Moritz Hermann (Mainz): »I am Dandara« – Fiction, History and Gender in the Memory of the Resistance to Colonial Slavery

The archive mirrors the historical unfolding of domination. Therefore the history of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade is also a history of the wiping-out of the historical experiences of the colonized and the enslaved. However, anti-racist movements demand a representation of these suppressed experiences. Because history can often not perform this task adequately as it is dependant upon the archive, art and fiction play an important role in the reconstruction of the memory of the dominated. This article discusses the interplay between history, fiction, art and politics under the special consideration of the dimension of gender in the construction of the memory of the Quilombo of Palmares. Palmares was a community founded by refugee slaves in north-eastern Brazil that resisted the Portuguese colonial power for almost the entirety of the 17th century. In the 20th century, Palmares, its last leader Zumbi and his spouse Dandara, became important symbols for the struggle of black liberation and a means for the redefinition of Brazilian black identity. Dandara in particular represents an experience that has been suppressed at least twice, by gender and by race. Different from Zumbi, she is not documented in historical sources. Instead, she appears to originate in a novel, turning her both into an exemplary figure for the role of fiction in the construction of social memory and a mark for a gap in the archive.