The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauda Equiano
The narrative by Olaudah Equiano gives an interesting perspective of slavery both within and outside of Africa in the eighteenth century. From these writings we can gain insight into the religion and customs of an African culture. We can also see how developed the system of trade was within Africa, and worldwide by this time. Finally, we hear an insider's view on being enslaved, how slaves were treated in Africa, and what the treatment of African slaves was like at the hands of the Europeans.
Olaudah spends a good part of the narrative acquainting the reader with the customs of his people. He describes the importance of hygiene to his people. Their overall health and vigor was helped by their penchant for cleanliness, and it makes them seem more "advanced." This is an interesting development considering the problems that a lack of hygiene can lead to.
His description of a wedding also seems very modern, but the importance of dance in the festivities shows another facet of Olaudah's people. The dance defined the different groups within their village. First, and most important, were the married men, followed by married women, single men, and lastly unmarried women. The groups also used the dance to relate stories or tell events that were important to them. This practice probably also strengthened the bonds within the groups.
Olaudah also wrote about the division of chores within his village. The women were responsible for the spinning and weaving, and the men took care of the building. It is interesting to note the similarity of their dress, and the fact that both men and women joined in battle when the village was at war. They did not, however, sleep in the same dwelling.
The religion of Olaudah's village was similar to some Amerindian beliefs, especially the importance of the sun. They seemed, if we take him at his word, to be a friendly and civilized people. As he put it "cheerfulness and affability are two of the leading characteristics of our nation."
The village economy was particularly interesting, and Olaudah's descriptions are very revealing. His people needed guns because other villages had them. The guns were brought to Africa by the Europeans, who used them to trade. (That the Europeans both supplied and fulfilled this need bears mention.) Olaudah states that he had never seen a European; his people traded with wandering merchants who acted as middlemen. These middlemen traded guns for potash, which they probably used in trade again...