History, often told through a Western prism, is a patchwork of narratives, some of which have consciously omitted Africa’s glorious hours, leaving in the shadows exceptional characters and moments that shaped the world.
In this effort to restore historical truth, I would like to introduce you to Mansa Musa, also known as Kankou/Kankan Musa, the African ruler who embodies the intersection of immeasurable wealth, a flourishing reign and global cultural as well as economic influence. Today, this exceptional ruler is referred to as the richest man who ever lived (Aliko Dangote who? Jeff Bezos who?).
In my children’s book, Learning about my heritage: 4 awesome African figures, I highlight his greatness and take part in change by sharing long-neglected stories, enabling new generations to embrace the hidden wealth of our past.
The Incommensurable Wealth of Mansa Musa
Let’s delve into the records of African history to discover the incredible tale of Mansa Musa, born in 1280, a legendary figure whose wealth transcends the imagination.
His claim to the title of richest man who ever lived is not limited to numbers, but is rooted in a family legacy and a line of emperors that stretches back several generations. Mansa Musa’s rise to power as 10th ruler of Mali continued this tradition.
Mansa Musa’s wealth stemmed from his vast reserves of gold, extracted from the prolific mines of the Mali empire, and his strategic control over the salt mines that were just as valuable at the time. These resources not only solidified his empire, but also made him an icon of wealth and power.
How can we illustrate the extent of the 10th Mansa of Mali’s wealth without mentioning his famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. During this journey, he distributed so much gold to the people he met that he caused gold values in the Middle East to plummet. It took the region a decade to recover.
A Visionary Sovereign
Beyond his financial wealth, Mansa Musa left an indelible mark on the history of the Mali empire. During his reign, Mali became a major cultural and economic center in Africa, attracting scholars, merchants and artists from all over the region. His enlightened management and promotion of the arts and sciences helped make Mali a respected regional power. His concern for education was reflected in the construction of the Great Mosque of Djenné, an architectural masterpiece that remains a symbol of his reign. He also founded the prestigious Sankoré University in Timbuktu, a mecca of learning and scholarship at the time. His achievements reflected his bold vision and his belief in the power of education to shape the future of his nation.
A Treasure That Has Attracted The World’s Attention
Mansa Musa’s expedition, which I mentioned earlier, not only left a lasting impression on the people he met along the way, but also drew the astonished gazes of Europeans. Mansa Musa’s excessive generosity caused a sensation at a time when Europe was far from imagining the existence of such wealth.
Unfortunately, this eye-catching display of wealth attracted the attention of greedy vultures eager to take advantage of the situation. European merchants and explorers were captivated by the tales of a man who literally seemed to walk on gold. This growing fascination with African gold helped fuel Europeans’ growing interest in Africa’s riches and commercial opportunities, paving the way for an era of exploration and colonization that would have lasting repercussions on the African continent…
Heritage and continuity
Mansa Musa remains a symbol of African ingenuity, prosperity and global impact. His reign opened doors and blazed new trails in commerce and culture, leaving a heritage that endures to this day. By introducing his story to children, I aim to honor his legacy and inspire future generations to explore their own potential and contribute positively to the world around them.
By the way, it seems that my book has led to the revelation of Mansa Musa’s youngest fan. Here’s the proof!