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566 /AAS 406
8 -- Roots Festivals, Slave Castles, and
Lecturer: Liam Buckley
Left: Scene from the ABC-TV miniseries "Roots," first aired
on eight consecutive nights during week of Jan. 22-31, 1977.
Tourists in Elmina Castle, view from the women's dungeon.
Photo by Frank Fournier; reprinted in article by Edward M.
Excerpt from "Alex Haley's Roots" (10 mins.)
II. Discussion of Rose and Wright articles (15 mins.)
III. Excerpt from "Sankofa" (20 mins.)
IV. Liam Buckley's presentation/discussion
of Bruner article (1 hour)
Presentation of student projects (1 hour)
on Liam Buckley's Presentation
"International Roots Homecoming Festival" (est. 1996) is celebrated
annually in The Gambia in commemoration of the enslavement and
transportation of Africans to the Americas and the Diaspora. The
festival is structured around a text and a location that have
gained a sacred status in the West - Alex Haley's Roots
and the village of Juffure, the birthplace of Kunta Kinteh.
June, tourists from America and the UK arrive on chartered flights
for a week in which they experience what it might be like to "come
home." They attend a series of "cultural events," the biggest
attraction being the boat trip up river to Juffure and the opportunity
to meet Binta Kinteh, the oldest surviving member of Kinteh lineage.
In the Kinteh compound, large photographs of Alex Haley's first
contact with the family are displayed around the meeting area
where tourists re-enact Haley's formative encounter.
girding the tourists' experience of "coming home" is a dynamic
of local experiences of what it is to be "at home" in The Gambia.
Since its inception, the festival has annually provided occasion
for the elaboration of local discourses that mobilize the idea
of having (and creating) "roots" beyond Haley's original framework
- reflecting recent social changes at the local and global levels.
As a venture into the international tourist industry, the festival
brought valuable foreign currency into the country's economy,
allowing it some recovery from the sanctions that followed the
1994 military coup.
The development of the festival has coincided with the fostering
of non-traditional "roots" in the West - with the Nation of Islam,
for example, which funded the building of the Alex Haley Mosque
in Juffure (opened by Minister Louis Farrakhan during the 1999
those living within the national boundaries of The Gambia, having
a festival of this sort has allowed the emergence of new social
practices and ways of participating in the nationhood of the country.
For example, residents in the "provinces" voice their critique
of the uneven distribution of both tourist and national development
monies during festival days. Refugees from Sierra Leone, Casamance
(Senegal), and Guinea Bisseau create a legitimacy for their current
social status by participating in the festival's series of "national
cultural events." Finally, the "African Redemption Day" has, in
the last two years, begun to overshadow the trip to Juffure as
the festival highlight. This day consists of a Jola initiation
for men (fatumph) that takes places at Kanilai, the birthplace
of the current president - sending out local signals regarding
current shifts in power along regional and ethnic lines.
Lee Rose, "An American Family," The New York Review of Books
23 (Nov. 11, 1976): 6-8.
R. Wright, "Uprooting Kunta Kinte: On the Perils of Relying
on Encyclopedic Informants," History in Africa 8 (1981):
M. Bruner, "Tourism in Ghana: The Representation of
Slavery and the Return of the Black Diaspora," American
Anthropologist, Vol. 98, No. 2 (June 1996): 290-304.
from US/ICOMOS, Conservation and Tourism Development Plan
for Cape Coast (available on Clemons reserve; copies to
be handed out in class on Feb. 1): 14-53.