9 Pages


Defining Silences
WithPortia Owusu

The concluding chapter returns to the central question of the book: are West African writers, in comparison to their African-American counterparts, silent about slavery? I initiate the discussion with the poetry of Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, a Ghanaian poet and scholar. Opoku-Agyemang’s Cape Coast Castle (2004), a collection of poems, suggests that Africans’ experience of slavery is “[a] pain without form” partly because it is centred on silence.

I challenge his position by asserting that his understanding of silence is influenced by Western conceptualisations of trauma and what silence is. I explore philosophical understandings of silence in various cultural contexts in Africa to demonstrate that for Africans, silence is not necessarily the absence of language or a damaged psyche. For this, I turn to the work of Gregory O. Nwoye, in particular, his essay “Eloquent Silence among the Igbo of Nigeria.” The chapter concludes with an overview of each chapter and how the exploration of each text affirms that the history of slavery is a multifaceted narrative that is open to different interpretations according to cultures, languages and worldviews.