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See PBS Article by Mario Valdes: Secret Seal

THE HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MAURE
THE AFRICAN CONSCIENCE OF HUMANITY

The AUF flag and emblem is called the Maure or U Moru. It was adopted by the AUF on account of important historical considerations, some of which are explained here, but also because masks, and the imagery of the head, are symbolically significant in all African communities. Below is a brief account of the origins of the Maure and its significance to Africans everywhere.



The term Maure derives from the Phoenician term Mahurin (Westerners). From Mahurin the ancient Greeks derive Mauro meaning black, and later Greeks derive Maurikios after them, the Latin derive Mauri meaning Black African. From the same root we derive: Maur, Maurus, Marra, Moro, Morisco, Mohr, Moritz, Moor, Moru, Maru, Morelo, Maureta, Mauretania, Mauritius, Maureen, Maroon, Morocco, Moore, Maurice, Meuric, Meurig, Morien, Morin, Moryan, Moreto, and such. At one time the whole of the western arm of Africa (what is now West Africa, from Libya to Nigeria and around the Atlantic coast), was called Mauretania. The word Mauretania was interchangeable with all the names of what is now Africa: 'Ethiopia', 'Kemet', 'Netdjer', 'Sudan', 'Libya', 'Cush', 'Guinea' and the now defunct 'Negroland'.

Since the 11th century, the heraldic term Maure refers to the symbol of an African head, or more specifically any blackened image of an African, or a part of an African, or an item associated with or representing Africans.


Claudio Ptolemy's map of Mauretania (Notice it includes all of West Africa)

In the 18th century English usage of the term Moor began to refer specifically to African Muslims, but especially to any person who speaks one of the Hassaniya dialects. This language, in its purest form, draws heavily from the original Yemeni Arabic spoken by the Bani Hassan tribe, which invaded northwest Africa during the 16th and 17th centuries.
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The most ancient representations of the African Head were the prehistoric glyphs, statues, and masks found in Africa. The mask was traditionally used in Africa in the majority of ceremonies: feritility or initiation rites, religious or funeral celebrations, but also theatrical or comic performances often linked to the deepest human myths.

The oldest existing representations of African heads pictorially, in literature, and in statue date back tens of thousands of years. From the prehistoric petroglyphs, to more recent temples of ancient Africa we find images made by ancient Africans, with detailed emphasis on heads as forming the central feature of the identity of the depicted subjects. The temples of Asia and the Americas too have similar imagery. Kushite troops as early as 1800BC were represented in pictures by Greeks when they marched across Europe under the command of Sesostris the founder of Colchis on the Black sea. Statues and drawings of Africans became significant emblems in Europe during the last axial age that began with the ascendency of the Kushite city of Napata as the world's chief metropole and home of the 25th Dynasty in Egypt. The images of African gods such as Isis or Heru served as the significant national imagery of ancient Africans.

Today Maure also refers to an 'image of an African' in the same way as 'Ethiop' or 'Negro' or 'African'. The AUF choice of the term Maure while honouring the old heraldic traditions, must not obscure the fact that it is merely another form for the African Head or an image of the head of an African person. That imagery and symbolism of the head is found in all African communities, with a wide variety of representations in language or image. The African masks are one popular form, but there are many others. The imagery of the African head takes on its most graphic and imposing form in the megalithic Mesoamerican basalt statues of the Olmecs.

The Olmecs were an ancient people who lived in the eastern lowlands of present day Mexico around 1300-400 B.C. They were a highly developed agricultural society best known for their pyramidal mounds, calendars, and their stone head basalt rock carvings weighing some 20-40 tons each. The original Olmec calendar seems to begin with Day One falling on August 13, 3113 B.C., (almost exactly at the same time Egypt was united for the first time under Aha from Upper Egypt). It is unclear what the symbolic significance of the Olmec heads was to their creators. However, because of these heads, (as well as artwork, human remains, hieroglyphic writings found on pottery, scepters, statues and other items), historians have been able to prove that Olmec civilization is African. Perhaps that result is all that the Olmecs intended when they carved the giant heads. The Africans arrived in the America's prior to 3113 BC, and recent archeological escavations in Brazil indicate that Africans were the first peoples to settle the Americas.

Olmec civilization would have been just one of the communities that included Africans in Meso America, and probably represents the height of African civilization in that region. Estimates date the rise of the Olmec civilisation to about 1100 B.C., (a megalithic culture remarkably similar to the Olmes, the Shang of China, fell around this time). The giant African heads of the Olmecs are also most prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico, and are not found in other places where Africans are known to have settled in the Americas. However, the Olmec culture ultimately derives from the Kemetic cultures indegenous to Africa.

Below: The Sphinx of Taharka, 25th Dynasty Egypt
Civilization in Africa is thousands of years older than its daughter cultures of Meso America. Africans were reponsible for creating the giant Sphinx (estimated to be over 10,000 years old) on the banks of the Nile. Megalithic African cultures that descended from the builders of the Sphinx are generally known as the Kem, the ancient name of Africans. Ancient Kemetic civilization is responsible for a rich and prolific array of head imagery in metal, stone, terra cotta, clay and wood. The skill that went into the creation of head sculptures of the Nok (who lived between the Niger and the Benue from 900BC to 200AD), as well as the skills of 25th Dynastic Egypt (800BC to 600BC), remain unsurpassed even today. The head imagery is central to much of the Nok sculptures that emphasize the elaborately formed head over the rest of the body. In much of the art the body remains dimunitive, insignificant or otherworldly in order to accentuate the head.

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The most ancient version of the Maure/U Moru in heraldic and vexillologic tradition around the world is generally known as the Black Madonna which predates Christianity and is appropriately associated with the worship of ancient African (and black-skinned) female gods, including Abuk, Apedemak, Ceres, Hathor, Sekhmet, and especially Isis. These legendary symbols of mythological African women appear in most civilizations, many as matriarchs, but also as military leaders and priestesses. Some representations of female oracles and priestesses may include the blindfold as part of the process of prophecy, symbolising insight, wisdom and judgement.

In medieval times the genre of the Black Madonna was augmented in France especially by an "esoteric" popular religion common among the Templars and Cathars. One of the central excuses the French monarchy issued in the persecution and destruction of the Knights Templers was the fact that they had adopted the Maure and had several "Baphomets" in the monastries. The Templars brought back with them the devotion to the Black Madonna from the Crusades. The colors adopted by their order were black and red. They wore a double black and red cord around their necks and their flag was black, white and red.

Varietations of the female Maure include representations of famous black women in both mythology and history, such as the Amazons, Andromeda, Cassiopea, Europa (mythological African woman after whom the continent is named), and the entire Odinian priesthood composed only of African females (their black male counterparts refered to as the Gentilibus Nigris by Catholic piests, were part of the Viking fleets that invaded Ireland in the 9th century). Almost all of these figures are represented consistently as black, commonly only their heads or faces, hence the variety of the significance, symbolism, and diverse representation of the Maure.

The tradition of the blindfold may have come to us unmodified, but obscured by the proliferation of Black Madonnas with haloes, garlands, veils, crowns or headbands, which may also have morphosed into blindfolds due to artistic license. The blindfold is integral to the iconography partaining to the Matriarch-as-Judge. Ancient mythology is replete with such an African figure. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the judge-matriarch of Magan [in Africa], in front of whom the protagonist is brought for justice. Indo-Tibetan scholars believe that the Hindu and Buddhist Black Goddesses and the Christian Black Madonna are a common archetype that originated in Africa.
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The snake-haired Gorgon triplet Medusa is also a female Maure. The most direct and historical interpretation of the myth of Perseus and the snake-haired Gorgon Medusa, points to the Medusa as being resident in Africa to the west, having dreadlocks for hair, and having a potent dynamic relating to vision. Representaions of Medusa are generally conflations of her head and the "mirror" of Perseus, which in fact makes a shield with the dreadhead emblazon. What is important perhaps is the fact that Medusa's head is an instrument of justice. In the context of the AUF flag, the significance of the head as a symbol of justice is what is crucial. By the sixteenth century, in Europe, the severed head of Medusa was said to symbolize the triumph of reason over the senses.

Below: The Trinacria Medusa Maure of Tindari
The only country with Medusa's Head on its flag is Sicily. The current Sicilian Medusa is not a Maure, having been modified over the centuries. However, it is a Trinacria. The oldest surviving design of a Medusan Trinicria is in the mosaic in Tindari depicting the head of Medusa (in a geometrically circular black face) with snakes for hair, and what appears to be roots. The mosaic in Tindari dates from the 3rd century B.C. According to convention, the Greeks circumnavigated the island and noted the three capes, Peloro, Passero, and Lilibeo, forming three points of a triangle in the northeast, the southeast, and the west. "Taken by its beauty they likened its shores to the legs of a woman" and represented the island with the Trinakie.

Regardless of the verity of this randy story, the people (Cartheginians) who lived in Sicily 300 years before Christ had the female Medusa Maure (moreover, on a white square ground) as their emblem. The association of Medusa with the number three has a more profound significance than the passionate legs' story suggests. The female legs establish the sex/gender of the Medusa, as well as the number of the Erinyes (the mist-walking sisters who were guardians of life whose duty it was to pursue and punish crimes not within the realm of human justice), in addition to bearing some other significant symbolism beyond the scope of this report. It is interesting to note that Tindari also has the famous Sanctuary of the Black Madonna.

The Erinyes predate Olympian rule in the territory we now call Greece. The pre-Hellenic people there recognized three immortal black maidens with serpent hair, who roamed the pre-Hellenic world in pursuit of those who dared offend the laws of kinship.

Corsica's ancient Coat-of-Arms bearing distinctly female Maure
The Maure was used in Corsica beginning in 1281, and later during the struggle for independence, by both sides, beginning in 1736. The Corsican Maure was female.

General Paoli ordered the chain removed from the Maure in 1760, and a few years later had the blindfold on the coat-of-arms morphed into a headband because 'Corsicans want to see things in a clear way...'. However, the blindfold remained on the Corsican currency.

The current Corsican flag, called the "Bandera testa Mora" has a regular knot at the back of the head. The "Mora" is used out of respect for Corsica's most popular historic figure, General Pascuale Paoli, who led the struggle for independence [1755 to 1769], and who wrote the egalitarian Constitution which insipired Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson.

From 1281 to 1387 the Maure was used on the seals of the kings of Aragon. The white ground Maure (sans Adinkra) was also the original flag of the Africans during the successful slave revolt in Haiti (San Domingo) in 1799 AD.

'St.Erasm and St.Maurice' by Matthias Grunewald (b. 1470/80, d. 1528)
In medieval Europe the Maure imagery represented the Sudanese command of the German armies of the Holy Roman Empire in the 12th century. These African officers defended Swedes during the Scandinavian rebellion against Germany. Several settlements in Europe - including St. Moritz - are named after these Africans. The white flag with the black profile became the flag of several separate Orders named for of St. Maurice, that sprung up all over Europe in the 12th century. However, the name Maurice was generic and refers to many different and unrelated black soldiers in medieval European history.

In Roman times the Theban Legion was led by yet another Maurice, the warrior saint, and Primicerius (commander) of Roman troops from Thebes in Egypt. The Theban Legion was sent to suppress a revolt of the Bagandae in Agaunum in Gaul (St-Maurice en Valais) in the 3rd century. That Maurice ordered his soldiers not to participate in pagan rites. They were punished by the Emperor Maximian Herculeus first by decimation and finally by the wholesale massacre of the Theban Legion. Maurice and his fellow officers were executed in A.D. 287. Some depictions of that St. Maurice rightly portray him as black and show red flags, sometimes with a black stripe.
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In heraldic tradition that has grown out of this rich past, the Moor's Head refers to "a black's head, generally in profile, and frequently banded". There are various kinds of medieval descriptions of the Maure that include "Argent, three moor's heads couped at the shoulders proper filleted or and gules (1732-35), or, in referance to a Blackmore blazon, "on a fesse between three Moor's heads erased sable as many crescents argent"; "...a blackamoor's head couped sable"; "a cross gules between four blackamoor's heads affrontee, couped at the shoulders proper, wreathed about the temples gold (1633); "Per fesse argent and sable, a pale counterchanged three negro's heads proper".

Even long before the Crusades, on April 30 in 711, at the invitation of the sons of the late Visigoth King Wittiza, the Umayyad General Tarikh ibn Ziyad (el Moro) led 7000 troops into what was to became Spain and Portugal. His troops consisted of 300 Arabs and 6,700 native Africans. Ibn Husayn (ca. 950) recorded that these troops were "Sudanese", the Arabic word for Black people. The banner of the Maure, the negro head blindfolded on a white background became associated with Tarik's African armies.

Tarik's flag was the white flag of the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750). The Umayyads took white as their symbolic color as a reminder of the Prophet's first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, by using white, rather than black, as their color of mourning. The Visigoth usurper, Roderic, was defeated by the Africans on 19th July 711 at the battle of Guadalete, near Medina Sidonia. Roderic's fall ended Visigoth rule over what the Africans then called Spania (from the Amazigh word for Rabbits), or Al Andalus, and began 800 years of African and Arab control over much of southern and western Europe, but especially over Grenada in Southern Spain.

Al Hambra, Granada's citadel in the Sierra Nevada, Andalucia - Spain
After the fall of the Umayyads in Damascas, the Africans in Spain, known as the Moro were cut off and came under threat from successive invasions. However, the Moro retained the white flag and it came to be associated with negro troops specifically, whereas the Saracen Arab invaders who followed them into Spain used the red flag of the Khawarij Republican followers of Caliph Uthman III. As pressure from the Reyes Católicos (the Christian Reconquistadors) increased over the centuries, African states in Spain mutated and fell and rose many times. The most stable and longest lived African state in Spain was Grenada, with the magnificent Nasridin dynasty citadel of Al Hambra as its capitol. Al Hambra surrendered to the Reyes Católicos at dawn on January 2, 1492. Spain and Portugal followed this action with the conquest of parts of Africa, the destruction of African communities in Europe and the invasion of the Americas. Lisbon's black population, that out-numbered Europeans in 1550, was devasted by the plagues of the times. The last free blacks in Spain were expelled on April 6, 1609.

The last African flag of Grenada consisted of heraldic "Argent, a pomegranate gules leafed vert" (ie., an all-white flag, with a centred red pomegranate flower with green petals). It is unclear what the symbolic significance of the pomegranate bloom was to blacks in Spain. What is notable, however, is that the Pomegranate gave its name to Granada, as well as to the Hand Grenade which came into use in the 15th century. Moreover, the bloom has the colors Green, Yellow, Red, which coincidentally are the Pan-African colors. Perhaps most cryptic of all is the ancient saying "There is nothing in the world like the pain of being blind in Granada," probably less a reference to the blindfolded Maure and more about the beauty of perhaps the most beautiful place in Europe. Al Hambra is still only second to the Vatican in tourist visitors.
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The escutcheons (coat of arms) of the blackamoor proliferated in both private and civic European Orders throughout the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Heraldic descriptions such as "Argent, three blackamoors' heads couped sable, capped or, fretty gules" on coats of arms became common shortly after 1096. Even today, Sardinia's coat of arms bears four African heads each displayed in one of the four quarters created by the cross on the white shield. The traditional explanation is they represent four Moorish emirs of 11th century Spain. (N.B. Africans settled Sardinia and founded settlements around the gulf of Cagliari as early as 6000 BC).
    
Other sources of inspiration for the AUF Maure include celebrated Africans in ancient world history & mythology, including the Magi, the Arthurian knights Pallamedes (who wore two swords on account of his being ambidextrous), and Moren (whose skin is described as being remarkably black and who taught chivalry to the other knights). Others include Ogham, the black war leader of the Celts, and Prester John, the Christian King of Ethiopia (Africa), and Cepheus the father of Andromeda. In Nubian Twilight Alex Keating shows that popular European stories including Hans and Gretel, and Cinderella were taught to Europeans by Sudanese soldiers serving in Germany around the time of the Crusades. Cinderella especially means black skin...and may have originally simply referred to a real black girl (or several of them in similar situations). The representations of Africans among the ancient African culture, and in cultures of the world, is the inspiration for the AUF emblem.

The fall of the Kushites, the Phoenicians, the conquest of Egypt, the Rise of the Romans, the advent of Asian slave trade in African persons, and consolidation of Reconquistador attitudes in 17th century Europe, all heralded a nasty turn in the treatment of Africans in world culture. Shakespeare's insightful Aaron in Titus Andronicus, and the ill-fated Othello reflect the crises and despondency that gripped human society as African civilization succumbed under the persistent attack by Europe and Asia.

Another Medieval Maurice: Ancient European Statue of African Knight
As late as the 19th century major European states were still using Black heads on their armorials. The French added the Maure to the fleur-de-lis but removed the blindfold. At first, the French government gave to the new department of Corsica, arms where the Moor's Head was side by side with the fleur-de-lis and with a motto: The Law, the King. But from 1792, this motto disappeared although the Moor's Head and the fleur-de-lis still remained. When Paoli formed the Anglo-Corsican kingdom, the Moor's head which was associated to the arms of the king of England, became again, from 1794 to 1796, the official emblem of Corsica."    
    
U Moru has powerful saddening symbolism as well. It encapsulates in a single image the suffering of Africans. The number of interpretations in this regard are endless. Like the Clenched-Black-Fist, or the Chained-Black-Hand, both important African Empowerment emblems, U Moru's blinded and bound face tells eloquently the story of African survival in the face of overwhelming historic aggression and oppression. The bound face of an African is also symbolic of our oppression, or the African Holocausts perpetated against us on account of our Africanness and our appearance, and we must not forget that millions of our people continue to die and to suffer in bondage at the hands of proxy neocolonial governments and at the hands of racist anti-African regimes. It is important to bear in mind that some African-Profile armorials of Europe in the middle ages bore chains in addition to the blindfold. This was especially true of the maps of the time. Although there are no references that point to the existence of official standards with a gagfold covering the mouth rather than the eyes, they do appear from time to time and signify African silence, or more specifically the suppression of African expression.     

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