Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba

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Univ. Press of Mississippi, Jan 6, 2010 - History - 401 pages
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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 Ékpč, or "leopard," which was the highest indigenous authority. Ékpč lodges ruled local communities while also managing regional and long-distance trade. Cross River Africans, enslaved and forcibly brought to colonial Cuba, reorganized their Ékpč clubs covertly in Havana and Matanzas into a mutual-aid society called Abakuá, 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 Ékpč initiation rites in Nigeria after ten years' collaboration with Abakuá 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.

This book is sponsored by a grant from the InterAmericas(r)/Society of Arts and Letters of the Americas, a program of the Reed Foundation.

 

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Contents

Introduction
3
1 Arrival
37
2 The Fortified City
66
3 Planting Abakuá in Cuba 1830s to 1860s
89
4 From Creole to Carabalí
103
Abakuá Exiled to Florida and Spanish Africa
119
6 Disintegration of the Spanish Empire
140
Abakuá in Cuban Music
153
Ékpč Has One Voice
179
Appendix 1 Cuban Lodges Founded from 1871 to 1917
183
Appendix 2 Comparing Ékpč and Abakuá Masks and Their Symbols
193
Appendix 3 Abakuá Chants and Their Interpretations in Cross River Languages
201
Glossary
215
Notes
221
References
301
Index
339

8 Conclusions
175

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About the author (2010)

Ivor L. Miller has published widely in "African Studies Review, Third Text: Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art & Culture, Callaloo, Race & Class", and "LUCERO: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies". He is also the author of "Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba".

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