Boat Kid Expotition

It’s been a long time since we did a boat kid field trip. And even better – where did we go?

The museum looked good this morning. It was empty, save for one other visitor. Thankfully our kids are old enough not to just cavort through it either without taking in some information. My girls had been before – and were quick to remind me of this. Still, you can’t beat that tiny prisoner cell. Or Rihanna’s umbrella.

The signed umbrella is just by the museum’s entrance. One of the boat kids asked Lulu to sing the tune for Rihanna‘s Umbrella. Without hesitation, Lu began to belt it out. A elderly security guard came past unnoticed, until she said to Lulu, ‘Yep, that’s how you sing it.’

Lu duly flushed with pride and returned to signing. The woman let out a great chuckle. I love that Lu feels this comfortable in the Caribbean.

As well as the usual exhibits, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society is hosting a special exhibition entitled, ‘The Black Presence.’ Among the exhibition were paintings and real-life stories of notable Africans and Afro-Caribbeans in its air-conditioned gallery.

At first, this part of the exhibition didn’t look like much – just text with accompanying portraits. Once we read the stories though, we were bowled over. Someone call Steven Speiberg! Each story was stunning.

There was William Ansah Sessarakoo (c.1730-1770). A prince of Ghana, he was embarking on a Grand Tour in Europe, when the sea captain betrayed him and sold him into slavery in Barbados. A rescue attempt was launched. Eventually, Sessarakoo was located and even made it to London. Phew.

Then there was Monsieur de St. George (1745-1799). Born in Guadeloupe to an enslaved woman and her plantation owner, St. George received a classical education in Paris. By adulthood, he was a fencing master, as well as a composer and violin virtuoso. It’s said Beethoven admired him and Mozart imitated him. Nowadays, the complexity of St. George’s music and high technical demand placed on its musicians means his compositions are rarely heard.

Monsieur de St. George also once gave a fencing exhibition in front of the Prince of Wales, where he fenced the pro-slavery figure, Colonel Hangar. Can you imagine a better name than Colonel Hangar? St. George beat him.

Finally, as the front-runner to the exhibition is the biography of Ann Zingha, Queen of Matamba (1581 – 1663). Born in the kingdom of Ndongo (modern day Angola), Zingha’s life was spent resisting European enslavers while embracing the Christian faith of Franciscan missionaries. Showing political and diplomatic prowess, Zingha fought to keep Matamba safe while making it a formidable success.

Not without setback. After the death of her brother, Portuguese betrayal forced her to flee to a neighbouring region. Here she enlisted the help of runaway slaves, Portuguese-trained African soldiers, the Dutch and her regional neighbours. What a woman.

And the portrait of her – her crown and actual side boob – which Lu pointed out. ‘Can you imagine if she was alive and on Instagram?’ So good.