Monuments and Markers to People, Places and Events

By Suelin Low Chew Tung

Last May, the OECS Competitive Business Unit (CBU) hosted a two-day Business Management Workshop for the Creative Industry Sector at the Coyaba Hotel. The six-person project group of which I was part, called ourselves GCE3 — the Grenada Cultural Educational & Entertainment Enterprise — to engage in a collaborative effort to preserve, conserve and showcase our Tangible and Intangible Traditional and Indigenous Culture (TITIC).

Our project ‘Mapping Grenada’s Backyard’ was created to digitally map, inventory and document Grenada’s indigenous landmarks and expressions, towards establishing a Grenadian Memory Collection of extant culture assets, to remedy a cultural knowledge deficit, and contribute to the knowledge base of our national heritage, across all ages. It was selected by the workshop facilitators as highly doable and feasible-for-funding. We are still awaiting promised further feedback as to the formal implementation of our project.

In February of this year, I gave a presentation to a mixed-subjects group of TAMCC Students on ‘Monuments in Grenada Popular Culture.’ Once we went through the uses of the word ‘monument,’ I boiled down the various definitions to ‘a marker of people, places and events,’ with and without a ‘historical’ context. We spoke about tangible and intangible markers, and discussed among others, cultural markers (food, music, dress, speech, festivals, folklore, etc), and the more visible markers: Amerindian Petroglyphs, the cross at Caribs’ Leap, Christ of the Deep on the Carenage, the memorial at Cotton Baille, the execution wall at Fort Rupert/George and so on.

I had been appointed to two Monuments Naming Committees, the last time in 2008, with no concrete result from either, despite lengthy meetings, and public discourse about what should be named after whom, and whom better deserved to be remembered.

I explained to the students that while there are monuments of national importance or interest, local and often less visible monuments, are just as important. Many may have bearing on the way our heritage is perceived, and on how our histories should be taught. The students named markers in their areas and villages, and seemed to grasp the concept of mapping their backyards for local cultural assets. I concluded my presentation with a suggestion that the students create their own inventory of monuments and sites relative to their parishes, to mark 18 April as World Heritage Day and post it to their social media sites.

This year, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Each National Committee is free to choose a theme to highlight the heritage issues in their nation. The Grenada Cabinet approved April as Heritage Month, to coincide with World Heritage Day on 18 April, under the theme ‘Remembering Our Ancestors, Our Fortifications and Our Historic Natural Coastal Heritage.’ Even though there is a National Heritage Committee, I noted that Grenada is not among the Caribbean countries listed as having a commission/secretariat on the ICOMOS website, nor are the activities listed.

The mapping of our less visible markers, of which there are very many — and the collecting of the stories that go with them — is what our GCE3 project is designed to help accomplish, with the assistance of local communities and their civic and business organisations.

In the meantime, to get the ball rolling, what ‘monuments’ exist in your village/town/parish, and do you know the story that goes with them? Please add your comments and photos.

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