Round De Eleven
Don’t deny it. There’s a special feeling that consumes you when you see your name plastered on something; to know in a big or tiny way that you have somehow contributed to a project, an art piece or even history.
Luckily, that’s a feeling you can find at the Builders of Barbados Wall, located in Golden Square Freedom Park, Bridgetown, Barbados.
From a distance, it may look like a fancy brick wall but as you step closer you will see the names of the nation’s unsung heroes engraved into it. This wall tells the story of those who have built Barbados over the past 600 years and have contributed to the island’s transition from Ichirouganaim, its original Amerindian name, to Barbados.
A Touch of History
The Builders of Barbados Wall was first officially opened on November 29th, 2021 on the eve of Barbados becoming a republic. Artists Dr. Denyse Menard-Greenidge and Lilian Nicholson, who coordinated the project, said a lot of research was conducted with the help of a number of historians and local artists from around the island who helped carve the names into the bricks. When Barbadians sing the line of the national anthem, “ We write our names on history’s page”, this exemplifies those words.
Two family names are engraved on each brick in the wall and some bricks are left blank to signify those who have lived on the island but whose names were not found.
The wall is a heritage site where locals frequently challenge themselves to find their name and take a memorable picture. Visitors, especially those on a genealogical quest can find a connection to their roots in Barbados by just searching the wall for their family name. Others like Bibiana Quintana, an editor of Rolling Stone en Español, who come to Barbados for events like Crop Over ventured to the iconic wall and found a variation of her name.
Furthermore, when the world-renowned entertainer and billionaire mogul Robyn Rihanna Fenty was bestowed the title of National Hero, part of the celebrations was visiting the iconic wall with her family and friends to find their names.
A Beautiful Historic Space
But there is more beyond the Builders’ Wall: Golden Square Freedom Park is seen as the catalyst for the development of ‘Modern Barbados’ and symbolizes unity. Walking into the park is like entering a time machine into the 1930s; a time when civil unrest was widespread throughout the English-Speaking Caribbean.
In the very spot where the Golden Square Freedom Park was built, Clement Payne, a Trinidadian born to Barbadian parents, spoke to the labouring class about the need to form trade unions to protect their rights in a systematically racist society. His motto was “Educate, agitate, but do not violate!”
These messages were seen as rebellious by the colonial and local authorities, which led to the arrest and deportation of Clement Payne to Trinidad. This further ignited the infamous labour unrest of 1937 which was described as four days of violence around Barbados leaving 14 people dead, 47 wounded, 500 arrested, and millions of dollars in property damage. The names of those who lost their lives are carved in the 1937 Memorial Wall which is also located in the park.
Furthermore, an art installation entitled “Peltin Bare Big Rocks” serves as a visual representation of those who fought for this nation’s freedom.
Unfortunately, Clement Payne died in 1941 in Trinidad, at the age of 37, having never been allowed to return to Barbados, but due to his advocacy for workers’ rights and his contribution to the Caribbean Trade Union Movement, he was made a National Hero of Barbados in 1998.
Therefore, Golden Square Freedom Park was not only created to honour the hero, The Right Excellent Clement Payne, but to celebrate and commemorate those who have sacrificed so the citizens of Barbados can have a better life.
A Heritage Symbol
This park pays homage to the past and the future with art adorned on benches depicting the realities of young local artists. There’s also a road tennis court, as the sport originated in Barbados, spaces to sit, relax and even play a game of dominoes.
Throughout the park, there are signage and QR codes that further immerse you into this history lesson and give you a deeper understanding of its significance.
So, when you venture to Golden Square Freedom Park, it’s not just any other park, it symbolizes Barbados’s rich heritage and a bond for locals and visitors to their ancestral roots.
By: Rhe-Ann Prescod