What immediately struck me about Ayesha Harruna Attah’s The Hundred Wells of Salaga was the vivid, evocative prose; while her writing was concise, the few details she allowed were beautiful, especially when she described a man’s lecherous behavior towards her protagonist, Aminah, in a Ghana marketplace. The “pads of his fingers settled on her the way one’s feet steady themselves on new ground: on tiptoes at first, and then with all of one’s weight” (Attah 11). The deft, careful beauty of Attah’s prose magnifies the tension between Aminah and the man harassing her.
Attah talked about her childhood in Ghana; the daughter of a Muslim father and Christian woman, her lifestyle was an anomaly compared to the lives of her conservative, church-attending peers. What became clear to me over the course of the talk was that The Hundred Wells of Salaga was both a love letter and striking condemnation of Ghana’s history of deriving wealth and political power from their involvement in the slave trade.
Admittedly, I have yet to fully read The Hundred Wells of Salaga. I am unfamiliar with the subject matter; I never learned about the slave trade in Ghana or the rest of Africa. I was unaware of the issues with Ghana denying culpability regarding their participation in the slave trade until I attended this talk. Salaga is a city with one-hundred wells, many of which were used to wash the slaves in after their long journey to the marketplace. After being washed in the dirty, often sulfuric water, they were then sold.
I couldn’t help but think that this talk would have benefitted my college students as well. Unfortunately, our history education is often Western-centric, and so rarely do we get the opportunity to learn about historical movements and conflicts outside of the United States or Europe. For me, Attah’s talk with Jewelle Gomez was an engaging (and educational!) way to spend my two-hour break between classes, and I am grateful to have attended.
— Kat Triebes, Events Department Intern