Seventy-one years to the day that a ship docked in London, beginning the postwar migration and settlement of Caribbean people in Britain, an audio-visual exhibition commemorating the experience opened at the Barbados Museum.
The exhibition which recalls the first wave of Caribbean migrants who helped rebuild war-torn Britain from 1948 to 1962, during which they were legally regarded as British subjects, was commended by Culture Minister, John King as a story that was not well told in the past.
The Enigma of Arrival: The Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Migration, which runs until October 31, at the Barbados Museum, is aimed at creating “awareness about the active migration crisis in Britain, by having a specific focus on Caribbean migration from the 1940s to the 1970s”, the museum said.
“With the recent 70th Anniversary of the MV Empire Windrush landing, it aims to serve as a medium for informing the general public across the Caribbean and in the UK about the current state of affairs surrounding Caribbean migrants,” it added.
Speaking briefly before touring the exhibit of video testimonies of migrants, billboards and publications giving glimpses into their struggles, King, himself a child of migrants to the UK, spoke of a need to “understand what Caribbean people [faced] leaving this environment going into a totally new world, having to start from scratch… and building a life and building families, and in many cases having to also support families that they left behind. That is a story that has not been told very well”.
Representing the University of The West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, which partnered with the Museum and European Union Latin American and Caribbean Foundation, UWI deputy principal Professor Clive Landis noted that this time in Caribbean history is being “explored through the personal experiences and chronicles of ordinary people”.
He continued: “This is consistent to the changing approach to the study of history which is increasingly shifting away from the narrow study of the elites and the power structures in society towards the lives of ordinary people to the study of women… migrant families, and in this case the brave…‘Windrush Generation’”.
The Windrush generation commonly refers to the large number of Caribbean people who answered a British call for assistance in rebuilding that country after the ravages of World War II.
The first wave of that generation arrived in London with 1,027 Caribbean ex-servicemen aboard the MV Empire Windrush, which landed at Tilbury Docks just outside London on June 21, 1948.
Museum director Alissandra Cummins, the principal investigator on this project, said: “It is an exhibition of Caribbean migration giving voice to the millions affected by both within and without the region by this great migration movement.”