Mansa Abubakari II on his expedition to the Americas.

Abubakari II was a Malian emperor who ruled in the 14th century. He discovered America nearly 200 years before Christopher Columbus.

According to a book that was launched in December 2000 and even more recent historical evidence corroborated by some of the most renowned African Griots, Abubakari II was by far the most powerful ruler on earth.

But Abubakari gave up power to his younger brother to pursue knowledge and to further enrich the superb history and culture of Mali.

A grandson of a daughter of the great ruler Sundiata (who reigned 1230-1255), the founder of the Keita dynasty, Mansa (emperor) Abubakari became ruler of Mali in 1300. His younger brother was Kankan Musa, who later became the famous Mansa Musa.

Abubakari II ruled what was arguably the richest and largest empire on earth – covering nearly all of West Africa. He sought to increase the power and influence of Mali even further.

However, he did not seek to do it in combat alone. Mansa Abubakari, like his ancient Egyptian ancestors before him, sought something more grandiose.

While his brother was interested in extending the borders of the empire to the east, toward today’s Cairo, to recapture the essence of the old African civilization of Kemet, Mansa Abubakari instead focused on westward expansion by exploring the waters to the west of his empire.

And why?

Unlike most medieval Europeans, African geographers such as Abu Zakari, al-Masandi, Baba Idirisa, and Albufeda had concluded that the Atlantic Ocean was not the western edge of the world, and their ideas may have come to Abubakari through scholarship at the great Malian university in Timbuktu.

According to a respected Malian scholar, Gaoussou Diawara in his book, ‘The Saga of Abubakari II… he left with 2000 boats,’ giving up all power and gold to pursue knowledge and discovery.

Abubakari’s ambition was to explore whether the Atlantic Ocean – like the great River Niger that swept through Mali – had another bank.

In 1311, he handed the throne over to his younger brother, Kankou Moussa, and set off on an expedition into the unknown.

His predecessor and uncle, Soundjata Keita, had already founded the Mali Empire and conquered a good stretch of the Sahara Desert and the great forests along the West African coast.

Gaoussou Diawara’s book focuses on a research project that was carried out in Mali tracing Abubakari’s journeys.

“We are not saying that Abubakari II was the first ever to cross the ocean,” says Tiemoko Konate, who heads the project.

“There is evidence that Africans way before him did – the ancient Egyptians were the first, even the Vikings lay claim to America long before Columbus, as well as the Chinese,” he said.

The researchers claim that Abubakari’s fleet of pirogues, loaded with men and women, livestock, food and drinking water, departed from what is the coast of present-day Gambia and headed for the America’s in search of knowledge that would make Mali even stronger.

Mansa Abubakari’s expedition was Africa’s most recent attempt to export her culture and traditions outside of Africa and to enrich herself and the rest of the world. Abubakari wanted to become the first diplomat of Mali to some of the remotest places on earth.

To Mansa Abubakari, expanding eastward to reclaim Kemet was not enough. He strongly believed that if Mali were going to be truly great, she had to explore and conquer the excesses of distance and the impossible.

Today, researchers in Timbuktu are gathering evidence that in 1312 Abubakari II landed on the coast of Brazil in the place known today as Recife.

“Its other name is Purnanbuco, which we believe is an aberration of the Mande name for the rich gold fields that accounted for much of the wealth of the Mali Empire, Boure Bambouk.”

Another researcher, Khadidjah Djire says they have found written accounts of Abubakari’s expedition in Egypt, in a book written by Al Omari in the 14th century.

“Our aim is to bring out hidden parts of history”, she says.

Mr Konate says they are also examining reports by Columbus himself, who said he found black traders already present in the Americas.

Mansa Abubakari II meets with Native Americans in peace, unlike his European successors.
Mansa Abubakari II meets with Native Americans in peace, unlike his European followers.

They also cite chemical analyses of the gold tips that Columbus found on spears in the Americas, which show that the gold came from West Africa.

But the scholars say the best sources of information on Abubakari II are Griots – the original historians in Africa.

Mr Diawara says the paradox of Abubakari II, is that the Griots themselves imposed a seal of silence on the story since Abubakari never returned himself.

But, Mr Diawara says the Griots in West Africa such as Sadio Diabate, are slowly starting to divulge the secrets on Abubakari II and his expedition.

Abubakari’s history in Mali has an important moral lesson for leaders of today’s nation states in West Africa, which were once part of the vast Mali Empire.

A cursory look at what’s going on in all the remnants of the Mali Empire – in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea show an attitude that is not in tandem with that of Mansa Abubakari II.

“Politicians are bathing their countries in blood, setting them on fire just so that they can cling to power,” says Mr Diawara.

“They should take an example from Abubakari II. He was a far more powerful man than any of them. And he was willing to give it all up in the name of science and discovery.”

“That should be a lesson for everyone in Africa today,” concludes Mr Diawara.

For knowledge is far more lasting than power!

12 COMMENTS

  1. Great story. Knowledge can lead to power but the former is infinitely better than the latter. I like this story of the pursuit of knowledge and especially in the face of money and power. If only people today could hold aspirations beyond the material.

  2. Anyone who reads this far and is as fascinated as I am about Abubakari II and the settlement of the Americas by Africans long before Columbus, needs to read Ivan von Sertima’s book, “They Came Before Columbus.” You will be convinced like I was. Additional research will demonstrate von Sertima’s claims.

  3. As for African leaders, the time has come for them to be as accountable as the Abubakari’s of the world. They ought to be. Here’s who they can learn from and stop hanging unto to power.

  4. Interesting and inspiring theories We’ll let the evidence do the talking .. There are still a lot of questions to be answered. Did the king ever make it back home ? How do we know he got there safely . What kind of vessels were used and why unlike the Vikings , haven’t we been able to build or manage a thriving maritime industry across the continent .

    • I can answer your questions Togbe! Mansa Abubakari II did not make it back. So, the way we know he made it to the America’s safely is to find and date certain ornament like utensils, artifacts, etc. back to the Malian Empire’s existence in the 1400s and then see if those things appeared in the America at that time. The most important question here is not whether Mansa Abubakari II made it back. That is not the African question to ask.
      Our question is, based on the fact that Malian commodities like gold, ornaments, artifacts etc. are strictly Malian in chemistry and art have been found in the Americas and date back to the 1400s, how did they get there before Columbus arrived 200 years later. Archeologically, Mali has been to the Americas. Now it is up to you to conclude that in reality they did or not.
      If you are African, that conclusion should be clear and straight to point. Now, why haven’t we developed a more robust maritime industry like France, Britain, etc? Because Norway ever since the Vikings, and until they had discovered oil did not develop their traditional maritime industry neither. Which brings me to the point – how did we in West Africa not develop that industry? Well, white people brought the Bible and Muslims brought the Koran. Then all Africans left whatever they have been doing since the beginning of time to follow Yesu and the like.
      But all is not lost. Like Norway, if Ghanaian men we real men, if only African men were real men, they would use their oil money too to develop their traditional maritime industry the way Norway has! That would certainly be a thriving industry today! But look at Nigeria? Look at Ghana? Your answers are right on your finger tips.

      • You were doing great with a couple cogent points until your post started getting anecdotal. I’m as patriotic as the next guy , but attempting to play on someone’s patriotism to avoid a logical dialogue is not only underhanded but disingenous .

        2. Norweigian maritime industry wasnt developed until oil discovery ? Vikings didnt sail around the world on swimming pool noodles . Everyone has an image in their minds of what a viking ship looks like and given the timelines of when vikings existed , your assertions are waaay off . Wouldnt you consider the design , construction and extensive use of ships an integral part of any maritime industry ? Infact , that is exactly what defines a maritime industry . Their “Modern” industry there, goes back about 150 years FYI … and that’s just one country in a region .

        3. You’re arguing that some guys showed up on boats with religious literature and because of that we gave up all ambitions of pursuing or developing an industry we already had ? Mansa Abubakari left the shores of this continent a long time ago but I doubt his efforts were a one off event . It would have been well researched and based on experiences(positive and fatal) of other mariners , explorers ,fishersmen etc before him . It would be safe to argue that others followed and attempted(successfully) what he did , which could explain how most of the artifacts are where they are . There are better reasons to attribute a lack of a thriving maritime industry to , but maligning men isnt one of them .

        • Togbe Anat III Seriously get a grip. Yes, I am insinuating one thing and one thing alone – African men have been a failure since the Bible and the Koran arrived on the continent from Europe and from the Arabs, respectively. Period. But that is another discussion I threw in there to underscore why African progress has stalled since the likes of the Mansas. Before Harvard, before Cambridge, before Oxford, Timbuktu was the state of the art University educating the brightest minds in Africa and the rest of the enlightened world. That much is no debate. This brings me to your brouhaha about:

          1. Norway’s industry goes back about 150 years? Where did you get that information? You don’t say anything of substance here. What has Norway’s 150 years ago got to do with Africa? ‘Everyone has an image in their minds of what a viking ship looks like and given the timelines of when vikings existed?’ Why do you think that is? I don’t think if Norwegians were busy reading the Bible and or the Koran, you my friend would have had a chance to know what Viking ships looked like. You think Norwegian men didn’t write books about their ancestors offering the world their history and images? What have African men done except to whine and whimper about slavery, colonialism and imperialism? The history and images of your ancestors are still buried in the ground beneath you, but here we are talking about us knowing more about Viking History than Ewe history in maritime exploration? Mansa Abubakari II ‘may have’ traveled to the Americas some 200 years before Columbus but we are supposed to be fascinated with the Vikings? This makes you more patriotic? Than who? The Vikings?

          2. Yes I am ‘arguing that some guys showed up on boats with religious literature and because of that we gave up all ambitions of pursuing or developing an industry?’ Or not! You go figure! And you are mad about this? Why? Did we not sell our own people to these Bible carrying savages? Did we not collect cowries in exchange for African bodies carried to the Americas and subjected to all kinds of brutality? When I say African men failed, no way I am referring to you! I don’t know you! You are the guy who cares to have a conversation about an important topic. 99 percent of African men wouldn’t even dare to have this conversation. So chill. I am in no way attacking your masculinity.

          I am though attacking the masculinity of a continent of men – who seem to always complain about white men! Perhaps we, like the Vikings must begin to write and resurrect the immense achievements of our ancestors. If the ancient Egyptians did not write, we wouldn’t be here talking about a great African past. Even that, we did not discover Kemet ourselves – you know that? White men did all the excavation and wrote about our ancient past – lies and truths. Go figure! Even Mali, Ghana and Songhai were not documented by us! We have documents from Arab men who came to Timbuktu to study. And that’s how we know about our own history. Why? It is sad. This emphasizes why Abubakari’s story is more poignant. We are the ones supposed to tell the story – like the Norwegians tell us about the Vikings. We are the ones who have to find our evidence of our past – not question it! This is our story, not that of others.

          So get off the horse and let us both be angry! Then perhaps in this anger we can all fashion out an new African mentality – one rooted more in our pride than in what people who show up in boats bring with them to our shores. Yes, that is what I am saying as an African woman!

        • LOL… I’d like to engage in a very productive discussion about great african historians , architects , intellectuals and their actual or perceived contributions to our soceity , which you seem to be ignoring . However , where does one go from ” African men have been a failure since the Bible and the Koran arrived on the continent ” ,

          “I am in no way attacking your masculinity. I am though attacking the masculinity of a continent of men – who seem to always complain about white men! ”

          “So get off the horse and let us both be angry!” .

          In all of this i see a bias . That bias seems misdirected and influences your objectivity . But i will agree with you on one thing ” We are the ones who have to find our evidence of our past” .. BUT i believe in questioning everything and not blindly following . Because it is when these questions are answered that heroes are made of our forebearers and everyone gets to truly realize their genius . Who doesnt want to celebrate a great family member ?

        • Why don’t you question when Norwegians tell you the Vikings made it the Americas? Why didn’t you question until Sertima and co. questioned the reliability of the Columbus story? Have you questioned the Bible? The Koran? Or do you accept it once white men bring you the information? Luckily we are engaging in those discussions now. I am glad you are a patriot. Yes, we could celebrate “Great African historians , architects , intellectuals and their actual or perceived contributions to our society?” Well I hope we are not referring to times before colonialism. I may be biased, but Africa has had nothing to show for the past 400 years except for a few canoes! And why is that? That is not an accident, I believe. The confluence of Bible tooting Africans and the emergence of a truly African identity has made it impossible to resolve Africa in its essence. Even ISIS is now recruiting from Ghana. Why? Yes, because we forgot who we are. So, yes, I am biased. But how many African women do we refer to when we recount Ancient African history – a handful. Men, have largely been the agents of change and revolution. That is no small responsibility, I assume. If I am biased, then society itself is biased, then God is biased, then African society and God are the culprit, not I. What women were kidnapping fellow African men and women and selling to white men? I recall none in history. If I am biased, then humanity is biased. Perhaps for good reason. I admonish you as an African woman, please get up and fight for who we are! Show the world Africa can be great again. Teach the world our history, hell, force it down their throats if you might. Show that you have descended from a long line of men who truly dominated the world, gave it civilization and changed humanity forever. Yes, I am biased. I am the African woman telling you African men to wake up and fight. Stop questioning what your forbears say they have accomplished and start questioning the stories white men bring to you and us! Fight for your mother – Africa. Until you do it, and regain the essence of African men before you, before colonialism, before those savages descended from Europe and corrupted our society – until you do it – I will be your nemesis here on earth!

  5. One thing i learnt from reading Martin Bernal’s volumes on Black Athena is that all of western historigraphy, archealogy and historical linguistics are purely constructions of plausibility. So we should also construct our own historical plausibilities. So the Malian historian’s theories are as equally valid. Bernal was an insider from the upper class British establishment.

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