Africa, Earth, Morocco, Northern Africa

Morocco – Bab Chellah

Morocco 20 Dirhams, front

King Mohammed VI is featured on the front of the 2005 series banknote.  Born the oldest son to Hassan II, Mohammed was named Heir Apparent and Crown Prince on the day of his birth in 1963.  On July 23, 1999, he ascended the throne upon the death of his father and reigns as king to this day.

Beyond him is the gate of the Chellah, often referenced as bab callah, or similar, “bab” being an arabic word for gate.  Chellah is an ancient fortress in Rabat, about 3 kilometers up the River Bou Reg from the Kasbah illustrated below.  The gate can be seen in this photo in google earth.

Morocco 20 Dirhams, back

Featured on the back of this banknote is the Kasbah of Rabat, on the Atlantic ocean at the mouth of the River Bou Reg.  A kasbah, with various similar english spellings from the Arabic noun such as qasaba and qasbah, is a citadel or fortress or the central fortified part of a town.  In Morocco it frequently refers to multiple buildings in a citadel or behind a defensive wall.  Sometimes they were built on commanding hills for defense.  Often they were built at the entrance to harbors, such as ours here at Rabat in Morocco.  This was built in the 12th century.  It has recently been added to the World Heritage list.  The Kasbah can be seen in this google earth image.

Detail from the back of the 20 Dirham Morocco banknote illustrating the Kasbah of the Udayas
View of the Kasbah of the Udayas from the opposite side of the mouth of the River Bou Reg; from Sale, twin city to the capital of Morocco, Rabat.  The high tower of the Kasbah is far left in the photo and central in the bankote image.

 

 

Asia, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia - Indochina, Southeast Asia

Laos – Culture (2003, 1000 kips)

Laos, Laotian Ethnic Groups Women: Lao Lum, Lao Sung and Lao Theung, Pha That Luang pagoda in Vientiane.

Traditionally there are three ethnic groups of Laotians, and they are illustrated beautifully on our banknote by these three ladies.   The Lao Soung, or Lao Sung, are the highland dwelling peoples constituting about 10% of the populace.  The Lao Theung, or Lao Thoeng, indicates the midland Lao peoples and represents about 25% of the populace.  The Lao Lum, or Lao, are the majority ethinc group, representing about 50% of the populace.

Over the left shoulder of our three ladies is the Pha That Luang pagoda.  Regarded as dating from the 3rd century, that is almost 2000 years old, this is the most significant pagoda in Laos.  It is rumored to contain the breastbone of the Buddha himself. It is said that the architecture contains numerous references to Laotian culture which has furthered its significance as an icon of Laotian nationalism.  It is said that the three levels of the pagoda each reflect a dimension of Buddhist doctrine.

Laos, Cattle, Power lines, Elephant, Deity
Laos, National Emblem

The National Emblem adorns the front of our banknote and is illustrated her.  The Pha That Luang Pagoda is at center top.  Left center is the modern empowering hydroelectric dam while right center is the forest on the traditional paddy field; the road forward is between the two.  The name of the state is inscribed below the one-half gear wheel on the bottom,
Fully ripened rice stalks encircle the whole, each wrapped, and inscribed between them, with the five words of the Laotian Motto: Peace, Independence, Democracy, Unity, Prosperity”.

 

Belarus, Eastern Europe, Europe

Belarus – National Bank Building, year 2000 banknote

The National Bank of Belarus is featured on this 20 ruble banknote. Belarus 20 ruble banknote, front, 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The interior of the national bank building is featured on the back of this 20 ruble banknote. Belarus 20 ruble banknote, back, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail from Belarus 20 ruble banknote, front, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Northern Asia, Russia

Russia – Krasnoyarsk

 

Russia 10 Rubles, front, 1997. The front of the 10 Rubles banknote features a city scene from Krasnoyarsk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail from front of 10 Rubles banknote of Russia, 1997. This is the bridge at Krasnoyarsk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia 10 Rubles, front, 1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia 10 Rubles, back, 1997. The back features a view of the great dam at Krasnoyarsk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia 10 Rubles, back, 1997 

Balkan Peninsula, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe, South East Europe

Bosnia Herzegovina – The Ghost of the Mostar Bridge

 

The Mostar stone bridge is featured in the ghostly image on the backside of this banknote, dated August 15, 1994.  It is enlarged below, where it appears even more ghost-like.

Our banknote is dated August 15, 1994; whereas the bridge, illustrated on our banknote, was reported destroyed, in this article, dated November 10, 1993, 9 months earlier.

The bridge dates from 1566, 450 years, four and a half centuries.  It is a Bridge of Time.  It connects us today to our History, lest we forget.  And it connects our forebearer builders to their future; imagine their pride.    It is a Bridge of Life.  It provides the only route to drinking water for the townspeople.

Sixty artillery shells killed the bridge on November 8, 1993.  Ghostlike, this image hovers above our banknote, a haunting reminder of beauty lost, a Specter of war.

It is rebuilt now, and the memories of that nightmare are fading.  The bridge is replaced.  It looks almost the same, but it is not the same.  People are crossing the bridge again, but they are not the same.  Money replaced the bridge, but not the war lost lives.  Money repaired the bridge, but not the war scarred psyches of the survivors.

“From whence come wars and fightings among you?”  From whence, indeed.  Like a demon from the Abyss, War periodically seeks to walk among the living.  It is a great evil; to be resisted with great effort.

 

For a fine video about it’s reconstruction as a UNESCO world heritage site, please click this youtube link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belarus, Eastern Europe, Europe

Belarus – Poetry Celebrated

100 Rubles banknote, year 2000, back, Belarus.

Belarus celebrates Ballet set to the music created by the legendary Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov, the stellar talent from Belarus.  Born September 10, 1929, he received essentially no musical training until he was 20.  But then he burst upon the musical scene like a bright shining star.  He was accepted into the prestigious Belorussian Conservatory at age 21 based upon evidences of prodigious organic talent exhibited by music written in his uneducated youth.  And he did not disappoint.  For much more on the life and work of Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov (1929 – 2000), click here.

Detail from the Belarus 100 Ruble banknote, year 2000.

Depicted, is a scene from the 1969 Ballet entitled Vybrannitsa, “The Chosen Lady”.  The Ballet was created based upon the poems of Yanka Kuprala.  Some poems of Yaknka Kuprala are reproduced below.

100 Rubles banknote, year 2000, front, Belarus.
Detail from the Belarus 100 Ruble banknote, year 2000.

This is the National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus.

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The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is  entitled “Young Belarus”.  It is reproduced from here.

The free wind has sung free songs to thy name,
Green woods caught them with friendly voices, The sun called with its flame to a seed-time far-famed,
The stars poured faith into broken forces.

And in time of storms, troubles and mighty desires,
Thou hast budded and bloomed, long-awaited, In a life-freshet, over the land of thy sires,
Thou hast flooded and poured, unabated.

Thou has flooded and poured, in a bright tale of life,
Through field, woodland, hill and vale streaming… From thy native flower-copses thy crown is made bright,
Like a swan’ plumage, brilliant gleaming.

Thou dost quiver and echo with songs of the bards,
Long-past years thou dost raise up and nurture, Today’s forward leap thou wouldst never retard,
Boldly facing mysterious futures.

In the sun thou goest bold, lovely flower of fire,
Gently sowing forth dreams, gold-adornéd; Thou fearest no neighbour, though great be his ire,
Thou fearest no path briared and thorny.

From end unto end, frontier mound unto mound,
On the breezes renewal is borne now, And, embracing the soul, without limit or bound,
Mother-joy for the better day born now.

Now there are no axes among forests green,
Felling young pine-trees in frosty winter, Now there are no reapers from dawn to dark seen
In summer with scythes ringing, glinting.

Strength is known in the hands, without tears songs are blithe,
Desirous of glory, breasts quiver, In their books a new law, with pens of sun-scythes,
New people are writing for ever.

Blossom them, and raise, soaring upon eagle’s wing,
Souls, hearts and thoughts slumbering dully, Awaken and forth into great spaces, bring
Strength by the witch-noose unsullied.

Send messengers forth, send unto the world’s bound,
As falcon from falcon-nest winging. Let them fly, fly away unto warriors sound,
Set the thunder of good news far-ringing.

Enough, dearest country, in field, wood and brake,
Hapless orphan, thou spendst night’s long glowering, Enough of thy heart’s-blood wrong drank as a snake,
And cold winds blew, through thy bare bones scouring.

Arise from the depths, thou of falcon-born race,
O’er sires crosses, their woes, degradations, O young Bie³aruœ, come thou forth, take thy place
Of honour and fame among nations.
—– Yanka Kupala

The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is  entitled “From Forebearers’ Ages, Long Since Gone”.  It is reproduced from here.
From forebears’ ages, long since gone,
A heritage has come to me,
Among strange folk, among my own,
Me it caresses, motherly.

Of it to me dream-fables sing
Of first thaw-patches, vernally,
The woods’ September murmuring,
An oak-tree lone, half burned away.

Memories of it, like storks aclack
Upon the line have woken me,
Of a mossed fence, old, gone to wrack,
Fallen near the village, brokenly;

The dreary bleat of lambs that pours
Out in the pasture, endlessly,
The caw of the assembled crows,
On the graves in the cemetery.

And through black night and through white day
I keep, my watch unceasingly,
Lest this my treasure goes astray,
Lest by drones it should eaten be.

I bear it in my living soul
Like torch-flame ever bright for me,
That through deaf darkness to my goal,
Midst vandals it may lighten me.

With it lives my thought-family.
Bringing dreams of sincerity . . .
And its name, all-in-all must be
My native land, my heritage.
—–Yanka Kupala

 

 

 

For other stories from Eastern Europe on this website, click here.

Asia, Central Asia, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan – The Madrassah with Lions

 

Detail from back of Uzbekistan 1997 200 som banknote
detail over the portal of the Sher-Dor Madrassah

The image of is the sun with a face rising over the back of a liger, a lion-tiger.  It is found in a mosaic on Sher-Dor Madrasah portal at Registan Square in Samarkand.  The mosaic is somewhat remarkable in the images of humans and animals are generally prohibited from Islamic art.

Sher-Dor Madrasah, translated, means Madrassah with Lions.

Registan Square is framed by three great Madrassahs of distinctive Islamic architecture, The Sher-Dor, featured on this banknote, the Ulugh Beg, the oldest of the three, and the Tilya Kori, the youngest of the three.

Three Madrassahs form Registan Square. The Sher Dor is on the right.
The Sher Dor Madrassah.
Uzbekistan 1997 banknote, back, 200 som.

The State Seal of Uzbekistan is featured on the front of the 200 som banknote.

The sun is rising over a valley.  Bolls of cotton on the left and sheaves of wheat on the right surround the legendary bird of happiness, spreading its wings.  The crescent moon with star are symbols of Muslim blessing.  The surrounding eight pointed star symbolizes unity.  Beneath the name Uzbekistan is on the tri-colored flag.

 

 

 

 

Uzbekistan 200 som banknote, front, 1997

 

Balkan Peninsula, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe, Serbia, South East Europe, Yugoslavia

Republika Srpska – The Fortress of Knin

The name Republica Srpska, was adopted August 12, 1992.  This event, together with all the political turmoil overtaking the former Yugoslav republic, led to war, which lasted until the Autumn of 1995.

1993 Banknote of Republic Of Serbia Krajina, front. The nomination, 10,000,000 dinaris is believed to be the largest prepared.

It is doubtful, but uncertain, that the banknote featured on this post, was ever formally issued.  The huge nomination is similar to that of Yugoslavian banknotes of the same decade, and indicates that the new Republic of Serbia shared in the same woes of hyperinflation.  The number, deset milliard signifies Ten Billion, deset meaning ten, and milliard meaning billion.

 

 

 

table of Yugoslav nations and their currencies from Wikipedia

The table to the right, illustrates the place of the short-lived Republic of Serbia during what came to be known as the Yugoslav Wars at the end of the 20th century.  These were considered the deadliest wars in Europe since WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

detail from back of 10,000,000,000 dinari banknote

The ancient fortress of Knin is featured on the reverse of this banknote.  It is the 2nd largest in all of Europe.

Construction on the stronghold began in the 9th century.  In the 11th century it served as the royal residence.

It consists of 5 interconnected towers and towns.  They are named the Donji Grad (Lower Town), Srednji Grad (Middle Town), Gornji Grad (Upper Town) or Kaštel Knin, Kaštel lab or Bandijera, and Južni Grad (South Town) or station Belveder. It is about 1500 feet above sea level and 300 feet above the town of Knin below.  It is 1500 feet long and about 330 feet wide with walls as high as 60 feet in several areas.

 

10,000,000,000 banknote from Republika Srpska Krijana, back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more stories from the Balkan Peninsula in this website, click here.

For more stories from Yugoslavia in this website, click here.

For story tags, see bottom of this page.

Eastern Europe, Europe, Ukraine

Ukraine – Vladimir the Great, 10th Century

Vladimir Putin will never give up Ukraine, for, you see, among other reasons, his namesake is Ukrainian.

Below is the story of Vladimir the Great, followed by a brief history of the present.

Vladimir The Great
Yaroslav The Wise

Vladimir, afterwards known as “The Great”, and his son Yaroslav, afterwards known as “The Wise”, brought the kingdom of Kiev-Rus to its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries.   The modern states, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all draw upon them for their heritage.

 

Vladimir the Great

Historians consider the Kievan state to have been founded around 880. A hundred years later, Vladimir, upon the death of his father and a subsequent fratricidal war, fled the region, to his kinsmen in Norway. Returning in 978 with as many Norse soldiers as he could muster, he quickly captured Kiev, (present day capital of Ukraine), and expanded his dominion throughout the region. Within a few years, Vladimir consolidated the regions of eastern Europe from Kiev to the Baltic Sea, including present day Ukraine, Belarus, and a portion of Russia. During his reign and that of his son, Yaroslav, the kingdom known as Kiev-Rus reached its zenith.

A little later, Vladimir, having known great military success, and his dominion at peace around him, grew troubled in his thoughts and his mind pondered. Sensing the inferiority of his pagan shrines to the religions flourishing in the world, he sent emissaries to all parts to learn of the great religions that he may determine the best. Of Islam, upon learning that alcoholic drinks were forbidden said, “Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.” Upon questioning the ambassadors from the Jews, and learning of their loss of their home city Jerusalem, he concluded that they had been abandoned by God. His emmisaries visiter the Christian church of Germany and were unimpressed. But upon visiting the Byzantine church in Constantinople, and witnessing the majesty of their ceremonies during the festival, his emissaries reported back, “We know longer knew whether we were in Heaven or on Earth.”

His decision made, he was baptized, wed the daughter of royalty, returned to his land, destroyed the pagan landmarks, and commanded his people to follow Christian faith. Thus, was the Russian Orthodox Church born.

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

Yaroslav encountered family battles too following the death of his father in 1015, but by 1019, he had became the grand prince of Kiev, and by 1036 uncontested ruller of Kievan-Rus.  Culture expanded in his days.  He built Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novogrod.  He was a great patron of learning and books, also promulgated the first east Slavic law code, the Rus Justice, which was further advanced by his sons upon his death in 1054.

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In 2016, Vladimir Putin presented a statue honoring his namesake.  The statue was erected in Moscow where Putin declared him a “unifier and defender of Russian lands.”

As one contemporary has noted, “Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.”  Putin will never give up on Ukraine.

 

Portrait of Volodymyr the Great (c. 958 – 1015), the Grand Prince of Kyiv (Kiev), also known as Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great, the Prince of Novgorod. Orthodox saints and acolyte during church ceremony. Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus as registration device.
Diorama of Volodymyr’s Burg in Kyiv (Detynets; Citadel) with the Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin (built by the order of Volodymyr the Great) in the front. Artistic composition depicting a battle axe, a fullered arming sword, a cross, a flail and an eagle as elements of design from the times of Volodymyr the Great. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Yaroslav The Wise (c. 978 – 1054), the Grand Prince of Kyiv (Kiev), also known as Yaroslav I, Grand Prince of Kievan Rus’. Silver coin of Yaroslav Mudriy . Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus as registration device.
Diorama of the original Holy Saint Sophia’s Cathedral (Sobor Svyatoi Sofii) in Kiev where Yaroslav the Wise was buried. Artistic composition depicting two different battle axes, a ceremonial bowl and the legal code of Kievan Rus’ “Pravda Rus’ka” as elements of design from the times of Yaroslav The Wise. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabian Peninsula, Asia, Southwest Asia, Yemen

Yemen – The Oldest Skyscraper City in the World

 

Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towering buildings, 500 years old, rise from the desert in this oldest example of vertical urban planning in the world.  Shibam lies deep in the desert of Yemen, and is famous for its mud brick high rise buildings, being frequently called the “Oldest Skyscraper City in the World.”

 

detail of Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen. Some buildings are ten or eleven stories tall.

Bedouin nomads of old, traversed desert sands from oasis to oasis, carrying news and conducting trade.  The little settlement, Shibam, by the wadiis, was ripe for less than honorable Bedouin marauders.

The settlers did not wish to move, for this was home.  The life as nomads had lost its appeal.  Perhaps it was the 14th century when the idea was born; or perhaps it was the 15th or 16th century when the concept was planned; but we know by the 1600s great towers in the desert had begun to rise.

Using the materials at hand, driven by the necessity born of frequent attacks, and guided by some original ingenuity, they began to build.  Creating bricks, made from soil and hay and stone, baked in the desert sun, brick by brick they built they built their sturdy houses.

 

detail of Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen. Some buildings are over 100 feet tall.

Story upon story they rose.  The bottom stories they made windowless and harbored their livestock and grain, safer from marauders than open corrals.  Five stories, six stories, seven stories they built with windowed living quarters above their live stock and provisions.   Eight stories, nine stories high, they built their towers providing shade from the desert sun on the narrow streets between them.  Ten stories and eleven stories tall, they built their towers, with bridges intersecting from one to another, providing easy escape when needed, and convenient corridors for socializing.

Shibam of Yemen is the earliest known example of vertical urban planning in the world.  A British explorer in the 1930s, happening upon Shibram, called it the “Manhattan of the Desert”.  The “Oldest Skyscraper City in the world”, it is frequently called today.

 

 

Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

detail of buildings of Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

Sana’a has been inhabited for more than two and a half centuries.  It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

 

 

 

 

detail of buildings of Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

The beauty of the city is enhanced by the high density of buildings constructed from rammed earth and the frequent burnt brick towers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortress Qal’at, 5 rial banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

detail of Fortress Qal’at al Qahit, on hill in Ta’izz, 5 rial banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedouin nomads of old, traversed desert sands from oasis to oasis, carrying news and conducting trade.  The little settlement, Shibam, by the wadiis, was ripe for less than honorable Bedouin marauders.

The settlers did not wish to move, for this was home.  The life as nomads had lost its appeal.  Perhaps it was the 14th century when the idea was born; or perhaps it was the 15th or 16th century when the concept was planned; but we know by the 1600s great towers in the desert had begun to rise.  Using the materials at hand, driven by the necessity born of frequent attacks, and guided by some original ingenuity, they began to build.  Creating bricks, made from soil and hay and stone, baked in the desert sun, brick by brick they built they built their sturdy houses.  Story upon story they rose.  The bottom stories they made windowless and harbored their livestock and grain, safer from marauders than open corrals.  Five stories, six stories, seven stories they built with windowed living quarters above their live stock and provisions.   Eight stories, nine stories high, they built their towers providing shade from the desert sun on the narrow streets between them.  Ten stories and eleven stories tall, they built their towers, with bridges intersecting from one to another, providing easy escape when needed, and convenient corridors for socializing.

Shibam of Yemen is the earliest known example of vertical urban planning in the world.  A British explorer in the 1930s, happening upon Shibram, called it the “Manhattan of the Desert”.  The “Oldest Skyscraper City in the world”, it is frequently called today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabian Peninsula, Asia, Southwest Asia, Yemen

Yemen – The Great Dam of Ma’rib (10 rial banknote)

 

Yemen 10 rials banknote, back, featuring the great dam of Ma’rib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Dam of Ma’rib was built almost three thousand years ago and is considered one of the great engineering projects of the ancient world.

Yemen 10 rials front (3)
The great Dam of Ma’rib. detail from back of 10 rial banknote. Yemen

The medieval Arab geographer Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī described the great dam of Ma’rib: “It is between three mountains, and the flood waters all flow to the one location, and because of that the water only discharges in one direction; and the ancients blocked that place with hard rocks and lead. The water from springs gathers there as well as floodwater, collecting behind the dam like a sea. Whenever they wanted to they could irrigate their crops from it, by just letting out however much water they needed from sluice gates; once they had used enough they would close the gates again as they pleased.” reference.

Ancient culvert and the Shaharah bridge. Detail from back of 100 rial banknote, Yemen

According to Arab tradition, the city Ma’rib was founded by Shem, son of Noah, a thousand years previous. With 1000 miles of coastline on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, it flourished as a center of trade reaching from the Mediterranean to India. Agriculture flourished in large part due to its amazing irrigation systems consisting of water tunnels in mountains, and dams. Yemen’ spices, frankincense and myrrh, were traded throughout the world. Modern scholarship says the renowned Queen of Sheba came from the kingdom of Saba, centered around the oasis of Ma’rib.

 

 

Arabian Coffee berries on a branch, detail from back of 10 rial banknote, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yemen, 10 rial banknote, front. Qubbat Al-Bakiliyah Mosque (Al-Bakiriya, Al-Baqiliyah, al-Bakiriyya) in Sana’a.

 

 

Central America, Earth, Guatemala, North America

Guatemala – The Glorious Quetzal bird

detail of quetzal bird in flight, Guatemala 0.50 quetzal banknote, front, 50 centavos, one half quetzal

His tail feathers may be 3 feet long, and colored blue green. His head is golden green with a rounded crest. His back is blue, tinged with gold.  His belly is crimson red. He is glorious in flight.

To the Mayans, he symbolized the movement of creation and the will of the Creator to come to earth. Kings and priests wore ceremonial garments decorated by their iridescent feathers. They saw the combination of the quetzal and the serpent in their god Qetzal Coatl, “the plumed serpent”, the Animator of all creation. He is glorious in flight.

 

Front, 50 centavos , one half quetzal, Guatemala
Tecun Uman, heroe national, detail from front of half quetzal banknote, Guatemala

Tecun Uman was the great leader of the Maya in the age of the Spanish conquest.

The Spanish cavalry charge shocked the Mayans who had never seen horses.  Tecun Uman, clothed in quetzal feathers and accompanied by his animal spirit guide, the quetzal bird, stood up to meet the horse mounted leader of the Spanish army, Alvarado, face to face.  Thinking the mounted man and horse were one single being, he attacked and slew the horse.  Turning round and seeing the still armed Alvarado dismounted, he realized his mistake, attacked again and died on Alvarado’s spear.  His quetzal spirit guide was so grieved, he landed on Tecun Uman’s fallen chest, his breast feathers mixing with the hero’s blood, and died.

Forever after, the quetzal’s breast was red and his song not heard.  And if a quetzal was ever placed in captivity, it died, making it a symbol of liberty.

one half quetzal bank note, back, Guatemala

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tikal Temple I, detail from back of one half quetzal banknote, Guatemala

Buried deep in the rainforest, these temple grounds appear to have escaped the notice of the Spanish conquistadors.

This fabulous pyramid standing as tall as a 10 story building was lost in the jungle until its rediscovery in the 19th century by Alfred P. Maudslay.

In his own words: I was naturally anxious and expectant on this my first visit to a Central American ruin, but it seemed as though my curiosity would be ill satisfied, for all I could see on arrival was what appeared to be three moss-grown stumps of dead trees covered over with a tangle of creepers and parasitic plants . . We soon pulled off the creepers, and . . . set to work to clear away the coating of moss. As the curious outlines of the carved ornament gathered shape it began to dawn upon me how much more important were these monuments, upon which I had stumbled almost by chance, than any account I had heard of them had led me to expect. This day’s work induced me to take a permanent interest in Central American Archaeology, and a journey which was undertaken merely to escape the rigours of an English winter has been followed by seven expeditions from England for the pur­pose of further exploration and archaeo­logical research.”1

The archaeological record of Tikal dates from around 1000 BC.  It was a thriving city from around 300 BC until its decline between 700 AD and 900 AD.2

For more stories from Central America on this website, click here.

creator god, Itzamna, detail from front of One-Half Quetzal banknote, Guatemala

 

Africa, Southern Africa, Zambia

Zambia – the Chain Breaking Man

Zambia, 50 kwacha, reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail from Zambia 50 kwacha banknote, reverse, “Chain Breaking Man”

 

 

Zanco Mpundu Mutembo was arrested and handcuffed with chains which he broke in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns.

Mr. Mutembo was ORDERED TO BREAK FREE FROM THE CHAINS OR BE INSTANTLY SHOT DEAD.

Shockingly, he broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took shots of what seem like magical power.

 

He dropped out of school after his father’s death and joined the political struggle led by Robert Makasa and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe .

In 1957, having already made his impact in Northern Province, suffering imprisonment and beatings in the process, Mutembo, along with seven others were sent to Kenya where Dedan Kimathi was leading a rebellion against the colonial rulers. Their mission was to learn how to carry out their own rebellion back home.

Before Kaunda and others would speak, Mutembo would go on stage first to tell the crowds how bad the colonial government was hence the importance to fight for independence.

Early 1960s, Kaunda wrote a letter to the governor, Sir Arthur Benson, to protest against a clause in the constitution that gave Europeans an upper hand in the legislature. Mutembo took up the task to deliver the letter to Government House (now State House ).

On his way out, however, he was arrested and tortured. At about 15:00 hours that day, he was taken to Kaunda’s office in Chilenje where he was celebrated as a hero.

About 03:00 hours the following day, Mutembo was taken to Cairo Road where he climbed a tree with a megaphone to denounce the new constitution. At 06:00 hours, he started proclaiming his message, but was soon surrounded by police who threatened to shoot him if he did not get down. He was arrested.

Today, the tree still stands opposite the Main Post Office and later came to be known as “Zanco Tree “.

Mutembo appeared in court after having been involved in a political brawl in Matero . He had been badly beaten in the fight and lost two of his front teeth, a mark he still bears. When the judge asked him to demonstrate to the court how he had been beaten, the young freedom fighter walked across the courtroom from the witness box and, reaching where one of the prosecutors – a white man – was standing, and punched him in the face, giving him a bloody nose. His action was a blatant show of rebellion in the face of the colonial government. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus four lashes for punching the prosecutor. He was sent to Livingstone State Prison where he was held in chains.

At Force Headquarters, after being interviewed, he was taken to a room where 18 military officers stood with guns at ready. He was then handcuffed to a chain and ordered to break free or get shot. Shockingly, he pulled so hard and broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took photos of what seemed like magical power. It was from these photos that the Freedom Statue would be crafted by casting experts.

Mutembo was also given an official vehicle – a Land Rover station wagon – bearing the initials of his status “SNNRG” (symbol of the nation Northern Rhodesia Government) and a Union Jack.

A statue was made depicting the scenario when Mutembo broke the chains in 1963. On October 23, 1974, during the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of Zambia’s independence, the Freedom Statue was unveiled and became a symbol of Zambia’s freedom from the British colonial regime, and has earned its place on some of the country’s most important articles, including its currency. The statue is a reminder of Zambia’s fight for freedom. It is displayed at the Government Complex along Independence Avenue in Lusaka.

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