chapter  2
20 Pages

Ancestral Slaves and Diasporic Tourists: Retelling History by Reversing Movement in a Counternationalist Vodun Festival from Benin

WithPeter Sutherland

This chapter examines the spatial construction of temporal relations in an African retelling of transatlantic history articulated in a Vodun festival from Benin, which celebrates the memory of the slaves transported from the port of Whydah to the Americas. The political significance of the Whydah festival has emerged in less than a decade as a public site of cultural/political contestation, where local, national, and transnational forms of historical consciousness intersect and interact through media coverage. The chapter describes the transhistorical construction of ancestral temporality deployed in the festival to re-evaluate collective memory of slavery in modern identity and its national future. It shows how direction is used to reconfigure temporal relations of transatlantic identity in proposing a self-serving, West African, counternationalist view of slavery and the African diaspora in the Americas. In the prayers Daagbo Hounon offers at the festival, the rhetoric of ancestors magically dissolves the spacetime separating African diaspora roots and branches in the intimate unity of genealogy.