|2011||Name change||From "James Island and Related Sites" to: Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites|
|2003||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|
|1996||Deferred||Bureau - want comparative study of early colonial trading settlements in West Africa|Ian Cade (England):
Our last full day in the Gambia was spent on a very interesting river cruise that took us to James Island. The island itself is quite small and getting smaller all the time. Erosion by the river has already shrunk the island considerably since the fort became derelict with the outlying buildings all but gone. There are some efforts to protect the banks of the island but the erosion does seem like a very real and pressing concern for the people trying to protect it. The remains of the fort are reasonably substantial; however the British bombarded the fort when they stopped using it so it is in ruins.
The island was used as a holding pen for captured slaves before they were transported to Gorée in Senegal and then onwards to the Americas. It was an incredibly small area that was set aside for the slaves; however the Barracks in which they were held was the first to be washed away by the encroaching river. Therefore whilst it is still quite a harrowing site the full gravitas is somewhat lost as you can’t see the conditions in which they were held. The one complete room that is left on the island is commonly referred to as the slave dungeon, it seem that this wasn’t the case and it was a store room, however it is very indicative of what the barracks would have looked like so gives some idea of the miserable conditions.
The ‘associated sites’ that are also included in this site actually add quite alot to it. Four of them are located on the north bank of the River Gambia in the twin villages of Juffreh and Albreda. They show help to show the administrative and mercantile background to the slave trade. They are easy to visit as you will have to get to these towns to get out to James Island. Most of them are in ruins; however the Manuel Ferres building contains a good small museum about the history of the transatlantic slave trade.
The sites at the mouth of the River Gambia, Fort Bullen and Six Gun Battery illustrate efforts that were made to limit the Slave trade following its abolition in Britain. This again adds another dimension to the site.
It is actually a pretty easy place to get to as it is on the highly popular ‘Roots’ tours that are run from the touristy areas of Western Gambia. I was a little sceptical on how good these would be but they were actually very interesting and the guides we had for the trip as well as in the villages of Juffreh and Albreda. It was a very relaxing way to spend the day cruising along the river. Many tour operators offer the trip however you will probably end up on the same boat so it pays to shop around. We went with Tilly’s Tours who turned out to be very good and the cheapest we could find. The guides were very friendly and informative and have a fairly ethical outlook.
This was a great day trip and a very interesting WHS, the inclusion of the ‘associated sites’ show the many different facets of this awful and hugely important part of human history. Certainly worth a trip even if it is the only one you make from the touristy parts of the Gambia.
Date posted: December 2009
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