I had a sobering morning visiting the slave fortress – St George’s castle – at Elmina. I had the whole place eerily to myself. Originally built as a Dutch fortress it is the oldest colonial building in Africa.
As expected it was grim, made more so by the guide’s descriptions. Mental pictures of 150 women cramped in any airless dungeon, unable to move, covered in their own vomit and excrement. Worse, the governor’s viewing gallery above the women’s area where he hand picked women to rape.
The door of no return, which was the access to the ships, was harrowing. The death cell where ‘rebellious’ slaves were left to starve to death was worse. The irony of having both a Catholic and a Protestant church in the fort did not escape me – unfathomable to me how slavery could ever by congruent with the ‘love thy neighbour’ tenets of Christianity. The Ghanaians are pretty forgiving and like to talk about Elmina more as a reminder to humanity to not let similar events happen in the future.
The death cell
It was nice to be myself for the morning and to have the castle to myself. I had left my truckmates to go to Kakum national park for the morning without me, as I was not inspired by the reviews, nor of the thought of doing a ‘peaceful’ canopy walk with 15 others. Instead I caught a ‘dropping’ (shared taxi) into town and had a chat with a nice lady heading into town to sell her veges.
After the fort, I went for a wander around town. Elmina these days is a bustling fishing village with all the smells and activity that go along side that. People were largely friendly. A few kids shouted ‘Obroni, obroni’ (white person) at me, and when I responded with ‘bebeni’ (black person) they laughed. I went on a futile search for wifi and gave up to have a coffee with milk (half of the milk I shared with a persuasive cat) and watch the goings on at the market.
Like most places in west Africa the market was loud, vibrant and frenetic…. but cameras are not welcome – you need to come experience the smoking fish, frying plantains and ladies sales songs for yourselves.
It took me a while to find a cab back to the beach as the public trotros didn’t quite go that far (I would have needed three separate rides minimum to get close) and all of the offers were exorbitant for an individual taxi. In the end I hopped in a ‘dropping’ and waited for everyone else to get out and then persuaded him to take me back for half the lowest price I had been offered in town. Time for the hammock!