I couldnt take my eyes off the horizon.
Blue and magnificent, the Atlantic stretched leisurely in the distance. Fishing boats rested, quiet and aloof under the coconut trees.
Behind me, Cape Coast and Elmina Castles loomed, imposing themselves on my senses like they have done on this coastline for centuries.
I watched the waves. I imagined European ships made of the strongest teak. Each travelling across continents . Each armed and adorned with boastful flags bound for the new world. Ships setting forth from these castles, crammed with African slaves; broken, branded, beaten and bought.
“Every picture tells its story”, Geoffrey, my travel companion said sharply.
But how do I tell this one?
Palaver Hall. Merchant Ships. Barter. Slave Dungeons. Door of No Return. Auction Hall. Cannons. Gunpowder. Tobacco. Society For the propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) Rape. African Men, women and Children.
I listened to the tour guide recount the Transatlantic slave trade and the status of Elmina castle as the largest and oldest slave castle on the West African coast.
The Society For the Propagation of the Gospel was founded within these walls. They worshiped weekly just above the male dungeons where men cried, trapped in an endless horror. My mind struggled with these facts and the harrowing contradictions. For a moment, I returned to the sea.
Serene and soothing, the coast was clear for miles. I soaked in the gentle lapping waves and the humming of the surf; soft and steady. The sea laid itself out. I was lured in.If only this was all there was.
Anxious that I should not be lost, Geoffrey found me watching the wind.
We walked past the iron ravens perched high up in the sky. Black and foreboding, these mighty canons were physical symbols of British might. They were essential to secure the expensive cargo in the dungeons. Each carried a price.
I observed my group with interest:
– A Spanish couple who spoke quietly in low tones.
– An animated group of Ghanaian students
– A father who held on too tightly to his daughter’s hand.
– A group of American women holding back prickly tears.
All of us here for a brief moment in our lives. All of us confronted sharply by acts so cruel and atrocious that 400 years later, our senses recoil from descriptions of what went on.
Upstairs, far away from the anguish below, the airy, spacious rooms reserved for the governor and officers was a relief. Wide windows opened majestically to panoramic views of the sea, the breeze here was constant and cooling . All this above men and women suffocating in tombs of stone.
It was time to leave.
Many will visit these castles. Many will wonder why they are still here, bedraggled relics of a painful past.
But here they must remain. An atrocity of this magnitude cannot be written out of the history of the world. These castles stand in testament.
I followed the voices from down below. Children played in abandon, laughing loudly in the sand; naive and trusting , oblivious to my prying eyes. The fishermen gathered, each determined to set sail with the shinniest canoes for the morning catch.
All we can do now is visit the castles of Cape Coast. In doing so we pay tributes to the lives forced here. Lives kept here for an unspeakable trade which lasted for centuries.