My alarm jerked me out of bed this morning at 5:45 Accra time. In order to beat some of the very horrible city traffic, we had breakfast and left for Cape Coast by 6:30. Something about the bus rides make me uncontrollably sleepy, almost like I have a concussion, so I was in an out for most of the ride.
Cape Coast is truly a beautiful city, and based only on the superficial environment, I prefer it over Accra.
Elmina Castle was built in the 17th century by Portuguese traders as an economic control center. It then became the largest slave dungeon, processing center, and example of Hell on Earth in West Africa. The Dutch took control of it for a while and were even bigger bastards to the natives than were the Portuguese.
Upon walking into the fort, the first thing that drew my attention was the church in the middle of the square. “Even the Devil can cite scripture for his purpose,” wrote Shakespeare.
After a brief introduction from our tour guide, we moved into the Female Slave Dungeon. 400 women were held in bondage against their will with only enough food and water to survive – and plenty of times not even that amount. The floors here were never washed, and the odor of human feces, menstrual blood, and sweat hung in the air. I imagine the only places on Earth that could feel so tainted are Auschwitz and Birkenau.
The Female Dungeon was located almost directly under the Governor’s Chambers, and he had the privilege of being able to call the women to order in the square, pick any one of them, and rape her. If the woman did not submit willingly, she would be sent to the Condemned Cell, where non-compliant Africans would starve or suffocate to death.
The Point of No Return was the last major part of our visit. This was the door through which Africans would be loaded onto ships to be taken across the world and used as slave labor. The portal seems small, but given that all the slaves passing through here had been mostly starving for months, it served its purpose.
Atop the Fort, there was really a very beautiful view of the city. It stunned me that the people here could enjoy the beach with such a stark reminder of humanity’s potential to be horrible looming constantly in the background. It’s almost as if someone set up a soccer field next to the killing fields of Cambodia.
Throughout the open areas of the Fort, small birds were flying about. I thought for a moment these were the spirits of former slaves, who had been forcibly ripped from their homelands and stripped of all humanity and dignity, returning to the last place they considered home to display their freedom in death and reincarnation.