Updated: Jan 15
Welcome to, '5 ancient African kingdoms I would love to see a Netflix series about'! This post is like my selected Netflix shortlist for a series on ancient African kingdoms. Needless to say, the below aren't the only ancient African kingdoms, and it's ranked in no particular order. I decided to set it up like a digital comic almost, because when I envision a series about them, I just think it would be so sick if it could be partially animated or something. Considering it is such old information, I felt like a comic type style would make that kind of series super fun to watch. Plus, I just wanted to have fun with it!
There is so much to discuss regarding these kingdoms, but I wanted to share some of my more light hearted thoughts on some ancient African kingdoms that I would love to see a Netflix series about and a couple of reasons why. Also, I wanted to humour you guys a bit. Watch this space lol.
By the way, each of these kingdoms has a really rich history, and I cant go into too much detail in this particular post. So if you want me to focus on each kingdom individually and do more content around them, let me know!
To be honest I'm really putting Netflix on with this blog post because it's a dope idea. Why hasn't it been done yet I do not know, but if it does happen then you know you saw the idea here!
@Netflix wake up!
1. The Mali Empire
I saw a post on Twitter about a company that named themselves 'Timbuktu' - or something along those lines. They trademarked the name and I am not sure how they managed to get away with that, considering it's the name of a city belonging to one of the most successful African kingdoms in history.
The Mali Empire was founded by the great warrior diplomat, King Sundiata Keita. Also referred to as the richest civilisation in West Africa. Sundiata ruled the kingdom between 1230-55 A.D. Sundiata was labelled a man of great foresight, who extended the kingdoms, boundaries and enforced excellent law and order throughout his time as ruler. He encouraged agriculture, especially the cultivation of cotton and the mining of gold. To this day, he is recognised as one of the most important leaders in African history. But after his death, there was a period of confusion where multiple rulers took control of the kingdom. The iconic Mansa Musa took control of the kingdom after the previous ruler Abu Bakr had reportedly gotten lost at sea, when he went to tour the Atlantic ocean. The kingdom had been expanded by previous rulers, uniting several smaller, Malinké Kingdoms near the Upper Niger River and spread across parts of modern-day Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. At the time of Mansa Musa's ruling, the Mali Empire protected itself with a well-trained, imperial army and found itself known as the epicentre of trade, as it was located in the middle of trade routes. The empire lasted for over four centuries.
At the time of the empire, it housed the largest library in the continent with almost a million manuscripts held there. It also was the source of half of the world's gold supply. The Mali Empire was also home to the richest man in history, Mansa Musa.
In the 14th century, Mansa Musa's name and the Mali empire, became synonymous with opulence, learning and justice. There is a mosque located in Djenne built by the Malian Emperor Mansa Musa in the 1320's, some record the date of completion to be around 1927. Its made of mud and is still maintained till today, showing that the Malian architecture was one of a kind.
All I'm saying is this... I would love to see a Netflix series about Mansa Musa's hajj to Mecca, and all the things he encountered. It's said that people outside of West Africa did not know much about the Mali Empire, before Mansa Musa underwent his travels. So I wonder what he did and what he saw along the way..
2. The Kingdom of Kush
The Kingdom of Kush was a kingdom in the region corresponding to modern-day Sudan. It was birthed in a region named 'Nubia', of which the capital is 'Meroe'. The region of Nubia (which is where the kingdom was later founded was inhabited since. 8,000 BCE. Firstly, let's discuss what 'Nubian' actually means, because its ambiguous. Some say that the term 'Nubian' is derived from the ancient Egyptian (Coptic language) word 'nub' meaning 'gold'. Others have stated that the term comes from the earliest settlers of the region, being a tribe called the 'Nuba' or ' Noba'. In literature, there are vast reports of Nubian people being extremely diverse, speaking different languages and having different ethnic appearances, although I am not sure how much I attest to that - I think they may have been one race but different ethnic groups all mixed.
Anyway regardless, Nubia describes the region to the North-east of Africa, with the river Nile running right through the centre of it. While Nubia was divided into two parts, the Upper and Lower regions, it was the Upper Nubia region where the Kingdom of Kush resided.
What I find particularly interesting is the way the lines of the Kingdom are drawn. We know there was an Upper and a Lower part of Nubia, but the boundaries were also established by certain points in the river Nile - these were called 'Cataracts'. There were 6 of them, going from the 1st Cataract (where Nubia begins), to the 6th one which is North of the modern capital of Sudan, Khartoum. The boundaries play a huge part in the Kingdom of Kush' history, and some of the great tales that have come out of it. For example: around the 4th cataract was the old capital named 'Napata'. This was the southernmost territory for the Kushite to settle. So technically to avoid conflict, the Kushites should not have been edging any further than that if they were respecting Egypt and its boundaries. I think it is also really important to note (because this can be confusing), that the Nubian civilisation is what birthed the 'Kingdom of Kush' - they are one in the same. Let's keep going.
I mentioned in the last section that Nubia and the Kush Kingdom were one in the same; that's important because the Kingdom of Kush did not 'officially' come about, without the involvement of nearby neighbours, Egypt. Historically, the Kingdom of Kush has always been tied to Egypt, and most of what is known about the Kush are from Egyptian sources. Some have deemed this as problematic because the Egyptians and people of Nubia were rivals, and so there may be many biases included in historic literature by Egyptians, on their interactions with the Nubian people. Typically, the Nubians were described as hard to control, but fiercely independent.
The Nubian civilisation was so powerful and advanced during it's time; this was demonstrated by the way the people lived. Housing and buildings were made from mud brick and stone rather than straw, and copper and gold were being used to produce luxury items such as jewellery. Farming began to develop, and the Kingdom consistently remained affluent for over a thousand years; bustling with the trade of gold and iron. In fact, gold was in ample supply in Nubia, and it is said that this is what interested the Egyptians most in the place. In fact, as Nubia developed, it continued to pose a greater threat to Egypt, especially when the city of Kerma rose to power in the 3rd cataract.
I'll explain how Kerma sort of turned everything on its head... one of the main advantages was that any invasion of Kerma from the direction of Egypt would mean that ships would have to unload before they reach the 3rd cataract, otherwise they'd simply be destroyed by its rapid flows and sharp rocks. Likewise, even if you weren't looking for any trouble and you were a tradesman looking to do business in Nubia, you'd still have to unload all your cargo and any passengers, to be able to make it through the third cataract alive. So Kerma acted as that base, just passed the 3rd cataract where traders can base off after travelling through dangerous river tides. It offered a market place for them, to exchange goods from the North with those who lived further south down the Nile. The more Kerma grew, the more difficult it became for Egypt.
I think what sold me on including this ancient kingdom in my Netflix shortlist was the ongoing conflict with Egypt. Mainly because you never hear about this in history, Egypt have always been depicted as this prestigious, unique kingdom, and apart from what is accounted for it in the holy book (the Bible), you don't really know much about what people from that region endured during history. According to an inscription that was found in the Egyptian city of Elkab, the Nubians actually moved in on it, and looted the Egyptian territory. Taking with them: statues, vases, daggers, and other valuables. The Egyptians did try to respond and move in on Nubia, but it was too late, as their reputation had already been damaged by the Nubian attacks, and it was greatly questioned, how the Nubians had the audacity but also the resource, to launch attacks so far down the River Nile. The conflict between the two continued for over 90 years, but by 1460 BCE, Egypt finally managed to conquer Nubia, under the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570-1069 BCE). However, by 1069 BCE, the New Kingdom of Egypt was in decline, after political tensions shook the stability of the region. They no longer posed much of a threat to the Nubian people, and there was actually an opportunity for Nubians to reclaim their land. This empowered them once more; Egypt was struggling to manage it's own resources, people and conflicts. Further North of the Nile, a Kushite king named 'Kashta' who was in the city of Napata (4th cataract approx.) decided to conquer Egypt between the years of 785 BCE and 765 BCE, pushing the boundaries of the Kush Kingdom into Upper Egypt (lower Egypt remained outside of his control).
They founded the Kingdom of Kush once Egypt had floundered, and the capital was moved from Napata to Meroe. Kushites became the power in the region, and even ruled Egypt as the 25th Dynasty, meaning the monarchs of Kush were also the pharaohs of Egypt. A tradition of the Kushites was also to mummify their dead, and build different types of pyramids in which their ancestors are buried in. The capital of the Kushite Kingdom, Meroe still houses the ruins of over 200,000 pyramids, which is even more than you can find in Egypt.
So this is where the culture of "mummifying" came from. I always used to see this depicted in movies without even really knowing why this used to happen. "Mummies" have been depicted as scary, mythical monsters that chase after you and eventually convert you to their un-human, corpse-like state - take the popular film collection 'The Mummy' (1999) and 'The Mummy Returns' (2001), it always showed people trying to escape from a kingdom where mummies are a catalyst to the movie, and pose a great threat alongside the main antagonist.
3. The Kingdom of Ghana (Wagadou)
The Kingdom of Ghana existed between 750 AD and 1076 AD and was also known as 'Wagadou'. It was located in Western Africa, in modern day Mauritania, Mail, and Senegal. The Kingdom was said to be wealthy from the exports of gold, ivory, and salt. This apparently made the kingdom so rich, it's "dogs wore golden collars, and its horses, which were adorned with silken rope halters, slept on plush carpet". Most of what is documented about the Kingdom of Ghana, was done so by Arab travellers, who wrote about the time that they had come in contact with the inhabitants of the kingdom. "Ghana" was the title given to Wagadou kings, and it was used by the Islamic writers to describe the rich and mysterious place they saw.
The kingdom was said to be established as a nation a tribe known as the 'Soninke', - they are who is credited in history books for building the Wagadou state and expanding its territories. People described it as a civilisation that was located in the perfect place for trade, and so when the kingdom acquired a large part of the upper Niger and Senegal rivers, it became central to the trans-Saharan industry of trade.
The political ideologies of the people who inhabited this kingdom is what caught my attention. It was a place where hierarchy was clearly defined and observed to the highest regard. The leader of all was the king, also known as the 'ghana', or war chief. He laid down the law of the kingdom, controlled all administrative trade activity and was the commander in chief of a highly organized army. This was evident by the way the kingdom was able to expand.
The Ghana would run the kingdom in a very diplomatic way, with a firm hand of course. Citizens were permitted gather and voice any complaints that they had about life in the kingdom, be it conflicts with neighbours, or cases in which they wanted to dispute a violation of their rights. The king would listen, and give his verdict every time. More often than not, these hearings were peaceful unless a heinous crime has been committed, for example shedding someone's blood.
"According to Islamic reports, the criminally accused was given a foul concoction to drink that consisted of sour and bitter-tasting wood and water. If he vomited after tossing back the nasty brew he was declared innocent and was congratulated for passing the test. If he did not vomit, and the beverage remained within, he was considered guilty as charged and suffered the king's wrath". (uhistory.org)
Ok, now I can't guarantee that this is true of course, but it is confirmed in one of the writings of Islamic traveller Al Bakri (1057) so... but anyway that type of law and order would definitely be one to behold lol. So yes as Monique would say *I would like to see it*.
4. The Kingdom of Kongo
You probably should have predicted this one was coming. I have written a lot of things about the kingdom of Kongo, in fact if you would like to know more, you can visit the KoK section of this website, and enjoy all the relevant content to it there. I had to include this one because it's my background, but I'll try and give you guys a better reason that that lol.
The Kingdom of Kongo is an ancient African kingdom located in west-central Africa, south of the Congo River. This area is now known as the present-day Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kingdom of Kongo Dia Ntotila was founded by Lukeni lua Nimi in about 1390. As the kingdom expanded and conquered territories, it became a royal patrimony which included the materials and inhabitants of several surrounding provinces. Those provinces were: Soyo, Mbata, Nsundi, Mpangu, Mbamba, and Mpemba. The capital of the kingdom was called 'Mbanza Kongo', and all in all, it was a rather settled kingdom. The king or the manikongo as he was referred to, was able to centralise the state and keep a steady supply of manpower nearby to wield the land and maintain wealth and status.
Lukeni Lua Nimi, the founder is the real reason why I think it'd make a great Netflix series.
Although that is probably a much more smiley depiction of the Manikongo lol, I have read that he was extremely athletic and strongly built, - so probably quite intimidating. But the picture above serves good for the imagination lol.
It was said that he was an extremely spiritual and powerful man. So much so that he was said to be blessed with 'gifts'; one was that he could manifest the power to control the climate. There are sightings dated back to the early 15th century which stated that inhabitants witnessed him commanding it to rain, multiple times. Those 'gifts' were really probably traditional African ancestral rituals, but I suppose it sounds better to say he was gifted. I mean? This would make good tv to me!
5. The Great Zimbabwe
Another great Kingdom I'd like to see a series about is the ‘Great Zimbabwe’ ; an imposing collection of stacked boulders, stone towers and defensive walls assembled from cut granite blocks. (Andrews, 2017). There are many tales behind this kingdom; not only is it an archaeologist's dream, but it was also thought to be where the Biblical Queen of Sheba one lived...
Anyway now, it's known as the capital of an ancient African empire that was thriving for almost 300 years between the 13th and 15th centuries. Located in modern day Masvingo, Zimbabwe, the kingdom was said to be inhabited in 1100 C.E. but abandoned in the 15th century. At the time, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which was quickly recognised as a Shona (Bantu) trading empire. Zimbabwe means “stone houses” in Shona.
Great Zimbabwe‘s wealth was derived from a large, global trading network. It was an archaeologist’s dream! With findings of pottery from China and Persia, as well as various Arab coins. The elite of the empire controlled the trade activity along the east African coast. Nonetheless, the city was heavily abandoned by the 15th century, and the Shona people moved on elsewhere. No one knows why the Shona people took off like that, but it's likely that they exhausted the resources that were around and the land was no longer sufficient to live in. That and overpopulation. (National Geographic Society, 2020)
Like I said at the start of the section, this kingdom was an archaeologist's dream, because of it's structure and because of what or who may have existed in these ruins. A ground-breaking archaeological find were several soapstone bird sculptures that were unearthed from the ruins. These birds are thought to represent a symbol of a traditional belief in the kingdom, and so the statues and images were likely to be plastered everywhere around it. That assumption is supported by the fact that these birds actually appear on the modern day Zimbabwean flag and are recognised as national symbols of Zimbabwe.
I'm very impressed.
The kingdom's architecture can be defined as having 3 sections.
The first section is the Hill Complex - the oldest part of the Great Zimbabwe kingdom are ruins that sit at the top of the steepest hill in the region. It was thought to be a religious centre during the life of the kingdom. The ruins that have been studied from there date back to around 900 C.E. (Andrews,2017).
The second section is the Great Enclosure - for many, this is the most exciting. It can be described as a circular wall area, below the Hill Complex, that was over 9.7 metres (32 feet) high and 250 metres wide. People marvel at this construction, because the walls were not built with any clay or cement type material. It was built with carefully shaped rocks that slotted into each other precisely to hold the wall’s structure on their own. In the interior of the enclosure, there are similar but smaller circular stone walls, all leading up to a stone tower in the centre at (33 feet high). No-one knows for sure what the space was used for, but archaeologist's suggest that it may have been a royal home or a public space. Still, it is one of the largest existing structures from ancient sub-Saharan Africa.
The third section is the Valley Ruins. A large number of houses made mostly of mud-brick or daga as it was referred to, it's close to the Great Enclosure. Explorers are of the belief that the number of houses indicate a large population in the kingdom, possibly between 10,000–20,000 people.
The Fall of the Kingdom
In the 20th century, at the hands of European colonisers, the remaining valuables from the ruins of the kingdom of Great Zimbabwe were ravished and looted. When the colonisers arrived there with their white supremacist attitudes and their racism, they were in disbelief about the sophistication of the city. Take the Great Enclosure for example, at 32 ft. high and built by merging perfectly carved rocks together; the Europeans refused to believe that the city was built by Africans. Instead, they said it could have been by Phoenicians, who are a 'thalassocrat' civilisation which means they lived at sea, their empire was on the sea rather than on the land. And if not them, then just 'other non-African people'.
However, despite the colonisers' looting, the legacy of Great Zimbabwe lives on, it's incredibly, culturally important not just to modern day Zimbabwean people, but to academics and archaeological research on Africa. That's why it's included in my 'Ancient African kingdoms Netflix shortlist'!
As centuries passed, more explorers and archaeologist's began to recognise the ruins of the Great Zimbabwe as an ancient structural phenomenon. It was named as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 'World Heritage Site' in 1986 and this has boosted how many people have visited there in the last few decades, although there have only been a limited number of archaeological excavations of the site, so it's not like people just go there and start digging for treasure or anything.
That's the end of the post, as usual I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. If you haven't checked out the thread on Twitter about this yet, you can check it out here.
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