During my Junior year at the Orange County School of the Arts (OSCA) - Digital Media Conservatory, I began interning at the University of California Irvine, (UCI) with a team of graduate students. We are working on a special project documenting the infamous slave castle, Elimina in Ghana. This is for an installation at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. I worked on the prop design and modeling with direction from UCI professors and historical reference materials.
History: The Elimina castle was built in 1482 by Portuguese traders. The Castle was the first European slave-trading post in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Located on the western coast of present-day Ghana, it was originally built to protect the gold trade. Following its capture by the Dutch in 1637, it came to serve the Dutch slave trade between Brazil and the Caribbean. The castle came under British ownership in the 1800s.
Elmina, like other West African slave fortresses, housed luxury suites for the Europeans in the upper levels. The slave dungeons below were cramped and filthy, each cell often housing as many as 200 people at a time, without enough space to even lie down. The floor of the dungeon, as result of centuries of impacted filth and human excrement, is now several inches higher than it was when it was built. Outbreaks of Malaria and Yellow Fever were common. Staircases led directly from the governor 's chambers to the women's dungeons below, making it easy for him to select personal concubines from amongst the women.
At the seaboard side of the castle was the "Door of No Return". This infamous portal was where slaves boarded the ships that would take them on the treacherous journey across the Atlantic known as the Middle Passage. By the 18th century, 30,000 slaves on their way to North and South America passed through Elmina's "Door of No Return" each year.
The UCI team went to the castle and took detailed pictures of its structure, including its network of dungeons, chambers and wall textures. Our team is building a 3D replica to help save this tragically, dark human representation of the slave trade.