By the midpoint of my month in Barbados my research had, out of necessity, expanded beyond the scope of one man. I had originally thought to research the “cult of personality” I figured may have centered around Bussa. That was not to be the case. Aside from being more or less equated with the Emancipation Monument and being classified as a “national hero,” average Bajans didn’t seem all that concerned with him. I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought they might be. It’s not as though I walk around all day chanting “Thomas Jefferson” in a zombie-like trance.
I ultimately went a step further, investigating how aspects of cultural memory might exist in tension with “official” history. My incorporation of the Nelson statue into my analysis reflected that. Besides, it’s something that I could find elements of in my own American — not to mention Northeastern — culture and history.
Bussa still occupied a special role in my research. Almost every conversation I had with informants began and ended with him. Nelson popped by now and again, as did other monuments I will discuss in future posts. Still, Bussa was always the guest of honor at the monument dinner party. It was inevitable, then, that I would have to pay a visit to Bayleys Plantation.
Bayleys was, as you might recall, the plantation on which Bussa reportedly worked. Located well in the parish of St. Phillip it was a rather long and winding cab ride to get there. Spottily painted arrows were my driver’s guides, as she bravely took me along roads that often only consisted of two well-worn tire treads. We were jostled and jerked like dice in a backgammon cup until my seat belt felt like it was about to bisect me. Finally we arrived to a closed and locked gate.
Unlike other Plantation Houses like Sunbury and St. Nicholas Abbey Beyleys is an almost entirely private residence. It has undergone extensive renovations and therefore departs somewhat from the typical Caribbean “great house” style. Note the rather more contemporary exterior:
The grounds have also been expanded upon, including the addition of a pergola:
The backyard ends with a stunning view of cane fields and the island’s greenery:
What primarily interested me, however, was the chapel. Off to the side of the great house was a small outdoor memorial of sorts to Bussa. A shiny black plaque, affixed to a rock, gave the details of Bussa’s 1816 rebellion. Special mention was given to one of Bussa’s legendary inspirators/conspirators, Nanny Grigg. I noted this, as she tended not to come up that much during my interviews:
The owners were more than happy to point this out and took pains to mention that they wanted to preserve Bussa’s memory as much as possible. Here are some more pictures, including close up:
Just to prove that I’ve been there:
So that was my trip to Bayleys. Again, the owners were very nice and hospitable, noting that they hoped to open Bayleys to the public relatively soon. No exact date was given.
As I headed back to Bridgetown I thought about how my research had evolved as my thesis took shape. I wondered where to go from here and what kind of questions and answers I’d continue to stumble upon along the way. This all started, however, from one man in whose steps I continued to follow. The group to which he had given voice, even if only for a few short days, would play a far larger role in the weeks to come. My next post will touch in part on them.