Searching lost African kingdoms

Gus Casely-Hayford.
Gus Casely-Hayford.

For many of us the history of Africa is, at best, vague. The truth, however, is one of remarkably diverse, creative, culturally-rich civilisations.

In interview format Gus Casely-Hayford discusses his new book The Lost Kingdoms Of Africa which accompanies the BBC series of the same name.

“It’s a very very big topic!” Gus laughs. “But the nice thing is that one of the things we wanted to do was to look at contemporary Africa as a way of going back to these ancient histories and kingdoms.

“A lot of these very ancient kingdoms are still very resonant today. They are still very evident. We are looking at these kingdoms through the veil of contemporary Africa, and there is a continuity.

“If you look at one of the most ancient kingdoms, Nubia, which is across the Sudan, the people that still live in the region still have a connection through their cattle, their dancing, their kinds of carving, their story-telling. We wanted to look at these connections across Africa and tell their stories.

“Some of them are in danger, but for some there are a lot of resonances still. The people are still celebrating these kingdoms and find them very relevant. In places like Ghana, the traditional sovereign is still someone that is a political entity. It is the same in South Africa with the Zulus. These kingdoms still mean a great deal.

“For many people, these kingdoms are the traditional way of keeping families together, traditions, family histories. Traditionally people don’t write down their history. It is passed down around the fireside from mother to son. You get a sense of the way that history is a bond between people. Sometimes it is very powerful. It can be very divisive, but it can also be a great force of cohesion.”

The Lost Kingdoms Of Africa, Vicars’ Hall, Wednesday July 4, 6pm.