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Aminatu

Aminatu sometimes found comfort in the fact that no one there quite knew her. Their expectation of the things she should have done or could have been was not humiliatingly high. To most who met her, Aminatu was “that young African woman.” That, in its ambiguity, was manageable. So she combined whatever it was to be African with what she was inevitably coming to know as black in America.

Race and the Idea of the Aesthetic

In both Europe and the Americas, art was important to African slaves because it offered them the possibility of what I will call a socially transcendental existence; it could be marshaled into everyday life as a condition of survival against the laws that mapped out the place of the black as being outside the framework of modernity…Just as the aesthetic could become a key index in the violence of modernity, it could also provide the subjects of this cruelty with the hallowed place where utopian dreams could be nurtured and secured.

From the Diary of Sally Hemings

“White waves—a bitter dream—my mother’s mother in the lower deck—wet and cold in the blue-black night.

Dahomey child, betrothed when she was young, before she knew of white men or the sea.

A thin veil of fog. Her family brings a farmer, a boy not yet a man, to marry with the business of the home. Each dawn she climbs the palm tree and touches wine with her hands. A feast prepared. The gods must have a hand in this! A young goat sacrificed, okra, oranges, a basket of yams laid at her feet. She stands with old friends in new finery, her buba and iro an odd-colored blue, hair in beads, piled to the sky, tapping the palm wine from the palm tree.

Kidnapped before the roast meat was cold, snatched away to America; she was a stranger to the sea. White waves in the blue-black sea. Now a voyage of a different sort. Maria won’t go unless I come along. White waves in the blue-black sea till we land in port.”