The Blue Bead & another story of slavery

This is “my” blue bead.

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In the 17th century the Dutch used these pentagonal shaped blue beads for trading. The beads were made in Amsterdam, out of glass. In St. Eustatius they were given to slaves as “wages”. {Sometimes I am so terribly ashamed of being Dutch!!}

picture from the Secar website

After emancipation, the legend says the ex-slaves gathered at the cliffs and threw their beads in the sea to celebrate freedom. Up till today blue beads can be found in the sea or on land. Mostly they are found on a dive spot called “the Blue Bead Hole” after a storm when the sand has been stirred up. It’s likely a ship loaded with blue beads sank there (or maybe all the blue beads thrown in the ocean by the freed slaves somehow ended up at the exact same spot, hm hm…).

Occasionally the beads can be found on the beach or somewhere in the mud on the roadside.

There are many fake blue beads around, which you can buy for a few dollars at gift shops. The real blue bead though is always pentagonal, sometimes a bit rounded by the sand over the years, and has this typical dark blue colour. There are very few white beads found too, but it’s just a handful of people on the island that ever found a white one. And be assured: a real blue bead will never be for sale for a few dollars. I heard stories of blue beads being sold for US$ 250 or US$ 300. But a real Statian will never sell his blue bead out of respect for the slaves. You can give it away, but not sell it.

I can tell you it’s a funny feeling having a blue bead. It may be “just a bead”, a useless piece of blue glass, but knowing that one day “your” bead once was a slave’s only possession makes it… unique.

The legend says you don’t find blue beads. The blue bead finds you.

And if you’re found, you will always come back to Statia.

I will always come back to Statia.
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14 thoughts on “The Blue Bead & another story of slavery”

  1. Very special! I can imagine that it’s special to possess a bead with a sad history like that. But then it also sort of symbolises freedom I guess (since they were thrown in the sea). Where did you find yours? I always enjoy looking at your pics and reading your stories, it reminds me of our time in the Caribbean! So thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Denise! I didn’t find the bead myself, my boyfriend gave it to me (aaaaah 🙂 ) I still have to find one myself. One day… I see you’re doing some awesome stuff in Australia! Really great! If it were a little closer I’d come by right away. But again, one day… 😀

  2. Wat prachtig, respectvol, en zó mooi !!!

    Ik hoop in stilte zó dat OOIT een Blue Bead míj zal vinden, misschien is wel de Blue Bead uit de tijd van de (slaven-) voorouders van Queen Makeda Mebratu naar me op zoek . . . . . . . . . Statia, ik kom weer zo snel mogelijk . . . . Blue Bead, wacht aub op me . . . . . . 🙂

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