The New Today

Letters

Is our National Heritage at risk?

Heritage – be proud of it for you will be its legacy. It’s your responsibility to carry on and learn your heritage. Otherwise, it will be lost.

A nation solely exists because of its past history – Cultural and Natural heritage.

Much attributes should be given to our ancestors for the formation of our great nation. Our Grenadian history is very diverse and it includes a multiplicity of both European and Western African adopted cultures.

Although we share mixed ancestry and mixed heritage, we cannot be identified with one cultural heritage as a people. No one cannot be identified as being one hundred percent African because if we trace back our roots “we will see how diverse we are as a people and how our cultures intertwined with each other.

As much as we may hate some relics of our past, especially the European or French aspects of our history – which might be a bad reminder of repressive slavery.

Although we can never change that aspect of our history; it will always be part of us, whether we appreciate or deprecate it will continue to stand the testament of time.

What I do know for certain is that it influenced our cultures – therefore it has inspired, influenced and affected cultural change in one way or the other.

I want to focus my attention on the historical significance of the city of St. George.

The City ambiance is a “treasure trove” of Georgian Architecture. It isn’t just a City with antiquated buildings that others have seen as being a nuisance over the years.

The Georgian buildings that adorned the town must be appreciated for its CRAFTSMANSHIP because it has been recognised by the UK Georgian Society as a Georgian City.

The Georgian period gave us some of the most beautiful buildings in cities, towns and villages. Yet much of our Georgian inheritance remain in danger.

While many may argue that the City of St. George needs a makeover, I strongly agree but “I believe the old and new can be in perfect harmony with each other.”

Even though some concerned citizens have expressed their opinions that “there are too many old and derelict buildings in the City” that supposed to be demolished but again at the end of day public opinion will always be public opinion and it’s something we all can learn from.

Many hold the notion that these buildings are “defacing and posing a great danger to human lives.” Others have said it’s a breeding ground for rodents and while they may be right in what’s being said, as it relates to some of these derelict buildings, one cannot just go about demolishing what is part of our built heritage.

I firmly believe if things can be restored and preserved the history of our nation will stand the testament of time.

Many may not be aware that Grenada is a signatory to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and its acceptance was on 13th April 1998.

I may be subjected to correction but I believe Grenada has membership on ICOMOS which is the International Council on Monuments and Sites. ICOMOS is a professional association that works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world.

Over 300 buildings within the City of St. George were identified for listing as historical buildings and the Natural and Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (NCHAC) along with tWRF were part of the process that identified those buildings.

The Physical Planning Unit (PPU) should be playing a very pivotal role in the preservation of our National Heritage but somehow “I believe they’ve neglected their responsibility”.

Physical Planning and Development Control Act of 2001 and Act 25 gives them the mandate – and in Part (6) section (40) & sub-section (g) it speaks to the protection and rehabilitation of buildings of historic or architectural merit or interests etc.

Over the years, I have been seeing gross disrespect for our National Heritage and I can’t believe that in 2021 Grenada still doesn’t have a “Built Heritage Policy” – it really makes me wonder why we haven’t moved in that direction?

I would like to know if the following is no longer effective – the NATIONAL CULTURAL POLICY which speaks to Heritage Preservation and Development, National Heritage Protection Act NO. 18 of 1990 and the Physical Planning Development Control Act?

It’s really sad to see how our National Heritage is being treated here in Grenada with blatant disregard because those in governance have somewhat negated their responsibility in restoring and preserving the treasure trove of Grenada.

There’re many people who don’t have a greater sense of appreciation for our built heritage and while others would prefer modernisation with the introduction of contemporary architecture.

And while this may be well and good, I have nothing against modernisation and development which may classify our City as being either urban or semi urban – therefore it means that our people have vision and the urbanisation of the City can grow.

But in order for there to be significant urbanisation of City, we need land reclamation for the introduction of a modern City because of the current congestion of the City.

The City is over populated and congested with entrepreneurs and vendors likewise vehicular traffic. Therefore it will be wise and prudent in moving towards the expansion of the City of St George.

Some serious investment is needed towards expanding our City and I believe this is an opportune time for all stakeholders to come on board and make this a reality. If we’re serious about boosting economic growth and development while attracting new investors in that process.

We will find more of our own people here at home and in the diaspora who’re willing to invest in Public & Private Partnership programs. There are other initiatives that were designed or formulated to restore old government buildings through the BOLT Project (Build, Operate, Lease, Transfer Arrangement).

This was first done under the then Sir Nicholas Braithwaite-led NDC administration and that’s how the Treasury/Ministry of Finance was rebuilt.

That venture would require town planners, architects and engineers likewise the introduction of a town management board because the town isn’t managed efficiently as we speak.

There was a fire on Lower Lucas Street which destroyed the Byer’s building a few weeks ago; which holds lots of historical significance to our National Heritage and therefore there was much deliberation by many of our citizens about demolishing derelict buildings in the City.

While they were clamouring for the skeletal remains of the building to be demolished because of safety concerns, it was eventually demolished. But as someone who is a built heritage enthusiast, I believe the building could’ve been saved and restored. I’m guessing the current owners of the building had no appreciation for our National Heritage.

Do we know what happened to the bricks or where it was dumped? Over the past decades we have seen the constant defacement and uglification of our historical buildings and landmarks by the use of coloured paints and concrete over brick buildings.

This has been having a negative effect on the beauty of our historical buildings within the city. Concrete has a devastating effect on bricks and it helps it to deteriorate faster by destroying the life of it.

I don’t know why this practice has been allowed to take place over the decades and why it has been unnoticed without anyone saying anything about it. I can point to a number of defaced buildings for example the St. George’s Methodist Church and the TAWU buildings on Green Street – the beautiful facade of the outer structure which is made of bricks has been defaced by pink paint.

There is also a beautiful brick building on the entrance of Church Street and it too has been defaced with paint spoiling the beauty of the brick building.

Many of you may not notice the W.E Julien building at the entrance of Scott Street which once housed Inland Revenue Tax Division is facing similar fate and on that same street there’s a building adjacent to the YWCA and it too has been defaced likewise – there are two brick buildings on the entrance of lower Lucas Street facing similar fate and the list goes on.

I wonder how many of us really know of the historical significance of the City of St. George and where the historical quarter is located. I will urge everyone to get themselves a copy of “The Pride Of Our Waterfront Heritage” (The Renaissance of Urban St. George) compiled by The Willie Redhead Foundation (tWRF) in collaboration with Dr. Angus Friday who played a key role in developing the Blue Grenada Program which include the development of a Blue Growth master plan and the establishment of Blue Innovation Institute.

It was Marcus Garvey that famously said and I quote “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

I totally agree with the aforementioned statement above because it helps to determine who we are and what we represent. Heritage is crucial part of our lives and it also plays a big role in our nation’s recognition and distinctiveness.

Every nation differs from each other because everyone has their own unique heritage, and it reflects an important part of our rich heritage. For one not to know their heritage it would be a degradation of their forebears those that led the way for us.

The City of St. George is known in the Caribbean as “one of the prettiest City in Caribbean”. What makes us unique is the way our houses is perched along the hillsides and the panoramic and breathtaking views that captivates visitors to our shores.

Let’s not forget the Georgian architecture which was once referred to as Neo-Classical. The City in itself is rich in heritage and we all should be very proud of it. There’s so much that we don’t know about our unique City.

No. Changes cannot inflict the past, but they sure can inflict present and future, which is more important to the growth of our nation.

It was Lady Morgan that said and I quote, “Architecture is the printing press which gives a history to the state of society of all ages.”

Brian J.M. Joseph

Print Friendly, PDF & Email