The Garifuna Journey

The Garifuna Journey is a project organized by the Garifuna community of Belize and directed by Andrea Leland and Kathy Berger. The focus of this project is to assist the ongoing efforts of the Garifuna to educate their people about their history and cultural traditions, and create an archive of materials, that to date, is limited.

Descendants of African and Carib Indian ancestors, the Garifuna successfully resisted slavery. This fact alone points to a triumph of spirit which demands further inquiry. What makes this story all the more remarkable however, is the cultural richness which emerged from the descendants of these two groups and remains intact to this day. The Garifuna have maintained a traditional form of music, song and dance as well their own language, despite many outside pressures to assimilate. It was the Africans ability to adapt to Carib society that ensured their physical survival and freedom from slavery. It is their descendants sense of pride, community and self-sufficient determination which has ensured the continuity of their culture. 1997 marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Garifuna on the shores of Central America after being forcibly exiled from St. Vincent.

The Garifuna Journey has three main objectives. The first is the documentation through oral interviews, photographs and videotapes of the Garifuna and their culture. Materials will be gathered on many different aspects of their culture including music, dance, food preparation, crafts, religious practices, family life, language, etc.

The second objective is the creation of a multi-media traveling exhibit which will include photographs by Bob Richards, an internationally published photojournalist, video components, traditional objects, music and a catalogue with selected scholarly essays and creative, first-voice writings by Garifuna. Beacon Street Gallery of Geneva, Illinois is the presenter of the multimedia exhibition which will provide a vehicle for non-Garifuna to gain insight into Garifuna culture, as well as to further support Garifuna efforts to educate their own communities both in the United States and in the Caribbean. At the conclusion of the exhibition, all materials will be presented to the Garifuna community of Belize as a lasting and memorable celebration to be included in their archives.

Finally, the third objective is the production of a one-hour documentary video. This video will utilize all the material gathered during documentation for the archive phase of this project, and will explore, as well, the "Dugu" ceremony honoring the ancestors as. The viewer will come to understand the deep spiritual connection the Garifuna have to their past, the ways in which they have adapted to the present, and their struggles for the future. A special study guide will be developed for use with the documentary and the video will be distributed to schools, universities, museums and libraries both in the U.S. the abroad. The video will also be distributed to public television stations and to international video festivals.

This is truly a collaborative project and is actively supported by Garifuna from America, Belizean and St. Vincent communities. The project staff works closely with scholars and the Garifuna community in development of all aspects of this project. Special thanks to: Dr. Joseph Palacio, Dr. Fraser, Dr. Virginia Kerns, Dr. Shannon Docherty, Dr. Katherine Ross Staiano, Jerry Kelly, Roy Sebastian, Isabel and Fabien Cayetano, Rhodel Castillo, Felix Miranda and members of the National Garifuna Council of Belize. Edwin Smiling, Honorary Consul of Belize, and finally Carmine Palacio. This project is sponsored in party by the following Belize business: Belize Global Travel, Ltd., Budget Rent-a-Car, Belize, Maya Air, Ramada Royal Reef and Pelican Beach Resort. Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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