Welcome to Chattel House Photos. Here you will find selected images for review and purchase. The Chattel House is a type of movable house found in the West Indies. These houses were previously built by slaves and were designed to be disassembled and relocated from plantation to plantation. The Chattel House was simple, but effective and resilient. Many Chattel Houses can still be seen in places like Barbados and these simple structures are decades old and have withstood many hurricanes and other adverse weather situations. Our photographers use the lessons and rich history from the slaves to focus their art on simplicity and natural beauty with each image telling a unique story of its own.

The Blog on the site is open to the general public to provide feedback and suggest solutions to combating modern-day slavery. This site also pays tribute to the many centuries of slavery and recognizes the basic right that all mankind must live free. Since slavery is still thriving around the world, especially on the African continent, this website provides a venue to generate dialogue on methods of combating and eradicating slavery. All mankind must live free.

The Museum is dedicated to photography enthusiasts and hobbyist interested in some of the earlier equipment used to generate images. We have a collection of more than 40 cameras and projectors which we will display on this site to share with the general public. We encourage others who own unique photographic equipment to contact us about donating or loaning to the museum if you would like your items displayed.

We encourage you to enjoy the site and contact us if you are interested in partnering with us. We have many opportunities for art/photographic partners.

Chattel House Photos came about as an extension of my upbringing in Barbados. I was born and raised in a chattel house located in Chimborazo, Barbados, West Indies. I spent some time reflecting on that experience and realized that my life, though modern, was barely removed from slavery. In a recent article posted on Ancestry.com, I compared the culture and life experiences of the slaves of Barbados and realized that little in the way of culture had changed from the slavery period up to and including my childhood.

When I reviewed the article on Ancestry.com, I discovered that we still planted, harvested, and prepared provisions similar to the methods of the slaves. We still lived on small plots of land in movable houses and planted gardens to supplement our food supply. As in the days of slavery, much of the provisions planted and harvested from the garden plots were used for barter to acquire wealth or trade for other goods. In my period, this was still the custom and was done primarily by women called “Hawkers”. Hawkers would carry large wooden trays laden with fruits and provisions on their heads as they peddled their goods. A Hawker could walk several miles a day with these trays throughout the villages. Most of the roads were steep hills and rough roads, but these Hawkers supported their families this way with a smile. These were very strong, resilient women. This practice still goes on today in Barbados.

I read about holing and weeding sugar cane fields for planting and maintenance. I also read about the children hauling manure in dung baskets  to fertilize. I remember these tasks not so fondly. Holing and weeding with a hoe in the hot sun is not fun. Cutting and harvesting sugar cane is less fun. Prior to the use of motorized vehicles, the sugar cane was harvested by men who cut the sugar cane down at the roots with a bill or cutlass, and in later years a collins. Next they would remove the tops with one swing of the bill and toss the sugar cane aside for the women who came behind them to bind them into manageable bundles. These bundles of cane would then be carried on the head up some steep slopes to be stacked alongside the road. This was necessary because the conveyance vehicles (first donkey and cart, later trucks) could not be driven into the sugar cane fields because the terrain was too treacherous.

As a boy, we raised several farm animals for food and commerce. This was similar to the actions taken by the slaves to provide for their families and build wealth. In slavery days, the slaves lived on plantations and were permitted to raise livestock which they either used for food or sold to other slaves and some times they sold their animals back to slave owners. I helped raise cows and goats for their milk and meat. These animals were taken to a field each morning before school and then I would bring them home after I return from school. The animals were kept in pens because our land was limited, plus the cows and goats provided a ready source of manure, used for fertilizing the sugar cane. Once enough dung was accumulated, we used dung baskets to carry the manure to trucks or cane fields for fertilizing. We also raised pigs and assorted poultry. We tended to these farm animals similar to our ancestors, barefoot and unprotected.

Many of our ancestors as I read, suffered from chiggas and worms. Yes, I got a few of these diseases which I picked up through openings in my bare feet. Though our feet were hardened from walking barefoot most of the time, a cut meant certain infection of some kind. I remember suffering from pin worms. Little creatures in the stomach that wiggled they way out the pooch and itch like crazy. My parents would use some old herb remedies of wormwood to give me enemas to rid me of these little pests. I can only imagine the diseases my ancestors contracted and suffered, perhaps, fatal at times.

We lived in a chattel house similar to the slaves. The house began with two rooms under a single gable. It was made of wood and built to be disassembled and relocated. I remember many of these houses being disassembled on a Saturday or Sunday morning by several men, loaded on the back of some flatbed conveyance and relocated to some other place on the island. Like the slaves, even during my childhood, many black people still did not own the land where their houses sat. The land still belonged to white plantation owners and the house owners rented the spot. This scenario created the transitory nature of the black people, lack of stability, and little chance of land ownership and wealth. The piece of land where our house sat formerly belonged to my mother’s aunt. My father rented that land from her for years before she would allow him to buy the piece of land. Though he owned the land, she still was insistent that he did not improve the land to a state better than hers. For a long time this caused us to maintain an outdoor toilet and bathroom facilities.

The bathroom and toilet was a single galvanized building in the backyard of the house. The bath had a built-in bench to place the water for washing. Since we did not have running water in the early stages of my youth, we went to a public pipe (stand-pipe) to catch and haul water to the house. We carried the water in pails on our heads up some steep hills. The toilet was nothing more than a built-in bench with a hole that allowed the waste to catch in a bucket. It was one of my chores to occasionally remove the bucket, dig a hole and bury the evidence of relief.

Growing up in Barbados during my years was not all reminiscent of slave labor and disease. We had an opportunity to play games, such as cricket and marbles. Most of the equipment used for the sports, except things like marbles, we created. We used the bark from coconut trees for bats, small fruit for balls, and in some cases, we wound old inner tube rubber around a cork ball or tar to form a ball for cricket. We played in the street and when the opportunity arose we played on the beach, especially at Bathsheba.

We made trucks from old cans and wood, baskets like the slaves from ping-wing and cabbage nut bark. Scooters from wood and old ball bearings. Guns from wood and pieces of inner tube and shot suck-a-bubbies from them. We made roller skates from wood and old ball bearings and used rocks to slide on the roads. We climbed trees and picked coconuts, avocado pears, oranges and other citrus fruits, breadfruit, and breadnut. Sometimes we would roast a breadfruit and flying fish to eat, with some homemade lemonade or mauby.

Looking back, I have had a rich life growing up in Barbados while being raised in a chattel house. I appreciate the simple things in life, because life in the chattel house was simple. Two rooms, no drywall, open beams, rain on the roof, sweltering heat and smoke in the kitchen, which also doubled as the living room, dining room, gathering room, utility room,  and storage room. We didn’t complain because of a lack of space, we were grateful we had a home. We slept in the other room and used a po (enameled potty) at night if necessary. I realized that my life growing up was barely removed from the slave days of my ancestors. My goal is to honor my ancestors through my art, by selecting simple objects with purpose and natural beauty. I also hope to bring attention to the subject of slavery and the fact that we must do everything we can to ensure every human lives free.

Contact information:

Email: chattelhousephotos@gmail.com     Phone: 253.254.6024