Some may think it is dangerous to view the history of the ‘Atlantic black experience’ through a linear lens, the likelihood of placing everyone in a box, ignoring the unique nature and diversity of each of its distinct Afro-cultures. When we begin to view the shared historical experiences of the Atlantic Afro cultures, we see how impossible it is to describe one without adding or understanding the substance of how all, or at least some are connected.
In 2015, Yoruba’s Oshun was portrayed in African-American Singer Beyonce’s “Lemonade”. Millions watched as West African native tradition and religion made its way into the short film’s aesthetics, by Nigerian Artist, Laolu Senbajo, in the body painting of dancers of its 4th chapter, Apathy.
While there are emerging trends in mainstream media and entertainment demonstrating the connections between West Africa and its Diaspora, the connections have always been apparent. There is no escaping the fact that majority of blacks across the Atlantic, , can claim ancestry from West African countries, such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, and Senegal. Millions of West Africans populated the other side of the Atlantic through involuntary servitude According to the slave voyages database, between 1776 and 1800, over 700,00 slaves were transported to Great Britain; between 1651 and 1675 over 100,000 to the Netherlands; between 1801 and 1825, over a 100,000 were transported to the United States and over 1 million to Brazil. This led to the emergence of new Western Afro-cultures in the Americas, Caribbean, and parts of Europe. Newly established communities such as African Americans, Jamaicans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans and other Atlantic blacks in the New World emerged, with a new set of cultural systems and allegiances.
For many centuries in modern times, West Africans have contributed to modern Westernization and Afro-Western cultures. Between 1500 and 1875, over 10 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic into the New World. When the hunger for slavery was satisfied and the scattered fragments of the destruction it left behind on the minds and hearts of those enslaved lay hopelessly around, many Westernized black communities chose to return and resettle, utilizing whatever scrap of skill and resources had been scraped up and preserved to further reestablish even more complicated communities across West Africa. Between 1770 and 1840 over 1000 freed slaves from the United States and the Caribbean resettled in various parts of West Africa, also creating new westernized African communities in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana.
While there doesn’t seem to be a unilateral view of West African culture, tradition, or identity; the cultural remnants of West Africans can be found in most if not all of its Diaspora communities. The shared historical experiences of those considered native or descendants of the West African region over the centuries may arguably reinforce the idea or need for one.
West Africans and its Diaspora have unbroken bonds that, despite the raging waters of the middle passage, the dehumanizing conditions of slavery, the defeating reality of always fleeing to, freeing from, or proving for; the ethnic disparities resulting from artificial color and border lines, the shared heritage remains embroidered into the West African identity. West African Chronicles offers commentary and creative highlights of the historical experience of West Africans and descendants in the Diaspora. A key objective is to see how far one can stretch the elastic before it cuts.