Cape Coast Castle
THE HORRORS OF THE TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
Photo : Wiki Commons
Cape Coast is one of the most popular touristic cities in Ghana. Travelers enjoy lying at the beach, eating local seafood and buying colourful souvenirs. The adventurous go exploring the ‘Kakum National Park’, one of the most diverse and best preserved national parks in West Africa.
One site many tourists are interested in visiting is the Cape Coast Castle. Today, it functions as an Ethnography and Archeological Museum, established in 1974. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated the building a World Heritage Site.
Cape Coast was founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Over the centuries the city was under the control of the British, the Portuguese, the Swedish, the Danish and the Dutch.
Originally, the castle was built mainly for trade but was later used for the trans-Atlantic slave trade; the latter has left marks that are still visible.
After having entered the castle, guides show the site to different groups of tourists, explain its history while trying to give them an understanding of one of humanity’s dark sides. In a small exhibition one learns about the historical background of Cape Coast and its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Still, the cruel treatment of the captivated African men, women, children seems the most realistic when the travelers are guided into the dark dungeons below ground. In here, a total of one thousand slaves were kept imprisoned simultaneously.
They were held in these dungeons up to four months without daylight, squeezed between hundreds of others. They had to sit, sleep, and eat in their own excretions. If still alive after the captivity in the dungeons, they were walked through the ‘Gate of no Return’, loaded onto ships and traded onto a foreign continent.
The writer Hans-Friedrich Bergmann once pointed out the impossibility to create a future without knowing the past.
The essential element regarding the tour was the importance of hearing about the past. It is crucial to pass on information in order to ensure that these dark sides will not be repeated. The guide closes with, “There is no black and white. There is only humankind.”
Later that day, the travelers are back at the beach. A refreshing cocktail in one hand and a smile on the sunburned faces, it is obvious that they are purely enjoying their vacation. They appear to feel unburdened, something that might seem insensitive and inappropriate after hearing about unimaginable cruelty to humankind.
From time to time, however, some of them turn their heads slightly to the left where Cape Coast Castle stands. A sad look crosses their faces and it becomes clear, that even surrounded by all the joyful and entertaining offers, the history of Cape Coast Castle shall not be forgotten.