Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, has called on Barbadians to educate themselves about the significance of the 1937 disturbances, since “our past shapes our present and should inform our future”.
While addressing the official opening of Riots In De Land: The 1937 Labour Rebellion Exhibition at the Barbados Museum last evening, Lashley stated: “This exhibition allows us to make that critical connection between the Riots and the achievements and privileges which we enjoy today… We need to remind ourselves that we must all pay tribute to those who agitated for better social and economic conditions.”
Reflecting on the unrest which occurred 75 years ago today and played a major role in the development of modern Barbados, he pointed out that at that time the island was still dominated by plantation life and sharply divided along racial lines, with economic and political power residing with a small elite group. The black population, he explained, was largely employed in the agricultural sector and suffered considerable hardships in their day-to-day lives.
“For us, the riots prompted that paradigm shift which brought about significant social and political reforms in Barbados through the legalisation of the trade union movement, greater enfranchisement and universal adult suffrage,” he argued.
Lashley stressed that the exhibition, through its various themes, encapsulated elements of that historic journey, from the rebellion to the establishment of the Deane and Moyne Commissions, to the formation of the trade unions and eventually Barbados’ Independence.
Therefore, he encouraged Barbadians to visit the exhibition to get a better understanding of their shared past, suggesting that it could inspire them to work towards a better future.
The minister commended the museum for mounting the display and organising, on an on-going basis, educational and informative lectures on topics of current interest.
“The museum never fails to rise to the occasion. We can always depend on the staff there to provide us with some stimulating activities,” he assured his audience.
Underscoring the importance of the exhibition, President of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society’s Council, Dr. Trevor Carmichael, said art immortalised people, places and events.
“Artists raise questions and compel us to think. The best of poets and artists, for example, have a certain power of observation which can be a remarkable force for good — and at the very least can jolt us out of complacency,” he declared.
Carmichael expressed the view that artists use their imagination to change certain elements, thereby emphasising certain truths.
“These changes force us to see the inter-connectedness of imagination juxtaposed against reality in every aspect of life,” he stated.
He added that the Museum must continue to play an important role, not only in art appreciation, but also in art education and education through the medium of art.
The exhibition ends on September 30, and the public may view the exhibits from Monday to Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.