Thursday, 30 January 2014

Slave Stories: Kofi

A small drum from Akim, Accra, Ghana.

Do you know my mother? She is so beautiful. She has a beautiful blue dress and a black necklace and lots of combs she lets me play with sometimes. She looks after my sister, Aba and me. I fight with my sister and uncle always blames me. Aba is his favourite.

I have lots of friends in my village. They are called Kobbi and Bobo and Kojo. When I'm not playing with them I help my mother and look after our goats and chickens but they always run away. Aba always says she will help me but she never does.

Sometimes my uncle shows us how to play his drum. He plays for the chief| of the Fanti| and is very, very good. He even helped us kill a goat so we could make a new drum for him. He might let me have his old one but I don't know yet.

I'm going home soon. Uncle said that if I went with his friends that they would take me to visit a special, surprise place and that I could come back soon. I asked if my friend Kobbi could come but he said no. He looked funny when he said it and my mother and sister were screaming and crying. He pushed them inside the house and told them to stop it.

I got frightened but he said that there was nothing to worry about and that I had to wear a special necklace| so that I would be like all the other people who were going to this special place. He looked sad|.

My necklace is very heavy. When I had to walk| I could barely move, so a big man called Abeeku helped me. We played a game - how many steps before we got tired. After a while I began to think that my uncle had tricked me and that we were really going to a horrible place, or maybe his friends tricked him.

One day we got to a great big house| made from stone and everywhere were the white people| uncle told me about. They are very hairy and smell funny to me. I held the Abeeku's hand and went down into a dark hole| under the building.

It was very hot and smelly and everyone in there was very angry. Men were shouting and fighting| and then the white men came and shouted and hit everyone. I stayed close to Abeeku for many days. One day, just before we came here, he started to cry, so I cried, so the white men took us all to this place|.

I am scared of all the water|. Yesterday we had to go up onto the top of this boat. My eyes hurt and my knees were stiff. Then I saw all the water but I couldn't see the land and I got very frightened so I forgot to jump up and down like the others. One of the white men shouted next to my face and I remembered. 

I like the rice food they give us but the hard crunchy things| have insects in and they are hard to chew. Abeeku helps me eat them. I wish I had a nice juicy piece of fruit| - I even dream about it.

Today when we were on top of the boat some of the men who sit near me suddenly attacked| some of the white men. They started to fight and the white men won but not before some of the other men jumped into the water. I think they are gone.

Then we got pushed back into the hole quickly and I got kicked, then the horrible screaming started and I covered my ears. Someone said they could see men hanging by their thumbs| and I could hear the sound of the whip. I feel sick and want to go home.

The sounds on top became different and Abeeku said he thought we were there. I didn't want to get off the boat and tried to stay to the end, but Abeeku just walked off. Then some people began shouting and I saw two dead men were chained next to them and so I ran out as fast as I could.
On the land I couldn't see anything because there were so many people around me. I saw Abeeku ahead but before I could get to him a hand grabbed me and a white man looked in my mouth|. I tried to pull but he had my arm.
Before I knew what had happened I was being pulled back towards the water. I tried to run back but soon I was on another, smaller boat| with strange people.

There is a boy here on the plantation| who looks like my friend, Kojo. His name is Paul and everyone treats him badly because he has funny colour skin| and because his father was white. Even I hit him sometimes. He calls me John|. So does Mr Jones, the master here.

There are lots and lots of people called slaves here. Paul says I'm a slave but I don't know what that means. One day master saw Paul teaching me to speak English and hit| him so hard. There are some children here who look like me who have never been anywhere else|. They try to make me do their work but their mothers| in the house stop that. They say I have enough to do looking after the animals outside.

The women tell me that I am almost a man now and Mr Jones says that tomorrow I will work with the men in the fields|. I see what happens there and dread tomorrow.

The overseer| is an evil man who will do anything to make people scared, sick or hungry. He's too fat to move quickly so uses a gun. The men who came here with me have mostly died|. Master has arguments with him sometimes but that just means he is sneakier. Maybe I can escape in the night.

The overseer| has gone. Paul said he was costing Master too much money. The new overseer is weaker. The women shout things at him and he just laughs.

I say the same things but don't know what they mean. My mother would be ashamed. He does not seem to notice when we work slowly| but I am sure master will. We should be careful.

An 18th-century Caribbean newspaper advert, looking for news of Jacob, a runaway slave.

Two nights ago some men ran away towards the river. Some came back this morning with the patrollers|. They have metal necklaces| like the one I wore and they bleed a lot. One man hasn't come back yet. Maybe he got to the river and found a boat. Maybe I could do the same.|

Last night the Master and his men came into the bunkhouse|, cursing and kicking and beating as they looked everywhere. They said this will happen every night now. I wonder what they are looking for. Paul said it is because the men on another plantation rebelled|. They were burned alive to teach the rest a lesson. Maybe I'm safer here.

Kofi grew to an adult and had a child| with another slave. He then had family ties and other people to consider so did not run away as planned. One day, when his son had grown, he saw a huge group of people moving towards the plantation and heard from them that slavery has been abolished| for several years. The new master used a gun to try to stop them leaving but without success. Kofi and his family left with the other ex-slaves.

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