Friday 16 November, 2018

Not just a Barbadian hero - Bussa's role in Caribbean freedom unveiled

The Bussa Emancipation Statue, located in 
Haggatt Hall, St Michael.

The Bussa Emancipation Statue, located in Haggatt Hall, St Michael.

Many Barbadians would have heard the story of National Hero Bussa's audacious move to lead the largest slave revolt in the island in 1816.

While you may understand the significance of this action to Barbados, you probably don't realize that he played a much larger role in the abolishing of slavery throughout the Caribbean. 

In fact, you are guaranteed to discover this and a host of other intriguing facets of this story tomorrow, as the film, Bussa I'm Sorry, is featured at the Olympus VIP Theatres as part of CARIFESTA Xlll.

Loop News spoke with the mastermind behind the documentary, Adisa 'Aja' Andwele. He told us about one of the main intentions of the film:

"The fundamental objective of the work is not only to bring the history of Barbados, but also to transform the social consciousness of Barbadians. The average Barbadian doesn't know his history and if you don't know your history you don't know your identity. 

"There are generations of Barbadians who reflect an identity crisis in terms of who they are as a people and their ancestral roots. And a lot of the social issues being experienced today are rooted in that lack of identity - if you don't have an identity you don't have a real value of who you are as a people."

Speaking of Barbadian history, Aja disclosed some of what you can expect in the film, particularly as it relates to less known information about Bussa's overall influence on emancipation in the Caribbean:

"The Bussa Rebellion was the first after the Haitian revolt. Barbados was the jewel of the crown - it was the most militarised colony and the systems put in place to deter the enslaved in Barbados was the most extreme - that gave the slave masters in Barbados a sense of complacency and reassurance in their tactics to control the enslaved people. The Bussa Rebellion therefore shook the foundations of colonialism and it triggered the rebellion in Demerara [Guyana] in 1823 and then some years later the uprising in Jamaica by Samuel Sharpe. 

"Sir Hillary explains in The First Slave Society [The First Black Slave Society: Britain's Barbarity Time in Barbados, 1636-1876] that these three rebellions put such a crack in colonialism that the British Parliament therefore said that they had to abolish slavery, to avoid having other 'Haitis' throughout the Caribbean. So it forced the abolition of slavery, that's how important the 1816 rebellion and Bussa is.

"So Bussa should not only be seen as a Barbadian figure, but in a way as a Caribbean liberator, because what he triggered was the abolishing of slavery not just for Barbados, but across the board."

If you're wondering just what motivated him to do the documentary, you have to take a trip into Aja's history to understand what drove him to put together the various works that eventually resulted in the film. 

He explained that he is a descendant of two slaves who eventually formed the Rock Hall Freedom Village. He described how they "stopped the slaves from the north from passing and going to help the Bussa army to fight... year's after on his dying bed, the owner of Mount Wilton Plantation decreased a whole lot of money to the slaves as a gift for not participating. 

"All of them did not eat or drink out the money. Some of them banded together and went and purchased the land at Rock Hall and founded the first free village."

That biography led to this advice from Sir Hilary Beckles,  you should apologize to Bussa since you are a descendant of two of the founders of the Rock Hall Freedom Village, and Aja agreed as that apology would epitomise the African tradition of settling unfishied business.  

"So I went about using that energy to compose the work. So the first thing that came out was the poem and I decided that it had to go further." That poem was the beginning of a journey that would bring together a range of artiste who would contribute to the final product. 

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The song was next, where Aja featured Khiomal who sang the chorus, along with Marissa Lindsay and Paula Hinds, while Riddim Tribe were part of the third aspect of the production - a music video in which they used dance to interpret the poem which was now a song. Wanting to have a greater public impact, Aja "did the public show on the anniversary of the Bussa Rebellion at Rock Hall and it was really well received, everybody thought that it was one of the best concerts that they had seen in a long time, we had the Israel Lovell Foundation, Dancin' Africa and Riddim Tribe - all three dance groups interpreted my work.

"So the concert was done, and then was to stage an hour long discussion on television based on the initiative and I invited David Comissiong and Dr Deryck Murray. That TV discussion was aired on the 14th of April, which is the anniversary of the Bussa Rebellion and it was repeated on Emancipation Day. So that television project was the next step and the last one was to combine everything into the Bussa I'm Sorry music documentary." 

Trident Entertainment Network Inc. played an important role in "filming and editing the music documentary,"  something Aja is thankful for, as it provided him with the opportunity to carry this story and message of emancipation to a wider audience. He in fact hopes to show the production in schools across Barbados, to help youth discover and understand their history.

You don't have to wait to see this music documentary however, it will be showing at the Olympus VIP Theatres from 2:00 pm on Wednesday, August 22, at only $10 for adults and $5 for children, as part of activities for CARIFESTA Xlll. It is also an opportunity for you to meet with Aja and discuss any queries you may have.