Survival of The Oppressed Guaranteed Through Exercise of The Mind – Nettleford


Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Rex Nettleford has said that in the Caribbean, it was through the exercise of the mind in its intellectual and imaginative modes, that the survival of the oppressed was guaranteed
“It is in this area that the intangible heritage of the involuntary migrant ( African slave) found ideal/form/purpose duly transmitted from one generation to the next and maintained over time to take them beyond the survival out of plantation slavery to cope with the obstinate and enduring consequences of the heinous crime which found sustenance in colonialism,” he said.
Professor Nettleford was delivering a special lecture titled, ‘MASK, MYTH & METAPHOR :THE SLAVE TRADE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES’, in London on May 3, hosted by the Jamaican High Commission to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.
He said that if the bicentenary commemoration of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade did nothing else, it must serve to remind those who now ‘tenant’ the Caribbean and lay claim to ownership of the region, that they are all migrants ‘tenanting’ lands once owned by Arawaks, Caribs and Tainos.
“The history of the region, in fact of all the Americas, over the past half a millennium is the history of migrations of diverse arrivants. This explains the multiple narratives that litter both the historical landscape and its existential counterpart of the world of today,” Professor Nettleford said.
“We now speak of the heritage of “migrants” firstly from old and modern Europe; secondly, from West Africa which supplied the labour needed for the labour-intensive cultivation of such crops as sugar and cotton; thirdly, from Asia, who came in as indentured labourers to carry on what the Africans stopped doing after Slave Emancipation in 1838 in the Anglophone Caribbean; and fourthly, more recently from Lebanon with many “Syrians” fleeing anti-Christian hostility in the Levantine. All but the Africans came in as free men and women,” he added.
He said the specific narrative forged out of each migration shaped in large measure a distinctive Caribbean ethos through a process of creolization.”Throughout the region, sense and sensibility are peppered with the consequences of the tension-filled struggle that has lasted for all of 500 years between Europe and Africa on foreign soil. The peculiar nature of that engagement is signified by the attempted total control of hordes of chattel (African) slaves and by a dominant (European) minority, armed with the weapons of psychic control over the exploited labour,” he added.
Professor Nettleford said it was the full grasp of the creative diversity of all of humankind that could provide the source for tolerance, generosity of spirit, forgiveness, respect for the Other, which the new Millennium would require if it is to house the brave new world with the human being as centre of the cosmos.
“Such are the many boundaries, left by the Slave Trade and Slavery. Many rivers are indeed yet to be crossed, to take us all over to the right side of history and away from the obscenities of [that] Trade and of Slavery, as well as from the vile consequences that continue to plague far too much of humankind, depriving us all of decency, and threatening our innate humanity,” he said.

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