On my book blog, I have written about how absolutely fascinated I am by the Great Dismal Swamp. I have started but not yet finished Daniel A. Sayers’ A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp; started but not yet finished Charles Royster’s The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington’s Time; started and finished Sylviane A. Diouf’s Slavery’s Exiles. All that starting and not [yet] finishing led to a bout of writing that turned out to be a series of centos that basically described the founding of Virginia, one of the two states which formed around the Great Dismal Swamp.

Even though I have not yet finished two of the books mentioned above, research detours led me to The Westover Manuscripts written by William Byrd, colonial founder of Richmond, Virginia. The source material for the cento part of the series is drawn from that document.

I have been playing around with how to present these pieces since, at this point in time, they won’t be in my next book. I thought of just putting all the pieces in one post and  letting them be read that way. But that idea didn’t sit too easy, visually speaking. So I decided to kind of serialize them.

Click here to read the first in the series.



The Epic of Askia Mohammed
I came across this epic piece of orature while looking for the epic about Sundjata. Askia Mohammed is one of those giants of African history routinely referred as worthy of emulation and/or respect. However, upon concluding the read, I had the opinion that he was very hawk-like in his promotion of Islam. There is repeated mention of “Every village that follows his orders, that accepts his wishes, he conquers them, he moves on. Every village that refuses his demand, he conquers it, he burns it, he moves on. Until the day-Mamar [Askia] did that until, until, until, until the day he arrived at the Red Sea.” (298-302) I interpret the consecutive “untils” to signify that it was a repeated event that happened over time. Considering how long it took for caravans to traverse the distance from West Africa to Mecca, undoubtedly it happened not only over an extended period of time but also over an extended expanse of land. The devastation left in the wake of such excursions in arson leads me to question the respect paid to this historical figure.

The above statement notwithstanding, I did find the epic interesting in the view it provided of West Africa. It provided me with a basis for doing further research into the era and times and for that and the new perspective, it is appreciated.