FOR AFRICAN SLAVES, DRUMS ‘POWERFUL SYMBOL’ OF FREEDOM LOST, STRUGGLE TO REGAIN IT, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, AT HEADQUARTERS EXHIBIT

24 March 2009
SG/SM/12150

FOR AFRICAN SLAVES, DRUMS ‘POWERFUL SYMBOL’ OF FREEDOM LOST, STRUGGLE TO REGAIN IT, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, AT HEADQUARTERS EXHIBIT

24 March 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12150
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

FOR AFRICAN SLAVES, DRUMS ‘POWERFUL SYMBOL’ OF FREEDOM LOST, STRUGGLE

TO REGAIN IT, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, AT HEADQUARTERS EXHIBIT

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening of the exhibition in conjunction with the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in New York, 24 March:

Tomorrow is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

“Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum” is the theme of this year’s observance.

Drums from Cameroon and other African countries accompanied slaves on their terrifying journey. 

Once in the New World, African slaves kept their heritage alive through drumming.  The drums symbolized the freedom they had lost and their struggle to regain it.

Whether carried by slaves, or later on, by influential African artists like Babatunde Olatunji, drums have provided a way for people of African descent to share their culture -– with each other, and the world. 

The rhythms of Africa have crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic many times since the dark days of slavery.  They have enriched our world.

The United Nations is delighted to be able to showcase this fascinating exhibition on drums and their role in the history of slavery.

We thank the Government of Cameroon, which has sponsored this exhibit.

We particularly acknowledge the effort made to collect different types of drums throughout Cameroon and to ship them to New York.  I warmly welcome the delegation from Cameroon that has joined us for this opening.

This exhibition would not have been complete without the support provided by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 

For the second year in a row, the Schomburg Center has partnered with the United Nations for a major exhibition on the theme of slavery.  Last year’s was on the Amistad.  This year, we are very grateful for their contribution to this drum exhibit.

We also thank the New York-based Caribbean Cultural Center.  They have helped us learn more about the journey of the drum from Africa to the Americas.

We are particularly grateful to the widow and family of Babatunde Olatunji, the late master drummer from Nigeria, for lending one of his special drums.

Finally, we thank Member States of the Caribbean community and those of the African Union for their support and commitment. 

The drum makes a powerful sound.  It is a powerful symbol.

Drums have provided the pulse of our history, and they continue to help us celebrate our common humanity.

We must beat the drum to proclaim that whatever our colour, whatever our gender, we are one people, with one common future. 

Let us ensure that that future is one of peace, respect and freedom.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.