For decades, the Caribbean islands have promoted holidays of fun in the sea, sand and sun. We say it is a head in the sand attitude that has permeated al Caribbean Culture Tourism Marketing at the expense of its heritage. Its true heritage lies in its feet of clay, but it is seldom featured in its tourism marketing. In fact culture and heritage and cultural tourism has largely been ignored in favor of suntan vacations.
Sandals, the latest hotel to open in Barbados, promotes this with its “Unwind to the relaxed calypso beat, enjoy the sun & surf, and explore your luxurious suite designed with your utmost comfort in mind and featuring everything from ocean views, Butler Elite service…. “
Even the iconic Sandy Lane Hotel says it is “a perfect location in Barbados for a luxury Caribbean holiday, overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a tranquil coral sand beach, shaded by mature mahogany trees, the timeless and classic elegance of the Palladian buildings.”
And it goes on to say, “Mirrored in the spacious comfort of the 113 hotel rooms and suites, a stunning private villa, exceptional golf, gourmet dining, an outstanding spa, superb sports facilities and finally, an exceptional level of warm Barbadian hospitality.”
Great wording and certainly an appropriate message for many. But not for all.
Sun, Sand and Sea, is the recurring theme everywhere in Caribbean tourism marketing – by large and small hotels and resorts, for all forms of vacations and at all budgets. But the truth is the modern traveler is looking for something more than sand-swept island holidays. They are not all coming to lie on the sand and soak in the sea under the sun. Many want to discover and to explore the real Caribbean heritage and culture and learn and experience something new.
Caribbean Head in Sand Heritage & Cultural Tourism has feet of Clay
Luckily, the islands are finding that they can take their ‘head out of the sand”, so to speak, and discover and promote their culture and heritage tourism to attract the new tourists.
From history to architecture and from industry to art, all islands excel at music, crafts, story telling, dance and the arts. There is theatre, nightlife, places to discover, architecture, artifacts, geology, anomalies and art made from nature – fish-scales, wood, coral, sand, stone, metal and even from mud.
The early Amerindian inhabitants choose islands because of their clay. They were the first potters, a trade that exists to this day. Pottery was an essential part of the community as water jugs and utensils were necessary to prepare, preserve and store food. Following in the footsteps of original settlers, island potters have preserved techniques from Africa, India, and Europe, showing fascinating aspects of Creole culture.
The Caribbean has a unique demographic mix of indigenous peoples, Europeans and their slaves. There are African slaves from many tribes as well as indentured workers from Ireland and India. More recent are the arrivals from China, Lebanon, Syria, and other countries around the globe.
A Rich Mixture of People and Cultures
Caribbean island nations are mysterious and spiritual, sensitive and open. Some are thoughtful and inclusive, others may be extroverted and adventure-loving while some are more introspective. The local population may be artists, craftsmen and women, dancers, actors, musicians, business people, entrepreneurs and farmers. But in all cases the Caribbean folk have a fascinating heritage & culture with people full of colour and vitality.
There are, of course, local traits. Trinis are the party-animals, the ‘New Yorkers’ of the Caribbean. With their own very distinctive Calyspo music from legendary stars like the Mighty Sparrow. Jamaicans are the ‘reggae men’ of the Caribbean and Barbadians are fun-loving in with gently mannered respect. Bob Marley and Rihanna respectively represent the Jamaica and Barbados cultures. In all the islands, art, dance and song play a huge part in island life.
Patricia J. Fay, Associate Professor of Art, Florida Gulf Coast University notes: “The merging and blending of influences from these diverse sources has created the dynamic Creole culture of the contemporary Caribbean. The work produced today by traditional Caribbean potters opens a window into a rich historical narrative of resistance, adaptation, and survival.”
Fay Singles out Barbados as the Little England Potters
“Barbados, dubbed ‘Little England’ early in its history for cultural fidelity to the home country, experienced three hundred and fifty years of uninterrupted colonial governance.”
Fay adds: “The combination of excellent natural resources (like its distinctive clays) and advanced production technologies led to development of the ceramics industry in Barbados, and today the island hosts a large and successful contemporary pottery community.”
Early Firing By African Bonfires Gives Way to Kiln
In the early days, clay was fired with rudimentary African-Caribbean bonfires. Later the kiln, or potter’s oven, was introduced by the British and it exists to this day in some form or other. Originally all were wood or coal-burning and many still are, but oil and gas ovens are also popular now. It’s spellbinding to watch these artists create their works of wonder from mud dug out of the earth just steps away on the nearby hills.
Barbados has been prized for its clays since it was first discovered. The clay soil in the East, particularly in the area around Chalky Mount, has been used to create the signature red terracotta pots and jugs. It is a very popular clay that owes it colour to mineral impurities and the method and firing and heat. Earthenware clays are some of the earliest clays used by potters and it is the most common type of clay found in Chalky Mount. It is very plastic and cohesive, which means it can hold together and maintain a shape.
You will see the finished works in the Chalk Mount potters shops and in the homes of locals and tourist who drop by Highland Potter or John Springer to get unique artworks of clay. This is the real heritage tourism that the Caribbean has beed sadle missing the boat on!
See a lovely interview with this Master Potter at http://personaholidays.com/barbados-culture/
For all videos see the Youtube Playlist