Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley today announced a major heritage initiative – the Reclaiming Our Atlantic Destiny (ROAD) Project, which she described as “a moral imperative and an economic necessity” for this country.
The project, which Ms. Mottley labelled as one of the most significant projects ever undertaken since the country’s Independence, will have four phases, with the first being a Memorial at Newton Slave Burial Ground, where 570 slaves were interred.
During the press conference, Ms. Mottley stated: “This will be a labour of love, but it won’t only be financed by the Government of Barbados. We wish we could do all on our own; we cannot. But we have the commitment to start and to do enough of it, that we believe that other persons of like mind, who recognise that this is a global asset and not just a Barbadian asset, will also come to the fore.
“That is one of the reasons why we have put together the consortium that we have to work alongside Adjaye Associates, in order to ensure that this project can be completed over…the next three years or so. We would love to have it completed by 2024, but at the very latest we are trying for 2025.”
Sir David Adjaye, world renowned British-Ghanaian architect of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture fame, is the designer of the Newton Memorial.
Underscoring the importance of the project, Ms. Mottley said it had allowed officials to develop international relationships that would position Barbados as that place from which the world could understand what transpired during slavery.
“Outside of the United Kingdom, Barbados has the largest Transatlantic Slave records and to that extent we believe that we have first a moral duty to protect them and a duty to share with our people those records and to ensure that Barbadians understand all aspects of what happened to us when we came to this land, …every aspect of our life that can be gleaned from those records.
“And then of course, thirdly, that we having been the victims, in many instances, of what transpired in those records, we must now be able to reap a bounty from those records by creating a heritage economy and a heritage district,” the Prime Minister said.
She explained that three other aspects of the project were being developed. She said discussions were ongoing with Codrington College about establishing a spiritual university, to reflect all of the religions of the world.
“We believe Barbados can be that place that helps to show the world how different religions can coexist in a small space. We are hoping that we will have international linkages but you will hear more about that as we go forward,” she told her audience.
Ms. Mottley added that there needs to be talks with The University of the West Indies, as she expressed the view that a school of public policy should be set up, focusing on small island developing states and their opportunities and challenges, among other things.
Ms. Mottley also proffered the view that Barbados’ stories must be told and suggested that an indigenous film industry should be developed.
“We have many, many, many stories to tell…. We have received a proposal looking at how we can redo some of our older installations into that kind of sound stage, and we are in the process of starting those discussions,” she stated.
The other speakers at the press conference were Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Kevin Farmer; Sir David Adjaye; American Art Historian, Author and President of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, representing the ESAIYO/LMI Consortium Consultant, Dr. Maxwell Anderson, and Chief Archivist at the Barbados Archives Department, Ingrid Thompson.