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15 2 Saint Lucia Tout Moun Ki Ka Fè Kannawi That’s my work—I will always do it until I cannot do it anymore. —Irena Alphonse, potter, Saint Lucia The country of Saint Lucia has a rich and complicated history out of all proportion to its geographic size of fourteen miles wide and twenty-seven miles long. In the southern end of the island, the district of Choiseul is home to a substantial community of women potters of African and Amerindian descent who continue to make functional pots using traditional, inherited ceramic technologies. With more than two dozen active producers, they represent the largest group of this kind in the Anglophone Caribbean. The work of these potters and others like them throughout the region bears witness to the self-sufficient craft practices that emerged on the plantation, and came to fruition in the independent society that evolved after the end of the African slave trade and the emancipation of slaves in the colonial Caribbean. In writing about St. Lucian ceramics I have chosen to begin with the potters themselves, for it is their hands that have shaped this story. Later chapters will explore the objects they produce, the specific techniques used, issues of historical provenance and cultural continuity, and related traditions across the region. The great benefit in the study of living heritage is the opportunity to know the makers, and to acknowledge the human intersections of culture and clay that are evident in the present yet extend into the past. When only artifacts remain, analysis must of necessity be focused on the object, and the simple fact that pots are made by people is often overlooked. Figure 2.1. Pictured at the age of seventy-four, St. Lucian potter Delia Peter continues to make and fire traditional earthenware pottery at her home in Morne Sion, Choiseul. 16 Creole Clay Settling Saint Lucia To create context for the lives of the potters today, it is important to first understand the history of the settlement of Saint Lucia, and the evolution of its diverse population. In the ten centuries before the appearance of Columbus the island was home to a series of Amerindian communities, but by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was only lightly settled by Carib Indians. Ostensibly named by the French after the Catholic Saint Lucia of Syracuse, the island was variously sighted and used as a transit stop by European pirates, explorers, and merchants. The first Europeans to attempt to colonize Saint Lucia were a group of marooned British sailors originally bound in 1605 for the Guianas in South America on a ship called the Olive Branch. Within a short period of time after their inadvertent landing they were summarily killed or ejected by the Island Caribs whose settlements were well established on the neighboring island of Saint Vincent. The French followed with several attempts at formal colonization that were met with a similar response from the indigenous inhabitants, and despite the signing of various treaties the Caribs ultimately lost control of the island to European forces in the 1660s Map 2. Saint Lucia. Created by William L. Nelson. Saint Lucia: Tout Moun Ki Ka Fè Kannawi 17 and largely moved out of Saint Lucia. For the next one hundred and fifty years the island was passed back and forth between French and British rule at least fourteen times, causing repeated chaos and disruption for European colonists attempting to establish profitable plantations following the patterns of colonization elsewhere in the Caribbean. The second half of the eighteenth century was a reasonably stable period with a strong French administration, and the establishment of agricultural estates across the island rapidly escalated after the introduction of sugar cultivation in 1763. In time, however, hurricanes, landslides, fires, revolutions, and revolts all took their toll on the small, unstable colony, and most of the cotton, cocoa, coffee , and sugar estates were repeatedly bought, sold, seized for debt, and disposed of by judicial sale. From 1806 onward England would govern the French-speaking, largely Catholic island, but it was clear that Saint Lucia, at least from an economic standpoint, was fundamentally unsuccessful as a profit-earning colonial enterprise . By 1837, British visitors Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey observed, “St. Lucia has been more completely neglected, both by the government and people of England, than any other colony.”1 In the 233 years between the ill-fated voyage of the Olive Branch in 1605 and the completion of the emancipation process in 1838, land...


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