This article analyzes the past creation and use of material expressions of core symbols within the diaspora of BaKongo religious beliefs in regions affected by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Utilizing theories concerning modes of symbolic expression, formation and maintenance of social group identities, and the role of individual creativity and innovation, this analysis examines an apparent divergence in the way these creative processes played out at sites in North America, the Caribbean and South America. The use of private, instrumental symbolism is prevalent in artifacts reflecting BaKongo religious beliefs uncovered at African-American sites in North America. This contrasted significantly with the material culture and symbolism of African-American groups in Caribbean and South American locations, such as Haiti and Brazil. In those locations outside the United States, new, highly embellished symbolism was developed out of the blending of diverse African religions, including the BaKongo, Yoruba and Dahomean belief systems. These embellished symbols were often displayed publicly and in ways likely intended to signal new social networks and group identities.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArchaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African diaspora
EditorsAkinwumi Ogundiran, Toyin Falola
Place of PublicationBloomington, IN
PublisherIndiana University Press
ISBN (Print)9780253349194
StatePublished - 2007

Publication series

NameBlacks in the diaspora


  • Archaeology and history
  • Blacks
  • Africa, West
  • African diaspora
  • America
  • Africans
  • Slave trade


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