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Our resident Talkshop Historian, Monsieur St. Paul had enticed us with his postings of factual histotical significance of the Slavery period in a manner, never before experienced in this shop. For those of us with inquiring minds, whose interest were teased with each release of his articles - notwithstanding the sometimes controversial view of his interpretation vis a vis others; myself included - it became clear that our tertiary learning experience could be challenged or enhanced by his posts, unless our viewers or posters could provide a refutation to them. To date, there has been none! "not even a word! from our Talkshop Selwyn, even as his favourite 'Tea Room' was under attack".
And as we were busily consumed in engaging / tracking the origins of our Surnames through the dark period of Slavery to our more recent ancestral roots here in the shop, our Brothers and Sisters of our National Heritage Foundation on the ground in Grenada were taking things one step further.
Earlier in May of this year, the foundation had decided to create a reenactment of the Slave experience at the venue of the River Antoine Rum Distillery in St. Patrick. The intent was to promote our contribution to the United Nations theme of "cultural heritage and sustainably tourist development".
Said them-the Heritage Foundation, that is " the aim of the reenactment was to imitate the arrival and life of enslaved Africans in order to instill in the nation's children a “better understanding of the way the slaves lived on the various estates in Grenada,”
"Well, who tell dem to do dat!"?
And while this undertaking was met with overwhelming public enthusiasm, it was not well received by our Prime Minister, suggesting that the hetitage re-think its position. Another dissenter was a Lawyer whose personal intrest he must have thought, would certainly be negatively affected by this exercise.
You see! some time earlier, the good Lawyer had penned an essay, criticizing the foundation's initative. His tirade of denunciations of the entire committee members were fitting for any Heretic, with the appropriate punishment, equivalent to being burned at the stake for what he saw as their blasphemous acts.
Said he, (paraphrasing here)
"It is very difficult to accept that not a single person on the National Heritage Committee realizes that genocide is not reenacted,”......the National Heritage Committee have lost their collective minds..... They can sell fudge and snow cones at the church harvest but keep them out of public life......Furthermore, it’s not too cruel to suggest a Soviet style Gulag for them somewhere closer to the equator".
He then went on to stage a "one man protest" and disturbed the opening of the event which was taking place on private property for which he was summarily arrested and detained.
And to make matters worse, our legal constitutional luminary representing the good Lawyer, chimed in with a castigation of his own saying “It tells you to the extent to which slavery can dehumanise even its own victims, and make them feel that they can relive an event like this.
Which tourist is going to want to come and observe that?
That’s not tourism, that’s sadism."
So after reading all this, it begs to ask, do these two good Lawyering men not understand that reenacting can be used to advance a cause, even one as genocidal as Slavery was? Do they not know it can also be used to appeal to the conscions of those who conviently choose to remain oblivious to History and cast aside all accounts of that stain on humanity? It therefore becomes imperative that the truth be told and brought to the forefront by the survivors (US!) in plays, whether or not it inconveniences those still haboring the burden of shame and wanting of a "free passage without hindrance" on their way to accommodating that "Hybrid Gene" Monsieur St.Paul introduced to us earlier.
There are some of us who had relinquished that weight from our shoulders and free ourselves from that psychological stain of Slavery a long time ago. Instead, we gain strength in knowing that we are the inheritance of a genealogical predisposition that survived across the Middle Passage for which we should never be ashamed.
This is the reason why we can sit in the audiance with our White friends and families where a showing of "Schindlers List" or "Amistad" directed by Stephen Speilberg or "Twelve Years a Slave" directed by Steve McQueen, the Grandson of our Grenadian and Trinidadian soil; look at an unadulturated depiction of our Forefathers experiences; walk out of the movie theatre and all have dinner, while sharing a bottle of wine.
Those two aforementioned Lawyering men should learn from the over forty million people, Black as well as White, who saw those movies and came out unscathed.
Our Grenadian people are no different, they can do the same.
The show at River Antoine must be allowed to go on so that Talkshop Selwyn could sleep in peace at nights.
Monsieur Louison, from the French Quarters
Monsieur Louison, this is a very timely discussion. Just de otterdey, someone mentioned to me the story of Sandra Louison who was born in the UK of Grenadian parents, and was so deep into keeping the link to her Grenadian heritage alive and vibrant!.
It is a good feeling to know that there is a new generation of Grenadians out there who are willing and able to continue the movement of capturing our identity and taking it down roads different from the ones that have brought us so many failures. It becomes depressing after a while to see different generations taking the road that lead to our failed struggles, over and over again. I think that before we start the struggle, we need to identify ourselves. We need to lookback while moving forward. And there are many dimensions in our past. To encompass just one, weakens the struggle at the start. It leads to the road of divisions – divisiveness. This is what those who want us to stay disoriented encourages. They watch us fight over petty differences in skin color and class which eventually totally consumes us and leads us back to a state of perpetual cultural confusion.
Like Sandra, I too have admired the contribution of Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall – may he RIP. His comprehensive studies on Caribbean people Cultural Identity is the best IMHO.
- "Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories, yet they undergo constant transformation."
- "Cultural identity is a matter of 'becoming' as well as of 'being.'
- "...'Cultural identity is not a fixed essence. It has its histories and the past continuous to speak to us. It is always constructed through memory, fantasy, narrative, AND MYTH"
This is why I think that we need supporting historical documents to understand ALL the facets that defined who we are today. No one part should define us. And we need honesty. There is still those amongst us who feel they have the right to define the single source of who we are. And what that is based on a time when our past laid buried in the colonialist archives. The Narrative, Myths, and stories were waiting to be rediscovered and told, displayed, and performed.
Monsieur St. Paul,
Thank you for prompting me to the link to Sandra. She is my First Cousin by way of her Father being my Uncle.
I have never met the young lady but she seems to have followed in the Louison's track; branching off in a new direction which I am sure would be rewarding in the future.
Kudos to her for not being intimidated into diverting away from the traditional professions and embracing new challenges.
Monsieur Louison from the French Quarters
Bonjour Monsieur Louison.
Interesting. As you mentioned before, there are so many Louison around the world, one cannot be sure who is related to who! ;-). I like Sandra because she seems independent and opened to new research and ideas. Not too many Grenadians born outside Grenada ever look back at where their parents came from. We can change that.
Sticking to subject of your post, I believe there is a lot we can do to change the way we deal with our cultural heritage. If we continue the way we are going, we will lose all evidence of our UNIQUE experiences that defined the people we are today. And if we continue to use our history as just a tool to exploit political benefits, our dignity will be just another cheap commodity like the Rum and Coco-Cola image the world knows us best for.
We have a very complex and dignified history that has been abandoned and trivialized as we struggle just to survive the economic Gauntlet we are faced with from one generation to another. This abandonment has been stripping us or our dignified place on every stage where cultural identities are displayed globally. It leaves us generation after generation scavenging in place to call home and plant new roots. It is there that most of us are no longer proud Grenadians. We need to find ways that will maintain links to the homeland where our identity lies buried. We need a new deck of cards on the table and encourage new players. We need to expand the table and allow all Grenadians to participate – where ever they are today, and not just have players from the old guard playing the same old game that is now boring and tired. Today’s generation have more options to experiment with different views and are no longer just an audience willing and able to accept the Gospel of our history according to the chosen ones who are usually motivated to settle political gripes.
It can sometimes be discouraging to see others show so much interest in knowing about our complex history, while we – Grenadians, bicker over the same old simple thoughts of who we are. One such example I came across lately is this short document from Project Muse.
Cultural Tourism in Grenada
It’s worth a read IMHO, and something for us to think about. I also feel that it falls into the subject of your post and can probably stimulate a respectable discussion on this Lady’s opinions of our tourism plans.