The Hundred Wells Of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah has reminded me that I don’t know enough about Ghanaian history! A reason historical fiction is a favourite genre of mine is that it always makes me want to research. Impossible to read a good one without wanting to find out more on some details. Read ‘em with a side of Google
The Hundred Wells Of Salaga is set in pre colonial Ghana and follows two young women through a pivotal period of their lives- and a pivotal era in the country’s history. As well as war and conflict between populations within Ghana, we see British and German colonialism taking root.
The story is told from two perspectives. Wurche is the daughter of a king and knows she is equipped to help her father succeed, wants be given the same opportunities as her brother. Her assigned fate is to marry who she is told to and behave accordingly- but she really isn’t willing to just fall into her fate
Aminah is a young girl who is brutally taken from her home, intruders flames ensuring her village’s ruin. The power play that intertwines her path with Wurche’s, I found wild. A certain character in this book is big time kryptonite.
It’s unsettling to read – we are following both a benefactor and a victim of slave trades. No obvious answers are given so there is a lot to consider. I will probably re-read The Hundred Wells Of Salaga at some point, I think there are some subtleties I still have to learn from.
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Reading it makes you consider the moral and practical impacts of intra African slave trade. The devastation of transatlantic chattel slave trade was only implied in talk of the ‘Big Water’ ( I think that’s what it was, if you’ve read and interpreted differently, please let me know!). The intentional roles played by European settlers in conflicts between native tribes was another crucial point
There is a running undercurrent of power struggle in relationships as well as politics
Both Aminah and Wurche, although from different ends of the class spectrum, defiantly understood their value even as women in societies built for men. In situations they barely had any control over, they didn’t want to stand to let someone else break them.And we were still privy to their vulnerabilities.
I always find Ayesha Hurruna Attah interviews interesting to listen to,loved the BooksAndRhymes episode with her as a guest