A Story of Bones

As the Environmental Officer for St. Helena's doomed $350m airport, Annina van Neel witnessed the unearthing of the island's most terrible secret - a desecrated mass burial ground of an estimated 10,000 African men, women and children, retrieved from slave ships during the Middle Passage. Devastated by this historical injustice, Annina finds an ally and mentor in Peggy King Jorde, an African American woman who - thirty years earlier - faced a similar struggle against the powers that be. Together, they fight for the proper memorialization of these forgotten victims.

In 2012, Namibian born Annina van Neel relocated to Saint Helena Island, a tiny British territory in the middle of the Atlantic, home to just 4,130 people. Her new job with Basil Read - the construction company behind the island’s doomed airport, a project plagued with delays - would launch Annina on an unexpected journey, one both physical and spiritual.

Four years earlier, airport contractors encountered a mass burial ground of an estimated 10,000 African men, women and children, retrieved from slave ships during the Middle Passage. Eager to stay on schedule, the Government ordered the excavation of 325 individuals and stored them in a wing of the island’s prison, where they have been boxed, in desperate conditions, since 2009.


But as the contractors pushed on and bones kept surfacing, the responsibility was placed in Annina’s charge, as the project’s Environmental Officer. She poignantly confessed that ‘every time we find another piece of human remains, I can’t sleep that night.’

The repeated delays in reburying and memorializing these victims of slavery is compounded by Annina’s discovery of tapes revealing that the UK Government knowingly disturbed the burial grounds for decades. Outraged, Annina resigns and sets out to hold the Government accountable.


Feeling increasingly isolated on the island, Annina looked to the outside world for help. There she found an ally in Peggy King Jorde, a renowned African American preservationist whose work – thirty years earlier – was born of a similar struggle, and produced New York’s African Burial Ground National Monument. Visiting the island, Peggy was astounded by the size of the burial ground, which unambiguously places Saint Helena at the center of the Middle Passage.


Inviting Annina to the States, Peggy leads her young protégé on a tour designed to inform, inspire and fuel the fight that lies ahead. The pair travel through the heart of the Confederacy, where cotton was King,stopping in Montgomery, Albany, Georgia, Charleston & St. Helena, S. C., before returning to New York, empowered and finally ready to seize global recognition for the site.


A STORY OF BONES shows two women from opposite sides of the Atlantic uniting to mount a global campaign for change. Finding strength and courage in one another, they battle for the dignity and preservation of an immensely sacred site - the single largest remaining trace of the transatlantic slave trade on earth.

Status

In production

Production team