Ama's story

Manu Herbstein

This novel is an attempt to recreate the experience of enslavement and resistance, seen from the point of view of one African slave.

In 1772, the musketeers of the army of the Asante Confederacy vanquished the archers and cavalry of the Kingdom of Dagomba. The victor exacted from the defeated enemy an annual tribute of five hundred slaves.

Ama, then known by her birth-name, Nandzi, is left alone to care for her baby brother. She is captured, raped and enslaved. Her name is taken from her. She fights back; she is defeated. She escapes; and is recaptured. From the moment when she loses her freedom, her life oscillates between resistance to her successive owners and a reluctant accommodation to their power. The Dagomba give her to the Asante; the Asante sell her to the Dutch. On board an English slave ship, she instigates a rebellion; and suffers a terrible retribution when it fails. In Brazil, where eighteen-hour work shifts send slaves to an early death, she attempts to build a new life. Sustained by ancient beliefs, Ama's spirit never wavers. Enslaved she might have been, but to herself she is never a slave.

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Last modified 19 August 2002