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Bagamoyo

 
   

Slave trade and Livingstone

Due to its strategic location, Bagamoyo (68km north of Dar-es-Salaam) became a staging point during the ivory and slave trading era.


It is the eighth World Heritage site of Tanzania (others being Kilimanjaro Mountain, Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti National Park, Selous game reserve, Zanzibar Stone Town, Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara, and the Olduvai Gorge).

 

The name Bagamoyo is said to be derived from the cry of slaves brought here after a long march from the hinterland to await auction and export, and means "bwaga moyo -here I lay down my heart"


The somber history of this once-great city is evidenced by remnants of the slave trade -shackle rings set in stone pits in which slaves were kept. Efforts are underway to develop its African Diaspora Heritage Trail product.


Bagamoyo was also the first capital of Tanganyika during the German colonial rule until it was shifted to Dar-es-Salaam in 1892. While in Bagamoyo, visit the Kaole ruins, the Roman Catholic historical museum and the chapel which housed Dr. Livingstone's body before it was shipped to Westminster Abbey in London. There is also a palm fringe sand beach with international hotel resorts.

 

History of Old Town

Salted fish, rice and copal (used to make varnish in Europe) became important trade in items, and the routes for this trade followed the old high-ground elephant routes, later taken by ivory traders, slavers, the roads and the railways.


As Kaole, only an hour's walk to the South, declined, Bagamoyo grew. The timing coincided with the industrial revolutions in Europe and North America and the increased demand for ivory they endangered. Large quantities of ivory were exported from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar and a American town in the state of Connecticut was called Ivory town. There, and in Europe, the ivory was fashioned into billiard balls, piano keys, handles for cutlery, and trinkets.

 

India, however, was the major beneficiary of the ivory trade. The ivory from Africa was softer and easier to carve than its more brittle Asian counterpart and the trade in ivory led to expansion of caravans from the interior, with such activity remaining the most important theme in Nyamwezi history.


Gradually as the demand of slaves increased to meet the needs of the burgeoning plantation economies of many countries, slaves and not ivory became the main commodity of the caravans. In Bagamoyo several prominent people profited from the trade. One such person was Sewa Haji who paid for several of the prominent buildings including the town's first hospital and school.


In March 1868, land was given to the French Holy Ghost fathers to build a Mission Station. They later built a village for freed slaves, a school and workshop. Despite their social activities, their proselytizing message with it's obvious Victorian overtones elicited little reference from Africans, with over 85 percent of those on the coast being Muslims.

 

Amidst the obvious decay of Bagamoyo, the few visible and preserved signs of yesteryear include the Catholic mission, its museums, the statue of saints, and the giant cross on the foreshore to mark the spot where in 1868 the first head of mission, Horner landed.


The destiny of the wealthier non-Africans members of Bagamoyo's community was very much linked with that of the Sultan of Zanzibar. As more Europeans arrived on Zanzibar and the formal trade in slaves gradually abolished, the fortunes of the Sultan and the leaders of the Bagamoyo community declined.

 

Bagamoyo was to see action briefly during the first World war. On 16 August 1916, British forces attacked and took the town. But any solace the local population may have taken from the demise of German colonialism was to be extinguished in the next 45 years by being British neglect.


After independence on 9 December 1961, Tanzania had many priorities and restoring Bagamoyo was among them. The liberation wars against colonial and minority domination in Africa and domestic development after many years of colonial neglect came first.

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