ST. EUSTATIUS — The Statia Cultural Heritage Implementation Committee (SCHIC), in collaboration with the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation, will host two community engagement events this week around the topic of the enslaved African remains that were excavated on the island in 2020 and 2021.
The funding for this event was made possible by the National Institute for the Dutch Slavery History and Legacy (NiNsee).
During 2020-2021, sixty-nine ancestral remains from the 18th-century Golden Rock plantation were excavated, which led to protests from various groups within the local community. The excavations were halted, and the Executive Council of St. Eustatius put the Statia Heritage Research Commission (SHRC) in place to examine what went wrong around the excavations and develop recommendations to safeguard Statia’s cultural heritage better. One of the recommendations was to seek input from the descendant community of Statia about a respectful and dignified reburial of the ancestral remains, including creating a memorial space for the descendant community to visit. The implementation of such now falls under the responsibility of the SCHIC, which the Executive Council established in September 2022.
The organizers explained that the two-day event will be a spiritual and emotional journey towards rediscovering and reclaiming who we are as people of African ancestry.
The first-day event will occur on the grounds of the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation from 2:00 pm until 6:00 pm on Friday, February 16th. “Through various means (music, story-telling, foodways, artifacts, waist-bead demonstration workshop), our stories of survival, despite physical captivity, through intentional acts of rebellion and resistance, will be shared. Despite our interrupted history, we have held on to some of the traditions and values that have sustained us over the years. Everyone is encouraged to bring objects and other symbols of cultural value to the space, to share their stories with the community”.
The second event takes place at the Ernest “Mike” van Putten Youth Centre/Lion’s Den from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Saturday, February 17th.
The organizers say the event will pay homage to the ancestors through a libation ceremony and there will also be discussions about the conditions under which the enslaved Africans remains were excavated, how they were managed, and how they lived.
In addition, the organizers will share some of the concerns and suggestions given by persons in the community about the reburial location and Statia’s cultural heritage. The descendant community will identify a reburial location for the ancestral remains and discuss how to create the memorial space and what they want to experience when visiting it.
Rewrite the narrative
The organizers strongly urge the descendant community to come out in numbers to the two-day event to help rewrite the narrative so that the Golden Rock Ancestors can be given the dignified reburial they deserve. The organizers said the community cannot rest until the Golden Rock ancestral remains are permanently at peace.