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    November 19

  • 04:47 PM

Bringing Landship history home

Anesta Henry,

Added 11 September 2013

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The Barbados Landship has been sailing across Barbados for 150 years. And after all this time, not much is known by the Barbadian public about The Landship outside of its visual impact of lily white uniforms decorated with colourful cords and its animated performance with the accompaniment of its “engine” known as the Tuk Band. This is the belief of this week’s Wednesday Woman, Dr Editha Fergusson-Jacobs, a Barbadian-born Africanist who has written a book titled Full Steam Ahead, which is expected to be launched later this month. Incorporating information from years of research, the book brings an awareness to Barbadians about the movement. “Through the Barbados Landship I want black Barbadians to be conscious that, first of all, they have an origin. And the second thing is, and most important, The Landship is not a play little poo poo thing. “It is African and it is the only lasting link with the African culture in terms of what they do. It is a way of life,” she revealed during an interview with the MIDWEEK NATION. Fergusson-Jacobs’ journey into researching The Landship and writing the book commissioned by the movement did not start last year. It started while she was doing her Masters in African art at the University of South Florida and encountered a revolutionary class. “I walked into class and these people were doing a reading from some article; but from how the description was going I said: ‘Well, they are talking about The Landship’. But then, to my great surprise, it was not; it was a group in Africa. In 1994 I started to trace this group which is the Asafo group,” she recalled. The art historian, who holds a PhD in Caribbean history, said she visited Ghana soon after and met with the Asafo people. “When I came back home I was able to meet with Captain [Vernon] Watson [Lord High Admiral] and I would tell him this happened and that happened, the third happened and he would say, ‘Yes, that happened but those things don’t happen anymore’,” she said with a contented smile. Fergusson-Jacobs then came to the conclusion that there were many similarities between the Barbados Landship and the Asafo group, namely, “the development of companies or ships located within one domicile, the naming and identification of companies, the titles attached to the offices and uniforms within the companies, the collection of monetary contributions accumulated by the membership, [which is] linked to the responsibility for the funeral ceremonies of their members and, most important, the animated ceremonial processions and performances within the communities”. And as for Barbadians seeing The Landship only as a performing movement, the history tutor at the Barbados Community College stressed that “they don’t know how many other things they do, like providing funding for school for the children of the members” and assisting young people going to work for the first time with clothing. The author’s intention in writing the book was to make Barbadians more conscious of their origins. “I know people have a problem with saying they are African. They say, ‘I’m a Bajan, I am not an African’. But when they are speaking about the Chinese, they say, ‘The Chinese fella there’. He wasn’t born in China, he was born in Barbados but he is still Chinese. “Everybody has an origin except we black people because we have been trained that way. But I believe that I am supposed to do this. In life, people want to know what they are supposed to do; this may be mine,” Fergusson-Jacobs said.

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