Read, Debate: Engage.
Creative Series

Beyond Slavery

Despite global efforts to tackle slavery and eliminate all forms of servitude in modern society, the centuries-old practice continues to metamorphose assuming more sophisticated, dangerous and brazen trend dividing the global community on ethnicity and region as it did hundreds of years back.

While slavery has long been entrenched in numerous societies world over since time immemorial, the 15th century Trans-Atlantic trade that saw up to 12 million slaves most of them from West Africa hounded into ships and transported to Europe and Americas to work in tobacco and cotton farms, has had the biggest and most devastating impact on especially Africa and altered global politics and relations.

From Cape Verde where Portuguese merchants set up their first slavery hub and actively advanced the sale and buying of black slaves for centuries, to the less discussed but equally key Barbary slave trade in North Africa and the East African Muslim Arabs-dominated slavery where young men and women were forcefully taken to the Middle East through the Sahara Desert and the Indian Ocean, serfdom has since its embryonic phase robbed Africans some of its most able and healthiest men and women.

From intellectual drainage to disruption of a way of life, slavery dented Africa, slowed its growth and contributed to the negative connotation of a dark continent plagued by diseases, conflicts and ignorance. Such impacts continue being felt to date.

Much of the literature and discussion on slavery has been advanced and told by the West in a controlled narrative that hasn’t quite accommodated the views and voices of Africans as victims of the slave trade. Yet stories abound about the lifelong and devastating effects, beyond forceful migration, that the trade did to a people, and altered their way of life and that of their descendants. The few voices that have given accounts of the impacts of the trade paints a picture of generational loss of value, pride, identity crisis and being subjected to racial profiling that has altered relations between people of different races and colour.

Beyond Africa slavery has dented relations, advanced bias and exemplified social stratification.

This dossier takes a different approach to the dominant conversation on slavery that often lean on imperialism. We seek to trace the history of slavery from the perspective of those who were affected by it and tell their stories through millions of their descendants who were robbed off their heritage, culture, identity.

The dossier is timely, as this year, the world marks 400 years since the first Africans were taken as slaves in Virginia Colony. Ghana, then known as Gold Coast, which also formed a key hub for slave trade has declared 2019 the year of return as it seeks to encourage the descendants of those that embarked on an Odyssey of slavery to return home.

And as the subject continues evoking deep emotions and spark heated debates, this dossier seeks to stimulate a discussion on confronting the bitter and uncomfortable past that will ultimately foster and allow global healing and coexistence.

+++

We're pleased to start this series by our collaboration with filmmaker SELIM HARBI introducing "Call Me Neguinho" and "Baba Ghor".

Texts by Bob Koigi

map tooltip