Prince Klaas: National Hero of Antigua and Barbuda

Prince Klaas: National Hero of Antigua and Barbuda
Prince Klaas: National Hero of Antigua and Barbuda
Deborah Bell enjoys a Conference and Study Day series of lectures and poetry on the rebel slave at London’s V & A Museum

In March 2019, Prince Klaas was introduced to V&A audiences as a Study Day, with many members unaware of his existence or significance in Caribbean history. 
 
This event was held in collaboration with the High Commission of Antigua & Barbuda, and was sold out.  The High Commissioner herself Karen-Mae Hill attended the event and reminded us of the importance of Prince Klaas, not only to Antigua, but to the wider Caribbean. 
 
Edith Oladele, National Co-ordinator of the African Slavery Museum of Antigua & Barbuda Project, Dr. Claire Hunes from the University of East Anglia, Dr Radcliff Robins from the African Slavery Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, and S I Martin, an independent journalist and historian all gave fascinating presentations on the day. We were also regaled with steel pan music from the Harry Hughes’ Steel Band, and poetry from Adisa, the Verbalizer who recited a poem specially commissioned by the V & A.  
 
It was a well appreciated event, and it is hoped that the V&A will hold similar Study Days in association with other Caribbean High Commissions on the history of the region. 
 
Who was Prince Klaas? 

Born in Ghana, Prince Klaas in 1737 planned an uprising to overturn slavery on the island of Antigua in order "to become masters in our own land.” With trusted and skilled status in the household, and highly literate, Prince Klaas was able to freely travel around the plantation estate, playing the role of obedient slave whilst plotting the downfall and murder of the slave-owning plantocracy.   
 
Why is he important? 

Klaas’ rebellion may have been unsuccessful – after the plot was discovered, he was sentenced to  death via the notorious bonebreaking ‘wheel’, a punishment reserved for high treason and rebellion in the British Caribbean - but provides valuable insight into how island-wide slave rebellions were organised in Antigua, decades before the first successful Haitian uprisings in the 1790s, which led to its independence in 1804.      

Colonial Legacies: African influences on Antigua & Barbuda 

1.    Warri - a popular African game still played in West Africa and at Caribbean championship level in Antigua 

2.    Fufu - the national dish of Antigua & Barbuda consists of cornmeal and meat stew

3.    Language – African syntax is central to Antiguan Creole

 

The National Flag    

The colours have different meanings:  Black symbolises the African ancestry of the people, blue hope, and red for energy or the life of the people. The successive colouring of yellow, blue, and white (from the sun down) also stands for the sun, sea, and sand. The blue also represents the Caribbean Sea, and the V-shape is the symbol of victory.