A Reimagination of the Bimbia Slave Port
Friday 12 May
Excursion to Bimbia Slave Port
I hopped on a bus with a group of writers and drove in search of Bimbia. The white interior of the bus is well branded with instructions in black ink:
I imagine a slave port to be a port: A harbor where ships load and unload humans, connected to a coast, to a river, to a large body of water. But this wobbly bus drives upward not to a seaport, but up and up a hill, with our bodies rocking.
I reminisce on the idea of a slave port and all I see are chains, shrinking bones, and humans covered in their vomit. Vomit.
The road to Bimbia is mud and pebbles mixed into clay by rainfall. The borders of the narrow road are thick leaves, shrubs, and dangling trees. The bus comes to a sudden jolt. There is a trailer ahead filled with gavel trying to maneuver a turn rising up the hill. The brandings within the interior of the bus keep shouting:
The trailer ahead is stuck in patches of mud and blocks the only access road. We drop off the bus, walk past the trailer and the group of men clearing mud from the tracks, and continue walking up the hills, searching for Bimbia. The walk begins with fun and chitchats but soon everyone is sweating and panting, my thighs are throbbing and feet aching. We keep walking.
A local boy passes our group like he has a reserve of energy in his slippers propelling him forward. Someone in the party asks him:
“Hey boy, how long to Bimbia?”
Local boy answers without missing a stride.
The Bimbia Slave Port is not just a slave port. It is a trade fair, a transit area, warehouse. A village market where different varieties of my ancestors were labeled and displayed for bargaining, for buying and selling. Scottish explorer, Hugh Clapperton in his journal into the interior of Africa provided reports of approximate slave prices:
Male with beard 5-7 dollars
Male without beard 10 dollars
Old woman 4 dollars
Woman with breasts hanging down 8 dollars
Female with plump breasts 30 dollars
Female with small breasts 40 dollars
Female child 12 dollars
There is a statue in chains at the entrance to the village. This statue is a life-size molding of a Black boy with chains gleaming on his neck, wound around his hands and legs. But the chains are broken.
After walking for hours, we arrive at the gates to the Bimbia slave site and find them in lock and chains. A big yellow signboard manned on the upper walls of the gate reads:
THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF LIMBE MUNICIPALITY
H.E. PHILEMON YANG PRIME MINISTER HEAD
TO THE LIMBE SLAVE TRADE VILLAGE
But we are not Philémon Yang. No keys are provided. We are not welcome.