Celebration, Colonialism, Slavery: Capture, Loss, The Middle Passage, and Adaptation – Part 2 of 5

It was at the farm that they took 12-year-old Fulde.[1] I heard his screams. To run faster, I dropped my baby Tswana.[2] I never found Fulde. As his screams faded away, I rushed back to Tswana. But by then she also was gone. They took her – a suckling baby. I died that day. I died twice. In place of a mother Tigrinya[3], my 8-year-old had a twice dead corpse.

How will Tswana suckle babies when she never completed her own suckling? How will Fulde fully express his personhood when he never passed through the right of passage into manhood? Tswana never learnt the female weapon of stripping naked before the dawn in alignment with the universe to place a curse on another. How will they be persons when they never learnt how to connect to the land of the spirits – not even how to invoke our ancestors in times of need.

And who will buy and sell on the big market day? Who will eat the yams and palm oil that I harvest? To whom will we sing our lullabies? On whose arms will we sing our songs of love? How will the missing bodies of Fulde and Tswana be without the knowledge of Mansa Musa, Usman Dan Fodio and Ovonramwen Nogbaisi? Unable to transmit the stories of Eze Nri, Queen Amina and Inikpi, will I not have to make room for the stories in my grave? But will these untold stories not choke me in the grave?

For centuries this unending pain ripped through my body and fell upon the earth. It was repeated on my body millions of times. Pain flowed from my bodies into a willing earth. But as if nothing happened, the earth continued to produce – fruits, vegetables, herbs. I asked the soil – how do you absorb so much pain yet never became bitter?  And will you never have your fill of this pain? I asked the sky – how do you witness so much pain yet remain radiant? And the Sun? It continued to shine and the rivers continued to flow… the seasons remained indifferent. They continued… while on my flesh, I carry a loss that died without healing.

What became of my fragments? When the flesh was ripped from my heart and shipped away, what became of the receptacles of my love?  As our faces differ so do our spirits. The great God of creation – Eledumare (Nigeria), Ajok (Sudan), Suku (Angola), Imana (Burundi), Andramanitria (Madagascar), manifests in each person as her or his personal Chi. To one his Chi took back to the ancestors while on that portion of hell that fell to the earth and took the form of a slave ship; to the other her Chi instructed to jump overboard – she swam with Osun and Yemoja – en-route to eternity; some heeded their Chis grace of courage to continue – to live and strive as they could as social non-persons; to some was granted the spirit to resist how they could.

My flourishing nodes were forcibly grafted into something alien.

The most important element for the human mind to function is psychic unity – the human mind will go to great lengths to force congruence between self and others. In the face of dehumanization of the black body, majority fell into a deep compromise. To make sense of, and function in, a social world that “knew” that only sub-persons had kinky hair and chocolate skin, many rejected the truth of their bodies and history and accepted and lived the lie of racial inferiority.

[1] Fulde is the language spoken by the Fulani ethnic group.

[2] Tswana is the official language of Botswana.

[3] Tigrinya is spoken by in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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