Monday, March 21, 2022

Anni Domingo Interview - Breaking the Maafa Chain

Photo Content from Anni Domingo

Anni Domingo is an actress, director and writer. She is currently a lecturer in Drama and Directing at St. Mary's University in Twickenham and Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. Anni's poems and short stories have been published in various anthologies and an extract from Breaking the Maafa Chain won the Myriad Editions First Novel competition and was featured in the New Daughters of Africa anthology edited by Margaret Busby.


Publisher: Pegasus Books (February 1, 2022)
Length: 480 pages
ISBN13: 9781643139265


"[Breaking the Maafa Chain] is powerful in detailing the cruelties of the transatlantic slave trade, and sensitive and intimate in its portrayal of the girls’ struggles to maintain their dignity and hold on to the memories of their African heritage. With descriptions rich in sensory details, a narrative that forms a swift, irreversible current, and conversations imbued with emotion, Anni Domingo’s story of the Maafa, the African Holocaust, is unforgettable." —Foreword Reviews, starred review

“The story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, extraordinary even in extraor­dinary times, known to some in Sierra Leone, though virtually unknown elsewhere. Now Anni Domingo has brought her vividly to life in this richly imagined and compellingly told tale. Breaking the Maafa Chain is a gift to readers everywhere.” —Aminatta Forna author of The Window Sea

“Part fact, part fiction, Breaking the Maafa Chain is an important book, beautifully told. Domingo’s premise is a bold and uncom­promising one—taking what is known, the story of Salimatu, the ‘Black Princess’, Sarah Forbes Bonetta, and weaving through it the story of her fictionalized sister, Fatmata, Faith. Domingo makes an eloquent point: that although the sisters suffered different fates, both were unfree: Fatmata enslaved in North America and Salimatu gifted to Queen Victoria, and utterly at her whim. It is a story that has resonance today, where Meghan Markle was expected to shape herself to a white institution, to belong.” —Guinevere Glasfurd author of The Year Without Summer

“Anni Domingo brings great sensitivity to her fictionalized account of the remarkable young life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the ‘African Princess’, who became a god-daughter to Queen Victoria. The internal struggles of Salimatu (Sarah) are movingly explored as she struggles to remain true to her identity as an African after being taken from her homeland and brought to England as a gift from ‘the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.’ A comparable story is told of Salimatu’s sister Fatmata (Faith) who is transported to the United States before emancipation. Carefully constructed with a keen eye for historical accuracy, Domingo reveals a compas­sionate and affectionate Queen Victoria who is devoted to her African god-daughter. This is also an epic story of two sisters who are separated towards the end of the transatlantic slave trade, but never forget each other.” —Stephen Bourne author of War to Windrush and Evelyn Dove

“Anni Domingo’s Breaking the Maafa Chain is so rich in detail and dialogue; it is simply seductive. She captures so well, a little girl, Salimatu, who recalls the security of her family life, who is trans­ported to a bewildering future in England to become Sarah, where she has to stand strong and survive. Not only will this book be read for the sheer enjoyment of a beautifully written novel, but for the learning gained. It is a historical novel that cannot be ignored.” —Kadija Sesay literary activist and author of Irki

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I learned that you must never give up, that one can go on learning until the day they die

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
One of the most rewarding experiences was being chased down by an old lady in her motorised wheel chair so that she could tell me how much she was enjoying the novel and how it was showing her what kind of lives black people lived in Victorian times.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Write the book you would want to read.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Beloved by Toni Morrison

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am currently working on OMINIRA sequel to BREAKING THE MAAFA CHAIN.

In your newest book; BREAKING THE MAAFA CHAIN, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Breaking the Maafa Chain tells the story of two sisters, Fatmata and Salimatu, captured during a raid on their African village and sold separately. sold into slavery. It is based on the true story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the girl who starts out as Salimatu a slave but ends up a princess and goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her sister Fatmata, however, is transported via the ‘middle passage’ into slavery in South Carolina where she becomes Faith and was forced to bear her masters children. The story moves from Africa, South Carolina to Victorian England, where both Fatmata/Faith and Salimatu/Sarah end up, still searching for each other.

It is narrated, from two points of view, that of Fatmata/Faith and Salimatu/Sarah. The novel deals with themes of loss, survival, hope, identity, and tradition, against bitterest odds. It explores the different lifestyles experienced by the sisters after their capture, following Fatmata/Faith and Salimatu/Sarah’s journey to find out who is truly enslaved.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want my readers to think about fate, about how life can be change in a moment that is not of our choosing. Most of all I want them top think and feel for Sarah and Faith.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I enjoyed writing the awakening of each character as they begin to know themselves and articulate it. I was interested in seeing their strengths and how they tried to overcome their various tragedies.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing BREAKING THE MAAFA CHAIN?
An unforgettable moment was the appearance of Absalom. Her insisted on being part of the story no matter how much I tried to ignore him. He wrote himself into the story.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would have loved to introduce Absalom to Maluma. It would be interesting to have them discuss their feelings about Fatmata/Faith. Seen from different parts of her life.

  • Sarah is based on a true character.
  • Captain Forbes is a real character.
  • Faith is a fictional character.
  • Talaremba is a fictional village.
  • It took me seven years to finish the novel
  • Breaking the Maafa Chain has won several literary awards.
  • Queen Victoria was extremely fond of Sarah.
  • Sarah and Princess Alice became best friends.
  • There is a sequel to Breaking the Maafa Chain.
  • Maafa is the Swahili word for ‘African Holocaust’
Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
A unique item in my wallet is an old English one pound note. My mother gave it to me years ago saying I must always make sure I have money in my wallet so that I can get home. It is no longer legal tender, and a cab would be more than a pound, but I keep it in my wallet because it is from my mother, and it makes me smile whenever I see it.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I think that everyone should go on a retreat entirely on their own, even if it is only fora few days. It gives you time to be with your true self.

Best date you've ever had?
The best date I ever had was with my future husband. We met on holiday in Greece and on returning to England he invited me to dinner at a lovely restaurant. During the meal they played many songs we had danced to in Greece. Gradually I realised that he had phoned the restaurant and gave them a list of songs they should play during our meal. What a date!

What event in your life would make a good movie?
A great event would be my debut as Mammy in the musical ‘Gone with the Wind’ in the West End. The journey from Africa through College to that event would make a good movie.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
I was born in London and now live seventy-five miles away in a small Cambridgeshire village.

First Heartbreak?
My first heartbreak was the death of my pet monkey. He was killed in a road accident. I missed him terribly because he went everywhere with me. I even took him in to school once. My principal was angry and banned me from ever doing it again.

A richly imagined story of two sisters' struggle for true freedom in the mid-nineteenth century as their paths diverge in the middle passage—one to the court of Queen Victoria, the other to an American plantation.

Salimatu and her sister Fatmata are captured, sold to slavers, renamed and split apart. Forced to change their names to Sarah and Faith, they end up on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Faith is taken to America, where slavery is still legal and she is stripped of all rights. Sarah ends up in Victorian England and as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Can the two sisters reclaim their freedom and identity in a world that is trying to break them down? Will these once inseparable sisters survive without each other? And if they do find each other again, will they find the other changed beyond recognition?

Based on the true story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, Breaking the Maafa Chain is by turns epic and intimate and will take the readers on a journey of loss, survival, and hope.

You can purchase Breaking the Maafa Chain at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ANNI DOMINGO for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of BREAKING THE MAAFA CHAIN by Anni Domingo.
1 Winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card.
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