As I stepped into the women’s dungeon at Elmina castle, I heard the wails and tears. I did. Though it was an empty room that had been drenched in silence for years and years past but I heard it. It was loud and unpleasant as Kojo explained how many women were thrown in there. A hundred, two hundred, a thousand. Whatever number of women were there all I could see was the horror and torture of being squashed up in a room so small and void of air. No bath, no toilet breaks, nothing! I imagined the how pungent the smell of sweat mixed feces and congealed period flows was. The thought simply grossed me out. What horror!!!
Kojo led us to the courtyard outside showing us the huge canon balls used to punish the stubborn. Whenever anyone was being resistant, they were chained to the canon balls and left in the courtyard, starved of food and water.Rain, Sunshine, whatever the weather condition was, they were left there till they learned their lesson. He then pointed to the reservoir telling us what it was used for. The unfortunate one would get a bath and be ushered to the Governor’s quarters to satisfy his urges. He never came with his wife so she was selected to do the job. She had no say on how the Governor treated her body. She had to accept her fate. She was lucky after all, she gets to sleep on a comfortable bed for as long as the Governor was satisfied till he got tired and sent her back to the dungeon. But she doesn’t go straight to the dungeon. She is then like a carcass which the starving soldiers also feeds on before she’s sent to her final destination and blends in with the rest of her mates. Right above the female dungeons were the soldiers quarters and at the topmost was the governor’s residence. I imagined what he looked like, what he was wearing as he stood by his balcony to make his selection. What was his preference? Chubby? skinny? heavy chested? Maybe he didn’t have any preference. Who knows…
We headed to the men’s dungeon next situated at the main courtyard. Also void of air but a bit bigger than the women’s. Not much story about the men. They were squashed up just like the women and I doubt if anyone ever got a chance to have a bath. They also had to deal with the pungent odour like the women with the exception of the blood situation. There was a smaller door my the corner of the dungeon. It led to the door of no return and it was about four feet high so we had to bend to reach the room that led to the door of no return. Whenever the ships arrived, both the men and women were led through this door, sealing their fate. The pregnant women were sent back to the town to have their babies so they remained in the land. The rest were gone for ever! Off to a land to be sold off to a wealthy person who need things to get done either around the house, or on the farm. There, they were used till they were feeble and worn out. Till the cold hands of death came and grabbed them, putting an end to their misery.
I was particularly drawn to a door with an impressed skull at the top. I asked Kojo and he told us it was a cell for the male captives. Those who dared to fight for their freedom or tried to escape. They were thrown in there without food nor water, forgotten like a long gone soul till they themselves were long gone…DEAD!
Continuing the rest of the tour as we were enlightened about different rooms and what they were used for, I couldn’t stop thinking about the slaves. Their antecedent, how they ended up in the dungeons, what became of their future. Certainly, there was a lot of sorrow but was there ever a happy moment? These and many more thoughts ran through my head. Questions I couldn’t get answers for and will remain a mystery to me for so so long.
This castle wasn’t the only one used to carry out slave trade activities. There are several others scattered all over the Gold coast, tearing families apart, fueling a treacherous trade, abusing and stripping innocent people of their humanity. The surprising thing to me was that the castle had churches. Kojo showed us the Portuguese and Dutch churches on different sides of the castle. I wondered if they read the same bible as we know it today. Despite all their atrocities they still needed to find solace in the almighty and that baffled me. I wonder what they prayed for; Money, health, more slaves…Whatever it was I do hope forgiveness was part of it.