Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Come to Arochukwu - home of slavery!

The Nigerian Tourist Development Commission's website has a page on an hypothetical slave tour for Nigeria. They write that "Arochukwu has a distinguished reputation as a source for the supply of slaves." I wonder if the good people of this town would like to be considered in this way. I'm not sure its quite something to be that proud of.

But perhaps I'm being too simplistic in my understanding of this statement. Perhaps this phrase is actually a solemn acknowledgement of the reality of internal slavery and how various Nigerian ethnic groups/communities sold slaves to the colonialists. In which case, they are encouraging oyinbos and Nigerians alike to visit the town and acknowledge Arochukwu as one of the epi-centres of slavery (an epi-centre that still sold slaves long after Abolition - prompting an invasion by the British in the early twentieth century). I can imagine the NTDC sponsoring a colourful new signboard to be positioned on all the major roads into the town, "Welcome to Arochukwu, home of slavery" with perhaps a local painter mocking up an image of some poor sod smiling through a spiky iron neck-brace.

More seriously, more should be done on remembering historical sites/sights of slavery in Nigeria, as much for pedagogical reasons as for tourism. How much about slavery is taught in schools here? How much is known about which groups were involved on which side (the buying/selling, the being bought/sold)? The osu tradition of outcasts still continues in the East. It sometimes seems as if a Truth and Reconcilliation event still needs to happen for this deep historical wound to be acknowledged and a path towards healing motioned towards.


Nnamdi,  1:01 pm  

True. You are very correct. Nigeria needs to deal with the slavery past. Something should be done.

By the way, can you inquire and let us know if something has been done in the U.K. as well? Maybe we can learn from your people. How much is taught in English schools about how your forefathers partook in slavery? Has England taken stock of how much it exploited from Africa, India etc, in terms of human and other resources?

Jeremy 1:11 pm  

yes slavery is taught in the UK - as is the British Empire. My mother was Head of a History dept at a comprehensive for many years. From talking to her, it seems a lot has changed since I was taught history - they focus on interrogating different interpretations/historical accounts etc.

However, I'm not sure that slavery/the exploitations of the British Empire in the context of boosting industrialisation/modernisation in the UK is fully explained. As in the US, the advantages of free labour for an emergent capitalist superstructure has yet to be fully mapped out in terms of national curriculum content.

For teaching resources, here is a good place to start: http://www.understandingslavery.com/

Shango,  5:00 pm  

"Truth and Reconcilliation"? Just what the hell would that do, apart from effusive distractions from the task at hand: turning Nigeria away from the brink. More important things to do. Jesus, "truth and reconcilliation", indeed! What do you think we are, America?

Anonymous,  5:14 pm  

Perhaps Nigerians don't want to acknowledge slavery because it was a business that so many profited from. I recently found out that my forefathers were one of the most prolific slave traders in Nigeria. I was shocked and horrified to say the least, how else do you react to news like that? The irony is that I now live in the US with people who may be descended from Africans my family sold!! crazy or what?

Monef 6:17 pm  

@shango - you are right in stating that turning Nigeria away from the brink should be our top priority, however, shortsightedness is what has brought us to this place. A long term approach has to be adopted to cure the country of the ills plauging her. Truth, Reconciliation and National dialogue on slavery, biafra and all the other tragedies that have befallen Nigeria in the past is a necessary step. Without this we can never be united, and without unity all is lost.

Anonymous,  9:25 pm  

I can just see it now Monef - a lot of squabbling over who gets the contract for the "Truth and Reconciliation" project. The whole process might even start another conflict. and what do we do then eh? Add that to the next list of tragedies for another "Truth, reconciliation and national dialogue" project.
I think we should 'rise above' and concentrate on buiding a viable country. God do we need that!!!

Anonymous,  2:09 pm  

we all have to come to the realization that there were slaves from every color and creed in the history of the world. these were normally created from war or debt(poverty). what is significantly different with the slave trade you are talking about is that there was no way to buy your self out of it. the laws and rules of international society were turned to disadvantage black people and black slaves in the west as a form economic scam/419 and later genocide(or self preservation as a former governor of the state of Virginia put it). slaves world wide were previously mainly indentured servants!

Anonymous,  12:38 pm  

when i say whatever becomes of the white man is what he is reaping for four hundred years of slavery,yeah there was internal slavery but we did not think the oyinbos will do this and still continue.
My people don't be fooled white man no like your black ass.

Felix,  6:05 pm  

I am from Arochukwu, and I have read some remarks (not only here), both negative and positive, about what we should do with our past. However one looks at it, our past is our history; and our history ensures that we not repeat whatever is negative in our past.

Ironically, slavery is still a booming business in Europe, Asia, and Africa, though by another name and method. Slavery, then and now, is a matter of supply and demand; Europeans and Americans demanded from us, under threats of extinction, and we supplied. Today, the method is refined, but with the same results. When will Europe and the rest of the so-called civilized world, take concrete steps to eliminate the slavery that goes on today, still fuel by their demand?.

In Arochukwu, we are not proud of our past, but we will not pretend that it did not happen. Europe and the Americas have more work to do topurge their conscience of what they did to us.

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