We just got back from excursion week and for me, it has been quite a bit to take in. I appreciated that the relaxing beach scene was left for after the trips we made to the various slave castles. The beach was a wonderful place to be able to just recap and allow my brain to process the things I had seen. At the same time though, the beach was a source of trauma for so many of my ancestors. While I was able to sit freely on the shore of the beach and allow my mind to roam, they were forced to listen to the waves crashing down serving as a constant reminder that the home they once knew was forever gone from them. They were often kept in the dark, so when they were finally able to see the ocean their reaction was likely not the relaxed one that I was able to have. Cape Coast Castle specifically had a beautiful view of the water and it was odd thinking about that view being used to mask the evil going on inside the castle. The fact that people were able to have church on top of the dungeon (from which they could hear the cries of my people) and not feel bad about treating other human beings worse than cattle is really befuddling.
Thinking about religion in terms of slavery is also a weird juxtaposition for me. This juxtaposition came up frequently because there were a few places in the slave castles where scripture was mentioned. While my ancestors probably had the faith in their creator to know their freedom was coming, it’s hard for me to think that God cares about the little birds but allowed slavery to exist (then and the way that it does today).
The ocean was also a final resting place for a lot of the slaves who either died on the boat or jumped from the boat. Jason DeCaires Taylor created a series of statues and dropped them into the ocean. The collection is called “Vicissitudes,” and while it wasn’t originally made as a tribute to the slaves who lost their lives, various audiences understood it as such. This misunderstanding led to the sculptures been referred to (in a plethora of places) as a tribute to the Middle Passage.
On the other hand, we saw a lot of artwork (graffiti and murals) done on the walls of various buildings and most of these pieces featured Black bodies in such a wonderful light, which was very refreshing. My favorite one was of a Black lady who fought against the waste that was in their ocean. The only thing I could think about when I saw it was that Te Fiti from Moana was a Black woman.
Overall I had a great and refreshing excursion week and I am ready to get back to work on Monday.
- Carozza, D. (2014, April 19). Jason de Caires Taylor, “Vicissitudes”. Retrieved from https://sites.duke.edu/blackatlantic/sample-page/depictions-of-the-middle-passage-and-the-slave-trade-in-visual-art/levitate-windward-coast-and-vicissitudes-curatorial-statement/jason-de-caires-taylor-vicissitudes/
King, J. (2013, January 31). Underwater Sculpture In Honor of Africans Thrown Overboard. Retrieved from http://www.ninasimone.com/2013/01/underwater-sculpture-in-honor-of-africans-thrown-overboard/#!wp-prettyPhoto[g1560]/2/