Thursday, July 25, 2013

#Quotes: Quotes from Manu Herbstein's Ama - A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

No one knows what the elephant ate to make it so big. [40]

The Tail of the elephant may be short ... but it can still keep the flies away. [40]

[A]t another's hearth, you do not have the same freedom you might have in your mother's kitchen. [71]

Chapel. You don't know what chapel is? That is their room where they go to worship their gods. It is in the charge of the chaplain, who is like a fetish priest for them, an Okomfo you know, except that he does not know how to dance. ... Sometimes the chaplain tells them stories which he says comes out of a special book. That books is one of their main fetishes. Mijn Heer tried to tell me some of the stories when we were married. Some were not bad, but most were rubbish. I told him he should listen rather to our Ananse stories, they are much more entertaining and there is always a lesson to be learned from them. [136]

De Bruyn had tried to fit her feet into a pair of his late wife's shoes, but the foot of a female slave who has walked many weary miles on her own tough soles is very different from that of the idle lady wife of a Director General of the Westindische Compagnie; and so, under her spreading skirt, Ama's feet remained unshod. [142]

Van Schalkwyk had a reputation in the Castle as something of a dirty old man. His penchant for making accidental body contact with female slaves and, believing no know else to be watching, for grabbing their buttocks or their breasts, had not gone unobserved. He was inhibited, however, from taking a concubine by fear of the consequences of breaching Company rules, by fear moreover that his status in the Castle would be undermined and by the certainty that eternal damnation would be his reward for fornication. Minister Van Schalkwyk led a secret life of unconsummated sexual fantasy. [143]

A lonely man, Quaque, too. He despises his own people for the heathens that they are. He is really a kind of black Englishman. He says the English tongue was sent by heaven as a medium for religion and civilisation. On that account he will not use his native Fanti and indeed he claims he can no longer speak it or understand it. [151]

He sees every female slave as just a vagina on two legs, she thought bitterly, not for the first time. [170]

She seems a sensible wench. However I must tell you that I disapprove in principle of teaching slaves and others of the labouring classes more than the bare minimum they need to perform their duties. It is in general prejudicial to their morals and happiness. It persuades them to despise their lot in life, rather than making good servants of them. Instead of wearing their yoke with patience, they become ill-mannered and intractable. [174]

Curiosity is unbecoming in the female sex. This girl's curiosity surely comes from your teaching her to read. An ability to read is prejudicial in any woman, in a slave doubly and triply so. It opens them to ideas unsuited to their station in life. [176]

If you examine the weapons closely you will soon discern the reason. Warfare is endemic on this part of the coast. Most of the slaves who come to us are prisoners of war. If we did not sell arms and ammunition, there would certainly be less warfare and the supply of slaves might dry up. There is, however, a distinction between between the quality of arms required for such local warfares as will ensure us a steady supply of slaves, and weaponry that might pose a threat to ourselves. Beyond that we do of course exercise some discrimination in the choice of our customers: we would not want even weapons of inferior quality turning up in the hands of potential enemies. [177-8]

"Maame," said Ama, "I saw the slaves arrive"
"I watched them with Mijn Here's telescope. I looked at their faces, one by one, as they came up from the bridge."
Augusta turned her head to look at Ama.
"And so?" she asked coolly. [178-9]

Sunday 10 a.m. Conducted morning service at 8 a.m. Gave thanks to God for the successful prosecution of this little adventure. Some ninety males, females and children were captured in the battle. Ten bodies were found and an unknown number escaped into the forest. The leader called Captain Tomba, was captured. He is reported to have put up a courageous and prolonged resistance, but that might well be an exaggeration designed to enhance the reputation of the victors. I have retrieved the four-pounder, resisting pressure to sell it to the local chief. Five of the attacking force succumbed and one of my men was slightly wounded. [216]

She chatted away to Tomba as she worked. Not since Sami's abduction had he felt the gentle touch of a woman's hand. He warned himself not to permit this woman's kindness to undermine his stern resolve to have no part in his own oppression; but then he weakened. What choice did he have, after all? [250]

The Angolans left immediately after the Mass. They had all been baptised en masse before leaving the shores of their native land. Each carried a certificate of baptism in the form of an imprint of the royal crown of Portugal, burned into the skin of their breasts with a red hot iron. This brand, Jacinta told Ama bitterly, served also as a receipt for export duty paid to the Portuguese King. [308]

Until we learn to read and write, we will never be able to defeat them and regain our freedom. But tell me, where did you get the book? [314]

Our greatest enemy is not the whites. It is our own disunity. They know that, of course, and they encourage it. Their Christian religion is one of the weapons they use to divide us. That, by the way, was why I disturbed you when you told me the book you were reading was their Bible. [326]

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