Cape Verde shipwreck museum recalls a dark past – OpEd – Eurasia Review

By Lisa Vives

The Republic of Cape Verde (Cape Verde) is an island archipelago west of Senegal and Mauritania, made up of 10 volcanic islands located between 320 and 460 nautical miles west of Cape Verde, the highest point westernmost part of mainland Africa.

The official language is Portuguese, the language of education and government and in newspapers, television and radio, but the recognized national language is Cape Verdean Creole, spoken by the vast majority of the population.

A large Cape Verdean diaspora community exists throughout the world, particularly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and in Portugal, greatly exceeding the number of islanders.

New discoveries by archaeologists have brought to light new evidence of Cape Verde‘s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Charles Akibode, director of the Cape Verde Institute of Cultural Heritage, says nations often send pirates to do their dirty work.

The Portuguese colonization of Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) began in 1462. Initially envisaged as a base allowing sailors direct access to West African trade, the central Atlantic islands quickly became a major hub for the slave trade. Atlantic.

Enslaved Africans were used on the islands’ sugar cane plantations and sold to ships sailing to the Americas. The islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Since Cape Verde was much further from Portugal than the other Atlantic colonies (about two weeks sailing), the islands attracted fewer European settlers, especially women. As a result, Europeans and Africans intermarried on the islands, creating an Afro-Portuguese culture with strong African religious and artistic influence.

The Museu dos Náufragos (Shipwreck Museum), on the island of Boa Vista in Cape Verde, has reopened two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here, the story is told from the period of discoveries, slavery, isolation, survival, drought and Creole culture.

The Museum is the result of two decades of work by Maurizio Rossi, an Italian archaeologist.

“This is a three-story museum that begins in the darkest part of history,” Rossi said. “Hundreds of artifacts are on display here, such as finds from the wreckage of historic ships off Boa Vista, pieces from the period of pirate attacks on the island, or the shipment of African slaves towards the Americas and, also, Cape Verdean art, and its evolution during the meeting of cultures.

During the 19th century and into the 20th century, a law enacted by the Portuguese government in 1899 allowed the authorities to impose any type of work, regardless of salary or undesirable situation, on any unemployed man. This allowed the government to keep the workforce on the cocoa plantations during another severe famine in 1902-1903.

By the 1950s, protest was mounting throughout Portuguese Africa. A group of Cape Verdeans and people from the mainland colony of Guinea-Bissau, led by Amilcar Cabral, joined forces to organize the Partido Africano de Independencia de Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC).

Those who resisted politically were subjected to the terrors of the Portuguese secret police, and sometimes imprisoned in the concentration camp of Tarrafal, in Sao Tiago. Built in 1936, it operated until 1956. It reopened in 1962, as “Chão Bom Labor Camp”, with the aim of incarcerating anti-colonial activists from Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde .

On April 25, 1974, the Portuguese government was overthrown. The new Portuguese government was ready to destroy its former colonies, but reconsidered, believing that it could still control the colonies with puppet governments. The Cape Verdeans resist, support the PAIGC, and general strikes are called. The government surrendered when all services and production ceased.

Independence Day was instituted on July 5, 1975, and is celebrated by Cape Verdeans around the world. Many music lovers now know Cape Verde for the breathtaking work of singer Cesaria Evora.

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