Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cape Coast

Cape Coast castle was built by the British and from 1790 was one of the largest slave holding sites in the world, similar in many dreadful ways to St George’s Castle at Elmina. The dungeons were just as dark and airless and inadequate for the numbers entombed in them. They are both painted white and shine beautifully in the sunshine under an azure blue sky. All that didn’t feel right really.

Cape Coast has a Palaver Hall where bartering for slaves took place. I imagine the atmosphere in there was very much a “Palaver” and most distressing at the time. It is now an art gallery! Both castles have a “Gate of no Return” where slaves were pushed through to waiting ships to transport them thousands of miles across oceans. From one hell hole to another….. a floating one. Many of the slaves were traded for alcohol and guns with  the British by Ashanti tribes people.

When the guide opened the gate we found ourselves in the middle of a thriving fishing community. Nets were being mended and boats prepared for their next trip. A hive of activity in a newer more positive world.

 The difference between the two fortresses is that at Cape Coast the large wooden door has been renamed “The Gate of Return” after the remains of 2 slaves, Samuel Carson from USA and Crystal from Jamaica were  returned through this gate in 1998 for re-burial at Assim Manso, the site of the slaves last bath in Ghana, on the road to Kumasi.

We visited this village, a second time for me, to see the graves, the river and to imagine the horrors, including the noise of bellowing slave drivers and clanking of heavy shackles. Richard showed us around. He claimed his English was not good enough, but with constant encouragement he succeeded in giving us detailed information in a way that demonstrated his deep feelings about the injustice surrounding the treatment of his ancestors. We learnt a lot and so did he. His confidence took a huge boost as did his pocket in tips of reward.

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