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EASY MAGAZINE Marcia Burrowes: Her story

Gercine Carter

EASY MAGAZINE Marcia Burrowes: Her story

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Patrons of old Laff It Off productions remember Marcia Burrowes as Nooksina, the character who could sing “on earth and other places”.
Off-stage however the lecturer in cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, is intense, seriously on a mission to research and document the cultural history of Barbados.
“I love my research. I love questions of culture and issues of culture and then there is the arts side of me,” Burrowes told Easy magazine.
“One of my key questions always is what meanings can I bring to the way Barbadians construct their identity.”
She has no difficulty with her own identity. Asked to define herself she replied, “I would construct myself as a member of the African diaspora. I am very aware of heritage.
“I am very aware that if you are creating a story of identity you choose the stories and perhaps we in Barbados have been encouraged to choose one story, which is our Anglo story and ignored the other stories that make up our identity.”
Not so the educator and actor who boldly embraces “all of the narratives” – the West African heritage; the colonial heritage, the descent from an enslaved African.
She always wanted to be an actor and when she went abroad to study after leaving The St Michael School, drama was her intended area, but she could not find a relevant programme.
She settled for the Master’s in arts education and cultural studies offered by The University of Warwick. But as she was engaged in cultural studies several questions arose in her mind – why were certain forms of art given more privilege than others; there was always music on the curriculum but where was theatre; dance would possibly make it but not drama and why the idea that drama was only for those individuals who possibly were not going to be good at the academics?
They were questions that drove her to her supervisor’s office and led to her immediate acceptance for a PhD in cultural studies at the prompting of her supervisor.
To find funding for the doctorate, she returned home armed with the Master’s degree and taught history and drama at Queen’s College. Burrowes thanked then principal Colleen Winter-Brathwaite for insisting that every first year QC student did drama in education, the subject Burrowes taught for over two years before being awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship and heading back to England to do the PhD.
Drama flows in her veins she said as she laughed heartily while recounting onstage experiences with Tony Thompson and the late Wendell Smith.
“I love to act. I am an actor. I would be known in the public as an actor for many years in the Black Rock Cultural Centre, the Green Room Theatre . . .”.
But there is another side of her life that has taken centre stage. It is research on issues of culture in which she is immersed not only because of a love for research but because of the burning questions surrounding culture in Barbados.
There are “the historical narratives” and she is trying to discover how they inform cultural identity.
“The key thing is that many times histories are written and rewritten. Over time, narratives fall by the wayside. My questions are about how to look at Barbadian identity,” and the Barbados Landship has become one of the avenues to finding answers.
Burrowes has been researching the Barbados Landship, a uniquely Barbadian cultural organisation, for over 20 years and is excited about the results. She has unearthed communities which claimed ships, like Merritts, St Philip, which claimed the Rodney, and Carrington Village, which had the Cornwall.
She is spurred on by her findings.
“What I think has happened to Barbados is that our cultural history has been under-researched. One of my key questions always is what meanings can I bring to the way Barbadians construct their identity,” Burrowes said.
Her efforts have not gone unrecognised. She received the Barbados Service Star for her “invaluable contribution” to cultural development in Barbados for tracing the Landship’s contribution to Barbados’ cultural heritage in last year’s Independence National Honours and Awards.
Still single, she asks, ‘Why not?” After all, research is the substitute she has chosen and enjoys.