From Brazil to West Africa: The Story of the Taboms
By Kirsty Osei-Bempong at MisBeee Writes
Monday, February 6, 2017.
I have always been
fascinated by the story of Tabom people. This interest stems out of the need to
know more about the way in which this Afro-Brazilian community of former slave
returnees mainly of Yoruba descent, migrated from Brazil to West Africa. I
have a lifelong love affair with Brazil; my search for its Twi-speaking
community and my crazy experiences in the country over four trips.
So you can imagine my utter excitement when I found a living descendent of the
Afro-Brazilian community right under my nose in London. Her name is Kai
Lutterodt. She's a British-Ghanaian journalist, and her two-part story is
Lutterodt first learnt about her Tabom roots from
her dad when she was eight years old. "I always considered it to be this
exotic side that I had. It wasn’t until I became older that I explored it a bit
further and I found out that it was a lot to do with slavery.
as an African, I could empathise with slavery but I never associated it with
part of my history. So discovering my Tabom ancestry and its connection to
slavery made me part of that discourse even more.”
Lutterodt’s initial journey to Brazil in 2009 was
purely for pleasure but a second trip in 2013 shortly after an academic set
back got her exploring more of the vast country (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo,
Belo Horizonte and Salvador).
“I had failed my first year at journalism school so
it was either I could fall into depression, which I was close to doing or use
this opportunity to actually go to Brazil and do the research that I had always
wanted to do,” she said.
Importance of oral tradition
Lutterodt had a head start however. Her paternal
aunt Marian, who recently passed, was able to furnish her with oral knowledge
of her Tabom roots. “My aunt was only a child but she used to hear her mother
organise family meetings in Brazil House (the cradle of the Tabom people and
now a museum in Otublohum, near James Town, Accra) and would pick up
information that way.”
Lutterodt also got her hands on ‘Sou Brasileiro’ by
Alcione Meira Amos and Ebenezer Ayesu, which coincidentally cited her great
grandfather as a case study of the Tabom returnees.
The book also mentions other ancestors including his mother and his mother’s
mother – who made the initial journey from Brazil to Ghana. "The author
got almost all of the information right except some of the names were in the
wrong order,” said Lutterodt. “The beauty of Ghanaian names is they have a
meaning and usually, it helps to describe the order of sequence of children
when they are born. My great great grandmother had twins so it turns out the
author got the order wrong which my aunt rectified.”
Lutterodt’s Tabom journey starts with her great
great great grandmother Aduma (or Adsuma) who is thought to have come to Ghana
between 1829 and 1836. It is well documented that two ships sailed from Brazil
to Nigeria during those years with some of the returnees travelling on to
Ghana. The second ship sailed a year after the famous Malê Revolt of Bahia
during which enslaved Africans rose up against their Brazilian slave masters.
Malê means Muslim and it is widely believed that many of the six million
Africans transported to Brazil were Hausas – an ethnic community spanning much
of western Africa – many of whom follow the Islamic faith. Lutterodt’s great
great great grandmother Aduma came to Ghana with a child or children and a male
relative - either a cousin or a brother called Mamman (Mohammed) Nasau. He was
the leader of that clan and the family head of Brazil House. “I like the idea
that Aduma was a single mother. I find it very empowering,” said Lutterodt. “I
love travelling and it makes me think just how brave it was for her to leave
her known surroundings to go to the unknown.” Aduma’s child or children had the
surname Peregrino – a common Tabom name. Aduma went on to have a further child
following a marriage to a man called Ade who was related to the Ga Royal House.
This child - Adelaide (Lutterodt’s great great grandmother) - went on to
marry a reverend.
Skills and prosperity
Like many other Tabom settlers, Lutterodt’s
ancestors brought transferable skills and prospered thanks to the hospitality
of the local Ga Manste who gave land to the new settlers. Lutterodt ancestors
boast an enviable line of tailors and seamstresses. Her great grandfather
became a merchant, and his brothers were lawyers who had trained at Lincoln’s
Inn, Holborn in London.
"It is surreal for me to cycle past there and
think – oh wow, I have a connection,” said Lutterodt.
But her exploration is not over. “There are still
some mysteries in terms of names. My aunty was quite sure we had an ancestor
called Fatima, who may have been a sibling that was married off into another
family. And I would love to think there is someone in Brazil doing the same
research as me which could somehow highlight a link between our two
* Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel (2014) Tabom. 'The Afro-Brazilian Community in
Kirsty Osei-Bempong is the
Thenewblackmagazine.com’s Arts Editor and a London-based writer. She blogs
regularly at www.misbeee.blogspot.co.uk