguistic dialectology in France, where he worked at Lyon’s Institut de Linguistique Romane. His doctorat d’Université, the equivalent of a Ph.D., was awarded by the University of Strasbourg.

In 1959 Alleyne returned to Jamaica and began working at the University of the West Indies at Mona as a lecturer in Romance philology and French medieval literature He became one of ...

Article

Belinda Cooper

Anton Wilhelm Amo, brother of a slave, was brought to Germany from the Gold Coast in 1707 as a gift from the Dutch West India Company to the Dukes August Wilhelm and Ludwig Rudolf von Wolfenbüttel. Although it was the fashion at the time in Europe to make blacks servants or clowns, the dukes raised and educated Amo as a nobleman. They then sent him to the university in Halle, where he became acquainted with Enlightenment thinkers such as Christian Wolff, Christian Thomasius, John Locke, and René Descartes. His first work, published in 1729 and now lost, concerned the rights of Africans in Europe. Amo received his doctorate in 1734 with a thesis on the duality of body and soul and made his mark as a lecturer in philosophy at the universities in Halle Wittenberg and Jena At a time when many Europeans ...

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

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

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

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

Jeremy Rich

Atlantic slave-trade survivor presented as a gift to Britain's Queen Victoria, was born in the early 1840s in or near the southern Beninese town of Okeadon. Her birth name is not known, but her marriage certificate would list her name as Ina Sarah Forbes Bonetta, perhaps indicating that her original name was Ina. Southern Beninese states had fought for years against the inland kingdom of Dahomey for autonomy, as the slave-trading empire sought to force its southern neighbors to pay tribute and accept Dahomean control over the slaves that were often sold to European and South American merchants. In 1846 Dahomean soldiers seized her and killed her parents during the Okeadon War between Dahomey and its enemies in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta after a traitor had allowed Dahomean troops entry to the town Bonetta was fortunate she did not join the 600 or so town residents ...

Article

Daryle Williams

alias Paula Brito, pardo writer, translator, and publishing entrepreneur, often called the father of the Brazilian black press. Born on 2 December 1809 to Jacinto Antunes Duarte, a carpenter, and Maria Joaquina da Conceição Brito, Paula Brito took the surname of his maternal grandfather, Martinho Pereira de Brito (c. 1730–1830), commander of a pardo (colored) militia regiment and a disciple of famed mulato sculptor Mestre Valentim. He spent his early childhood in Rio de Janeiro, a bustling Atlantic port-city undergoing tremendous changes following the arrival of the Portuguese Court in 1808, before settling in Suruhy, near the upper reaches of Guanabara Bay. The young boy learned to read and write in the household of his older sister.

Returning to the capital in 1824 Paula Brito entered the burgeoning world of print culture first as an apprentice in the national printing office and then as an editor for ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer, the son of Colonel Joseph Burton and Martha Beckwith Burton was born on 19 March 1821 in Torquay, Devon, England. As a military officer in the British Army, Joseph Burton traveled regularly, and his son Richard grew up in France and different Italian states. He showed early in life a tremendous gift for learning languages, and he eventually mastered Arabic to the point he regularly passed for an Arab or Persian or an Indian Muslim. Burton was admitted to Oxford University in 1840, but his wild behavior eventually led to his dismissal in 1842. His taste for adventure led him to join the British colonial army in India, and he first visited Africa en route from England via the Cape of Good Hope to Mumbai (Bombay). From 1842 until 1849, Burton mastered Arabic, Farsi, and Hindustani as he served as a British intelligence officer.

Burton ...

Article

Ari Nave

Sir Richard Burton spoke twenty-five languages and multiple dialects, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Marathi, Punjab, Arabic, and Hindi. During his travels he observed an enormous range of cultural practices, which he documented in forty-three manuscripts. He also wrote two books of poetry and four volumes of folklore.

Born in Torquay, England, Burton was raised by his English parents primarily in France. He briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1842 for insubordination. He then joined the Bombay army, and served in India (in present-day Pakistan) until 1850. Working as an intelligence officer, Burton learned to impersonate Muslim merchants. His reputation was called into question and his military career cut short, however, when a rival officer spread word that Burton had been investigating homosexual bathhouses in Karachi, failing to divulge that Burton had done so under orders from a senior officer.

After returning to France and ...

Article

Hubert Devonish

was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 10 October 1907, to a Canadian father, Walter Clarence Cassidy, a car salesman, and his wife, Camilla (née Gomes-Casseres), of Kingston, Jamaica. Quoting from Frederic Cassidy’s unfinished memoir, his daughter, Claire, reports that although his grandmother died when he was only 6, “he never forgot her dialect, Papiamento …her tonality and accent as well” (Cassidy, 2002, p. 2). He was descended on his mother’s side from Portuguese Jews who settled in the Dutch possession of Curaçao in the Caribbean and were central to the development of Papiamentu, a Portuguese-lexicon Creole. He would have occasion to record the probable influence of these same Portuguese Jews on his native English-lexicon Jamaican Creole in words such as sabi (know) and pikni (child) from the Portuguese saber and pequenño respectively He had a lot of remembering to do Even though he left Jamaica the land ...

Article

Martin Tsang

As a second-generation, Cuban-born Afro-Chinese (his father was Chinese and his mother Afro-Cuban), Chuffat Latour’s Chinese heritage originated with the more than 125,000 indentured laborers who arrived on the island between 1847 and 1874, primarily from China’s southeastern Guangdong Province. He was born while both African slavery and Chinese indenture were active in Cuba and, as such, witnessed as well as formed part of the growing Chinese presence on the island. In addition, his generation of Chinese and mixed Chinese Cubans experienced the struggle for independence from Spain (1868–1898), the gradual abolition of slavery (1870–1886), and the US military intervention (1898) and occupation (1899–1902). Like fellow Afro-Chinese Cuban Wifredo Lam (1902–1982), this generation envisioned on a large scale an ethnically homogenizing national identity later theorized as transculturation by Fernando Ortiz.

Being of mixed race Chuffat Latour was positioned in ...

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 ...