‘Hard life’ on plantation
The Barbados Tourism Product Authority in association with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) staged a performance entitled Cane Piece To Cask: Stories From St Nicholas Abbey on Tuesday, which was the first of its kind.
It was a riveting re-enactment of life for slaves on a plantation and was the highlight of the Sugar and Rum guided tour of historic St Nicholas Abbey.
The plantation workers told a tale of sugar and rum through their eyes, and allowed the guests to get a better understanding of what their jobs entailed.
Sixty-one people, which included tourists and locals, attended the tour which started off with a ride through The City on a Bajan vintage open bus in the morning and arrived at the 400-acre estate in Cherry Tree Hill, St Peter, hours after. They were greeted by Lady Susannah Nicholas, one of the owners of the plantation, who welcomed the guests to one of the three Jacobean mansions left in the Western Hemisphere.
She called “six of her slaves” to show an English dance she taught them. At the end of their performance, they “naughtily” dipped and moved their waists to tuk music. Only to be chased away by Lady Nicholas.
Guests were given another flashback after watching a film produced by Charles Cave, who is said to be responsible for the current name of the estate, during a visit to the island in 1935.
The scenario went like this: Four slaves, walking wearily from nearby cane fields were singing folk songs lustfully. The quartet, two carrying loads of cane, one with cutlass in hand and the other a water dispenser on her head, sang about the agony of working in the fields all day while the sun beat down on their backs.
Ranger Kofi Asante hushed them when they reached the boiling room as he did not want to upset the plantation manager since talk of the abolition of slavery was circulating.
Director of the skit and festival and events consultant to the NCF, Alison Sealy-Smith, said the purpose of the re-enactment was to tell the story of plantation life through the slave’s perspective.
“This is a fantastic story told on its own, but if you notice, only certain stories are told. You are told about trade, houses, sugar and rum, but we seldom talk about us; on whose backs all of this was built on.
“We told the story of the lady of the house, the indentured servants and the plantation manager to represent all that made up Barbados; the good the bad and the ugly.”
Sealy-Smith also thanked the production team for pulling off the successful event. (SB)