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At the Limits of MemoryLegacies of Slavery in the Francophone World$
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Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381595

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381595.001.0001

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Speaking of Slavery

Speaking of Slavery

Representations of Domestic Slavery in the Oral Epics of Francophone West Africa

(p.173) Speaking of Slavery
At the Limits of Memory

Sotonye Omuku

Liverpool University Press

In chapter nine, Sotonye Omuku considers how West African practices of domestic slavery have been represented in oral and written sources from the region, from the historical and fictional epic to contemporary literary texts. One of the major themes that emerges in this cultural production is that of discrimination or prejudice against the former enslaved person and his/her descendants. The question of the marginalization, along with the absence of the enslaved from the historical record, is also raised, as the names of the majority of slaves are not recorded and passed down. In her de-centred reading of two historical epics in which, unusually, a slave-descendent character plays a more prominent role–the epic of the slave-raiding state of Segou and the Songhay epic of Askia Mohammed–Omuku observes revealing narrative gaps, slippages and silences that testify to the complex and multiple memories of slavery in West Africa. She then considers the representation of slavery in twentieth-century texts by Malian author Yambo Ouologuem and Senegalese author Aminata Sow Fall, both of whom were inspired by, and incorporate aspects of, the epic form, while problematizing the silences it contains.

Keywords:   Slavery, Domestic, Africa, Senegal, Mali, Epic, Literature, Oral

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