'Tenkamenin' King of Ghana': "One of Many Great African Kings!"
As Presented by
Gregory V. Boulware
King Tenkamenin was born in what is now known as Ghana and Mali.He is related to us because his people were one of the first to create iron of metal tools in West Africa.
Ghana was extremely wealthy, often being referred to as the "Land of Gold." They controlled the trade route between gold and salt mines and offered protection to the traders in exchange for gold nuggets. The Ghanas received the nuggets and only allowed gold dust to be traded. In addition to the nuggets they also taxed the salt being traded. Ancient Ghana discovered iron and used it to make more effective tools and weapons. As a result, Ghana became a more powerful empire and had greater control over the trade routes. They also utilized the camel for their trading endeavors with other kingdoms.
Ghana was influenced by arab traders and was actually divided into two towns, one being muslim, the other housing the king and traditional society.
The traditional society was pagan and worshipped idols. However, many of the king's officials were muslim so arabic writing was used to record information. Also, arab architecture, such as mosques, were present in the muslim town.
Although some schools were in existence, much of the education was passed down through "griots," or storytellers. In the evening, people would gather around to hear the griots and would learn about their traditions.
Ghana produced beautiful fabrics. They used mud to make designs on cloth and then they let the sun bake the mud, creating a permanent design in the fabric. They also created many masks and figures.
Ancient Ghanians were very wealthy, due to their control over Western Africa's trade. The gold mines were in the south and the salt mines were in the north. Being located between these two was a huge advantage. Aside from taxes, the kingdom would gain money through silent bartering. Gold would be left at a special place for traders to take. If ample goods were not left in exchange, trade would be stopped. Rather than take advantage of this, most traders would leave more than enough goods in return. They were afraid that powerful Ghana would close them off.
Around the 12th century, a drought hit the kingdom. Most of the resources the area depended on, especially gold mining were cut short. The drought had a large affect on how the land could be used. What was once a fertile place brimming with cattle, sheep and goats, became dry and dead. Ghana slowly lost all of their trading power. The gold was mined in other places and the economy went elsewhere. Nearby civilizations began to attack the failing empire, starting with the Sosso people. In 1235, the Mali empire officially took over.
The country of Ghana reached the height of its greatness during the reign of Tenkamenin. Though his carefull management of the gold trade across the sahara desert into West Africa, Tenkamenin's empire flourished But his greatest strengh was not in economics, but in governance.
Each day Tenkamenin would ride out on horseback and listen to the problems and concerns of his people, he insisted that no one be denied an audience and that they be allowed to remain in his presence untill satisfied that justice had been done.
His principle of democratic Monarchy and religious tolerance made Tenkamenin reign one of the great models of African rule.
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Posted By: Gregory Boulware, Esq.
Monday, June 17th 2013 at 8:41PM
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