Monday, June 6, 2011     17:19

CHAINS

 

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In 1794, rich young Juliet discovers many varied  forms of slavery as she explores the family business; slave trading.  But what, if anything, can and should she do about it?  And will she live to do so?

Not all slaves were, or are, black.

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Hassan felt excited and pleased with himself. He had upheld the authority and dignity of his father and himself. That would show the savages! They jumped now when he beckoned them; very satisfying. Very.
Though there was a look in their eyes… Fear, and resentment.
They couldn’t do anything about it! He was master!
Silently, Gbodi cursed him. Omu had only been trying to save her when she had been struck, though she had done nothing. She knelt by him, fanned him with a palm leaf, and glowered at the bully.
From nowhere, his teacher’s voice floated into Hassan’s mind. ‘If you see an injustice…’ And slaves should be treated kindly…
Nonsense. A slave must never get away with insolence, let alone a blow. Not in the real world.
When Uzum and the rest of the group turned up later in the afternoon, Hassan had picked out three boys and a girl. “Good choices!” Uzum complimented him on three, but dismissed one boy. “No, not that one. He’s an Ashantee.”
Hassan nodded, biting his lip. If it hadn’t been for that boy upsetting him… He glanced over at the smaller boy he had beaten, curled in the corner... Maybe he should not have been so violent… But all takes place as Allah wills.
Like his partners, Uzum ignored the hurt boy. Anyone wild enough to deserve so severe a whipping, and now needing nursing, was a bad buy.
However, one of the other merchants called out the little girl kneeling beside the boy.
Her heart pounding, Gbodi had to come forward. Rough fingers forced her jaws apart, made her bend over, poked and prodded her all over. Cold eyes examined her eyes without seeing her as a person, and moved coldly on to her ears, her neck, the weal across her chest. “What happened here?”
The guard played down the incident. “She was cheeky - the young master there taught her a lesson!” When Ali nodded approval without enquiring further, Hassan felt rather relieved.
When Gbodi was dismissed she squatted again beside Omu. “They’ll buy me - I know they will! What shall I do without you? I’ll die. I know I’ll die. They’ll eat me! That woman over there said -”
“She was just trying to scare you. They wouldn’t eat you, you’re too thin,” Omu scolded, to calm and comfort her. “They want you to work, not to eat.” He hoped. He had heard the rumours too. Who knew what foreigners did? He licked his lips. “I’m dry!”
Ali noted the child bring her friend water. Helpful and willing, he thought; her value rose a fraction.
“Now listen.” Omu moved unwarily, and winced. Ay, he felt so old! “Remember old Uncle Mboge? He was taken as a slave when he was very young, but after some years he managed to escape and get back home. He said if you learn fast and behave well, don’t argue, keep smiling even when you feel bad, try to please, then masters treat you kindly. We can pray for that, anyway.”
“Will our gods be with us, so far away from home?”
“Of course!” He wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t say so. “And we can fight back! Learn whatever you can, and use it to fight them.”
Gbodi nodded vigorously. “That boy, the one who had you beaten - I’ll never forgive him.”
“Fight all of them, in every way you can. And be like Mboge, try to escape. Even if you die trying, anything that hurts the slavers is worth it!”