Slavery-2 - Bakhita

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Slavery-2

Africa


From Bakhita's Diary

In chains again

While we stood there. thinking about what should be done, a man appeared before us. Frightened, we started to run, but he stood in our way and spoke to us very kindly:
"Where are you going?" he asked.
There was no reply on our part.
"Where are you going?" - he repeated
"To our parents."
"Where do they live?"
"Over there...". was our vague reply as we pointed ahead.

It did not take him long to guess that we were fugitives.
"Come on, he suggested take a little rest. After that I will accompany you home myself. ." Believing in his words, we followed him into a hut. As soon as we entered we lay on the ground, dead tired. He offered us a glass of water. We were so exhausted that we could scarcely swallow it. He left us alone and quietly we went to sleep. After about an hour he took us to his home, gave us something to eat and drink and then accommodated us in a sheep-fold where he kept his animals. He made us lie on a sort of pallet known as an "angareb" and then, to our shocking disappointment, he bound both of us with heavy chains. He ordered us to lie in the sheepfold and sleep. He would come himsef to fetch us later.
And this was the way he kept his promise to take us back to our parents! We cried our hearts out, realizing our sorry plight.
We remained in the sheepfold for a few days till a slave merchant reached the village. Then we were taken out and sold to him.
And so we were back in slavery. We had to walk a long way before we joined the caravan.
It was a great surprise for us when, joining the chain-gang, we discovered that some of the slaves were the same as those who had belonged to the master from whom we had run away. They told us about his anger when he discovered our escape; he had threatened to cut us to pieces if he ever managed to find us again. Now I appreciate the kindness of the Lord who miraculously saved me from such a horrible death.
For two full weeks and a half we marched on and on, in the same way as before. I remember a poor slave who was seriously ill and could  not keep on his feet. He begged the master to let him rest for a while, but the latter, refusing his request and accusing him of laziness, beat him as  if he were an animal. l saw him collapse in agony: "I am dying. I can't anymore.
But the cruel master, without showing any consideration at all, beat him even harder, forcing him to stand and  walk. However,  realising that the poor fellow was actually dying, he gave orders to remove the chain which tied him to his companions. The poor man collapsed'. pitifully crying and moaning. Full of anger, the master commanded  the rest of us to continue on our march while he himself remained behind for a while.
What happened to him? No one saw him anymore.


Cruelly punished

We finally reached a town, and we were led to the Chief's residence. He was a very rich man who owned a great number of slaves, all young and healthy.

My friend and I were destined to be the maids of his two daughters who did not take long to like us. It was the master's intention to make of us a present to his son when he eventually married. Meanwhile, in that great house, we were treated well and lacked nothing.
But it was too good to last long.  One day, unwittingly, I committed a mistake which incensed the master's son. He immediately got hold of the lash to beat me. Instinctively I ran to the next room to take shelter with his sisters.
I wish I had never done such a thing! He became furious, snatched me violently from my hiding place, hurled me to the floor and began to beat me  ferociously both with his feet and with the lash. Finally, with a kick in my side, he left me half dead. I was completely unconscious. Some slaves carried me away and lag me down on a pallet where I was to remain for more than a month.

Two new masters
The two new masters I had were both cruel to the slaves who were employed in heavy works in the kitchen, the laundry and the fields. We were assigned to the mistresses whom we must never leave for a moment. We had to dress them, perfume them, do their hair up, fan them, without a moment's respite. Still things were not so simple: woe to us if by chance, we even touched or hurt them. The whip would be on us without mercy. I can say in all truth that, in the three years I spent in their service, there was not even one day when I was not inflicted some punishment or other. When the wound caused by the whip began to heal, other blows would fall on me, even though I had done nothing to deserve them.
One day I was ezplaining to my friends how I had managed to escape from my previous master. I was not aware that the General's daughter was listening to me. Afraid that I might attempt a flight, she had me chained by the feet, and this was to last more than a month. The chain was only removed on the occasion of a great Muslim festivity, during which all slaves must be freed from fetters.

A slave's life

In this household all the slaves were expected to rise at dawn. The General's wife was so exacting that she would, at times, get up herself earlier to make sure that we were all punctual. If anyone delayed, even for a few moments, the poor wretch would be mercilessly whipped: the lady never bothered to consider that these poor slaves had to work till very late into the night.
Slaves slept all together in a single huge dormitory. Till midday we received no food: at midday we would be served some stewed meat, porridge, bread and some fruit. At night we had a meagre supper and then, after further work, we were herded to sleep on the bare ground. Woe to us if we dared utter a word of complaint!
If anyone fell ill, the unfortunate one would not be deigned any attention; she or he would be left to herself or himself with no one bothering to help. When one of us died, the corpse would be simply hurled into the field or on the dung heap.
How much mistreatment would the poor slaves receive, and all without any reason.
To give you an example, one day, by pure chance, we happened to be present when the General quarrelled with his wife. To give vent to his anger he ordered two soldiers to throw us to the ground and to scourge us. The soldiers carried out the order to the best of their ability. They used so much strength that both of us were left on the floor, bathed in our own blood. I remember how the last, repeatedly aimed at my thigh, went so deep that not only my skin but also my flesh was removed. As a result I had to lie on the pallet for two months without being able to move.
We had to bear it all in silence. No one came to dress our wounds and no one even dared speak to us a word of comfort and kindness. How many of our unhappy friends died as a result of the blows they received.


Tattoed

Up to that moment I had been spared this torture, though most of our fellow slaves had undergone it. Not only their bodies but even their faces had been disfigured.
The lady took a fancy that all the slaves who had as yet not undergone the operation must do so as soon as possible. It was a capricious decision but there was no escaping it. There were three of us. One day a woman, skilled in this cruel art, was called to the General's house. She took us to the porch while the lady, whip in hand, stood behind us. The woman had a razor, a vessel full of whine flour and another of salt next to her. She then ordered one of us to lie down, while two of the strongest slaves held her hands and feet, to the ground. The torturer then, bending on the poor girl, began to trace on her belly strange patterns with the white flour, about sixty in all. I stood transfixed, scared to death, as I observed what was going on, all the time painfully aware that my turn would soon come.

When she had done with the patterns. the witch took the razor and began to make as many incisions, while the wretched victim cried and bled profusely. Nor was that the end of the painful operation. Salt was rubbed into each of the sixty wounds, the idea being that salt, by deeply penetrating into the wounds. Would prevent them from healing and thus leave a visible scar. Il was a torture, a real torment. The unhappy slave trembled all over and, I, too, was shaking like a leaf. I  knew fully well that the same fate was destined for me. And indeed, when the first victim was done
with, and placed on a pallet, it was my turn to lie clown and wait for what was coming.
I hesitated to move, but a look at the lady standing behind with the lash in her hands, convinced me that there was no way out. I lay on the floor. Fortunately my face was spared: nevertheless six complicated patterns were designed on my breasts and sixty more, as was customary, on my belly and arms. It is hard to express in words what I felt: I thought I would die, especially when salt was rubbed into the wounds.
Literally bathed in my own blood I was carried away and placed on a straw mat where I was to remain for several hours, totally unconscious of what was going on.
When I came around, I saw next to me my two poor friends who had gone through the same ordeal as myself For more than a month the three of us were condemned to lie  motionless, unable to move, without a cloth to dry the serum oozing from our gaping wounds.
If I did not die, I can see it now, it was by a miracle of God who had destined me for BETTER THINGS.


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