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A Plan for the Museum

During this past election cycle, the Grenada National Museum (GNM) was occasionally mentioned in the media, often in conjunction with the National Library. While it is true that the current closure of the Museum risks another defunct institution, such an outcome is unlikely at this stage. For one, there is still a skeleton crew working there. Secondly, it still has a Board, and they want it reopened ASAP (as will the incoming Board).   The biggest risk right now is not permanent closure, but rather that the GNM will be reopened ASAP with little improvement and packed with random government offices. The Museum is falling apart. Reopening right away means ignoring all the things that need to be fixed – solely for reasons of perception and politics. That is not how the National Museum should be run. The roofs need replacing, many floors need fixing, the walls need patching and painting, the exhibits need updating — any of those things would require the Museum to (at least partially) close
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“Slave Pens” in Grenada? Finding Ancestry in the Historical Landscape

Tours of estates like Dougaldston, St John, or River Antoine and Belmont, St Patrick today will reveal little to nothing of slavery unless one has knowledge of what took place here beyond the cocoa trees, sugar-cane fields, and old waterwheel technology that dates to the 18th and 19th centuries (Figures 1, 2). There were no family heirlooms to pass down, no shackles or whips that tell of the brutality, no memory of tears that tell of the suffering, no ruins of thatched houses that reveal the hearth of everyday (enslaved) lives, no drums beating out rhythms of melancholy melodies, no cultural artifacts that linger in museums, and no monuments that sing praises to heroic ancestors. It is a landscape and heritage barren of slavery except in the enduring nightmare of it all. Figure 1. River Antoine estate in St Patrick still producing rum utilizing slavery-era technology in its waterwheel and aqueduct system (courtesy Grenada National Museum) The current relic landscape, particularly the p

An Aspirational Vision for Grenada’s Heritage

The rear courtyard of the National Museum is a hive of activity. In the rooms on the ground floor, small workshops turn out everything from pottery to covings, light fixtures to souvenirs. Each workshop employs a couple of people, creating castings, throwing clay, and carving stone and wood. Here on the table are a tray of ceramic lamp fittings, decorated with characteristic Saladoid curves and whorls copied from a reference library of archaeological reports. Once they have been fired, they will go to a hotel on Morne Rouge— a custom-designed order for refurbished rooms. In the workshop next door, two young artists put the finishing touches on a large mosaic panel. A government minister points out to a small group of foreign investors how the mosaic takes its inspiration from ancient Amerindian and contemporary African culture. One of the artists is a local teacher, and the plaque is destined to hang in his school in the north of the island. Upstairs, above the courtyard, the roo

Marking an ‘X’: Exploring the History of Grenada’s Surnames

Despite the widespread belief that most Grenadian surnames today are derived from plantation/slave owners, many former enslaved men actually used their first (and only) names to create their family names. This is the case for a plurality of both English and French-derived surnames today. That means your surname may contain a clue to the name of your last enslaved male ancestor. A smaller percentage of Grenadian surnames, both English and French, are derived from plantation owners, and this often indicates a blood connection. Maybe we can see these surnames as more a creation of the newly freed Grenadians to establish identity, rather than something imposed upon them, as was the case in other countries.   Malcolm X, the son of Grenadian Louise Langdon Norton Little (1895/6-1989), made famous the identity struggles of Black people in the diaspora when he replaced his family name of Little (or what has also been termed his “slave name”) with an ‘X’ to signify his lost or robbe