There can be no doubting the fact that Badagry was a crucially important depot of the transatlantic slave trade on West Africas Slave Coast. The Atlantic and lagoonside port was indeed one of the most important embarkation points on the Bight of Benin in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In fact, it is well established that, at different times in the three centuries long era, Badagrys role in the inhumane human cartel trade transcended those of her closest neighbour ports, Lagos and Porto-Novo.
Equally, there can be no doubting the fact that significant memorialisation, monumentalisation and place-making relating to the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition have been and are still being done across Badagry town. These have taken various forms including the establishment, commemoration and/or production of museums, monuments, heritage sites, remembrances and observances, public arts, performances, relics, artefacts and even souvenirs. Indeed, the town is literally littered with diverse examples of the various forms in which different aspects of memories of the slave trade have been re-enacted, re-evoked, and re-imagined.
However, I am hereby making a case that there is room for doing more in memorialising this epochal era in the history of Badagry town. In this piece, my focus is on observances, remembrances and commemorations. A simple skimming of the list of international days observed by the United Nations will likely suggest that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade are about the biggest issues that the universal multi-purpose international organisation pays much attention to. In fact, more than any other single issue, slavery and the slave trade are the subject of three important annual observances of the UN.
First, there is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade which holds every 25 March. There is also the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition which is commemorated every 23 August. And lastly, there is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery which is observed every 2 December.
While I reckon that the August 23 observance has been steadily and fairly well commemorated in Badagry especially in connection with the annual Diaspora Festival Badagry and other such events, I am strongly of the opinion that there is much that Badagry, given its significant place in the global history of the transatlantic slave trade, can further gain from fully taking advantage of the commemoration of all of these global observances. These do not necessarily have to always take the form of festivals and jamborees as we currently have. I believe that with good synergy between municipal authorities and experts and entrepreneurs in the tourism sector within and outside Badagry, there are different initiatives that can be packaged around these annual observances. And, if well put together, it would be possible to secure international recognition and endorsement of such initiatives. All of these will definitely translate to significant gains for Badagry people, businesses and economy.
I consider that this submission is all the more worthy of consideration now that esteemed sons of Badagry are in pivotal position in the culture and tourism ministry of the Lagos state government.
Nido yon na mi!
Ṣeun Williams is a Badagrian. He writes from Geneva where he is currently PhDing. You can catch him on the web via @WheelHelms.