Today is a public holiday in Ghana. Africa Day, May 25th, fell on a Saturday this year and since the day is a statutory holiday, Ghana observes the holiday on this Monday, May 27th, 2013.
I celebrate Africa and people of African Ancestry all around the world. Happy belated Africa Day!
Last week, I took participants, who stayed in Ghana for a few days after the end of Yari Yari Ntoaso, on a trip to Elimina Castle. The castle is among tens of castles and forts, in Ghana, that survive to bear witness to the horror of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The trip was profoundly disturbing. The feeling is sometimes beyond expression. The poet Gina Athena Ulysse said, during the tour, that “we have paid our dues“.
This will not come as a shock to Ghanaians but it needs repeating and addressing:
There is a silence that surrounds the history and narrative of the Slave Trade in Ghana.
The part of history that took place on these shores, this side of the Atlantic. While the works of Ayi Kwei Armah, Ama Ata Aidoo and other writers and poets do treat and interrogate the Ghanaian history of the Slave Trade, our education curriculum is largely silent on the matter. This needs to change!
A poem about Slavery or the Middle Passage for today’s Another 21 Days/21 Poems.
Source: University of Cape Coast
The Ghanaian poet, Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, is a literary scholar whose areas of study include memory and the slave trade. His collection of poems, Cape Coast Castle, deals supremely with this silence and its implications.
I promise to do a full-review of Cape Coast Castle. For now, I’ll quote a section of the poet’s introduction before presenting today’s poem:
“Cape Coast Castle, the edifice and the metaphor, stands outside the limits of time… The power of Cape Coast Castle is the power of silence, silence as the seduction and betrayal of power. Any self-naming must resurrect memory and render past and present experience meaningful. It must betray silence. Even if it occurs in a burst of hysteria, such self-naming becomes a self-collecting, power gained over the scattered and the buried. To name Cape Coast Castle properly, therefore, means to grasp the full range and significance of the single most traumatic body of experience in all our known history.”
NOTHING COULD be simpler:
History simplified as a castle
The wind stands mouthing
Nothing can be heard
Except the rainroar of the past
To hear the rain
Recount its story to the roof
Flash silver and sorrow
This history: a drop of amnesia
Widening in its pool
It hates to intrude, fears to offend
The past with the averted eyes
Is careful not to impose:
A gift of absence to the present
The weight of the braided days
A whirlwind coming home
The sun slowly blinded by the clouds
It was dark then, it is dark now
Give memory nothing
And it is darker still tomorrow
I can feel the sea quietly rock our earth to sleep
– by Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang
Source: Cape Coast Castle by Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, Afram Publications, 2004