Truth and Reconciliation: Ghana, Day 3
Alyssa and I woke up early in order to hit up the breakfast buffet and hop back on the bus to make our way to the slave castle in Cape Coast. We drove through the town and enjoyed the sight of the colorful flags and fishing boats that crammed the coast, overshadowed by the imposing white walls of Cape Coast Slave Castle. The castle was originally built in 1653 by the Swedes, and was later conquered by the Danes and then finally the British. It was originally used as a fort and then later more famously for use in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We were given a walking tour of the grounds, and we were taken into the male and female dungeons and cells where the slaves were kept before they passed through the Door of No Return to cross the Middle Passage.
I snapped lots of photos of the castle and dungeons, but refused to be in any of them myself. It felt inappropriate to be in a slave dungeon smiling away. The tour was moving and eye-opening, and I felt the need to just apologize the whole time I was there. It was incredibly interesting however, and it really gave me a sense that American history, even hundreds of years ago, was tied up in matters occurring on the other side of the world. I had no idea Ghana even existed before this trip, but now I see it is intrinsically linked to American history.
We felt all kinds of stains from the human horrors that were committed in the past. We walked on a floor that was petrified human feces that the slaves were made to sleep in. We saw the cells where they waited to die. We saw the Door of No Return, where they passed through to their doom. The Ghanaians erected a plaque commemorating Obama’s visit next to a dungeon. Fun fact: Ghana was the first African country he visited after he was inaugurated, not the more-populated Nigeria or Kenya, the last of his family, due to the fact that Ghana had achieved Africa’s most stable democracy.
Next we were taken to Elmina Slave Castle, the oldest sub-Saharan structure in Africa, where we were once again taken on a walking tour. The castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, and then later controlled by the Dutch and the British. The same horrors were repeated at Elmina Castle that we saw at Cape Coast Castle: cells, dungeons, chains. This one had a new horror, a place where the governor could look upon the female slaves and select one to be escorted to his bedroom to do with as he pleased. The effect was the same as Cape Coast Castle, a moving sort of quiet contemplation that made me want to apologize.
After seeing the castle, we got back on the bus and headed to lunch. The place was nice and the food was good, and I was glad to have some quiet time to think about what I had seen. When we had all discussed it and came to the conclusion that we were glad to have seen it, we boarded the bus yet again and headed back to our floating reprieve from the poverty and overwhelming sense that we really don’t know what is going on in the world when we’re shopping for sweaters for our dogs and yet another pair of earrings.