Continuing from Part 2, in this blogpost I would like to share more about how I explored and incorporated the perspective of the Garifuna into the narrative of Children of the Ocean God. This was no easy task since there is a dearth of information in the historical record which documents the thoughts and feelings of the Garifuna at the time of the conflict from 1795 to 1797. The only document that I have found to date, written by a Garifuna is Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyé’s renowned “Cry for liberty” declaration which was made at Chateaubelair on March 12th, 1795. Presumably authored by Chief Chatoyé himself, in French, it captures the fiery revolutionary fervor that was coursing through the veins of the Garifuna during the heat of the war. In it he boldly declares that any Frenchman on the island of St. Vincent, who does not join the noble cause of the Garifuna would be treated as an enemy and would be threatened with “fire and the sword.”

Another insightful source that I relied on for inspiration was the epic poem, Hiroona: An Historical Romance in Poetic Form by Reverend Horatio Nelson Huggins. Although somewhat less reliable due to its clear influence from the British colonists, Reverend Huggins does shine a light on some of the actions taken by the Garfuna in response to various key events in the war. For instance he offers insights into the reaction of the Garifuna to the slaying of Chief Chatoyé and the subsequent mourning that took place. Furthermore, his portrayal of the Garifuna at times as noble, yet fierce adversary in the war is quite revealing. Many Europeans accounts from the time are quite dismissive of the Garifuna as heathen savages, who need to be eliminated or enslaved. So he offers at times a more nuanced viewpoint which is refreshing and helpful in understanding the Garifuna at that time in the context of the war.

Integral to telling the story from the Garifuna point of view was the need for me to imagine myself walking in their shoes at different moments in the war. I asked myself what would have been the most rational decision to make if I was in their position? At the same time I recognized that during the conflict (as in all wars since the dawn of time) the Garifuna commanders would have lacked access to key information about their enemy’s disposition and intentions, and therefore would have been forced to make decisions based on incomplete information. This helped me to think creatively about how the Garifuna generals might have perceived key events in the war. For instance when the British Governor, James Seton, summoned the Garifuna chiefs to Kingstown, before the initiation of hostilities, this induces a moment of hesitation for the Garifuna. As a result of this summons, Chief Chatoyé decided to move up the start of the war by several days. This was a risky move since it gave the Garifuna less time to prepare for their attack, including stockpiling ammunition and food supplies. Yet at the same time if they went to Kingstown, their plot might have been exposed and their military commanders would have been captured.

Beyond that I conducted extensive desk research into Garifuna culture, customs, and traditions. This helped to immerse me into their way of life, which is highly instructive in better understanding their perspective. A good example of this is the practice of head flattening of infants. To European eyes this seemed like a crude form of child abuse, yet to the Garifuna it was a form of motherly love, since flattened foreheads were a sign of beauty in Garifuna culture. On top of that they were also alleged to protect against arrows and blows from clubs. So sometimes things that on the surface seem one way can actually be the complete opposite.

In the fourth and final blogpost in this series I will talk about how I enriched the story in Children of the Ocean God by including petroglyphs, slavery and romance. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by my blog to read my latest post. I am always curious to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing kindly consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.

Pin It on Pinterest