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Seen on the Net:
"One of the Dark Places of the Earth":
Virtual Visit to Gorée's 'House of Slaves'

PARIS, 2 December 2000 - In conjunction with the 'Black Roots' festival (29 November - 3 December) being held on Gorée Island in Senegal, UNESCO is launching a web based "virtual visit" to the 'House of Slaves'. "This infamous spot is now a universal shrine, where all of us, from every continent, may come and commemorate, in sorrow, the tragedy once inflicted by human beings like us on so many of our own kind." declared UNESCO's Director General, Koïchiro Matsuura, in a message for the event. Listed on UNESCO's World Heritage register since 1978, Gorée Island was the point of departure for hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children sold and shipped to the New World.

A joint initiative of the UNESCO Dakar Office and the Organization's Information Society Division, in collaboration with other UNESCO's Services and Forut's Dakar Media Centre, this Virtual Visit is a unique experience for internet users. The 'House of Slaves' can be visited on-line, through photos, texts and videos. Currently in English and French, this multimedia production will also be available shortly in Wolof and Japanese.

Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, chief conservationist of the site, provides explanatory glosses for the virtual visit, tracing three centuries of slaving activity on the island. While not extensive, these do help to bring home the horrors of the crimes committed at Gorée to those not familiar with the history of the place.

The accompanying photographs, oddly, reveal an architecture and landscape full of incongruously pleasant colors and curvilinear forms. They still, however, leave little doubt about the oppressive reality of the place - cells where Africans were packed like sardines, chambers where men, women and children were readied for sale (fattened like cattle if they failed to meet minimum weight standards), the comfortable European quarters just above the cells, and of course the legendary Gate of No Return.


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