Author: Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris | Date: 05 February 2019
Our annual History and Heritage Month – which the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society organizes in collaboration with the Departments of Culture and Education, the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, the St. Christopher National Trust and other partner agencies – seeks to “promote greater knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the history, heritage and culture of our country among citizens, thereby fostering stronger national identity and pride.”
This year, we celebrate History and Heritage Month under the theme African Survivals in St. Kitts and Nevis, signifying the important role that African cultural influences play in Kittitian and Nevisian culture.
When we speak of African Survivals, then, we refer to the cultural objects or practices brought over centuries ago from Africa that continue to exist in modern-day St. Kitts and Nevis. Indeed, African Survivals have contributed immeasurably to the formation of ideas and cultures throughout the world.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, our African cultural heritage has shaped the Kittitian and Nevisian experience and identity by interweaving itself throughout the history of our art and the way we dance, as well as throughout the history of our foods, hairstyles, language, religion, songs, social customs and interactions, and even our family relations.
This is something that we all should be extremely proud of – for instance, traditional African family life places special emphasis on promoting close bonds between the extended family consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others, and the nuclear family consisting of the mother, father and children.
Notably, this particular family dynamic has nurtured the especially strong intergenerational empathy and interactions, which are the mortar and building blocks that define our society. This particular family dynamic – of grandparents playing an influential role in the growth and development of our nation’s children by passing on indispensable habits, skills, traditions and values to the next generation – is what helped to shape my life, transforming me into what I am today.
The well-known African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, wisely places the responsibility of raising happy, well-adjusted children on the whole family, as well as on the positive socializing influences of the entire community. Sadly, this way of life, as reflected in the proverb, is an African Survival whose continuity appears to be threatened by newfangled approaches to raising children, which wrongly discount the value of having them interact with and learn from adult role models outside the family unit.
Preserving the tenets of the African proverb and raising the best possible children are therefore relevant not just to the security and well-being of our families, but also to our national security on the whole.
Tonight, we come to Matheson House to launch the 2019 installment of the annual History and Heritage Month of Activities, which was founded by the late Sir Probyn Inniss, the longstanding President of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society.
In his writings, such as Whither Bound St. Kitts-Nevis? (1983) and Forty Years of Struggle, The Birth of the Labour Movement (2005), Sir Probyn told our rich tapestry of stories with mastery, recognizing that we as a people need to know the worth of what our ancestors fought, yearned and died for – so that we can work to safeguard our freedoms with as much zeal as they exhibited to attain them.
It was only a few days ago that our nation commemorated the Buckley’s Uprising of January 28th and 29th, 1935.
The true story of the Buckley’s Uprising and other stories of our people’s struggles and triumphs that have been skillfully documented by our country’s great writers and historians, such as the late Sir Probyn Inniss, the late George “Washie” Washington Archibald, and the late Clement Bouncin Williams, are perhaps some of the best representations of African Survivals in St. Kitts and Nevis.
I wish to remind us that the greatest gift that we can pass on to our children – and to their children – is the timeless gift of our heritage, which they will always treasure for its immense value.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to officially open History and Heritage Month 2019. I encourage all of us to support the various activities, such as The Sir Probyn Inniss Memorial Lecture, and I wish History and Heritage Month every success this year and into the future.
May God bless all of us and may we consecrate the future of St. Kitts and Nevis.