To appreciate where one is going to, sometimes it is necessary to take a look at what you’ve come through. You have to take a step back in time and maybe try and understand why things are the way they are now and ultimately be grateful for where you currently find yourself. After all, without the past, there is no future.
Once upon a time, Nigerians were shipped off to unkown destinations for items such as kettles, umbrellas, mirrors etc and Seriki Abass was very famous for having these slaves ready to be shipped off when the ‘white man’ came. It’s mind boggling that a Nigerian would sell his fellow country man for items that seem irrelevant today, but that was exactly what we learnt at the Slave Trade Museum in Badagry.
We started at the museum where we were shown the rooms the slaves were kept while waiting to be purchased. These rooms were said to have 40 slaves despite being small with only a small hole in the wall for ventilation. And if a woman had children, they would all stay in the room obviously making it more than 40. I couldn’t fathom being locked there with other women wondering what my fate was.
The slave masters would then come, parade them round and decide which ones they felt were worth paying for. People were exchanged for random items we don’t place too much value on these days. Unfortunately that was what it was. A human for objects and we obliged them.
The museum contained various equipment used on the slaves including chains, hammers, whips and lots more. All these were used to keep the slaves in check and to also punish them when they dared to step out of line. We all felt emotionally drained looking round and understanding the gravity of what went on during the slave trade era.
Seriki Abass is buried in the compound and I remember asking if they kept a fan in his tomb because they thought he was too hot in hell. Apparently the fan was there because tourists complained of the heat whenever they visited.
After touring the museum, it was time to see the point of no return. To get there we went by boat so we could experience exactly how the slaves were transported. While on the boat, I was nervous maybe with a hint of sadness. I knew I was returning home, but I couldn’t help but wonder what went through the slave’s minds when they were put on the boats; with no idea of where they were going to. Infact, someone in the group opted not to go and waited at the museum till we got back.
After docking, we began the trek. Our first stop was at the attenuation well. We were told that at this well, the slaves were asked to drink water from it and recite some sort of ‘poem’. This was meant to help them forget about where they were from and their past life. It would also make them obedient to their new masters wherever they found themselves.
I don’t believe for a second that the water and poem had magical powers. I do believe however that the slaves might have pretended it worked to prevent bringing more trouble on their already terrible predicament.
After the ‘magical well’, the trek continues. The sun was hot and the trek was long. Our guide told us some slaves died during the trek and were buried on the way. We complained about the heat and the walk and were told if it was back in the day, we would have been punished for our complaints. I cannot imagine picking cotton under those conditions, but alas this is what my ancestors went through. I felt slightly guilty for saying I would prefer to be an in-house slave because I felt it was better.
A walk way had been made in the middle to make trekking easier and apparently the govt is working on making quad bikes available for those who cannot trek. On the way back, most of us hopped on okadas as we were tired.
The land is bare and covered with cows grazing and all sorts; just barren land everywhere. It was brought to our knowledge that the Lagos State govt had started working on plans to build chalets in the area so that guests could sleep over and take advantage of the beach front. When this project will be completed however, no one knows.
When we finally got to the last dock, it was a bitter sweet feeling. It was a great view but it was also where the true journey to the unknown began. The last place where Nigerians saw their home and lost their freedom. We couldn’t help but feel sad knowing that thousands were carted away from the very spot where we were standing; battered bruised and stripped of their pride and humanity.
Everyone should take a trip to the slave museum and point of no return. It is truly an eye opening experience. You are also open to so many emotions all at once. Gratitude for freedom, sadness for all those who are lost and never came home, hatred for those involved in the slave trade era and much more.
It also makes you appreciate the fight to abolish slave trade and the quest to be seen as equals to the Westerners, while creating our own identity.
The govt and individuals definitely have a part to play in ensuring that this site doesn’t go to ruins and is there for generations to come so that the story can be passed on.
We headed back having learnt alot and feeling like we understood more about ourselves.
Our tour guide Anago was fantastic and when you go there, you must use him. He had a wealth of knowledge about the place and era. He also found fun ways to lift our spirits. Send an email to get his contact details.
- It cost us N500 ($2) each to enter the museum and N8,000 ($40) for the group to take the boat ride to the point of no return. *we were a group of 12
- Ensure you wear comfortable clothes as the trek is definitely long
- Go in a group, it is cost effective and the experience is better
- Call your guide before hand to ensure he knows you’re coming
Have you been there? What was the experience like for you?