Baa Salaka: Sacrificial Lamb
(A Book Review & Commentary)
By J. Kpanneh Doe
October 31, 2000
The writing of novels is rather new to the Liberian literary genre. Except for "Murder in the Cassava Patch," a Liberian literary classic, there aren't many others that can be grouped or classified as Liberian literature, or for that matter, constituting a literary tradition. Poetry, short stories, novels, etc., help humanize complex situations, and can capture the heart and soul of a people, a community or nation. While it is fictional, it gives a face and voice to what maybe happening in society.
Dunstan L. D. Macauley, an Engineer turned writer, has written a novel, Baa Salaka: Sacrificial Lamb (published by Xlibris Corporation in the year 2000, 269 pages), that grasps developments in Liberia, which occurred in the very recent past. While it is written as a political novel, by using several other stories, the author brings to light other themes such as discrimination in education, domestic slavery, dissatisfaction in the army, among many others, to give real meaning to why the society was poised for change.
The book's title, Baa Salaka, means sacrifice. It is taken from the Gola language. Discussing the Liberian character, Macauley writes: "The Liberian people are just like that; everyone believes that he must be a big man, nobody want to be "Baa Salaka". If he can't get there, he will not let his friend get there. He will pull everybody down with him."
There is no shortage of characters in the story. But the main characters in the story are Aaron and Cora Ashe of Americo-Liberian pedigree who owned a farm in the countryside; Arthur Duncan, a native son of educated indigenous parents, who was dedicated to change; and Fahn Tamba, born in rural Liberia, who seemed determined to live a better life than his parents who worked hard on the farm of the Ashes, by pursuing education in Monrovia.
As the plot of the story builds, Fahn leaves the countryside to live with the Ashe family in Monrovia in the hope that he can pursue his lifelong dream of becoming educated. Aaron Ashe, the good Samaritan, always showed generosity and respect and motivation to Fahn whenever there was that opportunity. But Cora Ashe, the cantankerous housewife was always condescending and frequently reminded Fahn of his low status in life and his "country" origin. Cora overworked Fahn, basically domesticating him to be responsible for all of the house chores to the point that Fahn had no time to read and study. His mistreatment by Cora included such things as sleeping on the kitchen floor and being the last to eat in the house.
Frustrated by all of the mistreatments, Fahn Tamba decides to leave the Ashes, and whatever hopes he had for pursuing his education were dashed. Encouraged by friends, he joins the Liberian Army and develops a camaraderie with other like-minded friends in a group called the Bad Boys Club (BBC).
Having set his plot, Macauley takes us to other scenes and elements of the story. There is the role of the students, especially those at the University of Liberia, and their agitation for change both on campus and in the larger society. Macauley strikes a revealing conversation between Liberian students studying in the United States who had been exposed to the freedom and democratic nature of the society, and their brethren at home.
Fahn Tamba, now in the army, and who had been friends to several of these students from childhood days, reconnects with them and begins to increase his awareness of the ills of the society, which he had already been acutely aware. In alliance with these students, Fahn begins to plan for the overthrow of the Liberian government.
This is an excellent novel. The plot and character of the story are well-developed.