A week ago I learned a new word – Bagamoyo. It means “where you leave your soul.” Yesterday I toured was in Bagamoyo and had the priviledge of touring the small town that served as a slave port for slaves rounded across the East Coast of Africa by slave traders and colonial powers. From Bagamoyo, these slaves were either shipped to Arabic countries, Persia, India, South Africa, Reunion, Mauritius to work on various plantations till the end of the 19th century. It is said that about 1.5 million slaves walked on the shores of Bagamoyo.
I cannot even imagine the number of men, women who died on their way, those who were killed in captivity and wars against slave traders. It was a beautiful and weird sensation walking around enjoying the sun and breeze from the Indian ocean in my face as I let my eyes wonder through the ruins of buildings that are centuries old. I remember being drawn to a door structure and design patterns but the closer I got the sooner I was reminded, by the presence of a heavy chain, that the house used to be a slave sales point.
What gave me so much soul in Bagamoyo was the ambiance of the town. It really felt surreal to go through neighborhoods that did not need walls as part of their construction. It’s very calm and people are nice. I really felt like I could live there for a while. Maybe. Who knows 🙂 If you don’t believe me, ask the fellow artists and event organizers from Kenya, Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, and The Gambia – with whom I had such a great time during the period of the Karibu Festival in Bagamoyo as part of Goethe Institute’s program called Moving Africa.
Before Bagamoyo, I was getting used to the sun in Dar Es Salaam. It was my first time and I was there to represent Rwanda for a joint project with researchers across Africa that revolves around De-Colonization, especially as represented through the arts. We were six experts from Togo, Cameroon, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Namibia and Germany gathered on the same table with Goethe Institute‘s representatives from Cameroon, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Findings will be published soon via various media. I will post a group photo when I get one. Meanwhile, I visited a number of museums and my experience was nothing less than mind blowing.