Door of No Return: Cape Coast Castle
(Cape Coast Castle from the middle courtyard view)
Day 5 brought MPAGErs to Cape Coast Castle, a slave castle on in downtown Cape Coast. The 347-year old structure is made of stones imported from Europe and stripped from African mountains. The castle stood prominent amongst the rocky beaches and fishing canoes that surrounded the area.
“You are our broder, welcome home,” several street vendors chanted as they swarmed MPAGErs outside of the castle.
Barefoot children scurried though the streets, some only the age of 10 were street vendors, balancing large buckets of plastic bag water on their heads with ease.
(Little girl tries to teach Borley how to balance bucket)
MPAGErs prepared for the emotional moment with a prayer led by Albert Brady. Then, it was time. Students quietly filed into the slave castle apprehensive about what awaited them inside.
(MPAGErs enter the Cape Coast Castle)
A Ghanaian man began our tour by leading MPAGErs into one of the male slave dungeons. Although it was noon and Africa’s sun was blazing, the dungeon was pitch black. The smell was dank and the once rocky floor was now smooth due to hardened blood and waste. Slaveholders dug three six-inch deep trenches as a sewage system for the waste of 200 slaves. The dungeon was the size of a large classroom, yet it held 200 adult males months at a time. Our tour group was only 30 people and it was cramped and uncomfortable after only 5 minutes.
MPAGErs listened to the tour guide explain the castle’s atrocious history with solemn faces. In the next dungeon, MPAGERs gawked at scratches on the wall as slaves futilely tried to claw their way home.
(Scratches on dungeon walls)
Female slave were treated no less barbaric than the men. Their dungeons were equally dark and reprehensible. In fact, females who refused rape were stuffed into even smaller and far more uncomfortable dungeons for days at a time.
As sad and emotional the Cape coast castle tour was, MPAGErs found an inherent victory. Outside the castle, wise-looking fishermen knitted green nets on top of a row of canoes. Children chased each other and danced. Blocks beyond the castle there was a thriving market.
(Ghanaian kids make a pyramid on Cape Coast Beach)
Amongst the viciousness that occurred here so many years ago, the people lived. They still laughed. They still loved.
There was pride and resilience in these Cape Coast streets.
“I began to feel a lot of different emotions and it ripped me up inside”, Albert said about his experiences at the castle. “But I know that if it wasn’t for their strength I wouldn’t be here, and a ease came over me and I was at peace.”
Written by Kwabena ‘Kobi’ Ansong
Cape Coast, Ghana, July 12, 2012