In Remembrance of Slavery: Tchamba Vodun

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:20 AM
Clark Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Dana Rush, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Vodun complex known as Tchamba endures as a particularly strong spirit grouping along coastal Togo and into eastern coastal Ghana. Its name derives from an ethnic group and region in northern Togo, where people in the south actively sought domestic slaves centuries ago. This spirit grouping has been critical in the maintenance and proliferation of histories and memories of domestic slavery along this coastal region. The Tchamba Vodun spirits reify reversal: the once-enslaved are now divinities, and their memories are sustained to the present by the progeny of both domestic slaves and their owners. Tchamba Vodun has also been influential in bringing to the fore contemporary debates regarding the owning and selling of slaves and slave ancestry. As such, Tchamba veneration helps practitioners address the multiple roles their ancestors played in both domestic and transatlantic slavery, as either the sellers or the enslaved. This paper explores how the local significance of domestic slavery and, to some extent, the deep-seated cognizance of the transatlantic slave trade, are embodied in the slave spirits of the Tchamba Vodun.