In 1874, aged 20, the visionary poet Arthur Rimbaud abandoned poetry and left France for Africa. He spent some years in Cyprus and Aden before settling in Ethiopia during the reign of kings Menelek and Makonnen. He became a trader in coffee, guns and hides, and toyed with the idea of trading in slaves.
Blending the personal with historical narratives and contemporary consciousness, Slave Trades avoids the descent into parochial irrelevance and instead, situates itself in broader continental narratives and concerns of post-colonialism.
Of the movement of the text, Sitas puts it this way in his Preface: "The sense that a new type of Hamesan wind was stirring up the 'desert' was everywhere. The sense that Habesh or Abesh (thus, the word Abyssinia!) was changing radically, was deeply debated. That world was not the place of 'nothingness', the 'desert of the soul' where 'genius' like Rimbaud crashed. It was a complex, changing world, like 'tej', intoxicating and lethal, a place that resonated through our lives during the last century."
Slave Trades is an attempt to express the voice of a cynical Rimbaud, his Ethiopian "wives", the voices of the marketplace, priests, poets and kings. These voices form a fugue of vivid images of early colonial brutality and African resistance, both political and spiritual: "I hope still, therefore I am".
"Slave Trades attempts to peg-mark and create a territory of feeling which hopefully is accessible to most. At first, this territory was written as an absence by the few poets that had shaped me - Pindar, Homer, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Kavafis, Cesaire. And it reflects my sense of horror that indeed, it was such an absence. So this attempt is a struggle through and against the webs they have spun inside my head. By necessity, allusions to their work are plentiful. And allusions to the many monastic texts, historical documents, folksong genres and oral compositions that have cluttered my life in the last decade are also of necessity, part of the landscape. All I can hope is that I have managed to animate this 'non-place' into a credible 'imposition'."
An Artist's Notebook is a fictional account of the same terrain set in the 1990s. Ethiopia is war-ravaged, and a group of disaffected people, some of them descendants of the characters in Slave Trades, are puzzling out their roots and their identities.
Ari Sitas is the author of several novellas and plays, and two books of poems - Tropical Scars (1989) and Songs Shoeshine and Piano (1992).Review:
"a book-length combination of free-verse and poetic prose ... flights of erotic lyricism ... stream-of-consciousness surrealism" -- The Sunday Independent, 18 June 2000
an overwhelming sense of displacement ... searching... struggle ... resistance. [...] Sitas constructs ... the globalised landscape of now -- Mail & Guardian, 9-14 June, 2000
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Deep South, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0620250526