In Charles Umerie’s book, Across the Desert, he pointed out the position of women in the ancient Mali Empire. This is something you hardly get from male authors, and that’s why I strongly believe that Charles is definitely on his way to becoming the most conscious writer coming out of Nigeria. This is not to discredit all the other writers creating awareness through their work. I’ve read a few books that I really liked, but nothing captivated me like Across the Desert!
Charles pointed out an era in African history people don’t usually talk about–or probably haven’t heard of. Mali was probably the most civilized empire on the continent in the 15th to 16th century.
In Across the Desert, Charles painted a perfect picture of how the Mali Empire operated. The empire adopting Islam at that time made it almost impossible for the women to reach their potentials; and the empire rose and fell, without recording a notable woman rising from it, except the ones in the leaders’ court.
Charles also highlighted that even though the men of the empire embraced Islam, they did it only to keep their trade with the Arabs. Most of them still practiced their traditional beliefs, even their leader (the Mansa) who spearheaded the campaign to make Mali a Muslim empire.
This book covers racism and discrimination faced by the Mali people whenever they ventured outside Mali. At one point, the leader of the empire was required to bow to the ruler of Egypt, even though he had never asked the Arabian dignitaries that visited his court to bow to him.
In conclusion, Charles wrote a great book. He wrote about that part of Africa that was never written in the history books.