By Adisa Habeeb
The word ‘diaspora’ has different meaning to different people, but generally it connotes the dispersal of people to different places. In the context of this write up we will take up diaspora from the African perspective which means any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland, especially involuntarily, as Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
We can talk of Africans in diaspora today in countries like Brazil, Philippines, India, Italy and U.S.A. The reason for this is a clear testament of the transportation of Africans to the ‘New world’ plantations and as domestic slaves.
The trans-Saharan trade preceded the trans-Atlantic trade which was a trade in slaves. Slavery as an institution is said to be as old as man itself. Much difference can be seen between the Trans-Saharan slave trade and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. While the trans-Saharan slave trade took place between North Africa (the Arab world) and West Africa; the trans-Atlantic slave trade was an obnoxious trade in human body and mentality. Much could be said of how the institution of slavery and fiefdom had destroyed the long aged African empires and kingdom. We will not also shy away from the fact that Africans served as middlemen and raiders of fellow Africans for the obnoxious trade in human.
Several debates are ongoing among scholars and Afro-centric individuals on how much can we have said to measure the number of harm this era has done to Africa and humanity at large. The questions of repatriation emerged at some instances, but how then do we calculate the worth of a man or even aside that the total number of Africans that was exported, killed, or mentally unstable for such cruel era in the history of the World and Africa solely.
Despite the nature at which Africans were transported or dispersed into different region of the world by this obnoxious trade, the people of African origin still carry along with them to their diaspora places till today the tradition, religion, practices and habits of their ancestral home. A testament of this is seen in places like Cuba by the ‘Anago’ people and mostly those from West Africa. How were they treated in these places really matters but they have continue to have this attachment to their homeland.
From the place of captivity to plantation Africans were treated in a very inhumane acts; chained from mouth to toe, and parked like sardines in the boat. Those who resisted or show any form of defiance onboard were either killed or thrown into the sea. The treatment of these slaves in their land of Diaspora spanned from mental to physical abuse, from both their masters and the government of their land of Diaspora.
“Legacy of African slavery in the New World is the persistent oppression of all people of African descent in the Americas. A recent quantitative study shows that up to about 1820, approximately five Africans were brought to the New World for each European migrant (Eltis 1983: 255; Engerman 1986: 318–22). But in the course of the nineteenth century all that changed, as the booming American economies attracted free migrants from Europe. This means that the African slaves did the back-breaking work, but as the fruits of this work began to mature others came in to reap the harvest, with the blacks continuing to be held back in bondage. Even after emancipation, legal and other forms of oppression still blocked black access to power and resources. Thus the process of capitalist accumulation passed them by, giving rise to a black population in the Americas generally characterized by poverty, extreme deprivation, lack of education, disease,” J.E Inikiori
The reasons for their continuous attachment to homeland are not far-fetched. These inhumane treatments always remind them of their culture, history, myths and religion which goes a long way in the remembrance of the freedom before captivity and slavery.
The illegal migration of Africans to Europe, Americas and other continent by not-too-safe transportation means either by land or water arise from the ‘sorry’ state of their homeland ranging from bad governance and societal and economic defaults that operate in their homelands in Africa. For the sake of this write-up we will refer to them as the ‘New Africans in Diaspora.’ These are set of people who forcefully find their way into this countries from their homeland through dubious ways in search of greener pastures.
They then after securing the ‘green card’ turn back to their homeland, to either start to acquire properties. The point here is that the slave institution had long been destroyed by those that established it, for the advent of ‘legitimate trade and the icing on the cake of imperialism ‘Christianizing mission’. Ironically, those Africans who by illegal means find their way to these countries has re-established the new slave system by enslaving themselves due to the ‘sorry state’ of their homeland.
Again, those who had passed the hurdle for get the citizenship cards are still in stiff stigmatization and discrimination, from voting rights to restriction of movements and area of residence, which remind them of their freedom back home. One can conclude that despite these cruel attitudes towards Africans in Diaspora they have continued to maintain these feelings of attachment to their homeland.