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 Fragment #56 - Isle of Gorée

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MessageSujet: Fragment #56 - Isle of Gorée   05.01.09 14:13

Tuesday, October 14th 2008
in Dakar

My head hurts a little bit. But I would not miss today for the world. We reach the dock and César introduces us to our guide for the day, Kalidou. He is a tall black guy, wearing a golden loop on the right ear. We agree with César of the time to come back and follow Kalidou to our ferry boat.
From where I stand, the isle of Gorée is similar to any other island. But I know that the weight of history is heavier here than anywhere else in the world. This is the place the slaves taken away from Africa to be sent to America would wait before departure. This is the place that bears witness of one of the darkest episode of world history. As a European citizen, I can only feel moved. Somehow, maybe one of my ancestors was part of this hideous trade. I fell silent, and set my eyes on the line of the horizon.
“You alright?”
“Yeah, just thinking about those people sent away from their home and family…”
“Honey, you better toughen up, the visit has not even started yet.”
Kalidou comes and sits next to me.
“Miss ok?”
“Yes, thank you, Kalidou. I was just thinking about history, and the way it reveals itself here.”
“Miss know, in Af’ica, white men made most of histo’y. The ‘est, tales in the villages. Sto’ies fo’ women, and child’en.”
“Have you been to Gorée before, Kalidou?”
“Yes, miss. But it is always the same for Kalidou: tristesse. But fierté too.”
I turn to Steve and translate for him.
“No matter how many times he’ll come, he’ll feel exactly the same every time: sadness and pride.”
“Tell him I admire him. And that I would be proud too, in his shoes.”
“Ok.” I turn to Kalidou. “Mon ami voudrait pouvoir te le dire lui-même mais il ne parle pas assez bien français. Il t’admire beaucoup, et lui aussi serait fier s’il était à ta place.”
Kalidou smiles and gives his hand to Steve to shake. Then he brings his hand to his chest, on his heart and bow a little with his head. Steve does exactly the same and then smiles. Kalidou laughs.
“Now, miste’ and Kalidou: f’iends!”

The island is getting closer. My dad told me about it a while ago. He said: “if you ever go to Dakar, Charlotte, you must do two things: have dinner with Mr Lane, and go on Gorée’s island. Mr Lane saw you growing up for a while. And Gorée will teach loads of things that I could not dream of teaching you. Open your eyes when you get there and learn from those chains and those shadows.”
Well, here I am, Dad. Here I am, Africa. Me, the white girl, I’m ready to take your lesson.
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Fragment #56 - Isle of Gorée
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