Slavery and African Born Slaves
Sank Critical Review Sank is a movie about, above all else, the unification and spiritual oneness of all African peoples no matter where they are in the world and no matter what oppression they face. To develop this theme, the movie takes us through the lives of several Africans that were taken from their homes and enslaved.
It stars a young woman, Mona, who knows very little of her identity as an African at first, but is transformed into a slave named Shoal who works on a plantation where she gains first hand knowledge of the struggles of her people.She meets slaves who are African born and who fight to rebel in order to resist the temptation to assimilate and forget their true, singular identity as Africans. In the beginning, the main character Mona was seemingly apathetic and ignorant toward her heritage. She was disrespectfully taking obscene pictures in a fortress that had been a part Of the slave trafficking out of Africa during the Atlantic slave trade. After wandering into the fortress’ dungeon, she is transformed into an American born slave on a plantation in the southern united States.The movie takes us wrought her trials as a slave as well as developing the hardships and oppression suffered by several African born slaves on the same plantation. The movie illustrates the many individual niches of the slaves who interact to create a troubled community that supports each other through cooperation, but which also is being torn apart.
While there are a couple of slaves that are close to the masters called “head slaves”, most perform roles as midwives or are the leaders of rebellions against the masters.One mixed race slave is even a devout member of the Christian church under the exclusive control of white minister who encourages the slave to try and instill the Christian faith in his peers. One goal achieved by the movie in showing the slaves in their specific roles in the community is to demonstrate the struggle to stay united under one identity, African, in order to survive their oppressive masters. At several points in the movie they come together even under the threat of the whip or even death.On one specific occasion, they rally to help a midwife deliver a baby from a dead woman who had been flogged to death by one of the head slaves. Another example of their unification even against there own mind is that they secretly unite with other slaves from other plantations to find a way to get them all freed, but cannot bring certain slaves for fear of word getting back to their masters. Shoal is transformed by her first person experiences as a slave.
She begins to understand that to be African is a true and unifying identity, and no matter where or in what point in time they are, all Africans are connected through a single identity.She begins to think far more spiritually; toward the end of the movie she even speaks of flying over the ocean back to Africa to be with her people. She begins to think of herself as a less tangible being, more a spirit or energy in which she is entrapped by her body, which is entrapped by the slave owners. Moreover, by thinking of herself in this way she realizes she can never really be trapped, her spirit and soul are always free, she is in some way liberated by her realization that she is a separate entity from her body and her true self can never really be enslaved.Nun and Shannon are the two main people who help her develop this way of thinking. Because Shoal was a slave born in the United States and avian never actually lived in Africa, she is void of the unified and intangible way of thinking many of the other slaves were ingrained with during their time in Africa. Also, She is sheltered from the African born slaves for much of her life because she was made to work in the house, however as she befriends the slaves that work in the field she slowly learns more and more about her heritage.
She is in awe of the strength and rebelliousness of the African born field slaves. They help her to separate herself from the identity she has built based on the society she grew up in. Early on in the film, she is seemingly content with her life and even though she is thought of as inferior and is raped and oppressed, she seems to be mostly content with an underlying feeling that her situation is unavoidable. The other slaves who know of freedom and a better place and ache to return begin to instill in her these new feelings Of rebellion and hatred for her oppressive masters.In a sense, Nun and Shannon help to deconstruct the social reality which she has created for herself and the helplessness that comes along with it in order to instill one of pride for her heritage, intangibleness of her true being, and temporariness of her situation instead. The inverse character of the slaves in the field that help her in liberating herself is another slave who is the son of Nun (who was raped on her voyage to America at fourteen) named Joe.Joey’s mother is a very strong, rebellious, and helpful character in the movie who is well respected and looked up to by many of the other slaves.
She is a powerful force in the community, feared by the slave owners for her ability to unite and rally the slaves against them. However, her son, who is of mixed race, becomes a master slave or a slave that works with their white masters in punishing and organizing the other slaves.He is also enthralled with the Christian church and becomes one of its most devout attendees, despite his mother’s strong belief in her African religion. This character represents an African almost completely assimilated into the new way of life without any struggle and one who is dismissive of his culture and heritage. This is what Shoal is ultimately trying to escape and this character helps her do so by vying her perspective of what her ignorance of true identity can lead her to.All of this true self and African identity that Shoal is just now developing has always been a part of her African born counterpart’s life. The meaning of the term “Sank” in the context of the film is to “go back” in the past and use experiences gained to better yourself in the present and future.
Sank relates to the movie because Mona is quite literally going to the past and gaining knowledge Of the struggles Of her people in order to better connect her to the singular identity as an African.The movie shows how Africans, when enslaved and suffering oppression, were forced to rally together and strengthen this bond as a singular being and, as in the movie, band together against their common enemy. Shoal had never had this identity because she had never lived in Africa, and being born in the United States had nothing of Africa to grasp onto when developing her identity. It is a message to all those of African descent, reminding them of their heritage and the hardships their ancestors suffered unwillingly but still with dignity.At the conclusion of the film, after a dramatic ending in which Shoal is initiated into Shania’s religion, and Joe kills his mother Nun and is subsequently burned alive after locking himself in the church, Mona reappears in present day obviously profoundly affected by her experience and joins a group of Africans looking out over the sea. In the crowd she sees Nun sitting, staring out over the ocean. This helps to illustrate that the knowledge of intangibility of ones true self, and the unification of Africans under one single identity had been developed through Moan’s experiences with Sank.