As I sat on Breneu Beach with my toes in the sand, I could not think about how the view could get any prettier. The waves were crashing against each other with violent and peaceful forces all wrapped into one. The palm trees adorned the beach with their greenery and provided me a perfect place for shade. I felt as if I was stuck inside a post card with no need or desire to escape. I gazed deeper into the blue green waters and my mind quickly pivoted. I soon realized I was looking at the beach with a very 21st century eye rather than taking in all the history that lies within the waves at the particular spot on which I sat.
Living in America has provided me the privilege and problematic nature of only looking at the beach as a source of entertainment and beauty. Being from New Jersey, I cannot even express the amount of times during the summer when my friends and I decide to go to beach to either relax, enjoy the waves, or bask in the sun. We have seen this particular space to be a place where we can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and truly take in all nature has to offer. Beach vacations are always in demand for many people because of the amount of leisure humans have attached to.
Visiting Cape Coast and Elmina castle made me realize the sense of ignorance I have to be only seeing the beach in my daily life as a happy place. Seeing the beach as a place of happiness is a singular experience. Dating back to the transatlantic slave trade, the very people who share the same ethnic identity as me most likely saw the beach as a place of pain, loss, and suffering. It was chilling to comprehend how many bodies truly lied in the oceans of the castles we visited. Even though the view was outstanding, I couldn’t help but feel selfish and ashamed of even thinking about it in this context. So many of my ancestors have lost their lives, sailed away to foreign lands, and given up their will to leave in these oceans and beaches. Analyzing the historical context about these particular beaches in Ghana makes me realize how blessed I am to be able be able to think about a beach as a sign of beauty. It is important to always acknowledge and that what is beautiful for us now was often once, someone’s pain. Below are a few links that go into detail about the deep history of Ghana’s slave castles and how their locations on the beach were instrumental for the slave trade at the given time.
The beach at Cape Coast Castle