Project Remember Statia: Tracing Our Origins

Heritage project on St. Eustatius connects residents with their ancestors


"Men with names never truly die. It is only the nameless and

faceless who vanish like smoke into the early morning air."


Edwidge Danticat in "The Farming of Bones"








Archaeological excavations were carried out on the former Golden Rock plantation in St. Eustatius in 2021. The remains of 69 ancestors of the inhabitants of St. Eustatius were exhumed. The inhabitants were not involved in this.

The project Remember Statia, Tracing Our Origins is a result of the protests against these excavations. It is a community project in which the inhabitants of St. Eustatius write their own history. This will be done by searching for ancestor heroes and ancestors in general. 

From archive to story to imagination: project content

The project consists of different phases in which 10 to 12 participants are trained and coached to use digital sources to discover their own heroes from slavery and to snatch them from oblivion.

The discovered heroes and their exploits are then immortalized in a work of art. In the first instance, this is a written story on the basis of which visual artists portray a hero or a heroic deed. But portraiture can also be done in one of the many art forms, unknown to the general public, that have a rich existence on St. Eustatius. 



Save-the-dates for the 6 workshops

Workshop  - Retaking Our History and Rewriting Our Narrative  Presented  by Kenneth Cuvalay, mental health professional & president of the St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Alliance
        Date: Tuesday, March 26
        Time: 7 to 10:30 pm (Statia time)
        Location: Public Library St. Eustatius and online Zoom 

  1. Walk-in - 6:30 - 7pm

  2. Screening of the documentary “A Story of Bones” 7 - 8.30 pm

  3. Break 8:30 - 8:45 pm

  4. Q&A and Interactive discussion 8:45 - 10:30 pm

For ONLINE participants: the Zoom link will be sent a few hours before the start on March 26. This link should not be shared, it is reserved for you. 


Workshop I - Understanding archival resources. Presented by the Center of Family History (CBG)

        Date: Tuesday, April 2
        Time: 7 to 9 pm (Statia time)
        Location: Public Library St. Eustatius and online Zoom

Two researchers from the Dutch Centre for Family History will show you what information about your ancestors you may find in the various archives (both local and Dutch), and how you should understand and interpret it. This is both useful for starters and those who have already done their research and have maybe missed some important (new) sources.

Workshop II - Searching the archives  - Presented by the Center of Family History (CBG) & members of The Alliance

        Date: Wednesday, April 3
        Time: 5 tot 7 for online participants (Statia time)
        Time: 7:30 to 9:30 for participants on St. Eustatius (location Public Library)

During this session, you will do your own research based on the information gained during Workshop I and drawing on the list with useful URLs you are given by the researchers from the Centre for Family History, who will also be present to help you and answer any questions you may have.


Workshop III -  Summarizing and sharing results. Presented by the Center of Family History (CBG) & members of The Alliance

        Date Thursday, April 4

        Please not that the times have changed! 

  • 7 to 8 pm (Statia time) for online participants
  • 8 to 9 pm for the participants on St. Eustatius (location: Public Library)

During this session, participants can share (if they wish) any information they have found, give each other useful tips, tell their stories and ask their final questions.


Workshop I - Introduction and strategy. Presented by Marvin Hokstam

        Date: Wednesday, April 10
        Time: 6-8 pm (Statia time)
        Location: Online Zoom for all participants

This workshop is an introduction into journalism writing. The course will pick up where the research trainers left off. Participants have by then learned how to compile the available info that will be turned into an article; basically, what journalists do before they can write their articles. From here on this course will teach you how to turn the compiled information into a compelling story. How to start in a captivating manner, what comes after the start, how to keep the article captivating all the way to the end.

Workshop II - Crafting a personal story. Presented by Marvin Hokstam

        Date: Wednesday, April 17
        Time: 7-9 pm (Statia time)
        Location: Public Library St. Eustatius and online Zoom

This workshop will pay attention to the different styles of writing and the different styles of articles, as well as how to be mindful of what different publications require. We will also spend time on the use of language. As people from (formerly) colonized countries, we tend to have unconsciously embedded a lot of words that we should no longer use in the (European) languages that we use. Words that were created and used to demean us. Words that we should no longer use. This part of the course will decolonize our writing.


We plan to have a follow-up meeting as well, but no date has been set for that yet. In any case, the presenters of the workshops are available throughout the duration of the project to answer your questions and help.

Results: a book publication and final performance of all the stories and artworks for the general public.

Project organization: Bigi Bon Foundation, St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance (SE-ABG Alliance). St. Eustatius Historical Foundation, St. Eustatius Monuments Foundation.Project leaders: Marvin Hokstam (Bigi Bon) and Kenneth Cuvalay (SE-ABG Alliance)

Target group: 10-12 Statian residents with African ancestry

Funding: Mondriaan Culture Fund Open Call for the Dutch Slavery Memorial Year (list of approved projects, check the entry "Bigi Bon"; webpage is in Dutch)


Target group

We are seeking 12 candidates with ancestors from our slavery past who are committed to telling and connecting their story with a work of art. Participation is free.
In addition, we are looking for artists to coach the candidates in shaping their artwork. The artists will receive compensation for their coaching.


Applications are still welcome.
Candidate participants can register via:
Candidate artists please contact us via: 
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Instagram @steustatiusafrikanburialground 
  • Whatsapp   (+599) 319 4975 or (+31)06-29014308


Project Summary

Name: Remember Statia, Tracing Our Origins

Building on: 'Memre:portraits of forgotten slave heroes' (Bigi Bon) and 'Make the Connection',  Family Heritage project St. Eustatius (St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance).

Duration: November 2023-October 2024


Invisible heritage: (re)construction of Afrikan heritage in the Caribbean

The initiators of the project want to raise awareness of the importance of preserving African cultural heritage on St. Eustatius. In addition, the heroes of slavery (many of whom are buried on the former Golden Rock plantation) must be rescued from oblivion.

We hope that visual, writing and acting artists will help the participants build a bridge between their art form and their past from the time of slavery or even before.

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