Saturday, February 24, 2018

Preserving the Quare African Village

Govt agencies, National Trust to limit quarrying threat at historical Muslim site

Not much is known about the first black American Muslim settlers who made their home in the undulating forested Quare area of Valencia. This is largely the result of the abandonment of the area and the lack of information and activity pertaining to the historical significance of the site. That is until the present time when the threat of quar­­rying, squatting and logging operations have moved organisations such as the National Trust and the Madinka Research Foundation to address the situation.

In pursuit of this, the council of the National Trust partnered with National Quarries to chair a stakeholders’ meeting at the National Quarries’ offices before proceeding to the historic site on an assessment visit.

Attendees included represen­tatives of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, the Forestry Division, Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, Environmental Management Authority (EMA), and the Madinka Research Foundation.

A visit to the site revealed it is still very much in an abandoned state but is now under threat as a result of quarrying activities in the wider area.

Quare African Village was formed by black American Muslims who had fought for the British in the Anglo-American War of 1812. After the war, an initial number of 299 Muslim veterans came to Trinidad and settled in the Quare region, on the banks of the Hondu River. In 1925, a further number of 445 was added to the settlement.

They planted rice, provisions, peas, corn, cocoa and coffee, and their settlement flourished until the 1830s when many of them moved to the Naparimas and the suburbs of Port of Spain.

After the 1840s, the site remained in a state of abandonment. Interest in the site was not rekindled until Sharif Fida Hosein, a Muslim descendant of Trinidad, discovered glass shards, colonial bottles, cooking utensils, working tools and other artefacts in the now dense forest.

The Quare African Village site has been identified for inclusion in the inventory of cultural and natural heritage as a heritage property and historical site. It has also been proposed for listing as a heritage property by the National Trust. Once listed, the site is entitled to legal protection.

At the site, the Madinka Research Foundation stressed the need for recognition as one of historical significance, both to the Islamic community and the nation, and proposed that regular visits be made to the area to assess threats by quarrying, logging and squatting.

National Quarries, as property manager, is committed to monitoring and protecting the site from quarrying activity.

The National Trust is also actively pursuing protection of the site. The trust is also pursuing protection of the borders of the site and has written to the Forestry Division on protection of these borders as part of the Forest Reserve.

The National Trust is also partnering with the Sangre Gran­de Regional Corporation, in the hosting of public lectures in the area to educate the public on the significance of the site to the heritage of Trinidad and Tobago.