The Depth of African Heritage

14th Apr 2003

For visitors to the Caribbean, whichever island or mainland country they choose,  wherever they stay or whatever they do, the heritage of Africa is a constant heartbeat.
It was brought across the Atlantic centuries ago with the monstrous evil of slavery and has been fiercely protected ever since - preserved in songs and stories, rituals and speech patterns, food and folk medicine.
Africa confronted Europeans who settled and fought over the Caribbean. It merged with them and changed but was never extinguished. A new music of life was created with what one Caribbean scholar has called “the melody of Europe, and the rhythm of Africa”.
Come to the Caribbean and you`ll find Africa not just in our faces, the lilt of our speech, or the wisdom and humour of our proverbs. It`s in the earthy, spicy, slow- cooked food we share. It`s in the simple beauty of a roadside woodcarving and the riot of colour in a painting or a house-front. You`ll hear it in our music and see it in the way we walk.
There are memorable sights and experiences scattered across the Caribbean. Visit plantations fed by slavery, from the Virgin Islands to the Netherlands Antilles. The stark, white stone slave houses of Bonaire are unforgettable. So is Haiti`s Citadelle, where citizens of the world`s first black republic constructed a magnificent fortress. Curaçao`s Kurá Hulanda Museum takes a step beyond, with the re-created hold of a slave ship and priceless art and artefacts from Africa -including an entire city gate - from as far back as 500 BC.
Carnival is inseparable from Africa. Throughout the Caribbean, carnivals and festivals explode at different times. Trinidad`s is legendary and there`s jumping room only. Tobago`s Heritage Festival, the Dominican Republic`s carnival, St Lucia`s Creole Day, Fête des Cuisinières in Guadeloupe and Crop Over in Barbados are unique variations on a deeply Caribbean theme - celebrate before you have to repent and commemorate lest you forget.
For generations, the pain that brought Africa to the Caribbean resulted in a deep reluctance to talk about the past. That is no longer true. The leaders of slave revolts are national heroes. So are Caribbean nationals such as Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon and Bob Marley, who celebrated African consciousness far beyond the region.
For visitors, this means even more choice in a region of choices - of festivals and feasts, historic sites and herb gardens, and a world of fascinating people.


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