With "Door of No Return", House of Slaves, Goree
Talibé victims of a contemporary form of slavery visit the island of Gorée
Arouna Kandé, a senior talibé and Maison de la Gare’s Administrative Assistant, prepared this report of the very moving visit that thirty talibé children made to the island of Gorée on December 31st, 2014. Arouna writes: “The Portuguese, French, Dutch, Spanish and English controlled the slave trade. Their products were traded for slaves, provided mostly by African kings. The overloaded boats headed for the New World, many from Gorée. The crossing of the Atlantic was a terrible ordeal, lasting four weeks or more. The slaves were chained in the holds crammed like sardines, branded with a hot iron. Once in the Americas, they were sold at auction. The proceeds from the sales allowed the Europeans to benefit from the products of the plantation fields: coffee, tobacco, cotton and sugar cane. This visit taught us how Africa has experienced a great challenge before independence.”
Arouna interviewed seven of the talibé children who participated with him in the visit, and he has recorded their accounts for us here.
Karfa, age 13 – “When the marabout gave me permission to join the other talibé children going to Dakar to visit Gorée, I was surprised because I never thought that I would go to the capital one day. I couldn’t sleep on the way. All along the road I watched the houses and woods in the dark. Arriving in Dakar, my heart started to beat faster because we got on a boat and the sea in front of us seemed so large that I was thinking in my head, ‘Where is this going to take us?’ Arriving on the island of Gorée, there was no one there; it was like a dream. We all stayed together until people woke up. Later, I understood the purpose of our visit to the House of Slaves. There were empty rooms, but Issa explained the meaning of these empty rooms. Why did people want to be sold by the Toubabs (the whites)? How were they sold?”
Oumar, age19 – “It was on December 31, 2014 that we went to visit the island of Gorée. We left Saint Louis at around 1:30 am and arrived at Gorée at 4 am. After spending the night, we woke up at 7 am to visit the House of Slaves, and we took the boat to cross to it. Once there, we had breakfast in the company of our friends and the president of our association.
During our visit, we discovered a lot about the history of Gorée, for example, how the slaves lived, where they were gathered, and where the boats were moored that would take them away. We saw monuments that showed the abuse and suffering that these people were subjected to. We also visited the rooms where the slaves lived ten to fifteen people per room, with women, men and children being separated. We learned from the person responsible for the House of Slave how the slaves were treated by the whites. The visit allowed us to learn many things that we did not know about Gorée as well as about the history of Senegal, in particular of slavery.
After this visit, we can say that Gorée is a city full of history like Saint Louis, but the difference is that when we speak of Saint Louis we allude to the arrival of whites in this city that became the first capital of Senegal. But Gorée is a city that reminds us of bad memories, of the suffering and pain experienced by our society before independence.”
Idrissa, age 15 – “This was the first time I visited Gorée. I saw a lot of things that I have never seen. The scenery is beautiful, and we discovered a lot about the island of Gorée: monuments, the rooms of the slaves and the slaves’ door of no return. We were also told about the conditions in which the slaves lived, ill-treated by the whites. This visit allowed us to know a lot about the history of the slave trade and especially about the slaves.”
Amadou, age 16 – “This visit to Gorée was a great highlight in our lives, as it has allowed us to discover a lot about the history of our country and especially about the human trafficking of slaves and the precarious conditions under which they lived.
Also during this visit, we discovered the monuments that showed us the abuse suffered by these slaves, and their departure point leaving for Europe and the United States.”
Ousmane B., age 8 – “When you hear Dakar, it feels like cars are roaring in heaven and there are plenty of planes there too. The buildings are large, there are police officers in the city, and the roads are very wide. We got into a boat to go to a place like another country. There was nobody in the houses and no one was speaking. We entered a house where there was no one, the rooms had no beds, no TV, no toilet. We saw a statue that was speaking with a sword in its hand. It was like being in a movie.”
Ousmane D., age 14 – “At the end of December I went to Gorée. We learned so much about the history of Senegal and the slave trade and the fate of slaves. This trip makes it possible for us to have a better life. And it was as a part of this adventure that I was able to go to the palace of the President of the Republic of Senegal.”
Souleymane, age 20 – “It was an unforgettable day when I visited Gorée. I've never been there and, thanks to this visit, I had the opportunity to learn many things. We were shown rooms for men, women and children slaves. They also showed us some very important things about the slaves, for example the chains which bound their necks and ankles. There was a small door called the “door of no return” though which the slaves departed to go to the Americas. I am really happy to have made this visit, because it taught me so much about the island of Gorée and the slave trade.”
The crossing to the island of Goree
Issa explaining statue of slaves in bondage
Entering the House of Slaves
Arouna with Kalidou, studying history of slavery
At the presidential palace, Dakar
Talibe children who shared their Goree stories