From Brame to Bran

Today’s post on African indigenous languages looks across the Atlantic at Diaspora groups created by African slaves in the Americas. One such group is the Bran diaspora that formed in Peru in the 16th and 17th century when slaves from the Upper Guinea Coast were numerous among the African slaves transported there. Brans were West Africans who counted (a) language(s) from what is today called the Manjaku cluster in their repertoires. According to Portuguese sources, who called them, sometimes interchangeably, Brame/Buramos or Papel/Papeis, they inhabited a territory in Northern Guinea Bissau characterised by village-based societies with dense network and high multilingualism and multiculturalism. Upon arrival in Peru, their ‘casta’ was recorded. Often, slaves gave localities as their ‘casta’ (such as Cacheu or the island Pecixe), but in many cases, these self-identifications were overwritten in registers and collapsed into the category ‘bran’. Rather than being a retention of an ancestral identity, as is often imagined, Bran identity therefore was an adaptation to new conditions, and forged in interaction with slaves from other regions of Africa, indigenous Andeans and of course the identity concepts and constraints of slave societies. The ethnisiation of slaves went so far that, as typical in large parts of South America, they were given their ethnic designations as family names – Joan Bran, Andres Nalu, Francisco Biafara, Juan Angola, Anton Folupo…

Read more in this article:

O’Toole, Rachel. 2007. From the rivers of Guinea to the valleys of Peru: becoming a Bran diaspora within Spanish Slavery. Social Text 92, 25(3)

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