Join Robert and Linda, the editors of ArtsEtc, as they offer personal takes and twists on culture in Barbados and beyond... Stage Right, Stage Left continues a journey started seven years ago in ArtsEtc: The Premier Cultural Guide to Barbados, their groundbreaking print newsletter. Follow the rest of the adventure online at www.artsetcbarbados.com.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Bajan Invention—Part 1

ArtsEtc ushers in a brand New Year with a series of blogs by editor Robert Edison Sandiford on what he calls The Bajan Invention. A challenge to our ways of thinking and being, the four-part series will look at aspects of Barbadian society and culture. Following is Part 1 which takes a look at an issue from the latter half of 2012 that had parents, teachers and students divided…

The Great Barbadian School Uniform Debate: style over substance?

Whenever my friend Danny did something he wasn’t supposed to in high school, his father sent him for a haircut.  We’d see him a Monday morning, his rocker’s locks buzz cut.  “What happened to you, man?” we’d ask.  His astonished reply: “Came in late from a party Friday, had a little too much to drink.  Dad freaked, y’know…” 

It seems Matthew Farley, the principal of Graydon Sealy Secondary School, takes a similar tact to Mr Williams when it comes to the problems faced by his students.  He sent home 265 of them last October for not wearing their uniform properly. 

“The main infraction,” he said in an interview with Barbados’ Sunday Sun, “was in relation to the lengths of the overalls and skirts.  There were a number of instances where boys were wearing pants that were oversized at the waist.” 

Matthew Farley, Principal of Graydon Sealy Secondary School

That was the reason given for the weeklong suspension of just over a quarter of the student population (28%).  As is the case with many Barbadian schools and their students, there are deeper underlying problems that need to be addressed.

Does this strategy begin to do that? 

Principal Farley indicated in responses to the public, who seemed generally supportive if going by radio call-in programmes, that the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Schools and the Ministry of Education had “agreed that hemlines would be two inches below the knee, that scarves would be banned, that cell phones would not be in schools…,” without exception. 

But it did feel, as Harrison College Principal Winston Crichlow suggested in a comment on the matter, that “these little things [mass suspensions] can be a distraction from education.”  PR-stuntish, so to speak; more politically motivated to stir public support than academic minded; meant to have Barbadians focus on the style of a complaint rather than its substance. 

Unless the low hemlines and dropping pants are merely Principal Farley’s metaphor for those deeper problems: with drugs, teenage pregnancy, bullying, plummeting morale among staff and student body alike, and parents who have given up on their children.

Statistics correlating all of this—for instance, that show poor dress in Barbadian schools leads to poor Caribbean Examination Council scores—would be useful.  What may be asserted with some certainty is that Barbadian students (and not only the students, and not only the black ones) suffer now more than ever from a lack of pride: in country, in school, in self.  They have doubts about themselves and their environment that are either surprising or shocking almost 50 years after their hard-earned independence.   
It’s not that we as a people don’t know who we are, but we seem afraid to claim our identity.

Maybe we need reminding of it occasionally.  I suspect a number of students know neither who established their schools, how long ago nor under what circumstances.  And we tend to wear a uniform with more respect when such things like its history, tradition and pride are understood and, more significantly, when our role in the perpetuation of the legendary and the mythic and the heroic in our nation is defined.

It is not clear Principal Farley’s exercise will better instruct the student body in who they are or should aspire to be in this place, or lead them toward true emancipation from what really binds their hearts and minds and souls. 

“Caribbean institutions have developed mainly along the patterns bequeathed to them for their European pioneers.  The school, the church, the public service, and the judiciary have all sustained a close allegiance to the historical antecedents through which they were nurtured in former times,” wrote West Indian theologian Kortright Davis in his classic Emancipation Still Comin’.  “The people of the Caribbean have not yet taken hold of the basic roots of their own institutions, and therefore have been unable to transform their existence toward an emancipatory and affirmative dynamic.”

In other words, problems like parental frustration, teacher apathy and student restraint are often best dealt with at the source, their roots, starting with the home and family.  Freedom often has to do with choices, far less with the ability to do whatever you want…or can, because it is within your right to do so. 

And here I go back to Danny: throughout high school, he complied with his father’s edict.  But that was in much the same way the 265 students complied with Principal Farley’s.  Danny wasn’t a bad kid (nor Mr Williams a hard man), just misguided, as most of us are or were as teenagers from time to time.  I don’t know if Mr Williams’ solution ever solved any of the problems Danny was then dealing with, either.  The change to Danny was as cosmetic as tightening a tie, meant to show him whip-quick who’s boss, and a way for father to avoid talking to son about what happened and why. 

This makes me think there may have been a better way for Mr Williams to deal with the excesses of youth.  Principal Farley, too.— RES

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ArtsEtc’s second annual Independence book list adds to Bajan landscape

For the second year running, ArtsEtc Inc., in collaboration with its art partners, has released a reading list for Independence.

The List, which it is also called, contains 12 titles.   All are by Barbadian authors or those Barbadians may rightly claim. 

That’s one book to be read a month from here to next Independence, according to Linda M. Deane of ArtsEtc.

“Some are found in our bookstores, others in the National Library or second-hand bookshops or online.  Wherever you find these books—our books—it is about savouring them, treasuring them, challenging them.  Then going out and finding more!” said Deane, herself an award-winning poet.

This year’s reading list will be appearing in ads in the Nation newspaper’s Easy magazine, on ArtsEtc’s own website and on thebajanreporter.com.  It includes such classics as Timothy Callender’s How Music Came to the Ainchan People: A Novel and Christopher by Geoffrey Drayton as well as newer works by Thomas Armstrong, P. Antonio Rudder, Nailah Folami Imoja, and Winston Farrell.

“We’d encourage people to cut out the ad and paste it onto some cardboard for better use,” said Robert Edison Sandiford, the other half of ArtsEtc.  “It’s in the shape of a bookmark, very practical.”

In last year’s ads, the publishers suggested Barbadians think of their Independence in terms of their reading habits: How can you be free if you aren’t reading the writers who give voice to your freedom, namely your own?

This year’s ads remind Barbadians that with every story their authors write, they are adding to the cultural landscape of their people, to their greater sense of self.

Back again as sponsors of The List are Days Books, the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment, the University Bookshop, the National Library Service, and the Barbados Association of Reading.

“This, too, is very much part of our mandate,” said Annette Smith, the director of the National Library Service, “to make people more aware of our writers and their work.”

The List first appeared on November 30, 2011.  It came about as the result of someone at a book launch expressing an interest to Deane and Sandiford in reading more books by Barbadian authors but claiming not to know where to start. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ArtsEtc's green publication launched

ON June 9, ArtsEtc launched its latest publication, Green Readings: Barbados, The First Five Years [2008-2012] on the Boardwalk at Hastings. It was a fun occasion and part of Green Readings 2012—the annual showcase of open-air environmental readings and performance. 

The 48-page anthology features the work of roughly 24 literary and other artists who have participated in Green Readings since its inception in 2008, and offers an overview of the readings and the philosophy behind them. Contributors to the anthology were on hand to receive their copies and to read excerpts from the published work.
Anthology contributor Sandra Sealy receives her copy from Robert Sandiford. Linda M. Deane (left) and Donna King-Brathwaite from the Ministry of the Environment look on.
The annual event and the publication are the result of partnership between ArtsEtc and the Environment Education Committee in Barbados’ Ministry of the Environment and Drainage. Ministry officials addressed the gathering (see BGIS story for more) and Environment officers have since taken copies of the anthology to the Earth Summit in Rio environmental conference currently happening in Brazil—an amazing opportunity for Barbadian writing and creativity to reach appreciative audiences far beyond our shores. 
Premanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, Gayle Francis-Vaughn 
 The launch was followed by performances from 2012 featured Green Readers Ian Bourne reading in tribute to his late mother Carolle Bourne, Arnold Ward and Dana Gilkes; and anthology contributors reading short excerpts from the book.
GR12 Readers (l-r): Ian Bourne, Arnold Ward and Dana Gilkes

Anthology contributor Dorhonda Smith reads her excerpt from the book

There was also some excellent jazz from James De Lovell & Friends, a lively Boardwalk Talk (open mic) session, plus books on sale, refreshments—in short, the cool lime that is Green Readings.

James De Lovell & Friends

Checking out the green anthology
Good green eats

Writers on the Boardwalk, Hastings 
No fear if you missed it! GR12 Part 2 comes off this weekend at Folkestone Park in Holetown, St. James, where gracious co-host will be John Nicholls, manager of the  Folkestone Marine Reserve. Featured readers will be Keoma Mallett, Norma Meek and Indrani Santiago. Click here for more on them. There will also be opportunity to obtain copies of the Green Readings anthology.

Green Readings: Barbados, The First Five Years [2008-2012] is also available from ArtsEtc and from the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage. See our website for more about other publications from ArtsEtc.

ArtsEtc editors Robert Edison Sandiford and Linda M. Deane

• Photographs (with exception of book close-ups) by June Stoute, GR12 photo/rapporteur.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Heritage also means... more GR12 Green Statements

Jewels, progress, and the wind...

Every year, ArtsEtc asks its Green Readers for a statement, a snippet of work and a little about themselves—a sneaky preview of what to expect on the Green Readings stage. The responses are often unexpected, always fascinating. Sometimes the artists even stick to theme! This year’s theme is Heritage, and below are the responses from this year's readers, Keoma Mallett, Norma Meek and Indrani.

KEOMA MALLETT (aka Rhy Minister)
The Best Jewels
Heritage, to me, is a mixture of what was, with good intention, imparted to me as a guideline to live my life, what I gleaned and what was physically bestowed—whether biologically or as gift or inheritance.

I would like my work to encourage people to dig deep for the best jewels they could ever discover—those within themselves—and through this, to increase their appreciation for themselves and their surroundings.

from “Dichotomy”

“I’d smile in my pillow after each session of backwords and fourth,
Slept on the wave of your awe,
Such delightful discourse,
Dreamt of holding you close,
Of filling your post with letters of thesis of you as my missis.
You feeling me?
How the zeal in these words interlock like passionate kisses,
Remission, de mission was hunting you as a dear in open field,
Hoping feelings would lead you to see the true scope I feel,
’Cause I’ve delved and dabbled in reasonings and ramblings long,
Contemplated dark arts I considered as wrong,
Wished to have you without a care in this whirled,
You find yourself simple; I find you a most beautiful girl.
You see yourself as a million pieces; I see a million creases that mark you with character and make you adept,
And was trapped, at great length, by your volume ’cause you took all my breadth.”
Copyright © 2012 by Keoma Mallett

Keoma is 1) Rye minute star essay freestyle artisan in throw verse; 3) Rhy Minister, an introvert and freestyle poet and rapper; 2) Rhy Minister, who loves playing with words and listening to music.


Price of Progress
My art invites Barbadian society to look objectively at itself in an effort to change it for the better. Gardening is necessary but is not easy.  The minibus culture is unsettling. Society’s youth need firm handling.  What is the price of our progress since 1962?

from “Come in the Garden, Man!”
Don’t mind the trials you go through,
The exercise is good for you.                       

from “Cradle Rock and Milkshake”
They’re trying to subvert your balance, too,
By shaking and by rocking.                             
Copyright © 2012 by Norma Meek

Norma is the author of Minibus Muse and In My Small Corner (both 1993); Pick Sense Outta Dat (2001); Every Skin Teet Ent A Laf (2002); and Watching Out For Mummy (2003).  She is a founding member of Writers Outreach and a member of Voices: Barbados Writers’ Collective.


The Wind’s Embrace
We live in paradise, so to pull oneself out of the wind’s embrace or the ocean’s cradle or from the face of a beckoning canvas...is a bit tough sometimes.

2 guest passes
3 bottles of Zephyrhills water
Homegrown seasonal fruits
Copyright © 2012 by Indra Rudder

iNDRANi is a Barbadian artist who is increasingly gaining a name in the recording industry across the Caribbean and Europe with her folk-inspired, acoustic sound and original, earthy lyrics. A protégée of Eddy Grant’s, she is also a poet, author, dancer, and actress. The title of her most recent EP is Goddess Wild.

• Keoma, Norma and Indrani will be joined by visual artist Sheena Rose and jazz combo James De Lovell and Friends for Green Readings 2012 Pt. 2, this Saturday, June 23, at Folkestone Park from 3:30 p.m.