Archaeological excavations give a voice to people who were not heard before.
Archaeologist Lennox Honychurch made this observation last night while delivering the George Lamming Distinguished Lecture 2013 at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
He addressed the topic, “In the Castles of our Skins: Architectural Heritage and the Caribbean Psyche”. Honychurch noted that during the period 1838 to 1938, the region had remained static with minimal improvement, if any in housing.
Displaying a photograph that was taken in 1910, he said the houses in Barbados of that period could be compared with those in Haiti. The historian explained that the houses in the Scotland District were made of natural products found in that area.
Honychurch pointed out that it was during the “scramble for souls” that Barbadians witnessed the architectural beauty of the churches and he argued that their beauty must be appreciated.
He referred to the large memorial plaques in honour of some planters and argued that they showed the tolerance being displayed in societies that endured the institution of slavery.
The archaeologist noted that in spite of the brutality of slavery, some plaques depicted planters as “lovers of all mankind”.
Honychurch said: “This is architecture, but it is also part of Caribbean psyche – tolerance and the ability to give and take.”
He stressed that the architecture and the realities of politics were linked together in the region, and argued that all of these things, together with the literature, came to a head in the 1930s with political disturbances that broke out throughout the region.
He pointed out that following the Lord Moyne Commission of the 1930s there was a noticeable improvement in the housing stock in the region. Honychurch recalled that Frank Collymore’s home in Chelsea Road, St. Michael became the crucible of literature in the region with the production of BIM.
He pointed out that such writers and poets as Derek Walcott, Edgar Mittleholzer and George Lamming gained their exposure through the publication in the 1940s. Honychurch further noted that with the democratisation of education in the 1950s and 60s there was a change in the architecture with construction of schools.
The archaeologist, who attended the Lodge School in Barbados, said he welcomed the decision of Government to restore a classroom that was built in 1872. He said it was felt that the classroom would have been bulldozed and a new building constructed in its place.
Honychurch said: “It is important for a school boy attending that school. The fact that you are in a building or that you are surrounded by a building of 200 years gives your presence in that institution an added weight and determination for success.”
He suggested that buildings such as Glendairy Prisons and Farley Hill should be restored since they were part of Barbados’ history.
Honychurch recalled that plans were in place to demolish the Jewish Synagogue on Mahogany Lane and the Supreme Court constructed on the site.
He explained that Fort Shirley in Dominica has been restored and converted into a reception hall for social events, and recalled that watermills in Dominica had been restored to remind the present generation of a period of their history.
He said he believed that some of the equipment used in the sugar factories of yesteryear should be restored and used as artefacts in restored sugar factories. (NC)