ACCRA, GHANA—The haunting interior of the Elmina slave castle here in Ghana is a porthole 500 years into the past. It stands empty today but once contained hundreds of bodies stuffed inside 10-by-13-foot cells, shackled at the wrists and ankles. For more than 400 years, millions of Africans were pushed through the forbidding “door of no return” and shipped from places like this to the Americas. A new project in Ghana, however, is now beckoning their scattered descendants back home.
Billed the Joseph Project—after the biblical story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery but later became an advisor over Egypt—and sponsored by Ghana’s Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, the initiative combines tours and cultural lessons to encourage interest in Africa. Launched this year coincided with Ghana’s fiftieth year of independence from British colonization, and the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, the project invites members of the Diaspora to visit this peaceful African country where they can get in touch with their roots—and begin healing from a painful history.
The project is “the continued realization that they are Africans,” says Bridget Katsriku, chief director of the Ministry of Tourism in Accra. “If Africa should develop, they should be a part of the development.”
In August, the Joseph Project held a momentous healing ceremony that saw leaders of African tribes asking forgiveness for their part in the slave trade and emphasizing a need for closure and unity among all Blacks. “The spirit of our ancestors are not developed because of the disconnect between people in the Diaspora,” Katstriku says, referring to the belief that ancestral spirits cannot find peace if they have unfinished business. “It doesn’t matter where you are. Whether you’ve made your home in the U.K. or the U.S., you still have the blood of Africa in you.”