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TONY BEST: Historical display well presented


TONY BEST: Historical display well presented

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A GOLDEN JUBILEE is as good a time as any to recall milestones and key changes in lifestyles.

The occasion also provides people withan excellent opportunity to cite the immortal words of Victor Hugo, the 19th century French poet and novelist, who stressed the importance of “an idea whose time has come”.

That day came last weekend for Bajans in New York and elsewhere in the US celebrating their birthplace’s 50th year independence and the “idea” was an exhibition of artefacts, photographs and cultural symbols that told a story of life in Barbados dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

“It was a good idea to assemble the historical display and it was well presented,” said Tony Marshall, Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations.”

It allowed people to see many aspects of life in our country and to hail the changes which have taken place in the half century of sovereignty. However, I was disappointed at the attendance. It wouldhave been so much better if all the effort that went into it was rewardedwith a large turnout of the diaspora.”

The seven-hour cultural extravaganza was organised by the Barbados Government offices in New York led by the Consulate-General in Manhattan and it involved the Barbados Tourism Authority, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation and the Mission to the UN. It was held on Long Island University Brooklyn downtown campus and the participants ranged from Barbadian organizations, church leaders and vendors to businesses, professionals and entertainers.

“We want Bajans in the diaspora to see something of our history and way of life,” explained Dr  Donna Hunte-Cox, the Consul-General in New York.

The exhibition triggered recollections of rural Barbados, the train lines and of Bridgetown that underscored the country’s transformation from a one-crop economy to a multifaceted 21st century nation. Samples of traditional Bajan cuisine were provided to anyone requesting them. On display were such artefacts as the juking board, clothes iron, “chamber” utensils and the three-section enamel food container that families used to provide a home cooked hot meal to working fathers.

Interestingly, a large funeral home owned and operated by a Barbadian, Steven Legall, arranged a display of a satin-lined casket that brought smiles but no fears to the faces of visitors and vendors who were curious about their eventual journey to the hereafter. Indeed, a woman requested and wasgiven permission to be placed, alive, of course,in the casket.

“She asked to be allowed to do it and we said yes,” explained Legall, whose “home for funerals” is one of the largest in two million-plus borough of Brooklyn. “We mount the display to make more people aware of the services we offer. Funerals are inevitable and are a very difficult period in people’s lives.”

But the funeral home wasn’t the only business that used the extravaganza to get the word out about services. Designers of jewellery, professionals offering services and other small businesses took part. Tracia Callender and Carl Belgrave, two Bajan attorneys who handle civil and criminal cases, had a presence at LIU.

“The extravaganza was a good idea but it wasn’t well attended. Our 50th anniversary is very important and I was looking forward to meeting far more people than those who came. The collection of artefacts told an important story about Barbados and the photographs brought back fond memories,” said Callender.

 Clyde Jones, a professional photo-journalist in New York, who mounted an exhibition of some of his work that spanned more than a half century, found it informative.

“It was an excellent exhibition of artefacts, photos and food,” said Jones. “But I would have liked to see more Bajans there.”

The Rev. Dr. Laurel Scott, a Methodist minister on Long Island, and Sandra Taitt-Eaddy, a genealogist, shared that view: a sound idea but inadequate numbers when it came to the Bajan community.

“We are working with the tourism product group of Barbados to encourage more Barbadians to trace their family roots and to use the effort to get more people to look into their backgrounds while returning home for vacations and family re-unions,” saidEaddy Taitt.

Andre’ Clarke, music director of the Barbadian band 2 Mile Hill, performed on stage and later described it as a “wonderful opportunity” for the group who came away feeling “entirely positive.”

A service of thanksgiving  marking the 50th anniversary will be held this afternoon at the Bedford Central Presbyterian Church, 1200 Dean Street in Brooklyn beginning at 3 pm.

The Rt. Rev. Peter Fenty, a Bajan Anglican Bishop in Canada, is expected to preach the sermon.

Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.