Years ago, I visited my in-laws in Ghana. I had never been to Africa before, so I had no idea what to expect. My wife took me on tour, and it was fascinating.
The highlight of my visit was Elmina Castle at Cape Coast (Google it). It was a long drive from Accra but well worth the journey. Elmina Castle turned out to be an overbearing fortress comprising prison cells on the ground level and a church on top. It is picturesque, with quaint little fishing villages surrounding it. This is where captured Africans were imprisoned to be eventually sold and shipped out as slaves. I will spare the painful details because this place was beyond sad and dreary, but I wanted to learn as much as I could. Our Ghanaian guide explained everything to us, and she guided us through the various parts of the castle. We finally reached the ‘Room of no return’, and this is where the prisoners would be led to be literally thrown through a gap in the wall to waiting ships below.
I gazed upon the wall opening and thought it was the last time any of the poor souls would see Africa before being crammed into below deck. I don’t remember when or how long it was before I felt disconnected from the rest of the group and our guide’s voice became distant; I was seeing events from the past superimposed in my mind’s eye. I saw groups of men of all ages being led into the room by burly men who were armed and some with whips. Some men wore military uniforms, but the rest were in civilian scruffy attire. I could hear them shouting at the helpless and distraught figures, and as the whip cracked, I heard painful screams. Again, I will spare the graphic details; it was horrific. I heard the voices, saw the faces in detail and even the colours of the uniforms. I could even smell the room. It was as if I was transported in time and witnessing this scene in person. I felt it so real as if I was there. Suddenly, I snapped out of the vision when the guide asked if I was ok. The rest of the group left the room, and I still stood in the same spot. My wife looked concerned, but I assured her I was ok. I felt I should share my experience with the guide, who was shocked when I described what I saw. She asked if I had studied African history and I said no, I was very nervous about how to explain it but did not need to:
“You saw something?”
“Yes” I went ahead and described everything I saw. “it was so real… so hard to watch.” I was in tears. She was fascinated with the details I shared, understood my experience and nodded knowingly.
“It’s ok, your spirit is pure. The ancestors speak to those who listen.” she reassured me with a warm smile.
Her warmth helped me come around and back into the present. It took a few days for me to get over the bitter-sweet experience, but as hard as it was, I was grateful to have witnessed it. Till this day, I cannot explain that vivid memory and authentic experience; I was there.