Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index

Very successful!”  (Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, on the Cultural Industries Stakeholders Consultation last Saturday, discussing the Cultural Industries Development Bill)

The strength and energy of a nation’s culture is always indigenous – arising from the people – but its fullest exploitation clearly benefits from supportive policies. The Minister pointed out that “The creative sector is one of the most resilient to recessions and disaster”. Indeed disasters (like necessity) are often “the mother of invention” and the greatest creativity.

I wasn’t involved in the consultation, but I’ve had thoughts on our “explosion of culture” in Barbados since Independence, some of which I wrote in the recent Independence Magazine. We used to be described patronisingly as having no culture - as a “sugar cane culture”, with little literature, negligible art and no dance. Lamming, Drayton and Collymore were considered exceptions to the rule, artists Briggs, Broodhagen and Payne likewise, compared with the rich literary, artistic and dance output in Jamaica.

There are many definitions and interpretations of culture – from the basic beliefs and behaviours of the society, to all creative expression, including music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and craft, culinary and literary arts.  In Barbados, there’s been an explosion of culture of every form since Independence.  In the past, the largely European theatre and music existed at one level, while African idiom, folk practices, some musical forms and dance operated at another.  Creolisation is the synthesis seen in the Caribbean, and iconic Bajan examples are our dialect (fusion of English and African, with unique variations), tuk band (music often with costumed revellers), landship (dance and other cultural syncretions), food (pudding, souse, conkies), architecture (the chattel house) and Cropover.

Before Independence, many aspects of cultural expression were promoted by passionate pioneers - Joyce Stuart and Madame Ifill (dance); Frank Collymore and Therold Barnes (actors and writers); and Golde White, Briggs Clarke and Ivan Payne (Artists) and Karl Broodhagen (sculptor and artist).   Our authors – George Lamming, Geoffrey Drayton and Edward Kamau Brathwaite - made their names overseas, as did singers like soprano Nell Hall.  Clubs like the Green Room Theatre performed plays, largely by European playwrights, while low key, amateur groups shared interests in photography, art or dance.  Traditional folk singing, tuk band and Landship performances operated across the island, especially at “bank holidays”, and the major musical performances were concerts by the Barbados Police Band, which performed to acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival.  

Creativity was inspired by Independence, and again there were passionate pioneers leading the field.  Theatre, art, music and dance blossomed.  Daphne Joseph-Hackett’s leadership in theatre was followed by Stage One Theatre Productions, led by theatre doyen Cynthia Wilson and the late Earl Warner.  African elements of theatre and dance were promoted by Elombe Mottley’s Yoruba Foundation, with wide-ranging cultural events at Yoruba Yard, and later the Pinelands Creative Workshop, while comedy productions established a tradition with Laff it off and Pampalam.  Modern dance started with the formation by Mary Stevens, in 1968, of the Barbados Dance Theatre Company, while Richard Stoute has been passionate promoter of singing talent for decades.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

More Books...