Island of Gorée (1978)

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The island of Gorée lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar. From the 15th to the 19th century, it was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, its architecture is characterized by the contrast between the grim slave-quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. Today it continues to serve as a reminder of human exploitation and as a sanctuary for reconciliation. 
  • UNESCO (France) 1980. Gorée Island. House of the Slaves. 
Senegal 1984. Gorée Island World Cultural Heritage. William Ponty School. Senegal 1984. Gorée Island World Cultural Heritage. Map of Gorée Island. Senegal 1984. Gorée Island World Cultural Heritage. History Museum. Senegal 1984. Gorée Island World Cultural Heritage. Slave Prison.

Senegal 1966. Gorée Harbour.

Goree Island is less than four kilometres away from Dakar. It is located in the middle of the natural harbour formed by the south coast of the Cap-Vert Peninsula. 

It thus represents a safe anchorage. This explains why the island was, since the 15th century and for centuries, a high stake for different European countries which successively used it as stops and slave markets. In Dutch, the island is called “Goede Reede”. In Wolof, it becomes “Beer”. Now the island is commonly known as Goree. 

  • Senegal 1966. Gorée Harbour. 
By the end of the 18th century, Goree was a prosperous crossroad where tradesmen, soldiers as well as officials lived in sumptuous scenery. Yet, it was also then a gateway to hell for thousands of African slaves. 

At first sight, the island is only peace and beauty with its imposing forts and public buildings; with its pink houses, in harmony with the blue of the sea and the green of the inner gardens. Yet, many of the houses played an important role in slave trade. 

  • French West Africa 1967. Island of Gorée. 

French West Africa 1967. Island of Gorée, Senegal.

Indeed, during centuries, young male and female slaves were packed up for weeks in the houses’ dark and dank basements, waiting for the ships to leave. There were even torture chambers for the slaves who rebelled.

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Senegal (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Senegal section, for further information on the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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