Dakar is situated on a peninsular and is the western most part of Africa. Consequently it’s a touch closer to The Americas than anywhere else in Africa. Perhaps this is why it was the main jumping off point for the slave trade. The slave trade was centered on Gorée Island, which is now on the list of World Heritage Sites, where it is described as follows:
The island of Gorée lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar. From the 15th to the 19th century, it was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, its architecture is characterized by the contrast between the grim slave-quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. Today it continues to serve as a reminder of human exploitation and as a sanctuary for reconciliation.
The Island of Gorée testifies to an unprecedented human experience in the history of humanity. Indeed, for the universal conscience, this “memory island” is the symbol of the slave trade with its cortege of suffering, tears and death.
The painful memories of the Atlantic slave trade are crystallized in this small island of 28 hectares lying 3.5 km off the coast from Dakar. Gorée owes its singular destiny to the extreme centrality of its geographical position between the North and the South, and to its excellent strategic position offering a safe haven for anchoring ships, hence the name “Good Rade”. Thus, since the 15th century it has been prized by various European nations that have successively used it as a stopover or slave market. First terminus of the “homeoducs” who drained the slaves from the hinterland, Gorée was at the centre of the rivalry between European nations for control of the slave trade. Until the abolition of the trade in the French colonies, the Island was a warehouse consisting of over a dozen slave houses. Amongst the tangible elements that reflect Gorée’s universal value are, notably, the Castle, a rocky plateau covered with fortifications which dominate the Island; the Relais de l’Espadon, former residence of the French governor; etc…
The Island of Gorée is now a pilgrimage destination for the African diaspora, a foyer for contact between the West and Africa, and a space for exchange and dialogue between cultures through the confrontation of ideals of reconciliation and forgiveness.
As mentioned above the slave house is indeed “grim”. So disturbing in fact that my colleague could not stand being inside and had to leave. This picture is taken looking through the door – possibly the last thing the slaves saw before boarding a ship for The Americas.
The child standing outside the door was one of a number of children diving for coins thrown by tourists – a different kind of slavery.
Taken with a Canon Powershot S-50.