MaComere Volume 11 ISSN 1521-9968
Copyright 2009 by Hyacinth M. Simpson All rights reserved
Submission Criteria for MaComere:
MaComere is a refereed journal that is devoted to scholarly studies and creative works by and about Caribbean women in the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean diaspora. It is a journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS), an international organization founded in 1995. MaComere is published once per year in the fall. The webpage for MaComere is www.macomerejoumal.com.
Submissions of critical articles, creative writing, interviews, and book reviews in English, as well as in Spanish, French and Dutch, are invited, especially from members of ACWWS. All manuscripts should be submitted in triplicateon disc formatted in WordPerfect 6.1 (or higher) or Word 6.0 (or higher) and in two hard copies sent in the mail. Authors should submit no more than 5 poems and/ or 2 samples of prose fiction at any one time. Critical articles should not exceed 7,000 words and book reviews should be approximately 1,000 to 1,500 words in length. Authors should follow the most recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. All articles are refereed blind by at least two readers; consequently, the name(s) of the author(s) should appear only on a separate title page, which should also include the title(s) of work(s) submitted, street address, telephone, fax and email information and a brief biographical statement of no more than 50 words. A self-addressed envelope (SAE) with loose postage adequate for a letter notifying authors of our publication decision must be included with each submission. The journal does not accept unsolicited material that has been previously published. The editors reserve the right to amend phrasing and punctuation in articles and reviews accepted for publication.
All submissions and editorial correspondence should be sent to Hyacinth M. Simpson, Editor, MaComere, Department of English, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 2K3; telephone: 416-979-5000 ext. 6148; fax: 416-979-5110; e-mail: email@example.com.
Subscription rates for MaComere (including postage for regular mail): Individual: USD $25 per issue and USD $ 18 per back issue (Volumes 1 -5); Institutional: USD $35 per issue, USD $25 per back issue, USD $140 for 4-year subscription (beginning with Volume 6), and USD $130 for back issue bundle (1998-2002); members of ACWWS receive a single issue of MaComere with their yearly membership.
The editors do not assume responsibility for loss or damage to materials submitted. Nor do the editors, staff, or financial supporters assume any legal responsibility for materials published in the journal. Opinions expressed in contributions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors, staff, and the journal's financial supporters.
MaComere's Founding Editor: Jacqueline Brice-Finch
Cover image: LHemsza (HSrsza) Barjon, Les Porteuses, acrylic on board, 24 x 48 in (61 x 121.9 cm), 2005 Cover logo by Marcia L. Spidell Copyedited by Lisa LaFramboise Typeset by Sandra Caya
Printed in Canada by Hignell Book Printing, Manitoba
Table of Contents
Vol. 11 2009
About Our Name.................................................................................1
Hyacinth M. Simpson
From the Editor...................................................................................2
Ella Turenne "Dessalines's Legacy"......................................7
Oonya Kempadoo "Dollar-A-Pee"......................................19
Maria de Jesus Cordero
The Many Faces of Haiti in LHernsza Barjon's
Taitu Heron, Danielle Toppin, and Lana Finikin Sistren in Parliament: Addressing Abortion and Women's Rights Through Popular Theatre..........................45
Angelique V. Nixon
"We Have Something to Teach the World":
Erna Brodber's Blackspace, Building Community,
Unlayering the Body of History: Marlene Nourbese Philip's "A Genealogy of Resistance" in the Light of Contemporary Theories on Genealogy...............................80
Melody Boyd Carriere
Elaine Savory's The Cambridge Introduction
to Jean Rhys.......................................................................104
Alison Donnell's Twentieth-Century Caribbean
Literature: Critical Moments in Anglophone
Notes on Contributors..................................................................115
About Our Name
The word macomere is widely used by women in the Caribbean to mean "my child's godmother"; "my best friend and close female confidante"; "my bridesmaid, or another female member of a wedding party in which I was a bridesmaid"; "the godmother of the child to whom I am also godmother"; "the woman who, by virtue of the depth of her friendship, has rights and privileges over my child and is a surrogate mother." The word seemed appropriate as the name for the journal because it so clearly expresses the intimate relations which women in the Caribbean share, is so firmly gendered, and honours the importance of friendship in relation to the rituals of birth, marriage, and death.
Moreover, macomere is a word which, although related to the French language, has taken on a structure and meanings indigenous to the Caribbean. The word is spelled in this way (instead of as macume, makumeh, macoome, macomeh for example) so that the female connotations of the word are highlighted and those meanings which apply to males ("a womanish or gossipy man"; "a homosexual") are less obvious.
In those islands where Kreol (the linguistic term for the French patois) is the first language, the word is used in reference to both females and males, with meaning determined by the context. However, in some islands such as Trinidad where English has overlain Kreol, the Creole (linguistic term for the English patois) has incorporated the redundant my macome and macome man, thus reinforcing both the perceptions of intimacy and the female meanings associated with the word.
Interestingly, Richard Allsopp, in The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (Oxford University Press, 1996), has indicated the possibility that maku (which means midwife) in Belize is also derived from macomere. Hence, the word enables us to recall the continuities and correspondences in Caribbean languages and cultures, as well as the dynamic, creative, and transforming power of Creoles. In the English-speaking islands, the only comparable term is godmother (usually the mother's best friend). In the Hispanophone Caribbean, there is the similar comadre although, as we would expect, some of the connotations are different.
Join us in continuing to interrogate all the connotations of this culturally rich lexical item from the Caribbean.
Hyacinth M. Simpson
From the Editor
The devastating news of the earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010 hit the airwaves as this issue was going to press and quickly became the number one news item worldwide. For a time in the early days of 2010, all eyes were on the Caribbean; and the latest national calamity, this time wrought by Mother Nature, turned the spotlight on Haiti. The speedy arrival of rescue teams on Hispaniola, the outpouring of humanitarian aid, and pledges of disaster relief and post-earthquake reconstruction assistance from world leaders seemed to set a new tone for the international community's response to an often neglected and misunderstood nation. In the wake of the earthquake, the usual talk of Haiti as a "failed nation," although not totally abandoned (the extent of the structural devastation and the Haitian government's apparent paralysis in the immediate aftermath were seen in some quarters as evidence of the country's political and economic, if not moral, bankruptcy), appeared muted in the non-stop coverage of body count and images of the homeless and damaged historical buildings splayed across front pages, television screens, and the Internet. Indeed, the response seemed to extend beyond a collective shock and horror at the destruction to affirm our common humanity and the place of Haitians in the global brotherhood/sisterhood. Stories about people being pulled from the rubble long after it was thought impossible for anyone to have survived proved particularly potent in building fellow-feeling, as did well-publicized attempts, such as the star-studded MTV Network Hope for Haiti Now telethon broadcast on 22 January 2010 to raise funds for relief efforts in the beleaguered nation.
There is much that needs to be done beyond sympathizing with the plight of our fellow humans in their time of need, however. Now that the eyes of the world are again on Haiti, some hard truths about the causes and effects of the problems that assailed the country before the earthquake and that will still be there after interest in disaster relief efforts begin to fade need to be spoken; and those with the means to make change must heed. One does not have to look too hard to see that history continues to repeat itself. A "boat people" exodus out of Port-au-Prince, reminiscent of that of the 1990s, began just days after the earthquake, and once again the uncertainty of welcome in the United States, one of several intended ports of call, raises questions about the long and troubled history between the two countries and how such a relationship might be transformed. Other
FROM THE EDITOR
familiar patterns made more apparent by the earthquake have highlighted France's (another country well represented in the relief efforts alongside the US) historical associations with Haiti and how that relationship has impacted on the Caribbean nation's current state. How honestly the hard questions are tackledand Haiti's Caribbean neighbours are in no way exempted from having to ask and answer these questionswill help determine the extent of not only Haiti's reconstruction in the immediate post-earthquake period, but of her long-term success. It appears that some effort is being made to get this important process of reckoning underway. On 17 January 2010, less than a week after the earthquake, Sir Hilary Beckles, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies, announced plans for a conference themed "Rethinking and Rebuilding Haiti" in a commentary on the earthquake published in the Barbadian newspaper the Daily Nation. Such forums are a beginning, and will hopefully lead to sustained action alongside Haitians and on Haiti's behalf in the long term.
In what is admittedly a very small gesture, the editorial team of MaComere is dedicating this issue to Haiti and her people. Literature and the arts have always kept pace with, reflected, and oftentimes helped us envision possibilities not yet realized in our everyday world, and two of the pieces in this issue provide lenses through which we can again glimpse Haiti's past and begin to reimagine her future. Ella Turenne's short story "Dessalines's Legacy" takes us back to the time of the Revolution when black revolutionaries Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint L'Overture, Henri Christophe, and Bookman Duttymore than held their own against the Bonapartes and Rochambeaus and permanently altered the Americas through their bold action. The violence at the heart of the story, indicated in Dessalines's dismembered body, recalls the destruction, hopelessness, and despair with which Haitians have struggled ever since winning their freedom, but although the story is named for the former emperor, Defilee, the "mad" woman who legend/history tells us was his lover, is its heart. A figure who is reclaimed during periods of national crisis, Defilee becomes a powerful symbol of endurance and the strength and determination that can outlive any setback or calamity. Her grim act of lovegathering up and assembling her dead lover's/leader's torn remains so he can be buried with some dignityis a model for the tough task of rebuilding (structural, political, economic, social, artistic) that lies ahead for Haitians. The story leaves us thinking that another triumph may be on the horizon. The National Palace and other notable landmarks have suffered the effects of the earthquake, but history is still alive in the stories that we tell ourselves and future generations. Like Defilee, we know where the bodies are buried, and perhaps finding the meaning in and honouring those deaths is a step towards preventing future loss.
Maria de Jesus Cordero's reading of Haitian artist LHernsza Barjon's work, in particular paintings from the artist's 2004 The Descent of the Lwa collection, is a reminder of the resources available to Haitians at home and in the diaspora to speak to and of themselves. Reading the artist as heir to a long line of Haitians who have found inspiration in Vodou for their artistic expressiveness, Cordero highlights how Barjon's renditions of the Lwas and Vodou symbolism "offer Haitian women specifically, and African diaspora women more generally, powerfully rendered and positive female images." Indeed, Barjon is the first Haitian artist to have given face to the Lwa, and in so doing has successfully reconciled her visual aesthetics to her cultural matrix. It is fitting, then, that Barjon's painting Les Porteuses, a beautifully executed work depicting six women who are in the possession of the spirit and function as the memory loci, the bearers of cultural memory, is the cover image for this issue. Also among this issue's offerings is the delightfully humorous "Dollar-A-Pee," a short short story by the award-winning Guyanese author Oonya Kempadoo. In the "tek bad tings mek laugh" tone it adapts to a scenario that any woman who has used public toilets recognizes, Kempadoo's story reminds us that laughter has long been a survival tactic for Caribbean peoples. It is more than "kiff-kiff' laughter. In straitened times, it is not inappropriate to laugh out loud every now and then to relieve the tension, and thus Kempadoo's story is a fitting complement to the two pieces on Haiti.
With the two articles on Sistren Theatre Collective and Erna Brodber, the focus extends to Jamaica, another Caribbean nation that is undergoing its own kind of restructuring. In the first of the two, the restructuring is socio-legal and has ramifications for the lives of many local women. Taitu Heron, Danielle Toppin, and Lana Finikin recount a watershed moment when the feminist theatre collective intervened in parliamentary debates regarding proposed changes to the island's abortion laws. Speaking from and for communities of disadvantaged and politically voiceless women, the Sistren performers dared to offer a perspective on abortion that challenged gender and cultural stereotypes and reinserted the welfare and interests of affected women into the discussion. Heron, Toppin, and Finikin argue that "abortion [is] a public health matter and a critical area for women's rights" in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, and they hail Sistren's dramatic submission to Parliament for bringing "a powerful, yet previously missing, component of the debate: the pro-choice voices of working-class women . [and] a degree of balance to the discussion that has to be sustained." In the second of the two articles, Angelique Nixon suggests that the restructuring being undertaken is psycho-social, with Erna Brodber's knowledge productionthe kind that aids in "the constitution of selves and subjectivities"as the building blocks. Nixon articulates the
FROM THE EDITOR
connections between the "strategies for self-actualization and community-building among Caribbean people" evident in Brodber's fiction and her community-based, Educo-tourism research project called Blackspace; Nixon describes Brodber's body of work as a "discursive site of struggle" that offers an effective challenge to "the construction, consumption, and exploitation of images of New World Africans within colonial and neo-colonial discourses."
Discursive struggle is also a focus in Milena Rodella's reading of Nourbese Philip's "A Genealogy of Resistance," where she argues that Philip offers a rhizomatic model for "unlayering" the unofficial, unwritten history of Caribbean subalterns as an alternative to the traditional arboreal pattern of genealogy that "cannot accommodate the realities of Caribbean discourse and history." Another kind of discursive struggle emerges in Alison Donnell's Twentieth-Century Caribbean Literature: Critical Moments in Anglophone Literary History as reviewed by Kwame Dawes, who assesses Donnell's success in challenging established narratives of anglophone Caribbean literary history; while in her review of Elaine Savory's The Cambridge Introduction to Jean Rhys, Melody Boyd Carriere highlights some of the discursive contexts Savory identifies for the reading of Rhys's work and life.
The fiction, articles, and reviews in this issue are engaging and thought-provoking, and provide yet another opportunity for those interested in Caribbean studies, and in the work and experience of Caribbean women in particular, to explore the cultural and knowledge productions from and about the region. It is my pleasure, and that of the editorial team, to offer you another issue of MaComere.
The Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) Founded in 1995, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Hyacinth M. Simpson, Ryerson University
Pascale De Souza, George Mason University Heather Smyth, University of Waterloo
Manuscript Review and Advisory Editors
Carole Boyce Davies, Cornell University; Sarah Casteel, Carleton University; Merle Collins, University ofMaryland; Denise Decaires Narain, University of Sussex; Alison Donnell, University of Reading; Keith Ellis, University of Toronto; Evelyn Hawthorne, Howard University; Nalo Hopkinson, Writer; Kathleen Kellett-Betsos, Ryerson University; Anne Malena, University of Alberta; Katherine McKittrick, Queen's University; Heather Milne, University of Winnipeg; Pam Mordecai, Writer; Evelyn O'Callaghan, University of the West Indies (Cave Hill); Kate Quinn, University of London; Leslie Sanders, York University; Elaine Savory, New School University; Olive Senior, Writer; Karina Smith, Victoria University; Neil ten Kortenaar, University of Toronto; Alissa Trotz, University of Toronto.
Jenelle-Lara Gonzales, Ryerson University
Publication of MaComere is supported by the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts, the Office of the Vice President (Research & Innovation), the Department of English, and the Caribbean Research Centre at Ryerson University.
She couldn't believe how heavy the body was. What was left of it.
It wasn't the first time Defilee had to carry meat up a mountain, but this time the burden seemed so much heavier. Physically. Emotionally. She dragged her load across the dark earth, the dust kicking up in an attempt to envelope the bag and her body. Her feet dragged slowly, as if they were bearing the weight of the sack instead of her arms. Sweat crawled down her cheeks under the hot Caribbean sun. Or were they tears? She couldn't tell anymore. Defilee looked straight ahead, never flinching, not even to dodge the flies dancing around her head. She dared not peek into the tattered brown bag that carried the remains of Haiti's liberator, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
It wasn't that she couldn't stand the sight. After all, she used to sell meat for a living. And during the Revolution, there had been unimaginable times. Times when random arms and legs seemed to become part of the landscape like trees and bushes. No, the sight of what was left of Haiti's leader was not what was making her ill at ease. She had put his remains in the coarse canvas bag herself. That's just what they were. Remains. Meat, only more. The smell was almost more than she could bear, like burning, rotting meat. There was definitely no recognizing the mound of flesh that lay at Pont Rouge, where Dessalines lost his last battle against the very people he had fought to free.
MaComere 11 (2009): 7-18
The flecks of pinks, reds, and browns looked more like what the pigs ate than the body of a human being. Her only identifier was the gaudy diamond ring that stubbornly hung on to his pinkya pinky finger that was lying about a foot away from the rest of its tattered owner.
No, it wasn't that she couldn't stand the sight. She just couldn't accept the fact that Dessalines had died with no dignity. Not a shred of the strength and majesty embodied in this once great warrior was left. She knew that she could not just let him vanish from the Haitian memory so easily. The least she could do was make sure he had a proper burial. He had roamed wild on the earth while alive. Defilee had loved him for that. But she would be damned if his spirit roamed around wild too. No telling what could happen with a loose spirit.
She had seen the riot from far away and thought, if she neared, the peasants might devour her. She couldn't believe her eyes. Grown men among women and children dancing in the street, throwing rocks, screaming at the top of their lungs. So many people were shouting so many things that she couldn't make anything out. There was no way to know if it was a celebration or a massacre. They were all circling around one particular area, but what or who was in that area she could not make out. So she waited. She waited for a moment when it seemed the crowd had thinned out. The adults eventually left, but the small children still danced wildly around the mashed carcass that finally became visible once the live grown-up bodies were gone. Defilee wondered whose death could be making them rejoice so. They acted the way everyone had on Independence Day. Those were the days. There was hope in the air. Joy. Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite. Freedom. Anything seemed possible after the victory that followed the ten-plus years of savage struggle. What could be making them as happy as that? Defilee wondered. She approached the children, eager to discover what the commotion was about.
One of the children saw her coming and yelled out to the rest, "Look! It's the madwoman! Defilee la Folle!"
Then they all began chanting: "Defilee, Defilee, Defilee, Defilee!"
TURENNE DESSALINES'S LEGACY
"Don't you all have anything better to do," she shouted, waving her arms wildly. "What is going on here?"
The children began jumping up and down screaming giddily. One of the girls came up to her, a look of glee in her eyes.
"Dessalines! Dessalines! It is Dessalines!" she said leaping back to the others.
Defilee looked over to where the mangled mass lay. Her eyes, usually wide and stormy, turned calm. She walked slowly over to Dessalines and sunk to meet his body. "Dessalines," she said to herself. "What have they done? How did this happen? You finally lost a battle. How could they do this to you? You who saved them? You who would have given your life? You who wanted black people to be masters of their own destiny? You, the strong, the brave, the unwavering? How could they do this!" Defilee was overcome. Overcome with grief. Sorrow. Anger. Love. She wailed into the air, her cries piercing through the shouts and taunts of the children who promptly scattered away. Left alone, she slumped over the bloody mess and wept.
What she saw was a barbarous sight, and she thought it ironic that everyone thought she was crazy. Yes, Defilee la Folle. Defilee the Madwoman. That's what they called her. But how crazy were they to have taken their ruler into the middle of the street so they could beat and dismember his body? How crazy was it that even after freedom, the peasants' only solution to problems was violence? Even after independence, fighting still seemed to be the norm. There was fighting in the north, fighting in the south, fighting among mulat-toes and blacks. The Revolution was supposed to have brought freedom. Defilee had always thought that freedom meant breaking free from the colonizers and from the inner demons buried deep within the people. To gain freedom they all had to work together, like it or not. But after all was said and done, that didn't seem to matter. It was like the anger and torment was ingrained in the soul of the peoplethe one part of them that would never be free.
They didn't call her crazy for nothing. The people whispered that she lost her sanity because of all she had been though as a slavehearing her brothers and father undergo torture, knowing they had been murdered by Rochambeau's army, being raped by her master before she had reached womanhood. All this had made her lose her mind. So they said. Defilee knew the gods were looking after her. Public opinion did not matter to her. Besides, being thought of as crazy saved her the trouble of always having to retell the gruesome details. She walked around half the time in a mindless stupor, the other half talking out loud to the gods. She did not care what she looked like. Sometimes, when the spirit really wanted its time, she couldn't remember a thing about where she had been, who she had talked to, or what battles she had fought. She found people's reaction to her unorthodox acts amusing and fded each away in her memory. On days when the turn of events were unbearable, she would pull out a memory and a nervous energy would fill her, causing her to laugh out loud hysterically. In those hysterical moments, the pain would disappear. No one else had been there to comfort her, except for Dessalines, and he was always off in one of his many lakous, planning the next attack and building up the morale of the others. Her pain was hers alone, so her way of dealing with it would be hers alone as well, no matter what people thought.
Even these memories did not help her filter the pain now. She finally realized she was tired of war. Tired of fighting and struggle. Tired of ignorance. It was struggle that had kept her alive all these years. The struggle to be free. Now that everyone had it, at least superficially, it would seem like struggle would be a thing of the past. But in the days and months and years that slowly passed after independence, Defilee experienced struggle like no other time in her life. The people were struggling against each other. And now, with Dessaline's remains in one hand and her sanity in the other, she wondered if it was finally time to let them both go.
Defilee stopped climbing to wipe her forehead. "So this is what it has come to," she remarked. She didn't know how things had gotten so bad. She
TURENNE DESSALINES'S LEGACY
was high enough on the mountain where she could see far into the countryside. She remembered when it used to be green. Green like the skin of a ripe plantain. Now it was dull brown, with patches of olive-coloured shrubbery here and there. The effects of the Revolution had long left it unusable, and there was no one willing to help cultivate it. "We are paying from all sides," Defilee used to tell Dessalines when he wondered why the country was not progressing. "We are paying because they are enraged that we won our freedom. They didn't give it to us. We won it, and for that we will always pay." Dessalines thought that he could make Haiti rich again on its own, but Defilee knew what she wouldn't dare to admit even to herself. They needed help. But to whom could they turn? Not to the wretched French. Not after how they had pillaged them. The United States? She didn't trust them either. For all the help Haiti had given them, they turned their back when it suited them. And because of all this, the land was suffering. The only hope for survival was dying right before their very eyes. To compensate, peasants had begun to crowd and form pockets in certain parts of the country where a life could be made without working the land. She thought to herself that in those places it would be so crowded that before long people would be using each other's arms for pillows.
Defilee closed her eyes. Her nostrils filled with mountain air. At least that had not been tainted by war. It felt as if she was breathing in a cloud, like she was breathing in the colour white. Dense, misty, and pure.
She opened her eyes and looked up at the sky. That was another reason why people thought she was crazy. Defilee was always looking up at the sky. She loved the fact that she couldn't see the end of it. To her it represented so much possibility. Haiti used to be like that. It was a place where the idea of freedom was a fantastic notion. Everyone believed in that notion and one day, it became reality. But as soon as it became real, fantasy flourished once again under the rule of men who were too hungry for the rewards their struggles had reaped. She had warned Dessalines about that, but he never wanted to listen. Instead he would laugh, throw her a rough kiss, and return to his wife.
And where was she, Dessalines's wife? Where was Marie-Claire now? Where was she when her husband's body needed care? She who always nursed those in need? Defilee had heard that she had done much good for the people, but now, as her husband lay in an unrecognizable heap, she was nowhere. She sucked her teeth. Defilee refused to be a wife. She knew she had too much fire to be taking orders from anyone. One of the great advantages of being able to wander with Dessalines's army was that she had no one to answer to, not even Dessalines himself. All the soldiers would come running at his call and tremble at the sound of their names being catapulted from his lips, but she remained calm in his presence. What was there to be afraid of? She had known Dessalines for so long. Defilee would never admit to anyone that she loved Dessalines, but it was hard not to see what existed between them. She remembered seeing him on her plantation many times before the Revolution began, sometimes because his master had him there to lend a hand and sometimes because he had snuck away to meet with other slaves to plan revolts. He always acknowledged her, and she always felt a hot energy emanating from her chest because of those acknowledgements. But she was never afraid, not even after the first time she formally met him. This, of course, only added to her reputation as a madwoman. It was thought that anyone who was not fearful of Dessalines and his larger-than-life personality surely had to be crazy.
She sat down on the dried mountain grass, adjusting herself until it no longer pricked her bottom, exposed under her tattered dress. She looked at the bag and ran her hand along its coarse surface. She felt spirit energy, the familiar urge, come over her. She could not hold it in.
"Woa mezmi! Yo tiye Dessalines mwe!"
"They killed my Dessalines!"
Her cry echoed through that mountainscape as she began to laugh hysterically. Her arms reached up to the heavens. The tears began to fall again. The energy seemed to suck on her, pulling her body towards the bag. She lay
TURENNE DESSALINES'S LEGACY
there on top of it, inhaling deeply, trying to find the scent of the man she once knew and still loved.
"Ki kote wa prale?"
"Where are you going?" the tall, shadowed figure demanded. The blade of his sword was floating only inches from her breasts.
"Who wants to know?" Dedee responded, not even looking at her inquirer. She wasn't looking but she could hear. He let out a hearty laugh.
"This woman must be crazy," he shouted back to the men who were already laughing vigorously. "She does not know that when Jean-Jacques Dessalines asks, you answer. So I'll ask again, and the next time, I won't stop at your bosom. You never know who is who these days."
She looked up to see who this incredibly cocky man was. It was hard to make anything out in the evening light, but as her eyes adjusted, she was able to make out his familiar features. He was not necessarily handsome, but he had a memorable face. His skin, although darker in the night light, was at least a deep brown, the same color as his cocoa-coloured eyes. His eyebrows seemed to form a bridge across his forehead, his eyes bobbing above his cheeks trying to not touch the hairs. His thick lips followed the arch of his eyebrows, the upper portion matching them perfectly. His wide nose shone with sweat from the heat. He was standing dangerously close to her and she could smell more of him than she cared to. He smelled of sweat and liquor. Where he had gotten the latter from was anyone's guess, but she had her own stashes, which she was not willing to share with anyone. His fragmented clothes hugged his body, revealing the outline of his well-developed thighs and calves. They left his arms and part of his chest exposed in the dim moonlight. Striking, but not necessarily handsome, she thought.
So this was the now famous Dessalines, she thought. She had seen him so many times from a distance that it almost unnerved her to be that close to
him. She defiantly stepped aside out of reach of the blade and walked towards the centre of the makeshift camp that she guessed Dessalines had set up with the help of these other men. Who were these men? Rebels? Recruits? What was he doing out here in the deepest part of the mountain forest? The men seemed like a band of inexperienced wanderers. She looked around at their excuse for a camp: a measly fire that was trying to put itself out, and some rags that had been laid out. For sleeping, most likely. If they had been out in this area of the country for any longer than a couple of weeks, it was a wonder that they were surviving at all. As she walked towards the puny fire, she continued to look Dessalines in the eye. He said not a word.
Yes, she had heard all about his recent activities. A ruthless general of Toussaint's army. Not afraid of anyone and hot tempered. A runaway slave. A barbarian. The slave she once knew was no longer. This Dessalines was a leader, not a follower.
"I sell around here, so if you want to eat, you have to go through me," she said. "It would be good to treat me better than you have done. So, now, I will give you another chance." Dessalines looked at her with a brief expression of shock she suspected his men hadn't noticed. They began to quiet down, waiting for their fearless leader to do away with this nuisance of a woman. Instead, he approached her slowly.
"I know you. Your name is Dedee isn't it? You're that crazy woman that wanders around."
"Do you believe everything they tell you, Dessalines? I don't think that would help you win any battles." His eyebrows, almost one solid line, rose to the right.
"I believe what I see." He stepped back and looked her up and down. "And from the looks of it, people are right."
"Well, if you want to believe that, then you can starve and let the animals ravage your body here in this godforsaken place." She turned to leave. Dedee refused to be taken for a fool, especially in front of this band of nobodies.
TURENNE DESSALINES'S LEGACY
Tampi pou li if Dessalines wanted to think she was crazy. She was part of the Revolution too, and she would not be thought of as any less than a warrior, no matter who it was.
"What do you have," he barked.
"Meat. Enough for days. Looks like you need some. From your eyes, not your body." She looked around at his crew. "Your men," she laughed, "are another story." Some of the men, understanding the snide comment, immediately rose to arms. Dessalines, feeling their heated arousal, lifted his sword in the air.
"You will stay to provide us with food."
"If I choose. What's in it for me?" Dedee inquired.
"For you?" Dessalines laughed again. "You can travel with us. We will be your permanent customers." She thought about this. She looked around. They looked like they hadn't seen a woman in months. Could be a bad situation. She didn't even know who they really were or what they were up to. Only Dessalines's reputation gave the rest of them any ounce of credibility. With the Revolution raging on, Dessalines had been right about one thing. There was no telling who was who and who was on whose side. But she had been in worse situations and could handle herself. If it meant being able to wander around as she pleased, protected and not searching for customers, it might not be a bad deal.
"Ok," she said, sitting down on an unoccupied rock. "But I have demands." Dessalines, who had begun walking away, suddenly stopped and slowly turned around.
"Demands?" he chuckled. "No one said you were allowed to make demands."
"Well, then, you can starve. You will not find anything to eat over here." With that, she got up to leave for a second time.
"Wait," she heard him mutter. She smiled to herself. Men and their stomachs. It worked every time.
"Do not leave."
"I have one demand," she stated frankly. "I do not take orders from anyone." Dessalines looked at her. He looked at his men. They looked back at him with hungry eyes.
"And if we agree to this... demand, you will stay with us? You understand we are in battle. We fight for liberty to the death. If you accept our journey, you must accept these dangers. It is no place for a woman." She walked right up to him.
"Man, I am no ordinary woman. I have already laid down my life for Ayiti. You are not the only one who craves freedom. I dream of it every second of the day. And there are more like me. I am no ordinary woman, know that."
"I am seeing that," Dessalines said, smiling mischievously, looking straight into her wild and dancing eyes. Dedee thought that with the smile he could actually graduate to good-looking. Still not handsome, though.
"Fine. We will agree to your . demand. Now, we eat." Dessalines turned on his heel and began walking away.
"Dedee Bazile," she shouted after him.
"What?" he said, pausing, but not turning.
"My name is Dedee Bazile." Dessalines, for a third time, was forced to turn around and walk over to Dedee. This time, he came over and stood extremely close to her, as if to intimidate her. She knew that was what he was trying to do, but she was not fazed. She could smell him again. She caught a hint of tobacco this time, probably stolen from whatever plantation they had last raided. The raids were probably their source of survival. Mixed in with the sweat and tobacco was a hint of parsley. Its fragrance, however crude, tried to overpower the sweat and tobacco to no avail. But, she noted, it was a good attempt on his part to retain some sense of humanity in the wild.
"Dedee Bazile," he said moving in closer. She could feel his breath on her lips, even though he was at least half a foot or so taller than she was. She could
TURENNE DESSALINES'S LEG A CY
feel that strange spirit energy welling up inside her, the one that always decided to surface in uncomfortable situations. When the spirit energy took hold of her, there was nothing she could do but laugh hysterically, which she began doing at that moment. She began backing away from Dessalines and he in turn became frustrated and stomped away, grumbling something about her being crazy.
Defilee sat at the edge of her labour looking at the mound of fresh dirt that she had dug and replaced over Dessalines's torn body. With him went the last person who remembered her as Dedee Bazile. Who she used to be. With him went any hope that there would be forward movement. In Ayiti. In her life. She did not know where to go next. She had always been able to go to him, even during those moments when it seemed like he did not have time. Even when the chaos of revolution seemed to consume both of them she would always find him somehow, no matter where he was; and after her long journey, she would collapse into his arms, whispering what she had heard from the corners of the land. He always listened intently, sharing his plans, asking her opinion. Where would she go now? Before, there was a place where her journey would end. And then a place where her journey could begin again. There seemed to be no beginning now. Only end. Only this. Dirt and flesh.
She lay over the mound of dirt and began to sob again. It was a deep sob she had not experienced since the day she learned that her brothers and sons had been murdered. She never thought she would ever experience that kind of loss again, and she didn't know if she had the strength to recover from it. She knew she had never really recovered from her first set of losses. But this, this might just be too much.
She tried to remember what she had done after that ugly night. Maybe that would help her pick up and move on. It was a night she had tried to block from memory, but one that kept coming back to her night after night. She remembered that was when she began to be overtaken by the spirit, wandering around, looking for the bodies of her sons and brothers. Once she found them, mutilated beyond recognition, her grief shot itself out of her body towards the
heavens and seemed to re-enter her body again where it seemed to have never left. The spirits did not let her bury those remains. She had been too overcome to focus that much. The sight of those mangled bodies continued to haunt her day and night. She was glad she had not witnessed the actual attack on Dessalines's body. She didn't think she would be able to contain any more horrifying memories. She wouldn't let his body haunt her too. Defilee knew she had to bury him.
The only way is to make peace, Defilee thought to herself. Make peace and make sure people do not forget. They cannot forget that we fought for freedom. Today they mock Dessalines, but tomorrow they must remember that it was he who freed them. They must remember that she was there fighting. They must remember there were other women who took up arms to liberate this land.
She patted the dry land. Was this freedom worth all this pain? She looked up. Of course it was. She and Dessalines had shared a vision, a vision that any black person could and should be free. A vision that a man and a woman could own their land. Live on their own land. That a man and a woman and their children could have pride in their own country. That they could have a home. A home that was theirs and paid for by a sacred pact of blood to the gods. No one could take that away. It was not time to give up on that now, Defilee resolved. No, not even with Dessalines's body gone. His body was dead, but his soul was not. His ideas were not. His actions were not. And as long as she lived, she would make sure that this idea of freedom never died, even if it meant she had to wander and shout it out in every town in Ayiti.
At dusk, Defilee found the energy to get up and walk away from the grave. She did not look back. She had made her peace, and it was a chapter closed. She had shed enough tears for the day. She just had to move on, like she had done so many times before. She reminded herself that things could be worse. She still had her freedom. Everyone around her had died, but freedom, that was the one thing that never would.
Always a dollar for the Ladies. Drop it in the hand of the woman guarding the entrance. A big woman. She collects all day. And usually has a friend hanging around to chat with. Sometimes he sits and puts his hand out for the dollars so she could take a break. Or sometimes she sits opposite chatting with him while she's on her break. She has a waistband pouch strapped on, one with lots of zips. The dollar collectors usually have these. When a visitor drops a US dollar into the hand, no change comes back, no word except maybe "Thank you." I always wonder if I should tell the visitor that it's a local dollar, half or one sixth of their dollar. But the dollar lady is making a living and it's not deliberate swindling. Besides, they most probably pay a dollar a pee in the US too. In England in some places it's a pound a pee. Or one quid, as they like to call it. That's a lot for a pee. But inside these places, like Harrods and so on, the bathrooms smell like fabric softener and they have plush, cushy stools to sit on to do your make-up, although no one sits on them except the cleaning ladies. And they have hand cream and sometimes perfume sprays. Not like the hot and steamy, diaper-fumes Boots or Safeway's Ladies with their Tampax machines. The thing is, though, that in these countries, there's always a Ladies handy. There's even some where there are ladies inside the Ladies, opening the tap for you, squeezing the soap for you, offering towels, sprays, mints with long fancy nails and lots of make-up on and other ladies to chat with. And
MaComere 11 (2009): 19-21
you always know that these inside ladies are scratinizing and gossiping about you and all the peeing ladies. Once there was a black-and-red-haired girl, in a posh restaurant Ladies, sitting cocked off on the sink counter, chewing gum and giving out towels, looking like she could bite you. They expect a dollar, a pound, or a tip, too. At Maracas Beach in Trinidad, there is a booth that they hide in. And sometimes there's no one in there. But if you think you see no one and go walking in, the dollar lady would holler at you, "Hey! Where you going? Is a dollar!" And you'd feel embarrassed because anyone hearing might think you're trying to sneak a free pee.
The state that some ladies leave the facilities in is atrocious. I agree. That's why, I guess, they started up this dollar-a-pee thing. But in most places, like airports, the cleaners are hardworking and discreet. Doing their job like it's any other job in the world. Brisk, sturdy, Latino ladies with bunches of keys and cell phones hooked onto their belts, barking their language across the aluminum stalls to each other. In the Caribbean now, these cleaners hate the job and cuss women daily. Shouting while there's ladies locked in their stalls. "Some women too damn nasty!" Slamming a door open. Deliberately freezing pee streams. "Nastiness! Where they living, why they so stink? Eh? Tell me, what kind of woman would do this? Latrines! They should stay in they stinking latrine!" These cleaning ladies are well dressed, complete with cell phones too, or in uniform. And after they've finished chatting with the dollar lady by the door, would saunter in and start pushing open cubicle doors cautiously with a mop stick, peering inuntil offensive evidence is found and then loud sounds of disgust erupt. This is not their job, no! Some announce they can't tolerate it and storm out, glaring at whoever is washing their hands and watching through the mirror. They will spit outside and find a co-worker to vent with, before returning just before the shift ends.
In a local mall, a tough, police-trainee kind of cleaner lady came cussing out of a cubicle. She had enough. She can't take on this slackness anymore. Mudda's ass, she not taking it. So she locked the doors. As the toilets became vacant, she locked all but two of the doors. And put an "Out of Order"
sign by the criminal one. Then she braced up, rocking against the wall near the hand dryer. "I want to see what the fuckers will do now, yuh bitch. Every time you cleantwo twosis nastiness again. I want to see now . ." As ladies came in and tried all the locked doors, she rocked menacingly and they dared not ask her anything at all. A line began to form and the ladies asked each other what was going on, why are all the toilets locked? When someone came out of the unlocked stall, the police cleaner stopped the next pee lady as she tried to enter. "Wait!" She pushed the door wider and checked. "Okay, go." The woman who had just come out cut her a look. The police cleaner sniffed. "Enough is enough. I don't care who say what. Is the same ones who does do it." She directed some more traffic and checked again. "Oh ho!" "Heh." "All-you lucky!" she punctuated between toilets. And the growing line of ladies only grumbled and stewed. One woman turned and walked back out after realizing the situation, exclaiming that this is pure shitto put up with policing, after you have to pay a damn dollar for a pee. "Why we have to put up with shit so?"
THE MANY FACES OF HAITI IN LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
MARIA DE JESUS CORDERO
To the people of Haiti, in memory of those who suffered and perished in the earthquake and to all those who will continue to survive
LHernsza Barjon, a renowned Haitian painter whose work is featured on the cover of this issue, was born in Port-au-Prince in 1958.1 She was the elder of two daughters born to Rudolphe Antoine Ligonde and Jeanne Castera. At eleven years old, she began to experience visions of the Lwa or Vodou spirits that filled her imagination and inspired her to write. When her immediate family members inquired as to what she was doing, she would explain that she was writing letters to "friends." In order to deter her from this activity, her upper-class mulatto family exerted psychological pressure by insinuating that she was going mad. Out of fear, Barjon blocked the gateway she had opened to the Lwa and turned her attention to more socially acceptable forms of artistic expression such as patchwork, painting on decorative fabric, and artistic handicraft.2 Her mother determined that she should study art and, when she was eighteen years old, Barjon began frequenting the studios of the internationally renowned Ecole de la Beaute masters Bernard Sejourne and Jean-Claude Legagneur.
She did not, however, study in an art school as Sejourne and Legagneur had done. While Barjon was profoundly influenced by Sejourne and Legag-
MaComere 11 (2009): 22-44
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
new, as we shall see, she was not satisfied with what they had to offer and sought her own form of artistic expression. Her primary source of inspiration in her paintings (mostly acrylic on board, canvas, or wood) is her passion for the Vodou religion of the Haitian masses, which was reignited by her reading of Deita's (Mercedes Foucard Guignard's) La legende des loa: Vodou haitien (1993; 2003) and which she has been able to express more openly in the Haitian diaspora in Miami, where she currently resides with her husband and their two children.3 While, as I will demonstrate, Vodou figures prominently in Barjon's art and an appreciation of the way in which she engages with the Haitian religion is necessary to any discussion of her work, it is also important to situate her work within a larger context of the history of Haitian painting.
Probably the most well-known artistic movement associated with Haiti to date is that of the "intuitives," which was promoted by Western talent scouts and art patrons who helped establish the Centre d'Art in the 1940s. Barjon's style is directly impacted by the developments in visual art expression, including increased validation of Vodou as source and subject that emerged as a result of the intuitive movement. One of a very few Haitian women artists who have achieved prominence (both locally and internationally), Barjon offers Haitian women specifically, and African diaspora women more generally, powerfully rendered and positive female images, many of which are influenced by Vodou beliefs and practices. In the Caribbean, popular religions have long provided visual artists with a rich reservoir from which to draw material for their work, particularly as these religions tend to have a strong visual component and employ a wide variety of ritual and symbolic objects and images. In the case of Vodou, the assort or sacred rattle used by the houngan or manbo (the priest or priestess) to invoke the Lwa (spirits), the curative spirit bundles and Vodou dolls, the tanbou or sacred drums, the ritual flags that represent the various Vodou societies, the veve or intricate ground drawings made with cornmeal, flour, or gunpowder, and the paintings of the Lwa on the walls of most Vodou temples are, as Phyllis Galembo details in Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti, among the objects most often referenced in art (60-77). In fact, many well-known artists began as makers of ceremo-
nial objects and images before crossing over, with the encouragement of foreign art patrons, into the gallery system. Among the major intuitive painters, Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948), Robert Saint-Brice (1893-1973), Andre Pierre (1916-2005), and Lafortune Felix (b. 1933) were Vodou priests before becoming artists; and many others have been active practitioners.
The centrality of Vodou to Haitian visual arts in the 1940s came about not only as a result of Western patronage but also as a consequence of local resistance to the small but powerful urban-based mulatto elite who, after the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), maintained a strong linguistic and cultural connection to France, as well as an affiliation with the Catholic Church. This elite group sought to repress the Vodou religion so important in the daily lives of the rural masses who spoke Kreyol and adhered to an Africa-based culture and religious belief system. The actions of the elites culminated in the anti-superstition campaigns of 1925-1930 and 1941-1942, during which temples and religious objects were desecrated and often destroyed, and priests and practitioners were persecuted. Seeking to put an end to the violence and the cultural racism, the Haitian scholar Jean Price-Mars (1876-1969), as Charles Arthur and J. Michael Dash recount in A Haitian Anthology: Libete, urged the acceptance of Vodou and the Kreyol language as positive and necessary elements of an authentic, Africa-based Haitian national identity (258). Price-Mars's 1928 collection of essays, Ainsiparla I'oncle (Thus Spoke the Uncle), became the seminal text of Haitian indigenism; and, as Veerle Poupeye explains in Caribbean Art, while indigenism was primarily a literary movement, it had a profound impact on the visual arts (65).
In 1939, Haiti's first modern artist, Petion Savain (1906-1973), published an illustrated novel called La case de Damballah (Damballah's Shack) that reflected the ideas of Price-Mars and included, for the first time, Vodou-related images as emblems of a Haitian national identity. While anti-Vodou sentiments and persecution have never fully disappeared, the practice of Vodou was legalized in 1946, and the legal foothold has ensured its influence on both mainstream and lesser-known Haitian art from the 1940s to the present, as evident in Barjon's work. Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948) was among
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
the foremost artists who created under the auspices of the Centre d'Art, which was founded by the American watercolourist DeWitt Peters with the support of the Haitian government. Hyppolite was a third-generation houngan who initially painted images of the Lwa for his Vodou shrines with brushes made of chicken feathers and earned a living as a furniture and house painter. He became widely known for his representations of the major Lwa and the rituals associated with their worship, which he rendered with significant artistic license (Poupeye 81-82). In The Great Master (1946-1948), for instance, Hyppolite depicted an enigmatic, regal figure with a double nose and three eyes that seems to have no antecedent in the history of Haitian painting. This central figure, the great master, appears to be a houngan in the process of initiating two sevite into the level of hounsi kanzo (a higher level of konnesans or spiritual knowledge) by means of a fire ceremony called brulerzin or "burning pots." The fire that heats the three terracotta pots is reinforced by the artist's use of vibrant colours throughout, a strategy that accentuates the hallucinatory aspect of the image.4 Like Hyppolite, Barjon utilizes vibrant colours and considerable artistic freedom at times to give material expression to the Lwa, and occasionally her artwork is reminiscent of Hyppolite's. However, not wishing to be restricted to the intuitive style, Barjon more often exhibits control and a mastery of technique in the execution of her vision of the Lwa. She also experiments increasingly with surrealism and abstraction, such that her representations of the Lwa never cease to surprise and amaze.
Robert Saint-Brice (1893-1973), who was also a houngan, joined the Centre d'Art in 1949, a year after the death of Hyppolite. Like Hyppolite, Saint-Brice depicted the Vodou Lwa in his paintings. Saint-Brice's images of the Lwa, however, had a more ethereal quality about them due to the intuitive, spontaneous gestures of his brushstrokes. He created blots, stains, and splashes, and sometimes applied blobs of paint straight from the tube. His spontaneous application of paint gave his images a uniquely haunting quality. In paintings such as Reve Loa (Dream of the Lwa; 1960s),5 Saint-Brice caused considerable controversy by identifying Ezili Freda,6 the Vodou goddess of love, with the black Madonna. Saint-Brice's spontaneity and his deviation
from the representational style in an attempt to render more enigmatic images of the Lwa have positioned him as a precursor of the artists of the Saint Soleil School, which became important in Haiti in the early 1970s (Poupeye 82). As will become evident later in the essay, Barjon came to Saint Soleil through the influence of the Haitian artist Tiga. The vibrant colours, elongated figures, and ethereal quality of her 2005 painting Les Porteuses1 (The Bearers) (see fig. 1 and the cover of this issue), can be viewed as a tribute to Saint Soleil.
Like many Centre d'Art and other Haitian artists who were forced by harsh economic conditions and the lack of access to conventional art materials to improvise, thereby transforming the most untoward material into beautiful objects that made artistic statements, the blacksmith Georges Liautaud (1899-1991) recycled scrap metal to make wrought iron crosses in the Croix-des-Bouquets cemetery. The crosses brought him to the attention of DeWitt Peters, who encouraged him to experiment with new materials and develop his sculptures. Liautaud transformed his crosses into crucifixes whose central figure, at close examination, was both Christ and Legba at the crossroads between life and death. Later, his crucifixes were elaborated into Lwahuman figures in a state of possessionand sacrificial animals. Liautaud's sculptures have a certain fluidity about them, reflecting the Vodou belief that all forms are in transit. As Donald Cosentino explains in his introduction to the catalogue produced for the 2005 exhibit "Lespri Endepandan: Discovering Haitian Sculpture,"
Liautaud shapes fluid divinities. Ogou flows into his horse ... reminding us that size does matter: a great lwa demands iron dimensions broad enough to encompass her worshippers. Note the fluidity of the serviteurs at the foot of "Cavalry" . The crucified god is static, but the bodies of his serviteurs curve into the kinetic force field of the crossroads where all possessions take place. Liautaud also tugs his animal sculptures: "Cow," "Goat," "Donkey" . into ambiguous or amorphous shapes. They are baka: beings who transmute from human to animal to divine form, just as sacrifice transfuses animal blood into divine essences. (12)
Perhaps Liautaud's greatest achievement was his ability to represent spirit possession, the process by which the Lwa replaces the gwo bon anj or animating principle of an individual.8 Figure 2 shows his sculpture Danbala
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
(c. 1959), where Danbalawho is the Lwa of wisdom, wealth, and luck, and is typically depicted as a snakepossesses a female serviteur. The forms of the woman and the snake meld into one another such that it is impossible to discern where the one ends and the other begins.9 Although Barjon works in a different medium, her painted figures resemble Liautaud's sculpted ones in their treatment of spirit possession. In Barjon's Les Porteuses, for example, the svelte figures of the possessed female devotees have a fluidity about them that is reminiscent of Liautaud's sculpture Danbala. Part of the 2004 The Descent of the Lwa collection, Barjon's painting Haiti ou Asson (Haiti or Asson) in figure 3 is an ingenious representation of a female serviteur who, as the serpentine beads encasing her rounded, ossow-like belly and breasts suggest, is also possessed by Danbala. Barjon's focus on female images and women's experiences extends to her representations of spirit possession, where she provides a uniquely gendered perspective by making her serviteurs invariably female. Because of their humble origins, Liautaud and other intu-itives could more easily embrace and give artistic expression to their Vodou beliefs within Haiti whereas, because of her family's more privileged position within Haitian society, Barjon ironically did not fully know this freedom until she joined the Haitian diaspora in Miami.
While Haitian art clearly came to be dominated by the intuitive movement in the late 1940s, it is important to note that in the mid-1940s painters of Haiti's elite class such as Lucien Price (1915-1963) and Luce Turnier (1924-1994) had become absorbed in modernism. Even though the intuitive movement was instrumental in bringing to the fore many talented Haitian painters, over time the concern was raised that Haitian art was becoming too prescriptive in response to the demands of the western art market. A long struggle for Haitian independence in the visual arts ensued, led at different times by modernist painters, by the founders of the Ecole de la Beaute, and by Jean-Claude Garoute (1935-2006), who is more commonly known as Tiga. In fact, while he continued to produce indigenist paintings,10 Price was the first Caribbean painter, as Poupeye (65-66) points out, to experiment with full abstraction. However, the modernist work of painters such as Price and
Turnier were not considered authentic by international art patrons who wanted to limit artists to the intuitive style. In 1950, a number of mostly modernist painters, including Price and several former intuitive painters such as Dieudonne Cedor (b. 1925), separated from the Centre d'Art and founded the Foyer des Arts Plastiques, which gave rise to a new style of social realist painting. The often violent, surreal, and abstract images characteristic of the work of Bernard Wah (1939-1981) emerged from this tradition. The social realist style in Wah's work and that of his contemporaries often reflected the anxieties of the Jean-Claude Duvalier ("Baby Doc") era.
Barjon has herself experimented with a number of different styles, including surrealism and abstraction, but rather than adhere to any one style, she places them all in the service of the Lwa or spirits. In other words, Barjon utilizes the various artistic styles as needed to render the Lwa more visible and knowable to the Haitian people, as well as to the international community. Barjon's paintings in the modernist style include the 2005 painting Racine (Root), which in its modernist complexity calls, with seeming irony, for simplicity and a return to one's roots; the various paintings of the Kaleidoscope series (2005) that emphasize the modernist concern with multiple perspectives; Cracked Open (c. 2006), which posits modernity as a rape or violation; and Rassembler les eaux (Collecting the Water) and O Soleil (O Sun), both from The Descent of the Lwa, in which a new creation is rendered by making an unexpected connection between two or more seemingly disparate objects (for instance, watermelon seeds and fish eyes; a clock, a face, and the sun). In the social realist vein, Barjon produced in 2006 Inspiration juste (Just Inspiration), Exigence (Demand), in which a mother with octopus-like arms fiercely clasps her children to her bosom, and a startling rendition of Ezili Danto. There is a vigorous surrealist strain apparent in works such as La Lumiere ou lampe bobeche (The Light or Lamp Base) from The Descent of the Lwa in figure 4 and in L 'Indigo (Indigo) and Birth Mark, both from 2006.
In a stylistic departure from the work emerging among the Foyer des Arts Plastiques, the paintings of artists such as Gesner Armand (1936-2008) and Bernard Sejourne (1947-1994) revealed a marked tendency towards sur-
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
Fig. 1. LHernsza Barjon [Haitian], Les Poneuses [acrylic on board, 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)], 2005, Collection of LHernsza Barjon; photo courtesy of LHernsza Barjon.
Fig. 2. Georges Liautaud [Haitian], Danbala [cut Fig. 3. LHernsza Barjon [Haitian], Haiti ou Asson
and forged metal, 26 1/8 x 12 3/8 in. (66.36 x 31.43 [acrylic on canvas, 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)],
cm)], c. 1959, Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of 2004, Collection of LHernsza Barjon; photo
Richard and Ema Flagg M1991.168; photo courtesy of LHernsza Barjon. courtesy of Milwaukee Art Museum.
Fig, 4. LHernsza Barjon [Haitian], La Lumiere ou lampe bobeche [acrylic on board, 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)], 2004, Collection of LHernsza Barjon; photo courtesy of LHernsza Barjon.
Fig. 6. LHernsza Barjon [Haitian], Ezili Frida Dahome [acrylic on board, 24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)], 2004, Collection of LHernsza Barjon; photo courtesy of LHernsza Barjon.
Fig. S. .1 tun-kino JinniK- [Haitian], Woman with Pigeon [oil on canvas, (dimensions unknown)], 1971, Jerome Galleries, Port-au-Prince; photo courtesy of Mireille Jerome.
Fig. 7. Levoy Exil [Haitian], Water Spirits [acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)], 1991, HaitianArt.com, Boca Raton, Florida; photo courtesy of Katie Barr.
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
Fig. 10. LHernsza Barjon [Haitian], Coeur de I 'ocian [acrylic on board, 36 x 48 in. (91.4x121.9 cm)], 2007, Collection of LHernsza Barjon; photo courtesy of LHernsza Barjon.
realism and magic realism. Armand specialized in depicting haunting images of nature and the landscape while Sejourne focussed on the female figure. Their work led to the founding of the Ecole de la Beaute or School of Beauty where, in contrast to the social realist work of Wah and others, the preoccupation with beauty served as a means of escape from the sociopolitical concerns of the time. In Beautiful Woman, Sejourne depicts a woman's head surrounded by large, brightly coloured exotic fronds. Eyes closed, she leans her head gracefully towards a small flower that she holds in her delicate hands. Since she cannot see the flower, she is taken in by its fragrance. In Femme (1980), Sejourne uses cool colours to depict a woman whose eyes are closed in serene repose. In figure 5, Woman with Pigeon (1973), Jean-Rene Jerome (1942-1991), another painter of the surrealist/magical realist style, depicts a beautiful young black girl dressed in a flowing white garment with a pigeon in her hand. Several of Barjon's paintings indicate that she has been influenced by Sejourne, Jerome, and other proponents of the Ecole de la Beaute such as Jean-Claude Legagneur (b. 1947). Nowhere is this influence more readily apparent than in her rendition of Ezili Freda, the spirit of love and sensuality, whom Barjon depicts in her paintings as a black beauty whose femininity is enhanced by feminine accoutrements. For example, in Ezili Freda Dahome from The Descent of the Lwa, shown in figure 6, this strikingly beautiful Lwa is depicted wearing a pink dress, veil, lipstick, and jewelry. The veil and white pigeon perched on her delicate shoulder create a serene, dreamy effect reminiscent of Jerome's Woman with Pigeon. In her The Descent of the Lwa painting La Sirene-La Baleine (The Mermaid-The Whale), Barjon's representation of the sensual Lasiren surrounded by the treasures of the sea recalls an untitled and undated painting by Sejourne that depicts a woman's head bedecked with colourful seashells. As noted earlier in this essay, however, this style of painting so admired by the Haitian elite did not completely satisfy Barjon.
Well-received by the Haitian elite as well as by international art patrons, the Ecole de la Beaute was the first artistic movement to seriously rival the intuitive painting promoted by the Centre d'Art, although it would not be the last to do so. Feeling that the work of his intuitive predecessors had become
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
formulaic in response to the demands of a Western art market, Tiga founded the Poto Mitan School in 1968. The term poto mitan refers to the centrepost or pillar extending from floor to ceiling within many Vodou temples, which, as Galembo points out, is the path that the Lwa take from the ancestral world of Guinea to the earthly world (58-59). The artists associated with Poto Mitan based their work on Vodou-related themes and elaborated on them in innovative ways. Seeking freedom through artistic expression during the dictatorships of the Duvaliers, Tiga liked to experiment with different styles and techniques. In paintings such as The Enlightened (1991) and Unseen (1994), Tiga used a chance technique that he called soleil brule (burnt sun) to paint, using ink and acid, abstracted figures whose monochromatic brown colours and textured surfaces recall his background in ceramics. His interdisciplinary approach to art, according to Poupeye, reflected his belief in the mystical in-terconnectedness of things (88). Barjon, as we shall see, was profoundly influenced by Tiga's love of experimentation and his quest for artistic freedom. Like Tiga, she came to believe that the Haitian artist need not be limited to one prescribed style but that all forms of artistic expression can be used to convey Haitian popular culture and beliefs.
Wanting the rest of Haiti to share in the freedom that he achieved through art," Tiga founded the Saint Soleil School in the 1970s. He distributed art materials to a group of peasants who had never painted before, in the process establishing an artists' community in the mountain village of Soissons-la-Montagne near Port-au-Prince. Several major artists emerged as a result of this experiment, among them Prospere Pierre-Louis (1947-1996), Dieuseul Paul (1953-2006), Levoy Exil (b. 1944), Denis Smith (b. 1954), and Louisianne Saint-Fleurant (b. 1924), who was one of the few women to join the group (she first arrived as their cook). While their individual styles varied to some extent, their work bore some common characteristics. Deviating considerably from the more representational style of the other intuitive painters, they used vibrant colours to depict amorphous forms that often bore no resemblance to any recognizable Lwa. They used a repetitive, linear patterning to fill every available space on the canvas. It is worth mentioning here that there is some similarity
between Levoy Exil's free-floating, elongated figures, such as those in his Water Spirits (1991) in figure 7 and those in Barjon's Les Porteuses.
Having come of age during the oppressive regimes of the two Duva-liers, Barjon was uniquely placed: she was both heir to the artistic developments of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly the central role that Vodou played, and witness to the power of Vodou in everyday Haitian life, including its use as a tool of intimidation by Francois Duvalier ("Papa Doc")12 and the subsequent backlash against the religion when Francois Duvalier's son and successor, Jean-Claude, went into exile in 1986. It is not surprising, then, that Vodou plays such a central role in Barjon's work. By her own admission, it is the source of inspiration for The Descent of the Lwa. In Bohio: Descent of the Lwa, The Work of Hersza Barjon, a film directed by Jean-Willy Gerdes in 2004, Barjon explains that the evolving collection was inspired by (a) the Lwa themselves, and (b) Deita's book, La legende des loa: Vodou haitien. She acknowledges the transformative effect that Deita's book had on her: "I did not know that there was so much passion in Vodou that could ignite so much passion in me."13 Through her paintings, Barjon engages with the principal Lwa of the Vodou pantheon: Ogou (spirit of war), Ezili Freda (spirit of love), Ezili Danto (the fiercely protective mother), the Marasa (or twins), Azaka (spirit of the land), Agwe, Lasiren, Papa Simbi (spirits of the water), Bawon Samdi and Gede Nibo (spirits of the dead), and Danbala (snake spirit).14
Perhaps the most original of LHernsza Barjon's renditions of the Lwa in The Descent of the Lwa is Erzulie Danto et Gougoune (Erzulie Danto and Gougoune) shown in figure 8. In this painting, Ezili Dantd's large, milk-filled breasts are partially exposed, and the opening of a hyperbolically large vulva reveals a son. Here Ezili Danto, the long-suffering mother whose children are constantly threatened by political turmoil, economic hardship, and natural disasters, bears a dagger in her hand, which makes her most dangerous. This rendition connects Barjon to the social realist work of painters like Bernard Wah who responded to the social and political injustices of their time. While Wah's images are rendered in the modernist style and display a heightened surrealism, Barjon's rendition of Ezili Dantd is somewhat reminiscent of his
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
Mother and Child (c. 1969), seen in figure 9, which also displays a hyperboli-cally large vulva from the darkness, out of which emerges a man-child who must make his way through an equally dark world by the light of two candles: his mother's and his own. In contrast to the serene black beauties of the Ecole de la Beaute, which seem to have influenced some of her other works, Barjon's Ezili Danto is alert and ready to strike down anyone who poses a threat to her children. It is interesting that it is from the Vodou religion (in the Petwo tradition)15 that the artist is able to derive this image of a strong woman. The Petwo Lwa are Creole Lwa that emerged in Saint-Domingue to help the slaves manage their anger and desire for vengeance against their masters.
As noted earlier in the discussion of Georges Liautaud's sculpture Danbala, one of the greatest challenges of the Vodou-inspired artist is the representation of spirit possession. Like Liautaud, Barjon chooses to represent a female serviteur possessed by the snake-spirit Danbala, no doubt because the image of the snake makes the representation more immediately recognizable. Nevertheless, Barjon takes an ingenious approach to this undertaking in her painting Haiti ou Asson, in which the possessed woman's enlarged breasts and rounded belly are encased by a web of rainbow-coloured beads with a small bell. The woman's breasts and belly are likened to the asson, the beaded calabash that, together with the hand bell, is used by the Vodou priest or priestess to invoke the Lwa at the beginning of a ceremony. In Vodou philosophy, "the asson is the bell-shaped tongue of Danbala, the great cosmic serpent and creator of all life forms. The encasing web of rainbow-coloured beads represents the snake vertebrae of Danbala. Each vertebra, in turn, represents a fertilizing seed" (Galembo 62). Thus, what we observe in Barjon's painting is a female serviteur who has been mounted by the Lwa Danbala. Her rounded belly represents the fruit of Danbala's seed. As the asson shakes, so too does the woman in her state of spirit possession, in which she finds freedom. In the two hundred years of political and economic instability since the founding of the Haitian republic, the Haitian people have found freedom in Vodou ceremonies leading to spirit possessionas did the slaves of Saint-Domingue during colonial times. Barjon's painting expresses the hope that,
after two hundred years, Haiti and her offspring will finally be free.16
In Barjon's Birth Mark, a lush Caribbean landscape is rendered in a surrealist style reminiscent of Colin Garland's triptych In the Beautiful Caribbean (1974). Garland's surrealist or magic realist style has been influential in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti, through Bernard Sejourne who was his student in the late 1960s (Poupeye 146-48). In Barjon's painting, an exceedingly fertile land yields vigorous vegetation with luxuriant foliage. Vibrant colours and texturing add to the erotic overtones of this wild outgrowth. The land, which yields such fruit in abundance, is depicted as the body of a pregnant woman whose fetus can be seen in the womb. If the Ecole de la Beaute celebrated the black woman as the object of male desire, using a kind of dream surrealism to do so, Barjon uses the surrealist style to celebrate woman's creative power as mother.
In the surrealist painting L 'Indigo, Barjon depicts an indigo-coloured, nude female figure against a turquoise background representative of the sea. The subtle contrast of the colours suggests that the woman belongs to the sea and that the sea is in the woman. This idea is reinforced by the similarity in the shapes of the woman's rounded breasts and the spirals of the two seashells depicted. In Coeur de I 'ocean (Heart of the Ocean) in figure 10, which is from the Descent of the Lwa collection, a regal and beautiful black female figure is portrayed in her ocean world amidst doting sea monsters. These female figures are likely water spirits, with which Barjon appears to have a special fascination. Throughout her body of work, Barjon frequently features the ocean and marine life, either real or imagined. Consider two other examples from Descent of the Lwa: the octopus woman in her surrealist painting H20 and the watermelon with fish in the modernist Rassembler les eaux (Collecting the Water). In the latter, the seemingly unrelated images of the watermelon and the fish are joined by a similarity between the black watermelon seeds and the eyes of the fish in order to suggest the mystical interconnectedness of things and to render the world anew. Clearly, in Barjon's paintings, the ocean is important as the abode of the Lwa and as a reference to the traumatic transatlantic crossing that African peoples were forced to undertake,17 but also
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
possibly because of the evolutionary connection between the ocean and the gestation process of the human foetus.18 Thus, for Barjon, the ocean is very much connected to female creative power.
Throughout her work, Barjon pays homage to nature and the spirits. She celebrates women not as passive beauties but as powerful mother figures and creators akin to nature while simultaneously meditating on the role of art. In LaLumiere ou lampe bobeche,19 a highly surreal painting, she depicts a candle set firmly in an enormous bobeche or candleholder. Outside of the candle-holder in the free and open space, the people raise their arms in reverence to the sun. Inside the transparent candleholder, people climb ladders in an effort to escape. The ingenuity of this piece lies in the fact that the flame of the candle is set against the blazing sun, such that they become one, and the people trapped within the candleholder can be warmed by the candle's flame every bit as much as the free ones can bask in the glow of the sun. Here, the flame/sun represents the art through which all people can find freedom, regardless of their political and economic circumstances. Even though the people of Haiti have not been truly free in two hundred years, they can achieve a measure of freedom through art. This is likely a tribute to Tiga who, as indicated earlier, espoused this philosophy. In fact, the sun may be a reference to the Saint Soleil School founded by Tiga. Barjon celebrates Tiga's contributions in her abstract painting O Soleil where the face clock is a brilliant sun suggesting that Tiga and the art he promoted in Haiti will transcend time and continually renew themselves like the rising sun, and that the spirit of the people will continue to be renewed through them.
The role of the artist, however, is not only to nurture the ancestral spirits but also to support future generations to whom she will become part of the ancestors. In Les Porteuses, Barjon depictsin an ethereal style suggestive of the Saint Soleil Schoolsix young women dressed in brightly coloured gowns that reveal their svelte figures. With the bluish hue of their skin and the current of energy that visibly flows through their bodies, they appear not to be entirely rooted in this world. They are somewhere in between the spiritual and material realms. The various figures positioned on each of their heads
suggest that they have been mounted by the Lwa. Associated with this painting are seven other paintings in series, each representing one of the colours of the rainbow and bearing an esoteric drawing possibly intended to be a veve. Each Lwa is said to have a veve associated with it, which aids in the invocation of that particular Lwa.20 It is possible that Barjon's series of colour-coded veves correspond to the different colours used to depict the mounted female figures of Les Porteuses. As the title suggests, these women are porteuses (or bearers), not only of the Vodou spirits who possess them but of the creativity that these spirits ignite in them; the spirits are delivered by the porteuses by means of the artistic process. In the words of LeGrace Benson, the artist "enters into the act of creation, dwells in it, bears it, and gives it over to us."21 Thus, creativity is linked to spirit possession and, as this painting depicts six young women in an ecstatic state, they will perhaps deliver an art that will speak to future generations of Haitian and other African diaspora women.
Although Haiti was the first of the Caribbean colonies to have achieved independence from colonial powers in the nineteenth century, its people have lived for two hundred years under the yoke of extreme poverty and political oppression. This tragedy has been the result of a vicious racial and class struggle that has, on occasion, paved the way for foreign interventions that have only exacerbated existing problems. Having little control over political and economic developments, Haitian artists have at least sought to win the struggle for cultural independence within the spheres of religion and art. As a result, some of the greatest art of the Caribbean is being produced today in Haiti and its diaspora. As contemporary artists such as LHernsza Barjon continue to use different styles and techniques in the process of creating a uniquely Haitian cultural expression that appeals to all social classes and is at the same time a reflection of Haitian women's experiences, the future of Haitian art promises to be even brighter. If only one could say the same about the beleaguered nation's political and economic situation.
Since I wrote these words, on 12 January 2010 a devastating earthquake claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and left the remainder of the population of Port-au-Prince physically and psychologically broken. While the
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
loss in human lives has been sobering, I was also saddened to learn of the cultural losses in the form of the presidential palace, the cathedral, and the art galleries in Port-au-Prince that were levelled; throughout the centuries these institutions have helped to forge the identity of the Haitian people. And yet I am comforted in thinking that the Lwa are working through the brokenness and that they will help the Haitian artists to find beauty in a broken world,22 so that they may create a greater art than before to help the people process their trauma and find hope again. After food, water, and medical attention, the Haitian people will need art to help them to live.
I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to the artists, scholars, gallery directors, and editors who aided me in the writing of this essay. Claudine Michel helped me to understand the evolution, content, and vision behind LHernsza Barjon's exhibition, "The Descent of the Lwa," held in 2004 at Gallery Six of the Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and put me in contact with LHernsza Barjon. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Myriam Chancy, and Bonnie Glass-Coffin aided me in understanding the current orthography used to name the Lwa or spirits of the Vodou pantheon. LeGrace Benson did her best to put me in touch with Mireille Jerome of the Jerome Galleries in Port-au-Prince in order to obtain permission to print images of a sculpture by Georges Liautaud and of paintings by Jean-Rene Jerome and Bernard Wah; Katie Barr gave me permission to use the images of the Levoy Exil paintings featured on her gallery's website at htto://www.haitianart.com/cgi-bin/cp-app.cgi; and Stephanie Hansen of the Milwaukee Art Museum, which owns Georges Liautaud's sculpture Danbala, provided me with one of their images and the license to use it. Marcel Wah granted me permission to reproduce an image of Bernard Wah's painting Mother and Child and helped me to attain verbal permission from Mireille Jerome to reproduce an image of Jean-Rene Jerome's Woman with Pigeon. Hyacinth Simpson, the editor of MaComere, has spent untold hours editing my work and giving me invaluable advice and encouragement, and I am especially grateful to LHernsza Barjon who gave me permission to use her images and whose work is the inspiration behind my essay. It must be noted that the Haitian scholars and artists listed here took the time to answer my queries in the wake of the earthquake when they must have been deeply concerned about the safety of family members and friends in Haiti.
1. While the artist currently refers to herself as LHernsza Barjon, she has formally exhibited under the name of Hersza Barjon.
2. As Nkiru Nzegwu explains in "Immigration and African Diaspora Women Artists," in The New African Diaspora, in Haiti mulattos belonging to the social class of Barjon's family did not publically acknowledge an adherence to the African-based Vodou religion of the Haitian masses. In the diaspora, however, they practiced it freely and considered it a source of cultural pride (313).
3. For brief biographies of LHernsza Barjon, see Claudine Michel's The Descent of the Lwa: Journey through Haitian Mythology; The Works of Hersza Barjon and Nkiru Nzegwu's "Immigration and African Diaspora Women Artists" in The New African Diaspora.
4. For more information about the initiation ceremony of the hounsi, see Phyllis Galembo's book Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti.
5. According to Claudine Michel, "Lwa (with no "s" as there is no plural marker in Kreydl) is the new preferred spelling for the word loa/loas (old French spelling) for Haitian deities. They have always been called Lwa. The spelling is what has changed. In quotes we keep the old spelling (loa or loas), otherwise, we write Lwa" (Message to the author).
6. In this essay, I will use the orthography for the names of the Lwa indicated by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, who states that Haitian scholars today use the Kreyol orthography, not the French (Message to the author). See the useful tables of the Haitian Lwa in Claudine Michel's Ancestral Rays: Journey through Haitian History and Culture (34-37) and Patrick Bellegarde-Smith and Claudine Michel's Haitian Vodou: Spirit, Myth, and Reality (139-141). As George Eaton Simpson explains in "Caribbean Religions: Afro-Caribbean Religions," in Encyclopedia of Religion, "The confusions and contradictions in the beliefs about these beings are due in part to the contradictions in the Fon religious system that the Haitians adopted, and in part to the merging of the Fon system with that of the Yoruba. But the endless variations in these and other beliefs concerning the ultimate reality are also the result of the absence of a hierarchy in the cult and of written documents" (1433).
7. According to the artist, "all of my paintings are related somehow, but not part of any collection themselvesexcept for The Descent of the Lwa" (Barjon). Thus, the following Barjon paintings, which I will refer to in this essay, are not part of The Descent of the Lwa collection: Les Porteuses, Racine, Kaleidoscope, Cracked Open, Inspiration juste, Exigence, Birth Mark, and L 'Indigo.
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
8. For a more detailed explanation of the process of spirit possession, see Charles Arthur and J. Michael Dash, A Haitian Anthology: Libete (268-269).
9. It is important to note that not all members of the Centre d'Art based their work on Vodou and that not all were practitioners. In fact, some of them, such as Rigaud Benoit (1911-1986), Philome Obin (1892-1986), and Castera Bazili (1923-1966) painted murals for the Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Port-au-Prince.
10. Whereas an intuitive painting usually treats a theme of local interest and is rendered by a self-taught artist, an indigenist painting may represent native subject matter in a more sophisticated style indicative of the artist's formal education. In the context of the Caribbean, "indigenist" usually refers to the African heritage of the people.
11. This freedom, of course, was limited to the exploration of style and technique. During the repressive Duvalier dictatorships, very little art of social protest was produced within Haiti. What little there was had to be conveyed indirectly in order to avoid detection by the censors.
12. As Charles Arthur and J. Michael Dash explain in A Haitian Anthology: Libete (258), Papa Doc, who was himself a member of the black peasantry, used his knowledge of the spiritual beliefs and practices of the people in order to control them. His special security force, the Tonton Macoutes, wore a uniform of blue denim with a red necktie, the attire associated with Azaka who is the Lwa of agriculture and the harvest. This association gave the Macoutes considerable power over the land-based peasants who revered Azaka as their patron. Duvalier himself wore a black top hat and tails and exploited his resemblance to Bawon Samdi, the head of the Gede family said to be the spirits of the cemetery, in order to instil fear and respect in the hearts of the people.
13. This film features several scholars affiliated with the Congress of Santa Barbara, Claudine Michel, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, and LeGrace Benson, whose mission is to promote scholarly research on the Vodou religion of Haiti.
14. In The Descent of the Lwa, Barjon includes paintings that give a face to each of the Lwa of the Vodou pantheon. Each painting bears the name (as title) of the Lwa depicted.
15. As indicated in Arthur and Dash (263), there are three rituals of importance: one is the Rada ritual that honours spirits from Dahomey, in principle considered the "good" Lwa and referred to as the Lwa from Guinea or Lwa-Ginen; another is the Kongo ritual, not as popular as Rada, that relates to the Lwa of Bantu origin; and a third is the Lwa celebrated by the Petwo ritual, otherwise known
as the Creole Lwa with roots in the colony of Samt-Domingue itself. They are highly vengeful in contrast to the gentle Rada Lwa
16. Barjon's 2004 exhibition The Descent of theiwa was intended as a celebration of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution, which was won in 1804.
17. Terry Rey argues in "Vodou, Water, and Exile: Symbolizing Spirit and Pain in Port-au-Prince" that "The crossing of water is one of the most powerful symbols in Haitian Vodou. For example, the religion's spirits and ancestors live 'across the water' (lot bo a did) or 'under the water' (anba did); hence commerce between them and their living human devotees implies such traversals of oceans, seas, or rivers. Already infused since Vodou's inception with the pain of the transatlantic slave trade, this symbol has taken on deep new meaning as modern Haiti's poverty and political turmoil have transformed thousands of its citizens into 'boat people' (botpipel) seeking refuge across the water in America, many of them tragically winding up as ancestors under the water instead" (198).
18. Barbara Mor and Monica Sjoo argue that over two and a half billion years ago life did not gestate in the body of any creature but within the womb of the sea where it was nourished, protected, and rocked by the rhythm of the moon. Later it became necessary to reduce the marine sphere to reproduce it on a smaller, more mobile scale. During the evolutionary process, the eternal seaits protective and nutritive space, amniotic liquids, and even the rhythm of its tidewas transferred to the individual female body (2).
19. A cylindrical piece made of glass, crystal, metal, or copper into which one places the candle in order to keep the wax from dripping.
20. The veve system was developed by the slaves of Saint-Domingue as a manner of representing the Lwa without exposing themselves to persecution. Barjon's paintings are important because they give a face to the Lwa that is uniquely theirs and not that of the Catholic saints which were also used to mask the slaves' continued devotion to the Vodou spirits.
21. These are words LeGrace Benson of the KOSANBA group used in the film Bohio to describe Barjon's creative process.
22. This is a reference to the title of Terry Tempest Williams's book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, which discusses life in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus by the Hutu dominated government.
CORDERO LHERNSZA BARJON'S VISUAL ART
Arthur, Charles, and J. Michael Dash, eds. A Haitian Anthology: Libete.
Princeton: Markus Wiener, 1999. Print. Barjon, LHernsza. Birth Mark. 2006. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of
LHernsza Barjon. . H20. The Descent of the Lwa collection. 2004. Acrylic on wood.
Collection of LHernsza Barjon. . L 'Indigo. The Descent of the Lwa collection. 2004. Acrylic on canvas.
Collection of LHernsza Barjon. . Message to the author. 1 February 2010. Email. . O Soleil (O Sun). The Descent of the Lwa collection. 2004. Acrylic on
canvas. Collection of LHernsza Barjon. . Rassembler les eaux (Collecting the Water). The Descent of the Lwa
collection. 2006. Collection of LHernsza Barjon. . La Sirene-La Baleine (The Mermaid-The Whale). The Descent of the Lwa
collection. 2004. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of LHernsza Barjon. Barr, Katie. HaitianArt.com. 2008. Web. 5 January 2010. Bellegarde-Smith, Patrick. Message to the author. 8 February 2010. Email. Bellegarde-Smith, Patrick, and Claudine Michel, eds. Haitian Vodou: Spirit,
Myth, and Reality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
Bohio: Descent of the Lwa, The Work of Hersza Barjon. Dir. Jean-Willy Gerdes. KOSANBA, Center for Black Studies Research, UCSB,
Cosentino, Donald. Introduction. Lespri Endepandan:Discovering Haitian Sculpture. Miami: Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, 2005. 8-19. Print.
Deita, La legende des loa: Vodou haitien. 1993. Port-au-Prince: Imprimeur II, 2003. Print.
Galembo, Phyllis. Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti. Berkeley: Ten Speed,
Garland, Colin. In the Beautiful Caribbean. 1974. Oil on canvas triptych.
National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica. Hyppolite, Hector. The Great Master. 1946-1948. Oil on cardboard. Musee
d'Art Haitien, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Poupeye 83. Print. Jones, Lindsay, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. 15 vols. Detroit:
Macmillan Reference USU, 2005. Print.
Michel, Claudine, ed. Ancestral Rays: Journey through Haitian History and
Culture. Illus. Hersza Barjon. Santa Barbara: KOSANBA, Center
for Black Studies Research, 2005. Print. . The Descent of the Lwa: Journey through Haitian Mythology; The
Works of Hersza Barjon. Santa Barbara: KOSANBA, Center for
Black Studies Research, 2004. Print. . Message to the author. 30 January 2010. Email. Mor, Barbara, and Monica Sjoo. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering
the Religion of the Earth. San Francisco: Harper, 1991. Print. Nzegwu, Nkiru. "Immigration and African Diaspora Women Artists."
Okpewho and Nzegwu 303-332. Print. Okpewho, Isidore, and Nkiru Nzegwu, eds. The New African Diaspora.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. Print. Poupeye, Veerle. Caribbean Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998. Print. Price-Mars, Jean. Ainsiparla I'oncle. 1928. Trans. Magdaline Shannon as
Thus Spoke the Uncle. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press,
Rey, Terry. "Vodou, Water, and Exile: Symbolizing Spirit and Pain in
Port-au-Prince." Religion, Violence, Memory, and Place. Ed.
Oren Baruch Stier and J. Shawn Landres. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 2006. 198-213. Print. Saint-Brice, Robert. Reve Loa (Dream of the Lwa). c 1960s. Oil on canvas.
Electric Gallery, Crownsville, MD.
Caribbean and Latin American Art. Web. 5 January 2010.
Jones 3:1432-1440. Print. Stier, Oren Baruch, and J. Shawn Landres, eds. Religion, Violence, Memory,
and Place. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006. Print. Tiga (Jean-Claude Garoute). The Enlightened. 1991. Ink, acid, hard paper
laid on masonite (Soleil Brule). Cantave Studio. Web. 5 January
Cantave Studio. Web. 5 January 2010
Pantheon, 2008. Print.
SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT: ADDRESSING ABORTION AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS THROUGH POPULAR THEATRE
TAITU HERON, DANIELLE TOPPIN, AND LANA FINIKIN
72. Every woman, being with child, who with intent to procure her own miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent; and whosoever, with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman... shall be guilty of felony, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for life, with or without hard labour.
73. Whosoever shall unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing, or any instrument or thing whatsoever, knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three years, with or without hard labour.
(Offences against the Person Act )
Abortion is subject to restrictive laws in Jamaica under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, which is based on the 1861 English act of the same title. On 12 March 2009, as a select group of parliamentarians constituting the Joint Select Committee on Abortion1 charged with reassessing Jamaica's abortion laws gathered to hear submissions from interest groups regarding the
MaComere 11 (2009): 45-60
proposed amendment of those laws,2 members of one of Sistren Theatre Collective's3 performing arts groups from the community of Hannah Town in Kingston prepared to bring a message to the committee in a previously unseen format in that context: drama. That Sistren should have been the first to bring popular theatre to the hallowed halls of Jamaica's Parliament should be no surprise, given the organization's history as a trailblazer in combining community and gender activism with popular theatre. Having gained visibility over the past thirty-two years as one of Jamaica's more active non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and particularly for using popular theatre to address issues such as gender-based violence and women's reproductive health, it seemed natural that Sistren would lend its collective voice to the ongoing debate on abortion.
In its presentation in Parliament before the joint select committee, Sistren dramatically brought a new stream of voices into the public debate on abortion, which had until then been overwhelmed by the viewpoints of the religious right. The fifteen-minute dramatic presentation, aptly titled "A Slice of Reality," tackled issues such as sexual violence and its resulting trauma including unwanted pregnancies, social stigma around rape and sexual violence, and disparities within the class system, which afford choices to some women while actively denying the same to a large number of others. One storyline in the presentation depicted the plight of a mentally ill woman who is repeatedly raped and impregnated by an "uptown man" with a "pretty car." Another centred on X (deliberately unnamed to emphasize both her social invisibility and her psychological erasure), who carried the hidden burden of having had an abortion as a young girl without ever having access to counselling about the decision. Weaving songs and dancing into the stories of these and other women, Sistren made an explicit call for women to band together and to recognize the issue of abortion primarily as a rights-based issue, one in which the circumstances of a woman's life should be central to her decision. In its closing song, Sistren reinforced the point, chanting: "Woman you have your own life ina yuh hand ... we a nuh murderah."
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
In the performance, Sistren strongly made the point that for a significant number of women sexual intercourse is not consistently voluntary, and that the dynamics of power often unequally shape women's sexual experiences. As such, many pregnancies are not only unwanted but may actually pose real psychological trauma for the women concerned. Sistren's presentation before Parliament therefore played the important role of moving the discourse outside of the abstract discussions of "right" versus "wrong" to address the fact that the law as it currently stands is adversely impacting the lives of large numbers of women in Jamaica.
The Socio-legal Climate
The laws governing abortion are ambiguous and require revision. While abortion is deemed unlawful, there are no provisions that clearly state what makes the act unlawful or under what precise conditions the act of procuring an abortion would not be considered unlawful (Vasciannie 2008). In addition, beginning in 1975, the Government of Jamaica has identified unsafe abortion and rates of maternal mortality as significant public health problems affecting women and requiring legal reform. Then-minister of Health Kenneth McNeill, in Ministry Paper No.l, titled Abortion: Statement of Policy, wrote:
[T]he present laws relating to abortion are contained partly in our Common Law and partly in the Statute LawThe Offences Against the Person Act. The Statute Law position is that it is a criminal offence to procure an unlawful abortion. Indeed sections 65 and 66 of the Offences Against the Person Act lay down a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the offence. The Statute also provides a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for anyone who assists in procuring an unlawful abortion. Despite these severe penalties, the Statute is absolutely silent on the circumstances in which an abortion would be lawful. (2)
At the time, McNeill's attempt to recognize abortion as first and foremost a public health issue was undermined by the lack of political will within and across the political parties, which in turn was fuelled by strong religious opposition (Jamaica, Final Report)."' Consequently, no legislative action has
been taken. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health authorized a clinic to be established in 1976 in response to "the rising rate of unsafe abortions and complications especially among adolescents" (Jamaica, Final Report 3). This clinic, the Glen Vincent Clinic for Fertility Management, facilitated abortions for adolescents, victims of rape and incest, cases of failed contraception, and the physically or mentally ill, effectivelyif indirectlyidentifying some acts of abortion as legal within the ambiguities of existing laws. The clinic closed its doors in 1995 due to a lack of funding caused by reduced government spending on social services. Despite the lack of political will, public calls to revisit the laws became more frequent, on the grounds that women's health was being sacrificed as a result of ineffective legislation, stigma, and discrimination. Another concern expressed by the Ministry of Health was that one of the impacts of the restrictive and punitive law governing abortion was that it was difficult (and remains so) to obtain accurate statistics as to the prevalence of abortion because of the tendency to conceal facts and veil intentions that could be considered illegal.
Within this legislative environment, the termination of pregnancy, although illegal in most instances, is accessible within a select range of situations, such as when a private doctor deems it necessary in order to protect the woman's life. This has created a clandestine and subjective environment in which some doctors will provide such services within their private practices. However, those women who are unable to access the costly services provided by private practitioners are often faced with the decision to use the services of providers who are not only unregulated but are often untrained and operate in unhygienic settings. An unnecessary burden on the health-care system thus results from women being admitted for complications relating to unsafe abortions. Hence, by 2004 the government again made the move to address the issue of abortion in light of the various reproductive health challenges by convening an Abortion Policy Review Group charged with the dual tasks of analyzing the ineffectiveness of the current law and making recommendations for amendments to the existing law or the creation of a new law. Since the
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
recommendations of the Abortion Policy Review Group were submitted to the government in February 2007 and the Joint Select Committee on Abortion was established in January 2008, discussions on abortion have been overwhelmed by religious viewpoints, especially in the public sphere.
For example, well-known Jamaican public figure Father Richard Ho Lung of Missionaries of the Poor (who also made a submission to the committee) stated in a newspaper article that "abortion would bring a curse upon our country. It is murder, and as John Paul II says, 'any country that murders its children has no future.' To legalise abortion is to make killing lawful; it will bring a curse on our land. It is no less than the slaughter of the innocents in the Scriptures." In a press conference on 7 February 2008, the archbishop of Kingston, Lawrence Burke, said that the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica would not support the legalization of abortion in the island: "Scripture, tradition and science are clearly showing that human life begins at conception ... we don't care how it got there, this is human life, we cannot kill human life" (qtd. in Francis 2008). Similarly, Dr. Doreen Brady-West, a member of the Coalition for the Defence of the Unborn, said that the contemplation of any legislation that permits the termination of the life of the unborn on the request of the mother is a gross distortion of the principles of natural law and justice (Francis 2008). Other religious leaders have come out in opposition, including leaders from the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals and the Jamaica Pentecostal Union.
Submissions were also made by religious groups and anti-choice groups. Shirley Richards of the Christian Lawyers Federation and the Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn argued in her submission that the flouting of the laws against abortion and the effects of illegal abortions might not constitute sufficient grounds for amending the existing legislation. She also pointed out that even though some women still proceeded with abortion after wrestling with their conscience, careful, weighty thought prior to committing the act did not lessen the gravity of the offence (Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn). Another lawyer of the same group
also argued against a woman's right to choose:
it was a fallacious argument that a woman had the right to do what she chose to do with her body where abortion was concerned because the baby was not a part of the woman's body but a distinct being with a separate genetic code, blood type, heartbeat, and, sometimes, sex ... privacy is never an absolute right and whenever the rights of two persons were in conflict, the more fundamental right, in this case a baby's right to life as against a mother's right to freedom, must be upheld... all the tragic cases of rape, unwanted pregnancy and disability are insufficient to warrant different treatment for the bom than for the unborn. (Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn 56)
Parallels are being drawn between abortion and murder by the religious and anti-choice groups such as the Christian Lawyers Federation and the Coalition for the Defence of the Unborn. They have been promoting the idea that abortion is an unforgivable sin or against the laws of natural justice.
Other submissions, from DAWN (Development Alternatives for Women of a New Era) Caribbean for instance, clearly made a case for supporting safe abortion services based on public policy, health risks to women, recognition of women's rights, and Jamaica's commitment to related international conventions (e.g., Working Group on Women's Reproductive Health and Rights). Another NGO, Women's Media Watch, pointed out the role of the media in sensationalizing and creating misunderstanding around the issue of abortion, and argued that this did little to alleviate women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence or prevent unsafe abortions. The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and Advocates for SAFE Parenthood Improving Reproductive Equity (ASPIRE) from Trinidad and Tobago demonstrated the danger to women's lives when abortion remained clandestine and unregulated with little behaviour change.
A deep chasm exists between those who see abortion primarily as a public health issue that impacts the reproductive health of women, and those who see it as an immoral and murderous act that is unforgivable by God, regardless of the circumstances. Since Christianity and religious allegiance have been the main premises on which detractors have challenged the proposed law, it is imperative that the dialogue be visibly influenced by other viewpoints, namely
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
those that privilege the lives and rights of the women themselves. Sistren's involvement in the dialogue through their association with the DAWN Caribbean Working Group on Women's Reproductive Health and Rights has provided a space in which other voices and perspectives can be heard.
Sistren's historic 12 March 2009 presentation before the Joint Select Committee on Abortion came about through a collaborative process within the women's movement in Jamaica in response to the government's initiative to review the legislation. This review took place simultaneously with the launch of DAWN Caribbean's research on sexual and reproductive health of women in select Caribbean countries, titled Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the English-Speaking Caribbean: A Study of Abortion, Maternal Mortality and Health Sector Reform in Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago (Ahmed, Narcisse, Schmeitz, and Massiah). DAWN Caribbean, as a regional NGO, launched the publication in Jamaica in February 2008 and convened several meetings thereafter among women's organizations and other interested citizens to discuss the developments and respond to the government's invitation to the public to make submissions by September 2008.
Sistren participated in these meetings, where several strategies were discussed on how the women's movement would respond in a coordinated manner. One outcome of these meetings was the formation of a working groupDAWN Caribbean Working Group on Women's Reproductive Health and Rightsto coordinate activities and advocacy among organizations and individuals that would make submissions to Parliament and lobby to reform the laws in favour of women's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy under a wider range of circumstances and conditions. Sistren, as a member of the working group, agreed to make a submission to Parliament and to be active in the sensitization process. Written submissions in support of women's rights and women's rights to choose were also made to the Joint Select Committee on Abortion by national and regional associates from Jamaica, Trinidad and
Tobago, Anguilla, Guyana, and St. Lucia.5 On the basis of Sistren's history of using the arts as an information tool, the organization asked by letter to make a dramatic presentation that drew on the elements of popular theatre, thereby building on what Sistren does best. Once parliamentary staff agreed to facilitate this, the rest was just a matter of preparation by the performers and coordination with the DAWN Caribbean Working Group regarding the date and the requirements of the presentation.
Challenging the Norms and Breaking Taboos
Based on the Westminster system of government inherited under British colonialism, Jamaica's Parliament has historically been an exclusive space, open to and closed off from certain groups on the basis of race, gender, and class. As such, this space has invariably proved to be inaccessible to the "average man" and even more inaccessible to women. With time, shifts in Jamaica's gender dynamic have allowed a small number of women to access this space, albeit in a climate that is still predominantly male-centred (a fact that is "subtly" evidenced in there being significantly fewer toilet facilities for females than there are for males). Despite the advances being made by some women, considerations of class and level of education have typically limited the access of working-class women and men to this "sacred space." With Sistren's presentation in Parliament, a group of women (and one man) who would typically have had the legitimacy of their presence questioned were able to make their voices heard (see figs. 1 and 2). Not only were they heard, but they also put the spotlight on the real world experiences and concerns of grassroots women, in the process gaining an audience with parliamentarians to whom they would not normally have had access. Compounding the impact of Sistren's presence and presentation in the hallowed halls of Parliament was their use of the drum to accompany the songs and dances woven throughout the dramatic presentation. An instrument associated with Jamaica's dominant African heritage, the drum is antithetical to the reserved Anglo-Saxon tradition which prevails in Parliament. Alongside the use of patois as the language of performance, the use of the drum was instrumental to Sistren's breaking down of the
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
Fig. 2. Julian Hardie, Sistren's drummer. Courtesy of Taitu Heron.
cultural and class barriers and outdated norms that generally keep "others" outside of that political space.
The significance of Sistren's submission is evident on three levels. Firstly, in breaking the silence around taboo sexual issues, Sistren injected a new range of voices into what was largely being seen as a moral issue. By highlighting the fact that women's lives are being adversely impacted by the current restrictive law, Sistren was able to bring an experiential point of analysis to bear on the dialogue on abortion. Secondly, in challenging the dominant cultural value system of Parliament, the voices of Jamaicans who are otherwise denied accessboth directly and indirectlywere elevated to a central position; theirs became the expert viewpoint, with the parliamentarians and other observers consequently taking on the role of students. Thirdly, on a personal level, the women of Sistren and by extension the women they represent, in taking on the role of the expert, also experienced a shift in their personal consciousness. Sonia Britton, one of the performers, commented on the experience:
[I]t was really good to be part of history making. 1 felt honoured to be there representing grassroots women in Jamaica and the other grassroots women in the world... Being a veteran myself, I was for the first time able to go into Parliament and let the parliamentarians know things that are affecting women. I have become more aware of the importance of speaking out on these things, letting people know what Jamaican women are going through and I want do so much more now.
Lana Finikin, executive director and one of the founding members of Sistren, stressed the fact that "Sistren has always been a trailblazer, willing to address taboo issues that no-one else is willing to." She added that the group was proud to "tear down those doors, opening the way for others to enter, or in fact, to step past them." Ms. Finikin stressed that what the Sistren performance also served to do was to bring that group back into the eyes of the wider public, showing them that "Sistren is still around... still alive, and will be around for another 32 years."
Sistren's presence and spirited performance in Parliament located women squarely at the centre of the debate and underlined the need to consider women's rights a valid issue of concern. Prior to their performance, it was the worn-
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
an's womb that was the focus, not the woman as a person or a citizen. As such, women were barely acknowledged in the debate as agents of choice and decision-makers in their own right; where such acknowledgement occurred it was only in relation to women's role as mothers, which disregarded the fact that women have multiple roles, functions, and contributions to make to society. Sistren's presentation moved the dialogue away from the sole focus on abortion as a moral issue where the unborn life is given primacy. The response from the parliamentarians was mixed. Some hailed the performance while others were obviously uncomfortable. Two in particular kept shuffling in their seats, and looking at the floor. Senator Dwight Nelson even left the room, ostensibly to talk on his mobile phone. He later stated, "I do not wish to make a value judgment in respect of the content of the presentation, but the format is a refreshing departure... based on previous presentations made by other groups. I came here this morning with trepidation but, in a manner of speaking, Sistren has made the Committee's day" (Jamaica, Minutes 12 March 2009, 3-4). Of a similarly conservative nature, Senator Hyacinth Bennett lauded Sistren's ability to communicate in drama but indicated that she would have to contemplate the message of the presentation further before commenting on it (3-4).
Commenting on the presentation, committee member St. Aubyn Bartlett congratulated the group on taking a different approach: "I see it as the voice of the people speaking," he said. Another committee member, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, commented that the presentation had portrayed in a realistic manner many of the issues that had been brought before the Committee and had allowed the members to visualize the situations in which many Jamaican women found themselves (Jamaica, Minutes 12 March 2009, 6). Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna found Sistren's presentation "historic, riveting and forceful" and commended the group for its consistency in addressing issues that impact women: "You have always come to the fore to speak about issues that relate to women who perhaps cannot come to this kind of forum to speak for themselves." The chair of the committee, Minister Rudyard Spencer, felt that "Sistren's presentation would go a far way in helping the committee to make a decision at the end of its deliberations" (Jamaica, Minutes 12 March
2009,7). In essence, Sistren's presentation was thought provoking and brought social realities to the forefront of the debate. The parliamentarians now had to take a close look at the glaring gender, power, and class disparities that exist under the current law and that negatively impact women's ability to make decisions that affect their own lives.
Indeed, Sistren's performance in Parliament signalled the entry of a powerful, yet previously missing, component of the debate: the pro-choice voices of working-class women. With this historic presentation has come a resurgence of interest in Sistren's work, inspired in large part by a resurgence of hope: the belief that change could really take place was in part revived when a group of working-class women and one man stood in Parliament and used a novel and culturally grounded approach to visibly shape public policy. Following Sistren's presentation, there was a flurry of email messages amongst community and development activists across the Caribbean region those who have long been working in the trenches to improve the lives of Caribbean women and men. These emails had a clear emotional tone, praised Sistren, and expressed renewed commitment and hope. The issue of abortion having re-entered public and legislative debate, Sistren's performance has brought a degree of balance to the discussion that has to be sustained. As Sistren continues to engage audiences on the issue of abortion by performing subsequently in public forums, it is undeniable that the organization's voice will continue to ring loud on the issue thus ensuring that Jamaican women secure their reproductive rights, central to which is the right to choose how, when, and if to give birth.
Since Sistren's presentation in Parliament, advocacy work in the form of public forums and media promotion in select communities, among youth groups, and within academia continues through the DAWN Caribbean Working Group to further the debate on abortion as a public health matter and a critical area for women's rights. In the meantime, the Joint Select Committee on Abortion is expected to complete a final report for submission to Cabinet (tentatively set for 31 March 2010) with recommendations for legal reform.
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
The trumpets of the religious groups are sounding far less loudly than before. Nevertheless, the process is far from complete and indicates that the women's movement needs to engage in continuous and strategic advocacy at least until the committee presents its final report to Cabinet.
1. The Joint Select Committee on Abortion was formed in February 2007 with a mandate to review the Government of Jamaica's Abortion Policy Review Group Report and make recommendations for legal reform to Parliament. It comprises sixteen members split evenly between members of Parliament from the ruling party (Jamaica Labour Party) and the Opposition, the People's National Party. It is chaired by the Minister of Health.
2. The key recommendations would be to repeal abortion as unlawful and make it permissible under law in certain circumstances. Recommendations include allowing for abortions to be safely accessed because of rape and/or incest and foetal impairment. A woman would be able to legally terminate a pregnancy between twelve and twenty-two weeks of gestation and undergo mandatory pre- and post-decision counselling, for example.
3. For a history of Sistren and the group's work on community advocacy and gender issues see Honor Ford Smith's "Sistren: Exploring Women's Problems Through Drama" (1989), "Sistren: Jamaican Women's Theatre" (1985), and "Women's Theatre, Conscientization and Popular Struggle in Jamaica" (1982). See also Sharon Green's "Sistren Theatre Collective: Struggling to Remain Radical in an Era of Globalization" (2004), and Sistren Theatre Collective's (with Honor Ford Smith) Lionheart Gal: Life Stories of Jamaican Women (1987, rpt. 2005).
4. The Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Group of the Ministry of Health highlights other concerns that the ministry had at that time, such as high rates of adolescent pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies among adult women. Family planning services were also accelerated to address this. As far the Final Report could ascertain, complications of unsafe abortions constitute the eighth leading cause of maternal deaths in Jamaica and the second among adolescents.
5. Other pro-choice submissions were also made by DAWN Caribbean Working Group on Women's Reproductive Health and Rights, ASPIRE
Trinidad and Tobago, CAFRA Trinidad and Tobago, ASPIRE St. Lucia, Woman Inc. Jamaica, Women's Media Watch Jamaica, United Church of Jamaica, Dr. Fred Nunes, Former Minister of Health (St. Lucia), Minister of Health (Guyana), Catholics for Choice, and Ipas, among other organizations and individuals across the region and in the USA.
ASPIRE. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion, Reviewing
the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, September 2008. Print.
Britton, Sonia. Personal interview. March 2009.
CAFRA. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion, Reviewing the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, September 2008. Print.
Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion, Reviewing the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, December 2008. Print.
DAWN Caribbean Working Group on Women's Reproductive Health and Rights. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion to the Joint Select Committee, Reviewing the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, September 2008. Print.
Ford Smith, Honor. "Sistren: Exploring Women's Problems through Drama." Kingston, Jamaica: Sistren Documentation Center, 1989. Print.
. "Sistren: Jamaican Women's Theatre." Cultures in Contention. Ed.
Douglas Kahn and Diane Neumaier. Seattle: Real Comet, 1985. 85-91. Print.
HERON, TOPPIN, AND FINIKIN SISTREN IN PARLIAMENT
. "Women's Theatre, Conscientization and Popular Struggle in Jamaica." Tradition for Development: Indigenous Structures and Folk Media in Non-Traditional Education. Ed. Nat Colletta and Ross Kidd. Bonn: German Foundation for International Development, 1982. 541-569. Print.
Francis, Petrina. "'Oh, hell no!': Church Vows War Should Government of Jamaica Legalise Abortion.'" Jamaica Gleaner, 8 February 2008. Web. 29 May 2009
Jamaica. The Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Group of the Ministry of Health. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, 2007. Print.
. Minutes of the Meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Report of the Jamaica Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, 19 February 2009. Print.
. Minutes of the Meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Report of the Jamaica Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, 12 March 2009. Print.
. Minutes of the Meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Report of the Jamaica Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, 20 September 2008. Print.
Finikin, Lana. Personal interview. March 2009.
Green, Sharon. "Sistren Theatre Collective: Struggling to Remain Radical in
an Era of Globalization." Theatre Topics 14.2 (2004): 473-495. Print. Ho Lung, Richard. "Abortion: Killing with Kindness." Jamaica Gleaner, 22
May 2008. Web. May 29, 2009. McNeill, Kenneth A. Abortion: Statement of Policy. Paper no. 1. 15 January.
Kingston, Jamaica: George William Gordon House of Parliament,
Missionaries of the Poor. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion to the Joint Select Committee, Reviewing the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, March 2009. Print.
Sistren Theatre Collective (with Honor Ford Smith). Lionheart Gal: Life Stories of Jamaican Women. 1987. Toronto: Sister Vision, 2005. Print.
Women's Media Watch Jamaica. Submission to Joint Select Committee on Abortion to the Joint Select Committee, Reviewing the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group submitted to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica and commenting on the matter before the Joint
Select Committee. Kingston: George William Gordon House of Parliament, September 2008. Print. Vasciannie, Stephen "Abortion in Jamaican Law." Jamaica Gleaner, 2 March 2008. Web. 28 May 2009.
"WE HAVE SOMETHING TO TEACH THE WORLD": ERNA BRODBER'S BLACKSPACE, BUILDING COMMUNITY, AND EDUCO-TOURISM
ANGELIQUE V. NIXON
Chandra Talpade Mohanty argues that knowledge production through literature and social sciences by women in the "Third World" is an "important discursive site for struggle" because it challenges the objectification and discursive production of "Third World women" (categorized and constructed mostly through anthropology) (76). This knowledge production can be seen as a form of resistance because it has tangible effects on institutions and on what Mohanty describes as "the constitution of selves and subjectivities" (76). The writings of Erna Brodber, a Jamaican sociologist, fiction writer, activist, and scholar, illustrate Mohanty's assertion. Brodber's knowledge production has consistently integrated her historical and social scientific research into her literary creations. She has published many sociological and historical titles over the years, such as The Continent of Black Consciousness (2003) and Woodside Pear Tree Grove P.O. (2004). Also, she has published four novels: Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home (1980), Myal (1988), Louisiana (1994), and The Rainmaker's Mistake (2007). Her literary works creatively and spiritually engage the issues she has researched in her historical and social science work.1 Not only have her novels received critical acclaim
MaComere 11 (2009): 61-79
(Myal, for example, won the 1989 Commonwealth Regional Prize for Literature), but her contributions to history, social sciences, and Caribbean and African diaspora studies have also earned her high praise internationally and a number of prestigious awards, including the Musgrave Gold Medal Award for Literature and Orature from Jamaica in 1999 and the International Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development from the Netherlands in 2006. Moreover, Brodber has developed a working model for sustainable cultural tourism through a community-based, Educo-tourism research project called Blackspace, located in her home community of Woodside in Jamaica. The reception of Brodber's body of work inside and outside the Caribbean reflects its influence on various intellectual and critical traditions. Most importantly, her work significantly contributes to the creation of "selves and subjectivities" for the descendents of Africans enslaved in the New World,2 through offering/unearthing modes of resistance and, correspondingly, strategies for self-actualization and community-building among Caribbean people. Brod-ber's work becomes a "discursive site for struggle" as it consistently challenges the construction, consumption, and exploitation of images of New World Africans within colonial and neo-colonial discourses. This essay fo-cusses on the strategies Brodber adopts in her novel Myal to locate the creation of self and subjecthood from within a rural Jamaican community caught between the representational forces of a waning British colonial control and a rising US neo-colonial presence. Contributing to a number of other readings that have emphasized anti-colonial resistance in Myal, this essay focusses on the novel's self-actualization and community-building strategiesparticularly through re-education and the recovery of alternative historiesand brings them into constructive dialogue with Brodber's activism through her Blackspace project.
In Myal, Brodber represents the effects of cultural cannibalism and colonialism on African Caribbean people, through what she calls in the novel zombification or spirit thievery (also known as spirit possession). Spirit thievery is the control over the mind, bodies, and spirits of colonized peoples through language, education, and other colonial structures (reinforced by both
NIXON ERNA BRODBERSBLACKSPACE
the colonizer and colonized). Such thievery must be eradicated in order to enable a spiritual restoration of the entire community, and by extension Jamaica, the Caribbean, and colonized peoples generally. Consequently, Brod-ber's novel reveals how colonial discourse in books, plays, children's stories, and formal colonial education can have harmful material effects on colonized bodies and communities. Brodber illustrates the struggle through which a rural Jamaican community unites to rid itself of the material consequences of colonial discourse and to create a spiritual and social space liberated from colonialism. The young, light-skinned Ella O'Grady, who is the ultimate product of colonization and cultural imperialism, becomes the site for this struggle, and the community has to use its African religious practices to heal her body, mind, and spirit. Brodber maps out the effects of spirit thievery through the black female body of the light-skinned protagonist Ella, who experiences multiple kinds of possession through colonial education and marriage. Ella's body is a site of memory for black women's experiences during and after slavery because she represents the long history/herstory of the control of black women through rape and sexual abuse. Ella (and her mother Mary) can be seen as a reflection of centuries of miscegenation and represent both the privilege and the denigration found with racial mixing. Ella quietly retreats into colonial books and images in her time at school, absorbing that British colonial education and becoming acculturated into the (white) colonizer's "truth," "their books" as Willie calls them (Brodber, Myal 67). This is why Ella plays an important role in the strategy to achieve spiritual restoration and subjecthood.
In a circular and cyclical fashion, the narrator moves in and out of the past in order to make sense of the present and the future. Brodber creates a novel that defies European colonial structures with a complex, non-linear narrative form that weaves the past into the present and juxtaposes exploitative colonial discourse with the reclaiming of stories and lives as an important site for resisting cultural imperialism.3 Brodber contrasts cultural colonization and colonial education through story-telling and by centring African religions and spirituality in Jamaica. Such weaving of the past into the present is integral to deconstructing dominant colonial ideologies and history
and (re)constructing space outside colonialism. According to Catherine Nel-son-McDermott, the novel deconstructs colonial structures in terms of language and education, while at the same time beginning "to build a non-colonized and non-colonizable social space" (54). Melvin Rahming asserts that Myal not only re-engineers social space, but that it is also "a recreation of spiritual space" (7). Positing a "critical theory of spirit" (2), Rahming formulates a paradigm that reveals how the critic needs an alternate dialectic to describe the community as "non-colonized and non-colonizable" as Nelson-McDermott does. Rahming explains that this critical vocabulary should be "capable of suggesting the nature of a communal consciousness that is freed from ontological ties to colonialism" (8). He calls for a critical investigation of the spiritual matrix in Myal that goes beyond the metaphor of spirit thievery/possession as cultural imperialism, but rather explains "a reality in which spirit thievery and possession are accepted as not only 'possible' but as real" (8). I posit a critical reading of the novel that investigates its re-creation of social and spiritual space, while asserting the ways in which Brodber's strategies in Myal also emerge in her community activism through Blackspace and Educo-tourism. Furthermore, I explore how the African Jamaican spiritual practices in the novel are certainly accepted as real and reflect the process of creolization across the Caribbean, which Kamau Brathwaite posits in The Development of Creole Society as the clash and mixing of African and European cultures, languages, religions, rituals, and peoples (296).
The title of the novel comes from the syncretic Jamaican religion Myal-ism, which is rooted in African traditions historically used as a site of resistance by Africans (Smyth 7). Spirit possession plays a critical role in Myalism, through experiencing the Spirit or fighting against evil possession (Chevannes 18). The Myal religion underwent a transformation after the 1860s because Christian churches and clergy saw Myal as Satan worship, and it was integrated into the more Christian or mainstream syncretic religion of "Revival" through Zion (Chevannes 20). Myal remains a fundamental aspect of Jamaican culture, and as Barry Chevannes argues, "to a far greater extent than most people realize, Myal and its manifestation, Revival, have shaped the world-
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'SBLACKSPACE
view of the Jamaican people, helping them to forge an identity and a culture by subversive participation in the wider polity" (21). Therefore, as Rahming suggests, it is imperative to understand the essential spiritual restoration in Brodber's novel that occurs after the deconstruction of cultural imperialism, a restoration that then recreates social and spiritual space (that can be) outside colonial ideologies. This operates as a linguistic weapon against the consumption of the Caribbean generally and African Jamaican experiences more specifically. Brodber's novel rejects any consumption of the Caribbean that seeks to devalue or destroy history, culture, and local specificity; hence, the novel asserts strategies for community-building or a communal consciousness. Brodber does this through the representation of spirit thievery (beyond the metaphor) and the resistance to it through Myal/Revival practices, recovery of history/herstory, and spirit telepathy among ancestral spirits and community members of Grove Town.
A number of the major characters in Myal defy time and space by communicating as ancestor spirits and/or archetypes, animal characters who are caricatured in a colonial reader children's book about Mr. Joe's farma story that serves to dehumanize and keep black colonized subjects in their place. Some of these characters are based on the Royal Crown Reader that circulated across the British colonial empire from the 1900s to the 1960s and on allegories of inferiority found in colonial education (Roberts 27-28). Brodber uses these stories to challenge the colonial project, as she creates new characters through "the spirit" and Myal. The individual spirit restoration in the novel reveals the healing powers of the elders and Myal practitioners in the community. Ole African's (Master Willie) consistent refrain "the half has never been told" throughout the novel sets the tone for spiritual restoration by initiating the desire for history/herstory from the perspective of enslaved Africans and their descendents (Brodber, Myal 34, 35,40, 56, 65,67). This restoration occurs by combating spirit thievery through challenging history and colonial control within language and educationby recovering "the half and building community. Brodber uncovers the silences about "the half and resists the colonial half through the spirit/human characters Ole African, Dan, Mother
Hen, and White Hen to recreate social and spiritual space. Their collaboration includes cross-cultural relationships and engages the complexity of the Caribbean space. White Hen (Maydene Brassington) is an outsider yet incorporated into the human/animal-spirit circle by Mother Hen (Miss Gatha). This outsider status as long-term white resident in Jamaica serves an important purpose because "they need that power" (Maydene's whiteness and privilege) to carry out their plan (Brodber, Myal 78). Their plan includes uncovering the stories of enslaved Africans and their descendentsthe people, culture, land, languages, spirits, bodies, and lives that were stolen, and the experiences of being sold, enslaved, and then turned into zombies through colonialism and cultural imperialism.
Spirit thieves not only took bodies on the slave ship, but they continued to control minds through books. Therefore, spiritual restoration must begin with re-education: "Get in their books and know their truth, then turn around ship and books into those seven miles of the Black Star line so desperately needed and take who will with you" (Brodber, Myal 67). In order to tell "the half that has never been told," the colonial half must be understood and turned inside out. Master Willie (Ole African) explains, "you learn the outer's ways, dish it out in little bits, an antidote man, against total absorption. You can see where to put what, to change what. You change those books, you take those ships and away we go. . Stick with the learning and build who feels they want to be built" (70). Reverend Simpson must learn the colonizer's ways and pass that along to others just enough to create an antidote, in order to sustain resistance to the colonizer's language and education. Both Anita and Ella are a part of this plan because they will be teachers and must experience how to fight spirit theft from their guardians Amy and Maydene, respectively, as well as their colonial education.4
The spiritually restored community that Brodber envisions cannot be fully realized through the novel form; therefore, it is important to consider how the strategies for community-building found in Myal emerge in Brod-ber's community activism and her integration of historical and social science
NIXON ERNA BRODBER 'S BLA CKSPA CE
work within Blackspace. Brodber developed her community-based research project Blackspace as means of realizing her vision. Ironically, Blackspace makes use of the tourist industry to facilitate the operations of Blackspace and to help produce the events that celebrate the liberating history of her Jamaican community. Educo-tourism is the term Brodber uses to describe what has become an alternative tourist site; this concept and practice assists in organizing the educational and community institutions that can effectively counter asymmetric and exploitative practices of contemporary tourism and the colonial history that produced them. In a 2001 interview, Brodber explains her focus on Blackspace: "I have failed as far as the novel is concerned to write for the people I am aiming to write for. But I have come to understand that I am doing something else" ("Crossing" 2). This "something else" began with her researching and recording the history of her village (first published in 1999 in a small booklet titled The People of My Jamaican Village and later expanded and published in Woodside Pear Tree Grove P.O. in 2004). Brodber also conducted local lectures (during 1996 and 1997) on the history of slavery and emancipation from the perspective of enslaved Africans in the New World, collected in The Continent of Black Consciousness (2003). In the forward, Brodber explains that her lectures were designed to fill in the information gap from Jamaica's education system and assist in the creation of Blackspace:
This series inaugurated what I now hope will be the School for the De-scendents of Africans Enslaved in the New World housed here in the small rural village of Woodside in St. Mary, Jamaica. The further hope is that there will be continued meditation on the issues discussed at the seminars in private sessions by non-university seekers and that these informal sessions will take place in other geographic areas of Africa and the diaspora, a lack of knowledge of our historical condition being one of the commonalities we, in this area, share, (xii)
Brodber's vision for "the School for the Descendents of Africans Enslaved in the New World" includes the sharing and exchange of knowledge outside of the university with the hope of expanding these discussions into Africa and the diaspora. This vision became Blackspace.
In making her lectures public, Brodber hopes to inspire both private and group meditations and discussions about "our historical condition" (xiii) across the African Diaspora. Moreover, she explains that the lectures are written from a "very personal point of view" because these issues should not be the monopoly of university courses and academia: "they are matters which affect our daily lives," and each of her lectures "tries to point us towards a path of social and psychological engineering" (xii).5 The seven lectures included in The Continent of Black Consciousness take readers/listeners on a journey from slavery to the present from the perspective of enslaved Africans and their descendents, speaking and writing "the half that has never been told." Brodber works outside of the jargon of academia and deals with the social and psychological effects of enslavement while also creating a social and spiritual space that is (arguably) outside colonialism. While it is certainly debatable as to whether or not we can ever exist or be outside of colonial ideologies, I argue that it is possible to imagine and therefore create social and spiritual space outside colonialism. Brodber creates this space through her writing, in her fiction, and also through the literal space of Blackspace and Educo-tourism, which revolve around the annual Emancipation events held in Woodside since 2000 (in collaboration with the Woodside Development Action Group). Since Brodber believes that her novels did not fully do the work she wanted to do, she has focussed much of her energy into community-based programs, lectures, and activism in Woodside, while further illustrating her commitment to change through and outside her fiction writing.
The novel Myal works on several levels to exemplify subjecthood and a vision of community freed from British colonialism and impeding US neocolonialism. Brodber offers a poignant critique of consumption through her depiction of Ella's marriage to Selwyn and travel to the United States. Selwyn treats Ella like a doll that can be manipulated for his desires because to him, she is the exotic Other and embodies tropical paradise. Selwyn's inability to truly see Ella and her stories of home in all their complexity reflects the white imperial travel gaze. This gaze existed both in Europe and the United States during the late 1800s and early 1900s within the context of travel writing as
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'SBLACKSPACE
an arm of imperial power-shaping notions of the Otherso much so that Selwyn can consume and reproduce "paradise" from afar without ever having to visit. In order to write the coon play Caribbean Nights and Days, Selwyn uses Ella for raw materials, and this process is described as "poisons drained out of her body" through a "clean, clear passage from Ella's head through her middle and right down to outside" (Brodber, Myal 80). This draining is important because Ella must rid herself of colonial ideologies and structures. As these "drain" out of her mind, Ella realizes how she separated herself from her community. While her mind and body struggle for balance, she feels only emptiness; as a result, she desires to produce a child, but this can never happen with Selwyn because she is a "mule" to him. This is why her belly becomes over-sized after watching the opening night of Caribbean Nights and Days. Ella's silence and "bad belly" bring her back home to find healing from the distortion Selwyn created of her life. Her belly literally carries the effects of the racist and caricatured images in the play that Selwyn fashions from her stories. The "bad belly" is a product of their marriage and reflects the damage of his exploitation and consumption of her mind and body.
The coon play is reminiscent of the colonial travel narrative, which has historically been used to construct the colonized, racialized, gendered, and sexualized object. The coon show (similar to the European colonial travel narrative) is a tool of cultural imperialism. Therefore, it is no accident that Brodber chooses the genre of the coon show and its relationship to the colonial travel narrative to reveal how the exotic Other can be unethically consumed. Ella experiences spirit theft on multiple levels, her colonized mind, body, and spirit, which culminates in the viewing of the coon play. Her memories of home are twisted into a play with actors in blackface performing grotesque caricatures and the star is a white-skinned girl with flowing blonde hair. Ella's struggle to make sense of this emerges through "conversations between her selves" struggling between colonial (mis)education and black female subjectivity. One voice says, "He took everything I had away. Made what he wanted of it and gave me back nothing"; and then the other, "It was you who let him take everything. You gave him everything" (Brodber, Myal
84). In defense, she explains, "But I didn't even know when I was giving it, that it was mine and my everything"; to which the other voice responds, "How could you have know? Mule. With blinders on. You wouldn't listen, you wouldn't see" (84). The coon play makes her see how controlled she was through white colonial images and how disconnected she was from her home and her people. She must return home to find herself and to achieve spiritual healing and subjecthood.
When Maydene comes to take Ella back home, she warns her that "Spirit thievery comes in so many forms" (Brodber, Myal 83). The novel opens with Ella's healing and a description of the dirty ball ("bad belly") that came out of her body. Brodber's vivid descriptions of this spirit theft and its manifestation in the body are a vital component to her call for spiritual restoration and vision of social and spiritual space outside of colonialism. Mother Hen, Willie, Dan, White Hen, and Percy use their human-spirits and telepathy to help save Ella by bringing her back home literally and spiritually. Brodber's vision rewrites the notion of travel itself, and by extension, resonates with her critique of unethical travel and what becomes mass tourism in the late 1950s. While her novel traces the historical colonial roots in travel and challenges exploitative consumption, Brodber's community activism posits a dramatic change to contemporary tourisma vision of travel that is about exchange, community-building, and responsibility to the place and people one is visiting.
Brodber's research project Blackspace utilizes tourism, education, drama, oral histories/herstories, workshops, music, dance, and lectures surrounding the celebration and commemoration of Emancipation Day (1 August 1838 in the British Caribbean). Blackspace has become more than a research project; it is an Educo-tourism site as well as a space for people of African descent to reason about the psychological and material effects of enslavement. Brodber developed the concept of Educo-tourism through Blackspace, and it reflects the community tourism that Woodside has had for some time (university students, mostly specializing in agriculture and other hard sciences, come from around the world to visit and study). Blackspace works through Educo-
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'S BLACKSPACE
tourism by recruiting certain kinds of tourists from abroad and students from Jamaica to participate in the sharing and exchange of knowledge that contributes to the annual Emancipation events in Woodside. Blackspace and the Emancipation program include a two-week Emancipation summer school for children aged three to fifteen, Blackspace Reasonings (group discussions on weekend nights before 1 Aug), the annual honoring of the ancestors, community workshops, and drumming circle (all on 31 July), and the First of August events (worship, guest speaker, community play, and march). Through these community-based programs and events, Brodber has quite literally created the space she posits in her fictiona social and spiritual space, working outside colonialism. Blackspace is designed to account for the effects of enslavement and colonization in the present, in order to assist people of African descent in moving forward by dealing with the past in order to understand the present and create a better future. Brodber simultaneously critiques colonialism (and by extension neo-colonialism) and the exploitative consumption of the Caribbean while using the tourist industry to create an ethical and sustainable vision of tourism.
This resonates with the work being done in other parts of the Caribbean, and Brodber demonstrates how Caribbean people in the region find ways of contending with and resisting the region's overdependence on tourism. Brodber offers an alternative vision of tourism that seeks sustainability and is grounded in local education. Her vision is concerned with an equitable knowledge exchange. Brodber's concept of Educo-tourism has ethical potential for the tourist industry in Jamaica and across the region because it is organized around the sharing of knowledge between locals and tourists. She argues that one of the things she likes about tourism is that it can facilitate exchange in ways that are beneficial to both tourist and local; Brodber is uninterested in tourism that does not engage with history and education (Personal interview). She thus invites different people from around the African Diaspora as speakers, discussion leaders, teachers, musicians, performers, and artists. Most of the tourists and students who travel to Woodside and participate in Blackspace are of African descent. Brodber insists that all people are welcome to Black-
space; however, non-black participants must be respectful of certain activities that are for black participants only (Personal interview). As she explains in her lectures and fiction, Brodber believes that black people, including mixed-race black people, need to have the space and time to understand and deal with the legacy of enslavement and colonization, and that one of the best ways for this to happen is inside/among black communities. According to Brodber, the project's development does reach out to tourists "of all types and colors," but her focus is on people of African descent "working though and understanding their identity" ("Crossing" 2).
The philosophy behind Blackspace lies not only in black people creating selves and subjectivities, but also in the notion that people of African descent have valuable knowledge and experiences to share with others, in particular "a kind of spirituality" because of the experience of enslavement and the Transatlantic slave trade:
I believe that there is something that black people have to offer the worldsomething coming out of their experience. I don't believe that we were sent here in the Caribbean, that millions of us were taken from our place just for nothing; it has a reason. We have something to teach the world. Something that is our own experience, something that others don't have. For me the business is to find what that is.
(Brodber, "Crossing" 2-3)
Brodber's insistence that "we have something to teach the world" is what drives Blackspace and Educo-tourism because it is a philosophy that both privileges the black experience (of and in itself) and values exchange.6 Educo-tourism is an alternative model of tourism, far removed from the mass tourism and some heritage tourism models, which are (for the most part) one-sided consumption. With the rise of heritage tourism and the increasing demand for more responsible and sustainable tourism models, local cultures and environments have come to the fore. However, these models can be imperial and neo-colonial because foreign perspectives tend to overshadow local needs and desires, with "responsible" and "ethical" tourists deciding what is "best" for their "host" country.7 While the possibilities of responsible tourism are hopeful, it is imperative that these models are decolonized in order to ensure that
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'S BLACKSPACE
local communities have priority, autonomy, and decision-making power. Educo-tourism can be considered a kind of heritage tourism, but it is different because it is not one-sided, with tourists experiencing and consuming local culture, but rather, it is designed for more equitable exchanges, with tourists and locals learning from each other and all participating in the events. It contributes directly to the local community of Woodside (and the Jamaican tourist industry generally) with a product that is locally sustainable, that considers local communities, peoples, and cultures first and privileges the knowledge and experiences of black people. In doing so, Blackspace recreates a social and spiritual space outside of colonialismin essence, a literal discursive site for struggle.
Brodber illustrates her philosophy in Myal by representing the work that must be done in order to build community through the characters of Ella and William and the spirit animals. After her spiritual restoration, Ella works with William to dismantle the colonial education system, as an integral part of the plan to tell "the half that has never been told." Ella's critique of the children's storybook as an instrument of colonial control begins her building of community. Ella finally sees cultural colonization at work and how colonial education perpetuates spirit thievery. When she and Reverend Simpson (Dan) discuss the process of zombification, she understands how the colonial books took "their knowledge of their original and natural world away from them and left them empty shellsduppies, zombies, living dead capable only of receiving orders from someone else and carrying them out" (Brodber, Myal 107). Ella asks Reverend Simpson if this is what she is supposed to tell the children, "that the world is made up of zombies who cannot think for themselves or take care of themselves but must be taken care of by Mr. Joe and Benjie? Must my voice tell that to children who trust me?" (107). Ella does not want to participate in this kind of education system. Reverend Simpson explains that the problem is the colonial writer who wrote "without awareness of certain things. But does he force you to teach without this awareness? Need your voice say what his says?" (107). Ella understands that she can do something different with the story, use her voice and teach it in a way that counters its intended message; she can change the colonial school curriculum from within. She and her adopted father
William then decide to have community seminars to discuss these issues of colonial control and cultural cannibalism (108). As light-skinned black members of this community and products of the colonial education system, Ella and William are positioned to create more spaces for spiritual restoration by dismantling the colonial education system and encouraging autonomy.
At the end of the novel, the ancestor spirits debate what it means for the community that Ella and William are doing this work. White Hen is overly ecstatic and tiiinks that this will change everything and the colonizers will admit that they are spirit thieves (Brodber, Myal 109). Dan is not convinced; rather he is happy because of the possibility for change within the colonized community:
Two people understand, White Hen. Two special people. New people. My people have been separated from themselves, White Hen, by several means, one of them being the printed word and the ideas it carries. Now we have two people who are about to see through that.... People who are familiar with the print and the language of the print. Our people are now beginning to see how it and they themselves, have been used against us. Now, White Hen, now, we have people who can and are willing to correct images from the inside, destroy what should be destroyed, replace it with what should be replaced and put us back together, give us back ourselves with which to chart our course to go where we want to go. (110)
Ella and William are the antidotes that Willie calls for earlier in the novel, the "antidotes" who learn just enough in order to fight against colonial education and learn the colonial books in order to tell "the half that has never been told." Dan insists that the images must be corrected from the inside, certain things must be destroyed, others replaced, and finally recreated: "put us back together, give us back ourselves with which to chart our course to go where we want to go" (110). These words resonate with deep assertions for self-determination, autonomy, restoration, and reclaiming of minds, bodies, and spirits. White Hen seems unable to comprehend the notion of giving "us back ourselves." These closing moments of the novel among the spirits highlight the necessity of Blackspace. Brodber asserts community-building strategies and self-actualization in her novel, while sustaining the African Jamaican spirituality so vital to the community in her re-creation of social and spiritual space.
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'SBLACKSPACE
This vision resonates clearly in her Blackspace research project and the changes and spiritual restoration it promotes/encourages/sustains within the Woodside community.
Mother Hen's powerful and poetic words end Myal with the call for continuous struggle, acknowledging the time it will take to create the long-lasting and far-reaching changes that are needed: "Different rhymes for different times / Different styles for different climes / Someday them rogues in Whitehall / Be forced to change their tune" (Brodber, Myal 111). Mother Hen affirms Percy's idea to "short circuit the whole of creation," and that Ella was "gonna break it up and build it back again" (110). In other words, change fundamental to the way we understand and write the world must be initiated for the dismantling of colonial ideologies (decolonization) and the restoration of minds, bodies, spirits, and communities. Mother Hen explains that through different movements the struggle will prevail and Whitehall (representing the colonizers) will have to deal with their spirit thievery. Through Myal, Brodber creates a linguistic weapon that can be used across time periods and colonized spaces. This linguistic weapon is also a feminist critique of travel that uses the history of colonial travel narratives to resist colonial discourses found in tourism. Brodber extends the fictive landscape of Myal through her research project Blackspace and the concept Educo-tourism.
I participated in Blackspace 2007 through the Emancipation program, summer school, and celebration, as well as the Blackspace Reasonings. The summer school is designed to help the children of Woodside to learn about their community and African ancestors through the history of Woodside and Emancipation in Jamaica. The Blackspace Reasonings are group discussions among adults and teens of African descent from within and outside the Wood-side community regarding different topics each year. For 2007, three Reasonings engaged three questions that dealt with the psychological effects of enslavement in the present, effective education for descendents of enslaved Africans in the New World, and utilizing black archives through creative arts. Blackspace Reasonings foster a powerful space for what Brodber has asserted in her knowledge production. As Brodber posits in her writing and activism, this
work must begin with knowing one's histories/herstories, teaching/writing from these perspectives, and changing education systems (particularly colonial ones that devalue black people and experiences). Blackspace Reasonings encompass in practice what Brodber has mapped out theoretically and creatively in her historical, sociological, and fictive works, and they contribute a great deal to the entire experience of Blackspace and the Emancipation events.
The final two days of events on 31 July and 1 August build upon the work of the summer school and the Blackspace Reasoningsparticularly the community play, the reclaiming of space through worship and march, and the community workshops. These workshops include many members of the Woodside community, visitors from other villages and parishes in Jamaica, and people from abroad. In 2007, the three educators of African descent participating in Blackspace (including myself) led these workshops along with Brodber and other educators from Jamaica. We shared our knowledge and expertise on various issues, while discussing community-building, history/ herstory, Blackspace, Emancipation, religion, decolonization, education, and culture. This was Educo-tourism at work for locals, visitors from other parts of Jamaica, and tourists of African descent. The community play describes Emancipation Day on 1 August 1838 from the perspective of enslaved Africans in Woodside and surrounding communities, who would have gathered at a central location to hear the reading of the Emancipation proclamation. Brodber is the play's author, and she adds to it each year based on new oral stories or other relevant information she has collected. Different members of the community perform in the play each year along with invited visitors. The play includes not only the assigned and practiced parts, but also community parts, open to the audience. This reveals the extent to which Brodber consciously reworks colonial ideologies by resisting dominant narratives and creating a discursive site for struggle. The play leads into the annual march around what used to be the coffee estates/plantations of Woodside on which the ancestors laboured. The annual Emancipation program closes with this march and reclaiming of spacea spiritual and social act that is more than symbolic, particularly because it is about the present and future of community-building.
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'S BLACKSPACE
Reflecting on her theory of community-building, Brodber writes in the preface to her social and historical work Woodside Pear Tree Grove P.O., "that people should not only have knowledge of themselves but feel that others want this knowledge and should share in a two-way process with them, was part of the theory of community development ensuing out of my sojourn in my homeland" (vii). Brodber created this theory through returning to her village after studying and travelingin order to build or develop one's community, there should be sharing and exchange of knowledge, while at the same time understanding one's selfand she puts this theory into practice through Blackspace and Educo-tourism. These are ideas and concepts that can be transported and implemented across the African Diaspora, which Brodber encourages and hopes will happen (Personal interview). In participating in and studying her community activism along with her scholarly and creative work, I see Brodber's knowledge production as embodying a poetics of resistance interweaving the global and the local, and connecting the past and the present to re-envision the future, through grassroots activism and writing.
1. June E. Roberts also studies the interdisciplinary nature of Brodber's work but focusses on her fiction. She uses a contextual philosophical approach to studying Brodber's novels and argues that she develops "a unique Caribbean aesthetic of spirit-based social theory" (ix).
2. Brodber uses this phrasing in her historical and social science work; also, she prefers the word "enslaved" over "slave" because the transatlantic slave trade was very different from slavery in other periods and other parts of the world.
3. A number of critics have discussed this novel in terms of how it critiques colonialism. See Helen Tiffin's "Cold Hearts and (Foreign) Tongues: Recitation and the Reclamation of the Female Body in the Works of Erna Brodber and Jamaica Kincaid," Neil Ten Kortenaar's "Foreign Possessions: Erna Brodber's Myal, the Medium, and Her Message," and Shalini Puri's "An 'Other' Realism: Erna Brodber's Myal."
4. Denise deCaires Narain argues that Ella and Anita's bodies "become the stage upon which a collective zombification is enacted and exorcisedand in both cases it is indigenous forms of spiritual healing which provide the cure" (267).
5. Brodber's lecture series is specifically designed to promote the sharing of knowledge among people of the African Diaspora while at the same encouraging black people to learn their histories/herstories inside and outside the university setting.
6. The notion of "we have something to teach the world" works with Blackspace as a framework for engaging experience and psychic trauma, along with larger social and systemic concerns, such as the institutionalization of racism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression.
7. A number of studies on tourism define the problems with and possibilities of responsible or ethical tourism, which include sustainable and heritage models. See Sharon Bonn Gmelch's "Why Tourism Matters" for an overview of tourism's global reach and economic, environmental, social, and cultural impact. Gmelch describes "responsible" tourism as a new concept that supports ecotourism, alternative tourism, and sustainable tourism development" (13). Also, see Deborah McLaren's "Rethinking Tourism," in which she advocates the need for education in fostering responsible tourism (445)
Brathwaite, Kamau. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-
1820. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971. Print. Brodber, Ema. The Continent of Black Consciousness: On the History of the
African Diaspora from Slavery to the Present Day. London: New
Beacon, 2003. Print. . "Crossing Borders: An Interview with Writer, Scholar, and Activist Erna
Brodber." Interview with Nadia Ellis Russell. Inthefray, 7 May
2001, n. pag. Web. 8 March 2010. . Myal. London: New Beacon, 1988. Print.
. The People of My Jamaica Village, 1817-1948. Jamaica: University
Printery, 1999. Print. . Personal Interview. 28 July 2007.
. Woodside Pear Tree Grove P.O. Jamaica: University of West Indies
Press, 2004. Print. Chevannes, Barry. Rastafari: Roots and Ideology. New York: Syracuse
University Press, 1994. Print.
NIXON ERNA BRODBER'S BLACKSPACE
Gmelch, George. Behind the Smile: The Working Lives of Caribbean Tourism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. Print.
Gmelch, Saron Bonn. "Why Tourism Matters." Tourists and Tourism: A
Reader. Ed. Sharon Bohn Gmelch. Long Grove: Waveland, 2004. 3-21. Print.
Kortenaar, Neil Ten. "Foreign Possessions: Erna Brodber's 'Myal', the Medium, and Her Message." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 30.4 (Oct 1999): 51-73. Print.
McLaren, Deborah. "Rethinking Tourism." Tourists and Tourism: A Reader. Ed. Sharon Bohn Gmelch. Long Grove: Waveland, 2004.443-456. Print.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.
Narain, Denise deCaires. "Body Talk: Writing and Speaking the Body in
the Texts of Caribbean Women Writers." Caribbean Portraits:
Essays on Gender Ideologies and Identities. Ed. Christine Barrow.
Kingston: Ian Randle, 1998. 255-275. Print. Nelson-McDermott, Catherine. "Myal-ling Criticism: Beyond Colonizing
Dialectics." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature
24.4 (Oct. 1993): 53-67. Print. Puri, Shalini. "An 'Other' Realism: Erna Brodber's 'Myal'." ARIEL: A
Review of International English Literature 24.3 (July 1993): 95-
Rahming, Melvin B. "Towards a Critical Theory of Spirit: The Insistent
Demands of Erna Brodber's Myal." Revista/Review Interamericana 31.1-4(2001): 1-12. Print.
Roberts, June. Reading Erna Brodber: Uniting the Black Diaspora through Folk Culture and Religion. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006. Print.
Smyth, Heather. '"Roots beyond Roots': Heteroglossia and Feminist
Creolization in Myal and Crossing the Mangrove." Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 12(2002): 1-24. Print.
Tiffin, Helen. "Cold Hearts and (Foreign) Tongues: Recitation and the
Reclamation of the Female Body in the Works of Erna Brodber and Jamaica Kincaid." Callaloo: A Journal of African American and African Arts and Letters 16.4 (Fall 1993): 909-921. Print.
UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY: MARLENE NOURBESE PHILIP'S "A GENEALOGY OF RESISTANCE" IN THE LIGHT OF CONTEMPORARY THEORIES ON GENEALOGY
This article offers a discussion of Marlene Nourbese Philip's essay, "A Genealogy of Resistance," which gives the title to a collection of her critical writings published in 1997. In "A Genealogy of Resistance," Philip works within the essay form in her typically unconventional manner in order to explore the different contradictions and possibilities presented by her specific Caribbean genealogy. Indeed, although Philip begins as one might expect by retracing the genealogy of the father, this step is only taken in order to dismantle the paternal world view and create spaces for alternative versions to emerge. The essay is written with a consciously fragmented structure that immediately resists the conventional expectations of genre, form, and standpoint, and fragmentation becomes central to her project to develop a different concept of genealogy. Philip writes a journey that allows her to learn how to speak about genealogy in a different way, subverting and decentring the very concept of a linear arboreal genealogya genealogy based on trees and roots. She is concerned to bring forward a genealogy that can reshape the very idea of genealogy, producing a metagenealogy through her characteristic metacritical
MaComere 11 (2009): 80-103
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
writing style. Philip enacts this process by approaching her personal and collective Caribbean history as a genealogist, thereby unlayering the very body of history that is unwrittenthe unofficial, localized history of women and colonial subjects that also exists beyond the reach of words.
Despite the regional and historical specificity of Philip's genealogy, it is useful to read her work alongside other theories on genealogy. My intention is to focus on some productive intersections with the work of philosophers of genealogy such as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Nathan Widder, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Elizabeth Grosz. I want to suggest that reading Philip's writing alongside these theoretical paradigms allows us to locate her work as part of a body of genealogical writings, but also to identify both her refusal to assemble her genealogy in the traditional arboreal pattern and her resistance to a genealogy that cannot accommodate the realities of Caribbean discourse and history.
Deleuze and Guattari's rhizomorphous assemblage as formulated in A Thousand Plateaus (1996) is particularly useful for a reading of Philip's genealogy. Their way of thinking undermines the very idea of a linear coherent system of knowledge that can possibly seek to contain the world. Through their rhizome they theorize a system that has no system because it attempts to define a complex reality that is no longer coherent and hence cannot be reduced:
to be rhizomorphous is to produce stems and filaments that seem to be roots, or better yet connect with them by penetrating the trunk, but put them to strange new uses. We're tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicals. They've made us suffer too much. All of arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics. (15)
Deleuze and Guattari's adoption of the image of rhizome offers a helpful way of reading Philip's genealogical writing. The rhizome grows horizontally, moving in many directions, and it cannot be assembled in the verticality of a common trunk as represented by the genealogical tree. Although Deleuze and Guattari do not particularly define their theory as genealogical, the rhizome represents a genealogical method. According to Nathan Widder's study, Genealogies of Difference (2002), the rhizome expresses the lesson
of anti-foundationalism that shatters the very idea of an identity that reduces differences into the sameness represented by the unitary base of the tree (7). Widder's defence of the genealogical method considers Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome as a valid image that embodies multiplicity. Widder argues that once the concept of identity crumbles, what emerges is multiplicity and the "thought of pluralism" (4). Hence, in order to attempt an understanding of differences, multiplicity, and the thought of pluralism, we need to histo-ricize, not through an orthodox historical or empirical method, but rather through a genealogical one (19).
Similarly to Widder, Philip proposes a plural genealogy by using fragmented extracts of standard historical material. Consequently, her analysis of descent cannot be reduced to a single history and foregrounds a plurality of events (Widder 12; Foucault 82). According to Foucault, "the search for descent" is not about establishing foundations; rather, it questions that which was once assumed to be stable and "fragments what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined consistent with itself (82). Foucault's genealogy frames its anti-foundationalism by questioning the very idea of origin. As Foucault states in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," the genealogist needs history to dispel the chimeras of the origin: "where the soul pretends unification or the self fabricates a coherent identity, the genealogist sets out to study the beginningnumberless beginnings, whose faint traces and hints of colour are readily seen by a historical eye" (80-81). I wish to demonstrate how Philip's genealogy as an expression of heterogeneity and fragmentation makes, as a crucial framework for her anti-foundational genealogy, several ways of beginning. Her essay produces "numberless" ways to begin her genealogy, thereby almost shattering the very idea of an origin.
Foucault is also an important theoretical departure point when considering Philip's work because he situates the body at the centre of his analysis. Foucault's "genealogy, as analysis of descent" is inscribed within the articulation of the body and history: "Its task is to expose a body totally imprinted by history and the process of history's destruction of the body" (83). Further-
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
more, the body manifests traces of the past with its desires, errors, and sufferings. Descent leaves its traces on the "nervous system," in "temperament," and in the "digestive apparatus" (82). In the analysis of descent, Foucault suggests taking almost everything in consideration that is related to the body, such as "diet, climate, and soil" (83).
Foucault's vision of the body as a text of history is useful for our reading of Philip's genealogy, which is situated in the Caribbean island of Tobago and deals with crops, staples, food, climate, and landscape. However, it is also helpful to consider how Foucault's idea of the body is reshaped in Grosz's study Volatile Bodies (1994). After a detailed analysis of Nietzsche's and Foucault's philosophies, Grosz questions Foucault's concept of the body, which he sees as a "blank, passive page" (156). Grosz's intervention seeks to reconfigure Foucault's idea of the body as differentiated by sexual and racial frames. She states, "the metaphor of the social inscription of corporeal surfaces" should not "be abandoned by feminists but these metaphors must be refigured, their history in and complicity with the patriarchal effacement of women made clear" (159).1 In "A Genealogy of Resistance," Philip does not address the body directly, as she does in some of her other work; however, we certainly perceive in her genealogy the awareness of the body as the site of gendered and racial inscriptions.
Although Philip's work can be aligned with that of the theorists of genealogy I have cited, she positions herself at a distance from their work on several crucial issues. For example, she adapts language by subverting and deconstructing the language of the father to produce an alternative way to speak about genealogy. Furthermore, she does not discuss history as a given idea or discipline but rather insists on a specifically Caribbean history that deals with the production of cocoa in Tobago and the interlinked histories of the plantation, neo-co-lonialism, and class exploitation. In Philip's work, for those who are involved with her history, the discourse about descent necessarily has a corporeal dimension. Bodies are the sites where social and historical inscriptions take place. The originality of her approach to genealogy lies in the way that these elements of history, body, and origin are inextricably linked to the question of language, in particular the English language in the Caribbean.
Reading Method: One Reading Slips into the Other
Through a complex and overlapping engagement with language, history, and fragmentation, Philip manages to unfold history and, at the same time, restructure an idea of genealogy. Hence, my own reading of Philip's essay develops in six moments that sometimes overlap. Firstly, I focus on Philip's discourse around language by considering her earlier work as a precedent for "A Genealogy of Resistance" and the ways Philip adopts naming in her analysis of descent. Secondly, I try to disentangle the many histories that the essay gathers. Thirdly, my reading will explore the links between history and the body. The fourth and fifth moments of my reading are fragmentation and image, and these develop together. While I am concerned with the image of cocoa as a possible poetic image that provides the writer with her method of unlayering, I will also show how and why this method takes place through repetition and the process of fragmentation.
Finally, in my last and concluding moment, I am concerned with the poem that ends Philip's essay on genealogy. The nearer we come to the end of her essay, the more we have to realize how fragmentation becomes fundamental to Philip's genealogical writing. The poem that appears at the end of the essay seems to resonate and develop out of a process of unlayering and fragmentation. In other words, the consequence of Philip's metagenealogical writing is that language, naming, history, the body, and image all intersect in the essay to create her fragmented text. The deconstruction of the father's language from the beginning of her essay is brought to its extreme consequences with the final poem. Hence, my final reading attempts an understanding of why Philip needs to conclude an essay on genealogy of resistance with a poem.
What characterizes the form of this essay, as I have anticipated above, are the numberless beginnings, stammers, and repetitions that express Philip's attempt to come to terms with the paradox that lies at the heart of the acquisition of the English language in the Caribbean context of slavery: "the African
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
learned both to speak and to be dumb at the same time, to give voice to the experience and i-mage, yet remain silent" (Philip, "Absence" 16). Philip refuses to adopt language in transparent ways, and conversely, through language she brings forward her counter-discourse. Language is deconstructed in the extreme within her genealogical writing so that the definition of genealogy itself is fragmented and transformed. Philip's key point is to adopt language as a strategy that allows her, as Foucault suggests, to overcome "the rulers through their own rules" (86).
In an interview with Patricia Saunders, Philip explains how once the writer is engaged with language in a colonial framework she has to face "the issue of power," which is a crucial element of the colonial machine: "Laws, regulations, rules are all language-based, and they metastasize within the lives of colonial subjects" (Philip, "Trying" 217). Philip describes her counter-discourse in this way: "the hydra-headed nature of colonialism demands a hydra-headed response, hence the multiplicity of forms. So, in taking up the very weapon that the colonizer has used against us, writers refashion an imposed reality and resist the colonizer" (217). Her unlayering of language reveals how language is not only the site of power, adopted to sign a property, but also a tool of dehumanization for "those who in their brutal naming obliterated others. Names and people" (Philip, "Genealogy" 9).
Philip's discourse around language and its intimate links with history and the father figure, explored in "A Genealogy of Resistance," can best be explained by reference to her earlier works that comprise five collections of poetry, her novel Harriet's Daughter (1988), and her first essay collection, Frontiers: Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture (1992). In many ways, "A Genealogy of Resistance" seems to gather, in a kind of poetical workshop, themes that are not only at the heart of her own distinctive poetics, but also at the core of Caribbean literature, such as history, memory, ancestry, geography, and language, as well as the complex connections between all these. In her earlier well-known piece "The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy," which prefaces her collection of experimental poems She Tries Her Tongue (1989), Philip explains autobiographically how she became a writer.
She manifests her intention to work with an enforced language in order to access the idea of a recovered mother tongue, given the realities of Caribbean history and the absence of a mother tongue to go back to. Philip's poetic work with language maps a journey back into history in the attempt to retrace the painful ways in which Africans in their diaspora have been denied their mother tongue. As she writes in the poem "Discourse on the Logic of Language":
English is my father tongue. A father tongue is A foreign language, Therefore English is a foreign language
not a mother tongue. (She Tries Her Tongue 56)
In "A Genealogy of Resistance," Philip continues her exploration of the same issues concerning history and language, but it is significant that in this work Philip does not construct an essay that delivers ideas in a linear, coherent, and conventional way. Rather, this time she is also delineating another possible methodology to manipulate the language of the father in such a way as to challenge its sole authority, as well as the official History and world view established by European colonizers that this language represents in the Caribbean.
In her resistant version of genealogy, Philip begins by introducing the ambivalent figure of her father: "I will begin with him. Not with the word" ("Genealogy" 9). Her beginning evokes the biblical conflation of patriarchy and language that is at the very root of western culture: in the beginning there was the word. Philip starts with the father, who embodies "the word," bringing light into the darkness of the room. Readers familiar with Philip's work will know that the figure of the father holds multiple meanings that are both personal and collective. It is the father who coerces her to study law, and who represents imposed European values and the colonial father's tongue, forced on African slaves by colonialism. The father's light displacing darkness may evoke the colonial analogy of European civilization that displaces the darkness of the uncivilized. Yet Philip's genealogy resists this concept of civilization and patriarchal colonial origin that her father has
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
personified by dismantling the binary system of light and darkness underpinned by the schema of European imperialism. She starts this essay with the symbolic kerosene lantern that her father used to hold while entering the room at night, but immediately deconstructs it as a meaningful or natural point of origin:
1 will begin therewith the kerosene lantern, nowith him, my father, bringing light. ... I begin with him. . My father. Than with her. My mother. I begin with him because. One needs a place to begin. A place from which to build a genealogy. And beginning with him. And the light. Appears so much clearer. Besides, the images I associate with her are... But those come later, in the stories and poems.
How they proliferate, the stories, each a tiny filigreed net. Like the mantle of the kerosene lantern. My father pursuing his own spoored trail part hope, part memoryin the construction of a genealogy. (10)
As her father wanted to locate himself in known and written histories, so he used conventional documentation to construct his genealogy. For Philip, it is "the unknown, in the unwritten" that offers an empowering alternative genealogy, and although she starts with the father, the stuttering and hesitations of her language demonstrate her resistance (10). It is immediately obvious in her writing, a very visual writing, that she is at the interface of several contradictions or cracks that will part to reveal other storiesa different side of history that remained in the dark. While explaining the father's coherence and clear ideas about his linear genealogy, she keeps interrupting her writing with short, truncated sentences. The structure does not correspond to the meaning, betraying the inadequacy of this 'origin' and announcing the contradictoriness with which this beginning must be told. It is a beginning that announces a deconstruction, a reinterpretation, and an exploration to rediscover and give voice to the silent stories hidden behind the genealogies of colonial ancestral names.
Faced with the task of enumerating her ancestors' names outside the traditional genealogical tree, Philip constructs a chain of words: "Ti Miss Maam, Cousin Baby, Mother Bowles, Uncle Sylvan, Ole Daddy, James Bowles, Adolphus Philip" ("Genealogy" 14). These are the names situated at
the forked stems that trace the Caribbean nation's genealogy. This chain of names functions like the subterranean rhizome that grows horizontally. These names are linked with stories and events that cannot simply be explained by the verticality of the genealogical tree in which differences are unified by a common arboreal trunk. Philip's anti-foundational genealogy deriving from slavery must account for a plural descent that has produced family and kinship relations based on rape, violence, and difference. Through this citation of names Philip retraces events, the silenced and intimate history of an island-Nation that has been determined by plantation and slavery.
Philip's is not a genealogy based on the proud enumeration of European names that her father attempts to delineate by naming his own father Parkinson Philip-Yeates, marking only his European paternal lineage and omitting the African bloodlines that have no names. Philip writes:
One of his stories is that one Henry Yeates, appointed President of the Tobago Administrative Council in 1845, married an African woman. A slave woman, he tells me. She had some breeding, he adds, and that Henry Yeates would have known this since 1826____My father's maternal grandfather was indeed one Henry Yeates. (10)
Lives and naming are transformed by Philip in her representation of events that have been forged through enforced suffering and brutal relationships. Philip's recovering of names and persons is a point of departure from which to understand her concept of genealogy. Names are repeated and changed all the time, eroding their meaning. One such story is that of "Adolphus Philip" who was once called "Adolphus Adams,"
who along with his brothers all changed their surnames from Adams to Philip. My father can't tell me why. A genealogy all the same. Of names and changes.... As if we are all somehow uncomfortable in these names; wearing them like strange and foreign clothes that generation after generation we keep changing and adjusting for a better use. (21)
Philip's descent cannot proceed without naming, as "we cannot think without identifying," but her naming is not taken as any guarantee of identity (Widder 4). Like the theorists of genealogy, Philip substitutes events for naming. Having
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
been gathered in a chain, the list of names then disperses and is released from a false meaning it comes to represent, though not to namea slave history in which cocoa production is the fundamental link.
In writing her genealogy, Philip explains how "it is a genealogy snaking its way through History" ("Genealogy" 22). This history is directly linked with the island of Tobago where the lives of black people were organized around the production of cocoa, in the close shadow of the other histories of slavery and the colonial plantation. The history of Tobago is ostensibly unfolded through the voice of her father and his mother who directly experienced the production of the cocoa. These people explain the economic effects on their families of the collapse in the price of cocoa during the First World War. Like the individual stories, the stories around cocoa proliferate and reveal their differences.
First, Philip reports the official history through the voice of Parkinson Barnfiels Philip-Yeates, who represents the perfectly colonized British citizen. Through his voice Philip gives an account of the official history of Tobago. His version highlights how the region, with the production of cocoa, contributed very much to the "progress of the West Indies." He adds, "There used to be an expression: as rich as a Tobago planter"; he also locates the island's importance in relation to Europe's past: "during the First World War [Tobago] produced a lot of cocoa to help the cause of the War" (15). Following his voice, we have a different, resistant version of the cocoa history. Reported in the first person by Undine Altruda Philip, this narration is direct, simple, and unfettered by obligations to an audience. Her story appears in indented italics and is scattered throughout the text as if privileged by the author's awareness that her voice, like her body, is the one most intimate with the history of cocoa. She explains how to produce cocoa:
Picking cocoa took about five days. Then about three days to cut open the pods and take out the beans which would be wet and runny. The beans would be put in baskets and brought out of the gully and put under the house, which was high and left to sweat. (16)
To this highly personalized recollection, Philip adds a comment about her family working with cocoa in Tobago and their difficulties in funding her uncle's education when the price of cocoa collapsed. The history of Tobago is from then on also a history of migration. After the collapse of the cocoa production, people had to move throughout the Caribbean to seek better jobs and to better themselves. This is a movement of people that was initiated by the Middle Passage, which Philip prefers to name as "Crossing" (21). She tells how Uncle Sylvan travels to the States and Ole Daddy to Venezuela to work in the oil fields. Many had to go to Panama to build the canal. Others went to Cuba to work in "the bloody canefields" (23). Others still went to England to do the work that the "white British not doing"; and from England, if life was too unbearable, they would eventually move to Canada and America (23).
Philip follows her past, recovers these pieces, by writing in an unconventional way about different kinds of history. However, the recovering of her past through her genealogy culminates with the moments of history when Africans in the New World organized their resistance to slavery. Philip mentions not just one moment of this history, but instead gathers a series of events around a "legacy of resistance" (23). Her emphasis on the collective is shown when she tells of the "Native and African joining forces in Seminole under Osceola to battle US forces in the nineteenth century" or of a "unified resistanceBlack Caribs in Dominica fighting the British and their empire [sic]" (12). Events of mental-spiritual resistance are also cited: "Quarshie of Tobago: 'Every Friday Quarshie does fly back to Africa'; the Maroons of Jamaica; the Loyalists of Nova Scotia who fed up with the racism in Canada deciding to go back. Back to Africa" (14). These moments of shared resistance are important for Philip, who sees in the act of resistance not only an act of love towards the freedom of your people, but also the events through which the Africans achieved the possibility of making themselves visible in history, creating possible genealogies of resistance. Hence, through a personal genealogy of resistance Philip develops a collective history of resistance.
Philip is passionately involved with the act of recovering history, but at the same time she resists official History and refuses to represent it in conven-
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
tional ways. Indeed, she collects past events, maintaining them in their dispersion as a genealogist does. From a Foucaultian perspective we could say that Philip does not go back in time to "restore an unbroken continuity that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things ... [her] duty is not to demonstrate that the past actively exists in the present, that [the past] continues secretly to animate the present, having imposed a predetermined form on all its vicissitudes," as for example some Caribbean writers such as Edouard Glissant, Paule Marshall, or Merle Collins seem to do (Foucault 81).2 Rather, she seems to echo Foucault's insistence that "genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species and does not map the destiny of a people. On the contrary, to follow the complex course of descent is to maintain passing events in their proper dispersion" (81). Philip introduces historical events, such as cocoa production and the trade routes across the Mediterranean, dispersing them in the text. Thereby, she intermingles official history with her recovered fragments, not simply in order to demonstrate that these events have a historical value, a continuity, but rather to show how slavery and colonialism exerted their power on bodies, ideas of race, family relations, and names, producing incoherence and fragmentation in familial relationships and people's identities. One example is Mother Bowles, one of the writer's ancestors, the woman with the flying cheekbones, who was part Carib and part African:
Daughter of the son of that African woman whose name I still don't know. Who lay first with Cruickshank then with Robinson. My maternal grandmother, Mother Bowles. Was it her mother who was Carib? What was her name? Is that where she got those cheekbones? (Philip, "Genealogy" 13)
Philip's genealogy becomes emblematic when it deals with slavery, as her great-great-grandmother was in all likelihood a slave. It is also probable that her children were fathered by a white European slave owner or plantation overseer in Tobago. Thus, Philip faces the question of how to trace a genealogy based on rape. How do we know, to use Philip's terminology, the "where/ who/how" of sexual violence? The only thing we seem to know, according to her, is 'sex': "Sex. Is how we all got here. The where and the who are what too often escapes me" (13).
3. SubjectivityThe BodyGenealogies
It is clear that among the plethora of stories, Philip tries to delineate the genealogy of her subjectivity here. She resists the very idea of identity as it exists within a western tradition of thought that has erased differences. Philip is aware that her multiple identity is linked with the very plurality of stories produced by the African Diaspora and her ancestors' lives on the island of Tobago. It is interesting to notice how this concept of multiple subjectivity is also already implicated in her genealogical method, as Widder explains: "To vanquish the shadow of the God of identity is to show that it is precisely that: a penumbra of a more primordial multiplicity that can be reached neither historically nor empirically but only genealogically" (19). Similarly, Philip proposes a genealogy that uses extracts of standard historical analysis but refuses to be reduced to it. History alone is not as important as the method of recovering the past. She recreates a genealogy only by creating many, resisting the idea of writing a single linear genealogy. We perceive in Philip the impossibility of knowing about "a primordial truth" (Foucault 78). What is found at the historical beginning of things is not the identity of the origin, but rather it is "the dissension of other things," a "disparity" that has been retained by the body (79). Philip shows precisely "the ways in which history affects bodies, the interface between bodies and knowledge, and how knowledge is extracted from and, in its turn, helps to form bodies" (Grosz 146).
Philip introduces a new and different mode of knowing, a non-western mode, that is cyclical rather than linear and dictated by pain and by the unconscious, which are retained in the body through history, the Middle Passage, and the ritual ceremony of her African ancestors. This process of knowing dictates her own way of reconstructing a genealogy:
The genealogy twists. It turns. Begins on a continent one aching ocean away, wends its way across the chasm of the wretched Middle Passage. To a piece of land surrounded. The knowing comes with hunches. With feelings. With impulsesplacing scented oil at the back of the neck. Why, I don't know. Only to find out that that is a particularly powerful spot in
RODELLA UNLAYERING THE BODY OF HISTORY
Orisha worship. There is much that is lost. That will never be recovered. In ordinary ways. There is much I would sooner forget. But the grief. And the anger. They waylay me at times. Sudden and persistent in their hounding. And so I must. Give an account. In a certain manner. Of descent. ("Genealogy" 28)
Genealogy is necessarily connected with knowing, history, and the body, and in this context, Philip's genealogy is one that must encounter slavery, the plantation, and what life might have been before these brutalities. "A Genealogy of Resistance" renders these particular processes of destruction and ob-jectification of the body that her ancestors, the Caribbean people of African, European, and Carib descent, have endured through their histories. Philip's genealogical writing becomes in this sense a journey of recollection through the body: a painful exploration in which she exposes and excavates the body, and reopens the stigmata of the past experiences of deportation, mutilation, and violence that the body has absorbed through slavery and colonialism. This past becomes present through the writing with its wounds working unconsciously on the body and mind. Writing functions then as a multiple process of unveiling, dismantling, and recovering the body, developing a process of remembering that shapes a new form of knowinga form of knowing that comes from a pain that seems to have been forgotten but keeps coming back: "There is much I would sooner forget. But the grief. And the anger. They waylay me at times" (28). The writer's process in her genealogy is to attempt to recover this pain not "in ordinary ways" but to write about descent in an extraordinary way (28). The pain and the meaning of this pain will be forgotten through a ritual of initiation that the writer embraces, as I will show, through her final poem.
Philip's alternative genealogy suggests a mode of knowing that retraces history and stories that have left traces on the body. Grosz's Volatile Bodies investigates issues around the body in relation to the work of Nietzsche and Foucault. Grosz's intervention raises feminist concerns regarding Foucault's "corporeal ontology" by asking, "Do sexually different bodies require different inscriptive tools to etch their different surfaces?" (156). In other words,
Grosz identifies in Foucault a body that is a kind of blank space without any specific differentiation in sexual or racial inscriptions. While Grosz identifies a "patriarchal effacement of women" in Foucault's corporeal ontology (159), her critique of Foucault's body also intersects with Philip's genealogical project to recover bodies that are expressions of multiple differences.
Nevertheless, Philip's concept of body is framed within a specifically Caribbean context, which is necessarily dictated by a different concept of language, history, and descent in the region. Philip works on the English language to demonstrate that her intention is not to offer a new theory on genealogy in general, as Foucault or Nietzschewhite male Europeanshave done. Indeed, in another essay of this collection, "Dis PlaceThe Space Between," Philip explicitly reconfigures Foucault's body with sexual and racial differences: "Foucault (the white, male European) speaks. On Sexuality: ... deployments of power are directly connected to the bodyto bodies, functions, physiological processes, sensations, and pleasures; far from the body having to be effaced..." She further differentiates Foucault's body by highlighting "THE BODY FEMALE and black = a history of sexuality = A history of bodies" (92). Philip's crucial departure from a male corporeal perspective or a western feminist view is the inextricable link between the terms body, female, black, and history. For Philip, a history of sexuality means "biology and history forever tie up in the black space" of the Middle Passage: deportation, displacement, but especially sexual violence on her female ancestors. To follow a genealogy as a Caribbean woman means to develop questions about "African Body Place" through family relations, whose lines have been silenced, obscured by history and knowledge (93).
It is significant that Philip includes the official definition of the word genealogy towards the beginning of her own exploration: '"an account of descent from ancestors by enumeration of intermediate persons' from two Greek words meaning 'descent' and 'one who speaks in a certain manner'" ("Gene-