Monday, February 9, 2009
On the upper levels of St. George’s castle you have the best views of Elmina from the grand balconies and airy whitewashed rooms of the Dutch officials. The inlayed wood floors and huge glass windows, centuries old are more luxurious than most modern Ghanaian households. From the governor’s master bedroom a balcony looks down into an inner courtyard. Any time the governor felt the need, he would have the female “residents” form the lower levels lined up in the courtyard. Fro there he could comfortable pick who he would use, without coming to close to the stench of the women who were not allowed to bathe or to move away from the dead bodies, of mostly young girls, who had been overcome by the sub-Saharan heat. While the glass windows of the upper rooms seemed opulent and unnecessary, the total lack of windows or ventilation in the slave dungeons below is unthinkable. All this time later the dungeons still smell like dank death, although they say it has faded a lot.
In a country that is so communal and supportive, this divide seems completely out of place. Bet even today, a shadow of that divide still exists. The luxury resorts that pamper to a majority Dutch and European travelers have an eerie resemblance to the Dutch officers’ quarters in Elmina Slave Castle. At least Ghana is profiting somewhat from their tourism, but why does that divide still exist at all. There are plenty of explanations. You can read about it in books or have it explained in lectures. But when you are actually face to face with the extreme wealth next to the extreme poverty, all those explanations loose their weight.