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Rendering of the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial. Photo: Adjaye Associates.
Rendering of the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial. Photo: Adjaye Associates.

Barbados, Free of British Rule, Plans Heritage Site Around Slave-Trade History

The Caribbean island of Barbados, having a little over a week ago officially cut ties with the British monarchy and announced itself as the world’s newest republic, has revealed plans for a major heritage district devoted to the transatlantic slave trade that shaped the region hundreds of years ago. Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye has been named as the designer of the site, with groundbreaking to take place November 30, 2022, coincident with the first anniversary of the Barbadian republic.

“Barbados is authentically enshrining our history and preserving the past as we reimagine our world and continue to contribute to global humanity. It is a moral imperative but equally an economic necessity,” said the republic’s prime minister, Mia Amor Mottley.

The district, planned for an area outside the Barbadian capital, Bridgetown, will feature a research institute and a museum hosting the largest and most comprehensive trove of British slave records outside the UK. A monument will additionally be constructed next to the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground. Discovered in 1970s, the mass grave is the island’s largest and earliest slave burial site, containing the remains of 570 enslaved West Africans.

The official Barbadian statement cast Adjaye’s pana as an “inherently African design in which the cycle of birth to death, born from the Earth and returning, becomes manifest and mediated through architecture.” The architect further offered that the site would be “a space that contemporaneously honors the dead, edifies the living, and manifests a new diasporic future for black civilization that is both of the African continent and distinct from it.” Adjaye’s plans include 570 wooden beams, each tipped with a brass plate meant to catch the sun.