Celebrating Antigua and Barbuda Independence DayNov 01, 2020 08:00AM ● By Oga Africa
Happy Independence Day, Antigua and Barbuda! On this day, November 1st of 1981, the Caribbean country gained independence from the British. Let’s take a journey inside the rich culture, African history and cuisine of the islands.
Antigua is made up of three islands: Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda. Redonda is uninhabited. The capital of the country is located in Antigua, and called St. John’s. 87% of the population is of African descent, 4.7% are mixed, 2.7% are Hispanic, 1.6% are White, other is 2.7% and .9% is unspecified. Its tourism industry and offshore financial services have allowed the country to develop into one of the Caribbean’s most flourishing countries. In 2018, the population was recorded at 96,290. English is the official language of the country. Antigua and Barbuda Creole is also widely spoken on the islands.
The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Alphonso Browne, has been in office since 2014.
(Prime Minister Gaston Browne)
Dishes of the country include Fungee or cornmeal, the national dish, often served with okra dumplings, seafood, Ducana or grated sweet potato steamed in a banana leaf with coconut, spices and sugar, Johnny Cakes or a doughnut, Roti or patties filled with beef, chicken or curried potatoes, Pepperpot or hearty vegetable stew and more.
(Ducana with Saltfish and Spinach)
Present day Antigua and Barbuda was originally inhabited by the Arawak and Carib groups. In 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on Antigua and claimed it as Spain’s territory. By 1632, English colonizers from St. Kitts took over. Barbuda was colonized by the English in 1678, with plans for it to become a slave breeding colony. However, the enslaved Africans who arrived on the islands managed to create and reside in their own communities.
Throughout the region, enslaved Africans were brutalized and abused so Europeans could build an economy off of free labor, and the world could enjoy sugar. Almost a million slaves worked sugar plantations in Antigua. At the time, European sugar sellers were the wealthiest profiteers in the world.
Prince Klaas, also known as Court or Kwaku Takyi, was an enslaved African from Ghana who was known for his bravery and gruesome execution. He was captured in Ghana in 1704 at 10 years-old during the Eguafo Civil War and taken to Antigua. In 1728, Kwaku began planning an elaborate uprising on the island, with the aim to establish himself as the King of the land. He recruited 87 fellow enslaved Africans to map out this 1736 revolution. However, growing impatience and impulsive outbursts from the enslaved alerted colonizers of an impending uprising, and after torturing slaves to extract information on the planning, Kwaku and his accomplices were captured.
He and 89 other enslaved Africans were killed. Kwaku and five other leaders were murdered by severe lashing and then ‘breaking of the wheel,’ which includes tying a human being to a wheel, turning them in a circular motion and crushing their body, starting from their fingers and toes. Six of the brave men were starved to death while being hanged on iron and the other 77 were burned to death.
These public killings were meant to scare the other enslaved Africans from planning revolts, but were unsuccessful. As slavery was especially brutal in Antigua and the Caribbean, Kwaku’s resistance, and countless other slave revolts in the Caribbean and Americas, are testaments to the bravery of Black people in the diaspora, even under the most gruesome circumstances, from the slave era to the Black Lives Matter Movement. His legacy lives on.
Thanks so much for celebrating this country with us! Have you ever tried Antiguan and Barbudan cuisine? Comment below!