Thursday, 19 April 2018

Q is for Qongqothwane ...and ...Qart-Hadasht ...

is for

el-Qasabgi (1892-1966, Egypt) with a composition called Zikrayat (My Memories) performed here by the National Arab Orchestra from Michigan at the Lincoln Centre, DC. El-Qasabgi is considered one of the greatest North African Arab composers (1892-1966) and a maestro of the oud. 

And here is Q-chillah from Tanzania singing a genre called Bongo Flava, less of the Eastern vibe here. This is a version developed from American hip hop with wider African influences – Afrobeats and Tanzanian Taarab and Dansi. Lyrics are usually in Swahili or English.

And last but not the least - the click song, Qongqothwane, sung by the iconic artiste Miriam Makeba and covered by many others.

Have you heard of Qart-Hadasht? It means ‘New City’ - it grew from a small outpost to the capital of an African empire ruling Mediterranean trade for nearly seven centuries. Its seafaring skills were legendary. It produced one of the greatest military minds in all of human history whose strategies are still studied in military schools today. Still no guesses? Qart-Hadasht was the Phoenician new settlement in North Africa. Latinised as Carthage by the Romans.

Legend goes that Qart-Hadasht was founded in 814 BCE by the ‘wandering’ Phoenician queen Elissa, known among her people as Dido.  It rose to prominence in the 4th century BCE, after Alexander’s conquest of Tyre.  Those that were spared by Alexander, and he spared the well-heeled only, who could buy their lives with serious moolah, well, they landed up in Carthage as rich refugees and established a trading centre. Within a hundred years a small coastal town rose to become a huge trading empire across the Mediterranean. Qart-Hadasht became the richest city around, it had palaces for the aristocrats, a powerful navy, an opulent harbour of 220 berths, and an impregnable fortress.

Rome at the time was no match for the Carthaginians and kept a very low profile. With their superior navy, the Carthaginians had forced Rome to a treaty that kept them from trading in the Western Mediterranean. However when the Carthaginians muscled in on Sicily, Rome decided enough was enough. Now the Romans’ naval skills were never at par with their famous legions, their military prowess was always land-based. But they got over this handicap by equipping their ships with a clever system of gangplanks which could be lowered onto enemy vessels and so convert a sea-battle to a close combat and presto! upper hand! The two sides fought the First Punic War from 264 BCE, and after a few initial setbacks, Rome wrested Sicily back in 241 BCE. In addition, they extracted a heavy war indemnity from the Carthaginians.

The Carthaginians were demoralised and preoccupied with their internal disarray – Rome struck while the iron was hot – annexed the Phoenician colonies of Corsica and Sardinia. There was nothing the Phoenician generals could do except expand their holdings in Spain.

Hannibal Barca led the Carthaginians into battle again over land in Spain. Now Hannibal was the greatest military mind of his times, and he won several victories in Spain. But once he attacked Saguntum, a Roman ally, Rome retaliated. And so the Romans and Carthaginians were at war again, the second Punic War in 218-202 BCE. Hannibal led his troops from Spain over the Alps into northern Italy, winning battle after battle till his greatest victory at Cannae, but unfortunately lacking troops and supply back-ups, could not consolidate his position. Hannibal was finally defeated in the Battle of Zama in North Africa. The Carthaginians had to sue for peace again. They were again under a heavy debt burden to Rome.  In addition to grabbing the lolly, Romans placed a stricture that mobilising a Carthaginian army was a no-no. Even so, a Roman senator felt ‘Carthage should be destroyed,’ and made this view known at every opportunity. In 149 BCE, Rome decided to do just that.

Smaller kingdoms around Carthage had seen their chance and attacked a much weakened empire with tacit Roman blessings. The Carthaginians went out to quell them and lost again, placing them now under a war debt to a client state of Rome. Bingo! Romans were back accusing the Carthaginians of violating their treaty. Mega-wrangling ensued – the Carthaginians thought once they paid off their war dues to Rome, they should be free to defend themselves against states other than Rome. But Rome argued no, the prohibition re army applied to all Roman allies also and for all time.

Since the idea was now to annihilate Carthage forever, the Romans presented the Carthaginians with an escalating and outlandish set of demands. Firstly, hundreds of the children of the nobility were to be handed over.  Then the Roman embassy demanded that the city be dismantled and built somewhere inland. Naturally, the Carthaginians refused. And so began the last, the Third Punic War. The Romans lay siege to Carthage.

But victory took a long time to come. Carthaginians found novel ways to resist – using women’s hair to braid into ropes for catapults, for instance. For three years the Roman troops surrounded the city in a standoff. Carthage finally fell in 146 BCE, the impregnable city walls were breached. Romans and Carthaginians fought in close combat street by street, square by square, with heavy losses on both sides. Finally Romans conquered and sacked the city, sold the remaining population into slavery and established a new capital at Utica. After nearly seven centuries of rule over the Mediterranean, Carthage became just a North African province of Rome.

Carthage today is a posh suburb of Tunis, the ruins of the ancient harbour can still be seen on the Tunisian coastline.

From the Safaris

For this clip I'm broadening the net and using the word 'safari' in its original Swahili sense - trips. Q is a letter that can make the bravest of the alphabet warriors Quiver and Quake, never mind me!

~ Thank you for watching! ~

Books n Stuff

Q or Qabaniso Malewezi (1979 - ) -  Gosh! I mean, if that isn’t god-sent for the A-Z, I don’t know what is! Popularly known as Q, Qabaniso is a multi-award winning poet and spoken word artist from Malawi. He was born and educated in Lilongwe, has published two anthologies (The Road Taken, Little Discoveries) and a poetry album (People), and has been featured on BBC, CNN and other international channels. He has performed at Poetry Africa, AfrWeka Poetry Festival, Harare International Poetry Festival and many others.  He is an active member of the Living Room Poetry Club in Lilongwe. In addition, he is also a song writer and music producer, Q has collaborated with several well-known African musicians. Read more about him here.  And listen to him performing in the video below:

Ato Quayson (1961-) – is a Ghanaian academic and literary critic. He was born in Ghana, educated at the University of Ghana and Cambridge, where he earned his PhD. He is a widely published writer and has written a number of non-fiction books. Also an essayist, his work has been published in many international journals. He serves on the editorial panels of several Ghanaian and overseas publications. His book Oxford Street, Accra bagged the top award of the Urban History Association in 2013 as a co-recipient. 

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018


  1. As always I read with fascination. I am so grateful for the historical, geographical, cultural lessons your posts include. And more than a little shamed at my ignorance.
    The click song, Qongqothwane is so vibrant isn't it?

    1. Ignorance? How many people have first-hand knowledge of Antarctica? Thou shalt not underestimate thyself...

  2. Hari OM
    Wonderful encapsulation of such a wide history! Adoring the music - and bravo on the Q safar!!! YAM xx

    1. Ya, a blogpost is not enough...all tough letters coming up! :)

  3. All new stuff to me.
    Mainely Write

  4. HOwdy - just back from seeing my Dad in PA. Now I must catch up on all of your posts..Go on Safari. Just wanted to say hi

    1. Hi Joanne! Hope you found your Dad well and had a pleasant break. Welcome back.

  5. Have to admit the first vid is not music to my taste, but love the second one, Q-chillah - what a great name too.
    Miriam Makeba has amazing hair in that vid and how does she make that noise so loudly and quickly? So cool.
    Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

    1. There are three or four different clicks with varying meanings in the click languages I think - they sound beyond cool sung and spoken. Miriam Makeba had a monumental dignity and stage presence, she celebrated being African in all ways when the world wasn't so accepting of diversity - and so earned the respect of both Africans and non-Africans alike.

  6. For such a challenging letter for many of us, you may have just won as Queen of the Q! I'm inordinately fascinated with the click languages, and it was a real treat to see the video of Miriam Makeba's performance.

    1. Q is easy-breezy in Africa! :) all the alphabet toughies are as water if you go to that continent, perfect for the A-Z! :) Click languages and their reasons for evolving are equally as interesting, coming up again in a future post.

  7. I'm listening to the poet Ato Quayson now.Thank you for sharing him.

  8. Fascinating stuff about Carthage and Rome. I'm really surprised the Carthaginians lasted as long as they did. It says a lot for their character.

    "Qongqothwane" is quite a word, isn't it?

    1. They were the greatest Mediterranean power before Rome rose - they had serious seafaring mojo. They did give Rome a good run for its money :)

      Qongqothwane is an amazing word and that performance by Miriam is just superb.

  9. Hi Nila - this is one of your brilliant posts ... loved the information about Carthage and Hannibal ... and then listening ... I want to hear more of Q Malewezi ... and then re-hear Miriam singing her song ... that click song is so special ... and I was happy with Q Chillah - great choices ... then the Safari ... oh yes - cheers Hilary

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Hilary, and thanks for your time!


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