The Giant Black Catfish that Shook Japan
In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. “catfish pictures”) became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs.
The popularity of namazu-e exploded, and hundreds were available within weeks. However, the namazu-e craze abruptly ended two months later when the Tokugawa government, which maintained a strict system of censorship over the publishing industry, cracked down on production. Only a handful survive today; more can be seen here.
- Picture 1 - Namazu are normally kept under control by the god Kashima using a large rock. The Great Ansei Earthquake is said to have occurred when Kashima went out of town and left Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) in charge. In this print, the giant catfish unleashes destruction on the city while Ebisu sleeps on the job. Kashima rushes home while the city burns, and Raijin the thunder god defecates drums.
- Picture 2 - Earthquake victims take revenge on the giant catfish responsible for the destruction.
- Picture 3 - This print refers to the old Japanese saying, “The most frightening things are earthquakes, thunder, fires, and fathers.” Here, a namazu and the gods of thunder and fire discuss their powers over a fish dinner while a middle-aged man (father) looks on.
Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?
Most people haven’t heard of him.
But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.
His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.
He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his “business transactions” as philanthropic and scientific efforts under the banner of the “International African Society”. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.
Most of us – I don’t yet know an approximate percentage but I fear its extremely high – aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Its bad to “say racist things” (sometimes), but quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.
Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. Its 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-Socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind – this is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.
When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, potentially killing in upwards of 5-7 million people from bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.
There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking who’s interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict no less). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.
You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture doesn’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.
Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But this doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.
for further reading check out
Reblogging this mostly for the links, and also because I just heard Obama’s idiotic address and I am furious.
Mystery of the Black Mummy - Ancient Civilizations.
In 1958, an Italian archaeologist discovered the mummified remains of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy in a cave in southwestern Libya. But this was a mummy with a difference: it was far older than any comparable examples found in Egypt.
The culture that produced the mummy were cattle herders, and occupied much of North Africa, at a time when the Sahara was a savannah. Possible links with later Egyptian culture have also been found, including the representation in rock art of dog-headed human figures (resembling Anubis), and a type of pottery decoration later found in the southern Nile valley.
The mummy of a young boy, Uan Muhuggiag was destined for controversy. He was older than any comparable Egyptian mummy and his mere existence challenged the very idea that Egyptians were the first in the region to mummify their dead. Uan Muhuggiag was no one off. The sophistication of his mummification suggested he was the result of a long tradition of mummification.
The discovery raised some profound questions. Who were the ancient inhabitants of the Sahara Desert who put the mummy there? And what influence might those people have had on the glittering civilization that later emerged in the land of the pharaohs?
This fascinating film follows Italian professor Savino di Lernia and his colleagues on a trek through the Sahara in the search for answers — a journey that leads to some astounding conclusions.
This is absolutely amazing, and I’m not even surprised that they’ve found a mummy older than the ones in Egypt. Egypt clearly didn’t arise from nowhere, it shouldn’t be strange that there were earlier influences.
Some Ancient African Kingdoms: Great Zimbabwe, Numidia, the Mali Empire, the Songhay Empire. Since Europeans started to talk about and attempted to claim Ancient Egypt history (that popular kingdom people “love” but they don’t even know why), everyone followed…You can all have it.
- The Mali Empire or Manden Kurufaba was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I. The Mali Empire had many profound cultural influences on West Africa, allowing the spread of its language, laws and customs along the Niger River. It extended over a large area and consisted of numerous vassal kingdoms and provinces. Today part of Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal.
- The Songhay Empire was a state located in western Africa from the early 15th to the late 16th century. This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city of Gao (today in northern Mali), where a Songhai state had existed since the 11th century. Its base of power was on the bend of the Niger River in present day Niger and Burkina Faso.
- Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC) was an ancient Amazigh kingdom located on the province of Mauretania (Ancient “Libyan” land) to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern day Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south. Its people were the Numidians.
- The Kingdom of Zimbabwe (1220–1450) was a kingdom located in the territory of modern-day Zimbabwe. It is famous for its capital, Great Zimbabwe, the largest stone structure in Southern Africa until recent times.
Pictures: Great Zimbabwe ruins and remains of the Numidia Kingdom. Credits: List of Kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa
Yep, they can have it all.
Without slavery, however, the survey maps of the General Land Office would have remained a sort of science-fiction plan for a society that could never happen. Between 1820 and 1860 more than a million enslaved people were transported from the upper to the lower South, the vast majority by the venture-capitalist slave traders the slaves called “soul drivers.” The first wave cleared the region for cultivation. “Forests were literally dragged out by the roots,” the former slave John Parker remembered in “His Promised Land.” Those who followed planted the fields in cotton, which they then protected, picked, packed and shipped — from “sunup to sundown” every day for the rest of their lives.
Eighty-five percent of the cotton Southern slaves picked was shipped to Britain. The mills that have come to symbolize the Industrial Revolution and the slave-tilled fields of the South were mutually dependent. Every year, British merchant banks advanced millions of pounds to American planters in anticipation of the sale of the cotton crop. Planters then traded credit in pounds for the goods they needed to get through the year, many of them produced in the North. “From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South, to the shroud that covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes to us from the North,” said one Southerner.
As slaveholders supplied themselves (and, much more meanly, their slaves) with Northern goods, the credit originally advanced against cotton made its way north, into the hands of New York and New England merchants who used it to purchase British goods. Thus were Indian land, African-American labor, Atlantic finance and British industry synthesized into racial domination, profit and economic development on a national and a global scale.
When the cotton crop came in short and sales failed to meet advanced payments, planters found themselves indebted to merchants and bankers. Slaves were sold to make up the difference. The mobility and salability of slaves meant they functioned as the primary form of collateral in the credit-and-cotton economy of the 19th century.
It is not simply that the labor of enslaved people underwrote 19th-century capitalism. Enslaved people were the capital: four million people worth at least $3 billion in 1860, which was more than all the capital invested in railroads and factories in the United States combined. Seen in this light, the conventional distinction between slavery and capitalism fades into meaninglessness.
the bolded part tho…
The most surprising part about this is that there are people this doesn’t infuriate.
The 1945 French Massacre in Setif & Guelma Algeria
TW: Savagery, brutality, violence, horrific images.
Despite the fact that most of the fighting against the Axis forces and Vichy France in North Africa had been conducted with honour and dispatch by Algerian troops the French decided to celebrate the victory of the Allies (a small part of whom were French) by committing an act of barbarism and genocide that echoes to this day. In one weekend of violence they murdered 45,000 Algerians.
Peaceful demonstrations had been taking place across Algeria for some months against the unfair treatment of indigenous Algerians (an oft-mentioned example was the reservation of bread for Europeans, the others only having the right to barley) and 15,000 people had protested in the streets of Mostaganem earlier without any incidents.
On May 8, 1945, a day chosen by the allies to celebrate their victory over Nazi Germany, thousands of Algerians gathered near the Abou Dher El-Ghafari mosque in Setif for a peaceful march - for which the sous-prefet had given permission. It was a market day.
At 9am, led by a young scout Saal Bouzid, whose name had been drawn for the honor of carrying the national flag, the demonstrators set off. A few minutes later the crowd, chanting ‘vive l’independance’ and other nationalist slogans, came under fire from troops commanded by General Duval and brought in from Constantine.
Saal Bouzid fell dead, becoming a national martyr. The scene soon turned into a massacre - the streets and houses being littered with dead bodies. Witnesses claim terrible scenes, that legionnaires seized babies by their feet and dashed their heads against rocks, that pregnant mothers were disemboweled, that soldiers dropped grenades down chimneys to kill the occupants of homes, that mourners were machine gunned while taking the dead to the cemetery.
A public record states that the European inhabitants were so frightened by the events that they asked that all those responsible for the protest movement should be shot. The carnage spread and, during the days that followed, some 45,000 Algerians were killed. Villages were shelled by artillery and remote hamlets were bombed with aircraft.
A Colonel in charge of burials being criticized for slowness told another officer ‘You are killing them faster than I can bury them.’ These incidents led to the upsurge of the PPA and ultimately, 17 years later to the country’s independence. In the retaliatory violence that immediately followed 104 Europeans were assassinated, but by the end several thousands were to die.
These incidents were particularly hard for Algerians who had fought the Nazis alongside the French forces, some of whom came home to find that their families had been decimated by the troops of General de Gaulle.
Led by the FLN (the national liberation front) the independence struggle caused France to draft in thousands of troops. In spite of opposition by Europeans living in the country a cease-fire was agreed to in March 1962. An extremist wing of the Army, the OAS, expanded its campaign of murder, torture and destruction, carrying on despite the cease-fire.
Survivors say that to this day France as a colonial power ‘has not had the courage to recognized its crimes. carried out in its former colonies and that it pretends to be a champion of human rights’.
Ending the liberation war, the Evian Agreement declared that extremist French soldiers (both regular, OAS and pieds noir irregulars, would not be prosecuted for crimes carried out in Algeria.
Both Chirac and Le Pen served in Algeria in the French Army.
“Advanced dentistry techniques allowed Native Americans to inset gemstones to their teeth as far back as 2,500 years ago. The early dentists used a drill-like device with a hard stone such as obsidian, which is capable of puncturing bone. The ornamental stones—including jade—were attached with an adhesive made out of natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones.”
The Dahomey Amazons
The Dahomey Amazons were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey (now known as Benin). They were named so by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the legendary Amazons described by the Ancient Greeks.
King Houegbadja (who ruled from 1645 to 1685), the third King of Dahomey, is said to have originally started the group which would become the Amazons as a corps of elephant hunters called the gbeto. During the 18th century, the king had some of his wives trained as royal bodyguards.
Houegbadja’s son King Agadja (ruling from 1708 to 1732) developed the female bodyguard into a militia and successfully used them in Dahomey’s defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727. European merchants recorded their presence, as well as similar female warriors amongst the Ashanti. For the next hundred years or so, they gained reputation as fearless warriors. Though they fought rarely, they usually acquitted themselves well in battle.
The group of female warriors was referred to as Mino, meaning “Our Mothers” in the Fon language by the male army of Dahomey.
From the time of King Ghezo (ruling from 1818 to 1858), Dahomey became increasingly militaristic. Ghezo placed great importance on the army and increased its budget and formalized its structures. The Mino were rigorously trained, given uniforms, and equipped with Danish guns (obtained via the slave trade). By this time the Mino consisted of between 4000 and 6000 women, about a third of the entire Dahomey army.
The Mino were recruited from among the ahosi (“king’s wives”) of which there were often hundreds. Some women in Fon society became ahosi voluntarily, while others were involuntarily enrolled if their husbands or fathers complained to the King about their behaviour. Membership among the Mino was supposed to hone any aggressive character traits for the purpose of war. During their membership they were not allowed to have children or be part of married life. Many of them were virgins. The regiment had a semi-sacred status, which was intertwined with the Fon belief in Vodun.
The Mino trained with intense physical exercise. Discipline was emphasised. In the latter period, they were armed with Winchester rifles, clubs and knives. Units were under female command. Captives who fell into the hands of the Amazons were often decapitated.
Conflict with France
European encroachment into west Africa gained pace during the latter half of the 19th century, and in 1890 King Behanzin started fighting French forces in the course of the First Franco-Dahomean War. According to Holmes, many of the French soldiers fighting in Dahomey hesitated before shooting or bayoneting the Mino. The resulting delay led to many of the French casualties. Ultimately, bolstered by the Foreign Legion, and armed with superior weaponry, including machine guns, the French inflicted casualties that were ten times worse on the Dahomey side. After several battles, the French prevailed. The Legionnaires later wrote about the “incredible courage and audacity” of the Amazons. The last surviving Amazon of Dahomey died in 1979.
Through my recent readings I’ve learnt that the king’s wives weren’t really always married to him. Wife was used to refer to someone below the king in status, like even European merchants could be regarded as the king’s “wives” (because they needed something from the Dahomeans eg slaves). And most of the ahosi were either the king’s slaves or dependant on him in some way.
In 1808, Napoleon, running out of scenic holiday destinations to invade, somehow totally forgot about his neighbor to the south, Spain. So that year he dispatched his troops, kicking off the Peninsular War.
Only 20 years old and working as a barmaid in the town of Valdepenas, Juana Galan was not expecting a surge of French soldiers to come storming through her village. But on June 6, that’s exactly what happened. At that time, most of the men were fighting Napoleon’s forces elsewhere in the nation. Juana, unfazed by things like rifles and Frenchmen and French riflemen, began organizing the women in her village to form a trap for the approaching army.
When the army arrived, Juana and her friends were ready. They dumped boiling water and oil on the French troops, which by all accounts will instantly take the fight out of pretty much anyone. Then Juana, armed with only a batan, beat back the heavily armed French cavalry with her squad of village women, almost none of whom were armed with guns.
The French retreated, giving up on capturing not just Juana’s town but the entire province of La Mancha, leading to ultimate Spanish victory. Today, she is seen in Spain as a national hero, a symbol of resistance, strength, patriotism, feminism and hitting shit with a stick.
The emir of Kano, the ruler of over two million Nigerians, exits from his 150 year old palace. (credit: Magnum-George Rodger)
My uncle’s one of the advisors to the emir of Zaria. Northern Nigeria’s swag is too clean.
SOUTH SIDE REPRESENT.
remember that time we were almost baller but then were defeated in a civil war