See also Africa: Texts and Sources
- Arhin, Kwame, West African Traders in Ghana in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Longman 1979 (note)
- 3 At close of 19c Freeman wrote of Bonduku and Salaga that their inhabitants were mostly immigrants from a foreign district and that their level of civilization and their general character differed widely from those which obtained in any of the contiguous towns. Salaga was a town with a population of different races. Hosts were pagans. Strangers were traders, often Muslims. Traders included landlords or innkeepers, brokers, master and apprentice traders. Also goldsmiths, leather makers, cloth weavers, dyers.
- Bowdich, T. E., Mission From Cape Coast to Ashantee 1819 (extracts and notes)
- 172 Sallagha, the grand market of the Inta empire, is 17 journies NE from Coomassie. (1) Marmpon (Mampong?) - (2) five small towns to Aphwoguiassie (Effiduase?) the largest market in the Ashantee kingdom. The 9th day the rivers Kirradee and Oboosom are crossed each about 60 yds wide and flowing so near together as to appear one in the rainy season, a high mountain Aduorreckenase is just beyond them, the boundary of Ashantee and Buoroom. The 10th day the R. Sennee is forded which afterwards enlarges considerably and runs into the Volta. The Booroom country is quite open and the Ashantees give this river the figurative name of Birrinsoo, which means that its distance is so deceiving, that you will cry before your reach it. The capital of Booroom is Guia, a considerable town, noticed in the route to Odentee, a fetish sanctuary of great repute and said to be splendidly furnished. The Ashantee language is spoken commonly in Booroom. The 10th day the Adirrii or Volta is crossed, more than a mile wide, but much interrupted by rocks and described to be full of hippopotami (which they call sea elephants) and alligators.
173 This river divides Boroom from Inta, Sallagha being one days long march from it.
- Braimah, J. A. and J. R. Goody, Salaga: The Struggle for Power, Longmans 1967
- THE STRUGGLE FOR SALAGA
157 HEINRICH KLOSE: JOURNEY TO SALAGA, OCTOBER 1894
The following is an extract from Klose's book Togo unter deutscher Flagge: Reisebilder und Betrachtungen, Berlin 1899, page 285ff, translated for the Institute of African Studies, Legon, Ghana, by Mrs Inge Killick. Klose was in Togoland from 1894 to 1896 as an administrator. . .
170 Short description of the Gonja people
The language of the inhabitants of Salaga and of the Kingdom of Gonja is a dialect of the extensive Guang language. Apart from the royal family and a few notables, the Gonjas are mostly pagans, while the families of the princes are Muslims at least in name. They practise circumcision and the Imam has a very influential position in their courts. The Imam is himself a member of a royal family. Although the adherents of Islam hold strictly to the outer forms of their religion, they do not obey its commands. Most of them love alcohol. . . All members of the royal family can be recognized by the strange tattoos consisting of three fine lines running from the temples down to the corners of the mouth. Apart from those, they have a large variety of other markings, like decorations. Although the members of the royal family, being Mandingos, are actually strangers in the Gonja land, they have integrated themselves completely, adopting the language as well as the customs of the Gonja.
The Gonja tribe itself is a conglomeration of many different peoples which constitute a political entity and which have formed their own language out of the various Guang languages. Because of the many slaves who converge upon Salaga from many different parts of the continent, a mixing of races has taken place. Thus the Gonjas have no distinct tribal marks of their own. Everyone has a different mark, either on the chest, on the cheeks or on his arms. Some Gonjas have a dark triangle tattooed between their eyes and ears. The women have an especially large variety of tattoos on both cheeks. On some women I noticed deep elaborate markings on the neck, chest and right down to the stomach. Especially favoured patterns are stars and bows and often (in conjunction with these) three parallel lines. Unfortunately my time at Salaga was too short to learn more about the customs of the Gonja people, since all the other villages on our way were destroyed or abandoned. I did not see much of their work apart from the cultivation of some fields with various kinds of millet and some maize. I mentioned previously that the Nchumuru people of this district do some farming, but mainly hunt and fish. The main product of commercial value is shea-butter which is still exported down to the Coast and which can be found in every market, shaped like a sugar cone and wrapped in leaves. Shea-butter is very easy to make, the fruit is roasted, pounded and then boiled in large pots. The fat which swims on top is the liquid form of the product. In smaller quantities, sesame seeds are also exported from Gonja.
171 Slavery, slave-raiding and the slave trade
It is only thanks to the slave trade that Salaga became so famous. Its geographical position is even better than that of Kete, for it lies still farther north towards the Niger bend and is quite near the source of the big Volta river. Because of its great distance from the coast, it is independent, and because of its neutrality, it is less influenced by politics. Salaga was the main centre in the Western Sudan for collecting the goods produced by the African hinterland.
The goods could easily be brought to the market by slaves, and for this reason it became the centre of the slave trade. From here this human merchandise, just as in times of the Portuguese (only now in secret), was taken down to the Gold and Slave Coast on hidden paths, through the districts occupied by the Europeans. In former times, it was estimated by older travellers, there was a turnover of 15,000 slaves annually at Salaga. It was mostly the Dagomba who kidnapped people from Grunshi and other neighbouring districts and sold them as slaves. Because of their good horsemanship, the slave raiders could suddenly attack a village, set it on fire, kill anyone who tried to resist and drive away their loot, mainly women and children, for sale in Salaga. Some Muslim colonies, situated on the borders of the pagan areas, also took part in the slave raids. Mossi caravans brought all their goods, woollen materials and ivory, down to the market on the heads of slaves and thus doubled their business. The transport of goods cost them almost nothing, and they could sell their wares, together with the means of transport, for a very high price. Depending on his age and build, a slave would fetch 80 to 120 marks. On the other hand there is another kind of slavery which originates in native law and which is nothing but a lawful punishment for a criminal.
Slavery as a commercial factor.
Naturally, from our point of view, the slave trade is bad and has to be abolished. However, the position of a slave is often better than one might think. It is only the raiding for slaves which brings horror and which will be the economic ruin of Africa. Murder, violence and arson are the order of the day in this business. Large villages and whole districts are ruined and depopulated because of the slave raids. Although this human merchandise cannot be exported any more, courts still need a large number of slaves. And almost all the chiefs and rich people in our Togo district still hold large numbers of slaves who hoe their fields and thus form the working class. It is not in the nature of a negro to work hard of his own free will; he has almost got to be forced to it. How could goods be transported from the inland if not mainly on the heads of slaves? For this reason it is not looked upon as a big crime in Africa to use the labour force in this way. Furthermore, house slaves are not treated as badly as is generally believed. These people become integrated into the tribe and family of their master and even get into influential positions as, for example, the Grunshi slave Okla, who belonged to the fetish priest of Krachi. They usually become forcibly integrated through marriage. According to African law, the slave inherits all his master's possessions if there are no relatives; furthermore, he becomes free after his master's death. From this it is clear that the whole existence and the well-being of the African economy stands or falls with slavery.
172 Sudden abolition of slavery
The fetish extends his power into these affairs. As a rule, the fetish priest gives a drink to the new slave which is actually quite harmless but is supposed to kill him if he tries to escape. Although it is the duty of the Government, of civil servants and missionaries to destroy slavery - be it under the sign of the cross or with fire and sword - it is neither advisable nor possible to do this too abruptly. Thousands of people would suddenly be without food because most of them are far too dependent to find food for themselves. The suddenly freed masses would turn upside down age-old institutions and bloodshed would increase. Only through gradual change can such a disaster be avoided. It is quite impossible to punish slave-traders according to European law; one has to consider the African circumstances. It is especially difficult to influence the Muslims because in their religion they are permitted to regard heathens as slaves.
Although the influences coming from the Coast are good, they will inevitably cause the downfall of African commerce and with this a temporary loss to local trade. It can be assumed that a sudden change to different ways of life will not be without great damage to the economic interests of the indigenous inhabitants. Through the spread of Christianity, on the other hand, slavery and the horrors of heathen beliefs will slowly but surely be abolished. The Christian mission, under the protection of a strong Government, has been called to act as apostle and bearer of culture and will eventually bring an end to all evil.
- Beck, Buss in Salaga 1878: A new route to the Upper Niger, in Geographische Gesellschaft zu Bern III, 1880-1, translated from the German by K. J. Salaga Papers acc. no. SAL/9/1
- . . . On the next day Buss visited the markets of the town with his landlord. First he went to the main market for foreign wares, which is half an hour long and well filled with goods, but empty of customers. All the merchants from the interior, especially the Moravas and Mosees were completely absent. The horse and donkey market was quite empty. But when the traveller came to the slave market, he saw that at least this branch of trade had not suffered under the crisis. His account reminds one of the well-known chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the inhuman cruelty with which these poor creatures are treated is really horrible. Since in Harmatan time drinking water is brought to Salaga from far away it is understandable that the slaves who are set out without shelter in the burning sun, get little of it. But food also is only given to them very sparingly, and that of a quality, as Buss says, that European pigs would despise. A slave trader told Buss that the food given to the slaves was not really enough to support life and strength; but every slave had a cut in the tongue and medicine was put in it so that it healed quickly; then the slave ate little and still stayed of good appearance. Our traveller's own researches confirmed the statements of the merchant
- Der, Benedict G., The Slave Trade in Northern Ghana, Woeli Publishing Services, Accra, 1998
- 8 In 1751-52 Safo Kantanka of Mampong, taking advantage of succession disputes to the Kpembe skin, invaded that Division, captured the Kpembewura Nakpo and two of his close relatives, his brother's son and his paternal cousin, and took them as prisoners to Kumasi. He then extended his campaign to central Gonja, capturing towns like Kafaba . . .
9 By the late eighteenth century, Gonja came firmly under Asante control and must therefore have paid a tribute in slaves to Asante. These slaves were obtained through raids of . . . the Konkomba.
14 The annual movement of merchants and their dependants reached many thousands of people. This led to the export of large quantities of kola from Asante through Kafaba and Buipe. In exchange for kola, the Hausa and Mossi traders brought such produce as textiles, livestock, leather goods, jewellery, dried onions and natron from Sokoto and Borno. To this trade slaves were added. (Der lists eight trade routes from Kano, Katsina and Ouagadougou, all ending at Kafaba.)
15 . . . it was in the mid-eighteenth century that the records of European companies on the coast began noting the presence of donkors or people of Northern origin among the slaves brought down to the forts and castles for sale. Thereafter, slaves sent to the coast from Asante invariably included men, women and children from Northern Ghana.
16 As late as the eighteenth century, Salaga was not known to the outside world. Kafaba was the best known trading place in the middle Volta.
18 Visitors to Salaga gave horrifying accounts of the treatment of slaves. The slaves were sold in the open in the slave section of the market. They were usually chained together in groups of ten to fifteen by the neck, and exposed the whole day from morning till evening in the burning sun. They were left hungry and thirsty, naked, ailing, often sick and weak and were kept standing in that condition till one after another had been sold.
29 On a conservative estimate, it can be said that over half a million people or more from Northern Ghana were sold into slavery in the period 1732 to 1897 while thousands of others died or were killed in the slave raids.
32 The main effects of the slave trade on Northern Ghana were depopulation, devastation, insecurity and loss of life and property. Agriculture and the local arts were disrupted while people lived in constant fear for their lives or of the raiders. The long term effect of the slave trade on Northern Ghana, however, was that it retarded development in the area. The roots of African-Americans and West Indians of Ghanaian origins do not end at the forts and castles on the coast, nor in the coastal states and in Asante. They can be traced further to Northern Ghana.
- Firminger, Admin 1/88 enclosure to no. 181, 28 June 1889 (1887) (Quoted in Bevin's select documents 1874-1914) The Salaga Papers acc. no. SAL/39/1
- The Salaga Slave Trade in 1887
13 It was however during my residence at Salagha that I learnt the magnitude of the slave traffic there, not only from personal observation, but from information obtained in open palaver and privately from the King and his principal chiefs, notably the princes of Leppo, Sumprah and Sangla.
14 The large slave caravans consisting of from 500 to 2,000 slaves begin to arrive in the latter part of December and continue until the end of March. They barter their slaves for cowries and European goods and for Kola nuts at Kuntampoh, and then return to their various countries.
15 From the evidence given by the King and Chiefs which I verified by numerous independent inquiries, it appears that about 20,000 slaves are disposed of in one way or another annually . . .
16 I only arrived in Salagah on the 16 May 1887 when all the large caravans had left, but a belated Moshi caravan and one from Sansane Mungo were still expected. So great however, was the fear that the object of my presence in Salagah was to stop the slave trade that it was with the greatest difficulty I was enabled to get a sight of the slaves, many of whom had been sold before I heard of the caravan's arrival.
In the case of the Moshi caravan, the Maidugu or commander had heard of the news of my arrival, and finding he was too late for the Kola market at Kuntampoh, he had halted at every village where there was a chance of disposing of a few slaves, even at a sacrifice, and it was only upon the solemn assurances of non-interference by prince Leppo and Prince Yusuf of Dagomba, that he brought the remainder of his slaves into the slave market of the town. Dr. Easmon and I visited them and saw exposed for sale, men with their right wrists resting on their left shoulders and fastened securely at their throats by cords (and who had been kept at that position for months so that the power of straightening the arm was nearly lost), little children from two years old upwards, and women young and old naked except for a bunch of leaves. We learnt from some of the slaves that two men had been cut to pieces in front of the whole caravan for attempting to escape. We also saw a very old woman quite seventy years of age offered for sale and heard she was bought for eight shillings.
18 . . . The average price at Salagah for slaves are for a full-grown man 120 heads of cowries, a boy of fifteen 100 heads, child, boy or girl 70 heads, girl (grown up) 120 heads; each head being 1,000 cowries, value at Salagah one shilling, and at the coast six pence.
19 . . . The caravan from Sansane Mungo consisted principally of Grushi slaves captured by Gajare, the self-styled king of Jaberime, who was then waging a slave war against the inoffensive and helpless Grushi nation to supply the slave markets of Salagah, Kuntampoh and others.
20 . . . Lord Knutsford will no doubt be aware that the country of Inta or Gwandijowa, in which Salagah is situated, was formerly a tributary state of Ashanti, which drew a very large revenue from it. It owes its Independence entirely to the destruction of the Ashanti power by Lord Wolseley. The people are industrious, agricultural and unwarlike to timidity. They derive their wealth from the sale of foodstuffs to the numerous caravans coming into Salagah, which is a free town. Their farms which extend for miles are entirely cultivated by slave labour every petty farmer being a slave holder, in fact, the slaves far outnumber the natives.
21. . . With regard to the Akims (British Subjects) they supply Kuntampoh market with the Kola nuts, taking in exchange slaves, ivory and cattle, but principally slaves. These are partly disposed of to the Ashantis. Some being sent as far as Gaman, or if docile are kept to work the Akim farms.
- Hodgson, Governor, Firminger's Mission, Confidential Despatch to S. of S. 17 Feb. 1890
- . . . In connection with my Despatch no. 49 of even date, reporting upon Mr. Firminger's allegation with regard to the existence of slavery in the Protectorate, that I have been informed by Native Officer Ali that Mr. Firminger purchased a Foulah slave girl named Fatima from a Moshi slave dealer name Mama Danwana Wurri for £6: 10, when he was in Salagha in 1887, and it appears that she lived with him as his mistress until his departure from the Coast. He had told Ali that he had wanted a Foulah girl and the latter pointed out Fatima to him in a slave market . . . If Mr. Firminger were really sincere in his abhorrence of slavery, he would hardly, in my opinion, have set such an example to the Haussas under his command when in charge of a most important and delicate mission from this government to the interior . . .
- Francois, C von, Mitteilungen aus den deutscher Schutzgebieten, Berlin, 1888. Translated from the German by M.J. The Salaga Papers acc. no. SAL/18/1
- Salaga in 1888
The prices for slaves, horses and asses vary greatly. A grown up male slave during my visit cost about 140 mk, a female slave nearly the same, a ten-year-old girl about 70 mark, a horse 200 - 300 mk, an ass 40 - 100 mk, a mule 200 - 300 mk.
English quarter, half and whole shillings are current if the impression is clearly recognisable and the Queen's head is on it. Pieces with the heads of earlier rulers are not accepted.
1,000 cowries have the value of one mark in Salaga, at the coast the value of about 40 Pf.
For slaves, Salaga is the largest market in the western Sudan. The turnover here every year must be some 15,000.
Most of the slaves come from the north-west, but caravans bring them also from all other directions. In the short time of my presence I met some 20 caravans with from 50 to 400 slaves each. In the main trading time, which comes in January and February, even more are said to come.
- Garrard, Timothy F. Akan Weights and the Gold Trade. London: Longman, 1980
- 63 By 1701 . . . Osei Tutu and his allies had succeeded in crushing not only the pre-Asante states in the vicinity of Kumasi but also the Denkyira kingdom. One of the motives underlying these campaigns was clearly to gain control of gold-producing lands and the two major trade routes running through the region, one going north-west to Tekyiman and Begho, and the other north-east to Kafaba (the predecessor of Salaga), a large Gonja market to which Hausa traders were being attracted by the fifteenth century. Osei Tutu was evidently anxious to enter the gold trade, and it is said that even before the Denkyira war he had introduced the gold-dust currency into Asante and appointed the first treasurer or Sannaahene of Kumasi, Amoa Pagya.
- RAMSEYER and KUHNE, Four Years in Ashanti (quoted by Ehrman, Globus xxx from 2nd German edn p. 290) Translated from the German by M. Johnson The Salaga Papers acc. no SAW32/1
- Salaga trade before 1874
Ashanti has the monopoly of the great market of Salaga (Saraha) at least so far that no other people of the coast dares to go there. The whole year caravans go there with European wares: materials and cloths, metal and glass manufactures, salt and especially kola nut (also goro, Sterculia acuminata) which grow so plentifully in the Ashanti forests and are bought by the Mohamedans in the north almost as a sacred fruit. They are chewed, and the bitter taste is soon followed by a sweet one, which makes the drinking even of bad water more pleasant. These are exchanged for local produce; vegetable butter (with which every African rubs himself after the bath), local cloth, cotton thread, sandals and other leatherwork, African glass, baskets, hats, hoes and axes from local iron, tobacco pounded into balls and either balled or pressed into strips, etc., many small and large cattle and especially slaves. These are brought by caravans from "Mosi" north of the Konigs mountains* and Mariwa (Hausa), which take quite two months on the journey before they reach Salaga. Gold dust is accepted in the market, but cowries are the current coin. These last have a high value there; for 15,000 which are worth 10 -11 marks on the coast, one can buy a fine ox; a sheep costs 1,000 to 2,000 cowries; a slave 36,000 to 70,000. A load of kola nuts is sold there for about 12,000 cowries, so an Ashanti with three or four such loads, which he can easily collect, at home, will enable him to buy a slave in Salaga.
*Literally King's mountains: presumably "Mountains of Kong"
- Wilks, Ivor. Forests of gold : essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante Athens : Ohio University Press, 1993.
Wangara, Akan, and Portuguese in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century.
31 There is much to suggest that the wars of Ngbanya, or Gonja, expansion in the second half of the sixteenth century, under Naba'a and his successors, were particularly brutal ones; they involved the extensive displacement of autochthonous, the nyemasi, from the land and their enslavement. (End note 134. In the early nineteenth century a large region of western and central Gonja, scene of the sixteenth century campaigns, was known as the "Desert," Sahra; see J. Dupuis, Journal of a Residence in Ashantee, (London, 1824), Part II, xxxvi, cxxxi. The region remains virtually uninhabited to this day.)
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