restricted access 11. Conclusion: Coalpots and Cruise Ships

From: Creole Clay

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287 11 Conclusion Coalpots and Cruise Ships Finally, of all the expanding activities in the West Indies, none is attracting greater publicity than the further development of the Tourist Industry. —Algernon Aspinall, The Pocket Guide to the West Indies (1907) In 2014 the combined total of stay-over tourist arrivals and cruise ship passengers visiting Saint Lucia was 979,610, more than five times the local population of this small island.1 Figuring out what to do with all these people, how to spread the potential benefits of the tourist industry from the beaches and cruise ship docks inward to the rest of the country, and how to do this in a sustainable and ethical manner, are the preoccupations of most Caribbean governments in the twentyfirst century. It would appear that by welcoming nearly a million new consumers into Saint Lucia every year there would be enough buying power to go around, but tourism has always been a mixed bag in terms of who actually benefits. Most large hotel chains and nearly all cruise ship companies depend on a paradise formula that encourages a generic view of the Caribbean experience driven by the imperatives of sun, sea, and sand. Opportunities to educate tourists on the culture of the host country are usually limited to food and music, and the market for physical souvenirs is more likely to be filled by Asian imports stamped with the appropriate island name than by locally made examples of heritage culture. Traditional pottery could be the worst possible product to try to sell to tourists—it is heavy, fragile , undecorated and undocumented, and designed for local functional purposes that are often irrelevant to foreign consumers. However, within the broad scope of a tourist-focused economy, there are avenues of possibility that could enhance the prospects for traditional ceramics through heritage preservation, innovations in Figure 11.1. Before making pots, Edith Lyne of Antigua carefully checks the local clay for unwanted stones and organic matter. The future of heritage ceramic production in the Caribbean will depend on shifting patterns of local and tourist consumption, attitudes toward the inherent value of clay work, craft development and heritage preservation programs, and the occupational choices made by the next generation of potters. 288 Creole Clay design and packaging, further development of local and regional markets, and the exchange of knowledge at home and abroad. From Emancipation to Globalization There is an apparent disconnect in the cultural preservation efforts represented by the historical collections, museum displays, and heritage venues in the Caribbean . One major area of emphasis is pre-Columbian Amerindian culture, usually as evidenced by ceramic artifacts excavated by archaeologists through partnerships with foreign universities. The other principal emphasis has been on the architecture and lifestyle of the plantation great house, much of which has been recreated for tourist consumption on previously derelict properties. But the sustained evolution of Caribbean culture in the former colonies of the British West Indies really began with the emancipation of slaves in 1838, after the decline of Amerindian society and at the beginning of the end of the sugar plantation. From this point onward the free peoples of the Anglophone Caribbean actively invented their societies, creating a whole range of occupations that had never existed before as colonies gradually developed into countries over the next one hundred and fifty years. From my perspective this is the most interesting period in Caribbean history, when former slaves gradually abandoned wage labor on the estates to build independent communities, and indentured servants who had completed their contracts started new lives in what would eventually become new nations. Self-sufficiency was a key feature of this evolution, and depended on the internal capacity to make and to grow what was needed. The stories of the heritage potters discussed throughout this book illustrate the role of domestic and family-based entrepreneurship in the establishment of successful working-class communities in the post-emancipation Caribbean. Through the effective use of local resources and skill sets inherited from countries of origin, they were able to supply community needs for ceramic vessels for cooking, tableware, storage, plant propagation, sanitation , lighting, and ritual use. Through their ongoing production today heritage potters are, in most cases, openly acknowledged for their contributions to sustaining traditional practice, but these women and men are also self-employed business owners who are grappling with rapidly changing markets with varying degrees of success. If tradition is consistently perceived as rooted in the past, or worse, as an impediment...


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