Saint Lucia's Folk Culture and the Struggles for Emancipation

Topics: Slavery, Caribbean, Saint Lucia Pages: 9 (7286 words) Published: October 27, 2014
ST. LUCIAS FOLK CULTURE AND THE STRUGGLES FOR EMANCIPATION By Travis Weekes My main motivation for researching the contents of this paper stems from my curiosity about the origin and development of some of St. Lucias most vibrant and persistent cultural forms. Forms which I believe have been and are still very instrumental in the shaping of the St. Lucian person forms such as the bele, the konte, the abwe, the flower festivals of La Rose and La Maguerite and of course the language Kweyol, which emerged as a vehicle of those forms. Harold Simmons, St. Lucias pioneering anthropologist laid the groundwork for continued research into these areas and Monsignor Patrick Anthony, through the establishment of the Folk Research Centre ensured the survival of interest into those forms. Little research however has been carried out into the origin and development of those forms. The explanations up to now do not say enough about who we are. For some St. Lucias folk culture is African. For others it is a mixture of Amerindian, French, British, African, East Indian etc. Not only are these explanations too general but because of this, they do not sufficiently contextualize the development of the culture within historical events, incidents and phenomena and consequently there is little textual analysis. When I carried out the research for this paper I was the Cultural Education Officer of the Folk Research Centre and part of my duties to educate the community about St. Lucias culture. To this end I used what ever resources were available in the small library at the centre and my own experience of field work into the rural communities on the island. Although my paper is about St. Lucia I will speak about the surrounding islands, particularly St.Vincent because what I discovered about British or French colonial policy was such that in the period of colonization, they often dealt with the islands en bloc particularly if they were similar in terms of geography, topography and demography as was the case with St. Lucia and St. Vincent. During the colonial wars for the Caribbean, St. Lucia was the most strategic of locations. Its safe and hidden harbours combined with its abundant resources of wood and water provided the necessary refuge for ships of desperate European explorers. This may be the dominant reason why the French and British battled constantly, changing hands fourteen times for the island. From the inception of European reckless protrusion into the Caribbean, they attempted to enslave the indigenous peoples to work on slave plantations. The Carib settlers at the time in the smaller islands of the Caribbean resisted all attempts by the Europeans to set up colonies in these territories. Many preferred to take their own lives than be subjected to exploitation by the Europeans. Others used their own knowledge and mastery of the sea routes among the islands to flee from one island to the next in search of refuge. Having failed with the Caribs, Europeans imported forced African labour to work on the plantations. The development of the slave plantation system, accompanied by a highly intensive and profitable trade in African slaves was expected to produce at the maximum. European rivalry for the Caribbean islands was as intense as the rapid development of the plantation system and the harshest of measures was used by the Europeans to protect their interests. Like the indigenous peoples, African slaves resisted all attempts at subjugation. Slavery was cruel and inhumane and for this simple reason there was always maroonage. Both the Caribs and runaway African slaves developed a common bond in their resistance against European exploitation. Slaves fled the estates whenever they had they got a chance despite the fact that the punishments when they were caught were extreme. The Windward Islands were then even far more then than now, thickly wooded with high mountains and ridges often leading from one end of the island to the other. African...

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