Saturday, June 21, 2008

Badagry: The Point of No Return

Parth and I had known about the slave trade, but we felt its gruesomeness for the first time at Badagry-which is the oldest slave port in West Africa. The slave trade here was at its peak in between the 16th and 18th century. European traders would bring new goods like tobacco, wine, gin and barter them for men, women and children who would be bonded in slavery for life. One bottle of gin would buy two abled men or five women. These slaves would literally be piled in ships and taken to the Caribbean where they would be forced to work as domestic help or plantation workers. Chains of various dimensions were used to restrict their movement and punish them. In the sugarcane plantation for instance, their lips would be sealed with a nail so that they would not eat the sugarcane! The finished products were brought back to West Africa to be traded for more slaves, thus completing the Atlantic Trade Triangle.

Badagry is a small town just 45 km from Lagos which has successfully preserved this inhuman period in human history. All along the lagoon, is a Heritage Museum (with a very good guide), the Slave Relics Museum, the canons (which used to be fired across the lagoon to scare the locals who would be captured into slavery). Just across the lagoon, is the "Point of No Return", where slaves were transported through ships out of Africa. Just before boarding the ship, they were forced to drink water from a well which would make them delirious and have loss of memory by the time they reached their destination. We went there by boat and walked till that point which is marked by a tall structure of two iron chained men facing each other and the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a humbling and unsettling experience, to tread the path which was once walked by these helpless people who lost the right to own their lives and destinies.

No comments: