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African Music in the Global African Diaspora  

Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje

When researching music in the African diaspora, most scholars concentrate on the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade, which has been a trend since inquiries began during the mid twentieth century. Only since the late twentieth century have researchers started to consider musical repercussions from the involuntary and voluntary migration of Africans in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean. Using historical and musical secondary sources, the essay, African Music in the Global African Diaspora, devotes special attention to musicking during the enslavement of Black people in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Atlantic Ocean worlds. In addition to a concise history of slavery and the enslaved, a description of instruments, musical traditions, performance practices, and meaning is presented for each diaspora. The degree that musical elements identified with Africa were retained and/or transformed, resulting in a fusion or blending of performance practices, is also explored. Because no single publication, heretofore, has focused on African music in the global African diaspora, the study fills a significant void in the literature and presents a more comprehensive view of the dispersion of African music inworld culture. The outcome provides a broader analysis and understanding of the power and impact of African music globally.

Article

Combat Games in the Black Atlantic, 17–19th Centuries  

Matthias Röhrig Assunção

Combat games are attested in Africa from the time of the transatlantic slave trade and throughout the 19th century. In the agricultural societies in the rainforest of West and West Central Africa, wrestling was the most common form, while pastoral societies in the savannahs of central and southern Africa excelled in stick fighting. Fist fighting, slap boxing, and kicking also constituted the base of combat games in some locations. The enslaved Africans and their descendants made use of these bodily techniques in the plantation societies of the Americas and the Indian Ocean. The new oppressive context of slavery led to adjustments of techniques and practice. Stick fighting was widespread in Brazil and the Caribbean, whereas wrestling only became important in the United States. The previously rather marginal techniques of kicking and head butting became central to capoeira, ladja, and moring, even though it is difficult to establish precise genealogies. Bodily techniques were onlys one aspect of the complex cultural reinvention of combat games in the Atlantic world. African religious practices such as protections from supernatural forces and broader cultural meanings were incorporated into African-derived and creole combat games. While keeping some of their former social function, combat games in the “New World” also acquired new, contradictory meanings as either tools of resistance, spectacle for monetary gains, or even instruments of oppression. They provided an early example of globalization of bodily techniques and cultural meanings, and the most successful ones, such as capoeira, continue to expand worldwide to this day.

Article

Diaspora Tourism  

Bayo Holsey

Since the 1990s, diaspora tourism has become a significant cultural and economic enterprise within several West African nations. The conservation of important sites related to the history of the slave trade, particularly Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle in Ghana and the Slave House on Gorée Island and Senegal, along with the development of the Slaves’ Route in Benin, has led to burgeoning numbers of diaspora tourists in these nations. Although this particular form of travel took off in the 1990s as a result of a growing African American middle class and the simultaneous rise in their level of interest in the history of the slave trade, temporary diasporic travel to West Africa has a much longer history. From the very moment of independence, the development of diaspora tourism industries has been a goal of several African nations. Pan-African festivals held throughout the 1960s and 1970s sought to capture this tourism market and to celebrate historical and cultural connections as well as to encourage economic investment. More recent state-sponsored events such as Emancipation Day and PANAFEST in Ghana have similar goals. For the tourists themselves, diaspora tourism often represents much more than leisure travel. Oftentimes framed as a “homecoming” or a “pilgrimage,” the trips can have deeply personal and even spiritual significance. They occur in the context of anti-Black racism in the home nations of tourists who therefore may seek a sense of belonging within Africa. Many want to learn more about the history of slave trade in order to understand the struggles of their ancestors. Diaspora tourism thus is both an economic enterprise, firmly situated within neoliberal logics, and a potentially oppositional act for Black subjects in the context of global White supremacy. It has also influenced the ways in which continental Africans view the history of the slave trade and their relationship to the African diaspora.

Article

Donas, Nharas, and Signares: Women Slave Traders in Atlantic Africa  

Hilary Jones

Donas, nharas, and signares belonged to a class of women who obtained high social and economic standing in Africa’s west and west central region from the age of the European encounter to the era of mercantile companies and transatlantic slavery. These women owned slaves consistent with the notion of “slavery” or institutions of marginality within their specific West African and West Central African societies. As women who lived in close proximity to European military and mercantile installations on the Atlantic coast, they acted as cross-cultural brokers between European merchants and officials and African elites. Whether through marriages arranged by lineage elders or by relationships of convenience between African women and European men, donas, nharas, and signares entered contractual unions with European men. From the late 16th to the early 19th centuries, these relationships originated Afro-European families and established Afro-European men and some women as a propertied class along Africa’s Atlantic coast. Infamous in the texts of traveler’s accounts written by European men and a few Afro-European men, documentation of this era of women’s influence and their role in the Atlantic commercial system largely resides in European administrative reports and population data, court records and notarized documents, and published and unpublished genealogies.

Article

The Dutch Slave Trade in the Atlantic, 1600–1800  

Pieter Emmer and Henk den Heijer

The Dutch share in the Atlantic slave trade averaged about 5 to 6 percent of the total, but the volume differed sharply over time. The beginning of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade can be dated to 1636, after the Dutch West India Company (WIC) had acquired its own plantation colony around Recife in Brazil. In order to set up a regular trade in slaves, the WIC also took Elmina on the Gold Coast and Luanda in Angola from the Portuguese. The slave trade to Dutch Brazil was short-lived, and after the loss of Dutch Brazil and Luanda, the WIC as well as private merchants from Amsterdam started to sell slaves to colonists in the Spanish, English, and French Caribbean via Curaçao, the WIC trade hub in the region. In 1667, in addition to the small colonies of Berbice and Essequibo, the Dutch conquered Suriname and during the 18th century established Demerara. The Dutch slave trade became more and more focused on these plantation colonies. Between 1700 and 1725, after the Dutch had been banned from selling slaves in foreign colonies, the Dutch slave trade declined, but the volume increased again after 1730 when the WIC lost its monopoly and private shipping companies were allowed to enter the trade. In addition, Amsterdam-based investors poured money into the Dutch plantation colonies expecting windfall profits from a new cash crop: coffee. These profits did not materialize, and the majority of the planters in the Dutch plantation colonies went bankrupt. These bankruptcies, another war with Britain, and the French occupation caused the Dutch slave trade to decline sharply. The last Dutch slave ship sailed to Suriname in 1802. In 1814, the Dutch government yielded to British abolitionist pressure and abolished the slave trade in the hope of regaining its colonial possessions occupied by Britain.

Article

Igbo  

Chima J. Korieh

The Igbo-speaking people inhabit most of southeastern Nigeria. Their political economy and culture have been shaped by their long history of habitation in the forest region. Important themes relating to the Igbo past have centered on the question of origin, the agrarian bases of their economy, the decentralized and acephalous structure of their political organization, an achievement-based social system rooted in their traditional humane living, and a fluid gender ideology that recognized male and female roles as complementary rather than oppositional. The Igbo contributed to major historical developments including the development of agriculture, the Bantu migration, and its influence in the making of Bantu cultural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. On the global arena, the Igbo contributed significantly to the transformation of the New World through the Atlantic slave trade and the making of New World cultures. The Igbo made the transition to palm oil production in the postabolition era, thereby contributing to the industrialization of Europe as well as linking their society to the global capitalist economy from the 19th century. The Igbo encounter with Europeans continued through British colonialism, and their struggle to maintain their autonomy would shape British colonialism in Nigeria and beyond. The postcolonial era has been a time of crisis for the Igbo in Nigeria. They were involved in a civil war with Nigeria, known as the Nigeria-Biafra war, and experienced mass killing and genocide but continued to be resilient, drawing from their history and shared experience.

Article

Liberated Africans  

Richard Anderson

“Liberated Africans” refers to a group of African-born men, women, and children intercepted by naval forces from slave ships and slave trading factories in the Atlantic and Indian oceans as part of the 19th-century campaign to abolish the transoceanic slave trade from Africa. Following the passage of Britain’s 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the British Royal Navy patrolled both the Atlantic and Indian oceans in order to suppress the external trade from Africa. Captured vessels were taken to a series of Vice-Admiralty courts, and later Mixed Commission courts, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Havana, Cuba; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Tortola; Cape Town, South Africa; James Town, St. Helena; Luanda, Angola; and Port Luis, Mauritius. Naval interdiction by Brazil, Portugal, the United States, and other powers resulted in a smaller number of cases brought before unilateral anti-slave-trade tribunals. Between 1808 and 1896, this complex tribunal network “liberated” approximately 214,000 Africans who survived the Middle Passage. Perhaps 75,000 of these individuals were settled in Sierra Leone; the remainder were settled in the British Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba, Liberia, and British colonies and outposts from the Gambia, Cape Colony, and Mauritius, to Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Bombay. The arrival of an estimated 192,000 Liberated Africans into Atlantic ports continued through the demise of the transatlantic slave trade in the 1860s. In the Indian Ocean, approximately 22,000 Liberated Africans disembarked in East Africa, the Persian Gulf, and India as a result of a highly uneven British naval campaign from 1808 into the 1890s. Many Liberated Africans experienced very liminal freedom. Adults and children were apprenticed to colonial inhabitants for periods of up to fourteen years. Men were conscripted into the British West India Regiments and Royal African Corps. Many women were forcibly married to strangers soon after arrival. Approximately one out of every four Liberated Africans underwent a second oceanic passage, most of them forcibly relocated to the British West Indies. The settlement of Liberated Africans—referred to by British officials as their “disposal”—represented a sizable involuntary African migration into and across the British Empire in the decades after the abolition of the British slave trade. Their arrival brought with it a lasting linguistic and cultural impact in many colonial societies. The descendants of Liberated Africans remain identifiable communities in many postcolonial societies from Africa to the Caribbean.

Article

Music in Cabo Verde  

Glaúcia Nogueira

The landscape of Cape Verdean music is diverse, and its musical genres, like the society from which they emanate, are mostly Creole. They stem from the interactions of the local population with other peoples, not only through colonization, but also from the emigration of Cape Verdeans to other countries. In addition, maritime traffic in the Atlantic, which has always traversed the archipelago, was a fruitful channel of contact with other cultures. These factors meant that Cabo Verde remained attuned to cultural trends and lifestyles circulating around the world. Morna, koladera, batuku, and funaná are the most prominent genres on any list of musical styles considered “genuinely” Cape Verdean, if it makes sense to use this adjective in a society marked so heavily by ethnic admixture. That list must also include: 19th-century European musical styles (mazurka, waltz, schottische, polka, gallop) that local musicians appropriated by playing them; the talaia baxu, from the island of Fogo; and a group of musical expressions related to the feasts of the Catholic calendar, with songs, dances, and drumming, such as the kola sanjon (commemorating St. John the Baptist), present on several islands; the activities of tabankas (mutual aid associations that, among other activities, celebrate the dates of Catholic saints) in Santiago and the flag festivals on the island of Fogo. Other religious traditions include the litanies inherited from the Portuguese tradition sung in Creole. There are also popular songs related to work and other activities like sowing, fishing, and labor with oxen in the artisanal production of rum (grogo, grogue, grogu). The oxen work songs (kola boi) are nearly extinct. Weddings songs are also part of traditional musical practices that are either nearly extinct or performed as folklore representations only. In terms of popular music with international circulation since the 1970s, Cape Verdean youth have enthusiastically embraced rap, reggae, zouk from the Antilles, and to a lesser extent rock, by producing Cape Verdean versions of these genres.

Article

Omar ibn Said  

Mbaye Lo

Omar ibn Sayyid (Said is the more prevalent Anglicized version of his name; 1770–1863), a West African Muslim scholar, was enslaved in North Carolina from 1810 until his death in 1863. Omar was captured in Futa Toro, modern-day Senegal in 1807 and transported to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1808, and he spent the first two years of his American life enslaved on a plantation there. He left behind a body of Arabic writings including his 1831 autobiography, which was the subject of two limited translations in the 19th century by Alexander Cotheal in 1848 and Isaac Bird in 1863; a more elaborated translation was produced by John Franklin Jameson in 1925. Since the 1980s, Omar has attracted scholarly interest as a striking example of the presence of enslaved Muslim scholars in the antebellum United States. The Library of Congress has created an Omar ibn Said Collection of documents in English and Arabic to serve as a resource for research on slavery and Islam in America. North Carolina governor Roy Cooper declared May 23, 2019, Omar ibn Said Day.

Article

Ozurumba Mbanaso or King Jaja of Opobo  

Joseph Davey

Between 1800 and 1900, West Africa’s coastal states struggled to maintain autonomy in the face of imperial overtures from European trade partners. Simultaneously, these states coped with an overwhelming buildup of domestic slaves, some of whom rose to unprecedented higher political and economic positions. One particular individual, King Jaja of Opobo, came to the fore as an extreme example of how slaves became more capable of taking advantage of the changing political, religious, and economic landscape of the Eastern Niger Delta during this period. Born Mbanaso Ozurumba in the Igboland village of Umuduruoha in 1821, Jaja, as he would become known to his European trading partners, traversed the domestic slave systems of Southeastern Nigeria and arrived in the Delta trading state of Bonny in 1833. He obtained tremendous wealth and political influence through the burgeoning palm oil trade, ultimately becoming the head of one of Bonny’s most influential canoe-houses. Due to an internal dispute with a rival canoe-house in the late 1860s, Jaja removed his followers to a previously uninhabited island and cut off Bonny’s access to the lucrative interior oil markets. From 1871 on, Jaja monopolized the palm oil trade in the region to become the most influential trader from his new position as king of the island community, which he would name Opobo. However, by 1884, the relationship between Jaja and his British trade partners deteriorated, leading to Jaja’s exile in the West Indies. Political pressure forced the British to return Jaja to Opobo. Unfortunately, the once-powerful slave-turned-king died while trying to return home in 1891.

Article

The Saro of West Africa  

Femi J. Kolapo

During the hundred-odd-year period from 1837 to 1944, liberated Africans with their children, mostly from the Nigerian area who were resettled in Sierra Leone, returned to Nigeria. They and their descendants in Nigeria were known as Saro. While most of them were of Yoruba origin, their population included Igbo, Nupe, Basa, Hausa, and Efik. They returned to Lagos, Abbeokuta, Ibadan, Calabar, Onitsha, Lokoja, and Port Harcourt, locations of political-economic or missionary significance during the period. Isolated individuals went as far as Ilorin, Bida, Kano, Sokoto, and Zaira. In many respects, they constituted the earliest social group who, by their distinctive black Atlantic experience of cultural and intellectual hybridity, mediated Nigeria’s engagement with and introduction to the modern and colonial capitalist demands of the era. As purveyors of new sociopolitical and cultural ideas that would come to underpin Nigeria, they were the forerunners of the nation. By their vision of a homeland that was inclusive of multiple ethnicities and that conceived of a single economy emanating from a network of production centers in the interior, they laid its earliest modern foundation. Their significant economic, social, cultural, religious, and political roles in the actions, interactions, and structures that eventually led to the creation of Nigeria justify the consideration of them as founders of the nation.

Article

The Soninke in Ancient West African History  

Kassim Kone

The Soninke are an ancient West African ethnicity that probably gave rise to the much larger group that is called the Mande of which the Soninke are part. The Soninke language belongs to the northwestern Mande group but through the dynamism of its speakers has loaned many words and concepts to distant ethnic groups throughout the West African ecological zones. Mande groups such as the Malinke and Bambara may be descendants of the Soninke or a Proto-Soninke group. The Soninke are the founder of the first West African empire, Ghana, which they themselves call Wagadu, from the 6th to the 12th centuries ad Ghana was wealthy and powerful due to its access to gold, its geographic location between the Sahara and the Sahel, and its opening of trade routes from these ecological zones into the West African forest. Long distance trade contributed to the development of an ethos of migration among the Soninke, arguably making them the most traveled people of the whole continent. As they embraced Islam, some Soninke clans became clerics and proselytizers and followed the trade routes, sometimes becoming advisers to kings and chiefs. By the time of Ghana’s fall, the Soninke diaspora and trade networks were found all over West Africa. At present, pockets of Soninke, small and large, are found on all continents.