Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Genealogist Antoinette Harrell Tour Museums from the United States to Niger, West Africa

Antoinette looking at Tuareg War Shield
Zinder, West Africa
I have visited many museums throughout the United States, looking at artifacts, special collections and reading rare books. In August of 2004, I traveled to Niger, West Africa-- the homeland where my maternal African Ancestry DNA matches with the Tuareg people of the Sahara Desert. After my arrival in Paris, France, I wanted to visit the museums, archives, libraries, and universities to find any kind of records, artifacts and books that were stolen from Niger after the country were colonized by France. Inside the tall buildings that is guarded by the Gothic gods are rare books and other information that can help me find my way back to my maternal homeland, is guarded by the Gothic gods and it followers. My ancestors and our history lies in the belly of the Gothic beast. Books that is written in the language of my ancestors that I couldn't read, if I did find the books. Before being colonized by he French my ancestors spoke Tamasheq and other native languages before being forced to speak the French language. My ancestors were linguist, people that were skilled in several languages.

Antoinette Harrell at Smith Robertson Museum &
Cultural Center
While attending a meeting in Jackson, Mississippi with Lloyd Lazard and his New Orleans Delegation in Jackson, Mississippi,  we had the opportunity to tour several museums. The International Museum of Muslim Cultures was one of the two that we visit. I was delighted to see artifacts from the Tuareg People of Niger. Looking at the artifacts from the nomadic people of the Sahara Desert took me back in memories to the blacksmith shops and villages where the Tuareg and Berber people made their jewelry, wood carvings and beautiful leather goods.

In the Akan language of Ghana the term Sankofa means, "We must go back to reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we could understand why and how we came to be who we are today." Some also interpret Sankofa to be, no matter how far away one travels they must always return home." Each time I visit any repository, museum, universities and other research facilities, I search for something that will help me reclaim knowledge of self and return me back to the land of my ancestors on the continent of Africa. I really can't say I have a favorite museum because each one of them offer an opportunity to learn something that I didn't know. Are too see original artifacts that tell something about my people and the period in which they lived.

Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center
It is a journey searching for what was stolen from me; knowledge of self, family, books, history, artifacts and land. My maternal great-great grandfather Robert Harrell came to Mississippi as a slave with Levi Harrell and his family where they settled in Amite County, Mississippi in 1803.  While touring Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center  looking at the artifacts, history and agriculture artifacts holds the story behind my Mississippians deep rooted connections.

From Africa to Mississippi, I found my history inside the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center to the lock doors of buildings in Zinder that hold the last piece of jewelry, artifacts that the Tuareg people had taken from them before the were captured and sold into slavery. I will continue to search for my history and knowledge of self. "Know Who You Are Before They Tell You" African Proverb