CAT ISLAND, The Bahamas – Fulfilling a promise to Cat Island native, the late Margaretta Rolle, students of the award winning Indaba Project are working hard to restore Mrs Rolle’s historic detached limestone kitchen in the mystic island. After securing a $6,000 grant from the International Development Bank (IDB), the Indaba Project organized a multi-island project team to help preserve this important part of Bahamian material history.
The Indaba Project (TIP) is a registered non-profit organisation aiding in community development in the historic African townships of Bain and Grants Town. Two of its main pillar projects are an After School Programme and an island-hopping summer camp, known as the Island Stewards Camp (ISC).
Stewards who participate in the ISC are hardworking high school students who actively take part in the Indaba Afterschool Programme. In 2012, stewards were first introduced to Mrs Rolle when they visited Cat Island on the third ISC. This was the start of a lasting relationship with Mrs Rolle and her wider family. Now, 16 stewards from C R Walker, T A Thompson, D W Davis, H O Nash, C C Sweeting are working in Cat Island on the kitchen restoration project that is expected to extend over six to eight weeks.
“I was excited about the opportunity to visit Cat Island because I have never been to Cat Island before, and I wanted to learn about the way of life on the island. Also, with the kitchen project, I feel proud of myself knowing that our work can help bring a family closer together. The kitchen is on a family compound and when it is finished, the family will be able to use it so they can talk how they used to,” said Rose Pierre, a ninth grade student at T A Thompson.
To restore the kitchen, stewards will have to clear out the interior, which was being used as a makeshift storage facility. They will rebuild the doors and windows, and collect field stones and sand to mix with cement, in order to reconstruct the exterior walls and create an authentic Cat Island finish. They will also have to demolish and rebuild the roof. Another core component of the project is for stewards to document the stories of the family members in the compound and the history of the kitchen.
Stewards are expected to learn firsthand the major activities that took place in a traditional kitchen, which included food preparation, food and equipment storage, and bush medicine preparation. The masonry (tabby) or wooden structures were roughly 120 square feet with a door and few or no windows. They consisted of packed-earth floors with an open ceiling. Roofs were wood framed with a variety of covers: sheet metal and asphalt shingles are now popular.
“At the Indaba Project, among other things, we constantly create opportunities to develop and reinforce awareness that the material culture of our African ancestors contained significant engineering and scientific technologies that are worth going back for and preserving. The kitchen restoration project allows us to do that along with so much more,” said journalist Noelle Nicolls, Indaba volunteer and media coordinator for the project.
“We encourage anyone who is interested in supporting this project to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org,” said Ms Nicolls.
The team of volunteers leading the project include: Engineer Thomas “Mtumwa” Cleare, director of the Indaba Project; teacher and community activist Ean Maura; College of The Bahamas researchers Faith Butler-Cleare and Niambi Hall-Campbell, PhD; youth mentor and community advocate Sheena Ytil; stylist and cultural advocate Princess Pratt; and entrepreneurs Aketa Smith and Lavano Ferguson.