31. Saga of Shaka Zulu <pg. 5>


Life is like unto a river,

Ever flowing, ever changing.

When the rains of Zulu winter,

Swell its banks, the Umfolozi

River rushes towards the ocean.

And its waters, once so tranquil,

Turn into a raging torrent.

So it was that Malandela’s

Sons began to test each other;

And one day they separated,

Qwabe moved to Empangeni;

Zulu to Mtonjaneni.


It was there that Zulu prospered,

Giving birth to many children.

From his seed there sprang Ntombela,

And from his, the fearless Phunga.

This “Nkosi” of the Zulu

Was succeeded by Mageba,

Who, in turn, then sired Ndaba.

He is was that when reclining

Was as long as rushing rivers;

He it was that when he stood up,

Was as tall as towering mountains.

He, in turn, gave birth to Jama.


Jama was that mighty warrior,

“Standing firm twixt lion and leopard”,

Who gave birth to many children.

Among them was Senzangakhona,

Who in praising him the bards say,

“He it was who made a rope that

Reached a place in highest heaven,

Where no other man could climb to.

Thus it is that all the Zulus

Trace their roots to Nkosinkulu,

Grandfather of Malandela,

Father of Qwabe and Zulu.

32 . BMA III Part I: Capoeira & Congo < pg. 8 > This book was originally conceived as a “trilogy of Capoeira” with the title “Capoeira: From the Roots to the Fruits”. Part I was to deal with the African roots of Capoeria; Part II with the inner nature of capoeira (i.e. its philosophical underpinnings) as manifested in its song, rhythms, and images (icons); and Part III was to deal with its outward manifestations as a martial art, a dance, and as a physical excercize.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to visit Angola, and I feel a book about the origins of Capoeira without such a visit is like building a house with no foundation. Moreover, while in Panama, I discovered a remarkable dance ritual from the Congo [See Congo wall mural, from Isla Grande below] which reminded me so much of Capoeira that I decided to write about the two arts in a single volume.

Although these arts are superficially as different from another as a “male” and “female”, I hope to demonstrate here that they have a great deal more in common than first meets the eye. Whereas Capoeira is a mock-combat between two men, Congo is a mock-combat between a man and a woman. In both “games” the aim is not to defeat an opponent, but rather to cue the adversary to defend himself / herself. Moreover, in both games:

  • the combatants must stay in rhythm with the music which is played throughout the contest.
  • a combatant tries to anticipate the movements of his / her adversary and tries to oblige her / him to break rhythm;
  • there is “call and response” singing accompanied by drummed music throughout the match;
  • there are a prescribed number of set attacks and defenses, but the performance is spontaneous and un-choreographed; and
  • both cunning and malicia play a more important part in the development of the contest than strength

Moreover, both games are of supposed Bantu (Congolese) origin that were further developed in the context of slavery in the American diaspora – Capoeira in Brazil, and Congo in Panama and both dances incorporate many bird movements and motifs.

The purpose of this volume is fourfold: 1) to provide a brief socio-historic description of the Black populations of Brazil and Panama; 2) to present a detailed account of the nature of Capoeira; 3) to provide an abbreviated account of the Congo dance ritual of Panama; and 3) to point out the similarities between these two African “martial” arts. This study does not claim to be definitive; but rather, it is hoped, will serve to awaken interest and pave the way for further studies in martial arts of the African diaspora.

While conducting research for this book I came upon a passage on pg. 55 of the New York Times (Sunday, September 18, 1994) in which it is stated that Capoeira is “something between an animal-mating ritual and a break-dance competition.” Though this description is not flattering, it is worthy of note that Congo can, in fact, be seen as a mating-ritual, and thus the two art forms (Congo and Capoeira) not only have a great deal in common, but also have the same “raison d’être – the preservation of the species.

33 . BMA IV Part I: Northern Nguni Stick-Fighting <pg. 41> Although we don't get to see as much stick-fighting as we did in Zululand, that doesn't mean that it is less frequent. In an interview with Mandlenkhosi Masuku we learn that stick-fighting in Swaziland is called kulwa ngetinswati. He says:

When stick fighting we use two sticks. The attack stick which is usually held in the right hand is called luswati; whereas the defensive stick, held in the left hand, is called umviko. We start to learn how to fight with sticks when we are still young - between the ages of 6 and 10. The abelusi spend time stick fighting with each other when they are looking after the cows, but this isn't serious fighting. The bigger boys will pit you against an equal. If you prove to be good they will match you (kuvulelwa) with an older boy. If you are very good, they keep changing your partners until you gain a spot among the older boys. At this point you don't use anything to protect your left hand; because the sticks are like reeds. As you fight you learn various tactics and skills by yourself. You really don't need two sticks. In fact the second stick really delays you.

Another Swazi informant on stick fighting is Michael Nyamane Bhekumusa Cindzi who was born in 1983 in Malandi, near Pigg's Peak. His praise name is Incwala. Michael tells us that the Swazi name for stickfighting is kuvikisana and that there are three types of sticks in Swaziland: 1) lingedla; 2) umboyi; and 3) infonga. The lingedla and intfonga, he says, are used in stick fighting; whereas the umboyi is used for hunting.

When asked to show me some moves in Swazi stick fighting, the only sticks he can find are 3 chair rounds which he assembles into two fighting sticks. Michael (pictured on next page) says:

We start learning to stick fight when we are about 7 years old. Our older brothers are the ones that teach us. I was given the name Mavikane which means "someone who knows how to protect himself". Even now my ribs are hard.

The attack (shaya) stick, which is about 3' 4" long is held in the right hand near the end; whereas the parrying stick (viga), which is 4'8" long - is held in the left hand near the middle.

To challenge an opponent you say nanso yakho ("Here is yours") and the response of someone who accepts the challenge is yakho nawe ("and here is yours." When fighting you strike at the arms or the trunk. The challenge is made to demonstrate one's strength. You know who the winner is because the defeated person will run away.

We do stick fighting at the Lusekwane at Lobamba in December before the Little Ncwala when the moon is full. We begin in the morning around 10:00 AM and end in the evening. The fighting occurs after cutting the lusekwane at Entsabeni Mountain in the pasture (edlelweni).

Stick-fighting is also performed when herding cattle to show that you are virile. I am a herd boy myself. In the morning I open the gates and let the cows go to pasture. Then I go to school. After I come back home, I go out to get the cattle. That's when the fighting happens. We like to stick fight because it helps to make us strong for war.

With respect to tactics you can crouch low to reduce your enemy's target and enable you to strike low. Moving backwards and forwards helps you adjust your position so that you can better defend and or attack. We usually don't hit very hard, but if we are angry we aim for the head. We use a special stick made from the intfonga tree which doesn't break. The lingedla, on the other hand, is made from a special tree (umtelemba) which is easy to carve.

34 . BMA III Part II: Danmyé / Ladjia / Wonpwen < > <Introduction > The purpose of this volume is to introduce the reader to a fascinating danced-combat of African origin that was brought to Martinique by enslaved Africans. Known variously as ron-point (wonpwen), danmyé and ladjia, in different parts of the island of Martinique it is nevertheless the same art for it can be convincingly argued that: “ladjia” (from the French la guerre = war or battle) refers to its combative aspect; “danmyé” to its drummed aspect; and wonpwen / ron-poin (round point = traffic circle) to its “physical setting” - that is, the place where the combat takes place. Thus, just as their Catholic Religion conceives of God in three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), so danmyé can be conceived of in its three aspects, namely: 1) combat (ladjia); 2) music (danmye), and 3) the circular place where fighting and music simultaneously take place (ron-poin).

Though some investigators maintain that rond-poin is derived from ron –poing (rounded fist posturing or a particular circular delivery of a fist blow) rather than rond-point (traffic circle), this is an academic question which has little relevance to the nature of the combat.

Other scholars (e.g. Josy Michelon) contend that Ladjia is a corruption of Kadjia (a traditional wrestling combat from the Basantché people of Benin); but this assertion, too, though effectively linking the combat to an African Martial Arts tradition, falls in the realm of speculation as is her contention that kokoyé (another term once used for the combat) derives from kokoulé (a wrestling form from the Kotokolis of Benin).

After having been exposed to the local Creole, I am convinced that the word ladjia is derived from the French word “la guerre” meaning battle or combat. There is a tendency in Creole to change one-syllable French nouns (like “guerre”) into two syllable words by prefixing “la” or “de” – e.g. lari (< rue), lanmen (< main), diriz (< riz), difé < (feu), etc. in order to conform to certain African morphologic patterns (e.g. as in the case of Yoruba where verbs typically consist of one syllable but nouns usually consist of two or more syllables). Moreover - given that: 1) the hard “g” sound (as in “goat”) changes to a “dj” sound (as in George) when it occurs between two vowels in the same word; and 2) the definite article in Creole (“the”) is attached to the end of the word in the form of “la”, “an” or “a” (e.g. loto-a = the car) - it is quite obvious why the French construction “la guerre” becomes “ladje + a” = ladjiya”. The dictionary entry for “war” in Martinique Kwéyol (Creole) is, in fact, ladjé and “the war” is rendered “ladjé-a ”. It is thus not necessary to seek its etymology in an African language [For etymology of danmyé see pg. 75 ].

Regardless of the meaning of the name given to this danced combat art, however, it is obvious to all investigators that “Danmyé / Ladjia / Wonpwen” (like Capoeira in Brazil) was invented and further developed by Africans and peoples of African descent.

For purposes of presentation, I will henceforth refer to the sport as Danmyé, which – by the way - sounds suspiciously like “dambé” (the traditional boxing art from Northern Nigeria). Despite this “abbreviation”, however, the reader should not discount the other two aspects of this fascinating tradition. For a complete description of “dambé” boxing see pg. 17-38 of the first volume of this series.

My first direct exposure to danmyé occurred during a brief stay in Martinique from March 24 to April 18 of 2001 and nearly all the first-hand information in this volume was obtained directly from “A.M.4” members during that visit. A. M. 4 – by the way - was founded in 1986 by some 46 individuals and is an acronym for the AssociationMis Mès Manmay Matinik which means the Association of “Hereare (Mis) the customs (Mès)of the People (Manmay) of Martinique(Matniik).” The presentation is here supplemented with information obtained from various AM4 publications and other sources listed in the bibliography.

35 . Adventures of Dan Aiki: Books VI – X (pg. 43)

The dambe boxers marched in front,

Led by the brave Shago.

A boxers who with fists of steel

Had vanquished every foe.


He shouted as he marched along,

His famous battle cry.

“Who dares to fight with me should first

Kiss wife and child good-bye.”


Then came the giant black man

Known as Baleri,

Who carried magic medicines

So he’d protected be.


With them, too, was Zaki,

Red Lion with fists of stone,

If he struck you anywhere

He’d surely break a bone.


Zaki the Red Lion,

Who fears no man nor host

For he’s a hardened warrior

Who dances with the ghost.


The crafty Sani was among them,

“The Master of All Tricks”;

As well as Audu Malle,

“The kite that frightens chicks.”


And among the boxers was

Umaru as well,

Who when facing an opponent

Would always “give him hell”.


There was Idi of the Nupe

Whose skin was very bright.

He was evil through and through

A manly man of might.


Gundumi, “brain-smasher”,

Was there to lend a hand.

He was known by friend and foe

As the “Havoc of Hausaland”.


And there was Mai Kirtani,

“He of the Knotted String”,

Who feared not man nor animal

Nor any earthly thing.


One can’t forget the drummers

Of Ado Dan Kwaure,

Who sang their leader’s praises

As they marched along the way.


As they advance they drum and sing;

And as they sing declare:

“If our leader’s not afraid,

What have we to fear?


In the thick of battle,

We’ll move forward without fright.

For only boys and cowards,

Would rather flee than fight.”


The foot-boxers then followed,

Known for their kicks and sweeps.

The brave man comes; the coward stays

In the village where he sleeps.


The Shanci unit followed

And shouted out with glee:

“We are fearless pagans who

From battle do not flee.



36. Lore of the Caribbean Part I: The Black Caribs < pg. >According to the official version, the night that the British stormed Dorsetshire Hill ( Rise and Fall of the Black Caribs: pg. 40):

“A vigorous skirmish ensued with the Caribs well on the way to carrying the day. Chatoyer for his part, had by this time become fully convinced of the truth of the legend that he could not be killed by mortal means. He allowed his vanity to run away with him and he made the fatal mistake of challenging Major Leith to a duel. Leith was a trained army officer and would have obviously been proficient with the sword. Chatoyer, who had put himself at this disadvantage was killed. For Leith it was a pyrrhic victory as he died soon afterwards, it was said, from the exertions of war.”

If Chatoyer had really been killed in a duel on the hill, his body would surely have been paraded in town by the British (as a trophy), which it was not. Indeed, I too have serious doubts about the official story of Chatoyer’s death. To me, the official version, smacks of the broad daylight duel between the Shakespearean characters Macbeth and Banquo. In that version Macbeth also believed he could not be slain by anyone born of woman and that he would “never vanquished be till Birnam Wood to high Dunsinaine Castle march”.

Dr. Kirby also informs us of his belief that the ancestors of the first Black Caribs came to St. Vincent from Mali before Columbus and that this is the reason the ship-wrecked Africans were welcomed on the island. According to Kirby, the Caribs (who were already part Malian) believed that the slaves came from their ancestral homeland. For a presentation and discussion of this theory see entry #1 in the History Glossary and “They Came Before Columbus”, below.

37. Black Religiosity <Introduction > Before beginning this study of “Black Religiosity”, it is appropriate – and indeed imperative - to define precisely what I mean by “Religiosity” and “Black”. Here “Religiosity” is considered to be a collection of ideas or beliefs which attempt to define the nature of man and his relationship with his natural and supernatural environment. By “Black”, I mean those individuals or collections of individuals (i.e. communities) of the world who trace their ancestry to Africa, be they residents of that continent or members of its remote (e.g. the Negrito populations of Southeast Asia and Melanesia) or recent (e.g. Blacks of the Americas and the Indian Ocean) Diaspora. In short, “Black Religiosity” is the world-view of peoples of Black African descent.

It must also be clearly stated at this juncture that there is no monolithic Black community. That is, various Black nations or communities most certainly have different languages, cultures, religious beliefs, and deities. Yet, there appears to be an underlying religiosity which unites them and to some degree distinguishes them from White communities that are by and large adherents of the so-called “revealed” religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) or of secular cults.

It must also be clearly stated here that though many Black communities in the world consider themselves (and are considered) to be god-fearing Muslims, Christians, or Jews, it is still possible to detect at least some elements of an underlying African religiosity which colors their particular brand of Islam, Christianity or Judaism either as individuals or as groups of individuals.

The purpose of this book is not to enumerate or discuss the plethora of collections of religious belief held by Black communities around the world (i.e. the so-called Black “religions” or “cults”); but rather to identify the basic elements of what I call Black Religiosity and to show how they manifest themselves in selected tropical Black communities. It will be clearly shown in this book that, regardless of the proclaimed “religious affiliation” of an individual (Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, etc.), this underlying Black religiosity manifests itself in a variety of ways.

The methodology employed in identifying these underlying elements rests largely on an analysis of religious testimony offered by Black individuals living between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn - that is, that band of the world lying between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator.

In addition to some general information obtained from writings on the subject by other authors dealing with Haiti, Philippines, and the Solomon Islands, this book contains testimonials from Black individuals residing in such disparate lands as Africa (South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Nigeria), the Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Seychelles, Comoros, Reunion), the Pacific Ocean (New Caledonia), Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua), South America (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil) and the Caribbean (St. Vincent & the Grenadines).  

38. Adventures of Dan Aiki VI-VII <pg. 8>

When I posed the question,

The third Queen then replied:

“It’s not a donkey or a camel

Nor a horse men mount and ride.”


Looking at me tenderly,

She then said as she sighed:

“The mounted creature’s not an animal;

It’s your chosen bride.


At puberty your hormones boil

And passions build inside.

And if your life’s to be fulfilled

You must go seek a bride.”


And so it was that at fourteen

I set out on a quest

To find a bride, to learn to ride

And set my heart at rest.

39. Black Cuisine of the Tropics: We Are What We Eat & Drink - < pg. ABSTRACT> is a unique attempt to describe the cuisine of Black peoples of the Tropics with sufficient context to give the reader a greater appreciation of the toil, time, and effort involved in food-getting and food-preparation. The reader, therefore, is not only provided with recipes, but is also given descriptions of the farming, fishing, gathering, and trapping techniques employed to obtain the necessary ingredients used in the preparation of Black tropical cuisine.

Liquid delights include utshwala (from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa); rhum arrangée (from Reunion), kava (from Fiji and Vanuatu), coca-leaf tea (from Bolivia & Peru), special rice chicha (from Ecuador), api (from the Andes), kalou (from the Seychelles) trembo (from the Comoros), fresco de cebada ( Peru), and baboha (a watery tuber, from Madagascar).

Cuisine highlights include laplap (from Vanuatu), goat and dumplings (from South Africa), raiketa gasy (from Madagascar), a tantalizing red-fish dish (from the Philippines), fried, boiled or stewed cuy (from Ecuador), rondón (from Nicaragua), christophene (from Martinique), Carib bread (from Honduras), feijoada completa (from Brazil), gourmet Swazi cuisine (from Swaziland), ceviche (from Peru), octopus curry (from Rodrigues), fruit bat (from Madagascar), halim soup (from Mauritius), egg cutlats & special fish treats (from the Maldives), and many many others.

Throughout the book one finds descriptions of Black community life, detailed accounts of such topics as Nguni cattle, types of fish and fauna consumed, etc. as well as some of the author’s “most memorable meals” with a description of the setting in which they were experienced. Moreover, in the event the reader decides to visit any of the countries discussed, this book indicates where he or she can go to find this or that dish.

Though all regions of the Black tropics have been covered (i.e. Africa, Indian Ocean, Melanesia, Greater Melanesia, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean), the book does not pretend to encompass every aspect of tropical Black cuisine. Rather it attempts to present representative dishes of each region which when compared with one another may reveal a greater commonality than one might have imagined. Indeed, just as Black music and dance can be said to have derived from a common source, perhaps the same can also be said about their culinary arts.

Finally, this book also contains a useful glossary which describes in great detail some of the important food stuffs (arrowroot, bananas, breadfruit, cocoa, manioc, nutmeg, provisions, etc.) utilized in the tropics and provides interesting facts about them. There are also glossary entries dealing with other related topics including one about special utensils fabricated to prepare, store, and consume food and drink.

40. Folktales, Legends, and Stylized Speech of Madagascar & Their Meanings < ABSTRACT > consists of excerpts from my Lore of Madagascar and aims to present a number of popular Malagasy tales and traditions to the reader in a shorter and more affordable publication. This text contains examples of folk literature [i.e. folktales (angano), stories, traditions, legends, riddles, proverbs, sayings, and stylized speech] from 28 of Madagscar’s 51 indigenous ethnic groupings as well as the author’s interpretation of their meanings.

Here, the reader is exposed to: the fascinating hira gasy tradition of the Merina; the kabary and rijo traditions of the Betsileo; the riddle-making of the Bara; “walking or hanging adages” inscribed on lambas; etymological tales of the Sihanaka; blood-brotherhood tales of the Betsimisaraka, Antaisaka, and Antambahoaka; ghost tales of the Sakalava; the trickster tradition of the Antaisaka; fishing stories of the Antanosy, and much more – all of which reveal important Malagasy concepts about life and living. One also finds numerous accounts of how and why the various ethnic groups call themselves what they do as well as the etymology of a number of place names.

Among the most important socialization topics dealt with in the folktales appearing in this volume are: fady (taboo), tsiny (fault), fafy (blessing), sorona (sacrifice), vintana (destiny), fatidra (blood-brotherhood), valim-babena (responsibility to one’s parents for them having raised you), fihavanana (“being kind to one's relatives”), razana (the role of the deceased ancestors as protectors), group loyalty, and the joys of life.

It is hoped that the reader will not only find the readings entertaining, but will also obtain a greater understanding of what it means to be Malagasy. Moreover, it is hoped that s/he may be motivated to incorporate into her or his life those elements that s/he may deem particularly appropriate.