Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Was there a West African Community in the Indian Ocean and Pacific?
The Ottoman story about Ahmad ibn Majid life is probably fiction.The Ottomans probably placed Majid's home in Oman because other West Africans may have lived there at this time.
According to the Turks, Majid published his Kitab al-Fawa’id fi Usul ‘Ilm al-Bahr wa ’l-Qawa’id (Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation) in 1489 or 1490, while at the same time claiming that Vasco da Gama made Majid drunk to trick him into leading him to India. Are we to believe that if Majid was an Omani he would have betrayed his fellow Muslim brothers, when alledgely he knew the importance of the Indian Ocean trade to the Omanis. The answer would be a resounding: NO.
The Arabs probably learned about the work of Majid after Da Gama made his voyage to India. This is the only way the Ottoman probably began the myth that Majid piloted Da Gama’s ship to India, when the actual guide or pilot was a Gujurati sailor.
What probably really happened was this. Da Gama reached India.
In India the merchants asked Vasco da Gama how did he find his way to Malindi and India. It was probably then that Da Gama told them about Majid. After further investigation the Arabs and Turks probably sent people to West Africa to get Majid’s Kitab al-Fawa’id fi Usul ‘Ilm al-Bahr wa ’l-Qawa’id .
If Da Gama met Ahmad ibn Majid in West Africa, he was a West African navigator. Although Majid himself lived in West Africa, there were probably communities of West Africanss throughout the Indian Ocean and Pacific. This is supported by shared toponyms (place-names) in West Africa and the Pacific-India region, and the Niger-Congo substratum in Austronesian languages.
West African placenames are found in India and the Pacific Islands. This allows us to date the probable expansion of West Africans into the Indian Ocean between 2500- 3000 years ago.
This date is based on the settlement of Niger-Congo speakers in West Africa after the break up of ancient Egypt as more and more Eurasians invaded the land. This would explain the West African place names in India-Pacific that exist in both Africa and the Indian Ocean. Common placenames in India-Pacific and West Africa make it clear that there was an intimate relationship between both groups. In fact, West Africans may have still been trading with East African, and the India-Pacific region up to the Portuguese period.
In summary, there may have been a large number of West Africans living in Oman. This would explain why we find that most Omanis carry the Benin haplotype (34%), which is common in West Africa, as opposed to the Arab-India haplotypes.
The shared placenames and culture terms, for India, the Pacific and West Africa, shows that West Africans were living in the Indian Ocean region for a considerable length of time. Given the presence of West Africans in the area there is no way we can say that the West Africans could not have maintained trade with their kinsmen in the Indian Ocean.