Cape Coast

Saturday, November 04, 2006

By Melissa Rick

Ghana rests on the Gulf of Guinea.  Cape Coast, one of the largest cities in Ghana, embodies a typical tropical city.  The buildings are painted brighter colors, palm trees lean into the ocean, and white beaches scattered with white shells.  Long narrow wooden fishing boats crowd the beach fronts.  They are painted bright colors and are filled with thick fishing nets.  Naked or scantly clad children play in the water or practice acrobatic tricks on the sand. 
Our primarily purpose for visiting Cape Coast was to see the infamous Cape Coast castles.  Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle are painted white and to the unknowing eye, beautiful historical structures.  However, I found the community trash dump behind Cape Coast Castle to more adequacy portray the historical elements of these landmarks.  These castles represent periods of Ghana’s history since they were built.  Elmina Castle was built in the 1400s when the Portuguese were first establishing trade links with the African people off the coast.  This location was crucial in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  The process of the trade is described as a triangular slave trade.  England would trade manufactured goods for slaves.  The slaves were then sent to America to work in plantations to produce the raw materials that were sent to England to manufacture goods…and the cycle continues.  Over 11 million slaves passed through Elmina Castle and 4 million passed through Cape Coast.  This figure does not include those that died at the castle and in the process of capture or transport.  Elmina Castle over time switched hands to the Dutch and then the English.  Also as history progressed and slave trade was abolished by the British the castles took more administrative proposes. 
Visible cruelties run throughout the structures.  For example, the church in Elmina castle is located directly above the slave’s dungeons.  The dungeons still smelled terrible.  They are concrete rooms underground with little to no ventilation or light.  The rooms were built to contain 500 persons but during the height of the slave trade over 1, 000 were kept there at a time.  The captives could stay in the rooms for up to 3 months.  Both castle’s exit to the ocean was called the door of no return.  Our guides explained that these gates were now the doors of return for the Africans of the Diaspora to return to Africa. 
We also visited Kukom Rainforest and Canopy Walk.  The Canopy Walk is narrow rope bridges strung from tree to tree.  The bridges hover over the rainforest trees allowing us to look down into the forest.  Walking on the shaky but ultimately stable bridges was an adrenaline rush.  While at the park we also took the Ebony Tree Trail Walk.  Ebony is an endangered wood and was extracted from Africa during pre-colonization and colonization.  One tree takes 1,000 years to mature!  My favorite tree on the walk was the proud tree.  It is a small tree but its roots make it stand above the ground and the roots grow out in front of it so it follows were the water is essentially walking through the forest.  The sap from the roots cures certain aliment and the fruit cures different aliments.  However, if the two are mixed together it is a powerful poison and is even used as a pesticide.  The liquid that comes from the roots will kill any plant life that it touches so that nothing stands in its way as it moves through the rainforest, hence the name proud tree.

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