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Door of No Return in Republic of Benin

Updated: May 16, 2023

Bight of Benin- Ouidah, Benin

“Ouidah is in the former ancient kingdom of Dahomey, renowned for fierce military Dahomey Amazonian women warriors. Ouidah is located on the west coast of the Republic of Benin and is 45 kilometers from the capital city of Cotonou. Upon arrival in Cotonou, we met a family friend who is a Beninois, and with his help and the help of a local teacher, we started our journey to Ouidah. The first stop was to the Ouidah Museum of History, situated in the former Portuguese fort where slave trading took place.

As we arrive at The Door of No Return, emblematic commemorations of loss and reconciliation, its imposing size in the open air by the beach is framed with two Egungun statues for ancestor reverence. Facing the sea embedded on the gate frame are bas-reliefs of enslaved Africans moving towards the tree of forgetting where enslaved men turn nine times and females turn seven times around the tree; this causes the enslaved Africans to forget their identity and remain pacific, like the well of memory loss. Once one crosses the gate, on the other side is a depiction of the enslaved African spirit returning to Africa.

The Republic of Benin still struggles with placing importance on and adequately implementing heritage tourism. However, their efforts in unification and welcoming back the African diaspora is commendable and must continue.”

(Excerpt from Anyanwu 2023 doctoral dissertation “All the Salsa in Between…”)

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