Commemoration of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition in Accra
On August 23rd 2021, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was commemorated in Accra through the event “Memories from the Dungeon” at Ussher Fort, a component of the serial World Heritage site Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions. The event was organized by Naam Language and renowned Ghanaian poet Oswald Okaitei and supported by UNESCO, E-Ananse libraries, National Commission on Culture, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, and Ghana Commission for UNESCO. The evening was also a celebration of one of Ghana’s most prominent cultural activists and creative and literary arts legend, Dr. Ben Abdallah under the theme “Literature, a Museum for Slave Trade History”.
The UNESCO Representative and Head of Office in Ghana, Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo was invited to the event as a special guest. In his keynote address, he shared the official message of the UNESCO Director-General, Madam Audrey Azoulay, on the occasion of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
The commemoration was also attended by several dignitaries, among others, the Secretary-General of the Ghana Commission for UNESCO, Mrs Ama Serwah Nerquaye-Tetteh; the Executive Director of the National Commission on Culture, Madam Janet Edna Nyame; the Colombian Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Claudia Turbay Quintero; the General Secretary of the Pan African Writers' Association, Dr Wale Okediran; the Ag. Director of the Directorate of Planning, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Commission on Culture, Mr Fio Richardson Commey; and the Project Director of the Ga Mashie Development Agency, Mr Nii Teiko Tagoe. The Ghana Tourist Authority was represented by Mr Kofi Atta Kakra Kusi, the Deputy at the Corporate Affairs Department, and Mr Nii Kwate Owoo, the renowned Ghanaian filmmaker and videographer.
The event featured different performances: poetry (Oswald Okaitei and Lemaire Kofi James), music (Nii Osabu Lozo), dance (Shidaa Cultural Troupe) and a conversation/discussion on Dr. Ben Abdallah’s work under the theme “Literature, a Museum for Slave Trade History”.
During the event, history teachers from senior high schools in Ghana expressed their concern about the lack of material on the history of Africa, particularly the transatlantic slave trade. They urged UNESCO to support Ghana to strengthen the consciousness of the youth on the past. UNESCO reminded participants of its flagship programme the General History of Africa, through which UNESCO supports African countries in reclaiming ownership over the narration of their history. UNESCO further launched an extensive collection of pedagogical material that is designed to be used as reference material for history teachers on the General History of Africa.
UNESCO representatives, reminded the participants also about the other important UNESCO flagship programme, the Slave Route Project, which is rooted in the overall mandate of UNESCO that believes that ignorance or concealment of pivotal historical events is an impediment to mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation among individuals. The project aims to explain why and how exploring the transatlantic slave trade can support to identify the link between a tragic past, a complex present and a future to be formed together.
The venue of the evening, Ussher Fort, carried a symbolic meaning as it was once a slave dungeon during the transatlantic slave trade in Ghana until the British abolition of slavery in 1833. Its Slave Museum and Documentary Centre was recently inaugurated after months of rehabilitation works through support from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (NFiT) and UNESCO. The collection in the museum is varied and includes items once used by captors on victims. The exhibition also comprises of weapons, African household items and a model of the St. George’s Castle in Elmina. In July 2021, two high-level visits were organized for both the Diplomatic Corps and the UN Country Team in Ghana to the rehabilitated museum.
The entire commemoration was broadcasted live by e- Ananse libraries.