Local historian pens book on African influence in SVG
June 12, 2015
Local historian pens book on African influence in SVG

“If you look at all communities which can trace their beginnings back to the cradle of Africa… they still have traces of what they brought out of Africa. Similarly, of course, that was the case of St Vincent…”

Local historian Dr Edgar Adams has offered up his 15th contribution to the literary {{more}}world with the publication of ‘The African Presence and Influence on the Cultural Traditions of St Vincent and the Grenadines’.

The book, which is a fascinating read for those interested in their history and origins, looks at the African influence on modern day SVG – in particular on culture, traditions, language, religion, folklore, food and drink, clothing, creative arts and our collective identity.

Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT, Adams said that he was inspired to begin researching and writing this book in 2011, after the United Nations designated that year to recognize peoples of African descent.

He also pointed out that the Garifuna culture is heavily influenced by African culture and traditions, among other elements.

“The word Garifuna comes out of Africa,” he asserted.

“We still have… people of African descent living on this island… a unique island in that it’s the only one that we know where a new nation was born as a result of the circumstances which existed on St Vincent… giving rise to the nation now known as Garinagu or the culture known as Garifuna.”

Adams also pointed out that it is important for Vincentians and other Caribbean people to realize that the African presence in the region pre-dates the arrival of Columbus, and did not begin with slavery.

He explained that there is evidence of African expeditions coming to this part of the world, citing the Mandinga expeditions – which go back to 1307 – 1310 – and other African merchant traders who came.

“It’s recorded in Columbus’ log book that he had already heard, before coming on his fourth journey to the West Indies, in the Canary Islands that there were Africans who travelled from West Africa to lands in the West.”

He also acknowledged that many European historians and experts are unwilling to accept this pre-Columbian African presence because “if they accept that… they would immediately have to accept that the claim of who the territories or islands… belong to perhaps precedes the claims laid down by Columbus and the Spanish government.”

In doing his research for this book, Adams said that the most interesting thing that struck him was the relationship between what he found existed in Africa, what elements were brought over, and which ones were destroyed.

He did, however, note that although certain African influences were lost in the Caribbean, they took root in Central America with the exile of the Garinagu people to Central America.

“What began as an exodus of just over 2,026 people from St Vincent, who arrived in Central America, to a nation today which we believe is in excess of 700,000. That is very interesting for me…”

Adams said that at the age of 82, he is not sure whether he will be publishing more books, but admitted that there are others areas of Vincentian history that he would like to delve into still.

“Physically, it’s not too bad for me… but we will see how that goes. God alone will decide whether I’ve done enough,” he added.

Adams is also encouraging more Vincentians to write authentically about their experiences and their history. He noted, however, that the cost of publishing can often deter first time writers from publishing a second book.

“At least be challenged by it, and see what happens… it’s only in recent times that we have seen one or two persons launching out in that area.”

He pointed out that the majority of books written by Vincentians authors are more readily available to purchase overseas than in local bookstores. However, he did delight in the fact that the topics/issues being written about by said authors are becoming more diverse as time goes by.

Additionally, he invited the public to come to his book and literary exhibition at the Cruise Ship Terminal to peruse what is on display.

“See what’s there, use the information that’s available [and] put it to good use!”

Adams’ new book is available at his bookstore at the Cruise Ship Terminal, Gaymes Book Centre, Jujube, and there are also several copies at the National Public Library. (JSV)