January 31, 2013

St. Joseph's Plantation

Marko and i took a little trip down the fabled River Road which runs along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. There are lots of old plantations there including maybe one of the most famous, Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley has been turned into a sort of 'hollywood' version of a plantation complete with spa and accomodation. We chose to visit a more authentic destination, St. Joseph Plantation which was a 1,000 acre Sugar Cane plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana.

The plantation was built in the early 1800's by Valcour Aime, known as The Louis XIV of Louisiana, it was later sold to Joseph Waguespack in 1877 and is maintained by descendants of the Waguespack families to this day.

I always have conflicted feelings about visiting plantations. It's said that the Aimes were generous and took good care of their slaves. Of course i'm not under any illusions, they still owned slaves. Yet, these plantations and this period in the South are where so many of our southern customs come from....From the food that we eat to the rhythms to which we dance and the aesthetics of our arts and architecture. Most of these elements do not come from the plantation owners but from the slaves which were mostly of West African descent and this aspect was exactly what we were most interested in exploring. We didn't even go into the 'big' house but were content to visit the slave quarters and work houses.

Above and to the left are some images of the slave cabins on the St. Joseph plantation. Notice the rope bottom on the bed. The cabin had 4 rooms, the two larger rooms sharing a double-sided fire place and the back rooms most likely housing a small stove for cooking and other basic domestic necessities.

Here below you see the cook house. Because of the extreme heat in the south the kitchen was always separate from the main house. The following image, the tiniest school room i have ever seen. The large cistern in front of the schoolhouse is what they used to cook the sugar cane in.

And lastly, two of my favorite photographs which i took at St. Josephs. A view into a slave cabin and a close up shot of the wood on the front porch. If this wood could only tell tales.... The cabin seemed to exude voice and song, story and rhythm.

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