21 May, 2008


Does Anguilla Have a Culture? Several of the papers read at the recent Association of Caribbean Historians Conference in Paramaribo dealt with the importance of culture in the evolution and development of a post-colonial society. Reading them was an eye-opening experience. They caused me to ask questions about where we in Anguilla are going.

Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory. But, we live in the Twenty-first Century. The Colonial Era is long past. The history is inexorable. We have a colonial Constitution. But, our people are a post-colonial people.

The boast is frequently heard that there are few West Indians so independent-minded as the average Anguillian is. We lack no material want. There is a refrigerator in every room in our house. Each child has its own TV in the bedroom. National Bank and CCB ensured that every home had at least one computer before the year 2000 arrived. Children set off to school with a hundred dollar bill instead of a packed lunch. But, what does it all really mean?

Anguillians, like our brother and sister West Indians, are emerging from a heritage of shattered identities. We have survived the dehumanizing effects of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. Rapid economic development has occurred over the past five or six years. We have begun to stand on our own feet. An invasion of tourists and immigrants from all corners of the earth besets us. Large numbers of persons of other cultures arrive daily on our shores. Non-Anguillian residents, in all likelihood, now outnumber native-born Anguillians. Will Anguillans survive as a people?

All that holds an island people together is a set of symbols, a tiny territory, and an idea that we could be a nation. It takes cultural rootedness to develop a nation. Cultural identity is as equally important as political independence and economic self-sufficiency in the process of nation-building. Cultural development is the bedrock of the creation of a national identity. Do we own what Rex Nettleford has called, “a sense of belonging, a psychic ease, the valuing of our contributions, a space in which to grow and the natural acknowledgment of our worth and dignity as human beings”? Where is the Anguillian dance company? Who are our folklorists? Where is our pantomime? Where have all the actors, singers, dancers, directors and playwrights gone? How many Anguillians are involved in the plastic and fine arts? Other than Carnival once a year, do we honour our popular and traditional arts? Who drives Anguilla’s cultural policy?

Some of us are old enough to remember Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana at the time of independence. What an upsurge of popular creativity we saw then. Are we experiencing the same? Is there any Anguillian working at the preservation and promotion of the arts? What infrastructural framework have we put in place for the management and future development of culture? Who is studying the double impacts of tourism and immigration, the influence of popular US culture, the drug trade, and crime, on our cultural identity? Is there anyone in Anguilla who cares deeply and is dedicated to creating a “civilized” society?

Is it sufficient for our people to have a job, with good money coming in? Is anything permitted, once we can make a good living? Is material satisfaction a complete substitute for intellectual stimulation?

Does Anguilla have a culture? Does any Anguillian even care whether we do or not?


  1. It's interesting that the Church has become so irrelevant to most Anguillians that you didn't bother to even mention it.

    For most of us, churches have become merely ceremonial buildings that we use for weddings and funerals.

  2. I totally agree with the comments about the loss of cultural identity,I feel that this identity is what drew tourists to this island, and by destroying or not protecting it, we are harming our tourism industry.There is no leadership from government to preserve culture or national pride. There are those of us who do care about preserving the culture, yet when attempts are made to bring attention to or participate in an organization that is purported to be concerned with history, arts and culture, we are shunned and ignored. Such as the National Trust and Historic society. This is really sad, since new faces might have had lot to offer. I realize the blog author may not approve this comment.

  3. You only have to read some of the puerile comments made by the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister on the benefits they mistakenly claim to have secured for Anguilla, by their headlong dash for indiscriminate development, to understand the relative values they attach to the fruits of materialistic greed on the one hand and of culture, spiritual maturity and integrity on the other.

    They wring their hands, and mouth pious promises upon which they consistently fail to deliver, about the increase of gangs and crime, and they say they will crack down on them, but they don't call a halt to the cause of this deterioration - their own materialistic tunnel vision, folly and greed.

    We can only weep for our cruelly disadvantaged succeeding generations, and support and encourage all, like Don and your other commentators, to work as best they can to educate the electorate to demand better government, and thereby to correct the deficiencies of which this abysmal government is apparently oblivious.


    Anguilla is a British Colony. There is nothing modern about colonialism. Although we live in the Twenty-first Century the Colonial era is still very much with us.

    The comment in the original post that "The Colonial Era is long past," reflects an often-repeated misconception, and needs fundamental correction.

    Colonialism is, in fact, still very much alive in the 21st Century. There are 16 remaining territories including Anguilla - on the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories. Whilst these territories may have elected governments, the powers of those governments do not meet the test of full self-government, as the administering countries hold the power to legislate for them, without their consent and often against their will and often impose their culture and norms on the peoples of these territories in covert ways, often in a manner which destroy and replace the native culture, values and norms. It is called cultural genocide. For example, No one in Anguilla will serenade at Christmas time if a psycologically damaging permit is needed.

    In Anguilla,the scramble is not fof wealth, but for mere survival and the vast majority of Anguillians are kept busier and working harder that in the days before the physical relesse. A living wage will bring back the traditional smile to our faces.

    That having been said, everyone is now talking about the revival of the Anguillian culture and the Jollification or as was said on Talk yuh Mind last night, the Jollifest.

    There is an intention to bring back the string band in every village, and it is hoped other cultural traditions will be revived. The Welches Whit Monday cultural festival was a huge success.

    What we need is to work with the government to set up a sustainable plan for the growth and development of our Island. So far the plans for Anguilla have only addressed economic development without taking into consideration cultural, traditional and small island issues.

    Finally we have to be proud to be Anguillian.For example Anguillians need to continue our customs such as saying good morning when we meet each other and even when we meet strangers. They will then take up this custom and we can continue in our fine friendly tradition.

  5. Anonymous said...
    COLONIALISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY.......... I'm sorry, but Anguilla has become a country of cultural anonymity. Bulldozers, cranes, speeding dumptrucks and billionaires have become Anguilla's culture. It's hard to find and enjoy the conversation of a belonger anymore.

    Simply travel to Hawaii, a state of the U.S., that did not want to be "controlled", and there is culture everywhere. It's long- distance colonialism at it's finest.

    What is Anguilla known for, except beautiful beaches? The friendliness of immigration workers certainly won't win any awards. Bankie is the only one that tries it seems, and gets in trouble for that. I would love to experience something real, besides Carnival or Moonspash on my next trip. If someone will promote culture in a positive light, they will come. - Scotty

  6. Speaking of churches and purely Anguillian culture...

    Isn't carnival about, um, Lent? Carne Vale (or whatever the latin is), and all that?

    Isn't just about every natural born Anguillian a protestant of some kind? Anglican, Methodist, SDA and JW are all protestant.

    Did Anguilla adopt carnival in the 1980's for tourist money, or what?

  7. I must say that I agree with the idea that we are loosing our culture and it is really sad to witness it while our Gov't is arrogant;ly boasting of our economic affulence.I really would like to see more Anguillians involved in the preservation of our culture but this techno age is really making it difficult to reach the younger generation.I personally am working on a book whick will highlight the things we used to do and customs we cherished in the good old days.I am hopeful that my complilation will be completed soon and distributed/circulated on the island.

  8. Their are many government efforts to preserve and nurture Anguillian culture. One nice example is the summer program of the library. It consistently includes activities and projects (field trips, guest speakers, stories about the island's history, arts and crafts, discussions about things like proverbs, jollification, other traditions) that allow young people to learn about Anguilla, both its past and present.


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