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Cape Coast CastleCape Coast Castle, rebuilt by the British in the 18th centuryCape Coast Castle is a fortification in Ghana built by Swedish traders. ...
Cape Coast Castle
Cape Coast Castle, rebuilt by the British in the 18th centuryCape Coast Castle is a fortification in Ghana built by Swedish traders. The first timber construction on the site was erected in 1653 for the Swedish Africa Company and named Carolusborg after King Charles X of Sweden. It was later rebuilt in stone.
In April 1663 the whole Swedish Gold Coast was seized by the Danes, and integrated in the Danish Gold Coast. In 1664 the Castle was conquered by the British and was extensively rebuilt by the Committee of Merchants (whose Governors administered the entire British colony) in the late 18th century. In 1844, it became the seat of the colonial Government of the British Gold Coast.
The Castle was built for the trade in timber and gold. Later the structure was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Castle, or Castle and Dungeon, to give it its official name, was first restored in the 1920s by the British Public Works Department.
In 1957, when Ghana became independent, the castle came under the care of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB). In the early 1990s, the building was restored by the Ghanaian Government, with funds from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Aid for International Development [USAID], with technical assistance from the Smithsonian Institution and other NGOs.
Other Ghanaian slave castles include the Portuguese foundation of Elmina Castle (later Dutch) and Fort Christiansborg.
The Cape Coast Castle, and other forts and castles in Ghana, are included on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. This historic site was visited by the US President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama and family on July 11, 2009.
Cape Coast Castle has seen the passage of numerous foreign powers. Initially constructed as a small trading lodge in the 16th century, the building was subsequently altered and enlarged becoming a substantial fort by 1627. It was later captured by the Swedes and named Fort Carolusberg, finally becoming a British possession in 1664. Cape Coast Castle, through which millions of slaves were shipped to the Caribbean and the United States, became the seat of British colonial administration until 1877 when government offices moved to Christiansborg Castle in Accra.
The cannons still face seaward, stirring the imagination to scenes of exploration, discover and great tragedy. The Museum of West African History, currently under development in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution of the United States, brings into sharp focus the role that these great structures played in the meeting of two cultures. As you wander the ramparts of Cape Coast Castle in the salt air, the view is a visual feast. Traditional customs - the mending of nets and launching of painted fishing canoes, contineu side-by-side with the new - impromptu soccer games and the hustle and bustle of business. Cape Coast Castle is alive with the human spirit.
Ten kilometers west on a promontory visible from a great distance, Elmina Castle is the earliest known European structure in the tropics. Built in 1482 by the Portugauese during early world exploration, the castle was taken over by the Dutch in 1637, who retained control for 274 years. Inside the vast fortification is the location of the first Catholic church in Sub-Sahara Africa. The Castle's damp, unlit dungeons served as horrific holding areas for the human cargo of the infamous slave trade.
For St. Jago is within walking distance. It is from this vantage point that the Dutch launched their successful land attack on Elmina Castle. Unlike other forts in the area, Fort St. Jago was not used for trading activities. Its primary purpose was to provide military protection to Elmina Castle. Be sure to bring your camera. The hill on which Ft. St. Jago stands provides an excellent view of Elmina Castle, the Atlantic Ocean, and the buzz of commercial activity at the Elmina fishing harbor.
Guided tours of Cape Coast and Elmina Castles are available. Cultural and theatrical performances are often staged here. Prominent among these are the re-enactment of the horrors of the slave trade as well as a solemn, touching portrayal of the final journey of the Africans as they walked through the hellish dungeons into the awaiting ships that transported them to the Americas.