The Hundred Wells of Salaga, by Ayesha Harruna Attah, Other Press
This remarkable book with its themes of forgiveness and resilience is set in Ghana at the end of the European slave trade. The British, French and Germans no longer participate, but the social and economic fabric of life in the area is being torn apart. One of the complex issues is the involvement of Africans in slavery and the slave trade.
Two women from different backgrounds experience this social, political, and economic upheaval. Their stories illuminate a history largely untold in Europe and America. One of the complex issues is the involvement of Africans in slavery and the slave trade.
Wurche, who belongs to a royal family in Salaga-Kpembe, is wild and restless. She wants to help her father with strategy, but as a woman she is often rebuffed. She has an affair with Moro, a slave raider, but her father wants her to marry another man. When Wurche finds Aminah in a holding cell in Salaga, she sees the reality of slavery. She flees to another town with her son and Aminah to escape impending war. Aminah lives far from the coast in Botu, where camel caravans bring supplies and crafts, and the villagers sell food to the travelers. She is the daughter of a shoemaker who goes with the caravan to sell his shoes in Timbuktu and Salaga. Horsemen raid villages across the land, taking people to sell as slaves. Aminah is kidnapped along with others from her village and marched toward the coast to be sold as a slave. After several ordeals, she is sent to Salaga, where she becomes a servant to Wurche. She meets Moro and they fall in love. In the end, the two women have matured and must make decisions about their freedom and survival.
The writing is clear and straightforward but shows promise of a strong voice as she learns her craft. The subject matter is difficult and has to be pieced together from scarce sources, so it is this combination that makes the book exceptional.