Before the 19th century, when European colonists took control, Africa was once ruled by empires. Before the way of life within African kingdoms could be properly documented hundreds of years ago, several of them fell.
In fact, we sadly may never fully comprehend what life was like in ancient African kingdoms due to so much time without accurate documentation passing. Which truly puts us at a loss when it comes to our history.
However, fortunately, we were able to document a few groups during the ages of photography due the strength and perseverance within these African Kingdoms.
Below is an exact look at we’ve been able to capture within these historic kingdoms.
For example, the Ethiopian Empire, like the Ashanti, survived into the age of colonialism, holding off colonial rule, in fact, for hundreds of years.
The Ashanti nation was so powerful that, when the Englishman Thomas Bowdich stayed there for several months wrote a book, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee about what he had seen there, most Europeans didn’t believe as it contradicted prevailing prejudices.
The Ashanti, which was established in the late 17th century by king Osei Tutu and his adviser Okomfo Anokye with the Golden Stool of Asante as a sole unifying symbol, managed to keep its freedom for centuries, reigning over its territory for nearly 800 years.
During this period, the Ashanti defeated the British Empire’s invasions in the first two of the four Anglo-Ashanti Wars, killing and keeping British army general Sir Charles MacCarthy’s skull gold-rimmed drinking cup in 1824.
Unfortunately for that empire, things turned dark when the fascist Italian army invaded in 1935, the land was conquered, and its emperor, Haile Selassie, was forced into exile.
The Italian colonialists didn’t keep their power for long, and In a short time, the Ethiopian Empire ruled once more.
Other African kingdoms like The Merina Kingdom of modern Madagascar weren’t as lucky.
It was conquered by the French in 1897, only surviving a short time, just long enough to leave photographs of their pre-colonial way of life.
On the other hand, other African kingdoms, like Luba and Lunda’s kingdoms, went through even worse conquests.
These kingdoms were eventually annexed into the Congo Free State. There, some of the worst human rights violations in history were inflicted against them.
For hundreds of years before the era of colonization in Africa, Africa was ruled by distinct empires, each with its own culture, government, religion, etc.
Each of these African empires was astonishingly unique, just one corner of the land of unparalleled diversity — before foreign invaders conquered this land while simultaneously carving it up among themselves and lumping it all together into a single place they cared to know only as “Africa.”
Here is an in-depth look on some of the rarely-seen photographs taken from within African kingdoms just before and just after a wave or horror and terror was initiated by European colonists that would end up changing the continent as it was known forever.
An Ethiopian Empire dignitary can be seen standing, before Italy overthrew the Ethiopian Empire in the year 1941, 1934.
The last ruler of the Merina Kingdom, which is presently known as Madagascar, Queen Ranavalona III, before France overthrew it in 1898. Circa 1890-1895.
A woman of the Ethiopian Empire, 1934.
King Otumfuo of the Ashanti Empire sitting on his throne.
The Ashanti Empire’s independence was won over Britain in the year 1931, after having been forced into a life as a British Protectorate for three decades.
Kumasi Ashanti Empire, 1953.