Life

Senegal slave island

  Along the map of West Africa along the Atlantic coast, it is easy to find Senegal, the westernmost country in Africa. If you stand by the harbor of Dakar, the capital of the country, you can see Goree Island 3 kilometers away at a glance. This famous island is lonely in the Atlantic Ocean. There are not many beautiful scenery and splendid artistic attractions on the island. There are only stone buildings left over from the colonial period, well-preserved slave forts, forts and unique houses. Living next to each other silently reveals the history of African people’s sufferings of being invaded, enslaved, and squeezed by Western colonialists.
  The site on this small island has unique value. It is the darkest and most brutal portrayal of human history, showing the evil of human nature vividly. But at the same time, it reflects the splendid civilization at the end of the 18th century. The architectural style of the island reflects the contradiction between civilization and barbarism. In order to better remember this history and protect the historical relics on the island, the United Nations declared Goree Island a cultural heritage of all mankind in 1978.
The cruel and dark history of the slave trade

  Gorey Island is formed by the solidification of black basalt lava, like a black pearl inlaid in the blue Atlantic Ocean. The Senegal region where it is located is a well-known “beauty’s nest” in Africa. African women in Senegal are recognized as “good-looking”, with three-dimensional facial features and tall stature, which often make people’s eyes shine. Today there are many Senegalese girls working as models, singers and actors in France. But at the time, this beauty brought suffering.
  As one of the first European colonies in West Africa, Goree Island has been colonized by many countries. It was originally occupied by Portugal as an anchorage for ships, and then snatched by Spain. The Netherlands also ruled the island and left Gore (meaning good anchorage) as the name of the island. It is a battleground between Britain and France.
  Goree Island is the westernmost island in Africa. The three springs on the island are the best fresh water supply points for long-distance ships, so this place became the foothold for European colonists to land on the African continent. The area of ​​Goree Island is less than 0.3 square kilometers, but it was an important transit point for the colonists. The slave trade they led, like a sharp dagger, tore apart the African continent. According to records, from the first Portuguese landed on Goree Island in 1444 to 1848, this period of dark colonial rule caused Africa to lose more than 100 million young and middle-aged population, and the blacks transported from the slave fort on Goree Island There were about 20 million slaves, and 5 million died on the island.
  Beginning in the 15th century, Western colonists came to Africa with industrial products, weapons and ammunition, instigated local chiefs to start wars, and instigated the victors after the war to sell the captives of the opposing tribe to them as slaves. Then slaves were sold to American plantations and mines in exchange for plantation products such as sugar, tobacco, rice, gold and silver, and industrial raw materials, and then returned to Europe for trading. This was the famous slave trade at that time, because the entire route was triangular, and called triangular trade.
  Goree Island was a turning point in the 400-year slave trade. The slaves were forced to come to Goree Island, where they were pinched by both sides of the transaction like livestock, and would also be sent to the auction house to be auctioned, completely losing their basic human dignity. After the pick was dealt, they were put on a boat naked. After the male black slaves were escorted onto the ship, they would be put into narrow cages. These cages filled the small interior space of the cabin. In the dark and narrow cabin, there was a foul and disgusting smell. The harsh living environment caused many black slaves to collapse emotionally. Coupled with the fact that they could only get very little food every day, countless black people starved to death along the way. During the long transportation process, if black slaves unfortunately contracted diseases or were injured, they would not receive greetings, care and medical treatment. They could only die on the transport ship, and then were thrown into the sea by the crew as fish food. On the ship transporting black slaves, young female black slaves were gathered on the deck, and they were abused by the crew in every possible way. In order to get more “goods”, greedy transporters will even force female black slaves to have children with male black slaves. After these children are born and grow up, they will continue the tragedy of their parents and be sold to various manors in America as lifelong slaves for slave owners to drive.
  And the niggers who came ashore were no better off. They are faced with endless heavy farm work and work every day, with almost no rest time, and no guarantee of food and clothing. There are even data showing that the farmers will replace a new batch of black slaves in about seven years, because most of the black slaves are unbearable. It was a heavy burden, and he lost his life in about seven years.
The True Witness of the Triangular Trade at the Gate of No Return on the Slave Fort

  Now on the island, people can still see a well-preserved slave fort. This solid building of wood and stone was built hundreds of years ago and consists of upper and lower floors. Upstairs is the living room with floor, sunny and good conditions, which was the residence of the slave traders at that time; downstairs is a slave cell of about five or six square meters. The entire cell has no windows, dark, damp, and dirty. It was hell.
  The slave cells have imprisoned the bodies and souls of countless black slaves. The cells were divided into men’s rooms, women’s rooms, and children’s rooms. There were only a few small holes in the wall for the slave traders to monitor the movements of the slaves. These narrow and dark cells can hold 500 to 600 people at a time, and one cell can hold 15 to 20 slaves at the same time. They were shackled and tied with a 14-jin iron ball to prevent them from escaping.
  There is a long, narrow and gloomy corridor among the many cells. The stone door in the middle of the passage faces the rough Atlantic Ocean. It is from here that thousands of black slaves are escorted onto ships and shipped to America. material. This voyage was a death voyage, and the slaves were crammed into overloaded cabins, occupying only a small space like books lined up on a bookshelf. In order to prevent them from escaping, the slave traders locked each of them together, even if they jumped into the sea, they would only become food for sharks. Dirty air, infectious diseases and lack of fresh water killed many on the way. This stone gate is the starting point for the black slaves to go to the “New World”, and it is also a distant place that they can never return to, so people gave this gate a sad name – the gate of no return.

  In Slave Fort on Goree Island, there are two “special” rooms, one is called “Fat Room” and the other is called “Punishment Room”.
  In the slave trading market, the price of male slaves was determined by their weight, the price of female slaves was based on their beauty and chastity, and the price of children was determined by their teeth. The appearance of the fattening room was naturally because the slave traders wanted to “sell the slaves for a good price”. Like some unscrupulous traders who sell geese and ducks, they force-feed underweight slaves in order to quickly increase their weight to maximize their benefits.
  The punishment room is for disobedient and rebellious slaves. The punishment method is as follows: the slaves are locked in groups of four or five in a small punishment room that can only half-squat, and no food and water are provided. In a dark space where normal adults could not stand, the slaves were subjected to inhuman torture and had to be obedient in the end.

The picture on this page shows the existing stone buildings on the seaside of the island; The small pictures are the cannon left over from the colonial period and the sad door of no return.

  In today’s slave fort, the place where slave traders once lived has been turned into a museum. In the museum, you can still find the shackles used to bind the hands and feet of the slaves, the special iron balls to prevent the slaves from escaping, and the weapons left by the European colonists.
  The cannons of the past are displayed here, which were the tools and evidence of crimes committed by Western colonists, as well as more books and collections from the slave trade period. Residents on the island often spontaneously tell tourists about this dark history, and many black people also list this place as a must-see place.
  It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the international community gradually abolished the slave trade due to economic and political factors, coupled with the continued abolition campaigns launched by religious groups in North America and the United Kingdom, a large number of people’s signature petitions and public rallies, and the persistent black slave uprising. Let this evil trade remain in the past forever.
Civilization and barbarism are intertwined in the emerging West African art center

  Goree Island has been colonized by many countries, but before the independence of Senegal, the island was under French rule for most of the time. This makes the island full of bright, romantic and colorful French architecture. The full and rich color scheme, Baroque-style pointed arches, and wrought-iron street lamps exude a strong European sentiment. These buildings are two-story high like the slave fort, facing the same Atlantic Ocean, the colonists and innocent slaves living on the upper and lower floors are completely different.
  In the second half of the 18th century, more and more public buildings were gradually completed on the island: hospitals, schools, theaters, monasteries…Gore Island transformed from a transit point of settlement to a small society. The original rustic architectural design of West Africa and European romantic colonnades have been blended and bloomed one after another. The bright-colored houses and tropical flora complement each other. The rough slave fort and the gorgeous European-style small western-style buildings live next to each other. This is the civilization of Goree Island. A manifestation intertwined with barbarism.
  Today, Goree Island has become a tourist destination, and more than a thousand aborigines live on the island. The colorful and unique colonial buildings and the historical culture behind them are attracting more and more tourists. Installation art full of history can be seen everywhere here: many villains made of discarded objects, combined with the historical background of Goree Island itself, are moving; and the ship built of discarded objects will never sail into the abyss of evil… …
  The rich history and eye-catching architectural style have made Goree Island popular with many tourists. In recent years, the island has a new development direction-the emerging West African art center. The theater built by the early colonists has been dilapidated, and now it has been converted into an open-air theater. People often perform here, attracting many people to watch together. Every summer, curators and collectors from all over the world come here to hold several art festivals. At that time, courtyards and villas with different styles on the island would become temporary art exhibition venues.

After a long period of suffering, today’s Goree Island is full of vitality. The large picture on this page is a boat that has been painted in bright colors, and the four small pictures show the life of the local people; the two small pictures on the right page are paintings created by the artist and interesting small decorations.

  The art groups who come to participate in the art festival are roughly divided into two categories, artists who have settled overseas and local creative forces. The Senegalese government will provide extremely favorable rent as a prerequisite to attract more artists not only to participate in the exhibition, but to stay on the island for a long time to create. Many of the local artists are from the Dakar Academy of Art after systematic study. Their works tend to be modern and bold in color. Today, there are many painting and sculpture studios lurking on Goree Island, making the place full of active artistic atmosphere all the time.
  Among the many arts, sand painting is quite representative. The sand here is not dyed, but natural sand from Senegal. The black comes from the volcano, the red comes from the Sahara Desert, and the yellow comes from the island beach. Artists paint a layer of glue on thin wooden boards, and then use these natural sands for creation. In just a few minutes, a complete African landscape or portrait of a person can appear.

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