The Neglected Space At Rock Hall
Submitted by Rosemary Parkinson
Saturday 11th August I happened to swerve into a gap off a main road in St. Thomas, just by chance…’twas a dead end…but…what I saw shocked the life outta me. A most amazing piece of work stood tall into the skies literally in the middle of nowhere. As I drew near I realized it was a statue of a man, woman and child with arms outstretched as if touching the heavens. I was totally taken aback. What was this gorgeous piece of work all about? On approaching…the first thing I noticed was the dilapidated state of this monument, its surroundings and its plaques…there were several. I managed to read one of them. Rock Hall was the area, Cynthia Forde (previous government) unveiled same, one Standford C. Haynes was the creator, it was bronzed in the UK. The plaque did not say whether Mr. Haynes was a Barbadian but with this name, I assumed he would be. And even if not, who cares. The images are simply stunning.
But here comes the sadness. They are in desperate need of a cleaning…I ent seh scrubbing dong…just a little cleaning. There are no benches or seating arrangements of any kind to be had for those who might like to relax and admire this work of art. I looked around and although there was a lovely green pasture, there was no sign that said I could picnic there if I wanted. Actually it looked like private property with some cows grazing and a lovely backyard garden…but for sure such a simple thing as a few little picnic tables would have been nice.
As I looked around, I came across two more plaques under some overhanging bush. One gave names of free slaves and the other (both sadly needing some repair) said the following:
“From the Belly of the Slave Ship to a Free Holder, the Spirits of the African Ancestors beckon the enslaved souls guiding them to the first Free Village. Standing tall in a sacred pool of water, the Bronze ancestral Spirits rise majestically across the ravine symbolizing that any mountain can be climbed, any turbulent ocean crossed and any shackled soul can be Free. It is generally believed that the seeds of mankind were sown in Africa. The Spirits therefore represent ALL Races. They are guiding ALL people to a place free from Mental and Physical Slavery, a Place free from Guilt and Shame.”
What words. What beautiful words. In particular “The Spirits therefore represent ALL races”. Wow! Okay…so here I was mesmerized but still not fully understanding the connection between this monument and the few houses in the little gap. An elderly appeared. I asked a question or two. And guess what? (a) Rock Hall was the first free village on the island. How fantastic and historic is that!!!(b) The NCC is supposed to keep the area clean, paid to do it (so he tell me) but have not been seen for some three years or more. Three years????!!! The elder tries to trim trees and bush because the odd person or bus comes up to visit and (c) no there’s no sign to his knowledge on the main road so passersby could relate. Hmmm….
Now seriously….if you cannot have a magnificent piece of work done by a creative looked after, if you cannot have its surrounding area cleaned, if you cannot have a sign telling people what this is all about, how will we ever get our children to understand their past and therefore their present. Maybe it is left to ravages of nature because the BLP built it. I do not want to believe that we could really be that foolish and vindictive. This is a work of art. Yes! A work of art. In any other country this would be something to be so proud of.
Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports…sorry to say…but are we ‘creatives’ such second-class citizens that this kind of disrespect is due to our work? Is our history that the above plaque talks about to be so ignored and left to waste away in bush and debris? Would this not be an amazing story to tell visitors….should this not be considered heritage? And please…because I happened to make the decision to bring this to the attention of the public at large…don’t do the foolish thing and make it into a paying area for tourists instead of what it should be…a well-kept manicured spot of beauty where Barbadians and visitors can come and be spiritually enlightened! Remember the words on the plaque ALL RACES and FREE.
Shame. Shame. Shame.
I AM A CONCERNED CREATIVE CITIZEN…MORE SO THAN EVAH!