Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba

Front Cover
Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009 - History - 364 pages

In Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba, Ivor L. Miller shows how African migrants and their political fraternities played a formative role in the history of Cuba. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, no large kingdoms controlled Nigeria and Cameroon's multilingual Cross River basin. Instead, each settlement had its own lodge of the initiation society called kp, or "leopard," which was the highest indigenous authority. kp lodges ruled local communities while also managing regional and long-distance trade. Cross River Africans, enslaved and forcibly brought to colonial Cuba, reorganized their kp clubs covertly in Havana and Matanzas into a mutual-aid society called Abaku, which became foundational to Cuba's urban life and music.

Miller's extensive fieldwork in Cuba and West Africa documents ritual languages and practices that survived the Middle Passage and evolved into a unifying charter for transplanted slaves and their successors. To gain deeper understanding of the material, Miller underwent kp initiation rites in Nigeria after ten years' collaboration with Abaku initiates in Cuba and the United States. He argues that Cuban music, art, and even politics rely on complexities of these African-inspired codes of conduct and leadership. Voice of the Leopard is an unprecedented tracing of an African title-society to its Caribbean incarnation, which has deeply influenced Cuba's creative energy and popular consciousness.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction
3
1 Arrival
37
2 The Fortified City
66
3 Planting Abaku in Cuba 1830s to 1860s
89
4 From Creole to Carabal
103
5 Dispersal
119
6 Disintegration of the Spanish Empire
140
7 Havana Is the Key
153
Epilogue
179
Cuban Lodges Founded from 1871 to 1917
183
Comparing kp and Abaku Masks and Their Symbols
193
Abaku Chants and Their Interpretations in Cross River Languages
201
Glossary
215
Notes
221
References
301
Index
339

8 Conclusions
175

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Ivor L. Miller, a cultural historian specializing in the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the Americas, is currently a Research Fellow at the African Studies Center, Boston University. His previous book, Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City, was also published by University Press of Mississippi. |Engineer (Chief) Bassey E. Bassey of Nigeria is highly regarded in the Calabar community for his knowledge of the history and practice of the kp system and is the author of kp Efik.

Bibliographic information