Key Text: Dance at Plantation, Trinidad, 1836
This primary source looks at this image’s relationship to dance, song, carnival, rebellion, and resistance by looking at the colonizer’s inability to understand Carnival and its“coded” language.
Like Brunias Agostino, Richard Bridgens, also looked at dance and movement in the Caribbean, specifically Trinidad. Born in England in 1785, Bridgens was a sculptor, architect, and designer. Bridgens was in favor of enslavement, and like many other colonial sources used in this exhibit was very ignorant in his portrayal of West Indians (Slavery Image).
Caption: “Dance at Plantation, Trinidad, 1836” is an image of enslaved people on a plantation in Trinidad, dancing, and playing instruments that resemble drums.
In “Dance at Plantation”, Bridgens depicts enslaved people dancing, songs being sung, and drums being beaten. When looking at this image, one has to acknowledge the way Bridgens presents enslaved people as almost resembling shadow-like figures because of the lack of detail illustrated in their facial features. Bridgens purposely does this to disempower enslaved people and illustrate them as all the same because of his own racist ideologies. Many of these people are also looking up and around, and their bodies are bent at a certain angle. No one is looking directly at the audience, which is another purposeful move Bridgens made, failing to depict these people as having any sense of power and authority. This image has no area of focus, making it seem as though these dances carried little significance and were done for the entertainment of colonizers. In doing this Bridgens is ignoring the resilience and power these oral traditions carry, largely because of his failure to understand Carnival and the “coded” language these songs were oftentimes sung in, allowing the enslaved to practice resistance right in front of him.
The image, “Dance at Plantation”, can be used to highlight the importance of dance for enslaved people and once again emphasizes the significance of oral tradition. “Dance at Plantation” gives some insight into the instruments used during these celebrations. Dances and celebrations like these all contribute to what Carnival is today, as these celebrations work to give power back to people, allow them to celebrate the resilience enslaved people hold, as well as pay homage to the cultures colonizers tried to strip them off.
"Dance at Plantation, Trinidad, 1836", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and
Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 23, 2021,