As you step out into the brand new and still expanding cruise terminal buildings you will be given a magazine with a map and a walking tour suggested. Some by favoured advertisers but as you will see from the film, there is hidden away a slavery museum. You would maybe miss it if we did not show you it on the film. It is a hard shock of how we traded in people, and did so long after slavery acts forbade us. The Folk Museum is far too polite a title, the small house hiding away the guilt of that trade in a back street. You will see from our feature film FREIGHT (blog on why we made it) now on Netflix that the slave trade continues and still in the UK. It also features in Sally Katz third book as she was taken by our film. See the end of this blog.
However, after the museum we will walk you back past the shops and handicrafts past the sugar mill which is worth a casual glance, and up the hill to the relaxing botanical gardens. This footage plays out to the music of our composer Mark Blackledge.
We have a second film on Tortola which walks you out of the cruise terminal to the other tour buses that are not allowed into the cruise terminal, the ones where a cheaper tour of the island can be found. Tortola Bus Tour.
The museum we’re looking for is not hidden or uninviting, but it’s a poorly signposted elevated white house with brown windows that does not even have the lights switched on. Had Aled not pinpointed this as his chosen destination with his smart phone we could have easily walked past it, even if we found our way to the road at the back. I need to get smart with my phone just as this museum needs a little marketing and sales help.
Everyone should visit the BVI Folk Museum. I’m stuck to the floor, rigid, staring at a poster that states,
‘To be sold on board the ship, 250 fine healthy Negroes. The utmost care has been taken to keep them free from the danger of being infected with smallpox’.
Eventually I raise my head from this dreadful reminder of how awful man is capable of being to fellow man for financial gain. I look around the museum at those who lived through that era and fought for better. Every picture tells a story and each story needs to be read. It shows the history of the islands inhabitation from 100BC when the Arawak arrived. It lists the Africans being here in the year 1200 having come across from the mainland, well before Columbus discovered the already inhabited Americas. He didn’t so much discover as herald the nightmares the Europeans started when arriving in 1493, stealing lands and profiting from the slave trade by 1700 then on until the slave act was repealed in 1788. That leaves me cold, wondering if Bristol and Liverpool have museums admitting the same.
I note Aled studying each exhibit; making notes and sketches, taking pictures with his camera and making notes again.
“More paintings?” I ask him softly.
“I couldn’t do this subject justice, and if I did, they wouldn’t sell. People don’t want to be reminded why the country they live in has so much wealth,” he says and turns his head to scan the room. “We stole most of it, from just about everywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter how you get rich as long as you do, eh?” he states sarcastically through a locked jaw.
“We know it’s wrong now,” I offer and he turns abruptly.
“It was morally and religiously wrong then! Even more wrong, after it was outlawed in England, our ships continued to trade slaves illegally by flying different flags! The wealthy ship owners continued to supply their wealthy estate owning relatives, who had taken all these lands. They did wrong knowing it was wrong, knowing the law had changed!” he lectures passionately.
This generation sees things so differently and are not prepared to have things hushed up.
“Good point,” I congratulate him, not just because he is right but because he cares.
We stand on the veranda looking out and Aled takes his phone again.
“Are you letting people know you were here?” I ask him.
“Damn right I am,” he says.
Before you go, and now you have seen the slavery museum and botanical gardens you will spy that our film here was part of the research done by Sally Katz for her book American Portrait. Because of our relationship with her, we have now had permission to print that extract from her novel – American Portrait. Violet has just got off the ship and the young artist that runs the on board gallery has found her, and asks her to go with him to visit a museum he wants to see.
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Sally Katz used the films on Doris Visits to peg her books on! With permission. Each book takes place over a cruise! Book 1 is a Canary Islands cruise, Book 2 is in the Baltic, Book 3 is in the Caribbean.
If after reading this you want to learn more about the books you can listen to the first part of chapter one of book 1, Her Virgin Voyage here in another blog. Romance aside we think they are great stories about a powerful and determined single woman.