Monday, September 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
OVER the last decade in Barbados, we’ve seen the publication of novels by Thomas Armstrong, Nicole Blades, Austin Clarke, Alvin Cummins, Nailah Folami Imojah, Margaret Knight, Glenville Lovell, Arnold Ward, to name a few of our more familiar writers in this form. This summer, Karen Lord’s name was added to that not-so-short list. Something, it seems, is happening again with the Barbadian novel, and her Redemption in Indigo, recently released from Small Beer Press, is very much part of that event.
What the books by these writers have in common is an attempt to reinterpret the situation of a people, namely Caribbean, and remind them of the significance of their experience, of its value and currency, to them and their wider community. Where Redemption in Indigo stands somewhat apart is in its use of fantasy to tell its tale, and, to a lesser extent, in its own preoccupations with the nature of choice, free will, fate, and chance.
One of the many pleasures of Lord’s debut novel is its protagonists: we watch both Paama (the girl married to a fatally licorish husband) and the indigo lord (the man with the magic coucou stick) grow in strength and humility and understanding of their humanity. Karen’s commitment to the redemptive powers of storytelling, and to the hope our stories can inspire, is uncompromising, fierce. This is from the end of the book:
“…there are those who utterly, utterly fear the dreaded Moral of a Story. They consider it an affront to their sensibilities and a painful presumption on the part of the storyteller. They are put off by the idea that a story might have anything useful to say and, as a result, all the other joys a tale has to offer them are immediately soured. I save my most scathing remarks for them. Do you go through life with your eyes blindfolded and your ears stopped? Everything teaches, everyone preaches, all have a gospel to sell! Better the one who is honest and open in declaring an agenda than the one who fools you into believing that they are only spinning a pretty fancy for beauty’s sake.”
Let me repeat: there is something happening in Barbadian arts. It’s as if our writers—on the page, stage and in film—are attempting to reboot our literature. Lamming’s last novel was Natives of My Person in 1972. Austin Clarke’s been producing, but there has been a sense of overworking old themes in recent, award-winning novels. In-between, Timothy Callender gave us How Music Came to the Ainchan People; that was in 1979…. The markers are a little arbitrary, but you get the drift.
Whatever’s happening, it’s easy to be part of it: by buying Redemption in Indigo, reading it, talking about it, passing it on, and then checking out all the other authors mentioned above (and those not) from our canon. There’s a vision our writers have of us, or for us, that’s once more emerging: one that encompasses Barbados yesterday, today and especially tomorrow.
— Robert Edison Sandiford (Adapted from opening remarks made at the launch of Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo at Ocean Spray, Barbados, August 6, 2010. This blog entry is part of ArtsEtc’s series on literature and literacy for September, Literacy Awareness Month.)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Read-IN! is the NCF’s monthly, parish-by-parish spotlight for writers.
Every Crop-Over it kicks up a notch and transforms into an “Event”—one of very few enabling literary artists to showcase nationally in front of a larger, wider audience.
Last year, the NCF took things a step further. There was a soiree-Cohobblopot type ambiance. There was art and craft and food and wine. And the featured writers, backed by musicians, used richly-crafted written word to shape performances that really pushed boundaries between stage and page. (Click here to read part of ArtsEtc’s 2009 Stage vs Page debate.)
This year, Crop-Over Read-IN!’s focus is specifically spoken word and performance. It should be exciting to see where boundaries get pushed this time around.
They will be guest-supported by Winston Farrell, and fellow Barbadians, Sonia Williams, Amanda Hoyos-Cummins, DJ Simmons, AZ-Man, Anthony Kellman, Sun Rokk, and Trina Headley. Choreography is by Renee Blackman, music by C4, Pride of Wilson Hill Folk Group, and the Pompasetters Tuk Band. M.C. is Adrian Green.
For those who always lament after missing literary events, “if only I’d known beforehand…” jot this on your calendar right now: Crop-Over Read-IN! 2010, tomorrow, Thursday, July 22, Barbados Museum, 8 p.m.
For ticket and box office information, call the NCF on (246) 424-0909 ext. 232.
Meanwhile: Also check out updates to ArtsEtc’s website, including the brand new AE Studios. For those who missed our print issues (and for those who still miss our print issues) you can delve into our online archives.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
As a boy growing up in
Six Men’s, I used to enjoy taking in the view of
sunsets from the location that is now being destroyed to make way for the rich and famous. Of course, I am speaking about the new
marina under construction just south of Six Men’s. This spot has remained my green spot for all these years ... the real memories will
always live on in my heart as I watch the daily destruction and ponder the price of progress.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
ArtsEtc asked six writers to reveal their oasis, to share with us how the Barbadian environment influences and inspires them. Tell us about your Green spot, we said.
Well, Saturday, June 13, at the Boardwalk, Hastings, with the waves crashing behind them, Philip Nanton, Dorhonda Smith and Nailah Imoja (l-r above) not only shared, but startled and seduced the audience with their responses. As well as explaining their oases, the trio's works also dealt with the sights and sounds of our urban environment, concrete and even how our health is impacted by fogging.
If you were there to catch the words and to enjoy the ambience of the Boardwalk as the sun went down, to sip wine and sample the delicious fare of Chef Creig Greenidge afterward, then excellent. If you missed it, there was only one way to catch up: The very next Saturday, at the Esplanade, Speightstown, when Frank Gilkes, folk singer-songwriter Johnny Koeiman and Kenneth “Jack” Lewis
launched a stern northern response for Green Readings part two.
ArtsEtc's Green Readings, now in its third year, is staged each June in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources & Drainage as part of the ministry’s activities for Environment Month. It's all about challenging ourselves, the way we regard and relate to our Barbadian surroundings. You can read about past Green Readings at artsetcbarbados.com.
And you can be a part of Green Readings 2010 by joining us in Speightstown on Saturday, and by posting a comment right here, right now, telling us where your Bajan oasis is.
Monday, March 22, 2010
ENTER. Stage Right:
Let me first say, I am thrilled to see my beautiful Speightstown receiving a long deserved facelift.
I went to an urban school and constantly heard my peers make fun of how far and boring Speightstown is. Although I tried to defend my quaint hometown, I knew in my gut it was nothing compared to Barbados’ other, more lively and attractive towns. But, I knew deep down inside that, someday, Speightstown would be rejuvenated and become an area filled once more with life and activity.
These thoughts ran through my mind one Sunday at a recent NCF Read-In. I sat under the beautiful night sky listening to the words of some of our talented griots, the sound of breaking waves acting as their back-up vocals. There was also Danny “Diallo” Hinds and his young drummers beating rhythm into our souls, inspiring us to get up and dance. (Yeah, right!) It was such a lovely setting for a cultural event, and I could not help but think this is what makes Speightstown unique: The other towns do not possess the serenity to host such an event; they lack the ambiance that makes a literary reading extra special. Sitting there at that candlelit table on the beach opposite the Old Pharmacy Gallery, I had a strong urge to run home and post on my Facebook page: “Speightstown is the place to be!”
At the end of the performances, I was feeling a little parched and decided to go over to the drinks table to purchase something for me and my group, and was most shocked to hear that a Coke or a Sprite cost $5. I’m like, “What the…?!” So, no thanks, I’ll get a juice from the other table instead; probably better for me than a fizzy drink, anyway. Guess what? A CUP of juice cost $5, too. Hmmmm. So, no drinks. Let’s get something to eat, then. I point out what looks like half a roti to the lady behind the table, who informs me that it is a “wrap” and that the price is $8. Has the world gone completely mad? Is this exploitation at its fullest, or am I just cheap? Maybe they should have put that in the advertising email: Walk with your VISA card; pricey foodstuff on sale!
Well, I moaned about it for a little while with my group. And just when I felt a little calmer, a guy, who I assumed to be the curator of the gallery, came over and invited us to “movie night.” He painted such a lovely picture: romantic table for two, complimentary bottle of wine and an interesting film—all against the backdrop of a beautiful moonlit beach. Price? $100 for 2 people. Oh, and bring your own food. WHA’?! Do I get to take the table and chairs home after?
Here’s my own version of this movie night: DVD – $5; wine – $20; table – free; moonlit beach – priceless.
I should probably wait until the recession is over before I post that invitation to “cultural Speightstown” on Facebook—I doubt many people will be able to afford the art, talent or beauty there any time soon. Exit: Stage Left. — Sharifa Medford.
Monday, January 25, 2010
SAMBO. Nigger. Nig-nog. Golliwog. These epithets, and others, cast long shadows over my childhood and I have kept safe and unsafe distances from them ever since.
But in her latest collection of poetry, Ship Shape (Peepal Tree, 2008), Dorothea Smartt forces a bridging of distances by boldly reimagining the story behind one of those names. And if ArtsEtc offered prizes for forceful bridging and bold reimagination (hey, and maybe we should!) then one would go to this Brit-born Bajan international, as Kamau has dubbed her.
at the launch
of Ship Shape.
Samboo (the spelling Smartt opts for) is reintroduced to us as ‘Bilal’, an eight year-old slave boy. In one telling poem, we meet him in Barbados, frightened and alone, contemplating his fate and a lunar eclipse on the eve of his ship’s departure. If the hurt of names hurled across school playgrounds estranged me from the truths behind them, and from other dark aspects of slave and racial heritage, then Smartt’s poem had me racing back, arms wide in a protective, even maternal, embrace towards Bilal.
The poems evolved from Smartt’s own research: a commissioned delving into the real history of an African named Samboo, who died shortly after his arrival in 18th century Lancaster, England, and is buried there. The book is split into two: Bilal’s story counter-weighed by, but also loosely connected to a second part dealing with contemporary themes of Caribbean families and migration.
The Barbados launch of Ship Shape was held at the Waterfront Café (left) in January, with Smartt sharing her stage with local writers Philip Nanton, Linda M. Deane and recent Colly winner, Karen Lord. — LMD
I glimpse but don’t fully grasp
the reason for the haunting
or why David’s chanting shangos
in and out my head. Unsung
Jacobins extend their reach
into my exile, across dark
unending chapters they grip
tight. I turn the news, again,
flick through, pick
through rubble spanning ages
and stumble upon beauty,
like a fortress, facing me;
The features akin to mine,
that might have been (and
might have been) but
for kinks in Geography
and History twisting
triangles and dreams.
© Linda M. Deane. (Read as a prayer for Haiti at the launch of Dorothea Smartt’s Ship Shape at the Waterfront Café, January 16, 2010.)
Monday, January 18, 2010
L-r: Ag. Chair of the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Committee, Boo Rudder, Governor of the Central Bank Mr. DeLisle Worrell, recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award, Lance Bannister, first prizewinner Karen Lord, third prizewinner Heather Barker, and Mrs. DeLisle Worrell. (Absent is second prizewinner, Glenville Lovell who lives overseas.)
Dr. Karen Lord, has set a precedent by becoming the first writer ever to win the top prize two years in a row. Last year, as a newcomer, she won for the speculative fiction novel Redemption in Indigo (due to be published this year). Now she has followed up that triumph with something of similar sci-fi nature, with a romantic twist: The Best of All Possible Worlds. Second place went to novellist and playwright Glenville Lovell for the play Sodom. Third was Heather Barker for the short story collection The Millipede Eats the Mongoose. Dr. Lance Bannister won the Prime Minister’s prize for a short story collection submitted as Barbados Evergreen.
If the winners weren't already fired up by the prospect of their success on the night then they certainly would have been by Dr. George Lamming’s feature address. It was lengthy, but that kind of made up for the fact that we don't see him often enough. We reckon he ought to be out and about a lot more, and addressing younger and non-literary audiences, too.
Anyway, he engaged the Colly crowd and was, by turns, lighthearted, fierce, challenging, humorous; full of dramatic gestures and emphasis as he explained, for example, why reading is a political act. Literature is never just literature, he intoned: it is politics, economics, philosophy, sociology. The 8 hours a day he spends reading are spent not just reading, but understanding and analysing—a lesson taught to him by Frank Collymore himself. Lamming also illustrated how Caribbean writers such as Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott and others have confronted the language of the coloniser face on, turned it on its head to create a new, conquering statements of their own. (No illustrations offered from younger pens, however.)
But he did urge younger writers to engage the “elusive Barbadian audience” where and whenever they can.
The Collys are now in their 12th year. Perhaps it’s time the Endowment Committee considered marking this milestone by publishing an anthology of winning work thus far – and maybe capturing a bit of that elusive audience into the bargain.— LMD
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Enter. Stage right. Saturday, January 9. The Grande Salle, Tom Adams Financial Centre, Bridgetown.
This was the 12th Annual Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Awards, or what is affectionately known as “The Collys”. I regard it as our literary equivalent of the Oscars or Grammys. There's not a lot of mass celebration of the writing and writers in Barbados, so I reckon it’s the one true time each year we get to put on a bit of ritz. Me, I get myself gladded up and I go to support our own. The guest speakers of recent years have been rousing and I find the awards a perfect way to start the new year with renewed focus; it’s a chance to rekindle the flame and faith that keeps us on that tightrope without a net a.k.a being a writer.
I guess there was lots of rekindling going on this year because the Grande Salle was packed. There's always a sizeable crowd, but never enough bodies, it seems, to stop the AC from producing goose-flesh as you sit through the feature address. This year, though, there were bodies galore. People turned out en masse. Standing room only, the ushers were telling latecomers and so it was: friends I bumped into afterward said they were sitting out in the lobby! And I could have left my pashmina at home.
Maybe it was the drawing card of George Lamming as guest speaker that brought folk out. Sure he spoke long, but it was gripping, and I reckon if this year’s winners weren't already fired up at the prospect of their own success on the night they certainly would have been by George's verbal flame-throwing. Anyway, warm congrats to Karen, Glenville, Heather and Lance from ArtsEtc.
We just love this photo
of a delighted Heather,
by the way!
Afterwards, the Collys spilled out, as it always does, into the lobby, into the coolness of the courtyard or out through the glass doors and onto the steps leading up to the nearby Frank Collymore Hall. It's then that, over a glass of wine and a hors d’oeuvre, you get to swap notes with your fellow suspects — the usual ones, new ones, or a potential one, as the case may be. It's lively, relaxed, friendly. Across the space you might spot someone gesticulating at you. You look behind you, just in case it's someone else they're hailing. But no! It's you, so you raise your glass in a toast to them above the heads of the other minglers, and work your way towards each other. More note swapping.
Now, Sunday, January 10 of this chocka weekend saw several of the same suspects up in Speightstown for the visual arts equivalent of a pub crawl, the highlight of which was Ras Ishi Butcher's Secret Diaries at the newly refurbished Old Pharmacy. Roger Chubb of Lancaster House was the maverick behind this crawl, or Arts Promenade. It started officially at Lancaster House in St. James where two of Ishi's outsized canvases that couldn't fit into the Old Pharmacy were on show along with other work by Lyman Whittaker, Patty Boyd and Bob Kiss.
Arrive in Speightstown, and what I cannot help but call ye olde worlde charm of this northern fishing town just seeps warmly into the spirit in a way that St. Lawrence and Oistins to the south and Bridgetown just... don’t! Visitors to the exhibition are spilling out of the Old Pharmacy and into the street with their drinks. Inside, there's room to swing a kitten maybe. Audio-visually, it's bright and loud, and it takes a moment or two to realise that it is Ishi's remarkable canvases that closely line the walls and not some interior designer's mural fantasy.
Diario secreto seis,
Ras Ishi Butcher,
mixed media, 2008
57 ins x 60 ins
That is how Ishi's Diaries struck me, in that intimate Pharmacy setting—like a maze of inter-related murals - to be viewed (or read, or decoded even?) in entirety rather than to be sold and enjoyed individually. Not that we don't wish him heaping success with the red tags, of course! Each diary “entry” is a large canvas square upon which the artist has expressed himself hieroglyphically and big, or through a series of smaller, more intricate squares. A very handsome catalogue-style publication accompanies the show.
Close the Diary for a while and step outside. Across the street there is live jazz at the Star Bar. Listen for a bit before continuing the crawl a short way up Queen’s Street to the Northern Business Centre which houses a number of gallery spaces including the Gallery of Caribbean Art.
There, American artist and graphic illustrator Fran Scott Attaway brings an ethereal and attuned outsider’s spin to the Barbadian landscape: Oistins at night, fishing boats, fish pots, egrets, hummingbirds, the moon on the ocean, decaying plantation houses where mongooses dance in the basement. (Click here for links to her artist page at the Gallery of Caribbean Art.) Fran's pieces look like rich illustrations for a magic storybook but they work well on a wall, too. Meanwhile, there's other activity in the business centre: more paintings in the space immediately next door, and downstairs, in The Constant Gallery, promenaders leave their shoes at the door and check out a dizzying floor-to-ceiling display of Persian rugs.
Back to the Old Pharmacy with its wooden flooring and shabby chic, where people are still arriving at something to 10 p.m. There's fresh mingling, waving of wine glasses and swapping of notes: an idea for a cross-cultural something on the beach; a jazz thing here; a book launch and some open mic there.
Earlier I’d spotted the acting curator of Queen's Park Gallery and given her an apologetic smile. That's where my evening had begun, not at Lancaster House, but in Bridgetown, at QPG where Art Beyond the Sea, an exhibition of Barbadian work that has been featured at major shows overseas, is on until February 20. It threw up some gems and so, even though I'd arrived ridiculously close to chucking out time, I found myself very leisurely browsing the walls.
Clockwise from top,
some of the Bajan art
that’s been ‘beyond the sea’: Ann Dodson’s
Natalie Atkins-Hinds’ The Separation;
Sowing Seeds Reaping Leaves
by Wayne Hinds;
ceramic tile by Juliana Inniss;
and Onkphra’s mahogany sculpture
I've never had a curator come up to me before, handbag over shoulder, keys in hand trying to usher me out. “We have to close up now if we're going to make it to Speightstown for Ishi's show,” she said, eyes firmly on the door and with an invitation to return next week if necessary. I scuttled around the room, taking a few last notes, and skipped out before she called the bouncers. Good to know we both made it to Speightstown, Alberta! And thanks for crossing off something I never knew was on my bucket list: I now know How to get Chucked out of an Art Gallery. Like I said, every now and again, you get one of those weekends.
[For detailed listings on shows mentioned and other events, click here.]
Exit. Stage Left. — LMD