Cape Coast and Elmina

December 14, 2010 at 10:30 am
By Kristina Taketomo

In the central region of Ghana there are two stark white structures
that sit along the coastal cliffs. These buildings are Cape Coast and
Elmina castles. Today these two locations are major tourist
attractions. T-shirts, kente cloth, and shell bracelets line the
shelves of the museum bookshops. A few hundred years ago, however, the atmosphere was drastically different. Cape Coast castle, controlled by the English; and Elmina castle, operated by the Dutch and the Portuguese, were the points in the continental trade of captive
Africans. Now, these places are haunted by bad memories. As I toured
the grounds I saw people of every race and nationality. Some were
crying. Others were stone-faced. Stepping outside of myself and my own emotions, I found that witnessing these different reactions to the
violent history of these places was similar to attending a funeral. It
is interesting to see how others express grief.

Visiting these castles is a sobering experience. Other parts of this
trip to Ghana have asked (or perhaps forced) us to recognize the
national privileges we enjoy as Americans, this tour asked us to
recognize other sources of privilege in our lives - racial, temporal,
financial, the list goes on and on. Although the new millennium has
not brought the idealized techno-cities prophesied by past Utopians,
human chattel is no longer a major trade. True, human trafficking is
an atrocity still present in the modern era, but I believe the global
consensus is that this is a repulsive practice that anyone with an
ounce of human sensitivity hopes to eradicate.

Business is booming right next to Cape Coast castle. There is a
popular restaurant with ocean-side seating where customers can enjoy
paw-paw smoothies, apple pancakes, "castle special" fried rice, and
and an impressive variety of malt beverages. There's a mask shop, a
necklace shop, and countless children with citrus fruit and plantain
chips. Whether or not money is exchanging hands inside or outside of
the structure, Cape Coast castle (and its counterpart in Elmina) will always be a hub of trade.

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