International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
A statement from Temwa
For over 400 years over 15 million people were stolen from African countries by countries such as the United Kingdom, this became known as the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The strongest, most productive people of society were taken away, resulting in the economic ruin which is still seen throughout the continent today. It is easy for some of us to think that slavery is a distant part of our history. However, slavery in the UK was abolished only 188 years ago in 1833, meaning that it has been illegal for only half the time that it was legal.
In Malawi, in the communities that we partner with, the impacts of slavery are still seen and remembered by many. Slavery remains in the living memory of many older people who tell stories of their parents’ siblings and relatives being stolen by slave traders.
The Day of Remembrance encourages us to remember that the high levels of poverty experienced in Malawi have been caused in part by slavery, colonisation, and exploitation. The knock-on effect of 400 years of the slave trade in Malawi, where teachers, carpenters, farmers, tinsmiths, healers and preachers were stolen as slaves is still felt today.
A quote from Kondwani and Luzily
We asked Kondwani, our Programmes Manager in Malawi for his thoughts on today’s day of remembrance. Kondwani grew up very close to his Grandfather who was a village chief and a Tinsmith. As Chief, many people shared with him their experiences of Slavery, and from this, Kondwani developed an interest in the history of Malawi. Please find some quotes from Kondwani below, and if you’d like to read the whole conversation you can read it here.
“It’s very important to take part in remembering the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Historically slave trade was one of the most brutal experiences the human race has faced, I think seconded by World War One and Two and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Through Slavery, Africa lost millions of its people and it’s important that the lives of these people are remembered in history every year. I am greatly happy and appreciate the efforts by the United Nations to make sure this day is remembered.
Slavery defeated the Ubuntu philosophy which means you believe in others and you are who you are because of other people. So the philosophy helps us to live with one another because you protect your friend and your friend protects you. The slave trade really defeated the Ubuntu philosophy.
By remembering the victims we are learning from how we can live with each other, we are now living in a global village where I can see things that are happening in the UK which is miles away from me. If I’m able to remember what happened in the past and learn from that I’ll be able to live very well with people from other tribes and races.”
The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade not only helps us to remember the crimes that the UK has been implicit in, it draws attention to modern-day slavery. Although slavery is illegal across the world, over 27 million people in Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, Malawi, and the UK live in conditions of forced labour. In the UK it takes many forms including sexual exploitation, domestic slavery, and forced labour. In Malawi, it’s in agriculture, trafficking, tourism and many more industries.
In Malawi, slavery still exists too. Read this piece written by The Guardian on child slavery in the Malawian Tobacco industry. It’s estimated that in Malawi, 62% of the population are vulnerable to slavery, with 130,000 people currently living in slavery (Global Slavery Index, 2018)
“Most Malawians of the younger generation do not really follow the slave trade issues because of a lack of documentation, literature, books, that could have enlightened them more on how slavery impacted Malawi as a nation. It’s a bit difficult to point out the impacts of the slave trade in Malawi because the information has been buried. We can’t trace the information that links to the legacies of slavery in Malawi.
As a nation, we need to have institutions where young people can access information about both past slavery and also modern slavery that’s taking place. People aren’t sure that some situations that they’re going through are also forms of modern slavery.”
- Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
- Roots by Alex Hayley
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
- Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo Lodge
- CARGO… Charting African Resilience Generating Opportunities – Lawrence Hoo
- Slave – Mende Nazer
- Abolition! by Richard S. Reddie
- Africa’s Great Civilisations
- Black and British: A Forgotten History
- Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files
- Face to Face with Slavery
- The Cargo Movement
- Anti-slavery International
- Bristol Against Violence and Abuse
You can also find more resources collected by Bond.
“It’s very important that we should put some policies on how to allow people to return and connect themselves with their places of origin in Africa. in general it’s important that we remember the victims of slavery but also it’s important that through remembrance we are reminded to take good care of our friends and people next to us and not look at each other as enemies or animals. We should value the rights that everyone has.”