Dorothy Montgomery's "A Wa Ka" Quilt
A powerful reunion
This quilt, made by South Carolina fabric chronicler, author, and musician Dorothy Montgomery, depicts a powerful reunion. In 1997, two women separated by many miles and very diverse life experiences mingled their tears and sang a song connecting them across time, the horrors of slavery, and the dramatic changes suffered by Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mary Moran of Harris Neck, Georgia, and Baindu Jabati of Senehun Ngola, Sierra Leone, stood side by side at a grave singing a funeral song that returned to Africa 200 years after traveling to America with an enslaved Mende woman. Moran learned the “A Wa Ka” song from her mother, Amelia Dawley, and in 1932, Lorenzo Dow Turner recorded Dawley singing it. In the 1990s, scholars Joseph Opala, Cynthia Schmidt, and Tazieff Koroma discovered the recording at the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University and brought the two women together.