THE SIGN OF SARA: THE MALTESE CROSS AND ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY IN PREHISTORIC KINNUPE
A recurring theme in the ancient history of KinNupe is the motif of the Maltese Cross. It is however regrettable though that most of us today are not really aware of the fact that the Maltese Cross was once upon a time very important symbol, mascot and motif of the Nupe Nation in very ancient times.
For starters, the Maltese Cross is a stylized form of the Cross, the popular symbol of spiritualism associated with the religion of Christianity. Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross and ever since then the Cross has become a paramount symbol of Christianity. The Maltese Cross is just one of the different designs or artistic expressions of the Cross which is fundamentally sacred to the Christian faith.
The Maltese Cross is actually a sub-design of the general form of the Formee Cross which is a form of Cross whereby the four arms of the cross are in the form of arrowheads with the pointed ends aligned to the center of the cross.
The point here, in the present context of our discussions, is that the Cross, the Maltese Cross design in particular, has been discovered to have been integral and central to Nupe culture and Nupe religion in very ancient times. It has been discovered that the Maltese Cross was used in ancient KinNupe as a sacred symbol of Christianity even long before the birth of Tsudi (Tsoede) the Founder, actually Re-founder, of the Nupe Nation. This discovery is rather startling and surprising to most people who have been used to the conventional story that there was no Christianity in the past of KinNupe and that Christiniaty was first introduced to KinNupe only with the coming of the White man at the end of the latter half of the nineteenth century.
In this work we discuss, in plenary details, how comes the Cross of the Christian religion was venerated as a paramount symbol of sacredness several centuries in KinNupe, if not a millennia or so, before the birth of Tsudi the Founder of the Nupe Nation. Was there Christianity in KinNupe a millennium before the time of Tsudi? Were the White European missionaries not the first people to bring Christianity to KinNupe some half a millennium after the death of Tsudi?
We discuss the answers to these interesting questions in the following sections.
Foreign Influences on Ancient Nigeria
We should start this discussion with the fact that prehistoric Nigeria was not really as isolated from the rest of the outside world as we are wont to wrongly assume today. In fact the whole of Africa south of the Sahara was not isolated from the rest of the world in preshistoric times as conventional Western scholarship is trying to make us believe today.
The truth, and as we shall discuss in exhaustive details later, is that in the beginning there was not a Sahara desert separating North Africa from Africa south of the Sahara as we see on the relief map of the African continent today.
Without any formidable geophysical barrier like the Sahara Desert there was free movement of people and exchange of ideas and products between the people of North Africa, West Africa and the rest of Africa in those days. There was also free movement and interaction of the people of Africa with the rest of the world in those prehistoric days the way we see North Africans freely interacting with Europe and the rest of the world today.
In any case, and in prehistoric times, there was little hindrance to the movement of people and exchange of ideas and materials between the people of Africa and the rest of the world in ancient times. Polymaths and untiring research workers, including the famous anthropologist Percy Amoury Talbot for instance, documented the fact in his monumental work ‘Some Foreign Influences on Nigeria’, that prehistoric Nigeria was literally repelete with a sea of cultures and traditional values that are to be seen in all other parts of the world. In other words prehistoric Nigeria, and the rest of ancient Africa for that matter, was not isolated from the rest of the world.
There was massive and continuous exchange of population, products and ideas from the outside world to the rest of Africa and Nigeria and vice versa in prehistoric times. As a matter of fact there seemed to have been even more movement of people and ideas out of ancient Nigeria and Africa to the rest of the world than in the reverse direction.
This exchange of people, ideas and products between the interior of Africa and the rest of the world in very prehistoric times included the spread of ancient religions from the interior of Africa to the rest of the world and also from other parts of the world to the interior of Africa including ancient Nigeria.
And that, in a preliminary manner, gives us some background to the now seemingly-curious discovery that the Cross, the ancient symbol of Christianity, was found in various parts of ancient Nigeria and in particular here in Central KinNupe several centuries, almost two millennia, before the first White missionaries arrive KinNupe with our modern form of European Christianity.
The Maltese Cross Symbol In Ancient KinNupe
The Maltese Cross has been found on ancient Nupe bronze and teraccotta figurines; the Maltese Cross has become integrated into ancient Nupe designs on clothes, on buildings, on implements, tools and utensils, and so on and on. The Maltese Cross has become part and parcel of the daily and religious lives of the ancient Nupe people.
Yet, and today, we are no more aware of the fact that the Maltese Cross was once upon a time so important a part of the daily lives of the Nupe people in former times. It is so uncanny that the Christian Cross that, once upon a time, dominated the spiritual horizons of KinNupe as a paramount symbol of sacredness, have completely disappeared back into history in such a manner that today many people will even dispute the irrefutably documented fact that the Christian Cross was once upon a time highly revered as the ultimate symbol of sacredness here in Central KinNupe.
But then, whether we accept the fact or not, the fact is that prehistoric, historic and otherwise facts and documentaries abound in substantiation of the fact that the past of the Nupe Nation and ancient Nupe culture and sociology in general were dominated by the symbol of the Maltese Cross.
Most people are not even aware of the fact that to this very day the bronze-casting workers of Bida cast symbols of the Christian Cross without knowing why they are still doing so – they simply inherited it from their forefathers.
We see this Maltese Cross in virtually every aspect and facet of ancient Nupe culture and sociology. As Professor Leo Frobenius immediately and insightfully observed in 1911 when he sojourned at the Nupe Islamic city of Bida the Muslim citizens of Bida did not even know that there is the symbol of the Christian Cross designed, in an interstitching manner, on virtually every Nupe artifact that they are using on a daily basis from the Nupe scabbard of the Nupe sword, to the Nupe mat through the Nupe hat to the Nupe stool and pot up to the design on the Nupe flowing gown and the cap.
The Northern Knot design, now called the Arewa Symbol mascot of Northern Nigeria, is in actual fact an intertwining design of the Christian Cross which dates to very ancient times. This Northern Knot or Arewa Symbol, which is a stylized form of the Christian Cross, is to be seen conspicuously designed on the Baban riga flowing gown of the Nupe people and all Northerners to this very day. Yes these Muslim Nupes and Muslim Northerners are not even aware that the Arewa Symbol or the Northern Knot is a stylized form of the Christian Cross.
And, as we shall also discuss in some details, this Christian Cross have also spread from the ancient Nupe people to include and overwhelmed almost all others of their neighbours and all those other ancient Nigerian peoples who have had any connection or affiliation with the Nupe people in ancient times. To this very day the Igala, the Edo-Benin, the Tiv, the Jukun, and many others of the neighbours of ancient neighbours of the Nupe people use the Christian Cross in all their traditional religious rites and rituals without even knowing that it is also the paramount symbol of divinity in Christian.
But then, and lest we get lost with our documentary discovery that the Christian Cross, most especially the Maltese Cross, was a common and rampant symbol of religious sacredness among the ancient Nupe people, let’s proceed to another major section of this present work, namely, the exact nature of the chronological introduction of Christianity to KinNupe. If we know for sure when Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe then we should be able to ascertain when the Christian Cross first appeared as a symbol of divinity and sacredness here in KinNupe.
Introduction of Christianity to KinNupe
Well the first thing that will come to the mind of anybody if the question of the Maltese Cross is mention with regard to ancient Nupe Nation will be the issue of Christianity. If the Maltese Cross in particular, and the Christian Cross in general, once upon a time flourished as a paramount symbol of divinity and sacredness here in Central KinNupe, are we saying that the Maltese Cross, which was indubitably associated with and dominated the past of the Nupe Nation, an indication that Christianity once flourished here in KinNupe in very ancient times?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes.
The answer is a resounding yes despite the fact that conventional history by modern Western scholarship tells us that Christianity was first introduced into KinNupe in modern times by the coming of the European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
All we are told today is that Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe by the White European missionaries who first start coming to West Africa or the Guinea Coast in the latter half of the nineteenth century for proseltyzation purposes. There was no Christianity, and our people knew not Christianity, before the coming of the White men missionaries; so we are told.
But what Western scholarship is telling us today about the relationship between chronological relationship between Christianity and KinNupe is completely wrong. It was not the White European missionaries who first introduced Christianity to KinNupe in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Christianity was actually present in KinNupe long before that.
Even a casual historical research will show that Christian missionaries from Nubia have earlier on introduced Christianity from North Africa to West Africa and KinNupe in particular as early as the beginning of the 16th century, that is, some two and a half solid centuries before the first White missionaries started arriving from Europe.
So, even on a casual glance, we can see that by the beginning of the 16th century there was serious Christian influence from Nubia which is somewhere around today’s Southern Egypt, Northern Sudan and South Sudan.
Apart from that we should also mark the fact that right from the days of the Church Fathers, including the eminent and redoubtable ones like Saint Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, Saint Athanasius, and others like the controversial Arius too – all of whom were Black African Negroes – the flourishing of Christianity in North Africa was in direct contact and connexion with West Africa and ancient Nigeria.
We shall discuss this, in some details, later; the fact that the rise of early Christianity was closely connected with the interior of Africa and that even ancient Nigeria was not as unconnected with or isolated from the rise and beginnings of early Christianity.
For now, and before the exhaustive historical and prehistoric details, suffice it to say that modern Western scholarship, with all its inaccurate informations in world encyclopadias and university textbooks, is completely wrong when it claims that Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe, and ancient Nigeria for that matter, only somewhere around the middle of the nineteenth century by White missionaries from Europe.
The problem here is that modern Western Scholarship is totally and completely wrong in ascribing the introduction of Christianity to KinNupe to the coming of European missionaries to KinNupe in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The truth of the matter, and as accumulating documentary and otherwise evidences are pointing out, Christianity once upon a time flourished right here in Central KinNupe a very long time ago – several centuries before the coming of the European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Ancient Nupe traditions talk of an ancient form of Christianity and the ‘worshippers of Isa’, called the ‘Yisazhi’, among the Nupe people of old. This much is on the authority of Professor Alan Ryder. Archeological and art historical data have also been excavated and unearthed that show in unmistakable terms that Christian motifs, symbols and, of course, Christian religious beliefs and practices once flourished right here in Central KinNupe a long time before the arrival of the White men Christian missionaries.
Some of these ancient Christian motifs discovered in KinNupe have been dated, by scientists, to as far back as the 800s AD which is clearly over a millennium before the advent of the White Christian missionaries in towards the end of the 19th century.
In fact, and as we shall discuss in a latter section of this present work, the truth of the matter is that Christianity was first introduced to and flourished here in Central KinNupe over a millennium before the coming of the European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
In fact it is clear that an ancient form of modern Christianity actually appeared here in KinNupe in the first half of the first millennium of the Christian era. What we are saying here is that Christianity was first introduced into KinNupe somewhere before the 500 AD year period.
There are incontrovertible evidences, documentary and otherwise, to the effect that Christianity has been in West Africa, and in KinNupe in particular, since the first half of this Christian Era. Less than five hundred years from the anno domini and we already have a full-fludged form of Christiniaty flourishing right here in Central KinNupe.
The Kisra Nupe people were an ancient form of Christian people who came into KinNupe in the circa 500AD era and another five hundred years later they’ve become so acculturated as indigenous Nupencizhi that the Arab historian El Bakri was already referring to KinNupe as the land of the Yisa, Isa or Kisra Nupe people.
The point of interest here is that these Kisra Nupe people introduced Christianity into KinNupe in the circa 500AD era when they first arrived KinNupe. And this Kisra people came with the Christian Cross as the paramount symbol of divinity and sacredness.
We shall discuss the Kisra connection in greater details later.
Islam and Christianity in KinNupe
An interesting sideline to this discovery is that we are now coming to terms with the fact that Christianity was introduced into KinNupe even before the introuduction of Islam to KinNupe.
That the Kisra people refugees on exodus introduced Christianity to KinNupe around 500AD, of course and incredibly enough, will mean that Christianity got to KinNupe even a number of centuries before the rise of Islam in the seventh century in the Arabian Peninsula.
Christianity was already in KinNupe before the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in Mecca the year 570AD.
That there could have been Christianity already flourishing in West Africa, ancient Nigeria and prehistoric KinNupe in partocular at the time of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in Mecca by the end of the 6th century into this Christian Era shouldn’t be surprising or farfetched considering the fact that even the first Hijra of the Muslim Ummah under the direction of the Holy Prophet Muhammad was to Abyssinnia of the Negus where Christianity was already an established state religion for centuries before the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
The Ethiopian or Abyssinian Church was officially established by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria when he consecrated Frumentius of Tyre as the Bishop of Ethiopia somewhere around 330AD, that is, almost two and a half centuries before the birth of Prophet Muhammad. This, of course, means that Ethiopia or Abyssinia was fully Christian some three hundred years before the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
But then Abyssinia or Ethiopia was, if it may be safe to say so, just a stonethrow away from West Africa, Nigeria and the prehistoric KinNupe of those days. In fact there was continuous exchange of people, ideas and products between the Ethiopia and West Africa and KinNupe of those days.
Christianity immediately got transferred from the Nubia-Axum-Abyssinia axis and introduced to West Africa, ancient Nigeria and KinNupe in such a manner that there were strong elements of Christianity in various parts of ancient Nigeria and KinNupe as early as the very beginning of the 3rd century into this Christian Era. So, even before Constantine the Great convene the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD to give a Roman, European face to Christianity there were already established communities of Christians on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
This, of course, means that Christianity was first introduced into KinNupe a very long time, close to a millennium, before Islam was to be introduced to KinNupe somewhere around the 11th century.
The conventional claims of modern Western Scholarship is that Islam was introduced into KinNupe by Fulani Jihadists at the beginning of the nineteenth century long before the afterwards introduction of Christianity into KinNupe by European Missionaries towards the end of the nineteenth century.
Of course, and as I discussed in many of my books, Islam was not first introduced to KinNupe in the 19th century. Islam had been in KinNupe since the 11th century, that is, a millennium or so before the 19th century conventionally claimed by Western scholarship.
But even if the actual introduction of Islam to KinNupe is rightly backdated to the 11th century the truth still remains that an ancient form of Christianity was introduced to KinNupe and had flourished here in KinNupe centuries before Islam got to KinNupe in the 11th century.
Christianity, as we have mentioned above, first became fully established by the Kisra Nupe people in KinNupe in the circa 500 AD period which will give us more than half a millennium before Islam got to KinNupe in the 11th century.
But then the type of Christianity that got to KinNupe in the 6th century era is slighty different from the modern, European, type of Christianity that was introduced by the White European missionaries in the second half of the 19th century.
However, and as we shall discuss in a latter section of this very article, even Pauline or Modern Christianity was also introduced into KinNupe somewhere around the 13th to the 16th century period era.
Ancient and Modern Christianity
Western scholarship might be excused in its claim that Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe in the latter half of the nineteenth century by European missionaries if we accept that the Christianity that was so introduced by the European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth centuries was the modern form of Christianity.
But then before the emergence and eminence of modern Christianity with the rise of Rome on the eve of the era of the Christianity, and peaking with the Council of Nicaea in the 4th century AD, Christianity had been in existence for centuries in an ancient form. It was only beginning with the two Councils of Nicaea that the Romans put a modern or European face to Christianity. And it is this modern form of Christianity that was to be later on spread all over the world in Modern Ages through the European Age of Discovery starting in the 15th century and peaking in the Age of European Colonialism in the 19th century.
It was this modern Christianity that was to be introduced to KinNupe through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and European Colonialism in the nineteenth century. So, Western scholarship might not be completely wrongly when it said that Christianity was introduced to KinNupe by European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
But Western Scholarship is completely and totally wrong when it claim that Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe by European missionaries in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The truth of the matter is that before the introduction of modern Christianity into KinNupe there was ancient form of Christianity which flourished right here in Central KinNupe for millennia on end.
The Kisra Nupe People
In prehistoric times there used to be an ancient worldwide religion called Sara. This Sara reigned and flourished as a one world religion for a very long time, some said for millennia, before it eventually collapsed and shattered into a number of daughter world religions some of which have survived into history as our modern world religions.
This ancient Sara one world relgion, being the mother religion of most modern world religions, had a lot in common with many of the modern world religions. For instance, Sara had a lot in common with modern Christianity that it can actually be simply referred to as an ancient or earlier form of Christianity.
Sara also revered and worshipped the Cross as do modern Christians; Sara also revered and worshipped Isa or Jesus as a divine being; and so on and on. And this is despite the fact that Sara was a one world religion long before the emergence of modern European Chrisianity which is the form of Christianity we practice in modern times.
It was actually the fall and shattering of this ancient Sara one world religion on the eve of the era of Antiquity that led to the emergence of its daughter world religions including Mithraism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam which have become our world religions today. Christianity in particular is a direct result of the fall and shatter of Sara.
The fact is that the rise of Rome in Hellenic times and its attendant emergence of modern European Christianity in the circa 3rd to 4th centuries AD led to a lot of religious and demographic crises in southern Europe, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean areas. Some of these religious and demographic crises resulted in the mass exoduses of a number of ancient Christianity-practicing peoples migrating into the heart of Black Negro Africa. Many of these mass exodus peoples who migrated into the heart of Africa came to settle down on the banks of the River Niger in ancient KinNupe and are known to history today as the Kisra people.
These Kisra people were practitioners of the ancient form of Christianity, Sara, which they brought with them from the outside world and eventually established on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe.
The Yisa ancient Nupe Christians actually said that they were returning back to KinNupe because KinNupe was the home and motherland of the very ancient world religion of Sara which, once upon time, was spread over the world by the Osiris-Dionysus-Jesus figure.
The migration of these Kisra people into KinNupe, with their introduction of that ancient Christianity into KinNupe, took place in the 6th century AD and that, of course, predated even the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yes, and that is the truth of the matter, namely that there was an ancient form of Christianity which flourished here in Central KinNupe centuries before the rise of Islam itself in the Arabian Peninsula.
So, Christianity got to KinNupe several millennia before the advent of Islam into KinNupe in latter times.
Modern Christianity In KinNupe
It is true that the Kisra people introduced an ancient form of Christianity, Sara, into KinNupe starting from circa 500 AD. But then, and what most researchers used to overlook, is the fact that it was nt only the ancient form of Christianity that the Kisra people introduced to KinNupe at the beginning but that the Kisra people also eventually ended up introducing Modern Christianity to KinNupe.
The problem here is that we tend to view the Kisra migration as a once and for all affair; we are usually not aware of the fact that the ‘Kisra Migration’ is actually a blanket term for a series of exoduses and migrations that started from circa 500 AD and lasted to well night unto the first centuries of the second millennium of this Christian Era.
In fact the ‘Kisra Migration’ was not a single migration; it is merely a single term for an endless series of migrations of peoples of different races, cultures, religions and ethnicities. The only common ground being that an overwhelming majority of this series of migrations originated from outside the African continent – from the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia Minor.
At the beginning of the Kisra migrations the Kisra people were generally Sara or ancient Christians but at the tail end of the Kisra migrations the Kisra people were mostly Pauline or Modern Christianity-practicing adherents.
So, what started as a an overwhelming Sara or Ancient Christianity exodus into KinNupe in the 500 AD era ended up as an overwhelmingly Pauline or Modern Christianity exodus into KinNupe in the 1000 AD era.
By the first century of the second millennium AD, that is, after lasting for over half a millennium, the Kisra migrations gradually came to an end. But by the time it was coming to an end majority of the Kisra refugees were already adherents of Modern Christianity as by then modern Christianity have already became the established rellgion of most of the outside world from which these refugees were coming. As a matter of fact Islam had already become an international force by the 1000 AD and the demographic crises generated by the rise of International Islam in those days was mainly responsible for the latter form of the Kisra migrations into Africa in genral and KinNupe in particular.
By the time that the Kisra migrations were coming to an end the major driving force behind the migrations was the demographic displacements generated by the rise of International Islam that have by then overwhelmed the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Arabia and Asia Minor. Many people in these places, many of whom were Modern Christians, were displaced and were moving in all directions with some eventually migrating into the heart of Black Negro Africa.
These population displacements generated by Internatinal Islam also led to the destabilization of the Christian communities of North Africa and East Africa. The Coptic Christians of Ethiopia were also destabilized and displaced with many ending up in the Alexandria general area of modern Egypt. But many other Copts Abyssinia simply fled southward into the heart of Black Negro Africa – they came to West Africa and ancient KinNupe in significant numbers.
It was not, however, only the Coptic Christians from Nubia and Abyssinia who came fleeing to ancient Nigeria in general and ancient KinNupe in particular; many other Modern Christians from different parts of the world who were affected by the rise of International Islam and other religious or social factors also came trooping into West Africa and KinNupe in reasonable numbers in the early centuries of the second millennium AD, that is, in the 1000 AD to the 1300 AD period.
Apart from the exoduses of these Modern Christians into KinNupe in the wake of the end of the Kisra migrations, there were also organized missionary expeditions by Christian establishments and missions in Europe, North Africa and East Africa involved in the deliberate sending of Modern Christian missionaries across the Sahara Desert to ancient Nigeria and KinNupe in those early centuries of the second millennium AD.
Regarding this topic of Modern Christian missions sending missionaries to West Africa and KinNupe we did mentioned earlier the establishment of a Christian mission in Nubia with Athanasius conferred as the bishop of Nubia. We also mentioned that the early Church Fathers were mostly Black African Negroes based in North Africa or Northeast Africa and in unhindered contact with West Africa, ancient Nigeria and ancient KinNupe.
That these Christian missions in North and Northeast Africa had immediate and direct influence on the Christianization of ancient Nigeria and ancient KinNupe is discussed in exhaustive details by Joseph Kenny in his monumental research works on this topic.
The long and short of it is that this is how Modern Christianity was first introduced to KinNupe, that is through the influx of Modern Christian refugees pushed across the Sahara by the rise of International Islam and other religious or social factors, and through the activities of Modern Christian missionaries sent by European and Northeastern Christian missions also across the Sahara to ancient Nigeria and ancient KinNupe in the period spanning the 1000 AD to the 1300 AD era.
Christian Kingdoms in Central KinNupe
All these extensive and repeated waves of Christian influences from the outside world to ancient Nigeria and ancient KinNupe ended up transforming KinNupe into a sort of a Christian Nation in prehistoric times. The first Christian wave in the form of Ancient Christianity and the second Christian wave in the form of Modern Christianity spanning a period of over half a millennium impacted seriously on the religious configuration of ancient KinNupe. New Nupe kingdoms emerged that were partially or completely Christian. Pre-existing Nupe kingdoms also became partially or completely Christianized. Amon many others, three great Nupe kingdoms, namely, Esa, Gbara and Nupeko, became so Christianized that to this very day stories of their Christianization survived from those prehistoric times into modern history.
There are documentary evidences to the effect that in the long period spanning the 1200 AD to 1700 AD, that is, for some half a millennium or so, there had flourished, at one time or the other, different Nupe communities, kingdoms and even empires that were partially or wholly Christian on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
Ancient churches and cathedrals were reported to have flourished here in central KinNupe in very ancient times. Entire towns and even cities made up wholly of Christians once flourished right here in Central KinNupe.
We discuss some of these Nupe Christian empires in the following paragraphs.
Esa Nupe Christian Kingdom
We have discussed the coming of the Yisa Kisra Nupe people to Central KinNupe starting in circa 500 AD before. Now we continue with the story of the Kisra Yisa Nupe people as they settled down on the banks of the River Niger here in Central KinNupe.
They came and eventually established a powerful and almighty Nupe kingdom and empire, called Yisa, Isa or Esa, on the banks of the River Niger here in Central KinNupe in very ancient times.
The Yisa or Esa Christian Nupe kingdom established by the Yisa Kisra Nupe refugees should be differentiated from the modern village of Esa in today’s Katcha Local Government of Niger State. The modern or historical village of Esa, and its general area of Esa ward in Katcha Local Government Area, is merely one of the many Yisa settlements that originated from the Original or Old Esa we are discussing in the context of this present writeup. Other daughter ‘Esas’ that originated from the Original or Old Essan includes Katsa (Katcha), Vatsa, Bassa, Esheti, Essan, Hausa, and so on and on.
One upon a time there flourished a super kingdom or empire of Esa on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe. This Esa super kingdom was originally a settlement of the Kisra refugees who came on exodus into KinNupe started from the 500 AD era. This Kisra people were mostly practitioners of the ancient Christian religion of Sara and the Esa kingdom they founded became a powerful Christian Nupe kingdom located here in Central KinNupe.
The king or emperor of that ancient Nupe Chritian kingdom of Esa was also known as Yisa, Isa or Esa. This Yisa or Isa Nupe Christian emperor was a sacred king who was considered by the Yisa Kisra Nupe people to be part of an ancient Nupe holy trinity that involves the King, the Sun and God Almighty. That is why the three – King, Sun, and God – are each and all still known to this very day among the Nupes as ‘Esa’ or ‘Etsa’ or ‘Etsu’.
The Arab historian El Bakri categorically mentioned this almighty Nupe emperor whose kingdom he referred to as Ed-Denden. And Lady Flora Shaw also referred to the general Nupe area as the Ed-Denden of the medieval historians. This almighty Kisra Nupe emperor was then identified by Professor Leo Frobenius as the Yisa or Isa or Esa the Nupe Christian Emperor about whose international reputations the story of Prester John grew in Medieval Europe.
Stories became rampant in medieval Europe to the effect that Emperor Yisa was a Nupe Christian emperor who ruled over the superpower Nupe empire of Esa, Esan, Katcha or Basa on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe. So serious did the Dark Ages Europeans took this stories that it actually played a key role in Francisco Petrarch’s initiation of the Renaissance or back to Nature, actually Back to Africa, movement which eventually ushered Europe out of the Dark Ages.
The story was that Prester John was a Christian emperor who left Europe with his people and came to establish a Christian kingdom on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe. This story must, of course, have some basis in historical facts considering the fact that it is too synonymous with that of the Kisra Persian emperor and his people also moving from the outside world to come to establish a superpower Christian kingdom on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe also.
All over KinNupe in ancient times there were the Yisa Nupe Christians who were to be known to Hausa historians as the Isawa. Professor Alan Ryder said they were known among the Nupe people as the Yisazhi and, as a matter of fact, Yisa is to this very day a very common Nupe appellation throughout the length and breadth of KinNupe.
As a matter of fact Colonial historians, on the authority of O. Temple, categorically stated that the Yisa Nupe people formed the major section of the Bini Nupe section, together with their rival Gwagba Nupezhi, on the eve of the advent of the Fulani Jihadists as recent as the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Whatever the case might have been the fact still remains that a powerful Yisa Kisra Christian empire once upon a time was established and flourished on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
Gbara Nupe Christian Kingdom
Another prehistoric Nupe Christian kingdom was the one known as Gbara or Ibara. In very ancient times the Ibara Nupe people founded and established the Nupe kingdom of Ibara or Igbara or, as we call it today, Gbara.
These Ibara or Igbara Nupe people are among the most autochthonous Nupe people of KinNupe. They have been around in KinNupe since time immemorial, long before even the arrival of the Yisa Kisra Nupe people.
The Ibara or Igbara Nupe people are also variously known as the Gbara, Gbwara, Gara, Kara, Kwara, Koro, Kolo, and so on and on. They derived their national name, Koro or Kwara, from the fact that they have been on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe since time immemorial. The River Niger have always been known as Koro or Kwara.
These Koro, Gara or Igbara ancient Nupe people were also known to the Nupe-Fulani historians as the Gwagba Nupe people.
In any case these ancient Koro, Kwara, Gwara, Gbara, Igbara or Ibara Nupe people their own prehistoric Nupe super kingdom or empire of Ibara, Igbara or Gbara. This Gbara or Gara kingdom was a very ancient one that has been around in KinNupe since time immemorial.
This Gbara should, of course, also not be confused with the modern town of Gbara which used to be the ancient capital of the Gwagba or Ibara Nupe people. Today’s town of Gbara is just one of the many remnants of that ancient Gbara kingdom of the Nupes. Other surviving remnants of that ancient Gbara Nupe kingdom include the town of Raba, the people of Koro, Gara, Gwari, Agwara, and many others.
But we are discussing the Original or Old Gbara super kingdom. This Old Gbara kingdom at a time grew into a superpower Nupe empire that exercised territorial sovereignty over a large section of ancient Nigeria. As late as the 16th century Leo Africanus reported that the Gara Nupe language of this Gbara Nupe empire was the still the Lingua Franca spoken over the whole of today’;s Hausaland in Northern Nigeria.
The Nupe people of this Gbara or Igbara or Ibara or Bara Nupe empire were known as the Gbarani, Igbarani, Ibarani or Barani. This Barani was indeed the ethnonym of these ancient Nupe people. But the Gbara or Igbara or Ibara or Bara Nupe empire also had toponyms including Bara-Gu and Gu-Bara.
It is the toponym Gu-Bara of that ancient Nupe empire of Gbara or Bara that the Hausa and Colonial historians came to pronounce and transcribed as Gubir or Gobir. As a matter of fact Ibn Batuta correctly pronounced the name of the Gobir kingdom as Gubara which was the toponym of the Nupe kingdom of Gbara or Bara. What we are saying here, in other words, is that today’s Gobir kingdom was merely a daughter descendant or remnant of that ancient Nupe empire of Gbara or Ibara and that the Gobir people originated from the ancient Nupe empir of Ibara or Gbara. In fact, as we shall discuss in greater details later, the Nupe Nation was actually known as Gu-Bara or Gubara or Gobir in very ancient times.
Another toponym of the ancient Nupe empire of Gbara was, as we mentioned before, Bara-Gu. This Bara-Gu or Baragu or Bargu is the same that the Colonial historians came and wrote as Borgu. Yes, and of course, the Borgu kingdom of today originated from the ancient Nupe empire of Gbara or Ibara in prehistoric times.
In any case the ethnonym of the ancient Gbara or Ibara Nupe people was Ibara-ni or Bara-ni or Barani or Barni or Barnu and it is the same that is Latinized today as Borno or Bornu. The people, and eventually the nation, of the ancient Nupe empire of Gbara or Ibara were known as the Bara-ni or Bornu and in fact it is the ancient Nupe empire of Gbara or Ibara that was knonw to the ancient Hausa city chroniclers are ‘Bornu Gungu’ or the Bornu of Gungu since KinNupe used to be also known as Gungu or Gunguma.
KinNupe was the Bornu mentioned in the Hausa city chronicles and not the modern kingdom of Bornu on the reaches of the Lake Chad. All ancient and prehistoric references to Bornu actually referred to this ancient and Old Bornu located in Central KinNupe and not to the modern Bornu of the Lake Chad. In the 13th century for instance Ibn Batuta categorically located Bornu on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe and not on the banks of the Lake Chad. Professor Alan Ryder and Sir H.R. Palmer also made references to this Old Bornu which they maintained was located in Central KinNupe and not in today’s Bornuland.
So, and once upon a time, the ancient Nupe Gbara empire flourished on the banks of the river Niger right here in Central KinNupe as the Original or Old Bornu from which today’s Bornu of the Lake was to be later derived.
When the Christian hordes of the Kisra international refugees began to flood KinNupe and with the other Christian influences from other places including Nubia and North Africa in latter times, the ancient Nupe empire of Gbara, otherwise known as Old Bornu or Bornu Gungu, began to be Christianized until, centuries later, its dynasty of rulers also became Christians.
The ruling dynasty of Gbara or the Nupe empire of Old Bornu were known with the royal title Gara or Gana. Of course, and as we have said before, Gara is just another dialectal form of Gwara, Kwara or Koro or Gbara.
The Gara or Gana emperors of the Gbara or Old Bornu Nupe empire were also known as the Garani or Ganani or simply as Gani. This Gani is the saem around which the cult of Gani developed – the same Gani cult that we see still see in the Kutigi Gani festival to this very day. Of course the Gani cult and its festival has also survived among the Borgu and the Gbagyi people both of whom used to be Nupe people until very recent times.
In any case it was this Gani emperor that the Oba of Benin referred to as the Ogane and told the Portuguse sailor, Jao Afonso d’Aviero, about as the great Nupe emperor who ruled over the whole of ancient Nigeria including the kingdom of Benin city in today’s Edo State.
The Oba of Benin told Jao Afonso d’Aveiro that the Ogane was a Christian emperor and that he distributes the formee Maltese Cross to all his vassal governors, including the Oba of Benin, of the various vassal states of the Nupe Bornu empire that exercised territorial sovereignty over almost the whole of ancient Nigeria.
The Ogane or the Gani emperor of the ancient Nupe empire of Old Bornu or Bornu Gungu was, at a time, a Christian and his greatest symbol of divinity was the Maltese Cross.
The Hausa traditions still clearly remembered a Nupe emperor they referred to as the ‘Sarki mai Sakandami’ or the ‘King with the Cross’. The Hausa traditions said that this Christian Sarki Mai Sakandami was the emperor of the Old Gobir kingdom but, and as we have demonstrated before, Gobir was a Nupe kingdom of the overall Nupe empire of Old Bornu or Bornu Gungu in prehistoric times.
Sarki mai Sakandami was a Nupe Christian emperor who wore the Cross and distributed same as his symbol of divine and temporal authority.
Sarki mai Sakandami ruled over the ancient Nupe empire of Igbara or Old Bornu or Bornu Gungu from which the Gwari, Gara, Gobir and Bornu kingdoms of historical times were to be later derived.
This same Sarki mai Sakandami, or the ‘Cross-bearing Emperor’ is evidently of the same dynasty that was identified as the Ogane by the Oba of Benin to the first Portuguese sailors to arrive the Guinea Coast in the 15th century. Ogane was said to be an almighty Nupe emperor who ruled over the whole of the Central Sudan, ancient Nigeria and its surroundings, in prehistoric times. The Ogane was a Christian and he wears and distributes the Cross and his ultimate symbol of authority.
The Ogane or Gani Nupe Christian dynasty of emperors ruled over a revived Old Bornu or Bornu Gungu Nupe empire that was evidently a successor to the ancient Nupe Yisa Kisra Esa empire of Old. Bornu Gungu or the Old Bornu of Central KinNupe was evidently at a time a Christian Nupe empire.
As late as 1686 Propaganda Fide in Italy was still receiving reports that the Nupe kingdom of Old Bornu still had a sizeable population of Christians remaining in it. And though by 1700 the reports are that the population of Old Bornu or the Nupe Bornu Gungu was completely Muslim the Propaganda Fide still sent a Christian mission, headed by the Franciscan father Damiano da Rivoli, to come to the Old Bornu kingdom of KinNupe for evangelization purposes. The team left Cairo for KinNupe but had to turn back in 1704 when the road across the Sahara became to dangerous.
But by 1708 another mission of Roman Catholic missionaries arrived KinNup all the way from the Vatican, Italy, and they even set up a sixty bed hospital right in the capital city of the Nupe Old Bornu kingdom right here in Central KinNupe.
In 1711 Propaganda Fide, in Vatican City, Rome, Italy, sent the Roman Catholic fathers Father Carlo Maria di Genova and Father Severino da Silesia as missionaries to the Nupe Old Bornu kingdom. These fathers did reached KinNupe but both died due to a disease at a Nupe town called Caina before they could get to the capital city of the Nupe Old Bornu kingdom.
Nupeko Christian Nupe kingdom
Another prehistoric Nupe kingdom that became Christian was Nupeko which was a super kingdom founded by Tsudi (Tsoede) the Founder or Re-founder of Nupe. Tsudi founded the United Kingdom of Nupeko in 1269. This Nupeko kingdom of Tsudi was also known as Nupekoro or Nufekoro or Nufakoro or Ifakoro or Korofa. It was the same that was referred to by Sultan Bello as Koronufa or Koronorfa and was the same that the Hausa city chronicles referred to as Kororofa.
A couple of centuries later, and as Christian influences overwhelmed Nupeko, the Nupeko or Kororofa empire of Tsudi began to be Christianized as the number of its Christian citizens rapidly increased. As a matter of fact, and at a time a couple of centuries later, even the kings and emperors of Nupeko or Kororofa became Christians.
In fact, and as late as the year 1700 reports reaching the Propaganda Fide in Vatican city, Rome, Italy, indicated that there was still a significant population of Christians in Nupeko otherwise known as Kororofa.
In fact the Propaganda Fide began to send missionaries to Nupeko or Kororofa at the beginning of the 18th century after learning that the Nupe people of Kororofa were staunch Christians who will defend their Christian faith with their lives.
But towards the end of the 18th century Kororofa declined and eventually fall to the increasing power of Islam and Muslims in KinNupe. This was such that by the end of the 18th century Kororofa had all but fallen in Central KinNupe and the influence of Islam had grown to the extent that even the Etsu Nupes were already converting to Islam and were already bearing Islamic or Muslim names.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Etsu Nupes were already so Islamized that they were already contemplating the establishing of a Nupe Islamic Caliphate in Central KinNupe. By that time the Islamic Jihadists and the Muslim Etsu Nupes were deliberately obliterating all traces of a Christian Kororofa past of the Nupe Nation. And when the Sokoto Caliphate came about and dominated the Nupe Nation with its varieties of Nupe-Fulani emirates in different parts of KinNupe the elimination of the Christian past of KinNupe was all but completely and totally accomplished.
The Maltese Cross and Other Christian Symbols In KinNupe
It is indeed paradoxical that most Nupe Muslims today are not aware of the fact that the designs on their traditional caps and babban riga flowing gowns are glaringly garnished with the ancient Nupe symbol of the Christian Cross to this very day!
The design of little crosses intersticed repeatedly on all ‘Hausa’ caps today are really the survival of the ancient Christian Cross design of the ancient Nupe Christian people into modern times – it is of Nupe origin and not of Hausa origins.
In the past it was reported that there used to be towns and cities in ancient KinNupe with the Christian Cross adorning the rooftop of every house. It was also ever since those days that the Nupe people began the habit of designing their doorframes and façade of their houses with crosses and the knotted Cross we call the Northern Knot or Arewa Symbol today.
The Northern Knot or Arewa Symbol
In fact the famous and popular Northern Knot symbol, also known as the Arewa Symbol or Dagin Arewa, of the intertwining snake, in the form of Cross, which has become the official Arewa Symbol of Hausa or Northern Nigeria today is also of this designer Maltese Cross ancient symbolism of the Yisa Nupe people of very ancient times.
The Arewa Symbol or the Northern Knot was after all an ancient Nupe Christian symbol of the Christian Cross knotted in a designer form. As a matter of fact the ancient Sara Yisa Kisra Nupe people actually brought the symbol together with them from Southern Europe where its usd to by a Celtic Knot design of the Christian Cross.
For centuries back into the remote past the Indo-European Celts in Central and Western Europe were used to forming elaborate designs through the intricate are of knotting. When the Celts became Christians they also knotted the Christian Cross into all manners of designer knots including the one that has ended up as the Northern Knot or Arewa Symbol of Northern Nigeria today. This same Northern Knot can be seen, for instance, on the floor design of many churches in medieval Europe and other parts medieval Christiandom including the Church of Siant Augustine at Hippo or Anaba in North Africa.
It was this same Christian Cross that the Kisra refugees brought with them to Central KinNupe when they began to move into Africa in mass exoduses beginning circa 500 AD. And that was how the ‘Northern’ Knot or ‘Arewa’ Symbol ended up becoming a national feature of the ancient Nupe Christians on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
Incidentally enough the First Republic Northern politicians headed by Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardaunan Sokoto picked this very ancient Nupe Christian symbol of divinity as the symbol of the Arewa or Northern Nigeria. It is quite quixotic and baffling as to why it is the same Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardaunan Sokoto, who was so passionate about the Sokoto Caliphate Jihad enterprise of his great grandfathers, is the one who chose this Christian Cross knotted design as the Symbol of the North – as the Northern Knot or the Arewa Symbol.
Hausa Is Also of Nupe Christian Origins
Even the very word ‘Hausa’ is itself of that ancient Yisa Nupe origins. Hausa is simply the Colonial transcription of ‘Ausa’ which was the Maguzawa, or Northern Nigerian, corruption of Isa or Esa which was the national name of the ancient Nupe people of Yisa and their ancient empire of Esa.
These ancient Yisa Nupe people established a Maltese-Cross-centric culture right here on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe. They referred to the Cross, and their culture and religion, synonymously as ‘Sara’.
This ‘Sara’ was one of the ancient Nupe religions that the Fulani Jihadists came and vigorously attempted to wipe out during the era the Islamic Revolution in KinNupe starting in the 11th century and peaking at the end of the nineteenth century before the European Colonialists came and weakened the Islamic emirates and the Sokoto Caliphate.
Before the advent of both Islam and modern Christianity, an ancient Nupe Christianity of Sara by the Yisa Nupe people flourished vigorously here in Central KinNupe and one of its enduring and prominent legacies is the Maltese Cross which we see dominating every aspect of ancient and traditional Nupe culture to this very day.
And it was that way that the Maltese Cross eventually became a central figure and symbol in ancient KinNupe.
The point here is that this ancient Christianity became so well established in KinNupe that it was able to flourish for so many centuries on end that as late as the 17th century there were repeated stories of this ancient form of Christianity still flourishing in the heart of Central KinNupe. In fact it was stories like that that eventually began to attract the modern European missionaries to come to KinNupe until they eventually brought modern Christianity to KinNupe in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Picture: The first picture is that of an ancient church-bell made by Nupe people somewhere around the 1800 AD. This bell was one of the many ancient church bells that were reported to have been hung in ancient church cathedrals in KinNupe before the advent of the White missionaries from across the Atlantic Ocean. Note the Nupe tribal scarification marks on the face designed on the bell. The second picture is that of a messenger of the Ogane or Yisa Nupe Christian emperor. The messenger, with glaring Nupe tribal scarification marks, is wearing a Maltese Cross. The third and fourth are of the Northern Knot or Arewa Symbol seen on the floor of Christian churches one at the 4th century Saint Augustine’s Church at Hippo and the other in a 3rd century Church at Megiddo in today’s State of Israel.