Thursday, 13 June 2013

the whole family writes: Ouidah, the slave port

Yesterday we went to Ouidah, Benin. It's on the coast, west of Cotonou. Ouidah tells an important, but very sad story. It was the port where slaves from all over western Africa were taken to be sold and loaded onto ships. These ships brought them to North and South America.
tree where slaves were sold
sign that's by the tree
the path the slaves had to walk down, all chained up, towards the ocean
Here are some of our reflections last evening when we came home:

Eden: Just imagining and seeing and hearing the name of the place was so sad. It was called the "port of no return." If you have a really good imagination, you shouldn’t go to that place because you would just cry and cry. Just listening to that name: the port of no return. Like you’re not going to go back to your home. It’s like me going to another country without my family. All by myself. Just imagine how you would feel in that position. And the name of that port. It’s like you’re never going to return to your family. Never going to return to your actual country. If you have a really good imagination, I don’t think you should go there.
memorial for the port of no return
close-up of pictures on the memorial
can you see the ocean?
the port of no return
 Eden: If you were in that position, you would never come back to your family. Even kids would go there without any mom or dad, not knowing anybody there.

Zoe: The ship would have been very uncomfortable and disgusting with all of those people piled in.

Eden: People there, I just feel really bad for them. Even if it was a really, really long time ago. I still feel like I’m in that position, even though I’m not. If I was, I’d be crying almost every night. I’d miss my family.

Derek: Bonaventure, our friend who took us to Ouidah, said, “Without God, it’s amazing what people can do.” People can be so mean to others. He also said, "I'm so glad I wasn't alive during that age."

Zoe: When you read these books about all of this stuff about slavery, you think that all of the people were born in America and they were treated badly. But now we actually got to see one of the places that they came from. So American wasn’t their birthplace. Most of them weren’t born in America, they have a different home and they were taken away. So that gave me a new understanding about slaves in America.

Eden: It’s actually the ocean where a long time ago people were in a big ship. It’s the same water that I touched today with a boat going to North America.
the ocean

Bonaventure and Rebecca
 Zoe: Right where I stepped might have been where a slave would have stepped, or a trader. Or both.
whose feet walked here before?
 Eden: If I would touch that road, it could still have a tiny bit of a footprint of the slaves from a long, long time ago. I could be touching what was stepped on so long ago. Nobody that I know in Canada was there at at that time.

Zoe: There was a tree that women had to walk around 7 times and men had to walk around 9 times. It was called "the tree of forgetting." They wanted the slaves to forget everything about where they came from - their families, their villages, their homes.
tree of forgetting with a monument in front

Eden: Walking around a tree 7 times wouldn’t make me forget my whole family. It’s just making them weaker. And dizzy.

Eden: Just imagine you behind them walking up to the boat. Then you look back and people are walking towards you into the boat. Probably at least 90 people were crying when they went into the boat.

Eden: Just walking around in Benin, carrying something to your house, and then you look to the side, and then you see people in chains walking into a boat, to the port of no return. Just imagine that. Then you'll know why I wanted to cry.


  1. Thanks for sharing this post, Suderman family.

    I'm especially touched by Zoe and Eden connecting with the story in such an emotional way. I'm like that too, these days. I seem to connect to stories of hardship and suffering, and it can make me emotional.

    I think that can be a gift out of which we can grow empathy, and compassion. So ask God to use those emotions you're feeling to grow good things in your spirit.

    1. Thanks for these comments, Daniel. I agree - that compassion can grow out of these experiences. They're hard stories to hear and tell, but important.

  2. This is a very sad story Eden. It's hard to understand how people can treat other people so badly. I agree with Daniel that these experiences and stories can help mould us into more compassionate people.Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.

    1. Thanks Wendy! yes, very hard to understand.

  3. Eden and Zoe,
    It was hard to read your heartfelt responses to visiting the slave port. I appreciated seeing it through your eyes. It was very meaningful.
    love, Bethany