Sunday, 11 March 2012

Barbados - Large up wunna self!

The time has come to say goodbye to Barbados.  As usual, my blogging has left me with a burning desire to visit the places I've been blogging about - actually, a friend of mine is going to Barbados in the next couple of weeks, so I'll have to experience the island vicariously for now. 

A summary of the themes

It's been a great learning journey and, I must say, I've been left with a very favourable impression of Barbados - a small island nation that has managed to forge a respectable place for itself in the 21st century world.  During the past (almost) two months, I've learned about the geography and history of the island.  I've learned about Barbados' national 'religion' - cricket - and how the West Indies cricket team dominated the sport during the 1970's and 80's.  I learned about the darker side of Barbados' history, about the Red Legs and the 'ethnic cleansing' of Ireland.  I also learned about Barbados' strong historical links with Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.  I learned how to cook the Bajan national dish, Cou Cou and Fried Fish and I read novels by two of the countries' most famous writers, George Lamming and Glenville Lovell. 

Tools for research

I read three books as part of my research for this blog:

To Hell or Barbados: The ethnic cleansing of Ireland by Sean O'Callaghan
In the Castle of my Skin by George Lamming
Song of Night by Glenville Lovell

I also watched three movies/documentaries related to Barbados:

The Tamarind Seed - (1974), starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, is partly set on Barbados and features scenes shot on the island.
Fire in Babylon (2011) is a really inspiring documentary about the West Indies cricket team.
Legends of Cricket - West Indies (2008) is a documentary series covering world cricketers

Research materials

I try to use the Insight Guides as much as possible when I'm researching for my blog.  I can usually pick up older copies fairly cheaply on Amazon and I find that they have a lot of interesting article and provide a good background to the societies I'm blogging about.  I was also lucky enough to come across a copy of The Nation - Barbados' national newspaper - in a newsagents on the Uxbridge Road.  I've used Wikipedia quite a lot and various other sources around the Net, to verify the information I've been blogging about.

And, of course, whilst I've been blogging, I've been listening to lots of great Calypso and Soca music. Barbados is renowned for its Crop Over Festival in late summer, where the Calypso wordsmiths compete to win the title of 'People's Monarch' or 'Pic-o-the-Crop'.  I hadn't realised how witty and political Calypso music is and I look forward to finding out more about Calypso in future.  For now, I'm going to share a YouTube video with you, from one of Barbados' best female groups Square One - this track is called 'Controller' and I hope that it will have you, like me, jumping all over the dance floor like a grasshopper!

Other themes

As usual there were themes I just touched on during my research, that I didn't really have time to explore in greater detail.  These were:

The saints that Barbados' parishes are named after
Coral Reefs
The Sugar Trade
The Taino people
The world's most densely populated places
Persecution of the Methodists
The Monmouth rebellion
Bajans and the building of the Panama canal
Marcus Garvey and the Rastafarian movement
The world's greatest Wreck Dives

Dinner Party Trivia

And for those of you who are regular readers, here are some quirky facts about Barbados that you can use to impress people at your next dinner party!

The original name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim which means 'red land with white teeth'
Barbadian coins are struck at the Royal Canadian mint
Bridgetown is twinned with the London Borough of Hackney
Reading, in Berkshire, has the largest Bajan community outside the Caribbean
The English singer, Des'ree is of Bajan heritage
Barbados is believed to be the only place outside the US that George Washington visited
There are no poisonous snakes or spiders on Barbados
Barbados has the third oldest parliament in the Americas (set up in 1639) - after Virginia and Bermuda
The Carib word for rainbow literally translates as 'God's plume of feathers'
The original inhabitants of the Caribbean called Europeans 'misshapen enemy' because of their clothing and armour
The first synagogue in the Americas was founded in Bridgetown in 1654
There are over 140 religious denominations in Barbados and it's reputed to have the highest concentration of churches per square mile than any other place on earth
Between 18,000 and 20,000 Bajans died in a cholera epidemic in the 1850's
Bridgetown's main square used to be called 'Trafalgar Square' and predates London's Trafalgar Square - it was renamed National Heroes Square in 1999.
The tallest building in Barbados is 11 storeys high.
Barbados still has the death penalty on its law books - it was last used in 1983.
Malibu is produced in Barbados, although it originates on the Dutch island of Curaçao
The word 'rum' comes from 'rumbullion' which is an archaic word for a brawl!

The Beauty of Barbados

Of course, no blog about Barbados would be complete without paying homage to the island's most famous pop star, Rihanna who was born in the parish of St Michael's in 1988.  I'm not a die-hard fan, but I do

I'm going to leave you with one of my favourite Rihanna tracks, We Found Love (featuring Calvin Harris) again from Youtube.  The video was shot in County Down, Northern Ireland and caused some controversy when a local farmer objected to the rather 'saucy' scenes that were being acted out in his field!  Enjoy and next time, I'll be blogging about C . . .

Image credits:

The image of the book cover and newspaper were taken by me.

The videos are from YouTube

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