Zuzu’s mother had nine children. The family was very poor as many families were in New Town when Zuzu was born. Mothers worked for very little and could not offer their growing children many of the comforts of life Nine. Children for a poor woman were a challenge but she gave them what they needed to survive.
She gave them the spirit of adventure and enterprise, the drive to succeed in life and the determination to rise out of poverty and keep as far as possible from trouble. She was largely successful, and the story of Zuzu’s family is the breakout, for the whole family, from the circle of poverty and need to a more sustainable and satisfying survival.
Her daughters went overseas to become nurses. One of her sons became a self-employed fisherman. Felix, aka Tunka Abdul Rahman, grew up serving the family of Basil Samuels as a butler. He soon outgrew this humdrum existence and became a magician. He thrilled school children with his sleight of hand tricks and moved to Canada when he further perfected his craft. He drops in now and then to entertain his fellow Kittitians.
Joseph, aka Zuzu, left school early and went to learn construction, interrupting his craft sometimes to go sailing all through the Caribbean, up to Miami. When he thought he had learnt enough from his boss he ventured on his own and built houses for aspiring house owners. He soon experienced the ordeal of most young up-and-coming contractors. When he built houses for some people who seemed desperate to have their own roof over their heads, they failed to pay him when he had completed the job.
He decided to become a different type of businessman. He bought a piece of land at Bird Rock. He knew Bird Rock well. It was where he used to go everyday to “feed out” his mother’s sheep and goats and it was where he had bought his first piece of land on which to build his own house. This piece of land was on the margin of the Bird Rock landscape, overlooking the sea at what was known as Patato Bay. It wasn’t attractive land, the type that a normal person would buy for a house, but for Zuzu that factor was the challenge and he was taught by his Mom never to refuse a challenge.
Not only did he listen to his mother, he listened carefully to his political leaders and all they had to say about local people owning a piece of the rock and claiming a slice of the local pie. He interpreted that as a signal that St. Kitts was ready for an economic and social revolution and that anybody who wanted to succeed in business had only to try. Whether one is poor or not well read it didn’t matter, once one could come up with an idea and was willing to put his all into it.
So Zuzu acquired the land in 1984. Observers thought he must be crazy. The land was actually a hill with a ghaut running alongside. But Zuzu, stubborn with his vision, employed bull dozers to level the land, pushing excess foliage and boulders over the cliff into the sea. When the land was leveled to his satisfaction, he built the Blue Horizon.
The Blue Horizon was a bar and restaurant. The name was most appropriate, for the view from its patio of the endless horizon in the distance, is refreshing and comforting.
The Blue Horizon opened in 1988 and has since changed hands a few times. Zuzu himself started to run it but had to admit that he was better at dealing in real estate. So he gave up the enterprise to a string of business adventurers who thought that they saw the vast potential of the site as a place for entertainment and tried then failed to make it succeed.
Zuzu contends that the reason why the Blue Horizon has not taken off, is the lack of support from the government who failed to help him as he was led to believe they would.
He points to the matter of the ravine, also known as the ghaut, which runs adjacent to his land but which belongs to the government. The ghaut is scrub land of no market value, when rain falls heavily it floods and the water runs to the sea.
It contains a lot of foliage which gave Zuzu the idea that some aesthetic use could be made of the site by turning it into a bird sanctuary.
He had planned to populate the ravine with all kinds of birds, including exotic varieties from abroad. He thought that this would enhance the location and at the same time give the Blue Horizon a spinoff from the obvious attraction of the bird sanctuary. He even went as far as to collect birds – many of which he imported from overseas.
The idea of a bird sanctuary in a ghaut seemed so innovative that Zuzu assumed he would get the go-ahead to put it into action. He did not wait for the authorities to give him the nod. He hired bulldozers and went to work moving boulders and preparing for his bird sanctuary. He thought that since the ghaut was of zero value his offer to upgrade it to usefulness would be recognized and they would leave him alone to pursue his dream. It was always in his mind that the authorities wanted citizens to become innovative in business.
He might have been wrong. After spending over one million dollars over 23 years on the location he looks on almost helplessly as a conspiracy seems to be developing to force him off the land. Recently, he has seen a group of young people planting seedlings in the ghaut and has taken that as the signal that his concept will never materialize.
He complains that he is denied the rights over the ghaut, that after he had spent so much money on the site everybody has unlimited access to it. He has become resigned to not ever establishing his bird sanctuary but argues that since the ghaut has remained open to the public he should be compensated by the government for all the work he has put into its development.
Zuzu complains passionately about a nearby drain which runs adjacent to Blue Horizon. This drain was elsewhere, a safe distance from his property until it was re located within his boundaries. The drain in its new location is a threat to the well-being of Zuzu.
Tenants have been forced to leave the property because of the foul smell of the drain. Prospective tenants have declined to rent the premises mainly because of the stench of the bad smelling drain. He argues that the drain’s offensive stench affects business, and that its construction is causing his land to erode.
According to Zuzu, over the years he has contacted a number of different officials, including Calvin Esdaille, a fellow New Towner and head of the NHC. The responses always contain the vain promise to look into the matter.
Recently there has been a flurry of activity among land surveyors. Nobody has explained anything to him and he can only conclude that the interest in the area of his property is hostile.
Zuzu is frustrated to the point of desperation. He claims to be confused by the mixed signals of those in authority who pay lip service to the concept of local enterprise and at the same time appear to be sabotaging his efforts to distance himself from the poverty of his youth.