Monuments of Slavery: Fort Santo Antonio
Fort Santo Antonio, which later became known as Fort Saint Anthony, is one of the oldest forts built by the Europeans in the then Gold Coast. The Fort which is located at Axim in Nzema West Municipal District of the Western region of Ghana was built by the Portuguese in 1515, a few years after arriving on the coast of Ghana.
The Fort remained the abode of the Portuguese slave traders who came to the then Gold Coast to trade until 1642 when the Dutch overpowered the Portuguese, seized the Fort and made it part of their territory, then known as Dutch Gold Coast.
The Dutch expanded the Fort considerably as the volume of the trade grew in number and a larger fort was needed to store their trading goods such as gold, food and freshwater used by the Dutch and the slaves they acquired for onward shipment to Europe.
Fort Antonio remained in the possession of the Dutch and became their most important Fort until 1872 when they handed it over to the British administration and departed from the shores of the Gold Coast. The Dutch’s decision to hand over the Fort to the British was as a result of their loss of monopoly over the slave trade business and also loss of jurisdiction in places with hitherto used to be their territory and under their control.
The British with their immense wealth and power had become the main trading partners of the indigenous people, being sold almost all the slaves and leaving the Dutch with no option than to depart from the Gold Coast.
Fort Antonio remained under the control of the British throughout the slavery and colonization eras until Ghana gained independence in 1957 and the British had to leave the shores of the country.
The fort is now one of the tourist sites in Ghana and is opened to the general public. Historical artefacts such as paintings and portraits of former commanders of the fort, shackles used to chain slaves, cups used by the slave masters are all on public display in the fort.