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Positing that African countries willingly commemorate the transatlantic slave trade but forget the legacies of domestic slavery, this chapter examines the continuation of slavery in the shadows of the House of Slaves at Gorée Island. To examine these hidden legacies of slavery, this chapter looks at the history of the mixed-race Signares and their historical implication in the slave trade and domestic slavery. One of the moral conundrums in the legacy of the Signares is their mixed parentage of European fathers and subordinate Black mothers, placing race at the heart of the cultural creolization (métissage) that is celebrated today as the legacy of Signares. This chapter establishes that the heritages of the slave trade and the Signares are framed as irreconcilable discourses that lead to divergent interpretations of the material culture of the island. Examining a controversial statue, the island’s architectural legacies, the impersonators of Signares, and the Festival of Return, this chapter establishes that the antinomies between the legacies of the slave trade and the Signares are occasionally overcome in rituals of reconciliation.
During the slave trade, Signares kept domestic slaves and accumulated considerable wealth. As Signares walked to Midnight Mass, their dresses were illuminated by the light of lanterns made and carried by their slaves, highlighting their wealth. This chapter examines the historical origins of the lantern festival or Fanal, as it is known in Saint-Louis, and its continuous performance as cultural heritage in the city. Celebrated as Creole legacy by President Senghor, he made it a national heritage. This chapter examines the assemblages the festival establishes between the patrons and their craftspeople as their relations are mediated by the materiality and performativity of the lanterns paraded at the festival. Although the heirs of the Signares left Saint-Louis at national independence and the festival has been appropriated by African citizens, it continues to celebrate forms of difference and distinction reminiscent of domestic slavery. Furthermore, by celebrating the achievements of the patrons, the lantern festival still establishes the status of patrons as ‘shining lights’ of the nation. This suggests that the African citizens who act as patrons have accepted the responsibilities with which their colonial predecessors have endowed them. Through colonial nostalgia they have assumed the legacy of colonialism.
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