Calabar, the nation’s first capital also known as the Canaan city has often been described as the tourism capital of Nigeria. The Calabar slave ship museum which preserve the rich history of the slave trade era in Nigeria is located close to the Calabar River. It was disclosed that this river served as the port for slave trade. It was through this port that slave masters shipped thousands of slaves from this country to America, Europe and other parts of the world. The combination of the resort, the river, a recreational park, ships, boat and Ferries on the water makes it a beautiful and attractive sights to behold.
There are also tourist attractions in the resorts such as cinema house, hotel, restaurant, speed boats for pleasure riding and space for weddings and other social events. The slave history museum has several galleries, displaying memorabilia, presentations and artifacts of the slave trade period.
Before entering the museum, visitors are usually assembly and briefed. After the briefing, visitors will be taken to a place where a documentary will be shown; the aim of which is to prepare your mind and heart on what you are about to see. At the tail end of the audio documentary, you will be taken into the museum, where you will hear sounds and shouts of distress. The shouts, cry and groaning coming from the museum are usually so real and vivid as if you are actually watching a real life event; and the scene is so horrific. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures in the museum. Before entering the museum, items such as phones and cameras are take away for custody. However, pictures can be taken in the museum surroundings. Taking a camera or your phone into the museum attracts a penalty.
The museum has different galleries and compartments, showing when the slaves were captured, how they were chained and led to the river, to the point of no return. There are audio recordings of how they were arranged in ships, how they yelled hopelessly, how they were thrown into the river and other stages of slavery in the plantations in their new world were all recorded. There are various rooms in the building, where the different stages, sponsors and activities of the Atlantic slave trade were displayed. Slaves were mostly shipped to the white man’s land to work as maids, on farm lands and tobacco or cotton plantations. As part of the trade, the merchants also carried items such as palm oil alongside the slaves. These was to make up for the loss of slaves who might die en route their different destinations. The merchants exchanged slaves for items such as copper rods, guns, gun powder, whiskey, gin, and mirror etc.
The journey from the hinterland to the port took weeks and sometimes months. When they arrived their final destinations, the slaves are arranged in a particular way on the ship. The manner in which they were arranged was to prevent any form of conspiracy against their masters. These was achieved by bringing together people who speak different languages from various parts of the world.
In those days, the slaves were fed once a day by putting food in between them and since their legs and hands were chained most of the time, they were forced to turn their necks to eat from the plates. Many of them kept yelling and weeping because of the tortuous nature of the journey. Those who lost their lives were thrown into the river and those who became weak, sick or had contagious illness were also thrown alive into the sea to die.
Some of the people who were captured as slaves in those days have been able to trace their home and communities in Africa. Cultural similarities are said to have been established between such tribes here and overseas.
By Mercy Kukah