Cape Coast is the most beautiful African city I have visited so far. Then again I am partial to blue skies and beach sand and castles so I guess that explains a lot. The city is so rich in African history that merely walking the streets fills you with a great deal of it.
Cape Coast is home to two castles that hold sordid tales of the slave trade era which will leave you pondering the callousness of the human race. Having been to both Badagry (Nigeria) and Ouidah (Benin Republic), I am no stranger to slave trade history but the stories I heard at Cape Coast Castle were no less heart-wrenching.
Cape Coast Castle
On our tour of Cape Coast castle, we were shown tiny chambers where hundreds of slaves stood pressed against each other day and night. The rooms had only one source of light and ventilation; a tiny window high up on the wall. There was no possible means of escape. In one of the chambers reserved for women, there was an imprint on the wall of a pregnant woman believed to have been caused by the constant leaning on the wall. Tons of people died in there while waiting to be shipped abroad, others who made it out suffered partial or even total blindness because there was next to no light at all coming into the room.
The horror stories are best left to your imagination but the tour guide left precious little to the imagination. With each room, he painted a vivid picture of the dehumanizing treatments slaves were subjected to at the time. And interestingly, when we took a tour to the top floor which was the governor’s quarters, the difference was remarkable. One room, reserved for one man had sixteen windows whereas a chamber holding hundreds of slaves just below had only one crack of a window. If you’re not careful, you’d leave those castles feeling extremely angry and bitter.
View from the governor’s quarters
The cannons outside the castle were reminiscent of those stationed outside the Montjuic Castle in Barcelona (a trip which I will write about some other time) and the view from there was breathtaking. The ocean stretched out in endless splendor but at the same time, I strongly believe that the beauty of the view was lost on inmates of the castle. I can’t imagine that they went through the door of no return and saw the ocean and thought “Oh hey, this is a stunning body of water and the sun is so nice and warm.”
Again, I must mention that if you ever visit those castles (and I think that you should,) you must brace yourself emotionally so you’re not completely overwhelmed by emotions that you’re unable to handle. It is that intense.
After touring the Cape Coast Castle, we took a quick ride to Elmina Castle just to have a view of it from the outside and the views on the road were simply a sight for sore eyes. The coastline, beach sand and palm trees brought a great deal of inner peace.
We made a quick stop at the beach to chase the waves and bask in the sheer wonder of nature. Sitting there and watching the waves come and go, I felt deep gratitude for freedom. And not just freedom from colonial masters because while that form of slavery seems way behind us, there’s a great deal of other things that enslave us.
My gratitude was for my freedom to live my life authentically and unapologetically. Freedom to be myself and continually strive to attain a better version of myself. And that’s the sort of liberty only you can give yourself. Determine to live life on your terms and not on the terms others have set for you because at the end of the day, if you require people’s permission to be happy, you’ll never get it.
“So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”