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  • Day491

    Captivity

    March 1, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    "We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories." [Cecil Rhodes]

    “Captivity is the greatest of all evils that can befall one.” » Miguel de Cervantes

    Slavery has always existed in various forms and even the Roman Seneca the Younger wrote “Slavery takes hold of few, but many take hold of slavery.”
    The East African slave trade was funneled to the markets in Zanzibar, (although there were several others on the mainland,) partly because there was already a well established trading route run by Omani Arabs up the coast. In the 10th Century many slaves were sent to Iraq to fight in wars there, but by the 19th C the enormous numbers required to work in the cinnamon & clove plantations inspired several tribal groups to prey on each other.
    All of the main racial groups were involved in the slave trade in some way or other. French and Portugese used slaves in their plantations in the Indian Ocean islands (Martinique, Reunion etc), and Africans captured and sold prisoners taken in battle, or just kidnapped them. (The British developed the Western, Atlantic routes which competed for heads.)
    There was a fate worse than slavery: when there was a glut of potential slaves the Doe tribe north of Bagamoyo enjoyed eating the ‘excess supplies’.
    The trip down to the coast -often 1000 km - was unpleasant and an astonishing number died. One would imagine that the slavers would look after their assets but they were marched enormous distances daily on a bowl of gruel with a log around their necks or carrying enormous quantities of ivory. Any that couldn't make it were disposed of unceremoniously. Then, when they were near Zanzibar, the traders decided whether it was worth paying the tax or duty on each person: if not they were murdered on the beach.
    In Stone Town they were kept in various cellars such as the one photographed. Stuffy and claustrophobic, after an average of 3 days in here the weakest collapsed and were chucked on the beach to die. The rest were taken up to the market and apparently flogged on the spot where the Anglican Church's altar now stands; to increase their sale value if they didn't cry out. (I suspect this is a bit of hyperbole for the tourists but then, it wouldn't surprise me.) After all that, being sold must have seemed a minor problem for, whilst plantation life was certainly rough, domestic life was better than they might have had previously.
    One testimony in the exhibition on the site of the old slave markets, is from a woman who was accused of being someone's slave and managed to prove her manumission to the magistrate. She was awarded a sum of money and when asked what use she would make of the cash, said that she would buy a slave.
    Another celebrity was Salme (1824-1924), the daughter of Omani Sultan Sayeed Said (d. 1856) and a Circassian concubine from the Caucasus Mountains of Russia who was part of the his harem. She eloped with a German merchant, changed her name to Emily Ruete and wrote "Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar" about her life.
    Many women were suria, which was a state of slavery for them but not their children. This has resulted in a rich and varied gene pool in Zanzibar, often in particularly attractive people.
    In 1822, the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby treaty which made it illegal for them to sell slaves to Christian powers. After helping to convince Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar to abolish the trade on 6th June 1873, (in the usual British Diplomatic way,) the Royal Navy enforced the agreement by patrolling the waters and intercepting any dhows with human cargo.
    Interestingly, the good Anglican sailors deliberately attributed the trade in its entirety to heathen Mohammedans. In fact, the richest trader was the infamous Tippu Tip (1837-1905) otherwise known as Hamed bin Mohammed, who was African. Usually though, it was the Africans who collected and the Arabs who divested.
    Despite the best efforts of HM Navy, and numerous photos of rugged matelots lofting liberated and wriggling brown babies into the air, (one can rely on the British shoulder for innocent propaganda,) the trade continued, particularly on the mainland. Slaving was illegal but existed openly until Britain defeated the Germans in the First World War.
    Freedom was not all it cracked up to be, even when the illiterate and often isolated plantation slaves finally understood what it meant that they were free. Some slaves had even been allowed to save a little money they made for their owner and buy property: on manumission they lost the land. Worse, they could not stay on the plantation as squatters and had to leave, becoming vagrants and thus subject to imprisonment and hard labour. The British authorities were concerned about keeping the now government owned plantations running and offered minimal wages to ex-slaves to continue working. Restricted land rights and a compulsory hut tax made sure they never escaped.
    Thus the modern system of slavery was introduced. It has grown in the 21stC in every country of the world to somewhere between 21 to 36 million people. That is more than the number of slaves seized during the entire African slave trade. The International Labour Organisation has put the value of slave labour output at 150 billion USD annually. This includes bonded labour, forced labour, child slavery, early or forced marriage as well as descent based slavery.
    In the news over the past few days, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute revealed that the Uighurs were being captured and made to work as prisoners for multinational companies in China. They are an Islamic people of Turkic origin whom the Chinese Communist Party portrays since 9/11 as auxiliaries of al-Qaeda. Without any evidence. But that didn't stop the US locking 20 of them in Guantanamo Bay for years without being charged with any offence. We don't really care about them of course, (we care about big Brand names being tarnished and wasting all that advertising money,) but still it is slavery.

    “The distinguishing sign of slavery is to have a price, and to be bought for it.” [John Ruskin]
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