FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Season of the Shadow" to Peer Into Slavery's Origins (Cameroon)

What were the beginnings of slavery like for those villagers who were first kidnapped?  Author Leonora Miana transports the reader to those early terrifying days and likens the horror of slavery to a shadow of darkness whose advance can't be stopped nor hidden from.  Instead the insidious shadow grows and consumes with a callous indifference.

Miana's story begins as the inhabitants of a tribal village tucked away in the interior of modern day Cameroon awaken to its huts ablaze and find that 12 of its men have vanished.  This mysterious disappearance sets off a chain of events that, as one might guess, ends in tragedy.  This tale's power comes as the reader is placed in the middle of a people group who's whole order and existence is thrown into havoc.  Even as the reader is keenly aware as to what happened, the kidnapping is so out of place with centuries of accepted conduct and cultural norms that its tribal members can't fathom who the perpetrators might be.

Written in lyrical prose, "Season of the Shadow" is equal parts beautiful, terrifying, and tragic.  In it Miana's reminds the world that evil unchecked can quickly grow from from the slimmest of shadows to an all-encompassing darkness.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.
**Poet of the week from Cameroon: Mbella Sonne Dipoko

Key Takeaways:
  • Parents of stillborn children were scarified to remind death that it had already taken a life (6).
  •  In the Mulongo tribe, sovereignty was passed through the maternal line (7). 
  • Importance of group over individual is emphasized at the tribal level.  One's own suffering is almost immaterial if the larger group's well-being is preserved. "I am because we are" was the tribe's motto (19, 26, 88).
  • There's a large power associated with one's name and the history associated with it.  Sharing one's name is to share a vulnerability that one has (75).  
  • The idea of this shadow is not only consuming villages and people, but also entire cultures and histories (171).
  • All it really took was one coastal tribe becoming enamored with the Europeans and their "gifts" to push them to expand and grow the kidnappings.  In this way the "shadow" of slavery was like a malignant cancer--every spreading and near impossible to stop (194-5).
Key Quotes:
  • "The shadow is also the shape our silences take." (31)
  • "Evil, his father had taught him, exists only to be battled." (157)
  • "Like other men with shaven heads...he considers that he has no past anymore." (197)
Key References:

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