Memories of slavery and resistance to the slave trade in Northern Ghana: The kanbon (foreign enslaver) in time and space

224, Arts building, Danford Room, University of Birmingham
Tuesday 9 October 2012 (17:00-19:00)

Speaker: Emmanuel Saboro (WISE)

Recent scholarship is beginning to shed light on the significance of folklore in helping to reconstruct memories of the slave experience in Africa. Hitherto, much of the sources of slavery and resistance to enslavement have been the voices of those who finally ended up in the Americas and the New World through slave narratives and autobiographical accounts of exenslaved Africans. This paper examines how descendants of those who were subject to systematic slave raids and were enslaved in some Ghanaian communities have come to terms with the history of the slave trade in their collective consciousness especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when slave raids in Northern Ghana became intense.

The paper presents a literary analysis of songs from two ethnic groups, the Bulsa and Kasena in Northern Ghana gathered through fieldwork. The central metaphor that emerges in the songs is the kanbong (foreign enslaver) and what he has come to represent in the collective consciousness of the people in these communities. The paper reveals that in spite of the level of communal devastation, the kanbong was resisted and finally defeated. This defeat is commemorated in traditional dance forms during annual festivals in Northern Ghana.