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

So…….

picking up where I left off….we just left a crazy festival with spectacular drumming and dancing. Here’s an AMAZING video to refresh your memories:

 

We took a taxi to go back to the cape castle restaurant. About 2 minutes after getting out of the taxi, my friend, Ryna, realized his wallet was missing! We looked everywhere, asked everyone that was in sight, but still couldn’t figure out where it was.

 

We asked everyone in site; still no solution. Our friends, Wonderboy and Ben seemed to point the finger at some guy who had a bad record and was known as a thief. We debated going to the police, but Wonderboy said the police could only help us if we told them who stole the wallet (we didn’t know), and if we gave them a gift. Then, they would go and try to retrieve it.

 

Wonderboy confronted the boy and accused him of stealing Ryan’s wallet, though he denied it. They went back and fourth yelling at each other in their tribal language. Ryan explained to this boy (in English) that he was not accusing him, but I think Wonderboy was putting words in his mouth. Wonderboy suggested that we go to the Voodoo man with the boy and ask the Voodoo doctor if the boy was lying or not. If we did that, the Voodoo man could solve all problems. But, we would have to pay him a gift to achieve such result. We didn’t think that was necessary.

 

After 5-10 minutes of progressive arguments, the boy walked across the street to what appeared to be his friends/family for their help. Next thing you know, Wonderboy is yelling and screaming at 5-10 Ghanaians. We had NO idea what was going on and what they were saying. Have you ever been a bystander of a huge altercation taking place in a different language, but their arguing ABOUT YOU!? We were so lost, but we could tell it was getting intense.

 

Ryan kept explaining that he wasn’t accusing anyone. Everything hit the fan when the boy grabbed a full bottle of soda, held it up, and started screaming. He opened it and started dumping out the liquid as he roared. We assumed he was casting some spell of some sort, but who knows? He then, shattered the bottle on the ground and continued to yell.

 

At this point we were pretty shocked and freaked out, so we decided to cut our losses and move on. Wonderboy apologized to us and said he swore that he knew the boy was a lying thief, but we all wanted to drop it. We scurried across the street and grabbed a taxi and made our to the Elmina Slave Castle.

 

We asked Wonderboy what a good price was, and he negotiated with the driver in their tribal language. The price seemed to be a little high, but we didn’t know how far it was from where we were. He charged us about $6 USD, which was WAY TOO MUCH. I knew we got ripped off when I saw the taxi driver give Wonderboy a cedi. “EVERYDAY I’M HUSTLIN!” It was hurtful to know that Wonderboy had scammed us on a cedi, especially since he had been so helpful and nice during our stay there.

 

That was always an issue when meeting awesome while traveling people in Ghana. They want to be your friends and love to show you around, but they find ways to make money off you, or make you pay for their food/transportation. Sometimes it was straightforward, i.e. “Can you please give me some small money so I can take a taxi home”. Other times it was subtle.

 

We got to the castle and joined a tour with some other foreigners. We had already been to the Cape Coast Slave castle a few months before, but the tour of this castle was known to be a different experience….

A sad one in that, so stay tuned for the next post. I’ll warn you, it might be a bit gruesome.

 

All love always,

 

Jeremy Kwabena