Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, West Africa   Leave a comment

Cape Coast Castle is a fortification that dates back to the mid-1600’s and is located on the coast of Ghana in West Africa.  Originally built for the gold and timber trades, it became a major hub in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  In 1844, it was also the seat of Britain’s colonial Gold Coast (Ghana) government.

At the peak of the slave trade this castle would typically hold 1,000 male and 500 female Africans destined for slavery.  These captives arrived from all over northern and western Africa, some of whom had been marched through portions of the Saharan desert before reaching Cape Coast.  They were held for up to 6 weeks in underground dungeons with a single small window for ventilation, and a human waste ditch in the center.  Food was sparse, disease was rampant, and “attrition” was unsurprisingly high.  These people were primarily destined for the Caribbean sugar plantations, the mainland American colonies, and Great Britain.

We toured this UNESCO world heritage site in early December during our visit to Ghana.  Our guide, a young college-educated Ghanaian woman, not only explained the history of the fort and slave trade but also took us through the dungeons and passage tunnels.  She briefly turned out the lights in our subterranean dungeon for emphasis, and showed us the shackles and other tools of control and punishment.  In a singularly perverse irony one of the rooms where several hundred men lived (and died) was directly below the castle’s chapel.

From inside it was impossible to capture the fort in a single image, so I focused on specific architectural features.  Rather than conveying horrors of the slave trade I’m afraid the photos come across more or less as some sort of historic building in an equatorial paradise.  You’ll have to use your imagination.  I’m afraid no photo or photos can convey the real story.

(Above) Gun emplacements, ocean side.

(Above) Inner courtyard.  Officers and merchants lived in an above ground paradise.  Captives lived in an underground hell.

(Above) “Door Of No Return”.  Two hundred years ago those slaves who survived their imprisonment were led in chains through this door to a waiting ship.  The cross-Atlantic journey was a continuation of the hell.

(Above) Passageway next to inner courtyard.

(Above) View of courtyard and gun emplacements from upper balcony.

(Above) The “gold coast” could also be named for the warm sunlight and highlights.  This was a difficult exposure to capture.  It took a lot of post-processing work.

(Above) When I can’t capture the “whole”, I try to focus on architectural details.  Stair cases are a favorite.

(Above) More staircase details.  The white stucco and blue sky begs for a photo.

(Above) Okay, one last staircase photo.  Probably one too many . . .

(Above) The colors were spectacular.  Almost made me forget the reason that the fort was here.

(Above) Beach side view through a window in the castle wall.  This is a three-image stack of photos merged into a single image.  One normally metered shot, one over-exposure at +2, and one under-exposure at -2.  Combined in Photomatix Pro software.

(Above) No shortage of cannon on the ocean side.  Protecting the human cargo from theft or from emancipation, I wonder?

(Above) Passageway down to the “Door Of No Return”.

(Above) A different view of the “Door Of No Return”.  Another three-stack image in Photomatix.

(Above) We saw these oddly patterned ravens throughout Ghana.  This one was kind enough to pose on the castle wall for a photo.

(Above) For the tens of thousands of lives lost or sold.

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Posted January 3, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

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