Mangapwani is a town located on the Northwest coast of Zanzibar, 25 kilometres North of Stone Town.
Built around 1880 in a cave, the Mangapwani Slave Chamber, being located ~20 km North of Stone Town and 2 km up the coast from the Mangapwani Coral Cavern, is surrounded by varieties of indigenous trees such as Breadfruit, Ramboutants and scent shrubs.
This was an important transit point for the captured slaves to be sold to the outside world at the time of the abolishment of slavery in 1873. Between 1880-1905, the chamber was being used as a place of concealment of the human cargo pending their disposal.
Utilised as a hideout by the Arabs for their human cargo ready for shipment, Mangapwani ('Arab Shore') lies in a district where many Arabs used to live.
Slavery became a mainstay of Zanzibar’s economy. Plantation owners growing cloves and coconuts depended on slave labour. Slaves served as domestic servants, soldiers, caravan porters and concubines. Life for some was short and brutal. Others were assimilated into families, bearing children and eventually winning their freedom.
It was of great importance to freed slaves to gain respect in society, to make personal choices in their lives and create a new identity which removed them from their past. Following abolition, many freed people changed their mainland names to disguise their origins, as these ethnic indicators identified them as former slaves. They began to call themselves ‘Swahili’.