Tuesday 29 September, 2020

Emancipation monuments of the Caribbean

'The Unknown Slave' in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

'The Unknown Slave' in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Several Caribbean countries are today celebrating August 1 as Emancipation Day - commemorating the end of slavery on August 1, 1834.

The date marks a joyous moment in that dark chapter in humanity's history - a crucial step in the fight for equality and freedom that continues to this day. 

But long before 1834, there was rebellion and resistance from persons in captivity, both known and the countless others who are unknown - a reminder that the human spirit yearns for freedom and will always fight against subjugation.

Here's a look at some of the monuments found in the Caribbean which memorialise that indomitable spirit of resistance.

1. Barbados - Emancipation Statue (Bussa)

Simply called the Emancipation Statue, this striking monument by renowned Barbadian sculptor Karl Broodhagen, symbolizes the ‘breaking of chains’. It was unveiled in 1985 and is located at Haggatt Hall, St. Michael along the country’s main highway.

It is widely held to represent the leader of the April 1816 slave revolt, General Bussa. It was the largest revolt in Barbadian history, with Bussa commanding some 400 freedom fighters. They were eventually defeated by British forces, but it was significant in shaking faith in slavery in the years leading up to abolition of the slave trade and emancipation. Bussa has been recognised as a National Hero in Barbados.

2. Curacao - Desenkadena (Tula Monument)

Tula is hailed as a hero of human rights and independence in Curacao, a former Dutch colony. He led a slave revolt in 1795 for some seven weeks before being captured. He was publicly tortured to death in the same location where his monument stands today. Coming out of the revolt, the colonial government granted some rights to slaves.

The statue, officially called ‘Desenkadena’, was created by Curacaoan artist, Nel Simon and erected in 1998. 'Desenkadena' is Papiamentu for 'Cut the shackles'.

3. Dominica - Neg Mawon Emancipation Monument

The Neg Mawon Emancipation Monument pays tribute to the Maroons of Dominica, who resisted slavery by taking to the bushes, and to all those who lost their lives in the battle against slavery. The seven-foot monument was created by Dominican Franklyn Zamore and was unveiled in 2013 in Roseau, Dominica.

4. Guyana - 1763 Monument

This bronze statue was unveiled in Georgetown, Guyana in 1976. It was created by Guyanese sculptor, Philip Moore, and commemorates the 1763 Berbice uprising of more than 2,500 slaves, led by a slave called Cuffy and is commonly referred to as the ‘Cuffy Monument’. The Berbice uprising is considered the first true attempt by slaves to fight for their freedom in an organised fashion. Cuffy is now recognised as a National Hero of Guyana.

Learn more here: https://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/news/stories/02/27/the-1763-monument/

5. Haiti - Negre Marron

Haiti looms large on the landscape of Caribbean history as having the first successful revolution that overthrew colonial rule. ‘Le Marron Inconnu’ (The Unknown Slave) is an iconic, eight-foot-tall bronze statue depicting a runaway slave celebrating the abolition of slavery. It was erected in 1967 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and was designed by Haitian Albert Mangonès.

6. Jamaica – Redemption Song Monument

Redemption Song is an 11-foot bronze sculpture by Jamaican Laura Facey which was unveiled in 2003 at the main entrance of Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica. This prominent sculpture comprises of two naked black male and female statues gazing to the skies – symbolic of their triumphant rise from the horrors of slavery. Facey said she was inspired by the words of National Hero Marcus Garvey and later Reggae legend Bob Marley "none but ourselves can free our minds". 

Learn more here: http://www.emancipationpark.org.jm/about-us/facey-sings.php

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