It took months of reminding and asking our coordinator but we finally made it to Badagry as one of our “cultural tours” of Nigeria. Badagry is a coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Guinea, between Lagos and the Republic of Benin. On entering Nigeria by road, it is the first city you pass through. It is one of the many historical sites in Nigeria, known for being the major slave port in West Africa. Hundreds of thousands of captured Africans passed through this city on their horrific journey to be sold in America, the Caribbean, South America and Europe. The first Christian missionaries also landed here in 1842. Today, the city looks like a typical south-western Nigeria town but it is more slow paced compared to the hustle bustle of Lagos and Ibadan. It’s placement on the beach makes it ideal for tourism, so I was glad to see the early stages of construction of a massive boardwalk that would spark a tourist industry there.
The most interesting part of the trip for me was touring the Heritage Museum, a museum of artifacts and information about the slave trade in Nigeria. I was moved and almost shed tears when I picked up the left cuff of a real wrought iron wrist shackle slaves were to wear on their wrists at all times. I strained to lift it with one hand. Curriculum about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is mandatory in the U.S.I have listened to many lectures, read books and seen movies about it. But all those secondary sources paled in comparison to lifting one shackle or listening to our tour guide explain in Yoruba and demonstrate how slaves were to drink out of the deep cone shaped iron drinking pot without using hands. When we finished the tour of the rooms we came out onto a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Guinea. It reminded me of finishing the tour of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and coming out onto the balcony overlooking the land Jews call their own now. Our guide pointed across the water to an island covered in trees. “Se e ri afara funfun yen? Do you see that white bridge? We call that place the “point of no return” because once the slaves are transported from the mainland across to that place, they are boarded into the ship and there is no way they can escape.” Thinking about the brutality that took place on the very ground I was standing on is chilling but it is a very important history to understand so it can never happen like that again.
Feeling inspired, we went to the beach along the highway towards the Benin border. Except for a few souls, palm frond houses and fishing boats, the beach was desolate. The dull turquoise water receding fast down the shore crashing back with foamy tops.Our teachers would not even let us put one foot in the water because they feared the strength of the current would pull us, all experienced swimmers, out to sea. I found fun in taking pictures instead.
That makes the cities I’ve visted: Abeokuta, Badagry, Osogbo, Ilobu, Oke Omu, Sekonna, Ilesa, Eko, Oyo. We still have to get to Ife and many others. Hopefully soon!