Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slave Market - Stone Town, Zanzibar

Planning my visit to Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar I knew that I wanted to visit the Anglican Christ Church, which was the former slave market; one of the last legal markets in the world.  During an afternoon walk I made my way to the Church.  I had been anticipating the visit and had wondered if I would finally be able to lay down some anger towards the whole topic of the slave trade.  


Going into the entrance of the original slave chambers building I felt numb, just thinking of the many victims  that had made their way to this site over 140 years ago.  The entry cost is a small fee 4000 TSH ($2.60 Canadian) which helps with the up-keep of the grounds.

Slaves from Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and many other countries were taken from their home lands and sent by ship to Zanzibar. The were put through several tests and tortured to see if they had what it took to be a “good slave”.  The slaves would be held in the cramped and crowded chambers, separated in groups of men, women and children, about 125 slaves at a time were kept in these horrible conditions.


I made my way to the three day slave chamber and sat for a while. My guide explained that the slaves would be kept here as a test to separate the strong from the weak, 8 slaves at a time would be sent to the three day chamber. They were given very little food and water and were forced to use the middle section as bathrooms. The chambers were connected to the seaport by underground tunnels and during high tide the ocean water would flush out the chambers and the majority of their feces would be removed.  Those who survived this test would then be deemed a “strong slave” and sent to auction. 

Original chains
The auction was held where the Anglican Christ Church now stands.  The buyers would sit where the church pews where constructed. 
 The “ Whipping Post” was a tree which once stood where you will now find the alter. Pictured below is the the round stump of the tree; which are the only reminants of where the brutal whipping used to take place.
Slaves would be brought to the whipping tree and whipped by a slave master. The whip used by the masters was often a tail from a stingray. The slaves who did not scream or cry would be sold for much more as this test showed their strength and ability to withstand harsh conditions. Auctions were held and the slaves were sold to Arabs who transported them to their various countries; Yemen, Oman, Madagascar and several other countries.
In 1873 the slave trade of Zanzibar ceased operations after a plea from Dr. David Livingston, a missionary and African explorer from London. The Anglican Christ Church was built in celebration of the end of the slave trade in Zanzibar.

Bishop Edward Steel, a true friend to the slaves and a great missionary was responsible for the construction of the Church. Upon his death he was  buried behind the alter in remembrance to his dedication to peace.

Today a hostel, gift shops and a restaurant have been built above the slave chambers. Only two of the 15 original chambers remain as a part of history that so many are willing to forgive but not forget.

1 comment:

  1. view of part of the market. Landscape stones, ornate troughs, Sale and buy stone marble
    , mill stones and bonsai are all on offer