Fragments of European ceramics are buried under the soil of St Croix. They are everywhere, but only visible to the person aware of their existence. Occasionally, they appear at the surface providing a glimpse into a colonial past of the island, that like the broken nature of the fragments themselves, is not as glamorous or romantic as once believed.
St Croix was a wealthy cosmopolitan port from the 1750’s until the middle of the 19th century. The broken fragments of ceramic vessels imported as part of the transatlantic system of trade are symbols of a cross-cultural exchange. The properties of this material make it a valuable tool for historical archaeologists to study in understanding the societies who created them, used them and disposed them.
It is not only the historical archaeologists who find use of this colonial material today. Its aesthetic attachments embodied in the materials shininess also attract other people to collect and re-use the fragments into new constellations. For example, the fragments have been encapsulated in silver and gold into jewellery in order to reclaim the negative parts of the history and artist La Vaughn Belle re-captures the fragments into new assemblages of the Caribbean identity in her paintings.
My master thesis argued that the agency of cultural material ie pottery and the re-interpretation of it can contribute to an understanding of the continuance of past-present realities of post-colonial societies. The properties of the material are not fixed but are mutual and dependable on the present engagement with them.
This body of empirical material was collected on St Croix as part of my master degree in ‘Sustainable Heritage Management’ exhibited at Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted for the Transfer Day Commemoration March 2017 in collaboration with La Vaughn Belle.