Saturday, March 24, 2007

Video # 13, Maison Des Esclaves, Goree

And now for a non-related music post:

Wow (means "yes" in Wolof by the way), Goree. That was a whirlwind afternoon. It took about twenty minutes on the boat over from the embarcadere. A much more functional system than the trip between Barra and Banjul in Gambia. No surprise, as Goree is a major tourist destination, a World Heritage site, while Barra-Banjul is a trip Gambians, Senegalese and other locals make every day, but not too many tourists. A classic example of non-existent infrastucture because it doesn't directly impact Western countries. Deep.

What a mix of emotions I felt on Goree today. On the one hand, deep sadness at how terrible a place this must have been for literally millions of people. On the other, indifference to and impatience with the tourist trade that exists there. Not that I should presume to say what should be happening on Goree and what shouldn't, but it felt strange, I must admit, to have a (somewhat) tasty pizza lunch in a bougainvillea-surrounded garden patio, browse poorly-made djembes, dunduns, and sabars, "generic" african batiks, cds and cassettes of m'balax stars, postcards, etc etc, in a place known as the "island of no return" because of its notorious part in the African slave trade.

I spent about 4 hours there in all. Its a very small island with no cars, a small community of 1500 who cater to the tourists, and thats about it. I will say that the old, pastel color buildings are incredibly beautiful. And the doors to these buildings, mostly compounds for the island residents but also various offices, museums, etc, are spectacular! Strangely, they reminded me of Amsterdam. I found myself taking pictures of the doors to these compounds on Goree the same way I do in Amsterdam. If I could just figure out how to post photos... when I do, I'll put up a door series. They're gorgeous!

La Maison des Esclaves is a rose-colored building with a ground floor of holding cells and a second floor museum with artifacts from the 16th-19th centuries. As a measure of my sink-or-swim French-speaking experience here, I was pleased that I caught more of the French tour guide's very insightful comments than I thought I would. Just goes to show ya, the only real way to (re)learn a language is to be forced to speak it consistently. Just a month and I fumble much less than when I got here. Amazing.

I include a video here of me walking through the ground floor of holding rooms briefly. I do so with mixed emotions because this place and this topic is more serious, more sensitive than any musical endeavors could ever be. I don't mind up-loading short video clips of inspiring musical moments. Its a pleasure to do, actually, because it gives exposure to rich musical worlds here. But I don't believe a 2-minute short video can begin to convey the weight that one feels here, the tragedy that happened on Goree, the injustices that were perpetrated over centuries. Comments and perspectives encouraged.

BTW, disturbingly but not surprisingly, when Bush visited Goree in 2003 the island residents were taken from their home and cordoned off on a football field for the six hours Bush was there speaking about . That didn't get much coverage in U.S. media, of course.

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