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2.2a (ii). Comments by Karin Barber, 15 June 2018, on Ann O’Hear, “Oriki and the History of Slavery in Ilorin, Nigeria,” a chapter included in African Slaves, African Masters: Politics, Memories, Social Life, ed. Alice Bellagamba, Sandra Greene, and Martin Klein, 153-174. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press (Tubman Series), 2017.

E-mail message from  Karin Barber, 15 June 2018:

Thanks so much for sending me a copy of your chapter on oriki and the history of slavery in Ilorin. . . . The chapter is very interesting. You've done a superb job of sifting and synthesising the various accounts of oriki, and I admire the way you have searched the Ilorin material for oriki fragments about slaves.

The only traces of the voices of the underdog (iwofa in this case, rather than slave) that I was able to detect in the Okuku oriki was a passage which could have originated as the lament of someone suffering from harsh labour conditions, but which has been inflected in the oriki to serve as a glorification of the master (pp. 283-4 of I Could Speak Until Tomorrow). The facility with which accomplished performers carried this kind of incorporation and repurposing of existing texts to make them function as praise encourages me to think that this is what might have happened here. But your findings go well beyond this rather speculative interpretation. I'm really pleased to have this addition to my oriki “library”.

All the best


Emeritus Professor K.J.Barber
Department of African Studies and Anthropology

School of History and Cultures
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

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