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Memorabilia in miniatures

by Emmanuel Joseph

It’s a gallery unlike any other.

Mamma’s Little Things, the “blood, sweat and tears,” of retired nurse, Marina Yvette Burke, located in the serene surroundings of Harmony Hall, Spooners, St. John, contains a mind-boggling display of figurines and other craft, tracing the history of Barbados from slavery to Independence.

The gallery of miniature dolls, collectables, craft work and so on, even has a wide array of exhibits from far away lands, which would have had a significant influence on local history and heritage.

Burke, exuding with passion as she related the history of her gallery, explained that the figurines, made from porcelain, were placed in groups to represent various periods in the life of Barbados.

“The first group there is the Amerindians. All the dolls, like how the Amerindians would make tools out of the conch shells because they didn’t find rock in Barbados hard enough, and then they made utensils from the clay, and how they made canoes to travel from island to island from the large logs and then the smaller logs they framed the building and then plastered it with the clay and stuff like that,” the self taught craft woman related.

When she conducts tours, she said, she would also explain the displays which highlighted the first English settlers, the Africans slaves, plantation life, the animals on the plantation, the tools used and the field workers.

“I would also talk about sugar, how we had over 500 windmills here in Barbados. I have all the different grades of sugar. I have the molasses, then I would explain how they made rum from sugar and ferment it in the barrels, and then I would turn and tell them how they used the bagasse to fire the engines,” boasted the heritage activist.

Among her exhibits, is collector’s item, a Barbados dollar, issued in 1949, and may be of more value than Burke realises. The old pocket razors, baskets made from cane lily, the mother sally, stiltman, tuk band, Royal Barbados Police Band, dancing girls, steel bands, jazz band, and shops which were in all villages across the island, comprise the multiplicity of historic items.

Old Purity bread carts, women who sold bread from trays, shoe makers, blacksmith, tinsmith, nurses dressed in Florence Nightengale type uniforms, representing the migration of Barbadians who left for England to train and the penny farthing bicycles help make up Mamma’s Little Things.

Miniature porcelain dolls locked away in “glass cases” also highlight the history of Barbados which had been influenced by the French, Jews, Chinese, Persians and Italians.

The obeah woman, who formed part of this country’s folk culture, is also embraced by the gallery.

It is a nostalgic journey which is facilitated by a special bar of decanters, ranging from old racing cars, to a mug representing 100 years of the American Cup Race, 1870 to 1970.

Barbadians have an opportunity to go down memory lane and enjoy an eye opening and exciting lesson of this country’s history, culture and heritage. Tours can be accommodated by calling Marina Burke at 433-1617.

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