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Kunta Kinteh Island

My Magazine 2022/10
9 min
Following the footsteps of slavery, Kunta Kinteh is one of the significant memorials of the dark ages. Visiting the museum of slavery in Albreda and stepping on the vanishing island of one of the most known names in the history of slavery will not leave you senseless.

The small island on the river Gambia still holds the extensive ruins of Fort James among a small forest of Baobab trees.

From the 17th to 18th century, the island was constantly fought over by the French and British, consequencing in constant destruction in the rebuilding of a fort. It was so desired only because of its strategic position, which allowed naturally guarded prison for enslaved people to prosper. The most emphasised part of the history, as told by the guides taking visitors to the island today, is from the period of the slave trade when the fort was used to temporarily keep captured slaves and weaken them with dehumanising treatment to ensure the journey to the Americas would go without resisting or possible coups. The fort was finally destroyed by the French in 1779 and eventually abandoned in 1829.

The island was initially named St. Andrew Island after a Portuguese sailor and was later renamed James Island after James, Duke of York. In 2011 the island was finally renamed Kunta Kinteh Island as part of a series of activities marking the 10th edition of the International Roots Homecoming Festival.

Given by nature and taken by nature. The strategically positioned island, which was enlarged by creating earth and rock barriers to provide sufficient space for all the buildings needed, today still is being constantly eroded by the strong river waves and is slowly but surely disappearing. It seems as if the river Gambia is finally ready to let go of a painful stain in history.

When visiting Kunta Kinteh island, don't miss to visit a small but thought-provoking museum on the slave trade located in Albreda, with a section dedicated to the Roots connection.

Albreda and Juffureh villages lie so close to each other that it's difficult for visitors to tell where one ends, and the other begins. Albreda is famous for its old fortified trading post, also known as a slave factory. Juffureh became famous after publishing Alex Haley's 1970's book Roots, telling a story of a strong-willed Mandinka man, Kunta Kinteh, who came from one of the nearby villages and was taken as an enslaved person around 200 years ago. Since then, many people are coming to Albreda and Juffureh to find their roots or reconnect with the land of their potential ancestors. Kunta Kinteh also became a top-rated one-day stop for many interested in historical journeys.

There are many local tour agencies offering a day trip, but for a traveller wishing to explore the villages in detail, this can be an amazing journey. Coming from Banjul, you can take a ferry or boat ride to the other side of the river, Barra. From there, it is not so difficult to find a gelleh gelleh (taxi van) going to Albreda and Juffureh. You can also decide on a private taxi ride or safari jeep transport, which will allow you to breathe in the dry African air and be enthralled by the images of daily life in the countryside.

Although the island itself, together with the museum of slavery, are the most popular spots in the area, villages offer an authentic experience for a curious visitor. One can enjoy nature, full of colourful birds and enjoy the views of the countryside, especially enticing by the river. Staying overnight in the village will take you deeper inside the local life. Villagers will be happy to share their stories and culture with you through dancing and singing performances and offering you a taste of their local cuisine.

Make your own experience and let us take you to Kunta Kinteh. 


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