Review: Angola Janga

Angola Janga

As Americans whether we admit to it or not, we tend to think and look at things in a monolithic way. This attitude has caused quite a stereotype of us around the world. We’re often seen as self-interested for good reason. One of those things that usually get wrapped in the American narrative is the issue of slavery. It was and still is a worldwide trade. One where many people lost their lives and one which has fractured the black race since its inception.

What is not normally talked about are the many countries which benefited from the slave trade and how it has affected how we interreact as humans on a daily basis. Here in America, we talk less about the runaway slaves, as Harriet Tubman’s and Frederick Douglass’s names are usually brought up but rarely are talked about the Seminole Nation in Florida which not only took in slaves from other tribes but black slaves as well. As is the case, the Seminoles were not the only one nation taking in runaway slaves. There were many all over the world, including Brazil. In Marcelo D’Salete’s brilliant Angola Janga, he tells the story of one of Angola’s greatest runaway slave dominions. One that thrived despite constant threats.

We’re taken to the deathbed of a dying slave owner, who has promised our protagonist, Soares, his freedom but once he realizes that the overseer will deny her wish, he takes matters into his own hands. This is where he hears about Angola Janga, as he and another slave, Osenga, travail the dense forest, dodging slave catchers and whatever hazards the forest poses on anyone who travels there. Eventually, war breaks out between the Portuguese, the Dutch, kingdoms like Angola Janga and other kingdoms of the same ilk, which would be known to history as the Palmares War. It was a conflict that would go on for almost 100 years. As the colonial powers feared slave revolt, the villages that comprised Angola Janga had infighting over whether or not negotiations with the different governments would serve their interests. By book’s end, one of our protagonists ultimately betrays his fellow runaways, a scar that D’Salete brilliantly explores in a scene in present-day Brazil.

Overall, a powerful and well-researched graphic novel that does what most books about bondage rarely do, humanize all the players involved. The story as told by D’Salete is brilliant, scrupulous, and ultimately, heart-wrenching. The art by D’Salete, is awe-inspiring. Altogether, a book that not only stays with you but will open your eyes to other parts of the world.

Story: Marcelo D’Salete Art: Marcelo D’Salete
Story:10 Art:10 Overall:10 Recommendation: Buy