Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle (Source: Ghana.nl)

Inner courtyard at Elmina Castle (Source: Ghana.nl)

Inner courtyard at Elmina Castle (Source: Ghana.nl)

The Elmina Castle is one of the 30 slave forts along the coasts of Ghana. It was built in 1482 by Portuguese traders on the site of a town called Amankwa or Amankwakurom. It was the first European slave-trading post in all of sub-saharan Africa. The Portuguese gave it the name of São Jorge da Mina, or St. George’s of the mine, or simply “Elmina” (the mine). At four storeys high, it was one of the most imposing coastal forts, and for many years the largest one. It was originally build by the Portuguese as a warehouse to protect the gold trade, but later it became the center of the Dutch slave trade, after its capture by the Dutch in 1637. The British attacked the city in 1782, but it remained in Dutch hands until 1872, when the Dutch Gold Coast was sold to the British.

16th Century map of West Africa with Fort Elmina

16th Century map of West Africa with Fort Elmina

Slaves were typically captured inland, and then brought to the fort on an arduous journey that often lasted many days. Half of all captives did not even make it to the coast. Once at the fort, the slaves would wait, often for a long period of time ranging from 3-9 months, until a ship arrived. Imagine waiting in crammed conditions, packed in cells like sardines for 3 or more months!

Painting of Elmina Castle in 1668; notice the ships and sea in the front

Painting of Elmina Castle in 1668; notice the ships and sea in the front

Elmina, like other West African slave fortresses, housed luxury suites for the Europeans in the upper levels. The slaves were kept in cramped and filthy cells below, each cell often housing as many as 200-600 people at a time, without enough space to even lie down. Staircases led directly from the spacious governor’s chambers on the third level to the women’s cells below, making it easy for him to select personal concubines from amongst the women to “service him” every night.

There was also a discipline cell for “freedom fighters” : those who disobeyed were shut in this cell until they suffocated or starved to death. Ironically, Elmina also held Christian church services for the Europeans, on the second floor of the castle.

Slave holding cell in Elmina (Wikimedia Commons - KD)

Slave holding cell in Elmina (Wikimedia Commons – KD)

On the seaboard side of the castle was the Door of No Return, the infamous portal through which slaves boarded the ships that would take them on the treacherous journey across the Atlantic ocean known as the Middle Passage. At Elmina, the door of no return was a child-size window that slaves squeezed through to board the ship.

British bombing of Elmina - 13 June 1873

British bombing of Elmina – 13 June 1873

By the 18th century, at least 30,000 slaves on their way to the Americas had passed through Elmina each year. That is 30,000 slaves each year for at least 250 years: about 7.5 millions! Appalling!!

Today, Elmina’s economy is sustained by tourism and fishing. Elmina Castle is preserved as a Ghanaian national museum and the monument was designated as a World Heritage Monument under UNESCO in 1979. It is a place of pilgrimage for many African Americans seeking to connect with their long lost heritage. Enjoy the video below which is very educational!

 

Posted by: humilityjoy | November 24, 2014

Reclaiming African History: Slavery and its Ugly Head

Slave ships

Slave ships

I am going to start a series on reclaiming our history. I will be talking about slave forts across Africa. There were over 30 slave forts in Ghana only. How many in other countries? We will find out through this exercise. These fortified trading posts were built between 1482 and early 1800s by Portuguese, British, Swedish, English, Danish, Dutch, and French traders that plied the African coast. Initially, they had come in search of gold (in Ghana), ivory (in Ivory Coast), pepper (along the Pepper Coast) and then later, they discovered cheap labor: thus was born the slave trade. There was intense rivalry between those European powers for the control of the West African coast from Senegal, to as far south as Angola.

Slave capture

Slaves marching after capture

It is estimated that over 20 million Africans were sold into slavery during the Atlantic slave trade; this does not account for those who died during the trip aboard the ship (about 1/3), and those who were killed during the capture. Slaves were taken to North America, the Caribbeans, and Brazil. Moreover, this is an estimate for the transatlantic slave trade only, but did you know that slaves were also taken by Arabic sailors from the East Coast of Africa, to places like Saudi Arabia and as far as India?

The Transatlantic slave trade

The Transatlantic slave trade

The Portuguese began dealing in black slaves from Africa in the 15th century. Initially, they purchased slaves from Islamic traders, who had established inland trading routes to the sub-Sahara region. Later, as the Portuguese explored the coast of Africa, they came upon the Senegal River, and found that they could purchase slaves directly from Africans. The European slave trading activity moved south along the African coast over time, as far south as Angola. On the east coast of Africa and in the Indian Ocean region, slaves were also taken from Mozambique, Zanzibar and Madagascar. Many of the slaves were from the interior of Africa, having been taken captive as a result of tribal wars, or else having been kidnapped by black slave traders engaged in the business of trading slaves for European goods. These slaves would be marched to the coast to be sold, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. Many perished along the way. The captured Africans were held in forts or slave castles along the coast. They remained there for months crammed in horrible conditions inside dungeons for months before being shipped on board European merchant ships chained at the wrists and legs with irons, to North America, Brazil, and the West Indies.

Slaves on board a ship

Slaves on board a ship

African rulers were instrumental in the slave trade, as they exchanged prisoners of war (rarely their own people) for firearms which in turn allowed them to expand their territories. The slave trade had a profound effect on the economy and politics of Africa, leading in many cases to an increase in tension and violence, as many kingdoms were expanding.

Inspection of slave for sale

Inspection of slave for sale

The slave trade was responsible for major disruption to the people of Africa. Women and men were taken young, in their most productive years, thus damaging African economies. The physical experience of slavery was painful, traumatic and long-lasting. We know this from the written evidence of several freed slaves. Captivity marked the beginning of a dehumanizing process that affected European attitudes towards African people. Can you imagine losing 1/3 or more of your active population? It is hard to fathom what crippling effect that will have on any country’s progress. That is why, in upcoming months, I will be talking and trying to identify slave forts in Africa, in an attempt to reclaim our history. I know this is a touchy subject, but it is history: the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the joyous. It is important to know history in order to be able to claim the future fully, without any baggage.

Vulture / Vautour

Vulture / Vautour

A child who does not listen to his parents listens to the vultures (Tswana Proverb – Botswana, South Africa).

Un enfant qui n’écoute pas ses parents écoute les vautours (Proverbe Tswana – Botswana, South Africa).

Posted by: humilityjoy | November 17, 2014

Why the Name: Gaborone?

'The No1 Ladies Detective Agency' by Alexander McCall Smith

‘The No1 Ladies Detective Agency’ by Alexander McCall Smith

Many of you have probably heard about Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, from the book series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith.  The series follows Precious Ramotswe, the first female private detective in Botswana, and the mysteries that she solves; her agency is based in Gaborone.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what the name Gaborone actually meant?

Map of Botswana (Lonely Planet)

Map of Botswana

Gaborone was the name of the Chief of the Batlokwa, Kgosi Gaborone, who left the Magaliesberg to settle in the area around 1880, and called the settlement Moshaweng.  Moshaweng meant ‘place where the river’s sand has washed out.’  Today, Moshaweng has been renamed Tlokweng, or Place of the Batlokwa, and is located on the east of the Notwane river, facing the Village.  Gaborone was then known as Chief Gaborone’s village.  His name itself, Gaborone, meant ‘it does not fit badly or ‘it is not unbecoming.’  The city was then called Gaberones by European settlers.  Tlokweng was across the river from the Government Camp, the name of the British colonial headquarters.  In 1890, Cecil John Rhodes picked Gaberones to house a colonial fort.  The fort was where Rhodes planned the Jameson Raid.

Aerial View of Gaborone

Aerial View of Gaborone

In 1965, the capital of the Bechuanaland Protectorate was moved from Mafeking in South Africa to Gaberones.  When Botswana gained independence on 30 September 1966 from Great Britain, Lobatse was considered as the first choice for the nation’s capital.  However, Gaberones was chosen over Lobatse because of its proximity to fresh water, its proximity to the railway to Pretoria (South Africa), its central location among the central tribes, and its lack of association with those surrounding tribes: it was a sort of ‘neutral ground.’  The city changed its name from Gaberones to Gaborone in 1969.  Meanwhile, Chief Gaborone had died in 1932, aged about 106 years old; he never saw the capital of his country take his name.

National Assembly of Botswana (in Gaborone)

National Assembly of Botswana (in Gaborone)

Geographically, Gaborone is situated between Kgale and Oodi Hills, on the Notwane River in the southeastern corner of Botswana, and just 15 km from the South African border.  The city lies at an elevation of 1,010 m above sea level.

Today, Gaborone is rapidly growing.  It is currently home to over 250,000 people.  It is a very vibrant city, and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.  Nowadays, Gaborone is called the “White City” and is nicknamed “Gabz” by locals.  Enjoy the video below on Gaborone!

 

 

Posted by: humilityjoy | November 14, 2014

Blague Africaine: 2-1=? / African Joke: 2-1=?

Calcul

Calcul

Le maître demande à Digbeu : « 2 – 1 = combien ? »  Digbeu répond : « 2 ».  Très furieux et curieux, le maître pose la question autrement : « ta mère te garde 2 foutous* ;  Séry, ton petit frère, mange 1 foutou.  Il reste combien de foutou ? » Digbeu répond toujours : « 2 ».  Le maître lui demande pourquoi ? Digbeu dit : « Séry n’a pas coeur de manger mon foutou ».

*Foutou est un mets très prisé de Côte d’Ivoire qui se présente sous la forme d’une boule de manioc et plantains pilés, et est mangée avec une sauce.

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The teacher asks Digbeu:”2 – 1 = how much”  Digbeu replies:”2.”  Very furious and curious, the teacher asks the question differently: “your mother saves you 2 foutous*; Sery, your little brother, eats one foutou.  How many foutous are left?”  Digbeu replies again:”2.”  The teacher asks him why.  Digbeu replies: “Sery will not have the heart to eat my foutou.”

*Foutou is a traditional recipe from Côte d’Ivoire for a classic accompaniment, and is made up of plantains and cassava that are cooked and pounded separately, before being mixed right before serving.  It is eaten with a sauce.

Posted by: humilityjoy | November 11, 2014

‘Beautiful Black Woman’ by Vernon J. Davis Jr.

Le soleil / The sun

Le soleil / The sun

I just stumbled upon this poem by Vernon J. Davis Jr., and wanted to share with all.  It is an ode to the beauty of the black woman; I love the comparison to the shining sun.  Enjoy!

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Beautiful black woman,

Your beauty is surpassed by none.

 Beautiful black woman,

Your sensuous splendor is like the shining sun

Your wondrous ways come from your soul

Which no one man may hope to control

Beautiful black woman,

You are the guiding hope of our people

Beautiful black woman,

your mind maintains your glorious power.

Beautiful black woman,

Your spirit is like a shining church tower

which points the way to heaven above

and which seeks to find true love.

Beautiful black woman,

you are the guiding hope of our people.

Beautiful Black woman,

Your time is like a precious commodity.

Beautiful Black Woman,

Your ebony will is strong and free,

so take your precious time,

and your determined will,

and use them both to emphasize what you really feel.

Beautiful black woman,

you are the guiding hope of our people.

Beautiful black woman,

In you lies our future!

Vernon J. Davis Jr.

Sel / Salt

Sel / Salt

Même un peu de sel donne du goût (Proverbe Ovimbundu – Angola).  Même si je ne suis pas important, si je venais à manquer, la perte sera sensible malgré tout.

Even a little of salt gives taste (Ovimbundu Proverb – Angola).  Even if I am not important, if I ever came to be missing, the loss will be felt anyway.

Posted by: humilityjoy | November 4, 2014

The Woman and The Hyena

Hyena

Hyena

There was a very tired woman living alone.  One day she slept without closing the door, in the daytime, and night fell.  During the night the hyena came and took the woman with her cow skin mat wrapped up.  He left her in a corner and went to call his friends.  The woman woke up and when she realized she wasn’t at home she was frightened.  She rolled the cow skin as if there was someone in it and ran away.

When she got home she closed the door and fell asleep again.  When the hyena came with his friends, he found the skin, and thought the woman was there.  When he touched the skin the woman had gone.  He was upset and went back to her home, but it was closed.  So he went back to his friends.

This is an Ethiopian tale from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, originally posted on the Ethiopian Folktales‘ website.

Posted by: humilityjoy | October 31, 2014

Blaise Compaoré resigns from the office of President of the Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

15 jours et 27 ans, après avoir fait assassiner Thomas Sankara, Blaise Compaoré est à son tour forcé ou plutot jeté dehors.  En effet, c’était le 15 Octobre 1987 que Thomas Sankara était assassiné par des hommes de Compaoré.  Donc le fameux Compaoré est tombé le 30 Octobre 2014.  Comme on le dit si bien, quiconque se sert de l’épée perira par l’épée.  Maintenant, notre voeu le plus cher est que cette révolution populaire ne soit pas confisquée par l’armée qui est constituée d’hommes de Compaoré, et des bras de la France.  Bye Bye Compaoré.

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Flag of Burkina Faso

Flag of Burkina Faso

15 days and 27 years, after having murdered Thomas Sankara, Blaise Compaoré is in his turn forced to resign or rather booted out of office.  On 15 Octobre 1987 that Thomas Sankara was murdered by men of Compaoré.  Now, Compaoré himself fell on 30 October 2014.  As it so well said, anyone who uses the sword, will die by the sword.  Now, our hope is that the people’s revolution will not be hijacked by the army who are Compaoré’s men and France’s men.  Bye Bye Compaoré.

Eau sale / Dirty water

Eau sale / Dirty water

Impossible de nettoyer l’eau sale (Proverbe Galla – Ethiopie).

It is impossible to clean dirty water (Galla Proverb – Ethiopia).

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