PRESS RELEASE: April 16, 2007
Provided to the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink by Aragorn Dick-Read
THE GLI GLI CARIB CANOE PROJECT’S LEEWARD ISLANDS EXPEDITION
THE CARIBS ARE COMING!
For the first time in over 300 years a Carib Indian canoe, with a crew of Kalinago Caribs from Dominica, will sail up the Leeward Islands from Antigua to the Virgin Islands. Their mission is to draw attention to the survival and resurgence of their culture and to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Gli Gli’s creation.
Gli Gli is a traditional 35’ dug out sailing canoe. She will be crewed by 12 men and 2 women from the Kalinago Carib Territory in Dominica. On the 6th of May she will sail from Antigua to the islands of Nevis, St Kitts, St Barths, St Martin, St Maateen and Anguilla, before crossing the Anegada passage to the British Virgin Islands.
The various heritage societies of these islands will be hosting the Gli Gli’s visit. At each stop along the way the crew will be giving talks about Carib culture, performing traditional Carib music, demonstrating their unique craft-making techniques, and showing the BBC documentary, “The Quest of the Carib Canoe”, a film about Gli Gli’s historic sail from Dominica to Guyana 10 years ago, which symbolically reunited the Caribs of Dominica with their ancestral relatives in the southern Caribbean and Guyana.
Though there are no distinct Carib communities in the Leeward Islands today, the up coming journey aims to raise awareness that these islands were once the domain of a thriving indigenous culture. The Carib people and their predecessors had a closely integrated tribal society, using canoes such as the Gli Gli as their primary means of transport. The expedition will be exploring the importance of the Carib legacy and mythology in contemporary Caribbean culture.
On their arrival, the Europeans were taken aback by the resistance and fighting skills of the Caribs. Columbus famously scarred their reputation through the ages by coining the term ‘cannibal’ from the word Carib. It is this kind of negative mythology, which is still being taught in schools, that the Gli Gli project aims to dispel.
As late as the 1750’s the European planters of Antigua and St Kitts were living in fear of Caribs from Dominica raiding their coastal estates in fleets of canoes. The Leeward Islands Expedition will be the first time a Carib canoe has sailed in these waters since the subjugation of the seafaring tribe by the colonial navies. Gli Gli is named after the sparrow hawk, a totem of bravery for Carib warriors, a name chosen as a mark of respect for the ancestors.
John Francis, a Carib drummer and activist, and Aragorn Dick-Read an artist and activist from the British Virgin Islands are co-directing the project. Paulinus Frederick is the expedition spokesman as well as lead musician. The master canoe builder Mr Etiene Charles, aka “Chalo”, who built the canoe in 1996, will be sailing on board. Other members of the team include, master basket weavers, calabash carvers, drummers and a dancer. The crew is something of a family affair….with 3 father son pairs and one father daughter pair. The perpetuation of the Carib culture is the driving goal of the project.
The Gli Gli will be accompanied by a beautiful 90’ top sail schooner, “Fiddlers Green”, rigged and owned by Captain Douglas Watson of Australia. The Mother ship will be housing the expedition personnel as well as the camera crew led by Timothy Wheeler of "Documenting Life", from Los Angeles, USA, and Johnny Tattersall of the BVI.
A flotilla of support boats is anticipated, including “Genisis” of Antigua, owned by Alexis Andrews and “Rush” owned by Phil and Julie Louwrens.
The project is being partially funded by a grant from the Robinson Bequest Fund and by private donations. However the expedition will be fundraising en route with musical performances and by selling Carib craft items, T-shirts and DVDs of the BBC film.
The expedition is grateful to the following sponsors for their contributions and efforts:
LIAT Airlines, Golden Hind Chandlery, Arawak Arts, Lignum Vitae Arts, Bougainvillea clinic, Paint factory, Mr and Mrs Channey.