“This is Badagry. You’re not allow to laugh out loud and smile too wide.”
I could swear I heard those words being whispered to me by a roaming spirit, as soon as I got out of one of the slave museums. You know, the kind of spirit that finds no rest because in their lifetime, life was so unfair.
Unfair. The word rolls off my tongue with such sadness I shed a tear.
My trip to Badagry was such a self-awakening trip. I had no expectations of the place cos I have technically never been there, save for when I was 5 years old; stories heard but memories that I do not recall. So, it was time. It was time to experience Badagry for myself. Myself; a lover of history, a sucker for African stories, a seeker of knowledge and all things good.
I visited three museums in total, each one telling a different story of slavery but one thing was sure, we as Africans fucked up and we fucked up bad. Slavery wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t enslave ourselves first. The white men came, exploring new frontiers and found slavery in our lands, already thriving, a profitable business. So they took advantage as they always do. They decided to make our leaders go crazy with lust by offering umbrellas to shade them from the scorching sun and heat that comes with being in this part of Africa. Our leaders saw it and it was good. Crazy, they went! What wonder is this? They thought. They exchanged 40 Nigerian, able bodied people to be shipped off in chains I could not lift with my hands, to places where suffering has no bounds, for an umbrella. This is how we can get as Africans. This is how we treated our own people. Slavery would not have happened without our permission, without our greed, without our heartlessness.
Black is beautiful. Different doesn’t always translate to better. White people have a different skin. We thought ours inferior to theirs. They are smart. They saw our inferiority complex. They saw a deficiency in technology, a difference. They filled the gap with their propaganda and shoved it down our throats. They showed us gunpowder and fire power, refined gin and not palm wine, they brought us mirrors and glassware. We sold our people in appreciation. A hundred for canons, how many for hand fans? How many for combs to straighten out our thick textured hair? We sold our people into untold suffering. Untold suffering.
The museums do enough to let your imagination wander to places of familiar unknowns. You might perhaps get an understanding and I’m tempted to say, perhaps, flashbacks, of what transpired in the now ghost town that is Badagry.
Badagry of today strikes me as a place that has not recovered or may never recover from the activities of slavery. Of betrayal of fellow men. Of families being torn apart. Of love that was. If Badagry was a temperament, it would be melancholy, it is a sad place. It has a mood. A place that awakens your spirituality, a place that makes you conscious of the numerous ghosts, whispering to you. If you listen carefully you’d hear them wail, you’d hear the shackles on their feet. Badagry felt to me like a scar that still hurts, an after taste of bad wine that is still bitter on the tongue, a place that finds comfort in being sad and remorseful for the souls of it’s people, an emptiness that will never be filled.
Badagry is a quiet place. A place where cocks do not crow and dogs do not bark. A place where people do not laugh too loud or smile too wide. A place that honours the suffering of the souls sold to slavery. A place on a journey to no recovery. A place where hope finds no meaning. A place of unsettling peace.
Badagry, a city of a million ghosts.
Okhai Okojie is a member of the photography and content development team at TVP Adventures. Wanna travel? TVP Adventures brings travel dreams to life through an online platform where people can book travel experiences without the hassle of planning trips. With one click of the button, all your dreams can come true.