With most of my work, and certainly with work created outside of Grenada, I try to place Grenada in the world, to find connections. My upcoming art residency explores Grenada carnival and the Swiss equivalant fasnacht. Given that Grenada’s carnival is based on Emancipation from Slavery, I wondered if any Swiss were involved in the slave trade.
It did not take me long to find a few references to Swiss plantation owners/slaveholders in Grenada: Richard Besanquet, François de Meuron, Pierre de Meuron, Jacques-Louis Pourtalès, Johann Jakob Thurneysen, Jean Peschier and Henri Peschier. Swiss individuals profited from the trade with merchandise or slaves, just as other Europeans did. Merchant ships took cloth products and weapons from Europe to Africa, went on to the Americas with slaves, and returned to Europe with precious raw materials.[i]
Richard Besanquet (or Bosanquet[ii]) from Vevey, Canton of Vaud (VD), was a plantation owner and slaveholder. A director of the East India Company and a member of the Huguenot banking family, he is associated with 3 estates: 2 estates in ‘the quartier de l’Ance Goyave’ (present day Gouyave) in the parish of St John, identified as lots 1 and 37; and an estate in the ‘quartier du Grand Marquis’ and the parish of St Andrew, identified as lot 17 – all listed in Daniel Paterson’s Topographical Description of the Island of Grenada (1780). Between 1780-1782, the unnamed estate (lot 17) comprised 925 acres, cultivating sugarcane with a watermill.
The brothers, François and Pierre de Meuron from Neuchâtel, managed the plantations of Jacques-Louis Pourtalès and the Thurneysen family in Grenada from 1779-86. They are listed as ‘active dealers, plant administrators, slaveholders.’ Pourtalès was also from Neuchâtel, while Johann Jakob Thurneysen[iii] was from Basel. Four plantations on the ‘Antilles island of Grenada’ produced sugar, coffee, cotton and cocoa: Bellair (274 acres), Mont Saint-Jean (160 acres), La Conférence (330 acres), and the ‘new’ coffee plantation of the same name La Conférence (332 acres). I take this to mean present day Upper and Lower Conference. There are also associations with sugar plantations Clavier (300 acres) and Larcher (283 acres). [iv]
The Peschier brothers, Henri and Jean were also from a Huguenot family who originally came to Geneva as refugees around 1700 from the South of France. In the mid-1760s, the brothers arrived in Grenada and bought Good Chance, 192 acres with at least 80 slaves. Henri Peschier ended up in Trinidad. His descendants sold land to the governor that became the Queens Park Savannah.[v]
Four days ago, 23 August, marked UNESCO’s 20th International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. So, it appears there is even more to explore with my Grenada-Swiss carnival connections. I can’t wait.
Contemporary Arts Residency in the Swiss Alps – 19 days to go
19 days until I begin my contemporary arts residency at Open Spaces in the Swiss Alps. Please join me on this journey, and receive at the end, an original made-in-Switzerland-by me artwork of your very own. Of course, along the way, you get to follow my blog (online or via email), and see progress reports. Visit my original blogpost with a Paypal link — and help offset basic expenses for my stay. So far, support received has paid for return airfare and ground transport to Gstaad, where I’ll be collected to get to the village of Feutersoey, some 10 minutes away. Thank you.
As a reward for your generous support, I will send an original painting made-in-Switzerland-by-me to you at the end of the residency, as below:
- USD $50 support: (acid free mixed media paper, 6×8 inches.) Still available #27
- USD $100 support: (acid free mixed media paper 9×12 inches.) Still available #18
- USD $200 support: (handmade South Indian paper A4.) Still available #9
I will also provide daily updates about my journey on my blog as well as a special pdf diary of works in progress and extensive studio photos. BONUS: I’ll also send select digital images from my extensive Grenada Traditional Masquerade series, direct to your email address.
PS if the link does not work, OPEN IT IN YOUR BROWSER or please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or inbox your email to https://www.facebook.com/artstungingrenada/ and I will email you a Paypal invoice. For persons who wish to donate outside of Paypal (in Grenada or in Trinidad or anywhere else) whatsapp me at 14734561953 for instructions.
Thank you to my family, friends, OLD and NEW collectors of my work!
[ii] ‘RIchard Bosanquet’, Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146649787.
[iii] Legacies of British Slave-ownership list Pourtalès as Portalles, and Thurneysen as Tournhausen.
[iv] Röthlin Niklaus, colonial experiences in the last third of the 18th century – The plantations of the Companies Thurneysen from Basel and Pourtalès from Neuchâtel on the West Indian island of Grenada, special print from volume 91 of the ‘Basler Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Altertumskunde’ 1991, p 143.
[v] Keifel Agostini. Queens Park Savannah: Save Our Savannah. In: Sunday Express, 21. September 1997