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The Wind That Blows

IMG_2957.JPGI have such fond memories of being with my grandparents, Louis & Celina Ollivierre, on Petit Nevis, while the whale was being butchered. There was much commotion as people piled homemade charcoal and gathered sticks to stoke the fire pits for cooking the whale meat. The men would butcher and the women would cook. I would hang around the fire near grandmother -- I called her Mama -- and when I was hungry she would hand me a calabash bowl with a bit of corned whale meat; maybe some cassava farina -- farine in the Bequia creole -- and corn cou-cou. The meat was cooked in large cast-iron pots and my grandmother would spend the day storing the pot. Always stirring.

Watching this 60-minute documentary, which includes a clip with my Great Uncle Athneal, I could feel and smell the salty breeze that constantly filled the air on Bequia. Life was simple but it was paradise. I miss it.

The documentary has been been released on DVD and I bought a copy. I am so excited to share some of my family's legacy with my kids.

The Wind That Blows - documentary trailer from Tom Weston DP on Vimeo.

Spanning an entire generation and told from the perspective of a proud people infinitely more connected to nature than any Prius driver, this film challenges conventional thought about the impact of global conservation and modernization.

You can also rent or download a high definition digital version of the 60 minutes film from Vimeo.

The Wind That Blows – Bequia

A teaser for a soon to be released documentary by Tom Weston about the whaling culture in Bequia. The elderly gentleman, Athneal Olivierre -- the whaler -- is my mother's uncle. Watching this short bit of video made me feel extremely homesick. Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake to set up a new life here in the USA. Life was simpler and less rushed on this tiny island of Bequia. I am excited to see the documentary when it's released.

Uncle Athneal

Athneal Ollivierre, my granduncle and a significant figure from Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was celebrated for his deep expertise in whaling. This tradition was a part of Bequia's economic fabric and a cornerstone of its cultural heritage. Born in 1908, Uncle Athneal grew up when whaling was integral to the islanders' way of life, a tradition deeply rooted in their daily existence.

Bequia whaling was notably different from the large-scale commercial practices seen elsewhere. It was a community-oriented activity conducted on a much smaller scale. The methods employed were steeped in tradition, often involving the skilled use of hand-thrown harpoons, a craft meticulously passed down through generations, including within our family. This approach to whaling was inherently sustainable and carefully regulated to prevent overhunting and ensure whale populations' preservation.

Uncle Athneal's role in this tradition went beyond his prowess as a whaler. He was revered for his profound understanding of the sea and marine life, symbolising the islanders' deep connection with their maritime environment. His life and career epitomised a relationship with the sea founded on coexistence and a deep-seated respect for nature rather than mere exploitation.

In the heavily accented, lyrical poetry that passes for common speech among Bequians, Mr Ollivierre will tell you, “ The day I harpooned my first whale, there was such joy in my heart, I couldn’t speak. It turned my mind. You must choose what will please your life. You must have plenty of courage and be fast thinking.” The Spells of a Bright Bequia Morning, New York Times

Upon retiring, Uncle Athneal didn't just step back from whaling; he embraced the role of a cultural ambassador. He passionately shared his rich experiences and knowledge with younger generations and visitors, ensuring that the stories and traditions of Bequia's whaling heritage lived on. His legacy is more than a memory; it's an enduring part of Bequia's cultural identity, reflecting a profound respect for nature and sustainable practices.

While whaling in Bequia has often been a topic of debate, especially among environmental groups, it's essential to understand its context. For the islanders, figures like Athneal Ollivierre aren't just historical footnotes; they're emblematic of a cultural identity that champions a more harmonious and respectful interaction with the natural world, starkly contrasting industrial whaling practices.

In 1996, the Ollivierre family ended their participation in whaling.