An illustrative print by Johannes Kip, created in the first half of the 18th century in London. This print captures the coastline of West Africa, showcasing 11 different European-built forts. These fortifications were strategically constructed to guard the vested trading interests of European powers from competitors and rivals. Spanning a 300-mile stretch of coastline, there were approximately 50 such forts.
Initially, these forts were erected to safeguard the gold trade. However, as transatlantic slavery escalated, these structures were repurposed and used to imprison captives in windowless dungeons as they awaited the infamous Middle Passage.
Each fortification in the print is labeled: 'The Westerly Side of the Castle at Mina [Elmina]', 'The Fort Coenraadsburg and Gardens at W', 'Cabo Corso Castle [likely Cape Coast Castle] and Fort Royall at E', 'The Fort Leidsaemheid Dutch at W', 'The Fort Amsterdam at Cormentyn', 'The English Castle at Anamaboe at E', 'The Fort Nassau Dutch at W', 'Fort Christiaansburgh at Acra at W', 'Fort Creveceur [Crevecoeur, now Fort Ussher] at Acra at E', 'Fort Iames at Acra at E', and 'The English Fort at Simpa at W'.
The engraver's identity is indicated as 'J. Kip Sculp.' on the bottom right. Furthermore, the print appears to have been part of a larger publication as it has the inscription 'Vol. V Plate 25', 'Pag. 446' at the top.
This print serves as a stark visual reminder of the period's geopolitics, the impact of the transatlantic slave trade, and the European powers' role in the exploitation and oppression of the African continent.
Johannes Kip (1653-1722) was a topographical engraver. Born in the Netherlands, he had immigrated to England by 1690. His most famous work are the engravings of country houses in Britannia Illustrata (1707), which he produced with Leonard Knyff. He also contributed to the 1732 expanded edition of the Churchill brothers voyage collection.