• In our language the word for the sea means “the spirit that returns”
    Adjoa Armah

Saman Archive, “Visitors at Cape Coast Castle,” ca. 1990s. Digitized photographic negative. Courtesy Saman Archive, Cape Coast, Ghana. Photo: Asante 'Obra Photo' Joseph

Through a series of essays and ethnographic vignettes, this research illuminates the cartographies of Black being and becoming, African spiritual life, geographic articulations, and spatial consciousnesses. The project takes the form of a journey from Fort Apollonia (1768), Beyin, to Fort Prizenstein (1784), Keta. The approximately 330 miles of the Ghanaian coast that separates these sites contains more forts than anywhere else on the African continent—with over 50 at the height of the trade in the eighteenth century. This project traces the entanglements of the spiritual and cultural histories of each of the sites with the economic and philosophical functions of the forts. It explores how one may write for the consciousness of The Door of No Return—part of the technical apparatus of the construction of the Black subject—in ways that account for both those that passed through and those that did not.

Adjoa Armah is a Ghanaian born multidisciplinary arts practitioner based between London and Cape Coast, Ghana. Her practice draws heavily on her background as a visual/design anthropologist, archivist, and writer. In 2015, Armah founded Saman, a growing archive of photographic negatives—currently at over 100,000 images—collected across Ghana. Named Saman after the Akan word used for both the photographic negative and ghost, the ghost is a guiding conceptual figure in Armah's practice. Her research is focused on technology and Black ontologies, particularly the role of cartography as a colonizing technology, the possibilities of its use for liberatory aims, and the movements and transformations of Black spiritual technologies across the Atlantic. In 2019, Armah was named first writer-in-residence at Afterall journal and in 2020 she was a resident artist at Gasworks, London. Armah is also associate lecturer in fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and researcher at Black Atlantic Museum, a Paul Mellon Centre funded transversal mapping of art and social movements hosted on the Afterall Art School platform.