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Published: March 2nd 2021
2nd March - Gorée Island: UNESCO World Heritage Site - Dakar, Senegal
The Island of Gorée, lying 3.5 KM off the coast of Dakar, was one of the first places in Africa Europeans occupied.
It is well known as the former center of the European slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries, and is now a pilgrimage destination for the African diaspora around the world.
History tells the story that the island was a launching point to the "New World" for captured slaves from all over Africa. Gorée continued to be an important place post-slavery as a space for exchange between The West and Africa.
Today it stands as a powerful symbol of history, reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. Alune was our guide and it was very moving listening how the house of slaves, now part of history, must not be forgotten.
Gorée Island was first visited (1444) by Portuguese sailors and occupied in subsequent years.
The island’s indigenous people were later displaced, and fortifications were erected. The town was active in the Atlantic Slave Trade from 1536 until 1848, when slavery was abolished in
Gorée changed hands several times, but from 1817 until Senegal’s independence in 1960 it was under the control of France.
Few places in the world capture the magnitude and brutality of the slave trade like Maison des Esclaves on the Island & this is where our tour started.
Since established as a museum in 1962, Alune our guide told the stories of a private home and the role of its owners in both local business and the slave trade.
Following its construction in 1776, the House of Slaves became a holding center for enslaved African people to be exported. The House was owned by an Afro-French woman (Anna Colas Pépin), who owned several ships and participated in the slave trade.
Conditions in the building were harrowing, with many of the imprisoned perishing before they reached the ships. Captured enslaved people were imprisoned in dark, airless cells and spent days shackled to the floor, their backs against the walls, unable to move.
Families were separated both at the House, with men, women, and children being held in separate quarters.
‘The door of no return’ was a harrowing
sight, this is where the slaves were put onto ships.
Our guide Alioune has a very healthy outlook on life as he said “You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and move on.” He proved this by showing us other parts on the island and by taking us to see the a local sand artist.
I remember seeing this technique of painting on one of our cruise holidays that included a Dakar port of call. I purchased one of the pictures which was fascinating to watch being created.
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