22 August 2021

Algeria: Forest fires are by no means a new phenomenon in Algeria, but this year’s were a lot worse than usual. “Early reports conclude that this year's fires inflicted more damage to Algeria's forests than all the fires from 2008 to 2020 combined. At least 90 people died fighting the flames”. The country is ill-equipped to fight fires – the government had to ask the European Union for help. Separatist groups (what’s more: backed by Morocco) have been blamed by the government though there seems to be no proof for these claims.

21 August 2021

South Africa: In the Cape Colony, colonists were forbidden from enslaving indigenous Khoe, San, etc. Slaves had to be imported from elsewhere (Madagascar, Mozambique, etc.). But “Khoe-San people were forced into servitude as colonists took both land and livestock. Together with immigrant slaves they were the labour force for the colonial project.” These Khoe-San and runaway slaves “escaped into the borderlands and mounted a stiff resistance to the colonial advance from the 1700s until the mid-1800s. In most cases the fugitives joined forces with groups of skelmbasters (mixed outlaws), who themselves were descended from San-, Khoe- and isiNtu-speaking Africans (hunter-gatherers, herders and farmers).” In their rocky hideouts, they produced a “modern” kind of rock art (now also drawing horses and guns) which still drew on tradition: “The ostrich was recognised by Khoe-San groups as particularly adept at escaping danger. It could outrun most predators and leap over hunters’ nets. Khoe-San would, and still do, tie the tendons from ostrich legs to their own legs to combat fatigue. Ostrich eggshell was recognised as a medicine that could be ground and consumed as a fortifying tonic.” Furthermore, “(b)aboons (we)re associated with protection across Khoe-San and African farmer society.”

Body markings & slaves in Brazil: Slaves were very much in demand during the gold rush in southeast Brazil in the 18th century. Slaves from the Bay of Benin were thought best suited for the gold mines. “Slaves were sorted by anatomy and the purported ability to function better in certain climates, resistance to diseases, and life expectancy.” Body markings helped with the classification. The colonialists “saw body markings as tools for identification and cataloguing, to increase the economic efficiency of commodified human lives.” They did not perceive Africans as one homogeneous group: “Slavery in Brazil did not, in fact, automatically erase the diversity of African origins and reduce people to one racial category – ‘Black’. It happened over time.”

Reparations for enslavers instead of the enslaved: The article’s author estimates that “the losses from unpaid wages and lost inheritances to Black descendants of the enslaved (amount to) around US$20 trillion in 2021 dollars.” This is a sum that it would be difficult to pay – it corresponds roughly to one year’s US GDP. But reparations have been paid in the past – to former slave owners. It started with Haiti, whose independence was recognized by France only against their agreeing to paying 150 million francs to compensate former slave owners for the loss of what was deemed their property. The “(t)he British government paid reparations totalling £20 million (equivalent to some £300 billion in 2018) to slave owners when it abolished slavery in 1833.” Another 30 years later, the United States “gave former slave owners $300 per enslaved person set free. More than 3,100 enslaved people saw their freedom paid for in this way, for a total cost in excess of $930,000 – almost $25 million in today’s money.” The formerly enslaved, on the other hand, got nothing – except if they agreed to permanently leave the United States – then they were paid an emigration incentive of $100 (around $2,683 in 2021 dollars).