• Akosua Biraa

All Water Has a Perfect Memory







I look for their testimony

I find this:

June 13: “died a girl Slave No. 9.”

June 14: “died a Woman No. 10.”

June 15: “died a Man Slave No. 11.”


[T]he decisions they made

and why they made them:

keep them in coffle

onboard a slave ship

keep a close eye on them

fetch a good price


But we are strong

Dahomey warriors

hard to contain

jump overboard

fight back all the time


This is ancestry in progress

it is our superpower

our way out of no way

so too is our resilience


We must use our haunting

and see how it could be

otherwise






This piece is composed solely out of phrases taken randomly from “Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts”, a book written by Rebecca Hall (2021) and illustrated by Hugo Martínez. As a comic book buff, I picked up a copy of “Wake” from the LOATAD library, while attending the WAW Residency in June this year. “Wake” was such a good read that I had to buy myself a copy, to read all over again.


In “Wake”, Hall provides us with historic account as powerful testimony of Black women’s resilience and resistance during slavery, including their central roles in slave revolts carried out during the middle passage and in the Americas. Of key importance to this story of Black women’s leadership, is the renowned defiance and military skill of women warriors, from the Dahomey kingdom, who were also amongst the captives. The scope of these women’s fighting ability and fortitude is something we will hopefully get to learn much more about in the highly anticipated movie, The Woman King, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2022) and starring Viola Davis.


If you can get a copy of “Wake”, read it; and then go watch “The Woman King”, upon its arrival on 16 September. It is most definitely on my watch list!



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