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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Slavery 2

In my last post I wrote about the Atlantic slave trade, this post is about the Indian ocean slave trade. But first some correction. The slave ship shown in the last post was the slave bark Wildfire and the picture dated 1786. The iron bracelet like items, shown in the picture below the cowrie shells, were called ManilaOkhapos. Where the name originated, or what it means I have been unable to discover. Metal of any kind was much sought after in Africa. The metal could be worked into agricultural implements and into weapons.

Until the Portuguese sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th century, the Indian ocean was very much an Arab pond. Arab dhows carried all of the trade to all points between Arabia, India and Africa. Within a couple of years the Portuguese completely destroyed this monopoly. Arabs started trading with East Africa from about the 8th century, and established settlements on the coast from the Horn of Africa to as far south as Mozambique. This trade included gold, ivory and slaves.

The Islamic trade in slaves across the Indian ocean is not much heard of, or discussed, or taught in schools. In South African school history books it is described as being almost benign.

 David Livingstone describes it in a totally different way:
"To overdraw it's evils is a simple impossibility... We passed a  slave woman shot or stabbed through the body lying in the path. [Onlookers] said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer. We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead.... We came upon a man dead from starvation... The strangest disease I have seen in this country seems really to be broken heartedness. It attacks free men who have been captured and made slaves."




David Livingstone, missionary explorer.

David Livingstone is still revered in Africa to this day for his efforts to put an end to the slave trade. In countries like Zambia and Malawi many men bear the names, David or Livingstone.


Between 11 and 18 million people were carried away to Arabia and other points east as slaves. Livingstone estimated that about 80,000 a year died on the way to the coast. How many thousands died each year in raids on tribes to capture slaves will never be known. The situation in the Atlantic slave trade must have been similar.

Slaves faced a long journey from inland to  Kilwa and Bagamoyo on the coast, often several hundred kilometres. Slaves were shackled together with long chains by the ankles, these were never removed during the journey. They were also yoked together with forked branches by the neck. The Ivory trade and slave trade went hand in hand. Slaves were forced to carry elephant tusks, if a mother got too weak to carry the tusk assigned to her, and her baby, the baby was killed or just abandoned. The route to the coast was littered with corpses. Islam forbids the ill treatment of slaves, but as with most people religion did not count for much when there was money to be made.

Once at one of the ports mentioned above they were loaded onto dhows of about 30 to 35 meters long,that's about 100 to 120 feet. Two hundred to six hundred of them were packed into one dhow They were packed below decks on bamboo shelves with about one meter head room. It was impossible, to kneel, sit or squat. It took the slaves about a week after landing to straighten their legs again. They were fed very little and given very little water on the trip to Zanzibar which took several days. Import duty was paid on all slaves landed at Zanzibar, so slaves that were thought to be too weak or to sick to survive were simply thrown over board.

Zanzibar and Pemba islands were the centre of this slave trade and controlled by Omani Arabs until the Royal Navy put them out of business in the mid 19th century. Slaves were still loaded on dhows in Portuguese territory, where officials turned a blind eye, until very late in the 19th century. Arab slave trade continued from 650 to 1960, in one form or another. Slavery was only formerly abolished in Zanzibar in 1970.


This photo taken in the 1880's of slaves and slave traders on an Arab dhow.

Our school history book goes on to say that once a slave was purchased in Arabia, Persia, or where ever, they became part of the slave owners family. In a way this was true, the young women were put in his harem, the old women worked in the kitchen, but all the men were castrated. You won't find African Arabs anywhere in Arab countries, as you will find African Americans in the US.


The monument to slaves in Zanzibar. The monument depicts the dungeons slaves were kept in prior to being put on a dhow. One entrance and exit, impossible to escape from. The slaves standing separately symbolises a family broken up.


Detail of the monument, daughter and son sold as slaves.


Anglican church built on the site of the old slave market in Zanzibar. Freed slaves were used as workers during the building of the church.

Stained glass window in the church depicting the physical and spiritual salvation of the slaves.


Tombstone of a British sailor who drowned when he fell over board while his ship was chasing a dhow suspected of carrying slaves.

Slavery continues to this day, now known as human trafficking. This trafficking is usually for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Every now and again in South Africa you hear of the police raiding an illegal brothel where young women from the Far East or Eastern Europe were being held against their will.

The Christian revival in England as lead by John Wesley and revivals in America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries caused a backlash against slavery. How could any man be made a slave when all men were equal before God. The evil of it became more and more apparent. Men like William Wilberforce dedicated their lives to the abolition of slavery.

By the way there are no legal brothels in SA, though so called "men's clubs" here are nothing but brothels in disguise. The liberal humanists in SA want prostitution and brothels legalised They say it's to protect prostitutes from exploitation. (??)

1 comment:

Gaelyn said...

This is a very sad story. To think that people could buy and sell other people and treat them like cattle is the worse offense to any God.

Great piece of history.