'Price of Memory' premieres tomorrow
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
For almost 300 years Africans were taken from their homeland and brought to Jamaica to work on plantations and pens owned by British planters. The money earned from the production of sugar and its by-products was used to aggrandise metropolitan Europe, and to finance the Industrial Revolution. When plantation slavery ended, British planters were compensated for their 'loss'. They sold or abandoned their plantations, many of which fell into ruins eventually.
These physical ruins are still scattered all over Jamaica, and when Karen Mafundikwa, born in St James, Sam Sharp's parish, was a little girl, she was always alarmed at the sight of some of these ruins, when she was told what they were. "I was struck early in my life by just the physical ruins of slavery," she told The Gleaner this week, and she would think about the people who built the original structures.
Mafundikwa went on to pursue history, literature, broadcast journalism and anthropology, and has studied African and black history for years. She has also worked in television and film in the United States. And for the past decade, she has been producing her first full-length documentary, The Price of Memory. The idea came when she saw some Rastas petitioning The Queen for reparation and repatriation in 2002. With the history of slavery embedded in her brain, she was stirred by the Rasta's presentation of the petition. She wanted to participate in the discourse, and she decided to do it by way of film.The Price of Memory explores the idea for reparation for the ills of slavery. The call for repatriation to Africa is part of the story, but the main focus is on reparation for Jamaica. But reparation is more than just being paid money. It includes access to our history, debt relief, creating opportunities for the return to African. It involves knowing your own history, knowing who you are; it's about repairing your own hurt and pain.
"Essentially, it's about the legacy of slavery in Jamaica and in the UK," Mafundikwa said. The legacy, she says, goes unacknowledged, especially in the UK. She wants Britain to officially acknowledge the atrocities of slavery in the West Indies, and give a formal apology. To date she said, we have got only a statement of regret, "which means nothing". The Price of Memory opens tomorrow in the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies at 3 p.m. It aims to put the legacy of slavery back on the discussion table.