Letters from Yanimarew

Recent Comments about Yanimarew and Slave Trade Memorialisation in Africa


UN World Heritage Site

An African correspondent sends me what he claims is the official designation of the James Fort and related sites World Heritage Site. However, what he sends is in fact already in the public domain and can be found on the UN Web Pages devoted to World Heritage Sites:- "http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/761rev.pdf"..

The most pertinent sections are quoted below and shed little new light. However within the document linked to above there are one or two useful sketch maps. I will return to make a more detailed analysis of this information at a later date.

- The ruin of the first Portuguese settlement at San Domingo is located on the north bank of the river close to James Island. The ruins of the French and Portuguese settlements at Albreda are located 1 km west of San Domingo, and the Mandingo village of Juffureh is next to Albreda on its northern side. All of these sites are at 13”20’North, 16”23’West.

- The coastal strip of land proclaimed as a National Monument on the north bank of the River Gambia facing the island. This strip of land serves as buffer zone for all the historic structures situated in the villages of Albreda and Juffureh and the abandoned settlement of San Domingo. The inscribed land measures 250m from the high-water mark and stretches between Lamin point and Sika point (12-km coastline).

Area of the entire zone: 300 Ha

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I recently read “The Fortunate Slave” by Douglas Grant published in 1968, half a dozen years before “Roots” shone the light of publicity on Albredah and Juffureh. The book tells the story of Job Ben Solomon a Mandingo from Futa Torro who was kidnapped and sold into slavery but later ransomed by the governor of the RAC and returned to Africa. Whilst recounting the story Grant provides a lot of interesting background on the history of the Gambia River region largely drawn from contemporary sources such as Francis Moore, Richard Jobson etc. It is clear that Grant visited Juffureh and San Domingo about this time and his descriptions may, or may not, shed some light on the disposition of the various villages in the area.

On p9 he says, “From San Domingo, where a few of the castle slaves lived in Company huts to look after the well and to cut firewood for the fort, you could strike downstream for about a mile and a half to Gillyfree (Jufureh), where the Company had a factory built in the Portuguese style, and gardens for supplying the fort with fruit and vegetables....Or you could turn in the other direction and walk two miles to Seaca (Sika), another Portuguese settlement....Seaca had its church; Gillyfree a small, pretty mosque....Below Gillyfreee lay Albredah, where the French had a factory”.

On p203 he recounts his visit to these sites starting, it appears, at San Domingo. “The headman at Jufureh.... pointed out in detail where each of the Portuguese buildings had once stood, few of them marked at all, or only by broken walls... Only after... he had disposed of the Portuguese... did he lead me down through a dense wilderness of elephant grass towards the river and the burial ground of the English of James Fort. Stones with writing on them, he explained, were to be found when the grass was burnt off annually, but now the thick grass hid all.”

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