My trip to Ghana was wonderful. After being invited by a friend of mine for years to come, I finally made my way there. One destination which was a must-visit for me was the infamous Elmina Slave Fortress or as its commonly known as, Elmina Slave Castle. Unlike other tourist destinations, this one was somber and emotional. I struggled to be present as I felt a deep sense of empathy for the enslaved Africans who went through the place. The castle itself is a monumental architectural irony. The architectural beauty of the building is a sharp contrast to the horrible ugly and cruel carnage which occurred inside its walls.
Elmina Castle was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 and was later taken over by the Dutch who increased the slave trade. It is considered the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara. It began as a fortress and trading post for gold and other valuables. It was later when slaves became the main commodity traded here. While under Dutch rule between 1637 until1814, 30,000 enslaved Africans passed through the castle's doors. That’s over 5 million slaves processed just from this one site!
Enslaved Africans held at Elmina Castle were kept under some of the harshest and brutal conditions. Over 400 females were kept in cramped poorly ventilated rooms called"dungeons" with no bathrooms, beds, or amenities. Up to 1,000 men were sometimes cramped into similar dungeons. Without water or sanitation, the floors of the dungeon was littered with human waste and many captives fell ill. In addition to this, rebellious females, that is, those who resisted being raped, were tied naked to a canon ball in an outside courtyard exposed to the elements for all to see. Rebellious men were locked in a pitch dark room with no ventilation assuring a slow and painful death.
As I toured the various caverns and corners of this dark space with white walls, I felt compelled to offer kola nut, as we do in the Yoruba tradition, to the ancestors as an offering of upliftment and appeasement. As I walked the space, I found the perfect place to cast the kola nut, the door of no return. It is here where I offered prayer to God and to the ancestors and gave kola nut. The ancestors accepted my kola nuts. I left emotional, but somehow redeemed that I, a child of these same enslaved Africans, had returned back to the door or no return and defied the captors by my presence. Check out the video below of my visit to the Elmina Slave Castle.