Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day :: Clifton Heritage Park

Sacred Space Sculpture Garden
One of the most interesting places we visited while in the Bahamas was Clifton Heritage Park on the Western tip of the island of New Providence where slaves were brought ashore. A place where European ships dock after a grueling Middle Passage sail across the Atlantic with human cargo in their hulls. It is the Bahamas first national park that protects and preserves a deep history of slavery. Not to celebrate it, but to learn and remember those that lived their entire lives on this plantation. While exact counts vary, it is estimated that 11 to 15 million Africans were kidnapped from their homes and forced into slavery during the 16th - 19th centuries.

Slave home ruins
There is a sculpture garden by Antonius Roberts that he calls Sacred Space with African figures carved from driftwood. It is a tribute to the first wave of those who came ashore here. The figures face to the East, in the direction of Africa. The area is remote, but not far outside of Nassau. No public transportation extends this far, but it is easy to hire a car for a short 15 minute drive out to the park. 

The plantation at one point was owned by William Wylly, the Attorney General of the Bahamas. He is said to be one of the more benevolent slave owners, if that is a term you'd use to talk about slavery? He would encourage his slaves to marry and when they did he'd build them their own home. You can see the remains of these homes in the slave village ruins. He also employed a plantation overseer that was of African origin, who also happened to be the local pastor of the church that served the African community.

Coral reef underwater sculpture garden overlook
The beauty of the beaches around the point has made it a popular place to visit. But it also attracted developers who wanted to exclude the public and build a gated community. Bahamians protested to preserve the area as a park with historical significance and what they call a 'cultural treasure' to the local people.

We spent the day hiking around the plantation and snorkeling in the cove where there are sunken statues. Since I have no idea how to do underwater photography I'll give you a link so you can see what is under the surface. The fish were amazing and everywhere. It is a stunning location with panoramic views of the ocean along the cliffs.

Cotton growing wild
The Bahamas is associated with 'Loyalists' who fled the US following the Revolutionary War. They moved to the Bahamas to continue the production of cotton which was in decline due to boll weevil infestations, and a series of devastating hurricanes. Within 20 years, the economy collapsed and many of the landowners abandoned their plantations and returned to England. The slaves were left to fend for themselves.

The British emancipated slavery in 1834 throughout the Empire. At this point the Bahamians were "free to establish their lives according to their own beliefs and in pursuit of their individual happiness." The British establish an apprenticeship program through August of 1838 where they were required by law to teach their former slaves the needed skills to work and provide for themselves. One thing I found fascinating is that the US abolishment of slavery came some 31 years later. What took so long? Too bad the American's didn't take a page out of Bahamian history and not only abolish it earlier, but help to usher them in to a life of freedom.

11 comments:

Marcela Gmd said...

Great history!!! Beautiful place!!!
Have a good week!!! and my g+ for you!!!:)))

Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

Kathy Lindemer said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing. I love your photo of cotton. Every single time I see a cotton plant, I am amazed at what it looks like.

JoJo said...

I never knew any of that history. Gorgeous photos too!

Natashalh said...

Those statues are really cool looking! I still find it funny I've never been to any of the Caribbean islands, even though I'm from the East Coast. One day =)

Duni said...

Freedom is our birthright and most precious commodity. Great history! Those driftwood figures are beautiful and somewhat eerie too ;-)

Miss Val's Creations said...

What a beautiful tribute! Unfortunately I think the U.S. has been all about money since people started earning it on our soil. It took way too long to abolish slavery here. I feel like it still exists today in a sense with the greed of companies not paying employees livable wages in many jobs. The apprenticeship program established in the Bahamas sounds amazing. I am sure it has helped the people build the wonderful culture they have today.

Patti Vanderbloemen said...

What an eye opener to history today...amazing- and sad - to me that "We" (the U.S.) is still so slow at "righting" all the "wrongs". Thanks for this post...

windrock studio said...

Really wonderful photos and links and one of my favorite things, a history lesson! Thanks so much.

Claudia Aguilar said...

That is a lot of slaves sad numbers 😞 but a beautiful park

Claudia Aguilar said...

That is a lot of slaves sad numbers 😞 but a beautiful park

Magic Love Crow said...

Interesting, sad, and an eye opener! Thank you for the history!! Big Hugs!

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