Lesotho, “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”1
Depicted on the front of our banknote is King Moshoeshoe of Lesotho. Moshoeshoe presided as king in Lesotho during the era in which Lesotho gained full independence from Great Britain in 1966.
The waterfalls depicted on our banknote our located in very remote territory, and, consequently, seen by very few people.. This is the Maletsunyane Falls of Lesotho, on the river of the same name.
The banknote featured is Lesotho, 5 maloti, dated 1989. The currency is named loti, plural is maloti.
Lesotho celebrates its Independence Day on October 4. In 1966, Lesotho declared its independence from Great Britain.
The coat of arms of Lesotho is featured on our banknote.
The central crocodile is featured on a Basotho shield, the symbol for the largest ethnicity in Lesotho. This symbol has been retained from Basutoland which preceded the establishment of Lesotho.
The shield is upheld by two Basotho horses.
Two weapons, the knobkierie club and the assegai spear are crossed behind the shield. Vertically between them is a thyrsus tipped with ostrich feathers.
Peace, Rain, Prosperity, the motto of Lesotho, is written on the banner below.
Conjoined busts of Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Antonio Agostinho Neto, two presidents of Angola. António Agostinho Neto (17 September 1922 – 10 September 1979) served as the 1st President of Angola (1975–1979), having led the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the war for independence (1961–1974). Until his death, he led the MPLA in the civil war (1975–2002). Known also for his literary activities, he is considered Angola’s preeminent poet. His birthday is celebrated as National Heroes’ Day, a public holiday in Angola.1 José Eduardo dos Santos, born 28 August 1942) is an Angolan politician who served as President of Angola from 1979 to 2017. As President, José Eduardo dos Santos was also the commander in chief of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and President of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the party that has ruled Angola since it gained independence in 1975. He was the second-longest-serving president in Africa, surpassed only by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, who took power less than two months before dos Santos.2
The Ruacana waterfalls are featured on the back of our banknote. The Ruacana falls are on the Kuene river which forms much of the border between Angola to the North and its neighbor Namibia to the South.
The Angola coat of arms is featured on our banknote.
Central is the machete and the hoe, symbols of revolution and agricultural workers.
The star rising represents progress.
The right half of the circle is a cog, or gear, symbolic of industrial workers. The left half of the circle is a wreath of maize and cotton leaves, symbolic of agricultural workers.
The banner is Portuguese for Republic of Angola.
Angola celebrates its independence day November 11. November 11, 1975 is the date of independence from Portugal.
King Birendra Bir Bikram is featured on the front of this banknote of Nepal, wearing a plumed crown. Described from his youth as extraordinarily kind and emotional, he was a firm advocate of democracy for his people, the people of Nepal. He was King in Nepal from 1972 until 2001, when he died.
Centered on the front of the banknote is the Bajrayogini Temple near Sankhu and Kathmandu.
From Wikipedia: Before 28 May 2008, the modern emblem was preceded by a coat of arms, generally consisting of a white cow, a green [pheasant] (Himalayan monal), two [Gurkha] soldiers (one carrying a [kukri] and a bow, and the other a rifle), peaks of the [Himalayas], two crossed Nepalese flags and kukris, the footprints of [Gorakhnath] (the guardian deity of the Gurkhas) and the royal headress. It also contained the same red scroll with the national motto. The emblem of Nepal was changed during the reconciliation period following the Nepalese Civil War. On 28 May 2008, a new emblem in the style of socialist heraldry was introduced. It contains the flag of Nepal, Mount Everest, green hills symbolising the hilly regions of Nepal and yellow colour symbolising the fertile Terai region, male and female hands joining to symbolise gender equality, and a garland of Rhododendron (the national flower). Atop this is a white silhouette in the shape of Nepal.
The elements of this intriguingly dense National Coat of Arms are many, and include the following:
One Plumed Crown
Two crossed Flags
Two crossed knives
One Mountain peak flanked by personalized moon and personalized sun
White cow and a pheasant
Six Hibiscus flowers
Two citizens, one with a rifle and one with a bow
One Inscribed scarlet banner in snaskrit, the English interpretation being: Mother and Motherland are greater than heaven.
Suriname, on the Caribbean Coast of South America, is a land of rivers.
The South, near latitude 1 degree North, borders Brazil and is dominated by highland rainforests.
The red necked woodpecker, featured on the beautiful banknote, thrives in these rainforests.
An artistic illustration of the beautiful forests of Suriname, home to our red necked woodpecker..
Butterflies decorate the front of the 5 Gulden banknote…
… and Vampire bats.
The Suriname Coat of Arms adorns the front of this 5 Gulden banknote. The motto below reads Justice, Piety, Fidelity.
The two men lean upon the central oval shield and face two different directions. They are Arawaks, indigenous people of Suriname. The man on our left looks to the past, from whence ships, as illustrated on the left of the Oval, brought slavery. The man on our right looks to the future, his arm resting on the half of the Oval with an illustration of the Royal Palm, the symbol of a Just Man.
In a well regarded analysis, the Volcano Krakatau, featured on our Indonesian banknote, was determined to be the inspiration for the notorious Norwegian impressionist painting, “Scream”.
The blood red sky in the 1893 painting is considered to be recollected, by the Norwegian painter, from the August 27, 1883 volcanic eruption, whose sound was heard 3000 miles away, and whose pressure wave was recorded around the world. See the fuller article in Sky and Telescope here.
Krakatau. The volcanic explosion is one of the largest, if not the largest, in recorded history. It was 13,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, and lifted 6 cubic miles of earth into the air.
A famous error occurred in Hollywood’s recollection of the event in the move fanfared as “Krakatoa, East of Java.” Well, the truth is, it’s to the West.
The Akhal-Teke horse of Turkmen, with its distinctive metallic sheen, is renowned for speed endurance, intelligence and courage.
It’s ancestry dates back thousands of years. Some consider it one of the original four horse “types” to have crossed the Bearing Strait from the Americas in prehistoric times.
It is said there are, currently, less than 7,000 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan and Russia.
At the center of the Turkmenistan Emblem of State, within the blue circle, stands Yanardag, the Akhal-Teke horse born in the year of independence from the Soviet Union, 1991.
The Turkmen name, Yanardag, translates in to “Fiery Mountain”.
Yanardag was named world champion of the breed in 1999 and has become a symbol of national pride to Turkmenis. He subsequently was acquired by Saparmurat Niazov, the president of Turkmenistan from 1990 through 2006.
Front: Former President Dictator Saparmurat Niazov. Turkmen coat of arms. Back: Akhal-Teke horse.
Hippodrome. Main colour: Purple. Watermark: Portrait of the deceased Turkmenbashi.
This stacked configuration of rocks is a common trail marker for hikers in North America, and, I’d guess, the rest of the world. Two stones stacked might be a coincidence. But three stones stacked, or more, isn’t considered natural. Such stacking is an evidence of intent, and therefore, a signal, or signpost. And so, such hand stacked stones are commonly used for trail markers in the wilderness.
But these rocks in Zimbabwe are massive. They weigh tons. For a sense of scale, note in the image, the treetops surrounding the stones.
What giants stacked such stones?
And what sign did they wish to leave for us? What trail did they intend to mark?
They are signposts of the constructing powers nature. These stones congealed from molten lavas, as plutonic granites, within massive volcanic flows, just beneath the surface of the earth. As subsequent ages of erosion by wind and water lowered the surface of the land, and scoured the soils between the stones, these giants of the past were left, revealed.
The travel brochures tell us that the stones symbolize a need for balance between development and ecological preservation. That’s nice sentiment, and I am sure it is true. But it’s a sentiment that feels somehow imposed, rather than derived; and more contrived to sell postcards rather than to communicate a wisdom learned.
Especially considering this simple 3 stone signpost of nature appears beside the number One Hundred Trillion on a Zimbabwe banknote. “Trillion” is a word that was almost never heard a decade ago. It was used for measurements in science but almost never for money. A trillion is a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand. It’s a number that we really cannot imagine. A thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand dollar bills, stacked on top of each other, would reach over 60 miles high. That number on a banknote indicates something seriously out of balance.
In the 1990s, president Robert Mugabe used monetary policy to rebalance the country’s culture after the serious racial imbalance of the past. The adjustments created serious imbalances in other ways. and the national economy was impoverished. The relation between a day’s labor, and the money received, became entirely out of balance. An imbalance of money was printed to offset the other imbalances; and the self-perpetuating cycle of hyperinflation took off, until the dollar was meaningless. This 100 trillion dollar banknote, in just a short time, became equal to zero.
Imagine placing 100 trillion dollars on one side of a balance scale and nothing on the other side, and the scale showing a perfect balance.
But those three stacked stones remain, balanced, an eternal signpost.
Glee filled youth hurling baseball cap into the air in celebration of another triumph.
Dedication hard work and teamwork bring joy to the people and pride to all of Taiwan.
The Little League Baseball Team was the Toast of Taiwan.
In the thirteen year period between 1969 and 1981, the team brought 10 world series championships from Williamsport Pennsylvania.
A 2:00 pm game start in Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball world series, would be a 3:00 game time in Taiwan half a world away. Avid fans would be awake and watching. Cheers could be heard from homes up and down the streets in those early morning hours. Little league baseball is credited with transforming Taiwan’s breakfast habits as the celebrating fans went out hungry for breakfast. A fun article on this phenomenon can be found here.
That amazing run of world series championships commencing in 1969 coincided in a decades long erosion of international support for Taiwan’s claim to be the rightful representative of all China. In 1971, Taiwan lost its UN seat to mainland China, the Peoples Republic of China. Baseball helped buoy the spirit of the people and by the 1980s Taiwan was enjoying dramatic economic growth.
Izalco was little more than a curious hole in the ground in a cornfield. The farm was on the southern slopes of the old Santa Ana volcano, and the hole, or “vent”, was at 1300 meters above sea level. Wisps of black sulfuric smoke would occasionally arise but not seem out of the ordinary on the slopes of a volcano. And then one day in 1770, Izalco was born.
Fiery spurts and flowing mounds of lava issued from the side of that old mountain, and El Salvador’s youngest volcano began to build its own mountain. Lava flowed down the slope up to 7 kilometers and hardened. More lava flowed and hardened on top of the previous flow. More lava and more lava flowed, and layer upon layer hardened, and the young volcanic cone began to rise. One hundred meters, two hundred meters, three hundred meters, the new mountain rose from the slopes of the old. Its eruptions were almost continuous. As its elevation grew its incandescent night time displays of fire became visible from further and further out at sea. Izalco became a reliable night time guide for seagoing vessels to the port of Acajutla in El Salvador. “Faro de Pacifico”, the Lighthouse of the Pacific, it was christened.
Five hundred meters, six hundred meters, our volcano continued to grow. Eruptions were almost continuous with just brief interruptions for two hundred years. So many people wanted to see the volcano that a hotel with a vantage point was planned and construction began. Six hundred twenty meters, six hundred thirty meters, six hundred forty meters and hotel construction neared its conclusion. Six hundred fifty meters and the hotel was finished. And so was Izalco. It is a curious feature of history that the volcano which erupted almost continuously should stop just when the hotel was completed. But so it was. Izalco has not erupted since 1966. But it is still visited and climbed by many intrepid travelers.
Detail of the forests at the foot of the volcano. Izalco is El Salvador’s youngest volcano. The cone rises without vegetation from the forest below.
Our volcano is featured in the beautiful tale of Le Petite Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It was inspired by his El Salvadoran wife Consuelo.
The national coat of arms features 5 volcanoes. These five symbolize the five member states of the United Provinces of Central America, formed July 1, 1823.
Projected on a staff above the volcanoes is a Phrygian cap, an ancient symbol of liberty. The five flags are upheld with indigenous wooden war spears with obsidian points.
The motto below is “Dios, Union, Libertad”.
The old worlds and new worlds are depicted on the front of the 10 colones banknote.
The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, the three sailing ships that constituted the expedition of Christopher Columbus, are depicted sailing to the new world from the old world.
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.
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.
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
Zebras are beloved in Africa for their beauty. They are very social roaming in clans, called by humans “harems”, with long lasting committed relationships. A harem consists of a stallion, several mares and their offspring. Many harems will congregate into a herd during migrations and for protection. They’ll remain together and act in coordination to defend against predators.
Herds can be seen today roaming in the grasslands of Akagera National Park near the shores of Lake Ihema in Northeast Rwanada, a region shared with giraffe, hippo, buffalo and hundreds of species of bird.
Volcanoes National Park is in Northwest Rwanda and is the first national park in all of Africa. It is dominated by five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. Two of the volcanoes, Karisimbi and Bisoke are illustrated on this banknote. The region, covered in rainforest and bamboo is just 100 miles or so, as the wildlife roams, from Akagera National Park.
According to Wikipedia, “Recent civil wars in Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda have caused dramatic declines in all wildlife populations, including those of plains zebra. It is now extinct in Burundi.” Why is Volcanoes National ark depicted on the same 1988 banknote as the Zebra? I do not know, but the suggestion occurs to me that perhaps zebras were well known on the sides of the mountains but departed elsewhere during the war.
Elephants, a tree, and a safari vehicle in Kasungu National Park decorate the back of this banknote.
Kasungu National Park extends along the Zambian border. It averages 1000 meters in elevation and is covered with woodlands and bush and numerous grassy river channels running through it. It provides home for elephants and hippos, antelope, impala, zebras and buffalo. The illustration shows a safari vehicle in the foreground and an elephant nearby, but the perspective belies the true size of our beloved creatures.
Try this photo.
Our elephants can be 4 meters tall!
African elephants are very social beings. Both the men and women have tusks. The elephants illustrated in the 50 kwacha note are a mother and child. Herds are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest woman and consist of their daughters, sisters and their children. The boys remain with the herd through adolescence and then generally move on. The men tend to be loners but will sometimes congregate in smaller bachelor pods. Now for the tree.
If you look closely, the immensity of the tree trunk can be seen below baby’s neck and through mama’s legs. Yes, this appears to be none other than the wonderful Baobab! Please compare it to this photo from the field.
This baobab tree resides in Liwonde national Park, Malawi, which is just 250 miles are so, as the creatures roam, from Kasungu national park.
The baobab is also known as the “Tree of Life”.
As to why this particular tree is called the “Tolkein Tree”, well, that is a tale for another post.
These wonderful creatures inhabit the volcano regions of Rwanda. They are vegetarians and generally eat leafy green foliage and therefore prefer the dense mountain rainforests and subalpine forests of Rwanda. The men are black furred and giant, weighing 350 to 450 pounds and standing 5’6” upright. The women are half to 2/3s their size. The old men grey noticeably with age until they are recognized as silverbacks. The silverbacks lead stable and cohesive family groups held together by long time bonds between the men and women. They are community oriented rather than territorial. The men defend their women and children, and the silverbacks will defend their clan to the death if required. Women bear children on average of once every three or four years and their time of pregnancy is about 8 1/2 months. Newborns have pinkish grey skin and begin to crawl around nine weeks. The children are weaned when they are about 3 ½ years old.
The clans are diurnal, foraging and traveling by day and sleeping by night, when they create nests usually on the ground by folding the dense vegetation over themselves. Generally they forage in the morning and the late afternoon, preserving a the midday for a time of rest. This midday rest is a time for the building and reinforcement of relationships. Mutual grooming reinforces their social affections and keeps their fur clean from parasites. The children play, wrestling and running and summersaulting, and the silverbacks and women often join them.
They are normally gentle and quite shy. Conflicts are generally resolved by intimidating displays and threatening behaviors that rarely lead to violence. But when two clans meet, if the conflict is not resolved by threats, the silverbacks may fight to the death.
Coffee in Rwanda has been a significant industry both before and after the infamous 1990s. Coffee crops were encouraged by Germany during their colonial period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rwanda came under Belgian colonial influence following WWI and coffee growing was systematized. Coffee has continued as a prime industry for Rwandans since their 1961 independence and is a key part of their economic rejuvenation in the 21st century.
The banknote above illustrates the coffee plant, a family working the coffee fields in one of the numerous small plantations in this “land of a thousand hills”, and a woman carrying the harvested coffee.
The back of the currency is an illustration from the Rwandan countryside. Banana trees are shown on the left and lake Kivu and hills are shown on the right.
Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes, covers approximately 1000 square miles.
Watutsi warriors are illustrated on the front of the 1000 franc banknote.
The Coat of arms from independence until the 21st century is on the bottom left. “Republique Rwandaise – Liberte’ – Cooperation – Progress”.
The Coat of arms was restyled in 2001, after the genocide of the 1990s.
The Watutsi, also known as Tutsi, were victimized by the Hutus in the genocide of 1994, but the hostilities went both ways for decades, whereas the animosity was ultimately but a century old. The Germans appear to have developed the so-called racial distinction between the Tutsi and the Hutu during their brief colonial enterprise, favoring the minority Tutsi for administrative positions. The distinction appears to have been only a hypothesis as no archaeological, historical nor even linguistic distinctions have been discovered since to support the distinction. The Belgians relied upon existing the Tutsi administrating structure as they commenced their colonial administration following WWI. Their rule reinforced the ethnic divide. In 1931, during the time of the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States, an ethnic identity card was issued for each Rwandan.