The Slave Coast, Ghana, February 2023

Slavehouse St George’s Castle

According to an African proverb “Unless the lion gets to tell his story the hunter will always be the hero”. And so it is for much of Africa with its history told by the conquerors. So feet on the ground in Ghana I am back in West Africa exploring more of the region firsthand. The lion will have his day.
Some of the glory days of this region date back to the 4th century with a succession of great African empires – from the great Ghana Empire to the Mali and Songhai  Empires. There were forges for iron and bronze work, palaces and sophisticated art. The region has among the richest gold fields in the world so when Europeans arrived along the coast they were stunned by the abundance of gold the locals wore. They set up trading settlements bartering for gold, ivory and salt. However the Europeans were soon introduced to a new commodity – the human slave trade – which they scaled up to horrific proportions to provide a workforce for plantations as the ‘New World’ was colonised.
Some 20 million West Africans are estimated to have been exported from its shores to feed the engine room of the colonies in America, Brazil and the Caribbean. The majority were processed in slave houses along the coast of Ghana.
The tragedy is that humans will always look to control each other and slavery has existed back through antiquity. The Arabs  bought and kidnapped a steady stream of slaves to supply domestic servants, concubines and courtiers. Enslavement was already commonplace in West Africa as a consequence for captive enemies from tribal wars, criminality or even payment of a family debt. Human slavery has not ended as the attitudes remain entrenched in certain regions and cultures.  Although the British were among the most prolific slavemasters and perpetrators of this inhumanity, repulsed by their own immorality they also took some of the largest strides to have the practice abolished in the 1800s.
Ghana’s biggest export item today is ‘brown gold’- cocoa beans and its coastline is now a picturesque holiday spot with towering coconut palms. But its dark history will neither be forgotten by the Hunter nor the lion.


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