May 10, 2018 By Mohamed Faray Kargbo
Those who had tears shed it, those who had courage braved it, whilst those who are resilient expressed determination.
It was the first time all 60 pupils and three patrons were visiting Bunce Island even if they have heard stories about slavery and its attendant consequences.
The pupils asked all sorts of questions from the utterly ridiculous to the thought-provoking ones. As they marched through the ruins, the deafening silence on the island reminds them of what might have transpired there some 350 years ago.
Led by the Research/Development Officer, Monuments and Relics Commission, Francis Momoh, the despicable history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the role of Bunce Island was laid bare during the guided tour.
“This is the men’s slave yard. Here, young able-bodied men were shackled in groups of ten and treated in the most dehumanizing manner. Daring to escape was the worst thing any of those slaves could had thought of” He remarked as they entered the men’s slave yard.
On the 26th April, 2018 pupils of the Ahmadiyya Muslim School Heritage Club were excited to make the trip. They enjoyed the journey and the beautiful scenery but that joy was short-lived.
The contours on their foreheads multiplied. Happiness gave way to sadness. Some even wished they hadn’t made the trip.
Although the Island is now a shadow of its former self, the 18th century structures give the impression that that was a very successful business. The Gambia Adventurers like their counterpart Grant Oswald and Sargent must have made huge dividends during their lifetime. But that was then.
Under the remit of the Monuments and Relics Commission, Bunce Island was declared a monument in 1948 after the inauguration of the 1946 Ordinance.
Unlike its slave forts in Ghana, Senegal and the Gambia, Bunce Island has remained uninhabited since mid-19th century. The ruins have deteriorated such that they would disappear if left untended as noted by pupils of Bishop Johnson Memorial School.
Their visit was on the 28th April, 2018 immediately after Sierra Leone’ 57th independence anniversary. Looking dejected from learning about the inhuman trade, Jeneba Z. Sillah, a JSS 3 pupil of Bishop Johnson and a club member remarked that the government must transform the island immediately.
Like Jeneba, Abdul Rahman Jalloh is concerned about the deterioration of the island and suggested that a date be set aside for the commemoration of slavery.
A similar sentiment was expressed by the third school, Henry Fergusson Junior Secondary School. In their visit on 30th April, 2018 they marveled at the discovery of structures as old as time.
They thanked the Monuments and Relics Commission whilst requesting for the holistic preservation of the island for future generation.
The visits were facilitated by the Monuments and Relics Commission with funding from the Ambassodor’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. More schools will be taken on guided tour of Bunce Island in the next couple of months.
The US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation has provided funds for the preservation of Bunce Island to save the site from further dilapidation and degradation.