Khamis and Joseph are both Zanzibaris. Both are now wazee, old men, living in Stone Town as their families have done for generations. When they were interviewed about their personal experiences of slavery they had different stories to tell and different points of view. But what Khamis and Joseph share in common is a sense that the legacy of slavery has not gone away. The slave trade was abolished in Zanzibar in 1873. Ownership of slaves finally became illegal in colonial East Africa in 1922, still within living memory. Although now largely hidden, the legacy of slavery continues to affect society. It is a wound that has not yet healed.

You know in Zanzibar the situation concerning slaves and slavery is really different from other places….. In Zanzibar to tell a person, “you are of a slave origin, then that is a big insult!”The people do not like their origin to be associated with slavery” Khamis.

Khamis and Joseph were interviewed as part of an initiative to record folk memories of slavery and its impact. The idea is to capture memories of the older generation before they disappear and preserve them in digital format. The recordings are just one component of a much larger project to create a Heritage and Education Centre at the site of the last slave market in East Africa, and preserve Christ Church Cathedral, which is the most visible marker at the site. Funded primarily by the European Union, the project commenced in October 2013 and is being led by World Monuments Fund Britain. Importantly the Government of Zanzibar has also given a grant to the project. Zanzibar is 98% Muslim and the Government’s participation is a statement of their commitment to a diverse and inclusive society.

On May 5, 2015, the annual Europe Day celebration in Tanzania was held at the site, hosted by the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, and attended by guest of honour, Honourable Abubakar Khamis Bakari, Zanzibar Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Part of the reason the history of the slave trade is still so troubling is because so many misconceptions about it persist. There is a myth that it was perpetrated by only one ethnicity and religion against another, and this breeds mistrust and resentment between communities. Joseph and Khamis can testify that the stigma attached to slavery is still present, perpetuating old resentments. In reality, all creeds and ethnicities were involved in the trade. African warlords captured prisoners in battles or raids, who were then sold to Arab and Swahili middlemen and taken to Zanzibar. Europeans, Indians, Arabs and Africans (who were themselves often former slaves) bought and used slaves. Telling the story of slavery in an open and factual manner will help to correct some of the misconceptions about its history, and this is one of the main objectives of the project at the site of the former slave market.

For the Anglican Diocese, the custodians of the site and a project partner, the former slave market is the heritage of all the people of Zanzibar and Tanzania. By preserving it the project can help forge a sense of belonging and identity, and contribute to building peace in diversity.

There is a misconception that slavery has been eradicated from the modern world. In fact slavery is still practised in virtually every country. Human trafficking in the twenty-first century is a growing epidemic and a multi-billion dollar industry, generating an estimated $35 billion annually. With the adoption of the EU Anti-trafficking Directive in 2011, courts all over Europe are now judging crimes relating to human trafficking as equally severe, and EU countries are obliged to provide proper support to victims.

Preservation work at Christ Church Cathedral is now close to completion. Conservation work on the exterior is finished and a new roof has been installed. Development of an exhibit telling the story of the East African slave trade, which will form the centre-piece of the Heritage and Education Centre, is moving forward. School children are a key target group, and the exhibit, which is in Swahili and English with many images, will provide a comprehensive introduction to the history of the slave trade in East Africa.

Joseph during his interview spoke of his personal experience and how the legacy of slavery still lives on; “When the youths are in courtship and one of them has a slave origin, problems arise. That problem faced me personally. I had my fiancée. She loved me very much and we got along very well. Some of her parents also had no problems but when I declared marriage her family refused me. I was surprised but I was told ‘don’t you know that your parents have a slave origin? And don’t you know that the family you want to marry is different from you. So I lost the girl and got a new one. So obviously, there is a negative attitude whereby people see us negatively.”

The site of the former slave market is also one of the most visited tourist destinations in Zanzibar. It is estimated that up to 70% of the population earns a living from tourism in some way. Improving the site for tourists will help enhance Zanzibar as a destination, creating jobs and generating wealth, which in turn helps to tackle poverty.

An exhibition telling the story of the last slave market in Zanzibar and preservation at Christ Church Cathedral has been created by World Monuments Fund Britain, and will be shown at four locations in the UK, starting in May, 2015. Find the list of venues and dates on the WMFB website.

Reblogged from :

Preserving Cultural Heritage in Zanzibar, Tanzania, with the World Monument Fund Britain

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