Slave Route Project Scientific Committee meets in Cidade Velha 26 October 2015
The Scientific Committee of the Slave Route Project will hold its statutory meeting this Monday in Cidade Velha, on the island of Santiago, in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Learning, Science and Innovation and the Cape Verde National Commission for UNESCO. The committee is made up of 22 historians and specialists in the trans-Atlantic slave trade from the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.
Among the exhibitions scheduled are “Africans in Portugal – History and Memory, 15th-20th Century,” by Isabel Castro Henriques, as well as a display of handicrafts at the Cidade Velha Cultural Center. A colloquium on “The problem of scientific investigation on slavery and the challenges of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024)” will also be held, with contextualization provided by João Lopes Filho.
The colloquium will feature the participation of University of Cape Verde dean Judite Nascimento, the director of the Slave Route Project, Ali Moussa Iyé, the president of the Pedro Pires Intitute, Pedro Pires, Brazil’s Minister of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, Nilma Lino Gomes, and Cape Verdean Minister of Higher Learning, Science and Innovation António Correia e Silva, who is also the president of the UNESCO Commission for Cape Verde.
According to organizers, issues of worldwide importance such as development, human rights, cultural pluralism and intercultural dialogue have been characterized by a total lack of awareness and understanding of the transatlantic slave trade. In order to break the silence surrounding this theme, UNESCO launched the Slave Route Project, an international investigation into how to promote the rapprochement of peoples by way of the shared legacy of this tragedy.
The idea for the project was launched during the 27th session of the UNESCO General Council in 1993, on the initiative of Haiti and several African countries. Oriented by an International Scientific Committee, the project was launched in 1994 in Ouidah, Benin, and has made extraordinary progress since, breaking the silence around the slave trade, bringing to light its traumas and consequences and revealing the multiple transformations and cultural interactions it engendered. “The Slave Route is not just an event of the past: it is our history and has shaped the character of various modern societies, created indissoluble ties between peoples and continents and irreversibly transformed the destiny, economy and culture of nations,” said Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO.
The project has had a significant impact since 1994. Its leadership managed, in 2001, to see the slave trade recognized officially as a crime against humanity. UNESCO was also successful in putting the slave trade on the international agenda, while at the same time developing scientific knowledge and promoting awareness throughout the world.
UNESCO also helped introduce August 23 as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, developed in partnership with the High Commission for Human Rights, the World Tourism Organization, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, the Palmarés Cultural Foundation, the Smithsoniam National Museum of African Americam History and Culture, the Center for Black African Arts and Civilization and the media, with the support of its member countries’ governments.