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Smith College (Northampton, MA 01063-6304)
Patricia Gonzalez (Project Director: December 2014 to present)
Lydia Cabrera's "The Sacred Language of the Abakua" and its West African Sources

Preparation for an English translation of Cuban writer Lydia Cabrera’s (1899-1991) “La Lengua Sagrada de lost Nanigos” (The Sacred Language of the Abakua). (36 months)

We propose a scholarly English translation of La lengua sagrada de los Ñáñigos - Lydia Cabrera's study of the ritual language of the Cuban Abakua society. Researched in Havana and Matanzas from the late 1930s to 1960 and published in Spanish in Miami in 1988, the book is Cabrera's urgent call for her compatriots to know their African heritage. Although this monograph is the most substantive and critically supported document of the speech and customs of any diasporan group originating from the West African Cross River area, it remains inaccessible to English-speaking scholars including the very Nigerian and Cameroonian linguists most qualified to identify the sources and meanings of Abakua terms and practices. The Abakua example is also important to Americanists more generally, as it demonstrates the expansion of an African-derived identity into the wider population of European, Asian and Amer-Indian descendants, evolving from a racial/ethnic category into a cultural community.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
International Studies

Scholarly Editions and Translations

Research Programs

$190,000 (approved)
$190,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2015 – 9/30/2018