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Garifuna descendants carve piece of Vincentian history

Garifuna descendants carve piece of Vincentian history


A piece of Vincentian history has been carved into modern-day life by a group of Garifuna descendants, whose main aim is to educate the nation’s children about their heritage.

Sitting in the heart of New Montrose and awaiting its first voyage, is the first pirogue canoe to be built in hundreds of years in St Vincent and {{more}}the Grenadines.

With the help of the Forestry Division, members of the Kalinago Tribe of SVG launched the initiative over a year ago and have since been able to create a canoe that measures over 25 feet long.

“The process is one that is unique to the Kalinago people. A canoe could take up to two months to build using ordinary tools, axes and hatchets and things like that. But we decided that we would take a year to build this canoe, because we wanted as many schoolchildren as possible to come to visit in our carving out, burning out and stretching the canoe,” Augustine “Sardo” Sutherland, who spearheads the group, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

According to Sutherland, he and his group were granted permission to undertake their project and went about choosing their tree from the Hermitage forest on the leeward coast of the island.

“We took the tree from there and we started work in the forest. We decided to have a celebration to bring it down. However, the journey was too rough to do that, so we decided to dig some more and have forestry help us to tow it from the mountain as close as possible to where transportation could take it from,” he explained.

Despite some challenges with transporting of the canoe, which is a replica of what their ancestors used for water voyages, the team was able to transport the structure to the headquarters in New Montrose. There, members of the public were able to visit and witness the carving out and stretching of the pirogue with fire, water, wood and stones, which added about six inches in width to the vessel.

Additionally, a water seal was also added on the outside of the canoe for preservation purposes.

Now that the canoe is completed, the group’s next initiative is to launch the vessel for its first voyage at sea. However, with minimum finances, that may not be possible anytime soon.

“We have all the paddles ready. Right now we plan to launch the canoe, but we have no money. If we get the money to launch it, then we will do it. We got some money from Friends of People of Nature — a German network and they helped us thus far. If we get through to launch it, we will take it from Lowman’s Bay to Cruise Ship Berth,” Sutherland said.

Should such an event take place, Sutherland promises a grand presentation, with flaming arrows being fired from the sailing canoe and onto land. Furthermore, the Kalinago also revealed that interested persons will have the opportunity to travel to a point below Fort Charlotte for a fee.

Sutherland is encouraging persons to come and learn about the “true heritage” of this country, which has been passed down to them from generations and generations before.

“The public must try to get their history as fine-tuned, as straight and as accurate as possible and forget about the Mozungu (Garifuna word for Europeans) story. Because when you look at the Mozungu story, most of it is done because of their own interests,” he said.

Members of the public are invited to view the canoe at the Kalinago Tribe headquarters, opposite the Kingstown cemetery in New Montrose. (BK)