The Hundred Wells of Salaga Summary & Study Guide

Ayesha Harruna Attah
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The Hundred Wells of Salaga Summary & Study Guide Description

The Hundred Wells of Salaga Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Atta, Ayesha Harruna. The Hundred Wells of Salaga. New York: Other Press, 2018.

The Hundred Wells of Salaga, by Ayesha Harruna Attah, opens in late 19th-century precolonial Africa. During that time period, local chiefs and royal families are plagued by infighting. European outsiders are penetrating the continent through alliances, treaties, and promises of friendship.

The author tells the parallel stories of two women, Aminah and Wurche. Aminah is a young girl who is growing up with her family in the idyllic village of Botu. Wurche is the bold and politically astute princess of Salaga-Kpembe. Aminah daydreams about life as a shoemaker like her father instead of bearing children as a local wife. Wurche yearns for a more active role in the court of her father, one of the three lesser chiefs of Salaga-Kpembe.

Aminah hears stories of people being whisked away by men on horses and disappearing. When her father fails to return from a journey selling shoes, Aminah fears the worse. Talk of a potential husband for Aminah arises, and she begs her mother to intervene. One night, Botu is set on fire by slave raiders. Aminah is one of many that is rounded up, shackled, and brought to a slave market. Eventually, she is bought by a farmer.

Meanwhile, Wurche stubbornly resists a marriage alliance her father wishes to make with the Prince of Dagbon. Wurche's father wants the marriage in order to secure his army. The previous head chief has died, and now Wurche’s father and two other lines of the royal family compete to hold the skin that marks the new chief. She acquiesces, hoping it will increase her chance of influencing politics, and passionately warns her father that their problem is the infighting among their people, and to be wary of the British and German colonists who are approaching them with promises of protection and friendship.

Wurche becomes increasingly frustrated, married to a man she cannot love and being continuously brushed off by her father. She begins a passionate affair with a slave raider named Moro. They meet regularly in Salaga in a hut usually used for slave trades. Then, his business brings him to Kete-Krachi, and their affair ends. Soon, Wurche gives birth to a baby boy she names Wumpini. She is unsure of his paternity. Meanwhile, Aminah lives at the farm of her new master with his wives and children, doing household chores during the day and being forced into performing oral sex on him at night. After a few years, her master’s son tries to force himself onto her and she bites him. The farmer takes her back to the market to resell her, and she arrives at the hut in Salaga. A man commits to buying her and she is tied to a tree until he returns with the money to fetch her.

This brings the two threads of the story together. Wurche, who is in Salaga in search of her lover, visits the slave market and sees a beautiful teenage girl. When she inquiries about her, she learns that Moro plans to buy her, but that he has been taking too long to come pay for her. Wurche spontaneously decides to buy her in his absence. The girl introduces herself as Aminah and they go back to Wurche’s home in Kpembe and Aminah is assigned caretaker to Wumpini. Aminah begins to enjoy life with Wurche and her family, who are kind to her, but she still desires her freedom. When Wurche’s husband insists they move to his territory in Dagbon and refuses to grant her permission to aid her father in the political turmoil at home, she takes her chance and flees with Aminah and Wumpini. They ride in haste to Kete-Krachi, a town virtually under the German control, where the rival hair to the chiefdom had fled and set up camp. They move into her old teacher Jaij’s home, and Wurche helps her with her teaching responsibilities and begins a chicken business with Aminah’s help.

A couple years pass, and Aminah grows to love Wumpini as her own child. Meanwhile, they are reunited with Moro. While Wurche hoped their affair would rekindle she watches jealously as he and Aminah develop an unexpected friendship. Over time, Aminah changes Moro’s mind about his business and he comes to regret his role in the slave trade and declares that they were meant to find one another on this path. At the same time, Wurche begins an unexpected friendship with a German named Helmut, who she argues over politics with; she accuses his people of making false promises in an effort to conquer her people, and he defends his work, earnestly believing in the good they are doing in ending slavery, building schools, bridges, roads, etc. Over time, their friendship turns into an affair. One day, Helmut warns Wurche that a group of heavily armed men left for Salaga after learning that her father breached a contract, and she rushes home to help.

Wurche, Aminah, and Wumpini arrive too late and find Salaga burned down, and the family in poor spirits. Back in Kpembe, Wurche gives birth to Helmut’s baby, a little girl with pale skin that she names Babaya. She is chastised by her father for sleeping with his enemy. They learn that Wurche’s brother has been killed, and her father descends into a frenzy, fearing his enemies are closing in on him, and takes his own life. Wurche declares that it is time her people united and that she will lead the women of Salaga in the mission of rebuilding and finding harmony. She grants Aminah her freedom, and Aminah decides to find accept Moro’s invitation to live with him on a farm.

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