News / USA

Students Try to Save Slave Island in Sierra Leone

Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone
Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone

Some former slave ports in Africa are now tourist destinations, but not Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. It's abandoned and its slave castle is in ruins.

The British established Bunce Island as a slave port in the 1670s.

From here, thousands of West Africans were sent in chains to rice fields in the American south.  

Planters from colonies in South Carolina and Georgia were willing to pay extra for the expertise of the rice growers, captured on West Africa's rice coast, stretching from what is now Senegal to Liberia.

Journalists, students, staff and teachers from the Fatima Institute, in Makeni, Sierra Leone, recently decided it was time for them to look into this history themselves.

They traveled in a cramped four by four on a route that included driving on railroad tracks, and then getting on a pirogue (boat).

They broadcast their journey into history live on their radio station back in Makeni, via cell phone.

One teacher, Boniface Sidiki Kamara, expressed concern at how difficult it was to get to the island.  He compared it unfavorably to a trip he made to tourist sites in Europe. "I remember when I went to Italy, I saw the grave, the tomb of Saint Francis of Assisi. You could see thousands of people lining up just to go pay and see this place," he said.

The live commentary of their trip continued from the leaky pirogue, with one student David Ngobeh being handed the phone. "Oh, Charles, this is quite impressive," he said.

After several hours, the group finally arrived, tired but reenergized.  For most, it was their first time on an island they had read about in textbooks and even dreamed about as a link to the rest of the world.

They said the slave history tying Sierra Leone to Europe and the United States was not shameful, but instead a source of pride.

They all expressed disappointment that their own government was not doing more to conserve the island.

"It tells you about man's inhumanity to man, I mean, the cruelty of man, the evil side of our own nature as human beings. But also it tells you about the resilience of the human spirit, that I mean people survived after being shipped from this place. Because of slavery, because of this experience, so many people came out and they have done good to our world," said Reverend Joe Turay from the Fatima Institute.

Turay said turning the island into a tourist spot also could help Sierra Leone overcome its own painful past, following years of civil war. "This takes us to the new discourse of human rights. There are various forms of injustices happening in our situation, in our country, in our context today.  The slave island should serve as a symbol, as a symbol of resistance, a symbol of the fight against injustices," he said.

At the end of the visit, the group broke out in impromptu singing, feeling very much connected to world history and hoping others could also feel some of their emotions for this abandoned, but not forgotten, place.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More