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Voodoo Masks (Sam)





Culture is material, a junkheap of things.


Cultural artifact and commentary

Upload an image of a cultural artefact from the Black Atlantic and provide a 300 word description and critique of its history, funtion, and continuing effect upon our world today. Feel free to comment any of these artifacts or link to other sources.




ABENG - Jackie Mitchell






The Jamaican Maroons were runaway slaves who fought the British during the 18th century. Some of the Maroons were deported to Nova Scotia and from there some were taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone. When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655 the Spanish colonists fled leaving a large number of Africans who they had enslaved. Rather than be re-enslaved by the British, they escaped into the mountainous regions of the island, joining those who had previously escaped from the Spanish. The two main Maroon groups were the Leeward and the Windward tribes. Over time, they came to control large areas of the Jamaican interior and they often moved down from the hills to raid the plantations.



This resulted in the First Maroon War in which the Maroons inhabited "cockpits," caves, or deep ravines that were easily defended, even against troops with superior firepower. Such guerrilla warfare and the use of scouts who blew the abeng to warn of approaching British soldiers allowed the Maroons to defeat the forces of an Empire. The word abeng comes from the Twi language of the Akon in Ghana, and means 'animal horn' or musical instrument. Slaveholders also used it as a means of summoning the slaves in the sugar fields. It is now used during traditional Maroon celebrations and gatherings.



The most famous among Maroon rebels was Queen Nanny (pictured), also known as Granny Nanny, leader of the Jamaican Maroons in the 18th century. She is the only female listed among Jamaican national heroes, and has been immortalized in songs and legends. She was known for her exceptional leadership skills, especially in guerrilla warfare, which were particularly important in the First Maroon War in the early 1700s. Her remains are reputedly buried at "Nanny Bump" in Moore Town, the main town of the Windward Maroons who are concentrated in and around the Rio Grande valley in the eastern parish of Portland. Her image was put onto the Jamaican $500 bill in 1976.





King of the Zombies: Slavery and the Gothic

by Brandon Peach



Eugene Clark plays "Big Daddy," the "leader" of a large horde

of zombies in George Romero's 2005 film, Land of the Dead.




This artifact is a simple shackle used to ensure that slaves stayed where their masters or captors desired; truly a simple thing that embodies a pubic evil people happily turned a blind eye to for centuries. The shackle remains an icon of how Europeans took for granted the right to own other humans, allowing themselves to exploit thousands for the sake of industrial progress. Perhaps this is the most heinous form of torture: to take an individual from their home, their world, telling them they are inferior and their way of life barbarous. The slave traders showed them in no uncertain terms that their most effectual purpose in life was to be property. The origin of this specific shackle is unknown; there is no telling how many unfortunate souls it was used on, how it chaffed and cut into their skin. It could have been a young boy, frightened and alone, wondering if he would ever see his family again. Perhaps it was a mother, taken from her village, leaving her children and husband to worry after her and carry on without her. The possibilities know no end, but it is important that we contemplate them. Even though we are not certain of who exactly wore this shackle or the story of how it came to chain them, it’s vital to remember that a person wore it, a person with fears and aspirations that were never realized because of this shackled and everything it implies. (236) Ignorance and greed distorted many people into monsters who destroyed innumerable lives for convenience and profit. Often it is tempting to think of slavery in terms of something that belongs entirely to the past and is now universally recognized as wrong, but there are forms of slavery still present today. We need to remember the horrors of yesterday and today to create a better world for those who come after us, because human nature does not change but human character can always be impoved. (For some reason my picture won't come up on here but don't worry I'll find way to get it to you.)





Connected with blues music and country and western music is the banjo. The banjo is an adaptation of the African banjar, bangie, banjer, or banza. It was played by African American slaves in the early 17th century. The original instrument was often constructed from gourds, wood, and tanned skins with hemp or gut for strings. The banjo is also linked to the Moors, who lived north of the Sahara. The African banjar often had a fretless neck, a varying number of strings, and sometimes a gourd body. The instrument was adopted by white minstrels in the 19th century. The banjar (banjo) was brought to the attention of the nation ultimately because of white mockery in minstrel shows of African Americans’ use of the instrument.


Evan Gallagher



Blacks in Painting, The Rolling Stones


Many stereotypes preceded from blacks in paintings including the stereotype of the black woman as promiscuous called the Jezebel stereotype. White women were portrayed with self-respect and modesty and to emphasis these characteristics, black women were portrayed as promiscuous, seductive, alluring, worldly and tempting. The stereotype also comes from relationships between slaves and white plantation owners in the colonies. Some women were offered as sexual partners to improve their status and some were forced into submission. It was also formed from the lack of clothing the women were wearing when European men traveled to Africa compared to European women.

The stereotypes continued after slavery ended and have made their way into music. In the song “Some Girls” by the Rolling Stones on the album by the same name, one verse says, “White girls they’re pretty funny/ Sometimes they drive me mad/ Black girls just wanna get fucked all night/ I just don’t have that much jam.” The Rolling Stones continued the stereotype and included it in their music. After the album was released, the line caused controversy. Jessie Jackson called for a boycott of the album. Mick Jagger later apologized for the line. He refused to re-record it. The songs “Brown Sugar” and “Under My Thumb” previously caused controversy. The response to this was the Stones saying the lyrics were a parody of stereotypical attitudes. The Rolling Stones considered this a dirty version of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” The full lyrics to "Some Girls" and "Brown Sugar" are below.

My artifact is a stylized version of the Some Girls album cover. The painting is by Steve Keene. The album cover was designed by Peter Corriston and has The Rolling Stones and female celebrities in drag. The faces are placed on a wig add. The celebrities threatened to take legal action and their images were removed.

Some Girls

Some girls give me money

Some girls buy me clothes

Some girls give me jewelry

That I never thought Id own


Some girls give me diamonds

Some girls, heart attacks

Some girls I give all my bread to

I dont ever want it back


Some girls give me jewelry

Others buy me clothes

Some girls give me children

I never asked them for


So give me all your money

Give me all your gold

Ill buy you a house back in zuma beach

And give you half of what I own


Some girls take my money

Some girls take my clothes

Some girls get the shirt off my back

And leave me with a lethal dose


French girls they want cartier

Italian girls want cars

American girls want everything in the world

You can possibly imagine


English girls theyre so prissy

I cant stand them on the telephone

Sometimes I take the receiver off the hook

I dont want them to ever call at all


White girls theyre pretty funny

Sometimes they drive me mad

Black girls just wanna get fucked all night

I just dont have that much jam


Chinese girls are so gentle

Theyre really such a tease

You never know quite what theyre cookin

Inside those silky sleeves


Give me all you money

Give me all your gold

Ill buy you a house back in zuma beach

And give you half of what I own


Some girls theyre so pure

Some girls so corrupt

Some girls give me children

I only made love to her once


Give me half your money

Give me half your car

Give me half of everything

Ill make you worlds biggest star


So gimme all your money

Give me all your gold

Lets go back to zuma beach

Ill give you half of everything I own


Brown Sugar

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,

Sold in a market down in new orleans.

Scarred old slaver know hes doin alright.

Hear him whip the women just around midnight.

Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good

(a-ha) brown sugar, just like a young girl should



Drums beating, cold english blood runs hot,

Lady of the house wondrin where its gonna stop.

House boy knows that hes doin alright.

You should a heard him just around midnight.

Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good

(a-ha) brown sugar, just like a black girl should



I bet your mama was a tent show queen, and all her boy

Friends were sweet sixteen.

Im no schoolboy but I know what I like,

You should have heard me just around midnight.


Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good

(a-ha) brown sugar, just like a young girl should.


I said yeah, I said yeah, I said yeah, I said

Oh just like a, just like a black girl should.


I said yeah, I said yeah, I said yeah, I said

Oh just like, just like a black girl should.


Erica Osterloo







True emancipation of Caribbean slaves took longer than is supposed with much injustice remaining. A common misconception is that the 1807 Abolition Act ended slavery in the New World, when it in fact encouraged smuggling and other illicit forms of exchange. In Britain, ships continued to be fitted out for slave trading, but traveled to France or other European countries that still carried on the trade. There were a plethora of abolition movements in Britain in efforts to end slavery all together such as the formation of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery founded in 1823, newspapers such as the Watchman in Jamaica advocating the rights of non-whites, the sit-down strike administered by Sam Sharpe, and by many women such as Elizabeth Heyrick who helped found the Pechham Ladies Anti-Slavery. The act to end slavery was written in 1833, but was not put into affect until 1834, but many slaves were still victim to apprenticeship. Slavery was finally officially abolished in 1838.


The Members of the Society of Friends, an abolitionist society formed by Quakers claimed this image as the seal of their society. The Quakers viewed it as their Christian duty to abolish slavery. This image if the most identifiable image of the 18th century abolitionist movement. The design was symbolic both artistically and politically. In addition to evoking classical art, the figure's nudity signified a state of nobility and freedom, yet he was bound by chains. Black figures, usually depicted as servants or supplicants, typically knelt in the art of the period, at a time when members of the upper classes did not kneel when praying; this particular image combined the European theme of conversion from heathenism and the idea of emancipation into a posture of gratitude.






Nyabinghi Drums





Nyabinghi Drumming is the foundation for good Reggae music - the three drums; the Thunder, the funde and the repeater. Many in the Rastafrian Movement use these drums to accent certain songs, chants and prayers for the religious cermonies. They believe that the drums are a part of slavery that as survived over time and should still be used today. YouTube plugin error










Antique barber’s bowl!






Olaudah Equiano, as we all know, worked as a barber.  This is an antique barber’s bowl dated around the late 18th century, close to the time Equiano practiced the trade.  A barber would place this under the chin of the patron during a shave to collect water, shaving soap and hair.




But the bowl had other functions as well.  Up until the 1900s, many barbers also acted as surgeons.  They would engage in bloodletting, leeching and enemas, and this bowl would assist in these functions as well in various ways.  It’s always nice to have one of these useful, multi-purpose barber’s bowls sitting around the house.




The barber’s trade (barberism? barbery?) wasn’t necessarily a job that required a formal education or any sort of high training, especially in Equiano’s London.  That said, however, next time you shave, I dare you to try a straight razor and say it’s not at least a tiny bit difficult.  I simply mean to suggest that not all laborers undertook menial tasks that required little thought or effort.  To demean the job is to demean the laborer, at least in the case of many blacks in the London of Equiano.




As was mentioned, the 18th century barber was also expected to be able to undertake surgical procedures, a job that has a far greater prestige attached to it in our modern capitalist America.  It’s hard to believe that a career that requires upwards of a decade of education nowadays was once performed by haircutters.  Even post-slavery, society managed to keep blacks at a lower step of the social ladder regardless of the importance of their labor practices.




In some small way, this barber’s bowl represents the unequal share of occupational prestige that blacks (and other laborers) maintained in 18th century London.










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