Alkebu-lan: If Africa Was Never Colonized By Europe

Alkebu-lan 1260 AH, by Nikolaj Cyon
Alkebu-lan 1260 AH, by Nikolaj Cyon

Alkebu-lan is the oldest name for Africa. In Arabic, it means “The Land of the Blacks.”

Hi, my name is Nikolaj Cyon and I am an artist from Sweden who has worked with precolonial Africa as a theme in my art for over a year. I have, as a mind experiment, made a map of what Africa could have looked like in the mid 19th century if Europe had never  become a colonizing world power. In order to do this I have tried to construct an alternative historical time-line in which Europe was much harder struck by the plague in the 1350’s and never recovered. Therefore  African nations would have gotten the opportunity to flourish unhindered.

But the project is really about real historical precolonial African nations, and I have tried to form a map of the most prominent of those that existed between the 15th and mid 19th century, by looking at historical maps like the one found in UNESCO’s “A General History of Africa”, linguistic regions and natural boundaries.

I have also made a Prezi presentation in which I explain the map and some historical facts, and also the process of making it. This can be seen here.

The map was recently mentioned in The Washington Post, as number 23 out of 40 interesting maps.

For more versions of the map and details about price, shipping and to order one, click here.



  1. Wow, look how incredibly divisive Africa would be. No wonder they were 15,000 years behind before Arabic and European colonization. Most of Africa by the 1800s still hadn’t developed the wheel, or agriculture, or fixed settlements. The only remotely advanced states in Africa at the dawn of European colonization were those that had been colonized by Arabic states.


    • As an African living in Africa, I can tell you first-hand that the careless merging of a lot of these civilisations by colonisers is one of the main reasons we have problems today on the continent e.g. tribalism and nepotism. I recommend you watch the PBS documentary series ‘Africa’s Great Civilizations’. The documentary debunks a lot of theories about Africa being less developed than Europe and Asia. Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ure sadly mistaken…we had civilisation n lots of mineral wealth by the time colonised came into play…there was egypt…and Mali ruled over by great kings n queens …in bunyoro down in uganda we had invented the csection n all this knowledge n artifacts were taken as long as the people into slavery…only the weak were left behind …


    • If Portugal and Spain are colonized and occupied, then so is the whole of Northern Africa. More so, since the “colonizers” of Spain and Portugal were the former inhabitants before they reconquered Spain and Portugal.


  2. this map is a commendable effort but is problematic. the western concept of borders aside, many of the ‘countries’ wouldn’t have existed without the pressure of colonialism. the british helped establish Umbuso weSwatini (Swaziland), and the Lesotho analogue (Basuto) in your map was established as a direct result of Zulu expansionism, which itself was partially effected by British and Boer activity in the region. also, it’s unlikely that the Khoe would have been interested in founding Hoeri Kwaggo (Cape Town) – the very idea of sedentary populations was anathema to their mode of production – or that they would even have survived Nguni aggression for much longer.

    i do love these kinds of maps though and would love to see increasingly accurate representations of what might have been. they fire the imagination and offer us a glimpse of how we might be able to resolve some of the colonial-legacy border issues in Africa.


  3. Why does a map of what is supposed to be Africa without colonies has Spain and Sicily under Arab rule and the Ottomans still controlling the Balkans? Do you consider these lands to be somehow colonized by Europeans?


  4. This is a good post until you consider that all life originated from africa….with that being said. could the Arab language dictate anything coming from africa….when there language was not even considered to years after the first known language…..never forget the first man on earth was black….even Laura Croft knew that

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Nikolaj Cyon for your sterling efforts at presenting an arguably post-Western and alternative view of Afrika (as seen from the ‘inside-out’).

    An intellectual and philosophical narrative that presents a continent with a rich and rounded history is refreshing and worthy of support and wider diffusion – I will do my bit to popularise this notion…


    Liked by 2 people

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