Panel: Voices of the Enslaved


Location: University of Notre Dame, London

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On the occasion of the premiere of Odaline de la Martinez‘s new opera Imoinda in the London Festival of American Music, historian Sophie White, political activist and writer Candace Allen, and research fellow Kristy Warren join composer Odaline de la Martinez and Imoinda’s librettist Joan Anim-Addo in a discussion on Voices of the Enslaved, moderated by journalist and broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre.
Sophie White’s Intimate Voices of the African Diaspora, published later this year, uncovers the voices of enslaved Africans in colonial America through an exceptional set of source material: the court cases in which they testified. Leveraging the medium of testimony, these individuals produced riveting narratives that brought to the fore their intimate worlds. In recovering their voices, White allows us to know about these individuals by hearing their words, including the cadences of their speech, the snatches of creole, the colloquialisms, metaphors and emotions that seep through their transcribed testimony.
Odaline de la Martinez celebrates her 70th birthday with the World Premiere of her complete opera trilogy: ‘Imoinda’: A Story of Love and Slavery on 27 February. Written to a libretto by Joan Anim-Addo, this is the first modern Afro-Cuban opera addressing slavery and the beginnings of Afro-Caribbean culture, taking inspiration from a novel by the first published female writer, the Renaissance figure Aphra Behn.
Oroonoko, regarded as Behn’s finest work, tells the story of Oroonoko and Imoinda, two people who fell in love in Guinea and remarkably find each other again at a plantation in the West Indies, when they are both slaves. Aphra Behn lived a remarkable life as the first female writer to earn a living through her work, besides also working as a spy for King Charles II. Martinez has incorporated Afro-Cuban influences into her writing, including four percussionists using drums, guiro, claves, maracas, bongos and ago-go bells.

Read more about AMST's own Sophie White's involvement and her upcoming book here!