Cape Coast is known to be one of the more touristy spots in Ghana. So I expected an almost Western flair here. However, we did not find ourselves surrounded by masses of tourists and the area is still saved from let me call it an “European influence”. However, what the Europeans left behind in Ghana are two very well preserved castles, one in Elmina and the other one in Cape Coast.
Largest slave-holding site in the world
To be honest I did not inform myself a lot before visiting Cape Coast. I only knew that there were some dungeons in which slaves where hold during the colonial era. However after we have visited te Cape Coast Castle, the details of the cruelty of that time almost made me cry.
With a guided tour, we visited the cells in which the slaves were kept for three months before they were walking through ‘the door of no return’ onto a ship to Europe.
Yes they really called it like that with a sign and all. Before their journey to Europe, 200 men were squished into one cell without much daylight, not to speak of any kind of sanitation. So a line in the cell which was about as high as my knees marked the height of the excrements and vomit that was building up on the floor. No surprise that during those three months a lot of men died from diseases or hunger. I wondered why the merchants let so many men die; after all they wanted to sell them. The guide replied that in that way it was made sure that only the strongest survive, and only the strongest men were sold for good money.
Giving all this an even more bitter taste was when we learned that a curch was build just above the dungeon. So on top people were praying for heaven when just under their feet men and women were living in hell.
Living in hell for three months before being shipped into slavery
For the captured women the situation was similar. They were also kept in little cells for three months but on top they had to suffer from constant abuse and rape. If a women resisted being raped she was thrown into a tiny hole for one week, without sunlight and just enough to drink to keep her alive. If a women became pregnant she was dependent on the men’s mercy and if lucky enough was allowed to move to the city to live captured, but together with her child. If a women was found to be pregnant on the boats, they were not so lucky and thrown into the sea.
This storries should not prevent you from visiting the castle! For me it was very important to learn about this history. Becasue “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).