African arts, culture + politics

Kingdom come


(ARISE magazine, issue 14) “It’s the continent with the oldest Christian traditions, oldest earth-built buildings, oldest ceramic  traditions – it completely blows you away”. For historian and presenter Gus Casely-Hayford, Africa was the obvious subject for a documentary series. So in 2010 Hayford, whose family is of Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean descent, and his team travelled through Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique into South Africa and Zimbabwe, and from Mali down the River Niger into Nigeria. The result of their explorations is Lost Kingdoms Of Africa. The four-part series aired on BBC Four in 2010 and received positive reviews (UK newspaper The Times called it “not only powerful but moving”). It’s now set to be released on DVD for the first time.

The series explores the long-lost kingdom of Nubia, Judeo-Christian influences in Ethiopia, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and fine metalworking in Nigeria and Mali. “I’ve travelled a lot in Africa over some decades but what this offered was a kind of immersion, not just in local traditional practise but also African expertise,” says Casely-Hayford. “I spent most of the time with my eyes on stalks and jumping around in delight!” For the second series of Lost Kingdoms Of Africa, currently being aired on BBC Four, the team document the history of Zulus in South Africa, the royal Asante family of Ghana, as well as Morocco, Asmara and Uganda.

Lost Kingdoms Of Africa DVD [Acorn Media], out February 6.Lost Kingdoms Of Africa book [Bantam Press, £25], out February 16


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