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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.



 

 

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