Saturday, February 11, 2006
Yarrow Mamout and Idris Alooma
Today, we feature a slave, Yarrow Mamout, and the sultan of Bornu, Idris Alooma.
Yarrow Mamout's portrait and small bio.
All that is known of Yarrow Mamout, an enslaved African who died a free man at a very old age, comes from the diary of the man who painted his striking portrait. Charles William Peale was an American portrait painter who established a museum in Philadelphia. Dedicated to American history and natural history, the museum's exhibits ranged from presidential portraits to the bones of a mastodon that Peale had unearthed.
In 1819, Peale (whose son Raphaelle had painted Absalom Jones in 1810) went to Washington to record the likenesses of distinguished Americans; while there he heard about an old African man, Yarrow Mamout, who lived in Georgetown. Peale was most likely intrigued by Mamout's great age, reputedly 134 years at the time, and the fact that he was a practicing Muslim -- supposedly a rarity in 19th century America, though that question is still open to scholarly debate.
A Former Slave, Mamout Lived Freely by Nafisa Syeed
The Man in the Knit Cap
For two centuries before Idris Alooma became Mai (sultan) or Bornu, Kanem was a separate land whose people had been driven out by their nomadic cousins, the Bulala. It took one of Africa's most extraordinary rulers to reunite the two kingdoms.
Idris Alooma was a devout Muslim. He replaced tribal law with Shari'a, and early in his reign, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. But the trip had as much military as religious significance, for he returned with Turkish firearms and later commanded an incredibly strong army. They marched swiftly and attacked suddenly, crushing hostile tribes in annual campaigns. Finally Idris conquered the Bulala, establishing dominion over the Kanem-Bornu empire and a peace lasting half a century.
Posted by izzymo at 2:38 PM