1903 first Tour de France – so go out on a family bike trip 1908 SOS becomes international distress call – try it in semaphore Ghana Republic Day:
Ghana is one of the world’s largest exporters of gold and cocoa. The area was originally inhabited by the Akan people, who traded in the plentiful gold. It became part of the Ashanti Empire, and in the 19th century the Portguese, Dutch, Spanish and British had built forts there. It was known as ‘White Man’s Grave’ though due to all the tropical diseases, which put a lot of the invaders off.
But not the Brits, oh no. We captured it in 1856 and named it the Gold Coast. The Akan fought us a lot until they were defeated in the War of the Golden Stool (best war name ever, I think you’ll agree; it refers to the Ashanti throne). They did not give up, and gained independence in 1957.
Activities: Learn about kente cloth, Afro-jazz, highlife, hiplife, dances such as Adowa, Kpanlogo, Azonto, Klama, and Bamaya
Sir Seretse Khama Day: Sir Seretsa Khama was born in Bechuanaland, Botswana, and became the king of the Bamangwato people from age 4 after his father’s death. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and studied to become a barrister at the Inner Temple.
He met and married Ruth Williams. South Africa did not like the king of the country next door being married to a white lady seeing as it had just banned interracial marriages.
To get some peace and quiet, as Britain was in charge of Bechuanaland, they investigated Khama’s ability to be a chief. The report found he would be a good chief, so the Brits hid the report and exiled him anyway. Khama was eventually allowed back once he renounced his throne… then he ran for President. And won.
In 1966 Botswana gained its independence and Khama was a very good President, focusing on economic development through beef, diamonds and copper, and remaining anti-corruption and anti-violence.
Virgin Islands’ Territory Day: The Virgin Islands are short for St Ursula and Her Eleven Thousand Virgins Islands, which was the snappy title Christopher Columbus gave them in 1493 (she’s a martyr who put off marrying her husband by saying she wanted to do a pan-European pilgrimage first. And she took 11,000 virgins with her, as you do. When they got to Cologne it was in the middle of being invaded, and they were all shot by some Huns. So now there’s the Basilica of St Ursula in Cologne which is decorated with the alleged 11,000 virgin’s bones. Eat that, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen.)
The Islands were first inhabited by the Arawak, Carib and Cermic peoples, all of whom died from European disease, brutal slavery or mass suicide. So instead the Danish plantation owners used slave labour on them to make sugarcane until slavery was abolished in 1848.
During WWI America worried Germany might sneak in and use them as a submarine base and so bought them from Denmark for $25 million. The islands get a lot of earthquakes and tropical cyclones.
Activites: Listen to scratch bands and quelbe music, the cariso folk song, or St Thomas’ bamboula.
Burundi Independence Day:
Burundi was its own kingdom ruled by a Tutsi king until 1899 when it became part of German East Africa. Its king, Mwezi IV Gisabo, opposed this so the Germans helped his son Maconco lead a revolt against him; then Mwezi said ok, I’ll be part of Germany, so the Germans helped him defeat his son. Sorted.
From 1916, Belgium conquered the area and it was joined with Rwanda under Belgium and called Rwanda-Urundi.
On 1 July 1962 Burundi gained independence after Belgium allowed it to run its own democracy.
At that point the Tutsi king became head of state of a government made up of Tutsis and Hutus in equal numbers. In 1965 the Hutu prime minister was assassinated, and next door in Rwanda, a ‘social revolution’ in 1959-61 saw their Hutu government massacre all the Rwandan Tutsis they could find.
This prompted the Tutsi monarchy in Burundi to disallow Hutu members of parliament, so the Hutus tried to carry out a coup, so the Tutsis killed a whole bunch of Hutu politicians and intellectuals.
These back and forth killings and oppression continued until 1972, when bands of Hutus killed all the Tutsi civilians they could find and proclaimed a republic. Then the President and his army killed around 250,000 Hutus.
From then until 2006 the Tutsis and Hutus continued to assassinate each other at every opportunity and HIV has killed off a lot more. Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world.
Activities: Watch the Royal Drummers of Burundi perform. Go on a (pretend) gorilla trek – maybe take turns at being a gorilla hiding in the mountains (upstairs).
Canada Day: This is a celebration of the Brits uniting their colonies Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada together to become Canada in 1867. There is a Canada Day held in Trafalgar Square, London.
Activities: Play street hockey. Eat pancakes with maple syrup. Learn about Niagara Falls and moose and beavers and Canadian geese and mounted police officers.
Rwanda Independence Day:
Similar to Burundi, Tutsi kings dominated until the Germans colonised the area in 1884, then Belgium from 1916.
Aside from the Tutsis and Hutus, there are also a group of aboriginal pygmy hunters called the Twa. The Tutsis and the Hutus were more like social castes, with the Tutsis the kings and the Hutus the lower classes, and well-behaved Hutus could become Tutsis.
However, Belgium thought they were different races and introduced identity cards labelling the Tutsis, Hutus, Twas or Naturalised (the latter for Belgian settlers?) and no one could move ranks anymore.
In 1959 the Rwandan Social Revolution occurred, in which the Hutus started killing the Tutsis. And vice versa and back and forth and so on until 1990 (by which point the Twas had been forced out of their forests and had mainly become beggars) when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsis) invaded and initiated the Rwandan Civil War.
At some point there must have been a ceasefire because the ceasefire ended in 1994, when the President’s plane was shot down and the Rwandan Genocide began – up to a million Tutsis, Hutus and even Twas were killed by the government.
The RPF fought back and eventually regained control of the country.
Activities: Watch an umushagiriro, or cow dance, or the intore, or dance of heroes. Learn about an imigongo, a cow dung art. Can you make a nyakatsi house for your doll, with mud walls and a grass thatched roof?
Other events today:
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day – see 1st October
- Somalian Foundation of the Republic – see 18th May
- Suriname Abolition of Slavery Day – see 25th November
- Madeira Day (used to be part of Portugal, now independent; this is also celebrated in England)
- 1858 Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace present papers on evolution