Situated in the southwestern part of Nigeria and bordering the Benin Republic, Badagry was created around 1425 AD. This place shares history with many coastal west African towns as they played significant roles in trade with Europeans in the early centuries. As you drive into the town, a Brazilian-architectured red-white house is evidence of this town’s connection to the Americas.
A majestic male sculpture stands in the middle of the roundabout. This sculpture of a muscular build wears a fishers hat, a cloth tied around his waist, with hands casting a fishers net into the air. It is a sight meant to preserve this particular part of the town’s history. Badagry people were fishers as well as farmers and salt-makers.
Before the enslavement era, kingdoms lay connected with culture, trade, indigenous lifestyle and, of course, manageable lineage disputes. These kingdoms, which had existed before the Europeans, fell as an aftermath of the early globalisation and events related to transatlantic slavery.
Seriki Williams Abass Slave Barracoon
We meet Cafcas Abbas, a tour guide with a direct lineage to Seriki Williams Abass. He takes us to the first location – Seriki Williams Abass home, where many relics, including his grave, are preserved. According to him, Brazillian Slave merchants constructed this Slave cell around 1840, using it to keep dozens of captives for up to 120 days. In 2003, this construction was declared a National Monument.
Displayed are chains of different sizes, for children, for those labelled weak and larger chains, called “heavy chains”, for the stronger captives. Most prisoners died due to heat and illness, as there was only one mediocre square opening at the higher part of one wall, about 40cm wide, safeguarded by about six iron rods to serve as ventilation. They had a metal bucket and another large ceramic jar to serve as a toilet—the rest you can imagine. We covered a more detailed article in our upcoming digital magazine, EBIZ found in our TRIBE app.
Badagary: 40 souls for a jacquard umbrella.
At the entrance to the Salve cell stood an umbrella. It did not seem regular, so I asked our guide more about it. He explained how this good was used as means of exchange during the trade era. The umbrella was not regular. It was massive but old, made of goldish and purple jacquard mixed with golden embroidered flowers, with a robust wooden pole in the middle. The top of the wooden bar had a brass casing that served to beautify it. This piece of handwork was worth 40 human souls.
Mobee Museum in Badagry.
Barely well kept, the museum consists of a room where the relics of slavery consist of shackles, licks and chains. An iron bowl-like piece, claimed to originate from the trade era, was used to provide water to the enslaved people. The family name Mobee is said to have been adopted by European traders since they found it challenging to pronounce the family name of the host but could pick that word of his he mentioned during prayers. The family has kept the name since then.
As demand grew, so did unrest in Badagry.
The enslavement trade led to the desolation of the villages around the coast as people fled for safety into the inner part of the lands. However, this did not stop the trade as raids and warfare increased, for the transaction could not be developed based on those sold away for crimes or payment of debts. Since more captives needed to be sold away, an active dissolution of communities, towns and villages began. Raids and wars were necessary to deliver prisoners, which would then be sold to slave traders or used multiple times as a currency exchange. Being the form of exchange that could accumulate capital outside Africa.
The ocean separated life and death – The point of no return.
Many believed that the sea separated life and death. In a sense, they were correct, as many relatives captured, sold and taken on board the ocean never returned. They journey by foot from the barracoons through to the attenuation well. At the “Attenuation well”, a concoction was served to the captives to make them powerless and disoriented. More in our app as an article in our Ebiz and a mini-documentary coming soon in JoadreTRIBE app.
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