The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, September 23, 2017


Secrets of the deep: Senegal's slave shipwreck detective
Graduate students from Dakar's Chiekh Anta Diop university work on data on a boat during a diving expedition to find traces of slave shipwrecks on May 16, 2017 off the island of Goree, once a west African slaving post. Underwater archaeologist Ibrahima Thiaw has spent years scouring the sea bed off the island of Goree, never losing hope of locating the elusive vessels with a small group of students from Diop university. Goree was one of the largest slave-trading centres on the African coast between the 15th and 19th century, according to the United Nation's cultural agency UNESCO, and Thiaw believes his mission has a moral purpose: to heal the open wounds that slavery has left on the continent.
SEYLLOU / AFP.

by Jennifer O'Mahony


DAKAR (AFP).- Staring out to sea on a flawlessly sunny day, underwater archaeologist Ibrahima Thiaw visualises three shipwrecks once packed with slaves that now lie somewhere beneath Senegal's Atlantic waves.

He wants more than anything to find them.

Thiaw has spent years scouring the seabed off the island of Goree, once a west African slaving post, never losing hope of locating the elusive vessels with a small group of graduate students from Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University.

Goree was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast between the 15th and 19th century, according to the UN's cultural agency UNESCO, and Thiaw believes his mission has a moral purpose: to heal the open wounds that slavery has left on the continent.

"This is not just for the fun of research or scholarship. It touches us and our humanity and I think that slavery in its afterlife still has huge scars on our modern society," he said, pulling on a wetsuit and rubber boots for the day's first dive.

Thiaw believes his native Senegal, with its own long and violent history of trade in human flesh, could tell the world more about how modern capitalism was founded on violence inflicted on African bodies.

"The Atlantic slave trade was the foundation of our modernity, so this is a history for all mankind," he added, referring to the so-called "Triangular Trade" of human labour for consumer goods between Africa, the Americas and Europe.

After making final checks on the magnetometer that will run up and down a painstakingly designated strip of seabed for traces of wreckage, Thiaw disappears under the surface of the dark green waves.

1,000 slave shipwrecks
African nations affected by the slave trade have never fully come to terms with it, Thiaw believes, and even today in countries like Senegal, a caste of people still refer to themselves as slaves.

The horrors of the so-called Middle Passage, or journey across the Atlantic, not only industrialised the trade of people but ripped entire societies from their roots.

"The umbilical cord between Africa and its diaspora was broken and in the ocean (slaves) were being seasoned to be other people, to adapt to other conditions," he notes.

Thiaw, who originates from a rural area of Senegal but went on to study in the United States, had become known for his research into slaves' living conditions on Goree island when he was approached three years ago by the US National Park Service and National Museum of African American History and Culture to find a west African base for their "Slave Wrecks" project.

They offered dive training, equipment and expertise and had already helped establish similar dive sites in Mozambique and South Africa, with one historic success.

Artifacts, including shackles and ballasts from the Sao Jose Paquete de Africa, a Portuguese slave vessel that sank in 1794 with more than 200 slaves on board, were dredged up off the coast of Cape Town in 2015.

Around 1,000 slave shipwrecks are believed to dot the seabed between Africa and the Americas, according to "Slave Wrecks" researchers, but few have been found.
Today's dive, like dozens before it, was unsuccessful.

Precious clues
"We found a modern shipwreck, a big one," the powerfully built Thiaw said, seawater running down his face, but "it's not really what we are looking for."

The trio of wrecks Thiaw seeks -- the Nanette, the Bonne Amitie and the Racehorse -- all disappeared off Goree in the 18th century, taking with them crucial evidence of how enslaved Africans were carried across the harrowing Middle Passage.

The key is building a team of Senegalese archaeological divers who will dedicate themselves to the task, as some of his students graduate and move on.

The overwhelming majority of slave ships were repurposed and simply rotted away after abolition, meaning the slave shipwrecks preserved by the sea will provide precious clues.

'Silence' around slavery
Thiaw complains that there is a lack of interest within Senegal for his work, especially at the institutional level where, he said, there was "very little funding for research".

"I think in Senegal there's a lot of silence surrounding the issue but I think the time is ripe that we start to teach our students and our children how to respect people of different or lower status, slave caste," he said.

Discrimination remains a problem in the country, with some people still referred to as slaves using the word "jaam" in the country's majority Wolof language.

"There are still people, who are still known to be slaves," he said. "Some of them would even tell you proudly: 'yes, I am a slave'."

Thiaw wants his nation to unflinchingly analyse "the most painful aspects of our history and the contradiction of our history", especially the lingering elements of a class system that designated some Senegalese as worthy only of serving others.

Senegal's past lies somewhere on the seabed between Dakar and Goree, but perhaps also its future.

"We know they are there," Thiaw said.


© Agence France-Presse






Today's News

August 20, 2017

Archaeological find uncovers royal palace where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born

Bones, silver found in 18th-century Dutch wreck off UK

Sotheby's Made in Britain to showcase 'A Century of Ceramics'

Christie's announces Asian Art Week: A series of auctions, viewings, and events

Sotheby's to offer the Yeats Family collection

Secrets of the deep: Senegal's slave shipwreck detective

Exhibition illustrates the various ways we express our love of flowers

Are Confederate monuments important works of art?

Dorotheum announces Part II sale of the collection of art dealer Reinhold Hofstätter

Designs of the Year nominees announced by Design Museum

Comparing the jaws of Porcupine fish reveals three new species

Exhibition presents Isamu Noguchi's influential designs for playgrounds and play structures

New Harry Potter book reveals values and fandom behind our favorite wizard

Larger than life portrait painting of Thomas Edison, signed by him, will be sold August 29th

Embattled Trumps to skip top art awards

Timbuktu's mausoleums, ancient protectors of city

British TV star Bruce Forsyth dies aged 89

Graham Nash collection of underground art tops $6.3 million comics event at Heritage Auctions

Shaker Museum / Mount Lebanon hires Director of Advancement

New Orleans Museum of Art celebrates new hires

Multisite exhibition engages 16 U.S. Latino and Latin American artists and collectives

Dave Lefner Reduction Linocut exhibition on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

New Britain Museum of American Art displays monumental masterpiece by Samuel F.B. Morse

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Carbon dating finds manuscript contains oldest recorded origins of the symbol 'zero'

2.- Alice Walton announces formation of Art Bridges

3.- Met Museum acquires ancient Egyptian gilded coffin

4.- French fashion tycoon and art collector Pierre Berge dies aged 86 in southern France

5.- Van der Weyden, Rubens and Van Dyck: Flemish masters on view in The Hague

6.- New exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum explores rare luxury books of the Middle Ages

7.- Mexican archaeologists find dwelling for Aztec survivors of Spanish conquest

8.- Groundbreaking LGBTQ art show opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei

9.- Egyptian archaeological dig unearths goldsmith's tomb, mummies

10.- Exhibition at Stadel Museum focuses on works by Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez


Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful