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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






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