From Liberty to Tyranny, to who knows where

Slave Name

‘Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.’ Plato
Will Williams posted the last of his advertisements on the whitewashed noticeboard in front of the central church in Kings Town. Every time he posted one, he read the words but knew, too, that he had a job to do. He was just doing his job. Llewellyn was just doing his job. The men and women were just doing their jobs. Justice. This was justice. Betty, Scipio, Caesar, and Venus had names, just as he had a name. Will had chosen each of theirs. Kofi, Quaquo, Eshe, and Kahina had not.

 

Will walked to the gunroom to pick up The Register that Llewellyn kept so assiduously.

“Slavery is no more sinful, by the Christian code, than it is sinful to wear a whole coat, while another is in tatters, to eat a better meal than a neighbor, or otherwise to enjoy ease and plenty, while our fellow creatures are suffering and in want.” – James Fennimore Cooper: The American Democrat

 

Llewellyn Ap Davies felt the surge, the blood rushing as his heart worked harder. The few sweaty beads, trickling from forehead to chin, had turned into a flood. The ties loosened on his soaked cotton shirt, his hands clammy, and his eyes burning. Llewellyn needed to sit down. A plunge would do him the power of good. Into the sea? Too far away and he had not enough time. He was a busy man. The creek or the river might be thing. No. He knew what was in them. Something else, somewhere else. Yes, that would be the thing. He did not sit. He had not time. Llewellyn stopped and watched as William Williams hammered another poster on to another tree.

‘Who is that whom he is talking to? He could certainly do with a good talking to. He lounges so. No surprise given his poor stock. Is that Betty or is it Molly or Venus? Who knows, they all look the same. Have I not told him about setting an example to the boys and girls? And the way he talks to me. His superior, his better, and master. Where would he be, were it not for me I have often asked him? Who on this very earth, in this Godless heaven and hell does that William Williams think he is to talk to me like that? He is nothing but a peasant. A fucking bastard cunt poltroon, that is what he is and I think someone needs to show him his place. God blind me, I will show that pox-ridden shitkarl his place.’ Llewellyn often practised speeches he seldom made.

 

Llewellyn watched Will depart the woman with a short bow, and then walked over to her. He was out of breath as he reached her, but no less eager to plunge. The creek was just beyond the trees and on that day with the sun, the sweat, the thirst, the hunger; it would be just the thing for Llewellyn Ap Davies.

‘Girl,’ he said addressing the woman from behind her back. ‘I said, “Girl.’’’ Before she could answer, he had clamped his hand about her mouth. She bit his hand. ‘Bitch!’ He punched her in the temple – he would have no trouble from this sow – and grasped her throat, his thumb on her larynx. No noise now from her, no biting. Nothing.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce

 

Llewellyn heard footsteps, getting louder as they got closer. He heard breathing, panting, wailing. He could not stop. He had started. He could not stop. No one could stop him. A blow to the side of his head from behind stopped him. He felt himself falling, struggling to see, to identify his assailant. He was falling, he could not see. His trousers fell with him. He had to see. Another blow, to his right temple, as he fell. He could see no more. Llewellyn could not think about seeing, now.

Advertisements

Following on…

…from yesterday’s picture post

“Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” – Titus 2: 9-10

 

Île de Gorée, Senegal, 1756

Kofi woke with a split head in a room with more than twenty others. He knew them all. Dried blood, cracked bones, lacerated skin, swollen, putrid sores, and scabs had defeated unspoiled flesh. Kofi looked for his brother, Quaquo. Seeing him, he could not speak as he made to call out his name. Silent. Voiceless. The cell was still, save the occasional, sustained, shrieks and cries; invocations to their Gods and to their ancestors – their ancestor Gods.

 

Kofi’s father, Ganda, woke and scanned the cramped claustrophobia for his sons. He could not see them. He could not speak. His club was gone and with it, his link to the past and to his sons’ futures. Kofi would understand now. He knew that. Kofi could use the club now. He wanted to tell Kofi, because Kofi would understand, now, just as Quaquo had when his older brother, Eboe, Ganda’s first son had died.

 

Kofi swallowed hard and drew saliva into his mouth to lubricate his throat. He let the saliva rest between his distended, cracked, black lips and a bubble of blood rolled, past missing front teeth, down his chin on to his wounded thigh. He and Quaquo blew balls of spit when pole fishing by the creek that ran through the village. Quaquo’s fish were always bigger. Maybe, it was because he knew things that Kofi, then, still did not. Once, months before the rains, Quaquo had caught a Marico Barb; Kofi caught nothing. Kofi had wanted to catch a fish for his father; for his mother to boil in a stew. Kofi stayed by the creek ignoring Quaquo, waiting, and hoping, until the light had skulked behind the trees beyond the village. Ganda had sought him, seen him, and beaten him with the barren fishing rod. His father had asked him, ‘Why don’t you understand anything? I have told you and then told you again. So, tell me, why do you not listen to me? Do I not make any sense to you? Do you think that you know better than I do? You have seen nothing. You have been nowhere, but at you mother’s breasts. Why do you think you know more than me, Kofi? Kofi could not answer; the pain dulled his voice, but alerted every sense. He could hear the rod swish through the air, could sense the exact moment that each lash would strike him and where. Kofi could locate the pain before it struck. ‘I wanted to catch you a fish, so I could be a man, like you. I wanted to catch a fish for you, so that I could hold the club,’ he wanted to say.

 

His skin split and blood pushed towards the surface to protect him. ‘I wanted to catch you a fish, so I could be a man, like you. I wanted to catch a fish for you, so that I could hold the club. I wanted to help you and mummy and Quaquo, and Saybah’ he said.

 

Kofi didn’t know why he had thought of the fishing trip and Quaquo and Ganda, Saybah, and his mummy. He knew that he was alone and he knew that he needed to speak. He would speak when his voice returned. He could see Quaquo, but could not see Ganda. He tried to raise his hands, but they were tied with vines. Quaquo’s bound in metal in front of him. He saw his father. Ganda lay on the piss-stained, shit-swilled floor between them, blood oozing slowly and silently from a five-inch gash above and across his left eye. The eyeball, dislodged from the socket, limp on his cheekbone. His right eye closing, opening, staring, closed again. His spear-slashed side pumped blood onto the detritus. His body, once so lithe, now rigid. Motionless. Soundless. Expiration. Kofi tried, again to stand, tried to think, and tried to speak, but every action, every automatic response, failed him. He thought of sleep. He seldom slept. Sleep would help him now.

Growing to seed

‘Appropriate a culture, pilfer from its dialect, profit wildly from it, and regard its people as subhuman.’ (Big E Langston – Twitter 24/07/15)

The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke – Richard Dadd (1855-64)

A man in off-white breeches, bleached cotton shirt, and blue and gold neckerchief sauntered towards Llewellyn, carrying a cluster of large printed bills, a hammer, and nails between his teeth. He stopped at trees and posts along his route towards Llewellyn and hammered more nails into ancient trees. He stood within six feet of Llewellyn, and would have continued past with only a silent nod, had Llewellyn not called out his name.

‘Williams.’

‘I am so very sorry, sir, I was just making sure everything was in order for the sale,’ William ‘Will’ Williams said as he made a short bow and then looked up, then down into Llewellyn Ap Davies’s grey, green eyes. His freckled face showed fresh signs of sunburn. Will Williams’s darker features protected him more acutely against Caribbean rays. Complexion made little difference to the sand flies and mosquitoes. Like shipwrecked topers, they drank zealously and willingly of the fresh supplies.

‘You had better make sure everything is in order, Williams and that, in case you had any doubt, is an order,’ Llewellyn, wiped his brow again with a greying silk handkerchief, embroidered with his initials above the Davies family crest. ‘This is enormously important to us all. You know that. I do not want you to mess this up. You have been showing an increasing tendency towards laxity of manner, bordering on moral turpitude. Do you understand?’

A mosquito, darted just beyond the reach of Will Williams slap; a slap followed by the involuntary scratching of an unscratchable itch. He mopped his forehead with a dirty rag, pulled from his waistband.

‘Williams, did you hear me? Must I repeat myself again?’ Llewellyn said.

‘No, sir…’

‘…and do not interrupt me. It should be quite clear, even to someone of your low birth that I had not finished. Not close to it. Did you ever discover your father’s identity?’ Llewellyn stood taller and arched his left eyebrow.

Will maintained his gaze, but stayed silent. He stood and waited.

‘What was I saying? You have made me lose my thoughts. If it is not this accursed heat or these infernal creatures, it is bastards like you making me forget everything. Now, tell me, what was I saying? Eich bod mor dwp iawn?’ Llewellyn re-raised his eyebrow, but looked away from the keenness of Will’s gaze.

‘Ie syr. Diolch i chi syr…’ Will meant to continue.

‘Do not, yes sir, me, you ignorant peasant. Know your place. Gwybod eich lle…’

‘Yes Sir,’ Will Williams smiled at him. ‘I believe you were saying that I had an important job to do for a very important man and I had better watch myself while doing it and to make sure that it were done well.’

‘Was! Was done well! You impudent scoundrel. Just you make sure you do whatever it is properly and I suggest you mind this tendency of yours towards insolence. I could thrash you as soon look past you and you had better remember that,’ Llewellyn maintained his gaze at Will’s cracked and torn leather boots.

‘Oh, yes sir. I will sir.’ Will had not moved his gaze from hooded eyes, turning from green to grey and back again, during their conversation.

‘So, Williams, is everything ready? Is everything in order for Monday? It is Sunday tomorrow, the men and women must be ready, and we must make our prayers to God count, in the morning. They do not have a God, you know. We have to show them, the way, the truth, and the light as our saviour told us. You missed church last Sunday, Williams. Why was that? We have to show them the way Williams. I run a tight ship here and I need everything in order. Do you understand my point, Williams,’ Llewellyn looked up into Will’s face.

‘If I can be honest with you, sir, no not really, sir. I think I followed you, but you appear to have wandered off the point somewhat. If I may speak boldly, sir…’ Will Williams was enjoying himself, as he did every time Llewellyn deigned to speak at him. Llewellyn was nought but a broken bag of piss and wind, promoted some distance above his ability and intellect. Will knew that deference would only get him so far.

‘God’s wounds! You know very well the point I am making, Williams, and please do not forget this. So do I! Make sure the men and women are clean. Work them hard today. Feed them well tomorrow. Make sure there are at least twelve bottles, each of rum and claret, and make sure that cook woman has made plenty of whatever it is they eat. We have important guests coming. I want everything to be just right. Just so. Now, do you understand that? But, sort out Minos first, will you.’ Llewellyn briefly looked Will in the eye, but as quickly returned his gaze to the ground. ‘A ydych yn deall hynny, Williams?’

‘Yes sir. I quite understand. The posters have come from printing and I need to post them around about.’ Will made to leave.

‘Where do you think you are going? I do not recall having given you your leave. Well, just you make sure that you do. Have you put them about the church? Now, be on your way. I have not the time for any more of your idle talk. Be on your way and be about your business. Efallai y byddwch yn mynd yn awr. Gadewch!’ Llewellyn walked by the, still, still-smiling Will, waving his hand in the direction of the main town. ‘And, make sure you have The Register ready for the buyers. They need to know what they are getting. And, be sharp about it, too.’

Llewellyn walked away with purpose, looking over his shoulder he stopped to beat down the sudden hardening in his breeches.

Will sat down against a tree – the same Llewellyn had vacated – tamped down his tobacco, struck a match against his boot, and inhaled. He loved the taste of the acrid smoke as it swirled around his mouth like brandy; but it was the bite on his lungs that made every smoke a step closer to Llewellyn’s God. God would have to wait. He needed to get the posters up and distribute the handbills, but he wanted a smoke more. He had noticed spelling mistakes in the posters, but what could it possibly matter, when men and women did not matter to pricks like Llewellyn Ap Davies. Short, fat, prick without half the intelligence of his tiny prick, Will always said.

 

It’s been a long time coming – An Unweeded Garden

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)

Kings Town, St. Vincent, 1756

Llewellyn Ap Davies leaned back against a coconut palm, kicked off his boots, stuffed, and lit his clay pipe. He rubbed his back against the trunk and smiled into the sunlight. He ran his hand through the remnants of his copper hair. He couldn’t get a draw on the bit, bit down harder on the lip and bit his lip. ‘Fuck it.’ He spat bloody phlegm and knocked out the remnants against his left boot. He had taken them off. ‘Fuck it.’ He stuffed the bowl again, taking more care to tamp down the rough shag deep into the bowl. Llewellyn struck a match and relit it, this time drawing smoothly and deeply into the back of his throat and, inhaling again, fully down into his lungs. He blinked in the light, shading his eyes against the waxing sun. He exhaled. Llewellyn squinted through the pregnant, blooming trees, towards the white, square Palladian villa his father and uncles had built thirty years earlier. They were gone, recently, but the Davies’s of Pensarn, Carmarthenshire had a long way to go. Llewellyn would see to that. He sat further back against the tree; a sharp, welcomed breeze cut across his face and the lit tobacco sparked and spat as he double drew and exhaled. He had work to do. He put his boots back on, rose stiffly, and knocked out his pipe against his left boot – they would need mending soon. They would probably last the quarter. Amused, he walked back towards Tŷ Gwyn Mawr.

 

 

‘Good arfernoon, Mesta Loo,’ a man, naked but for a white cloth wrapped about his middle, eyes averted, stopped, and bowed before him. He stared at the ground around his feet, no toenails on either; calloused from front to back. He stooped always, but now, his back – striated and welted – neared the horizontal.

‘Stand up straight, Ben. I have told you before, stand up straight. And, it is Mister Llew. LLEW. Or Sir, Sir would do,’ Llewellyn said, standing taller and straighter, until he was a head above his temporary companion. ‘Say it again. Say it properly.’

‘Yes sir. Yes, Mesta Loo, sir. I try better. Thank you Mesta Loo, sir,’ Ben tried to straighten again and gave his owner a lukewarm salute and a much colder smile.

‘What are you doing here? Do you not have something about which you should be getting on with? I do not employ you to amble about the place like some dandified gentleman of leisure. There is always work to be done. Have you not got sufficient work? If you have not, I can find you some. What are you doing here? Why are you not in the north field?’ Llewellyn thrust forward his chest, placing left hand on hip, looking only into Ben’s bare, square chest. No hair and only one nipple. Llewellyn stared at the space where the missing nipple should have been. He had often wondered why God had given men nipples. He knew why God had sent him there. He knew he loved God and that God loved him. God loved his family. He had sent them there. There was land. There was money in the land. This was the land of sugar and money. God’s bounty was everywhere. ‘Ond y mae mor boeth, Ben.’

‘Pardon Mesta Loo. I no. I no no. I here to get the…I here to see you ask you,’ Ben said, wan smile, still not looking at his Master.

‘How many times have I told you Ben? I have told you! I have told you all! Speak properly!’ Llewellyn waved Ben away and strode on towards the great white house.

‘But, Mesta Loo…’ Mesta Loo had gone.

Ben watched him go and waited until he was beyond sight and mind. ‘Fuck you!’ he said. Ben did not walk back to the north field, but continued further and deeper, despite the manacles, into the thicket.


 


An Unweeded Garden

An Unweeded Garden

  • ‘I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences.’ – David Hume (Philosopher)

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Île de Gorée, Senegal, 1754

‘Humanity was born here – not yesterday, not today. Humanity was born here and it will return,’ Kofi Uwosu’s mother, Malaika, quoted the same proverb every morning as he walked from the family hut, through the village sprawl, towards the sea. When Kofi repeated it to his father, he told him that he did not understand. Kofi was twelve and wanted to understand.

 

The sea provided, even when the land around them would not. The sea brought life to the village. The sea brought trade. The sea bought trade. Life brought and taken away. Addition and subtraction – a balance sheet. The ocean brought and bought civilisation. Kofi’s civilisation extended only as far as the roughly drawn boundaries of his village of forty huts, three hundred people, one king, and many queens. All seen, all known, all present – the men who made the village were the village. Everyone knew that. The men: fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and cousins, talked of other men. Men who came to bring them civilisation. A generous gift from above and afar. Men with different skin: with white skin, with red skin, with brown skin, with skin the same colour as their own, but different. Though different, still they were men, and still they had skin. Men, with their gold and guns and spices and cloth and promises, took away so much more. They gave us gold and guns, salt and cloth, sugar and spices. We did not need them, but we took them gladly. They talked in words that fell groundwards or drifted towards the gods, as their mouths opened. Our words did not reach these men’s ears either. There were never any women. We have women. They had some of our women. Did these men not have any women?

 

“Everybody understands gold. Everybody understands guns,” Kofi’s father, Ganda, said. Kofi did not understand either. Kofi often thought about the things he did not understand. Kofi knew civilisation, he couldn’t explain it, but he knew it. Kofi had all the civilisation he needed. He could see it, walk through, past, and around it daily. What could these other men know? What could they teach him? The other men, with the different or same skin, had not come from near or far since he was circumcised. The day his sister was circumcised. His mother did it. Everyone was happy. They killed a calf. They had to stop eating.

 

Water had been Kofi Uwosu’s life for all of the years that he had known it. Kofi’s grandfather had told him how men came and took men. Men from other tribes. Tribes inland and tribes from beyond the sea took men, but the women stayed. There were too many women, so the king made fewer girls. But, not anymore, it did not matter. There were boys, girls, men, and women, now, and the king said nothing. Did nothing.

 

Kofi’s father had left before him that glimmering morning, as he did every day. That day, he carried his hunting spear and his club. Kofi had watched in awe, seven years earlier, as he had carved out intricate patterns, lines, loops, and swirls like a giant fingerprint on thick, heavy wood. Often blood soaked it. Kofi had wanted to use the club on his father, sometimes, and on his brother more, but he had never touched it. His father said that he must look, and when he understood, only then could he use it. Kofi still did not understand. He woke every day, hoping that it would be the day. His father said many words that he did not know; that was why he wanted to use the club against his skull. To watch it shatter and splinter too see the blood spill and his brain stall and stop. He never picked up the club. He tried not to think about it. It would come to him as it had to his brother. He asked his brother what he had to understand. His brother smiled and laughed at him, but said nothing. Kofi eyed the club and his brother’s skull.

 

Kofi’s father taught him everything. He taught all the boys. They knew their responsibilities; they knew the rules that, if broken, meant damaged skin and bruised bodies. Their duties were to the rules and the rules guided everyone. They did not have to think. Their elders did their thinking for them.

—————————————————————————————————————-

‘Africa is no historical part of the world.’ – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Philosopher)

Kofi Uwosu tasted blood; smelled blood. A glancing blow from a carved wooden club struck him, from behind, on the left temple. A left-hander. Blood again. Smell. Taste. Be. Try to be. Focus shifting to a point. Light. Gone. As he fell, he saw his brother, Quaquo, beside him, falling, too, blinking into the endless sunlight in the unending village sky. Quaquo was two years older, but he fell just the same, in time, falling. Everybody’s brother was his brother. Everybody’s mother knew his mother; was his mother. Kofi tasted blood again. He tried to spit. The reflex failed him, as he fell further. Falling deeper. He wanted to open his eyes, but his lids fell, heavier, deeper. Closed. Fallen. Consciousness drifting, and then nothing.

—————————————————————————————————————-

The Beginning is the End (again)

— It’s been a while since I last posted – life getting in the way of art/life.

Dissertation completed and now replete with an MA in Creative Writing, here  I am, will be back posting at least twice a week (hopefully, if life/art/music don’t lob a spanner in my general and the muses do there thing).

Abstract

An Unweeded Garden, a story of hope and redemption through bourgeoning black consciousness, is an extract from a postcolonial novel in progress set across three continents and three distinct periods within black history. It takes its title from Hamlet, ‘’Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed’ (Shakespeare, 2008), and tackles the enduring effects of the slavery and empire on St. Vincent in the 1960s and twenty-first century Wales, through three linked murder mysteries. The recurring image of a branded anchor and dragon, and echoes of slavery lead Gwenllian Evans and Deiniol Roberts to explore their intertwined histories, servitude, and their mutual suspicions to uncover murderers past and present. When Gwenllian is found branded, raped, and murdered, Deiniol and Gwenllian’s best friend, Rhian, investigate an eighteenth century murder committed, allegedly, by slaves to reconcile the past and present.

An Unweeded Garden is an exploration of identity and self-expression when confronted with oppression in a state of overwhelming alienation. I reflect on the creative process and the forging of a new black consciousness through research, understanding, and exposition of truths unidentified or concealed. Key inspirations for the story were personal family narratives, my many years studying the slave trade, and the untold history of slavery and the Welsh. My fictional inspirations ranged from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000) and Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004) to the Harlem Renaissance novels, especially Chester Himes’s If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945). The prose of black intellectual writers like Eric Williams and CLR James were equally vital to the conception of An Unweeded Garden.

2013+51escher