• Date & Time:

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    The Royal Society of Edinburgh
    22-26 George Street
    EH2 2PQ

Transatlantic Narratives of Slavery and the Transforming Power of the Creative Imagination

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The lecture focuses on three narratives of the enslavement of African people; narratives that take us back and forth across the Atlantic, linking the Diaspora to Continental Africa in an intricate pattern of cross-fertilisations. All three texts demonstrate many ways in which brutal historical experiences may be redeemed by the transforming power of the creative imagination.

The first text is a two-part video, Dialogue with Paul Middellijn, originally recorded in Accra in 1999 for Ghana Television, in which the Holland-based Surinamese master storyteller performs two evocative oral recreations of slavery transposed into the medium of the traditional folktale. The second text is Isidore Okpewho’s Call Me By My Rightful Name (2004), a complex and haunting narrative of the tormented ancestral voice seeking to reclaim its interrupted ritual chant across the oceans and centuries into a Diaspora made nameless and restless with imposed and ill-fitting identities. The third text is Manu Herbstein’s Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade (2001), a complex narrative that takes us through the full and bewildering sweep of the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade, from the sahel regions of West Africa through the court of the Asante, into the dungeons of the slave fort, across the turbulence of the Atlantic, to the slave auction block to plantations of persistent rebellion in the face of endless agony towards ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Central to all three narratives, is the significant role the creative imagination can and has played in documentations of experiences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

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Professor Alison Phipps OBE FRSE, UNESCO Chair: Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts and Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies, University of Glasgow


Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Professor of Literature & Director, CODESRIA African Humanities Institute Programme and Vice President (Arts), Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences