Archive for September, 2013

An African Village Pt 3

I have contacted persons who knew Miss Sarah in the middle and late 1940s and during the rest of her life. According to Mr. Axel Magras, he
remembers going with his two older sisters, when he was about five years of age, to buy blood pudding from Miss Sarah.

Mr. Magras says he remembers Miss Sarah very well because he was the one who used to go to buy the blood pudding when he was old enough to go alone.

From Mr. Magras I learned about the evolution of the village site at Demerara and how it became known as “Riverside Drive Forty-Five”

Mr. Magras related to me about the changes and how new people came to live at Riverside Drive Forty-Five during the years he was growing up. He knew and interacted with some of the new residents. He mentioned the names of several persons whom I do not know but he also mentioned Magnus, the well known stilt walker as one of the residents of Riverside Drive Forty-Five.

In May of this year, 2013, I personally paid a visit to the site where the village once stood. Nothing is left, of the original nor even of what came later. I saw traces of where the fence had once stood but that is all. Since it is now private property, I did not go inside.

When Axel gets better, I will ask him to try to contact more of his old friends to see what they remember. Until then, we have to hang on to
what we already remember.

Anne-Marie Danet

An African Village Pt 2

Miss Sarah and the African Village part II

The area where the original village was constructed later became known as Demerara. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly, other people moved
to the area.

The original residents of the village passed on. Children grew up and and new people moved in.

The Danes offered education for the younger children and later, under the Americans, compulsory education was instituted for ages up to
fifteen years. “Civilization” was rapidly changing the area. The village evolved. New and stronger dwellings were built to replace the original
ones. The new century, 1900, brought many changes.

The fence surrounding the original village was rebuilt with better and more substantial material and the tall wooden gate was put in place.

By the time I was ten years of age, nothing was left of the original dwellings nor of the original residents. The new residents still tried to survive on their own by fishing, selling the produce they raised and from Miss Sarah’s cooking for sale to the public

As I stated previously, in my article, “An African Village” I always went early to purchase the food from Miss Sarah so we could talk and I could ask all kinds of questions. I wanted to see for myself, what lay beyond the tall wooden gate that was always kept closed.

It was not until I was almost twelve years of age that Miss Sarah allowed me a few peeks so I could see what was behind the tall wooden gate.

The fence extended, in a sort of circle, narrow at the street level and curved out at either side of the gate, all the way to the top of
the elevation or small hill where it again narrowed and closed.

Inside the gate, a short distance from the entrance, there was a large dwelling of maybe three or for rooms. There were several smaller huts on either side of the main dwelling.

At a distance from the dwellings, there was a large henhouse. Further up the elevation was an area where pigs were kept. Around the yard, women were busy cooking, planting, doing laundry and doing other chores.

Up on the side of the hill. men were busy among the fruit trees and other plantings. Several men were tending a coal pit.

(Strange that I cannot remember seeing any children around the yard. I checked with my cousin and she cannot remember seeing any children either. Perhaps they were kept safe in an area behind houses.)

Mis Sarah told me that there were orange trees and lime trees mango, mammey, guava, sugar apple, soursop, papaya, breadfruit and other fruit trees on the hillside. There were also vegetables and herbs and ground provisions planted on the hill inside the fence.

Miss Sarah told me that I was privileged to have been allowed to see inside the gate and that I should not tell anyone what I had seen
because it could be dangerous for the people who lived there. Being a child taught to respect my elders, I gave Miss Sarah my promise.

When I was approaching my thirteenth birthday, I was no longer sent to purchase souse from Miss Sarah. I was no longer allowed to go near the area where Miss Sarah was. I was told that I was growing up and now had other duties.

During my whole life, I never revealed to anyone what I had seen inside the fence with the tall wooden gate. I never talked about the things Miss Sarah had shared with me. These were our secrets.

As time passed I grew up, was married and moved away. I lived in Puerto Rico and then on the Mainland. Miss Sarah and her village were archived in my brain, almost forgotten until I started to search the history of the French people who had settled at the Carenage.

The more I learned, the more I remembered. My childhood was like a moving picture unfolding before my very eyes. I could almost feel and smell the sights of my childhood. That is when I started remembering about Miss Sarah and the African Village.

Anne-Marie Danet