A pilgrimage to Ghana’s slave forts
Ghanaians too are starting to show greater interest in this episode of their history and its heritage, making up 70% of the fort’s visitors, up from just 40% a decade or so ago, Tettey said.
Abraham Sakey and Emmanuel Hagan, two music students from Accra, Ghana’s capital, sat on the fort’s steps at the end of their tour, quietly reflecting, one picking out a melancholic tune on a guitar. “I’ve read about slavery in books, I’ve watched films, but here I was in the dungeons, I saw the shackles, it was real,” Sakey said.
Many Ghanaians are superstitious. In Fort William in the town of Anomabu, the fort keeper Philip has tried to turn the old officers’ quarters into a library for local school children. “But they just won’t come,” he said. “People are too scared of the ghosts.” This old slave fort was used as a prison from 1962 to 2000 and is now in poor state of repair. Philip, who lives inside the fort and knows every nook and cranny of the building, said he would love to see it renovated and given more prominence.
We walked past the dungeons, down a small alleyway and through a small door – the “Door of No Return”, through which slaves left the fort and boarded the ship that took them to their new lives. Darkness gave way to the sight of dazzling sunshine, the ocean surf and fishermen working on their nets and pirogues. For many slaves, this was their last image of home.
“It makes me proud to know that so many survived that trip,” said Beverly. “For us to be here and actually talk about it now... I know many didn’t make it and that’s why we have come back: to honour them”.