Weaving was not only done for the roof of slave huts, it was also done on the maypole in a movement. Ribbons were used to plait around the central post by participants. The ribbon colours were red, white, green, blue, yellow, pink, orange and purple. The king ribbon was red and the queen was white.
The adaptation of the Seemingly British maypole into the African culture can be identified as a poignant memory of the mast of the slave ship, but more predominantly the Akan Story of Kweku Anansi, the spider man. According to the original Akan legend, Kweku Anansi (Kweku means male born on a Wednesday and Anansi means spider) is the son of Nyame, the Creator God. Anansi had the ability to perform fantastic feats and was also very tricky. It is said that Anansi taught the Akan people the art of weaving and the construction of houses.
Plaiting of the maypole
The most common Barbadian dwelling, deeply influenced by West African architectural forms was a small, low, rectangular wattle-and-daub structure with a packed earth/dirt floor and a pitched, thatched roof.
Although there are no data on dimensions of Barbadian wattle-and-daub houses, commentators often referred to them as relatively small and implied that stone and wooden dwellings were larger. The Slaves wattle and daub houses in Barbados had a rectangular structure. Wattle was used for the construction of poles which are twist together with outside leaves. To construct a wattle and daub house you need sticks, wattle is interlaced with cane sticks the harder the stick the better. In the wattle and daub house, at least four or more forked wooden posts were driven into the ground to form a framework for the twigs interlaced around the posts to form the wall; branches or boards were laid on top to form roof rafters. When wood was lacking, the wattle of the walls was constructed of “the strong reed or cane of the Guinea corn”.
Daub is a sticky material made up of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw which is used to cover the wooden strips. Wattle is always done by hand.
Slave huts were all over Barbados but there are only a few that are still standing today. Some huts that remained after Emancipation have been redeveloped and occupied. The size of the hut remained the same but today, roofs are no longer thatched. Houses now have been replace with galvanize and the windows now have glass.
Errol Barrow the first prime minister of Barbados also lived in a slave hut located in St. Lucy which is still standing today. The house has a rectangular structure.
Thanks to Trevor Marshall for discussing with me the location of slave huts in Barbados and the materials that were used.
Books and websites
Fergusson- Jacobs, Editha G: “Full Steam Ahead locating the Barbados Landship. Landship black star production, 2013
Handler, Jerome S and Bergman Stephanie: “'Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1640 - 1838. The Journal of Caribbean History, 43, 2009
Marshall, Woodville K: “In the shadow of the plantation”, Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2002