A carnival atmosphere came to Ellerton Primary School courtyard today as that rural school wound up its African Awareness Day which celebrated the life and times of the late South African president Nelson Mandela.
It was calypso maestro Gabby, who with his pulsating soca music brought the “tiny tots” to their feet when he invited them to join him in marching to his popular hit Government Boots.
He had earlier captured their attention with two popular hits of the 1970s and 1980s, Hit It and Chicken And Ram.
Earlier, Historian Trevor Marshall traced the life of the late Mandela from prison to the presidency of South Africa.
Meanwhile, professor of social and medical history Pedro Welch addressed the issue of African languages being spoken in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
Giving the student body an insight into the life of Mandela, Welch told the students that he came from the XHOSA tribe and was imprisoned for 27 years for treason.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY shortly after addressing the young students, Welch who is also the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies said: “In my discussion with the student body of the school I was trying to sensitize the young people to the fact that there is nothing sinister and nothing wrong about our African heritage. By teaching them the languages I hope it arouses their interest. Having developed that interest who knows where it might go. Some of these students may visit Africa. Some years later some of these students may represent Barbados in one of the countries. They will be aware that there is a rich culture out there that we share.
“We share some of their values and some of the traditions we have are African. The children must be also led to understand that to say that we are Africans or Afro-Barbadians there is no shame attached to that,” the lecturer said.
Addressing Mandela’s contribution to the human relations worldwide, the historian said: “Mandela is a symbol for African people everywhere. However, more than that when we look at his approach it represents that most European traditions see us as savage people without any sense of diplomacy and protocol. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years and after those years he had read the political system so acutely that he knew exactly what South Africa needed and he put a system in place which avoided bloodshed.
“Some people felt he was too slow in doing the job, but without Mandela’s participation in the government, South Africa might well have been a country wrapped in serious political turmoil. He saved the country and proved that African people understand diplomacy, they understand politics. They understand how to bring people together,” Welch said.
Commenting on the country or countries of origin of our African antecedents, Welch pointed out that there was a massive data base which was prepared by a scholar named David Geggus and others which showed that the bulk of our population came from the Gold Coast (Ghana) and other West African countries such as Nigeria.