Exploring Africa: the ambivalent beauty of Gorée

While wandering around Gorée Island, one of the nineteen districts of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, you have great chances to be positively impressed by the charm of the setting that surrounds you: narrow alleys, lush tropical flora, multicolored houses, sunny shores, and crafts displayed along your path may make you think that you just set foot on a paradisiac island. The beauty of Gorée is obvious and unique in the world, but one should not forget the dark side of a place that has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.

Atlantic slave trade in Gorée

Gorée Island used to be a slave trade center in Senegal in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slave merchants were used to leaving Europe with goods and merchandises to buy slaves on the African coasts. They then sold them to plantation owners across the Atlantic Ocean and were retributed with gold, sugar, tobacco, coffee, or cotton. The triangular trade was even wider than that with more regions involved, but Africa remained the place where you could buy slaves, who had previously been captured and imprisoned before a departure they would not choose.

In Gorée, the place where slaves used to be kept is called the House of Slaves. Even though there are still some discussions about the importance of such a place in the slave trade, more depicted as a symbol than a major trade slave center for some researchers, the truth is that the House of Slaves well and truly served the interests of pro-slavery merchants. 

Locked up downstairs in filthy and narrow cells (there was even a cell for children), while owners were staying upstairs in comfortable and spacious apartments, slaves were waiting for their departure overseas. Whether it was massive or not is not the key. Even one single slave is too much.

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