Of Africa Being Africa

The word Alkebulan has been stuck in my head after I came across Don Dada’s recent album Alkebulan

According to some texts Alkebulan is Arabic for “Land of the Blacks” the oldest known name of indigenous origin for Africa.

I remember from my history classes that Africa is the cradle of humankind but I have never stopped to wonder how Africa got to be named Africa

mad scramble for Africa

Why Is Africa Called Africa?

You would think its an easy question to answer, apparently its not. It seems scholars have been postulating since time immemorial on the origin and etymology of the name Africa. Here are some of theories:

The Romans

Roman Empire in Africa

Africa was named by the Romans when they crossed the Mediterranean and found a Berber tribe in the Carthage area (now Tunisia). The Romans called the region Afri-terra, meaning “the land of the Afri”. (It is also possible that the name was a misinterpretation of the Berber’s own name. The Berber word “ifrimeans cave, and could refer to the place of the cave-dwellers.)

  • The Latin word Afri, used to refer the Berber tribe Aourigha (perhaps pronounced “Afarika“)
  • The Latin suffix –ica used to denote a landmass e.g Celtica (a region of modern-day France) named after the Celtae who lived there.

The Hebrew

The continent was named after Afer, the grandson of Abraham and a companion of Hercules, whose descendants invaded Libya. The Hebrew name for the continent, Auphirah is said to be written as Ophir in many Jewish records.

The Yemenites

Africa could have been named after Africus, a Yemenite chieftain who invaded North Africa around the second millennium BC. Legend says that Africus founded a settlement in his newly conquered land, which he named “Afrikyah”.

The Himyarite

The name of Africa could have come from a Himyarite king called Yemenitealso called “Afrikus son of Abrahah” who subdued Ifriqiya

The Phoenicians

Source WikiPedia

The Phoenicians were an ancient people who inhabited the city-states on the east coast of the Mediterranean (modern day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel) and likely crossed to trade with neighbours in the fertile Nile Valley

  • “friqi” and “pharika”  Phoenician word meaning corn/fruit (The land of corn and fruit)

The Climate

Some historians theorise that the name was derived from generalised descriptions of the continent’s climate particular to the North, where it was mostly warm, sunny and dusty.

  • Aphrikē is a Greek word which means “free from cold and horror
  • Aprica is a Roman word meaning sunny
  • Afar a Phoenician word for dust
  • Africus Latin word for “south wind” which could be of Umbrian origin and mean originally “rainy wind”

The Geography

  • Apara a Sanskrit and Hindi root word meaning  “comes after” or to the west used by traders from India when referring to the location of Africa.
  • Faraqa an Arabic word for diaspora or separation (e.g Africa is the region that separates Egypt from the Maghreb)

The Egyptians

statue of Khafre

Khafre was fourth-Dynasty pharaoh, who ruled from c. 2558 to 2532 BC and some historians believe the Egypt ancient writing of  Kh-afre was mixed up in heiroglyphs to become Afre-Kh or Africa.

The term “Afru-ika” means “birthplace” or “Motherland.” Essentially, “Afru-ika” means “to turn toward the opening of the Ka, womb or birthplace.

Africa has also been known as…

Its interesting to note that throughout all this the original people of Africa have never used any one particular word to refer to Africa’s entire landmass.

Some people have used the following reasoning as being a systemic colonization tool:

….sought to completely disconnect the indigenous Africans with their culture, deities, and knowledge. This could only be successfully done by renaming all archetypal icons, thereby disconnecting the significance, meaning, and sacredness from any specific archetype…

Throughout history different names have been used to refer to all Africa

Aethiopia derives from the classical Greek for “burnt-face” (possibly in contrast to the lighter-skinned inhabitants of Libya).

Bilad as-Sudaan is Arabic for “Land of Black People.” Once used referring to all of sub-Saharan Africa.

According to AFURAKA/AFURAITKAIT The origin of the term ‘Africa

The origin of the term Africa

The first landmass is called the Ka of Afu Ra, the land of the Creator and the Kait of Afu Rait, the land of the Creatress.

The Ka of Afu Ra is Afuraka. The Kait of Afu Rait is Afuraitkait. Afuraka/Afuraitkait is the Divine Land.

Geologically, this first emergent landmass is of the continental plate, Afuraka/Afuraitkait.

The male title, Afuraka was corrupted into Africa.


According to the following resource: Kemetic History of Afrika; the definition of Alkebulan is as follows: “The ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. Alkebu-lan “mother of mankind” or “Garden of Eden”. Alkebulan is the oldest and the only word of indigenous origin. It was used by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Khart-Haddans (Carthagenians), and Ethiopians.

land of blacks
mother of mankind
garden of eden

*First, note that there is nothing coming up on the internet except people claiming that it is an indigenous word for Africa, and not much in the way of credible sources, much as I want to support an Afrocentric Identity this leaves a lot of …. Plot holes.

Shall we consider that its said to be an Arabic word, which makes me question it being cited as a name of “indigenous” origin (ok maybe for the early north African regions but when would it have spread to encompass the whole continent?)

I am looking for someone who understands Arabic, but from some of the comments on the internet seem to suggest that its not a valid Arabic word and if it is, it cant possibly mean what its been said to mean e.g “land of the blacks” or motherland or Eden

Bilad al-Sudan is Arabic for ‘the land of the blacks


Historians and mapmakers have played a large part in the continent being called Africa.

Isidore of Seville was probably the first to draw a map featuring the three principal continents of the Old-World Making him probably the first generalize the term “Africa” over the whole mass of land known today as Africa. Below is a seventh-century rendering of the divisions of the world in symbolic form

Below is a map of the world included in a 1553’s edition of the the Cosmographia in which you can see “Africa” as the name of the continent.

Final Note

Nobody really knows the origin, there is truth and coincidental nonsense wrapped up in self-serving interests.

But here we are and here we are.

my heart is the shape of africa
my heart is the shape of Africa




  1. Wow! That’s very interesting stuff. Lots of research you did, do you not? I sound like Yoda. But I love Yoda, and I guess we will never know the origin. At least you tried! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha yep, I really went down the rabbit hole looking for possible origin theories some more valid than others.
      But it has got me thinking of things I have sort of always assumed like and exactly did we end up with boarders who, walked around drawing imaginary lines, dividing states and countries and such and on whose authority lol….

      Is the best Yoda, is he not?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well my papa told me that the it was the union of all those countries that wanted a piece of Africa that actually drew the lines…Scramble and partition for Africa as they called it. Thanks for this

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a lot of research. I will just stick with Africa cause trying to make sense of all those theories is making my head spin.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had no idea there was so much “drama” until I went looking…
      All I wanted to know was how we got the name, turns out its a mixed bag of theories.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You should know the research people have done on Africa and the stories, some scary weaving of stories they have come up with.
    I like your research though. I read, I listen and make my own conclusion.
    Great research you have done there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha the tattoo was a stick on.

      What I found the weirdest was how most of the potential explanations where from without, but then maybe that’s because the ancient inhabitants of the land may have not had an awareness of the idea of continents and all that (actually I lie, there’s a map of Africa etched in granite dating with bare footprints around it as if someone drew it when the lava was still molten which would date back to a very long time ago) we have no records of our own so we lost a large part of our version of history.

      Another interesting thing I discovered in the research of this post was how in most indigenous languages, there’s no letter C and words with the hard C sound have the letter K but got switched around when European got into the picture, so the more Afrocentric spelling of the continent would have been Afrika…. Hmmm


      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m no linguistic expert, but the theory proposing an Arabic origin to “Alkebulan” may have some merit. After removing the definite article “Al”, and viewing the ‘e’ and ‘u’ as short vowels, you could possibly form a word or two. Again, I’m no linguistic expert and I have an elementary understanding of Modern Standard Arabic, but قبيلة (qabila) is modern Arabic for the word “tribe”. It may not be a stretch to see similar roots between that and a word/phrase currently hypothesized to include the word “nations”. Also قبل (qabl)is modern Arabic for “before/prior”. (This next part is a stretch) Maybe there was some sort of concatenation (whether just a shortcut or maybe to make it more poetic, I don’t know) of “al qabl qabila” or “al qabila qabl” into the Arabic dual form “Al QabilAN”? “The Before/Prior/Begetter of Nations” or “Tribe/Nation of Before” isn’t too far from “Mother of Nations” or “Mother of Mankind.”

    Tl;dr: Alkebulan sounds like an Arabic translation of an even older name for Africa. It is very interesting how so many of the proposed names go back to something like mother, womb, or birthplace.

    Liked by 1 person

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