“To the ancestors whose names time has forced us to forget, we will always remember your sacrifice. And we will always remember that we are the descendants of men and women who survived that which was intended to break them.”
Built in 1652, the site now known as the Cape Coast Castle changed hands between Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Britain throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
At first glance, the Castle is disarmingly beautiful— white-washed buildings set against an azure sky, with views of palm trees and perfect turquoise water.
On the grounds, there is a church, a school, and governor’s quarters facing the sea.
But this seemingly beautiful place was the site of unspeakable horrors for the countless Africans that were imprisoned in the dungeons beneath our feet, enslaved by European greed.
When he visited the Cape Coast Castle in 2009, President Barack Obama said that “[this place] reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil”.
Walking into the “slave dungeons” is an overwhelming experience. The darkness, the heat, the space of violent memory. Our tour guide told us that the floor beneath our feet was the sediment of blood, sweat, tears, and human waste. So every step that we took, we took reverently.
As we toured the grounds, we saw the cells where they had placed those who were rebellious. Rooms with no light and no air and no food, where human beings were murdered by suffocation and starvation.
We also saw shrines, places of memory erected to honor those who were the victims of the horrific violence of this place.
It was hard to sort out what I was feeling as we toured the castle and the dungeons. There was definitely a deep sense of reverence, waves of grief, a tightening in my chest that made it hard to breathe. There is no substitute for seeing this place with your own eyes.
To the ancestors whose names time has forced us to forget, we will always remember your sacrifice. And we will always remember that we are the descendants of men and women who survived that which was intended to break them.
~ Eva del Aire ✈️