Tag Archives: slavery

Pirates, Hydrarchy and the Motley Crew: Beyond “Arrgggh!”–Guest blog by P. Djeli Clark

[Note from Ay-leen: In recognition of International Talk Like a Pirate Day that happened yesterday, I’m cross-posting Djeli’s wonderful piece about pirates from his blog The Disgruntled Haradrim]

Map Insert of the Caribbean from “Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts” by Frank Richard Stockton. Click for source

In the late 17th thru mid 18th centuries, piracy was the method of last resort for the downtrodden and dispossessed: men desperate for work; deserters from throughout the war-wracked Atlantic; runaway slaves seeking refuge from bondage; criminals (from debtors to cutthroats) escaping the long arm of the law. Today, pirates are most remembered through popular culture–as dashing rouges, foppish cross-dressers, menacing brigands and motley crews of mad men and degenerates. But the pirates and piracy of history were much more complex, individuals who chose the margins of society as preferable to the authoritarian rule of empires, creating a separate space where they sought to govern themselves through methods that were radical not only for their day, but our own.

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#100 On Madam Tinubu – Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

Note: This essay is cross-posted with permission from Eccentric Yoruba.

Madam Efunroye Tinubu was among the most prominent and powerful Yoruba women in pre-colonial Nigeria (early to mid 19th century). Other renowned Yoruba women from that period were Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura and Madam Omosa, both of whom deserve posts of their own.

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#83 Enichari Corps: Slaves in the Ottoman Military — Guest Blog by Harry Markov

Enichari military outfit

When I agreed to write the series about Bulgaria under the Ottoman rule as a suitable stage for the steampunk genre, I underestimated the challenge these articles present. I want to deliver a portrayal of a complicated and cruel span of five centuries in Bulgarian history. At the same time I’m dealing with controversial and sensitive material, given that the Ottoman occupation has hindered Bulgaria’s access to Europe during the time of the Industrial Revolution.1

Even more so, given that this article deals with the cruelest tactic from the Ottoman empire to ensure its armies never lacked man power, while at the same time assured the assimilation of all conquered lands: the ‘enichari’ corps. 2. The word ‘enichar’ means ‘new soldier’ and refers to an Ottoman military class, which consists from non-Muslims. During the 14th century, the Ottoman conquests resulted in a sizeable amount of conquered territories and the aching need to expand the empire’s armies.

Before the ‘enichari’ corps to exist as a concept, the Ottoman empire enlisted volunteers from the enslaved countries and the corps consisting from those were called ‘yaya.’

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#81 Ganvié, the “Venice of Africa,” Haven from Slavery–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

“The Adriatic has its Venice and its gondolas,
The Atlantic has its Ganvié, so much envied.
I will praise you everywhere, Ganvié,
Venice of my country, you will soon be
The center of the world, and men from all horizons
Will be dying to come and dream on your waters,
Around your magic and haughty huts,
Amid your slender and light canoes”

by Eustache Prudencio

Overhead view of Gavnie. Click for source.

Ganvié is a water town situated on the northern edge of the Lake Nokoué in southern Benin. Marketed as the ‘Venice of Africa’, Ganvié is probably the most well-known and foremost among other lacustrine villages in the same region. Ganvié is a favourite among tourists to Benin with the government policy aimed at transforming the town into a major tourist attraction. As Ganvié is considered a rarity on the African continent, due to the fact that the town was built on a lake, information on socio-economic activities, the physical environment and the modern-day ecological effects of human settlements on the surrounding Lake Nokoué is readily available. Incidentally, I learnt of Ganvié from a magazine article on the impact of climate change on the region. Less information is readily available on Ganvié’s fascinating history; Ganvié was founded by people in an effort to escape captivity and enslavement in the Americas.

According to Elisée Soumonni, “little attention is paid to the ways in which local African populations resisted enslavement, giving the impression that any form of resistance began on board slave ships or in the Americas.” I believe this also fuels erroneous suggestions that all African ethnic groups were comfortable with slavery and enslavement, not knowing what they were heading to in the Americas and only revolting after their enslavement. The existence of Ganvié stands as a testament to resistance to the transatlantic slave trade within African shores.

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Kakum National Park and Cape Coast Castle in Ghana: A Personal Essay–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

Note from Ay-leen: This essay is cross-posted from Eccentric Yoruba’s Dreamwidth journal and describes the story of the international slave trade from a unique vantage point: where historical hardship becomes a tourist commodity at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Our next guided tour was to the Kakum National Park and Cape Coast, which is home to several colonial castles. Once more we woke up really early in the morning and got into a bus with other Nigerians and off we went on our two hour journey to Kakum. The national park is famous for its canopy walk, which has several hanging walkways above a thick forest. Apparently, some people find the canopy walk challenging and cannot go through it, that is totally understandable. It took a while walking through the forest until we reached the walkways. One by one, we were guided to them, but not before we were warned not to swing the walkways and to refrain from such behaviour.

The canopy walkways of Kakum National Park

There are seven canopies in total. I took the shortcut, which means I walked through only three. “Are you scared?” one of the men– presumably a safety guide–asked me when I turned left for the shortcut.

“Yes, I am absolutely frightened,” I replied even though I had a huge grin plastered on my face and had paused to take a picture a few moments ago. As I walked hastily through the shortcut, I heard the man say behind me, “You’re lying.” In front of me a little girl was crying while her mother told her not to be scared: “We’ll soon reach the end.” I felt sorry for her.

Part of the reason I had chosen the shortcut was because I wanted to see Cape Coast. To be honest, I was dreading it at the same time because I’d heard stories; of the slave dungeons and the Door of No Return, of people breaking into tears while there, and I wasn’t ready to be caught unawares by several strong emotions and end up crying in public.

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Africans in Ancient China & Vice Versa, Part 2: The Kunlun Servants & African Merchants–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

Note: This is the second in a four-part series by Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted with her permission. Part 1 is here. Check out the rest of her Ancient Africa & China series appearing every Friday throughout this month.

“Tao Xian purchasing Mo He.” Ink sketch by Chen Xu.


Kundun Servants as Magical Knight-Errants & Slaves

In my previous post I mentioned that I had read somewhere that two slaves given as gifts to the a Chinese Emperor by an Arab delegation were the first Africans to enter ancient China. This may have been wrong really because dark-skinned people were talked in China as early as the 4th century. They were referred to as kunlun, a term which had many previous meanings but by the 4th century was at attached to the people with dark skin.

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