A project which seeks to investigate the history of the Wallibou sugar estate in North Leeward, St Vincent, through archaeological excavations, archival research and oral history has been launched.
The Wallibou / Lashum Heritage Project will be conducted by the University of Glasgow’s Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies in Scotland, the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust and University of the West Indies (Cave Hill) Department of History and Philosophy, in partnership with the North Leeward community.
At a brief ceremony on October 17, 2023 to mark the commencement of the project, archaeologist Dr Peggy Brunache said the project will not only investigate the history of Wallibou sugar estate, but importantly, its enslaved and later free labourers and their relationship with the black indigenous people, once known as the Black Caribs.
The project also seeks to link the memories of the site and the landscape through interviews with members of the North Leeward community.
Dr Brunache, who is a lecturer in the History of Atlantic Slavery and Director of the Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies, School of Humanities, University of Glasgow, said the project will have three main components. There will be (i) a survey of the archaeology of the sugar estate, (ii) archival research in St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as at the National Archives in Kew in London, and (iii) connection with the local community.
“This project is a heritage project. Therefore the community has to involved. I see them as major stakeholders in this. I want the community to see that their investment in this project is important because it is theirs. Not just the local community, but certainly, the National Trust,” Dr Brunache said.
She emphasized the transparency with which she intends to proceed during the lifetime of the project.
According to Dr Brunache, the Wallibou sugar estate site is “extraordinarily fascinating” for several reasons. She said it is unique because of how far north it is in St Vincent, because of its connections with the indigenous people who lived in the area and how close it is to La Soufriere. She also finds it interesting that the estate was hit twice by eruptions of La Soufriere – in 1812 and 1902.
She shared that there is a painting from 1827 of the Wallibou sugar estate at Glasgow University, and said the site has intimate connections to Scotland, as most of its proprietors were of Scottish descent. The archaeologist said Scotland is only just coming to terms with its connection to slavery.
Dr Brunache said her primary interest is in the people who worked on the site – their names, which are not usually mentioned in history and the value of these people to the community and their families.
The oral history component of the project will be led primarily by Vincentian historian Dr Cleve Scott of the University of the West Indies. This component of the project will give the people of North Leeward the opportunity to share their collective memories, particularly of the period from the Calinago / Garifuna, the period during slavery and the period during the coming of the Portuguese / Madeirans and East Indians.