By Serwaa Ampaafo

Photo: wiki

It is quite an extreme  irony that the destruction of a building considered an icon of civilization was mourned by the world including Africans when  much of Africa’s icons and artefacts in fact its very civilization was either destroyed, conveyed to European museums or elsewhere. 

One of such civilizations was the wall of Benin which was completely ravaged by the British. The structure exceeded the great Wall of China and is seen as one of the greatest achievements of Man

Make no mistake it is painful to see an architectural masterpiece like the Notre Dame go  up in flames but what was done or happened to Africans was even worse than what fire could 

While France looked for money to to rebuild its Cathedral briefly lets take a look the Great walls of Benin in Nigeria:

The Walls of Benin were a combination of ramparts and moats , used as a defense of the ancient Kingdom of Benin , which is present-day Benin City , the capital of present-day Edo , Nigeria. It was considered the largest man-made structure lengthwise and was hailed as the largest earthwork in the world.

 It enclosed 6,500 square kilometres (2,500 sq mi) of community lands. The combined length of the walls, many of which were outside the city, was over 16,000 kilometres (9,900 miles). The walls were built of a ditch and dike structure; the ditch dug to form an inner moat with the excavated earth used to form the exterior rampart. 

The Benin Walls were ravaged by the British in 1897 during what has come to be called the Punitive expedition. Scattered pieces of the structure remain in Edo, with the vast majority of them being used by the locals for building purposes. What remains of the wall itself continues to be torn down for real estate developments. 

The Walls of Benin City was the world’s largest man-made earth structure. Fred Pearce wrote in New Scientist: Ethnomathematician Ron Eglash has discussed the planned layout of the city using fractals as the basis, not only in the city itself and the villages but even in the rooms of houses.

 He commented that “When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganised and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.” A Portuguese captain described the city in 1691:“Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see. 

The houses are large, especially that of the king, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.” This was at a time when theft and murder were rife in London.

Today the remnants of the marvel architecture continue to crumble while Africans continue to troop in to China to see the great wall of China while their own which was four times larger than China’s continue to rot.



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