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My archives, your archives, our archives. But by archives, I’m not thinking of musty or air-conditioned rooms, almost inaccessible. Tombstones of stalwart abbott. I’m speaking of archives of sound, of memory. Archives of the oral. Archives of spirit. The library as mbira, the thumb piano on which you play the troubles and the travels of your soul.… Archives of ownership, of reclamation, of record, of discovery, of yourself in a strange land by the still or turmoil waters where you lay down and weep, where you lay down and dream, where you become free. The oral moment here as text becoming. The oral moment here as text becoming. I mean a slave knows that the slave is free when he or she has reclaimed his archives. Ask John Henry Clark, lecturing his archives without his sight.… This is the magic and the mystery of the slave ship over and across colonial triumphant passage of the Middle passage. I mean we come with freedom archives, without the printing block, without the Roman alphabet. The plantation does not encourage libraries and archives. It doesn’t do that at all. It has always not done that. It always inhibits freedom. But the archives of our people, we really need a name to cover all of us who come over on that Middle Passage, just as we have the song of the Omuwala returning to the motherland so we have not yet got a name for those of us who have come. This is very interesting and very unfortunate and very sad. The Kumina people of Jamaica say “arrivants.”

Kamau Brathwaite