The Village That Vanished
by Ann Grifalconi
Discussion and Activities
For pre-reading ideas and background information on multiculturalism, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.
For nearly four centuries, millions of African men, women, and children were savagely torn from their homeland and sold as slaves. As Abikanile and the Yao villagers discover, the slave trade was so lucrative to Europeans that Africans could be hired to war with other tribes and/or kidnap other Africans to sell for food, merchandise, and weapons.
Using a map, illustrate "The Triangle Trade," showing how ships would come from England, stop on the coast of West Africa - where the Yao people live in the countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia, and then proceed to the United States, where they would sell the Africans for goods before returning to England.
Discuss with students their feelings about the imminent attack of Abikanile's village by African slavers. Drawing on this book and other books, like Walter Dean Myers' Amistad, and movies such as Roots, which describe aspects of the slave experience, have students imagine they were one of the children taken from their village homes by slavers and herded onto ships to be sold as slaves. In a journal entry, have them describe their feelings and experiences on the ships bringing them to the New World.
When Abikanile's village is threatened, the members of this Yao tribe must decide how they will protect themselves. Decisions to retreat into the woods, to have Chimwala stay behind, and to take apart and bury each hut, as suggested by Njemile, are each agreed to unanimously and carried out communally by all families. Ask students to describe how and by whom decisions are made in their communities, and how these systems of local government differ from that in Abikanile's tribal community. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which type of governing system would they prefer to live under? Why?