Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Festival of African Arts Commemorates Abolition

Below I've posted a copy of an article from the Nassau Guardian, which lists the various activities that the Festival for African Arts is planning for 2007 to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade in the Bahamas. Of immediate interest is the 'Celebrate Africa' Festival, scheduled for this Saturday the 24th from noon to midnight at the Southern Recreation Grounds.

Slave Trade

By NORMAN ROLLE, Guardian Features Writer

Great Britain was the last European country to engage in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the first to terminate it. The Slave Trade Abolition Bill was spearheaded by William Wilberforce, a born-again Christian and Prime Minister Pitt.

The Bill first moved in the House of Commons in 1804 was defeated but became law on March 25, 1807 which marks the bicentenary of the cessation of the slave trade. Emancipation, however, did not occur until 1834.

There is little that the 85 per cent of African slave descendants in The Bahamas have to celebrate about the nefarious slave trade, but a group known as the Festival of African Arts is using the occasion to bring attention to our African culture and heritage.

Jamaica MP Andrew Holness, puts the celebration in perspective: "The bicentenary commemoration offers us an opportunity to finally confront our history, grapple with our past, make the connections to the present and view the trajectory of our future.

"We have mostly tried to forget about slavery and the slave trade while we secretly retain the inferiorities that are a part of slave mentality. Let's use this opportunity to confront our history and use it as motivation for moving upwards because we are a mighty race."

The Festival of African Arts has planned a 10-month celebration of the artistic, folkloric and cultural expressions of the African Continent," says Pat Rahming, executive producer of the Festival 1807 Entertainment.

The Festival of African Arts is a non-profit Bahamian company headed by Dr Thaddeus McDonald, Dean of Academic Affairs at The College of the Bahamas. Its mission is to create a greater level of appreciation for the wealth and diversity of the African heritage in The Bahamas through a greater exposure to the cultural expressions of the African Continent.

The Festival begins, appropriately, with a 'Celebrate Africa' Festival on March 24, timed to coincide with the Bicentennial of the passage of the Act to Abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on the Southern Recreation Grounds beginning at noon and continuing until after midnight. African food, dance and customs will share the stage with the best Bahamian entertainment, culminating in a free concert to commemorate the event.

"This year we will set a record for murders in this country. The vast majority of those murders will be committed by young people...those young people have a problem. We give these fancy names as 'conflict resolution'...what that means is I can't get along with other people...this is because of a damaged self-image...psychgologists know it, but don't say...the damaged self-image is linked to have to have some idea of where you're feel valid. I feel that knowing your heritage and self-image would go a long way in reducing crime."

On April 28 a symposium will be held to discuss the influence of Africa on the development of Bahamian art at the National Art Gallery and on May 8, a symposium on religion - the relationship between African religion and European religion. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has arranged for governments of several African countries to send troupes to The Bahamas to give cultural performances and presentations.

"We are currently talking with South Africa about having a group from there. We hope to bring cultural groups from about 10 African countries during the course of the year, including the group from South Africa that recorded with Paul Simon.

Funds generated by the Festival will go toward a scholarship at The College of the Bahamas and a research mission to West Africa to investigate the relationship between Junkanoo and Africa.

The following programs and activities were submitted to The National Cultural Commission by Dr. Thaddeus McDonald, Christopher Curry and Jackson Burnside III for consideration:

  • Establish a Research Institute to foster knowledge and awareness of African History and Culture.

  • Establish a Journal of Slavery.

  • Conduct Annual Symposia linking The Bahamas to the wider diaspora, and hold regular meetings and lectures throughout the nation.

  • Agitate for a fuller curriculum on African History and Slavery in schools at all levels.

  • Publish regular Anthologies on Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

  • Establish Scholarships for persons wishing to study history relevant to The Bahamas.

  • Make History mandatory in the school curriculum.

  • Expand the resources of The Pompey Museum and other similar institutions throughout the archipelago.

  • The matter of the African slave trade as it relates to The Bahamas is a delicate topic that few are bold enough to bring to the fore for fear of being labeled Afrocentric or having attached to them some label. But slavery is a matter of history.


    During the 300-plus years that the Europeans engaged in the African Slave Trade 20 million Africans were packed into slave ships bound for the 'New World'; 10 million of them perished in the Middle Passage.

    The United Kingdom Parliament passed the Emancipation Act on Aug 1, 1834. It gave partial freedom to slaves in The Bahamas. Full freedom was to come four years later in 1838.

    Labels: , ,


    Post a Comment

    Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

    << Home