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

There are many definitions and interpretations of culture – from the basic beliefs and behaviours of the society, to all forms of creative expression, including music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and craft, culinary and literary arts.  In Barbados, there has been a veritable explosion of culture of every form since Independence.  In the past, the largely European cultural forms of theatre and music existed at one level, while African idiom, folk practices, some musical forms and dance operated at another level.  Creolisation refers to 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 accompanied by costumed revellers), landship (dance and other cultural syncretions), food (pudding and souse, conkies), architecture (the chattel house) and the Cropover festival.

Before Independence, many aspects of cultural expression were the results of passionate pioneers, such as Joyce Stuart and Madame Ifill (step mother of National Hero Errol Walton Barrow, and adopted mother of Sir Henry Forde), promotors and teachers of dance; Frank Collymore and Therold Barnes (actors and writers); and Golde White, Briggs Clarke, Kathleen Hawkins, Robert McCloud and Ivan Payne (Artists) and Karl Broodhagen (sculptor and artist).   Our successful authors – George Lamming, Geoffrey Drayton and Austin “Tom” Clarke, and poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite,  wrote and made their names and reputations overseas as did brilliant 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 widely across the island at community level, and especially at celebrations and “bank holidays”, and perhaps the outstanding national musical performances were concerts by the Barbados Police Band, which also received considerable international recognition performing at the Edinburgh Festival. 

The spirit of creativity was almost certainly inspired by Independence, but again there were individual, passionate pioneers who led the field in the post-independence era.  Theatre, art, music and dance blossomed.  Daphne Joseph-Hackett’s leadership in theatre was followed by the dynamic Stage One Theatre Productions, led by doyen of theatre Cynthia Wilson and the late, great director Earl Warner.  African elements of theatre and dance were promoted by the Yoruba Foundation, launched by the charismatic Elombe Mottley, with wide-ranging cultural events at the Yoruba Yard in Fontabelle, including visual arts, dance, literature (including poetry) and music, especially drumming, and later the Pinelands Creative Workshop, while comedy productions established a tradition for themselves, such as Laff it off and Pampalam.  Modern dance was introduced with the formation by Mary Stevens, in 1968, of the Barbados Dance Theatre Company, while Richard Stoute has been the passionate promoter of talent in the field of singing and music, over many decades.

The Barbados Arts Council and their gallery at Pelican Village, and the establishment of groups like DEPAM (De People’s Art Movement) led by artist Omowale Stuart, brought many young artists into the limelight, and this coincided with the birth of the Barbados Community College and its Fine Arts Department, and the establishment of a number of commercial art galleries.  Indrani Whittingham’s art workshops have produced a cohort of enthusiastic artists, benefitting from inspiring teaching without formal college tuition. The Barbados Art Collection Foundation / Barbados Gallery of Art was a major catalyst to high quality work, and created a hugely increased interest in art by the general public and collectors, and the possibility of more artists making a living in whole or in part from their work.  

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

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