A pivotal scene in Amaryllis in Blueberry occurs when the Slepy family visits one of West Africa's slave castles. Though the slave castle in the story isn't mentioned by name, research will lead you to the Elmina and the Cape Coast region located on the coast of Ghana.
Castles were constructed along the coveted West African coast by European traders. The castles were originally built as trading posts and military forts due to their strategic positioning and proximity to the water. Though these trading posts were originally utilized for such items as gold, ivory, timber, and spices, by the late 1400s trade had expanded to include the buying and selling of human cargo in the form of African slaves.
St. George d'Elmina Castle is one of West Africa's oldest standing buildings and still holds the dungeons where an untold number of slaves were imprisoned. Juxtaposed against the sparkling Atlantic, the castle's dank, horrific dungeons shackled thousands of slaves until they passed through "the door of no return." Once through this door, slaves were forced to the water, loaded onto slave ships, and transported to markets in the New World, never to see their homeland again.
More than twenty-five slave castles can still be found along the coast of Ghana today.
The castles are used as prisons, museums, administrative offices, and tourist destinations. While some are in total disrepair and decay, others have been declared World Heritage Sites by the United Nations.
Yllis is a synesthete, a condition that gives her seer-like abilities. Synesthetes experience two or more of the five senses at the same time with one sense involuntarily causing a sensation in another. Thus a synesthete might experience taste as sound, or music as color. For example, it is believed that Lolita author Nabokov experienced letters as colors, while George Gershwin saw musical notes in color - which puts a whole different interpretation on his Rhapsody in Blue! Over 60 types of synesthesia (including emotional synthesia, as experienced by Yllis) have been reported but few have been studied in any detail.
This article is from the March 9, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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