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06 Mar 2009

Slavery theme park planned for Nigeria
BY Helen Patenall

The Motherland Group (TMG) has announced plans to build a US$3.4bn (£2.4bn) theme park commemorating the slave trade in the historic port town of Badagry in Nigeria.

The Badagry Historical Resort Development Project — which is being financially supported by former Jackson 5 singer Marlon — will include a museum on slavery and a life-size replica of a slave ship.

The visitor attraction will also feature an amphitheatre, a music pavilion, a golf course, a soccer field, a casino, shops, a hotel and condominiums, as well as a collection of Jackson 5 memorabilia.

Gary Loster, executive of TMG in Maryland, US, said: “The Jackson family had been looking for a place to site their memorabilia collection for some time.

“We visited the site of the slave port in Badagry and Marlon turned to me and said: ‘Let's put it here, this is right.’ It’s such an emotional place, and I think we all felt that it was the right place to have the Jackson family memorial.”

However, the project has caused controversy and condemnation for being a crass capitalist venture promoted as a heritage-based attraction.

“It is not appropriate from a cultural or historical point of view. Money-making and historical memory are allies in the extension of capitalism. You cry with one eye and wipe it off with cold beer, leaving the other eye open for gambling,” said Professor Toyin Falola, a historian at the University of Texas.

TMG has defended it position, proclaiming that the resort will boost the flailing Nigerian economy by creating employment opportunities for the local community and by pulling in US$407m (£289m) of tourist money from the 1.4 million visitors it hopes to attract during the first year.


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