Door of no return.

Once a quiet fishing village, today Takoradi is one of the busiest ports in West Africa. It is a main shipping port for container ships and oil tankers. But it was once one of the many locations of the transatlantic slave trade. We went to visit the old Portuguese slave depots here, ironically called “castles”. But what a cruel joke, because castles they were not! Both Cape Coast Castle and Elmira Castle were the places the slaves were held after being sold, until they were put onto ships and taken to the Caribbean and the Americas. They both looked like forts to me, but whatever you wish to call them, they were places of cruelty, brutality and horrible injustice against human beings. After being bought, they were branded like animals with their “owners” identification. No human should ever have to endure what these people endured. It breaks your heart to walk through these rooms and think about what atrocities occurred here. You can almost feel the suffering still within these walls.

The slaves were held in stone rooms, dungeons,with no bathroom facilities except a small trench running down the middle of the cell. There were no washing facilities and they were packed up to 150 people in these stone cells and upwards of 1000 slaves within the building. They did number two in the corners of these dungeons. There were very small windows high up on the wall which let in some air and very little light. Men and women were kept in separate dungeons, But the women were no better off. They had the same trench to take care of bathroom needs and can you imagine how horrible it would be when they had their periods. The weather is hot in this area, so you can imagine the stench and filth they had to live in.

A bathroom trench in one of the cells.

From time to time when a general or some higher up decided he wanted a woman. One of the the women would be chosen and taken out to a well in the courtyard and “cleaned” up and then taken to this man who could do whatever he wished with her. If she refused, she was put into solitary confinement. Also, anyone who dared start trouble or try to organize a revolt was thrown into solitary confinement and left there with no food or water until they died.

Solitary confinement where no one came out alive.

When the ships came to pick them up, the slaves were shackled and led through underground tunnels to the “door of no return”. The conditions on the ships were not much better than in the “castle”. They were packed in like sardines and many died long before they ever reached North and South America. I was surprised to learn that the largest number of slaves went to Brazil, followed by North Carolina in the USA and many ended up in the Caribbean.

Elmina, the larger of the two castles, today is a UNESO World Hertiage site, as is Cape Coast Castle. It was chilling to walk through these two buildings where you could almost feel the suffering within these walls still today. LEST WE FORGET!

Fishing from shore.

Fishing is still a large part of their daily routine. They cast nets from the shore and then haul them in by hand. They do not fish on Tuesdays because of spiritual reasons. They believe that one day a week you should not “disturb the sea”. It also provides time for the fishermen to mend their nets etc.

We ended out visit to Takoradi with a lovely luncheon served by the sea and we were entertained by a talented drumming group.

Lunch at the beach with the drummers.

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