On behalf of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) based in Leiden, the Netherlands, Stacey Mac Donald visited Saba for a week, writes The Daily Herald.
Mac Donald is conducting research as part of the Confronting Caribbean Challenges (CCC) project initiated by KITLV. This project looks into the effects of political reforms and intensive migrations and how it affects historically grounded identities and political practices in the Dutch Caribbean islands.
Although other projects such as the UNESCO lead “Intangible Cultural Heritage” project focus more on history and culture, the study of Mac Donald looks into the psyche of the inhabitants of the islands. Mac Donald started her research on this matter in January 2015 and is planning to complete her study in four years.
“My sub-project is about cultural heritage and nature conservation and the challenges these subjects face now that the BES Islands have become Dutch municipalities since October 10, 2010,” Mac Donald said to The Daily Herald.
Her first impressions of Saba were, apart from the small size, that it is appropriately named “The Unspoiled Queen” and that Sabans use their resources in a very conscious way. Mac Donald spoke to many people while she was visiting the five-squaremile island. According to Mac Donald there is definitely a feeling amongst the locals that their heritage and culture is disappearing gradually.
As she has already visited Bonaire recently she noticed interesting differences between the two islands. “For instance, Bonarians are more concerned about their language (Papiamentu) and other intangible cultural traditions, such as their music and folklore dance. Sabans are especially proud of their lace-making tradition, the unique cottages and the “road that could not be built.”
“Saba also has a rich oral history and many Sabans have a great knowledge of their ancestors and their history,” Mac Donald observed during her week on Saba.
The researcher from Leiden met with many interesting persons such as Will Johnson who had some beautiful stories to tell about Saba’s past. She was intrigued by the stories of James “Crocodile” Johnson when he took her on a hike through Saba’s many forests.
Although her first visit to Saba was mostly to introduce herself and to get a first impression of the island, more visits will follow to Saba and the other BES islands. “As I get more experience and do more research, my research group will share that information with the public. Some of the research material can even be used as educational material in schools,” Mac Donald concluded.
Her next visit is to St. Eustatius where Mac Donald will remain this week.