Ansa…The End

20 Feb

Chapter 8

Ansa was one of the sixty slaves that the Dutch Ivan Stacky bought from Kofi and Apiah the leading slave dealers in Wassaw. They were transported in a cabin full of produce for the St. George Castle D’Elmina.

 

Upon arrival at the Dutch fort at Elmina castle, the slaves were made to match to their separate cells, male and female. It was during the separation that Ansa once again caught a glimpse of Mose. She was herded off to the female cell or dungeons as they were wont to be called.

 

If the barracoons at Kofi Otubu’s were to be compared to the dungeons of Elmina, they would be called paradise. The captives of Elmina Castle were held in suspended animation. They never saw daylight until the day they were to board the slave ships through the infamous ‘Door of No Return’.

 

Elmina

 

*                           *                           *

 

Elmina Castle, the first European slave-trading post in all of Sub-Saharan Africa  was built in 1482 by the Portuguese. At first it was built to take care of the Portuguese gold trade, but upon being taken over by the Dutch in 1637, the stores were converted to human holding cells. The Dutch also turned the old Portuguese Church into an auction hall, and added several outbuildings which they used to breed rear cats for their perfumes.

The cells or dungeons could hold as much as 200 people at a time. It was not unusual to have outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever which claimed lives in the thousands. Human life was cheap as the African chiefs were more than ready to trade several lives for a bottle of gin.

Each year about 30,000 slaves passed through Elmina’s Door of No Return on their way to work in plantations in North or South America.

There were only three modes of exit for the captives at Elmina: death from sickness which was rampant due to the extremely poor hygienic conditions; boarding of a slave ship; and sometimes for the women, being chosen as a concubine by the governor.

*                           *                           *

When Ansa stepped into the cell at Elmina, he did something he had never done in his life—he gagged. The fort itself was in a deplorable state, but nothing could compare to the filth he stepped into.

The cell was in total darkness. The smell of human excrement was overpowering. When he stepped into the cell itself he found his foot sank about a foot into centuries old human waste. He had to move for another slave was being shoved in right behind him. 

He waded through the filth until he came in contact with another flesh. He stopped unsure what to do next. He felt something climbing up his body and before he could do anything about it someone else was pressing into him.

Eventually the door closed and the wait began.

*                           *                           *

 

The hallucinations and nightmares came intermittently. Ansa could no longer differentiate between dreams and realities. Sometimes he saw himself soar with wings of an eagle like an avenging angel; sometimes he was chased about by a dark monster with its skin falling off. Sometimes he would hear people laughing deliriously; he would break out in cold sweat only to find himself all alone in a room with creeping and wriggling creatures on the walls.

 

“I must be losing my mind” he said aloud to himself at a point in an effort to hear his own voice and be sure that he could still speak.

 

The days blended together and he could not tell when one day ended and another began. It was in this state that he heard the call for everyone to vacate the dungeons. It sounded like a voice in his head, but when the door to the cell was opened up and the call was made directly to his cell he knew it was no dream.

 

In his weakened state he tried to move but couldn’t. It was as if his limbs simply refused to respond. He willed himself to mobility with the source of light his ultimate destination.

After so much concentration and will power he was able to move. He did not want to fall, not into the quagmire of maggots marinated in excrement. Now that he was getting out of this hole Ansa became conscious of his surroundings once more.

 

He had to pass his foot over unmoving fallen men, some decaying, but he finally made it to the door.  Outside there was a lot of activity. Ansa saw everything in a kind of haze, slaves were being moved. There was a pile of dead bodies, and it was still growing, beside the well where the women slave that caught the fancy of the governor was usually washed.

 

The slave ship they had been expecting from Badagry had finally arrived and had docked at Elmina two days ago. But there was a snag.

 

Slave trade had been officially abolished by the Dutch and the governor had been mandated to do away with the slaves.

 

At this point Ansa did not know that, he was just relieved he could see the sunlight again.

 

The surviving slaves marched single file in the direction the slave masters told them. An expressionless Negro was on hand to pour water on the slaves to wash out the filth from their bodies, especially their feet.

 

Ansa enjoyed the feel of the water on his body. He had tears in his eyes as he thought about how he had deteriorated. His beloved mother must have given up on him now. His hopes and aspirations in life had met their end. He had reached the Door of No Return.

 

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