"Chatoyer, the Chief of the Black Charaibes in St. Vincent with his Wives." Oil painting held in the National Library of Jamaica. Image sourced from www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

 

Carib Customs

The Case of the Caribs in St. Vincent is Reverend Dr. Thomas Coke’s plea to assist the Caribs of St. Vincent, articulated through a letter written by George Davidson. Davidson recounts his understanding of the black Caribs and describes their customs, habits, and the effects of having been under French servitude for a number of years. Davidson’s letter also describes the polygamous marriage practices, religious observations, cassava cultivation methods and other Carib customs.

A Peaceful Sunday at Home

This Carib family is depicted in their own settlement, gathered in front of the homes they have constructed from branches of the rich foliage that surround them. In one dwelling, we can see a hammock suspended between the walls. All eight people wear loincloths; one toddler who drinks milk freely from one woman’s breast; while another toddler eats from a bowl. At the far left, a woman carries a heavy basket while a male observes, his back facing the viewer. Despite the obvious artistic richness of the Carib culture, portrayed through the jewelry and textile decorations worn by both men and women, this image likely functioned to promote the necessity of the colonial endeavor to bring Christianity and culture to the Carib “heathens.”

Agostino Brunias' engraving "A Family of Charaibes, drawn from the Life, in the Island of St. Vincent," published in Bryan Edwards' The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies in 1794. Image courtesy of the John Carter Brown library.