Abina, the important woman.
The graphic novel, Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic Novel, written by Trevor R. Getz and illustrated by Liz Clarke tells the story of Abina Mansah, a young slave girl from the Gold Coast. The author, Getz, created this graphic novel to portray this unheard story of a young woman fighting for her own freedom in a country dominated by men and ruled by white, British men. The author takes use of his own creative expression to portray a determined and passionate individual who will stop at nothing to take control of her own life.
Even the cover of the graphic novel sets up the entire story that will take place. The illustration shows Abina surrounded by many ignorant men with their backs to her. This signifies the ignorance of men in power and the important notion of how history is written. The perspective of the men is all in one direction and that singular understanding is so closed off to the life that women like Abina lived during this time period in western Africa. Also, the title itself puts “the important men” below Abina’s name in a subtitle that, to me, seems sarcastic and purposeful (Getz, 2012).
The novel itself is broken up into five different sections. The first section is the graphic historical representation of her story, then the official transcript, the historical context, a reading guide that develops the definition of a “true” story and “authentic” history, and the use of the story in the classroom. This progression gives scholarly validity to the use of graphic novel to display this story. The historical accuracy of the accounts, such as the documents of the lawyers James Davis and James Hutton Brew that kept an account of the entire court proceedings and their opinions concerning many other cases they worked on. Organizing the historical context and primary documents outside of the graphic novel is ingenious because it allows for the ready to have a deeper understanding of the power behind Abina’s story and the issues that faced women back then. This was a very strong point in the book.
There was an organic story telling feel happening as a read the book, where I felt the characters come alive through the depictions of their actions. I would say that the illustrations are phenomenal and the story is interesting, but I did not prefer the ending of the graphic novel and felt that much of what he was saying was very self-obsessed.
Despite the awkward ending to the graphic novel, I would say that he was a phenomenal artist to create such a snapshot in a time period where such records are so difficult to find. A great example of this snapshot is the depiction of the flogging and logging on page 43 of the novel, where I had no idea what logging was. I like that there is finally a young black protagonist throughout the story that realistically ends with getting knocked down by the system, but having her own victory in her own way.
These issues of power and colonial systems affect the identity of others and a young black child in America can get ahold of these books. Everyone should have a model figure or icon to look up to. This novel gives those kinds of girls that opportunity. I especially enjoyed the breaking of the beads. It is fascinating that such a loss of innocence and youth can be signified in this culture with beads. I am enthralled by the amount of intricacies to the culture of these people and most of the time I wish I were black. I would say that Getz does a completely fabulous job depicting these people in the turmoil of their lives. This was a story that must have been told for so many reasons, one of which is the persistence and dedication to go against the higher system of social structure than you. Abina finds her power through working up the system and convincing others to help in her cause.
Overall, great novel and I enjoyed reading it.
Getz, T. R., & Clarke, L. (2012). Abina and the important men: a graphic history (1st ed). New York: Oxford University Press.