Slave Wreck artefacts set for Washington DC

Long-buried artefacts from a nearly 220-year-old slave ship recently discovered off the coast of South Africa, are set to depart on further trans-Atlantic journey to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington DC, USA.

This Artefacts are destined for display as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s inaugural exhibition entitled, “Slavery and Freedom” when the museum opens its doors in Washington DC on 24 September 2016 to coincide with National Heritage Day.

In honour of international collaboration, South African Embassy in Washington DC will on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 host a celebration of the international research partnership between Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko), an institute of the Department of Arts and Culture, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and George Washington University (GWU).  These institutions are part of a broader global partnership, the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) that spearheaded the historic discovery of the São José wreck.

The Portuguese slave ship São José set sail in 1794, traveling from Lisbon to Mozambique to buy slaves to take to Brazil. The ship, which made its ill-fated journey relatively early in the history of the slave trade between East Africa and the Americas, was carrying over 400 enslaved East Africans when it hit a rock off the coast of South Africa. Some of those on board were able to make it to shore but the ship sank and about half of the slaves it carried perished at sea. The Slave Wrecks Project has been investigating the impact of the slave trade on world history for nearly a decade and the on-going documentation, retrieval and conservation of select artefacts.

The discovery of the shipwreck of the Portuguese slavery, São José Paquete de Africa was the first successful effort ever, to bring to light the archaeological vestiges of one of thousands of vessels that brought over ten million Africans in chains to the Americas.

“The Sao Jose artefacts bears a tragic testimony which represents an African story that should be told not only to Africa but also to the world. This also signifies the divisive and historical injustices of Africa’s colonial past,” states Minister Mthethwa.

The recovered artefacts bear testimony to the tragic events of December 1794, which witnessed the São José break up and disappear under the turbulent Cape waters, just off the area now known as Clifton Beach, carrying 211 enslaved Mozambicans to a watery grave. The 200 enslaved Mozambicans rescued from the sinking slave ship were sold into slavery at the Cape.

For more information contact Lisa Combrinck, Spokesperson for the Minister: 082 821 4886

Issued by the Department of Arts and Culture

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