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Kunta Kinteh Island, The Gambia: This island with a terrifying history is about to disappear; Catherine Marshall; Stuff
Though a Unesco World Heritage site, it appears to be as much a victim of the river as its prisoners were of the slave trade.
Over Christmas and New Year we went to Senegal and the Gambia. You are now reading the first blog entry from that trip and it is about the part of the trip we spent in the Gambia.
The Gambia is in West Africa and if you look at a map you’ll notice that it is looking very funny. The country is very thin and elongated and sort of resembles a snake in shape. The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal on all sides except to the west where the country has a short coast. The country’s snake-like shape is explained by that the country follows the Gambia River. The rest can be explained by Senegal’s past as a French colony and the Gambia’s past as a British colony.
We are not historians but one thing is obvious – very many bad things and came out of colonialism and very few good. One of the worst things that colonialism made possible was the slave trade, or as we would call it today – human trafficking, and that is were we are going to start our story.
KUNTA KINTEH, Gambia – As the rebel slave who defied his captors, Kunta Kinte, immortalised in print and on screen in “Roots”, put The Gambia on the map for historical tourism.
But the island where he and tens of thousands of west African slaves faced the horrors of being chained, branded and separated before leaving their homeland forever, is under threat from sea erosion and neglect.
Kinte’s descendants, along with heritage officials, warn that without urgent action, 550 years of history could be lost.
They are pressuring the new government to preserve the country’s historical memory for the next generation of Gambians and tourists.
The island’s namesake sprang to fame as the central character in American author Alex Haley’s “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”.