Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures

Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures

Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures

Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures

Synopsis

A sweeping, multidisciplinary study that analyzes and identifies some of the main lineaments of the Central African cultural legacy in the Caribbean. This long-awaited study is based on more than three decades of research and analysis. Scholars will be fascinated with the transatlantic comparative data. The author identifies Central African cultural forms in those areas settled in Africa by the Koongo, Mbundu, and Ovimbunde. (The modern-day locations of these three ethnic groups are present-day Congo, Zaire and Angola.) The book illuminates Caribbean thought and practice by comparison with Central African worldview and custom. The work is based on extensive primary and secondary sources, oral interviews, letters and diaries, folk-tales, proverbs and songs. In its multidisciplinary approach and depth, it highlights the debate concerning the origin and transformation of cultural forms in the Caribbean against a larger background of African culture, economy, colonialism, slavery, emancipation and independence.

With its Central African focus, the book is a pioneering perspective on Caribbean cultural forms. A noted linguist, the author uses her knowledge of the most functional languages of the region, Spanish, English and French, to access creole languages, which gives the study a truly pan-Caribbean breadth. The book appeals to all interested in African diaspora studies, African and Caribbean history, linguistics and cultural anthropology.

Excerpt

This book attempts to synthesize information concerning the Central African presence in the Caribbean and, in so doing, analyses and identifies some of the main lineaments of the Central African cultural legacy in the region. For the purposes of this study, the Caribbean is defined as the islands of the Caribbean Sea and circum-Caribbean areas in Central and South America. Within this broad ambit I try to range as widely and eclectically as the available data have allowed, guided first and foremost by the dictates of comparability between Africa and the Caribbean, and by inter-Caribbean correspondences. Unfortunately, limited access to data from some parts of the Caribbean region has meant that some countries have been omitted altogether, while others have received minimal treatment. Furthermore, by excluding northern Brazil and the southern seaboard of the United States, it was hoped to keep the material within manageable proportions. Not unexpectedly, however, it proved difficult to altogether omit reference to Brazil (see chapter 8) in a work which constitutes as much a study of the networking of cultural forms within the Caribbean Basin itself, and its contiguous geo-cultural zones, as a cross-comparison of Central Africa and the Caribbean.

This exposition utilizes, in complementary fashion, both primary and secondary evidence regarding the Central African presence in the Caribbean throughout the plantation and post-plantation eras. the work's two nuclei are: (a) printed observations and impressions by sixteenth- to twentieth-century observers concerning Central Africans in the Caribbean; and (b) the oral recall by associates and descendants of this group regarding the Central African population in the region. the oral records include literary material such as folktales, proverbs and songs, which utilize phrases from Central African languages either wholly or partially.

The oral testimonies at the core of this study were variously sourced. Most of the Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana oral data come from my own taped interviews with informants, but I was also fortunate to . . .

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