Tippu Tip

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Tippu Tip
TippuTipSlavetrader.jpg
Born Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al-Murghabī
حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي

1837
Zanzibar
Died June 14, 1905
Ethnicity Swahili
Occupation Slave trader, ivory merchant, explorer, governor

Tippu Tip or Tib (1837 – June 14, 1905), real name Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al-Murghabī (Arabic: حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي‎), was a Swahili-Zanzibari trader. He was known by the natives of the African Great Lakes as Tippu Tib after the sounds that his many guns made. An ivory trader, explorer, plantation owner and governor, he worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar. He also traded in slaves for Zanzibar's clove plantations. He led many trading expeditions into Central Africa, as part of the large and lucrative ivory trade by constructing profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa. He bought the ivory from central African suppliers who sold it to him for a low price.

Life[edit]

Portrait of Tippu Tip, House of Wonders Museum, Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Tippu Tip built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reported that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven 'shambas' [plantations] and 10,000 slaves."[1] His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi, was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (Oman) family, and a Bantu woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of Dar es Salaam.[2]

He met and helped several famous western explorers of the African continent, including Henry Morton Stanley. Between 1884 and 1887, El Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between the Swahili and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, El Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions." Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting. In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Tippu Tip accepted.[3] At the same time, he also agreed to man the expedition which Stanley had been commissioned to organize for the purpose of rescuing Emin Pasha (E. Schnitzer), a German condottiere in the service of Egypt who had been stranded in the Bahr el Ghazal area as a result of the Mahdist uprising in Sudan. [4]

Home of Tippu Tip in Stone Town.

Tippu Tip traveled back to the Upper Congo in the company of Stanley but this time by way of the Atlantic coast and up the Congo River. Aside from its doubtful usefulness, the relief expedition was marred by the near annihilation of its rearguard, a disaster for which Stanley attempted to place the blame on Tippu Tip.

But during his tenure, the Congo-Arab War broke out. In 1886, while Tippu Tip was in Zanzibar, a dispute arose between his Congo Free State fort at Stanley Falls and a smaller, nearby fort led by Walter Deane and Dubois. Tip's men at the Stanley Falls fort alleged that Deane had stolen a slave woman from an Arab officer there. Deane asserted that the girl had fled after being badly beaten by her master, and that he had only offered her refuge. Tip's men attacked the fort and after a four-day siege, the defenders ran out of ammunition and fled, abandoning the fort. The Free State made no counterattack, and Tip began to move more men into the Congo, including several Arab slave captains and also some Congolese leaders, such as Gongo Lutete.[5]

Around 1890/91, he returned to Zanzibar where he retired. His son, Sefu, carried on the war in his stead. Tippu Tip wrote his autobiography, which is the first example of this literary genre in the Bantu Swahili language. Dr. Heinrich Brode, who knew him in Zanzibar, transcribed the manuscript into Roman script and translated it into German. It was subsequently translated into English and published in Britain in 1907.

Tippu Tip died June 13, 1905, of malaria (according to Brode) in his home in Stone Town, the main town on the island of Zanzibar.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sheriff, 108
  2. ^ Brode, 7-8
  3. ^ Bennett and Brode
  4. ^ Your.Dictionary.com
  5. ^ Edgerton

References[edit]

  • Edgerton, Robert B. (2002). The Troubled Heart of Africa: A History of the Congo. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-30486-2.
  • Maisha ya Hamed bin Mohammed el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip kwa maneno yake mwenyewe, kimefasiriwa na W.H. Whitely (toleo la Kiswahili - Kiingereza), East Africa Literature Bureau 1974
  • Roland Oliver, Roland Anthony Oliver, Anthony Atmore (2004). Africa since 1800. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83615-8. 
  • Brode, Heinrich. Tippoo Tib: The Story of His Career in Zanzibar & Central Africa. Translated by H. Havelock with preface by Sir Charles Elliot. London: Arnold, 1907 (Online version).
  • Bennett, Norman Robert. Arab vs. European: Diplomacy and war in Nineteenth-Century East Central Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1986.
  • Sheriff, Abdul. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873. London, Nairobi, Tanzania, Athens,OH: James Currey, Heinemann Kenya, Tanzania Publishing House, Ohio University Press, 1987.