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Modern Voices
Asoka Perbi on the impact of kidnappings on people's lifestyles
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Q: Talk to me about the impact of kidnappings -- how it began to change people's lifestyles.
Asoka Perbi

A: Because of the Atlantic demand for slaves, there was a lot of kidnapping also going on in Africa, especially in Ghana. And kidnapping could be any time of the day. It could be daytime. It could be in the night. You could be on your way trade or to farm, and you could be kidnapped, because some people would lay ambush to kidnap. And because of that, there were times when many people were afraid to go out in the night, because it was worse during the night. You wouldn't know who was laying ambush there to kidnap you. As you read some of these documents, you find a lot of fear expressed in people's lives during the period of Atlantic enslavement. And you find comments like, "Nobody dares go out during the night in this part of the coast, because of fear that they may be kidnapped into slavery." And kidnapping went on in almost every part of Ghana, especially in the coast and in the northern part.

Three years ago, during my research, I was talking to somebody in one of the archives, in Brong-Ahafo, called Sunyani. And I mentioned kidnapping and so on. And then he said, "My grandmother was kidnapped into enslavement." And I was surprised. And I said, "Tell me more." And he said: "My grandmother said she remembers very well that they were in a rice field in the northern part of the country. And they were working on the rice farms when [Samorese] men came and kidnapped them. Now, [Samori-Turi] was one of these people who tried to build a large African state in the northern part of Ghana, in parts of what is today [Bukina Faso]. And by doing that, you also got involved in a lot of slave raiding and slave kidnapping. And she said she remembers very well [Samorese] men kidnapping a number of them when they were busy on their farm, and bringing them to Ghana. And it happened that somebody took the grandmother into the household, married her, and so these people are now part of a family in the Brong-Ahafo region."

So it happened both internally and externally, you know. But it increased because of the external demand. And you find that effect as you go through the documents. And if you look from the 16th to the 19th century, especially 17th-18th, when the trade is at its peak, you find a lot of kidnapping going on because of the Atlantic demand.
Akosua Perbi
Professor of History
University of Ghana

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