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Modern Voices
Catherine Ancholou on Equiano's people
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Q: From your research, what did you discover about how Equiano was?
Catherine Ancholou

A: Equiano was growing up in an environment where the sky was his limit. He had everything going for him. He had rich parents. He was of a noble parentage and family, an extended family of judges. From my findings, actually, it wasn't only his father who was a judge. His uncles were judges, too. And the actual chief judge of the village, or the chief elder (or the king of the village), was his senior uncle. This was what I gathered from my research.

So Equiano had everything going for him. There was money. There was name. He was a favorite of his parents, according to what he said. So his parents loved him, and he was very close to his mother, who was in the process of teaching him to become a warrior. And he was equally very close to his father, who always took him to the court where the cases were adjudged. In other words, in Africa, in Ibo Land, a boy who carries his father's bag and follows his father around is the person who is being tipped to follow after the father's profession. If the father is a farmer, he will be the farmer. If the father is a judge, he will be the main judge of the family. If the father is a trader, he will be the person who will become a trader after the father. The others could go into other trades, but he would definitely follow after the father. So by being the person who was carrying his father's bag, his father was grooming him to take over from himself.

This was the society where he lived. And from all we gather from Equiano's story, there was no tension in his community. His people were a nation of dancers. When he uses the word "nation," actually he means community, because in Ibo Land, from my research I found out, the Equiano people, the Iseke people, are people who lay emphasis on music and dance in their culture. In everything they do, they dance. They dance from morning till night. And they have all kinds of musical instruments. People hire them to go and make music for them in other parts of Ibo Land. So these are the Ibo people called Iseke people -- the music people, the dance people. Equiano had a joyful childhood. He had joyful origins. He would never suspect that he would have had the kind of fate that he had.
Catherine Ancholou
Associate Professor of English Literature
Awuku College of Education

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