The History of Africa with Zeinab Badawi, Series 2

After I left the BBC in 2014, I worked on the first of two documentary series with Zeinab Badawi on the History of Africa, from its inception in the offices of UNESCO in Paris, where we came up with the idea while on a visit to talk about something else entirely, through film making trips to 13 African countries over the next few years and many hours of editing and scripting.

I had a fantastic time travelling around in jeeps and landcruisers, small planes and speedboats with African crews – witty, knowledgeable, talented guys, experiencing the impressive heat of the deserts of Sudan and safaris on the plains of the Serengeti, filming the surreal Italian art deco architecture of Eritrea’s capital city, and the stunning remains of the Roman cities of Algeria. Zeinab and fellow producer Lucy Doggett and I had such fun making this series and to say I learned a lot would be something of an understatement. Now the programmes are available to watch on BBC News Africa’s Youtube channel.

Watch Series 1 here: The History of Africa Series 1

Scroll down to watch Series 2
(the first two are available now. The rest will be added once they’ve been aired on the BBC)

I hope you enjoy them. Bridget Osborne, Editor, The Chiswick Calendar

Episode 11: City States and Civilisations

In this episode, we see how city states and kingdoms gave rise to rich and diverse civilisations, including some of the most iconic works of art on the continent: the Benin bronzes, dating back to the 13th century. Zeinab Badawi travels to Nigeria where she is granted a rare interview with the  King of the Benin kingdom in southern Nigeria. She meets the Queen Mother of Lagos, at her ancestral palace on Lagos Island where she relates the history of the Yoruba people. And Zeinab also has an audience with the former governor of Nigeria’s central bank who became the Emir of Kano, one of northern Nigeria’s Muslim city states.

Episode 12: Coast and Conquest

In this episode Zeinab Badawi starts with a visit to some of the most sensational historic sites in Africa: the Swahili coastal settlements of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique on Africa’s Indian Ocean coast. Zeinab then relates the tragic history of how the arrival of the Arabs in this part of Africa marked the start of an international trade in many millions of enslaved Africans. The Arabs and their Swahili partners were the first outsiders to trade in humans on the continent from as early as the 7th century. She highlights how this trade differed from the much later trans-Atlantic slave trade, and how some Africans today view this painful period in their history.

Episode 13: Southern Kingdoms

In this episode, Zeinab Badawi travels to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia to find out about the powerful kingdoms of southern Africa and their rulers from the 10th to 19th century, like the Mutapa kingdom that stretched across portions of eight modern-day southern African countries.  We hear about one military ruler who repeatedly saw off Portuguese invaders, and we admire the incredible ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the largest stone settlement in Africa south of the Sahara. Foreign  visitors could not believe that this towering civilisation dating from the 1100s was built by Africans. The reality is that Great Zimbabwe is the most striking example of the kingdoms that flourished in southern Africa.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 14: The Golden Stool

In this episode, Zeinab Badawi travels to Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire to  find out about the history, myths and legends of the Asante people. We attend the Akwasidae, a colourful festival where the ‘King of the kings’ of the Asante – known as the Asantehene – has his retinue and gold regalia on full display as a way of projecting wealth and prestige. And we hear about the great Asante queen who led the resistance against the invading British and concealed from them the Asante’s most valued and sacred possession: the Golden Stool. The Asante serve as an example of how despite decades of colonial rule, Africans maintain their traditions and continue to revel in and perpetuate their heritage and customs.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 15: No Longer at Ease

In this episode, Zeinab Badawi provides an overview of  how Africans lived before the arrival of Europeans. We see indigenous religion in practice in Kenya and meet a traditional medicine practitioner in Congo. In Uganda, we witness traditional justice in action as community elders adjudicate in a matrimonial dispute. We hear from one local king who reminisces about how life was compassionate and ordered under old African systems. And one chief and his family in Zambia provide insights of traditional village life before the disruptive influence of Europeans. The title describes a people who were becoming ‘no longer at ease’ in the run up to one of the ugliest chapters in human history: the transatlantic slave trade.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 16: Slavery and Suffering

Much is known about enslaved Africans once they arrived in the Americas and Europe, but in this episode Zeinab Badawi looks at the impact on Africa itself of one of the most evil chapters in human history: the trans Atlantic slave trade. She travels to several countries to see how, where and why this trade began in Cabo Verde in 1510. She meets a man on the Senegalese island of Goree who for 35  years has been relating the story of slavery to thousands of visitors. And leading academics tackle the controversial subject of why some Africans helped sell their fellow Africans into slavery.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 17: Slavery and Salvation

In this episode, Zeinab Badawi visits Ghana and sees how momentum in the transatlantic slave trade led to competition for enslaved Africans between European nations who built numerous slave forts along West Africa’s Atlantic coast. She hears about the inhumane conditions in which slaves awaiting shipment were kept and how women were selected and subjected to rape by their captors. Also what do African academics believe were the main reasons behind abolition and why did many Africans return to the continent such as to Liberia? And how were they received by local communities?

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 18: Diamonds, Gold and Greed

In this episode, Zeinab Badawi travels to South Africa and Zimbabwe and sees how southern Africans gradually came to grasp the destruction and suffering that would be inflicted upon them by white settlers. We find out  how the original inhabitants of the Cape tried to resist white settlers and the cruel reprisals they endured. We hear about the story of Shaka, King of the Zulus from a descendant of his family and how he helped reshape the map of modern southern Africa as well as the heroic battles of Shaka’s successors against those intent on seizing their riches and land:  the greed for diamonds, gold and other resources that impoverished Africans and enriched white settlers, likes Cecil Rhodes.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 19: Kongo and the Scramble for Africa

In this episode Zeinab Badawi travels to Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Congo in central Africa to bring the history of the great Kongo Empire. She hears about the critical role played by women in African history such as Queen Nzinga who battled the Portuguese for a quarter of a century in the 1600s and a few decades later Kimpa Vita who was burned alive after her failed resistance. Why were Africans unable to resist the tide of European control? One woman of nearly 100 relates her memory of Belgian rule in the Congo, during what became known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC

Episode 20: Resistance and Liberation

In the 20th episode Zeinab Badawi makes a huge and broad sweep across Africa examining the struggle for freedom, even in the face of bloody crackdowns: a veteran Mau Mau fighter in Kenya, a member of the resistance in Algeria’s brutal war of independence, from one African president whose ancestor fought the French and from the grandson of the Mahdi who defeated Britain’s General Gordon.  And she talks about that heady time of independence with the families of three of Africa’s best known independence leaders: Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Congo’s Patrice Lumuba and Senegal’s Leopold Senghor as well as the son of the legendary Nigerian singer Fela Kuti.

Video link to be added once the programme has aired on the BBC