S.O.S. – SAVE OUR (CITY’S) SOUL
In the late 1900s my late husband, architect and Bahamian advocate Jackson Burnside III, wrote a newspaper article under this same title, bemoaning the burgeoning loss of pride and appreciation for our country’s soul – i.e. our unique, rich Bahamian Art, Culture and Heritage. Although he is no longer physically with us, I will intersperse this letter with several of his quotations, which are still so very relevant today.
A city that respects its architectural heritage provides buildings designed to delight the spirit and the eye…..Our new buildings can take cues from the fine stock of old structures and provide a vitality and variety of materials to offer relief and excitement for the eye and ensure against monotony.
Sadly, here it is, decades later, and we still do not realize how much we remain dependent ‘subjects’ with a colonial mentality of waiting docilely for the ‘master’ to dole out at their whim whatever they so please! Same story, different master, different day!
A glaring case ‘in point’ is the emergence once again of The Pointe development that has morphed into an even greater threat to our historic Downtown Nassau as evidenced by the article and image in the Business Section of The Nassau Guardian’s Wednesday, January 24 edition under the headline “BCA wants meetings with CCA, PM on Margaritaville at The Pointe”.
It is bad enough that in their last development phase, The Pointe owners were allowed to completely ignore the restrictions imposed for historic properties under the auspices of the Special Architectural Committee at Town Planning (if it is still in operation), but now they want to impose a totally foreign PR-generated brand of ‘island entertainment’ and “authentic lifestyle experience” at the very entrance of our historic downtown in the form of a Margaritaville/Jimmy Buffett compendium that, I might add, has already benefitted handsomely from using our country and others throughout the Caribbean to brand ‘his’ brand. You should also ‘be-aware’ that he has a song entitled ‘Banana Republics’.
Are we going to sit small and let them continue to use and define US under THEIR terms?
The time has come for us to value the human, natural, and physical assets of the city as well as the commercial, and to design and build their expansion wisely and well
We do not need any foreign lifestyle to overwhelm us, thank you very much! We, the Bahamian people, need to wake up and ‘own our own’ by making ‘we tings’ an anchor to keep us steady and on course for defining who we are as Bahamians! How much more will we give away to those who are here to pillage our resources to their benefit because we are too stupid to ‘see what we lookin’ at’?
To add insult to injury, is our government seriously entertaining this damaging, cancerous branding without the blink of an eye? Did not ‘piratis’ get ‘expulsis’? So when is the ‘commercial’ going to be ‘restituta’ for US, the Bahamian people?
Many old buildings which recorded our historical past and presented our architectural heritage have long since been destroyed in favour of the cancerous growth of parking surface. The greater part of those that remain are either in decay or threatened by demolition.
I shudder in despair as yet another huge chunk of our heritage is cut away from the belly of our soul, forever denying our children, and our children’s children, access to this essential traditional knowledge. Look at the totally inappropriate skyline, the total reconfiguration of the shoreline, and the ever creeping growth out into our seas that are shown in the artist’s rendering, and ask yourselves how we can ignore these ramifications and blithely let them obliterate us! Have we no pride and commonsense?
Meanwhile, we are being bombarded on the other side from another spectre in the form of ‘Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival’ – that insidious piranha of indecency – that is getting ready to take to the road yet again – but that’s another letter for another day.
I have already written several letters to the press on the issue of The Pointe development, seemingly to no avail. Once again, the total lack of public outrage against this burgeoning destruction of our city’s unique character is pathetic, particularly the deafening silence from Bahamian architects who should consider themselves the keepers of our city’s soul.
Thank you, BCA President Leonard Sands for at least raising your voice, which was encouraging until I read the article which highlighted his agitation for ‘a fair shake at participating in the development’ – i.e. job opportunity, which I wholeheartedly encourage him to monitor stringently based on experiences from previous construction, as there was some dangerous ‘rabbit hole mathematics’ going on! I urge him and the public, however, to not ignore the crucial importance of examining the principle and purpose of this development which is another blatant proposition of prostitution of our heritage which we must not allow to happen!
The final sentence in Jackson’s article stated: The issue is one of survival itself and goes beyond decoration and beautification. It deals with the very essence of city, people, and their collective soul.
Wake up people!