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Gorée seen from the direction of Dakar
Gorée seen from the direction of Dakar
Waters Atlantic Ocean
Geographical location 14 ° 40 '1 "  N , 17 ° 23' 55"  W Coordinates: 14 ° 40 '1 "  N , 17 ° 23' 55"  W.
Gorée (Senegal)
surface 36 ha
Residents 1680 (2013)
4667 inhabitants / km²
main place Gorée
Old map of the island (1772)
Old map of the island (1772)

Gorée ( French Île de Gorée , English Goree , Dutch Goeree , from Dutch Goede Roads - "Safe Harbor") is an island off the coast of Senegal , to whose territory it belongs. She became known as a symbol for the displacement of slaves across the Atlantic . The extent to which the slave trade was carried out via Gorée is assessed differently. Regardless of this, the island has become a memorial for the slave trade with the Maison des Esclaves (slave house).

Since 1978 the island has been a world cultural heritage under the special protection of UNESCO.


The island of Gorée extends over 36 hectares, is about one kilometer long and 300 meters wide in a north-south direction. It is protected from the open Atlantic in a bay behind Cap Manuel , which forms the southern tip of the Cap-Vert peninsula . The island is located about three kilometers southeast of the port entrance of the Senegalese capital Dakar . The island port of Gorée is on the northeast side and can be reached from the port of Dakar via the Coumba Castel passenger ferry .


A view from the slave house

Colonial era

The original name was Barsaguiche. In 1444 the island was occupied by Portugal under Captain Dinis Diaz and was named Ilha de Palma . Allegedly, Christopher Columbus stayed on Gorée on one of his crossings to America , but this is rather unlikely.

The Dutch West India Company acquired the island from King Betam in 1617 and named it after the South Dutch island of Goeree (today merged with Overflakkee to Goeree-Overflakkee ).

In the course of the fighting that eventually led to the Second Anglo-Dutch War , Goeree was captured on January 23, 1663 by the English under Robert Holmes . On October 11, 1664, the Dutch under Michiel de Ruyter recaptured the island. In the Third Anglo-Dutch War , the Dutch lost it for good, when it was conquered on November 1, 1677 by the French, allied with the English, under d'Estrées and incorporated into the colony of Senegal. The English contested the legality of French possession. On February 4, 1693 they conquered Gorée for four months. Further occupations by the English were 1758–1763, 1779–1783, 1800–1804 and (after two months of French reconquest) 1804–1817. In total, the island changed hands 17 times. From November 1, 1854 to February 26, 1859, Gorée was spun off from Senegal and was part of the Gorée et dépendances colony .

At the end of the 19th century, the city of Gorée on the island of the same name was described as well-built and at that time had an old fort built by the English with a crew of 200 French soldiers, large warehouses and (1879) 2956 inhabitants. Numerous colonial buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries have been preserved to this day.

Importance for the slave trade

Street in Gorée

The historical reputation of the island to have been an important place for the shipping of slaves to America has been disproved by Jean Luc Angrand's work “Céleste ou le temps des Signares ” since 2006 at the latest . Until 1996, the Maison des Esclaves was the largest tourist attraction, the last remaining slave house, which is said to have been built between 1776 and 1778 and which today serves as a museum on the history of slave shipping in West Africa. The basement rooms were depicted as dungeons in which the slaves would have to stay before they were shipped, and a passage to the sea, porte sans retour (“door of no return”), through which the slaves were “loaded” onto the ships to America be. Since 1996 this portrayal has been seen as a myth that has been poetically embellished and enriched by Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, a respected Senegalese personality (died in February 2009) as the longtime director of the Maison des esclaves and tourist guide.

Backed up by recent research, the island is no longer seen as the center of slave shipping. In fact, "only" 500 slaves are said to have been shipped annually via Gorée. According to the work of Abdoulaye Camara and Joseph Roger de Benoist from Dakar, the alleged “house of the slaves” and the shipment from there can be assessed as follows: It is a bourgeois trading house built by the French in 1783 with apartments and offices on the first floor; house slaves would have worked on the ground floor. Objects of trade were gum arabic , ivory and gold . The house was never the starting point for the shipping of slaves, as Joseph Ndiaye demonstrated with the demonstration of the “door of no return” leading to the open sea. (Because of the rocks, no ships could have moored there.) The symbolic meaning as a place of remembrance for the slave trade is not denied by recent historical research, but given a different emphasis.
Of far greater importance for the slave trade were ports such as Saint-Louis (Senegal) and those in the Gulf of Guinea and Angola .

Museum, scientific and cultural thematization of the place

Especially after the broadcast of the series Roots in 1977, American descendants of slaves began to visit the island, which was declared a World Heritage Site a year later , to research their origins. The museum in the Maison des Esclaves became a memorial for the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Top politicians and foreign heads of state such as François Mitterrand as well as Barack and Michelle Obama visited the house. In addition to the museum, an international research center will be built on Gorée in 2017, at which the history of the place will be scientifically processed. The center, which is funded by the Senegalese state and the Ford Foundation , is expected to be completed by 2019.

The symbolism of the place was discussed in various places. Artists like Steel Pulse or Gilberto Gil refer to Gorée in their pieces. R&B singer Akon refers to Gorée in Senegal as the place where slaves were shipped. The rapper Booba , whose father comes from Senegal, also goes to the island in two pieces.

In the 20th century

From 1913 to 1937, the École normal William Ponty was one of the most important schools in French West Africa on Gorée. In 1992 the independent Goree Institute was founded on Gorée, which sees itself as a pan-African institute to strengthen democracy, development and culture on the continent. The starting point was the “Dakar Meeting” in 1987, at which representatives of the South African opposition African National Congress and progressive South African intellectuals explored the future of South Africa after the end of apartheid . The long-standing executive director was the South African-French writer and visual artist Breyten Breytenbach .

Registration as a world heritage site

Gorée Island
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem
National territory: SenegalSenegal Senegal
Type: Culture
Criteria : (vi)
Reference No .: 26th
UNESCO region : Africa
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1978  ( session 2 )

In 1978, the island of Gorée was entered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as Senegal's first World Heritage Site based on a resolution of the second session of the World Heritage Committee.

The reason for the entry states, among other things:

Gorée Island is a testament to an unprecedented human experience in human history. Certainly this “island of memory”, accompanied by suffering, tears and death, is the symbol of the slave trade for the general consciousness.

The entry was made on the basis of criterion (vi).

(vi): The island of Gorée is an extraordinary testimony to one of the greatest tragedies in human history: the slave trade. The various elements of this “island of memory” - fortresses, buildings, streets, squares, etc. - tell in their own way the story of Gorée, which was the largest slave trade center on the African coast from the 15th to 19th centuries.


Gorée is considered to be the most important tourist destination in Senegal. Here, among other things, fishing is practiced in the traditional way. Gorée is a car-free island, there are no cobbled streets.

Community partnerships

See also

Web links

Commons : Île de Gorée  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Magercord: History and Garbage Artist of Gorée. Former slave island off the coast of Senegal In: Deutschlandfunk , December 2, 2012
  2. ^ The Naval History of Great Britain by Frederic Hervey and Others. London 1779; Vol. V, p. 129.
  3. ^ Dictionnaire universel, geographique, statistique, historique et politique de la France; Paris, An XIII- (1805); Tome cinqième, p. 569
  4. ^ Britannica Online Encyclopædia, Gorée Island
  5. ^ Charles Becker; The place de la Sénégambie et de Gorée dans la traite atlantique francaise du XVIIIe siècle; Dakar Avril 1997, pp. 57, 58.
  6. ^ Yves-Jean Saint-Martin: Le Sénégal sous le second empire. Éditions Karthala, 1989, ISBN 2-86537-201-4 , p. 184.
  7. On August 26, 2007, the Südwestrundfunk (SWR) broadcast the film The Legacy of Slavery on the basis of this version of the myth . Abomey and Gorée, Benin / Senegal (script and direction: Albrecht Heise and Jens Dücker) of the series Treasures of the World - Heritage of Mankind , in which the number of slaves deported from Gorée is given as ten million: Treasures of the world
  8. Gorée , at planete-senegal.com
  9. See the slave house in the French Wikipedia and reaction to an article in Le Monde from December 27, 1996
  10. See Jean Luc Angrand (French and Senegalese citizen) with his book "Céleste ou le temps des Signares" (Sarcelles [Édition Anne Pépin] 2006, ISBN 978-2-916-68000-2 ).
  11. a b c Entry on the website of the UNESCO World Heritage Center ( English and French ).
  12. Île de Gorée - symbol of the slave trade. ( MP3 ) (No longer available online.) In: dradio.de . Deutschlandfunk , July 30, 2017, archived from the original on December 7, 2017 ; accessed on November 24, 2017 ( podcast ).
  13. ^ Jo-Ann Greene: Steel Pulse - Door of No Return. In: Allmusic . Retrieved November 25, 2017 (English, song review).
  14. Lyrics by La Lune de Gorée ( Memento from November 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) on Genius.com
  15. Lyrics by Akon Senegal ( Memento November 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) on Genius.com
  16. Two lyrics by Booba on Genius.com : 0.9 ( Memento from November 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) and Garde la pêche ( Memento from November 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  17. ^ William Ponty School Collection of Papers. Nomination form - International Memory of the World Register. (PDF) Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire Cheikh Anta Diop, 2014, accessed on December 26, 2017 .
  18. ^ History of the Goree Institute ( Memento of February 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (French), accessed on February 15, 2015
  19. Decision - 2 COM VIII.38. UNESCO World Heritage Center, 1978, accessed March 24, 2019 .