African Kings

From 1988 to 1991, French photographer Daniel Laine photographed 70 African monarchs, “whose dynasties marked the history of Africa until the middle of the twentieth century.” With hundreds of monarchs to choose from, Laine focused on those who continued to “retain a traditional and spiritual authority that is difficult for the Western mind to comprehend.” The photographs were published in an extraordinary hardcover book that sadly is no longer in print, published in 2000 by Ten Speed Press titled African Kings: Portraits of a Disappearing Era. Fortunately, some copies can still be found on Amazon both new and used.

Daniel Laine had major difficulties in the production of the book and had to travel 9 times to finalize it. The sensitive diplomatic negotiations involved to arrange the permissions for the shoots were mammoth but the result worth all the efforts.

With each striking photograph, the artist provides a brief biography and historical notes about the tribe and its rituals. The book includes historical background by Pierre Alexandre on the origins and significance of African kingdoms.

Never before had anyone tried to capture the images of the living custodians of Africa’s millenary history, and the result is pure visual poetry. These photographs are from over two decades ago, and in this period of time, many occurrences have taken place. It is most likely that much has changed and that even some of these Kings may no longer be alive.

Monarchy was the prevalent form of government in the history of Africa, where self-governing states, territories, or nations existed in which supreme power resided with an individual who was recognized as the monarch. Many such states exist today. It was only the colonial powers that profoundly transformed African political, economic, and social structures. The exploitation of Africa’s labour and natural resources for the benefit of the metropoles was to have intense implications for the continent.

There is little doubt that colonial occupation and the ensuing restructuring of African political entities and socioeconomic systems altered African traditional institutions of governance. The colonial state, for example, invented chiefs where there were no centralized authority systems and imposed them on the decentralized traditional systems. In the centralized systems also, traditional leaders of various titles were reduced to “chiefs” and the colonial state modified notably the relations between the chiefs and their communities by making the chiefs accountable to the colonial state rather than to their communities (Coplan & Quinlan, 1997).
The introduction of alien economic and political systems by the colonial state relegated Africa’s precolonial monarchies to the sphere of informality, although they continued to operate in modified forms, in part due to the indirect rule system of colonialism and other forms of reliance by colonial states on African institutions of governance to govern their colonies.
Traditional institutions have continued to metamorphose under the postcolonial state, as Africa’s socioeconomic systems continue to evolve. Despite such changes, these institutions are referred to as traditional not because they continue to exist in an unadulterated form as they did in Africa’s precolonial past but because they are largely born of the precolonial political systems and are adhered to principally, although not exclusively, by the population in the traditional sectors of the economy.

Today, only three sovereign monarchies survive: Morocco, Eswantani and Lesotho though many sub-national monarchies that are not sovereign but exist within larger political associations. These monarchies are custodians of their peoples’ history and traditions, such as the King of Ashanti of Ghana, the King of Zulu in South Africa, the King of Toro in Uganda and many other important royal families in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and many more.
On the other hand the Imperial family of Ethiopia has an important role to play in their country as does the royal family of Libya.

IG @the_african_royal_families .

Abubakar Sidiq, Sultan of Sokoto (Nigeria)
Bouba Abdoulaye, Sultan of Rey-Bouba (Cameroon)
Aliyu Mustapha, Lamido (King) of Adamawa (Nigeria)
El Hadj Mamadou Kabir Usman, Emir of Katsina (Nigeria)
El Hadj Seidou Njimoluh Njoya, Sultan of Fumban and Mfon of the Bamun (Cameroon)
Goodwill Zwelethini, King of Zulu (South Africa)
Halidou Sali XII Lamido (King) of Bibemi (Cameroon)
Hapi IV King of Bana (Cameroon)
Igwe Kenneth Nnaji Onyemaeke Orizu III, Obi (King) of Nnewi (Nigeria)
Agboli Agbo Dedjlani, King of Abomey (Benin)
Naimi Mabintsh Kok III, King of Cuba (DR Congo)
Ngie Kamga Joseph-Fon (King) of Bandjun (Cameroon)
Oba Joseph Adekola Ogunoye, Olowo (King) of Owo (Nigeria)
Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III, King of Akropong-Akuapem (Ghana)
Salomon Igbinoghodua, Oba Erediauwa (King) of-Benin (Nigeria)
Sijuwade, Oni (King) of Ife (Nigeria)
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