SIGHTING MEMORY - an exhibition of poetry and photos
From "Sighting Memory" Exhibition/Cape Coast
Castle, 2001; Dr. Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang
Memory is many things. It is an intangible repository of existence, a mental
capacity, a faculty to retain action and impression, as well as method to make
narrative of all our days. We immortalize our humanity when we remember. The
Akan say that God is a permanent imprint in human mind, which is why it has
never been necessary to prove God's existence even to a child.
The irony is that it is often by defying what has been historically given, that
we become the proper carriers of our history. This is the idea that gives
meaning to Sankofa. By clarifying the living link between the past and the
present, Sankofa enjoins us to examine our reasons for its use.
The history of African slavery is an especially difficult one, because it
bristles with so much that is irredeemably evil. If we are not careful we may
point to Africa's history of the slave experience and with our left hand
summarize that history only in themes of only Africa's enslavement by Europe.
But that would be wrong-headed. That our ancestors were enslaved does not make
slavery our heritage. It is more reasonable and truer to the history to consider
the ancestors' unbroken resistance to enslavement as our proper heritage. What
should define the African's identity, whether in Africa or in the diaspora, is
not the inhumanity of slavery but the huge human strength and heroism it
provoked in the African. This is the charge of this work, to humanize the
inhumanity of slavery.
Without such a perspective to keep memory honest, the tendency will be to
privilege the misery of victimhood. We would feel ashamed of things we cannot
feel, and we would find ourselves slaughtering sheep to atone for inhuman sins
that, as mere humans, we cannot truly fathom.
Please e-mail comments and questions to Dr. Reginald L. Jackson.