Few places in the world capture the magnitude and brutality of the slave trade like La Maison des Esclaves on Gorée Island in Senegal. Built between 1780-1784, Maison des Esclaves is located on Gorée Island in Senegal – one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa. Researchers estimate that approximately 33,000 enslaved Africans passed through the site as they were forcibly relocated to the Americas. Since its establishment as a museum in 1962, Maison des Esclaves has created memorable experiences for thousands of visitors, including Senegalese students, national and international tourists, as well as luminaries from Nelson Mandela to Michelle and Barack Obama.
With the support of the Ford Foundation and the Senegalese government, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was honored to recently facilitate a major renewal of the museum, which was completed in June of 2023. The revitalization reinforced the museum’s physical structure, adapted an adjacent building to expand the museum’s programming space, and updated its interpretation and program offerings. Among these updates are: panels that explore the role of women on Gorée Island; spaces for meditation; related artwork by contemporary Senegalese artists; and exhibition spaces that catalyze visitors to make vital connections between the site’s history and its modern counterparts from sex trafficking to forced migration.
On June 2, 2023, Mr. PR. Aliou SOW, Senegal’s Minister of Culture and Heritage, presided over the official inauguration ceremony marking the completion of the revitalization efforts at Maison des Esclaves.
“The rehabilitation of Maison des Esclaves represents a vital step in our universal efforts to break the historical silence that has long surrounded the transatlantic slave trade, and the political, social, cultural, and economic invisibility of its victims, including those who are still suffering from its brutal legacies today.” remarked Doudou DIÈNE, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, at the opening event.
The revitalization enables the site to accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, with revised exhibit content to reflect the deeper meaning of the Maison des Esclaves site and the transatlantic slave trade, positioning the museum to become a global center for excellence on slavery and its contemporary legacies.
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