Our work challenges traditional historical interpretations of the transatlantic slave trade based on European colonial written accounts.
Across Africa, from the north of the Sahara to the West African coast sit many relics of the continent’s early interactions with Europe.
A sculpture’s trans-Atlantic passage from Ghana to Alabama
When the e-mail came from Alabama, Ghanaian sculptor Kwame Akoto-Bamfo was furiously preparing for an ambitious installation at Cape Coast Castle. The so-called “slave castle” on the Ghanaian coastline was where enslaved Africans were held captive in underground dungeons in the weeks before their trans-Atlantic migration to the New World, and a life of servitude — and worse.
It’s now a living monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Akoto-Bamfo was in the midst of sculpting 1,300 heads, cast in concrete, representing the multitude of Africans who were imprisoned there.
Now, out of the blue came a random e-mail from a place in Montgomery, Ala., called the Equal Justice Initiative. It was puzzling. Not only had he never been to the United States, but he’d barely ever been outside of Ghana. “Except Togo,” he said in an interview. “Maybe Burkino.”
The e-mail came from the office of Bryan Stevenson, the prominent civil rights attorney and the organization’s founder.
New genetic data bear witness to transatlantic ties severed by slavery and triangular trade. Scientists from the Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse (CNRS/Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier/Paris Descartes University) and Ecological Anthropology and Ethnobiology (CNRS/MNHN) research units have shown that members of Maroon communities in South America – formed over four centuries ago by Africans who escaped slavery – have remarkably preserved their African genetic heritage (98%). In contrast, the same cannot be said for African-descendants from Brazil and Colombia. The researchers’ findings are published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Between 1526 and 1875, approximately seven million Africans were uprooted from their homelands and reduced to slavery in South America. Though historical archives shed some light on the origins of the African-descendant communities existing today, it is still difficult to determine their ancestral roots.
UNESCO inscribed these traditional Asante buildings near Kumasi on the World Heritage Site list in 1980.
UNESCO inscribed these traditional Asante buildings near Kumasi as a cultural World Heritage Site in 1980. Parallel to Ghana’s growing economy is the construction of buildings using modern and western architectural influences. In an urbanization context, the traditional structures of the Asante Kingdom serve as witnesses to Ghana’s architectural heritage. The buildings were built with locally available materials, namely clay, wood, and straws and embellished with gorgeous and unique decorations.
5. Description and History –
Kumasi served as the capital of the prosperous Ashanti empire, which at its zenith in the 18th century, was one of the most wealthy and powerful empires in Africa. The empire’s decline commenced with the arrival of the British in 1806 when most of the kingdom’s buildings were destroyed.
19 forts, 3 castles, and several other sites important to Portuguese Atlantic trade in the 15th through 18th Centuries have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
5. Description and History –
The historic forts and castles along the coast of Ghana are the remains of sites that acted as protected trading-posts that were built over a three hundred year period between 1482 and 1786. These castles and forts were mostly built by the Portuguese and at times occupied by traders from Britain, German, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. These forts and castles were originally built by the Portuguese to link together their trade routes during the Age of Discovery and the rise of the Portuguese Empire.