With Africa Day coming on Monday, 25 May, we’re eager for programming that celebrates African heritage, history and unity – particularly those of us with children who want to go beyond the classroom and the textbook. Award-winning Sudan-born journalist Zeinab Badawi is back taking on the challenge of painting an insider’s portrait of the continent in History Of Africa S2.
Zeinab has deep ties to Africa. Her grandfather, Sheik Babikr Bedri, championed women’s education in the Sudan, and he founded the school that went on to become the al-Afhad University For Women. And Zeinab intends to help tell Africa’s story through African mouths as she interviews local experts across the continent to expose a vast, rich series of tales of kingdoms and rebellions and independence struggles. It’s time to bust those stereotypes and educate the children.
“For too long, Africa’s history has been maligned, misrepresented and misunderstood, but with these 11 new episodes we hope audiences across the world can enjoy an in-depth exploration of African history, as told by Africans. In the first series of History Of Africa, we went all the way back to the origins of humankind, and concluded with the early spread of Islam throughout Africa. The second series will continue the journey, right up to the modern day,” says Zeinab.
On the map
The scope of the series is dramatic. This season covers events from the 8th to the 20th centuries. And local fans may be pleased to know that it will focus on Southern Africa in the 23 May episode, just before Africa Day. In the meantime, here is a taste of the breathtaking stories to come:
- Episode 1: Zeinab visits little-seen ruins in Mali and Mauritania in West Africa, including the fabled Timbuktu, as an introduction to the vast trans-Saharan Desert trade empires.
- Episode 2: Zeinab interviews the King of the Benin Kingdom in Southern Nigeria about the famed Benin bronze artworks, and the Queen Mother of Lagos at her traditional palace on Lagos Island to learn about the history of the Yoruba people.
- Episode 3: The civilisation of the Swahili people is traced through their coastal settlements in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique before and after the arrival of the Arab slave trade along the Indian Ocean coast. Zeinab will explore how this period of slavery, starting from the 7th century, is viewed by Africans today, and how it differered from the Transatlantic slave trade.
- Episode 4: Zeinab finds out about the powerful Southern kingdoms in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia – including the Mutapa Kingdom, which covered eight modern Southern African countries, and Great Zimbabwe – and their rulers between the 900s and the 1800s.
- Episode 5: This episode is dedicated to Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, the Asante people, their kingdom and their myths. Zeinab attends the Akwasiade festival in which the King of the kings of the Asante displays his regalia, and she learns about the mighty Asante queen who kept her kingdom’s most powerful and meaningful treasures safe from British invaders.
- Episode 6: How did Africans across the continent live before the arrival of Europeans? Practitioners of traditional religion, medicine and justice reveal centuries old techniques for handling disputes, managing politics and everyday life, and healing the sick across Kenya, the Congo, Zambia and Uganda.
- Episode 7: Zeinab confronts the harm done and the long shadow cast in Africa itself by the centuries of Transatlantic slave trade. One man on the Senegalese island of Goree tells the story of slavery as he’s been telling it to tourists for the past 35 years, and academics discuss the whys of Africans selling other Africans into slavery.
- Episode 8: In Ghana, Zeinab visits the slave forts along West Africa’s coast and uncovers the inhumane conditions that slaves were imprisoned in, along with evidence documenting how women were selected for rape. But along with the bloodshed, she journeys to Liberia to look into the abolitionist movement and the first slaves to return to Africa.
- Episode 9: We return to South Africa and Zimbabwe to explore the devastating clashes between white settlers and local populations. Zeinab examines what happened to the indiginous population of the Cape when they tried to resist the invaders, and highlights the battles of the Zulu against Europreans with a thirst for land, gold and diamonds – and labour to work them all.
- Episode 10: The great Kongo Empire encompassed territory in modern-day Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Congo in central Africa. Here Zeinab focuses on the role of women like Queen Nzinga during her 25-year battle against the Portuguese, and Kimpa Vita, who paid a barbaric price for resistance. And one centenarian reflects on the time of Belgian rule.
- Episode 11: In the final episode, Zeinab gathers freedom and liberation struggle histories and talks to families of leadership figures in struggle and uprising from around the continent, and she even meets fighters from different resistance movements like the Mau Mau.
History Of Africa S2 starts on Saturday, 2 May on BBC World News (400) at 15:10.
How to watch History Of Africa S2 online
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Looking for more resources?
History Of Africa has its roots in UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) long-running General History Of Africa project.