Mansa What? Musa Who? The Medieval King that proved Money Ain’t a Thang.
Musa made it rain everywhere he went and the sudden influx of gold drove up prices, spiked inflation and resulted in a recession that rocked the city of Cairo for a decade.
When you think of filthy, fucking rich, what comes to mind? Jeff Bezos jerking off in space? How about Lil Uzi Vert’s former forehead diamond? While there are plenty of these individuals who make the rest of us look like ramen binging bums, none of these chumps comes close to the richest person in human history that you probably never heard of: King Mansa Musa.
Musa ruled the Mali Empire in West Africa from 1312 to 1337 AD, and during this time expanded his wealth and territory through massive gold deposits and a thriving salt trade. Despite their baller status, Mali and Musa were overlooked by other medieval empires including the European haters, who viewed sub-Saharan Africa as a mythical place of beasts and savages, ironic considering Europe at the time was in a constant cycle of famine, plague and war.
This low profile changed when Musa, a devote Muslim, took a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. While no written records exist, oral history suggests his legendary caravan was made up of 100,000 soldiers, slaves and animals who hauled over 175,000 pounds of gold and treasure for the purpose of charity known as ‘Zakat’. Unfortunately, as Biggie Smalls once indicated: “Mo’ money, mo problems,’ and this was about to be the case.
Musa made it rain everywhere he went and the sudden influx of gold drove up prices, spiked inflation and resulted in a recession that rocked the city of Cairo for a decade. In an effort to make amends, the African King spent the return trip building hundreds of schools, libraries and mosques, spreading knowledge as well as wealth. All this caught the attention of the outside world and in 1375 Mali was finally incorporated into the Catalan Atlas, a significant European navigational tool. On it, Musa is depicted on a throne, dripping with bling, admiring a massive gold nugget. A fitting tribute to the man who literally put his nation on the map.
So why is Mansa Musa not more of a thing? After all, his generosity single-handedly destabilized the economy of an entire region. Instead, when it comes to historical clout, society fixates on a Western perspective; look no further than Hollywood’s perpetual boner for castles, colonialism and the Cold War. So what’s the harm in broadening the narrative so we can all enjoy an historically inaccurate Marvel Movie where Musa teams up with the Avengers to fight evil? Yikes.