Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba

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Overview

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 Ékpè, or "leopard," which was the highest indigenous authority. Ékpè lodges ruled local communities while also managing regional and long-distance trade. Cross River Africans, enslaved and forcibly brought to colonial Cuba, reorganized their Ékpè 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 Ékpè 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934110836
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009
  • Series: Caribbean Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


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 Ékpè system and is the author of Ékpè Efik.

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Table of Contents

A Note on the Typography and Word Usage

Foreword Bassey Efiong Bassey Bassey, Bassey Efiong

Introduction 3

1 Arrival 37

2 The Fortified City 66

3 Planting Abakua in Cuba, 1830s to 1860s 89

4 From Creole to Carabali 103

5 Dispersal: Abakua Exiled to Florida and Spanish Africa 119

6 Disintegration of the Spanish Empire 140

7 Havana Is the Key: Abakua in Cuban Music 153

8 Conclusions 175

Epilogue: Cubans in Calabar: Ekpe Has One Voice 179

App. 1 Cuban Lodges Founded from 1871 to 1917 183

App. 2 Comparing Ekpe and Abakua Masks and Their Symbols 193

App. 3 Abakua Chants and Their Interpretations in Cross River Languages 201

Glossary 215

Notes 221

References 301

Index 339

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    The millennium earl

    Lord millennium is in search of you. Looking for the heart now. Have you heard the news? Looking for the heart now hav yoj got a clue?

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