Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Excerpt From Kwasi Konodu's Book "The Akan Diaspora In The Americas" (with a focus on Akan day names in Suriname, South America)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series that excerpts online articles and books about the influence of African cultures on enslaved Black people in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America.

This post showcases an excerpt from Kwasi Konadu's 2010 book The Akan Diaspora in the Americas. This excerpt focuses on the influence of Akan culture on enslaved Black people in Suriname, South America. This excerpt also provides some information about the Mina [Akan people] who were enslaved in 18th century Danish and Dutch West Indies.

Hyperlinked explanatory background information and definitions are provided before the featured book excerpt.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and linguistic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.. Thanks also to the enslaved and free Africans who lived in Suriname, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Your legacy lives on.

Click for a related pancocojams post on Black names in South Carolina 18th and 19th centuries.

"Suriname... also spelled Surinam)... is a sovereign state on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. At just under 165,000 km2 (64,000 sq mi), it is the smallest country in South America.[note 1] Suriname has a population of approximately 566,000,[3] most of whom live on the country's north coast, in and around the capital and largest city, Paramaribo.

Originally inhabited by a number of indigenous tribes, Suriname was explored and contested by European powers before coming under Dutch rule in the late 17th century. In 1948 the country gained autonomy and in 1954 it became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become an independent state, nonetheless maintaining close economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties to its former colonizer.

Suriname is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country, and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It is an officially Dutch-speaking country, at the same time, Sranan, an English-based creole language, is the most widely used lingua franca."...

Akan people, Akan language, Gold Coast
"The Akan... are a meta-ethnicity and Potou–Tano Kwa ethno-linguistic group residing on the Gulf of Guinea in the southern regions of the former Gold Coast region in what are today the republics of Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

Akans are the largest meta-ethnicity and ethno-linguistic group in both countries and have a population of roughly 20 million people. The Akan language (also known as Twi–Fante) is a group of dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano Kwa language family"...

Subgroups of the Akan proper include: Asante, Akuapem and Akyem (the Asante, Akuapem and Akyem dialects are together known as Twi), Agona, Kwahu, Wassa, Fante (Fanti or Mfantse: Anomabo, Abura, Gomua) and Bono...

The Akans basically consider themselves as one nation. Akan means the Enlightened or Civilised. They basically trace their descent philosophically as from one woman. Within this nation are the three branches based on dialect - Guans, Fantes and Twis…
Akan refers to the language of the Akan ethno-linguistic group and the Akan language in which was and is the most widely spoken and used indigenous language in south of Ghana….
The Akan language spoken as the predominant language in the Western, Central, Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo regions of south Ghana.[24][25] A form of Akan Ndyuka is also spoken in South America, notably Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, with the Akan language coming to these South American and Caribbean places through the trans-Atlantic trade and Akan names and folktales are still used in these South American and Caribbean countries(main example of Jamaica and its great influence with Akan culture, Adinkra symbols and Twi loanwords).[24]...

Akan day names
"The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born. These "day names" have further meanings concerning the soul and character of the person...

This tradition is shared throughout West Africa due to Akan Influence, from Benin/Dahomey (Fon) and Togo (Ewe), to the Ga, to other West Africans and throughout the African diaspora. For example, in Jamaica the following day names have been recorded: Monday, Cudjoe; Tuesday, Quabenah; Wednesday, Quaco; Thursday, Quao; Friday, Cuffee; Saturday, Quamin; Sunday, Quashee. English translations of these names were used in the United States during the nineteenth century; Robinson Crusoe's Friday may be conceptually related....

Kromantse, Coromantee
From that the same Wikipedia page whose link is given above:
"A large number of Akans were taken as captives to the Americas, and many people of African descent in the Americas have partial Akan ancestry. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Akan slaves were all referred to as Coromantees. Due to their organization, common language, and fierce nature, Coromantees were responsible for the majority of slave revolts in the Caribbean and North America....
Here's additional information about "Coromantees":
From The African Archeological Review 11 (1993); 1993 Cambridge University Press “Archeology And Resistance History In The Caribbean” by E. Kofi Agorsah [Pages 179-180]
"Kromantse, a small settlement of Fante-speaking people of the then Gold Coast, became the first location from which the English first commenced their operations. It was from Kromantse that the English began to ship out slaves in 1631. Consequently, all slaves from that embarkation were referred to as ‘Kromantine’ slaves...

Historians and archeologist are now agreed that the slaves often referred to as ‘Kromantee people’ did not all come from Kromantse. Therefore, although the last memories of life before leaving the West African coast would have been that of Kromantse, other cultural backgrounds were also represented. It is important to take this into account in attempting a reconstruction of West African cultural traditions in the Caribbean. Much interpretation of the history of the diaspora depends on knowing the cultural patterns and the areas where the slaves were brought. Unfortunately, owing to the limited knowledge about the variety of cultural traditions in Africa, the tendency is to limit descriptions and interpretations to only a few ethnic groups such as Asante, Yoruba, and Ibo.”...
Note that "Koromanti" is an English forms of the Twi word "Kromantse". Also, "Kromantine" and "Coromantee"/"Kromantee" refer to the same people, although all of these people weren't Akan.

Maroons: Rebel Slaves in the Americas by Richard Price
"The English word "maroon".... is used to refer to individuals who escaped from slavery... [Maroons] derives from Spanish cimarrón--itself based on an Arawakan (Taino) Indian root. Cimarrón originally referred to domestic cattle that had taken to the hills in Hispaniola, and soon after it was applied to American Indian slaves who had escaped from the Spaniards as well. By the end of the 1530s, the word had taken on strong connotations of being "fierce," "wild" and "unbroken," and was used primarily to refer to African-American runaways.

For more than four centuries, the communities formed by such escaped slaves dotted the fringes of plantation America, from Brazil to the southeastern United States, from Peru to the American Southwest. Known variously as palenques, quilombos, mocambos, cumbes, mambises or ladeiras, these new societies ranged from tiny bands that survived less than a year to powerful states encompassing thousands of members that survived for generations and even centuries. Today their descendants still form semi-independent enclaves in several parts of the hemisphere -for example, in Suriname, French Guiana, Jamaica, Colombia and Belize--fiercely proud of their maroon origins and, in some cases at least, faithful to unique cultural traditions that were forged during the earliest days of African-American history."...

Djuka (This referent is now considered to be pejorative.)
"The Ndyuka people (pejoratively spelled 'Djuka') or Aukan people or Okanisi sama, are one of six Maroon peoples (formerly called "Bush Negroes", which also has pejorative tinges) in the Republic of Suriname and one of the Maroon peoples in French Guiana....

The Ndyuka and related people are of African descent, having been shipped as slaves to Suriname in the 17-18th century to work on Dutch-owned colonial plantations. Those who escaped fled deep into the rainforests where they established Maroon communities along rivers in mostly southeastern Suriname and parts of neighboring French Guiana and where their culture adopted elements of Native American cultures"...

"The Saramaka or Saramacca are one of six Maroon peoples (formerly called "Bush Negroes") in the Republic of Suriname and one of the Maroon peoples in French Guiana. (Note that beginning in mid-2010, the people formerly known as “Saramaka” began identifying themselves, in their official documents in English, as "Saamaka," to conform to their own pronunciation.) In 2007, the Saramaka won a ruling by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights supporting their land rights in Suriname for lands they have historically occupied, over national government claims. It was a landmark decision for indigenous peoples in the world. They have received compensation for damages and control this fund for their own development goals."...

The Akan Diaspora in the Americas BY Kwasi Konadu (City University of New York, Oxford University Press, USA, Apr 14, 2010 - History - 324 pages
"Research on the African diaspora in the Americas has an uninterrupted focus on West Africa, and an equally incessant neglect of the Akan in comparison to the Yorùbá, Igbo, or Kôngo-Angola diasporas. In his groundbreaking study of the Akan diaspora, Konadu demonstrates how this cultural group originating in Central West Africa both participated in and went beyond the familiar diasporic themes of maroonage, resistance, and freedom.

Between the sixteenth and nineteenth century, the Akan never constituted a majority among other Africans in the Americas. But their leadership skills in war and political organization, efficacy in medicinal plant use and spiritual practice, and composite culture archived in the musical traditions, language, and patterns of African diasporic life far outweighed their sheer numbers. Konadu argues that a composite Akan culture calibrated between the Gold Coast littoral and forest fringe made the contributions of the Akan diaspora possible.

He first calls attention to the historic formation of Akan culture in West Africa and its reach into the Americas. Then, the author examines the Akan experience in Guyana, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, former Danish and Dutch colonies, and North America, and how those early experiences foreground the contemporary engagement and movement of diasporic Africans and Akan people between Ghana and North America. Locating the Akan variable in the African diasporic equation allows scholars and students of the Americas to better understand how the diasporic quilt came to be and is still evolving."
I reformatted this book summary to enhance its reading clarity.

From Google books, pages 111-112
..."Almost half of all vessel- based uprisings occurred between 1751 and 1755, and undoubtedly the Akan played a significant role, for the Gold Coast recorded some of its highest annual imports during those years. Of the close to seventeen hundred who disembarked in Suriname in the aftermath of those voyages, some of them likely joined existing or new Maroon communities. In 1760, when 75 to 80% of the enslaved population was Africa born and the nation was pregnant with new Maroon groups, the Djuka launched another attack on the plantation of Onoribo, and peace was soon sought between the leader of the Djuka and his six chiefs (Mafunage, Titus, Kwauw [Kwao], Kofi Semprende, and Boston), and Governor Wigbold Crommelin...

The Djuka forces were led by a “captain” named Kormantin Cojo (or Cormantyn Codjo) and another named Kofi, who was perhaps Kofi Semprende”....

[Pancocojams' editor’s note: The Djuka and the colony signed a treaty in 1760 giving ‘freedom’ to the Djukas.]

“The Saramaka signed their peace treaty in 1762. Once the Djuka and Saramaka had received their “freedom” and were reduced to “watchdogs” for the colony via their respective treaties, other independent Maroon groups in Suriname joined forces. Some even raided the smallholdings of “free men” such as “Quassi’(Kwasi). Others shot a Curacao bomba (slave driver) named Cadjo (Kwadwo) in revolt, while groups of Negroes of Coromantin, the most formidable of all these Africans, shot and killed their masters. Another Maroon group with no ties to others was led by a “chief” named Kwami (Kwame) in the late eighteenth century, while the Kwinti Maroons situated west and southwest of Parimaribo and in the Para region fell under the leadership of gaanman (paramount chief) Kof-maka between1770-1827. A ‘chief’ named Jermes, a Negro of Coromantin, who led an earlier Maroon group in Para during the period when Suriname was under British rule, preceded Kofi-maka. Unlike other Maroon groups that originated in the Dutch colony of Suriname, such as the Saramaka and the Djuka (also known as Okanisi cf okanni, an Akan person), the Aluku or Boni Maroons who came to settle in French Guiana near the Maroni and Lava rivers, did not create a lasting treaty with either the Dutch or the French colonist....

[page 123]

"The brief importance of Koromantin was eclipsed by the key British coastal holdings and embarkation ports of Anomabu and Cape Coast during the eighteenth century as the focus of the enslavement enterprise on the Gold Coast shifted westward away from Accra and the area divided by the Yellow River. It was also during this time that the “Mina” who spoke Akan rather than the Ga Adangme language were brought to the Americas in numbers large enough to form a distinct group there. However, those Africans from the Gold Coast who were transplanted to the Americas through largly British-controlled ports and on British vessels still carried the designation of “Coromantee”, and it is highly doubtful whether a nation under the “Coromantee” rubic ever existed at all.

The general characteristics of the Mina in the Danish and Dutch Caribbean mirrored that of the Coromantee in the British Caribbean: They were prominent in Maroon communities, conspiracies, and revolts against slavery in pursuit of sovereignty, and they formed spiritual-healing practices (based on indigenous medical knowledge, kinship networks, and mutual aid societies as a way to reconstitute family and community in foreign lands. The Dutch capture of Kormantin from the British in the mid- 1600s was a part of a series of events in which the Dutch and British vied for trading supremacy on the Gold Coast, and though they were both on peaceful terms, they nonetheless interfaced with one another’s operations, captured one another’s ships, and competed for favors of coastal leaders and merchants through gifts and bribes"...

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1 comment:

  1. In the comment section of the pancocojams post "Black names in South Carolina 18th and 19th centuries", I shared that I had met an African American woman whose last name was "Cromantie". In those comments I speculated about whether that name could have come from the term "Coromantee", which came to be used for enslaved Africans who came to the Americas or the Caribbean on slave ships that sailed from the Ghanaian costal settlement of Kromantse.

    In that same comment thread I erroneously noted that some African American professional football players had the last name "Cromantie". Actually, the last name of those football players (Marcus and Antonio, and others) is "Cromartie". "Cromartie" is a form of the Scottish last name "Cromarty", and isn't at all related to the anglized form of "Kromantse".

    I found some online examples of the last name "Cromantie" but those persons were almost certainly White (for example "Dr. H. R. Cromantie", whose name was listed in minutes of a Presbyterian church meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1908. A 1921 Davidson College (North Carolina) student publication "Quips And Cranks" included the last name "Cromantie" - "A. D. Cromantie, Vidalia, Ga.”. That student was undoubtedly a White male.

    It's possible that those names could have been misspelling of the name "Cromartie". That was the case with an article about (White American) Michael Cromartie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. (who recently endorsed Marco Rubio for US President.)

    The names "Cromartie" and "Cromarty" are listed in the US Census page on American last names, but the name "Cromantie" isn't listed.

    I'm not sure what that means.