Gorée Island, Dakar, Senegal
GPS: 14.668102145127, -17.398668198146
Located in the Bay of Dakar, south of the Cape Verde Peninsula, Gorée Island is a former important centre dedicated to the slave trade from Black Africa to the “New World”. For 300 years, between the beginning of the 16th and the middle of the 19th centuries, this small island of 0.28 km² served as a transit point for the Atlantic slave trade. This practice in Gorée officially ended with the abolition of slavery in France in 1848. However, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that labour and slavery ceased throughout the African continent.
Threatened today by marine erosion, the island of Gorée was discovered by Europeans in 1444, by the Portuguese navigator Dinis Dias who named it Ilha de Palma. The Portuguese founded a first slave market and a slave factory a century later, where men, women and children waited to be transported by ship to the American continent in appalling detention conditions. Colonised by the Dutch, Gorée Island changed flags several times between the English and the French in the 17th and 19th centuries. Its population reached 6,000 inhabitants, but fires and several epidemics of yellow fever and cholera decimated the demography. This island of memory is endowed with an incredible charm despite the imprint and the weight of the past. Its colonial houses, cultural museums and historical monuments stand next to flowery alleys in a decor of warm colours. Local artists, praised for their creativity, participate in the dynamism and influence of the archipelago which is now inhabited by about 1,200 people.
A precious asset for humanity, the island of Gorée has become an international symbol of reconciliation. In 1978, the Senegalese archipelago was one of the first 12 sites in the world to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for education, science, and culture. It is officially recognised as the symbol of the slave trade in Africa. However, the extent of the slave trade is disputed by several historians, who question whether the small size of the island was appropriate for its capacity to hold millions of slaves. For example, access to the “Door of No Return” of the House of Slaves on Gorée Island (opening directly onto the Atlantic Ocean) appears to be difficult to reach by boat, due to the large number of rocks and the absence of a jetty.