Elmina Slave Castle

The Elmina slave was first built by the Portuguese (1482), but was taken over by the Dutch(1637), and then the British (1814). The Portuguese were known to have treated their slaves worse than the Dutch or the English. The castle was built about a few miles down the coast of Cape Coast Slave Castle, and there’s a watchtower right up the hill.

When we went to the Cape Coast Slave Castle (Barrack Obama went there on his visit to Ghana) a few months before, we toured it with our entire group. It was very emotional. We had a combination of whites, Africans, and African Americans on our tour. I feel like since everyone knew each other, people felt more comfortable to get emotional.

The Elmina slave castle was known to be more intense tour; it was one of the most popular castles used for slave trade. At its peak, around 30,000 thousand slaves strutted out of the infamous “door of no return” per year.  Even if the castle averaged 10,000 slaves a year, you’re still looking at over 4 million slaves over 400 year stretch. AND THAT’S JUST ONE CASTLE!

Women were asked to lift this 25 kg cannon ball…if they did not succeed they were whipped 40 times.

As we walked the castle, we were brought into large cellblocks that held hundreds of slaves at a time. You could still smell it! The smell of death: a built up of body odor, urine, feces, and lost hope. People talk about slavery occurring so long ago, almost as it’s just a story to learn from. But, being at this castle made it clear how REAL and recent it is.

We were on a group with some other foreigners, and a group of adults that were joking around throughout the tour. That kind of lightened the mood, which was less depressing, but it also hindered our experience. We were told about the female slaves that would be allowed to shower and get clean only so the masters could rape them. We saw the doors that allowed the guards to secretly rape the slaves AGAIN after they had been raped by the head of the castle. So sickening. So gruesome. So sad.

What’s crazy to me is that outside of the slave castle, normal life goes on as if there is no depressing historic sight near by. The town is not built on tourism from these castles at all. At first I didn’t like it. Hundreds of years of suffering, millions of lives lost, generations of enslavement, and unless you stepped foot inside the castle, you would have no idea how disheartening Cape Coast’s history is. Yet, the sight of kids playing , people hanging out by the water, and sailors setting off for a nights work represented freedom. These sights are constant reminders that the past in the past. As important as it is to remember what has happened and to also learn from it, it is also important to move on in life in order to live a life filled with freedom. The workers outside of the Elmina slave castle may not live a luxurious life, but they’re finally free. Free from European rule. More importantly, they are free from enslavement.

Cape Coast is filled with churches and other buildings built by the Dutch, Portuguese, or the English. Those tall buildings serve as a reminder to all of the people of Ghana how far they’ve come.

All love.

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

(continued)

So, I woke up feeling refreshed, (despite the fact I just shared a bed with two guys), and we decided it may be nice to get a nice, sit down breakfast at our hotel. The prices were a little pricey (about $2-$3 USD each), but we decided it may be worth it. We sat and waited by ourselves for about eight minutes at the restaurant, and then BAM! What do you know? They actually did have a server working! He gave us our options and we ordered promptly. How long does it take to fry eggs and toast bread? Apparently, over 50 minutes. I bet I could fry bread and toast eggs in 50 minutes, and still have time to update my Twitter, Facebook, 4square, and Instagram! (I’m getting paid for those product placements). We sat and waited and then finally ate our mediocre breakfast.

Next, we called our friends, WonderBoy and Ben, who we had met the night before. Ben was a mute, yet he still kept calling my friend, Tom, even though he couldn’t even talk. We weren’t sure what he was saying, or, if he was even saying anything, so we starting walking in their direction to meet them. On the way, we passed by a few foods that looked new to us. After buying them and eating them, we realized we had eaten it before (better quality, too). Eventually, we met up with them in town and they guided us a “parade” they had told us about the night before. We crammed into a tiny cab and got dropped off at some random, outdoor, neighborhood/village/ceremonial spot.

We got there and had NO IDEA what to expect. We followed our guides, and they walked us through to the “parade”. This was nothing like a parade. Everyone was dressed in traditional, African wear. It turned out to be some tribal ceremony that honored the Voodoo master of the village. Everyone stared at us (we didn’t look like we belonged to their tribe), but we still felt pretty welcomed. Little kids ran up to me and practiced their English, “Obruni! How are you?!” We caught a glimpse of the ceremony. Apparently, for an instant, these two people lost complete control of themselves and were possessed by some spirit. Then, people dumped water on them and grabbed them to bring them back. CRAZY STUFF.

Words can’t really describe this ceremony; here’s a video:

After that was over, we were actually introduced to the Voodoo man of their village. I had to pay 1 GH cedi to meet him, but it was worth it. He even let me take a “” with him. They also had a pot of liquid that was being prepared for the pouring of .

Then, we went to a little bar spot and waited for the rest of the “parade”. Wonderboy told us that more people were coming. He was right. About an hour later, we headed back to find quite the festival. It felt like the true cultural experience I had wished for. Drumming! !

It was like a break dancing circle, anyone could go in whenever they wanted. Except instead of a small circle, there was a huge crowd and banging drums surrounding you.

Our friend Wonderboy did his thing:

People kept going in the middle, each dance was unique, creative, and AWESOME. I encouraged my friends, “C’mon…we GOTTA GO in there.” But, it was a bit intimidating. Actually, VERY INTIMITADING. Everyone knew there were white people there. But, everyone that went into the center was GOOD! Ryan broke the ice, and STOLE THE SHOW:

After watching him get jiggy with an old African lady, I figured I had nothing to lose. I danced in the middle for about 45 seconds. I included some African moves (with a little awkward uncoordinated twist to em), I added in, and tried to keep with the drums. Unfortunately (or fortunately…depending on how embarrassing I looked), it wasn’t captured on video. .

Ryan got back in there and did a (check out his form!)

This might have been my favorite experience in my entire stay of Ghana, and possibly the coolest cultural experience I’ve ever had. Some people went in the middle and just did crazy acrobatic stunts! A guy just went in to the center and did like 5 back handsprings in a row! Then these guys showed off their talents:

After the “parade” was over, our rasta friends asked us if we wanted to “ease our mind” in memory of the ancestors. They lead us to a cemetery, but we didn’t want to “ease our mind”. We left, as some rastas stayed behind and partook in their cannabis traditions while sitting on . Interesting tradition for honoring their ancestors.

From there, we headed back to the Cape Coast Slave Castle restaurant so we could meet the drummers that we missed the day before. However, when we got there, unfortunately, we came across a new road bump…

. . . . .!!!