South Africa

Slave Wrecks Project

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Bringing the Slave Trade Back Into Memory

Launched in 2008, with its original name the Southern African Slave Wrecks and Diasporan Heritage Routes Project, the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) initially focused on Southern Africa with its first research efforts in the Republic of South Africa. Since then, SWP has grown exponentially in terms of geography and scope of activities but has kept the same basic profile of combining research with training and meaningful community engagement. Using the work on the slaveship São José Paquete D’Africa, which wrecked off the coast of Cape Town in 1794, SWP has advanced underwater and terrestrial archaeology, oral-history collection, educational programming, and museum exhibitions that have reached millions around the world.

Global SWP members – Iziko Museums of South Africa, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, The George Washington University, and the National Park Service –have partnered with the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the African Centre for Cultural Heritage, and local descendant communities, community organizations and leaders, and scholars to generate dynamic, multi-faceted research about the legacies of global slavery and the slave trade. SWP has developed programs in dive training, archaeological training, museum conservation and curation, and preservation that have brought SWP members from Mozambique, Senegal, and the Caribbean to South Africa to encourage more diversity and collaboration across theaters.

To learn more about the São José Paquete D’Africa and its wreck site in Table Bay, click here.

For more than 200 years the wreck of the slave ship São José Paquete D’Africa lay just 100 meters off the shore of one of the most popular beaches in the Mother City. Seven years ago a global team of archaeologists and researchers started diving deep to bring up the first few artifacts from the wreckage. Carte Blanche joins the crew on this famous excursion.

Carte Blanche
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  • A group of people look at objects in cases in a museum.
    SWP co-founder Jaco Boshoff of Iziko Museums in the exhibition about the Sao Jose, 2018. Photo Iziko Museums South Africa
  • A group of scuba divers about to dive in South Africa.
    SWP divers on the site of the Sao Jose, Clifton Beach, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Susanna Pershern, NPS
  • A photo of a beach in South Africa.
    Third Beach, Clifton in Cape Town where the Sao Jose wrecked and now a National Landmark in South Africa. Photo Paul Gardullo
  • A group of students pose for a photograph.
    Students from the global SWP network at a conservation workshop, Iziko Museums of South Africa, 2015. Photo by SWP
  • Two women shake hands at an exhibit opening.
    Iziko CEO Rooksana Omar and a rep from the South African Research Agency at the Sao Jose opening 2015. Photo by Iziko Museums