• Ekanem Ibokessien

RU Students Relive Slave Trade Horrors in Calabar

Students of Ritman University (RU), Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State witnessed artefacts and simulations reminiscent of the Slave Trade era during an excursion to Old Residency and Slave History Museum in Calabar.

The undergraduates who were mostly from RU’s Department of History and International Studies on Wednesday 30th August, 2017 took a guided tour around the Slave History Museum and Old Residency Museum which hold interest to tourists and learners alike. The slave museum is located in the place where captured slaves were shipped off to Europe during Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Mmenyene Silas and Grace Umanah, while reliving their experience enthused that what they saw at the museums brought to their consciousness some of the historical facts they had been learning in the classroom and library. Old Residency, a colonial structure built in 1884, was where British administrators lived and administered the Niger Coast territories. On exhibition were a dining table, ceramic plates, jugs and other items used by Lord Frederick Lugard and other colonial rulers.

According to Aljazeera, the Old Residency building was prefabricated in Britain and then shipped to Calabar in 1884. Its ground floor served as headquarters of the British Protectorate that would eventually become the southern part of British colony Nigeria. For four centuries of Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British shipped millions of Africans across the Atlantic to sell as slaves. Calabar used to be Britain’s busiest trading post: almost one-third of the total number of Africans the British abducted from the end of the 17th century until the abolition of slavery in 1807 was shipped from here. When the colonial rulers left, Old Residency was declared a national monument, but wasn’t turned into a national museum until 1986.

The students also saw a kind of soap and bottles of alcoholic drink which – their guide disclosed – were some of the items that white slave dealers used to deceive natives into trading their people off to Europe. The traders were said to have been told that this soap would make them become light-complexioned. The drinks (which Africans were told was medicinal) made them drunk enough to give in to the slave bargain.

They were also shown chains which were used on slaves as well as photos of those who championed abolition of slave trade, including William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp and John Clarkson. There were also audio and video recordings of slave transactions complete with pathetic sounds of crying and lamenting slaves who were being branded with hot irons for identification or snatched from their loved ones.

RU students led by a lecturer, Mr. Kenneth Oforji also learnt through sight of artifacts from ancient Nok, Benin, Igbo Ukwu, Calabar and Ife cultures. They were shown a spinning wheel and boat by which the late Scottish missionary credited with stopping the killing of twins – Mary Slessor – was brought back to Calabar.

Edidiong Esara 31/08/17

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