Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women

By Simone A. James Alexander | Go to book overview

5

"Call[ing] Your Nation"
A Journey Completed

Lebert Joseph's cautionary message about the importance of being able to “call your nation” is of crucial importance to black diasporic peoples, because in calling their nation, they, on one hand, disclaim the history that has rendered them and their knowledge insignificant and, on the other hand, reclaim their historical past and validate African oral traditions, that “other way of knowing things.” In calling one's nation the individual not only claims her self, but also claims an entire family and generational history. This tracing of the family lineage has nationalistic (diasporic) capabilities, and Lebert Joseph confirms that the lineage is boundless. Avey, an African American woman, is able to call her nation on a Caribbean island, unknown to her before this journey, and reestablish kinship with her long-lost mothers and sisters. The scattered peoples of the diaspora have a dire need to trace their family line to unite that which was disrupted and those who were separated by the Middle Passage journey, and also those who are derailed by encroaching Western values. The claiming of one's lineage is of such colossal significance that the Carriacouan folks celebrate this national ritual with a Big Drum each year to remember the ancestors and offer them libations.

In addition to this “name claiming,” another hallmark of identifying with and being able to call your nation is through dance. Avey, initially unable to call her nation, eventually dances it, after which she is able to partake in the Beg Pardon and other Nation Dances. The various dances and accompanying songs not only disclose to which tribe an individual belongs, but also relate the historical past, the lives of the ancestors during slavery and before the slave trade. Many of the dances and songs are also linked to historical places, but the memories are not buried in the historical archives; they are remembered as they “had come down in the blood” (178). By partaking in these rituals, the past is invoked and relived in the present.

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