Gosh Miss Lou,
LOUISE BENNETT, cele, ed in a homely-looking dus-
brated Jamaican tolklorist ter over her nightgown),
specially invited to give a and so comically would she
few of her brilliant perform- purse her lips, roll her eyes
ances at the historic Carib- and wave her chubby hands
bean Festival of the Creative about, then suddenly end the
Arts is without a doubt one performance by t h rowin g
o0 the most talented and at- back her head and emitting
ticulate culture exponents her throaty "A-HA", that
the Caribbean has known, you are sure to be both con-
This lady, whose voice vulsed with laughter and
with her own witty dialects overwhelmed with admira-
on current affairs has de- tion of her gift of mimicry.
lighted many a Guyanese BennettCoverley
since the 1950's, has artis- Louise Benlett-Coverley
tic apeal which defies time was described as "a poet of
and territorial boundaries. utterance" by her country-
Miss Lou, as she ispoa man Rex Nettleford when
larly known in her home- her book "Jamaica- Lbrish"
land, is a fat, jolly, brown-
skinned earth mother whose i
personality is so evanescent *Pe
that one minute after dis-
discussing the s t a t of
Caribbean culture she could
break into a snatch of song
that would depict one as-' By Claud
pect of Jamaican folk life.
Or she would recite
one of her poems or
sketches in the fase'nating
sing-song accent; and the as published in the mid-
piece would turn out to be 1960s.
e u sHe eno er name and her inimit-
a satire on some legendary Her name and her nimit-
young man who returned able performing style have
to his homeland from Eng. been conversation pieces in
land and brought the Eng- every Jamaican household
lish accent with him. for decades.
SMiss Lou would perform
the sketch while reclining
comfortably on a sofa (dress-
She is probably the first
West Indian to study and
present folklore as an art-
form and her limitless re-
pository of West Indian dia-
lect and folklore, her hu-
mour, wit and imagination
her observant eye for details
and her keen perception for
the nuances and comic ap-
peal of everyday life, her
nimble intellect and im-
mense talent as a stage per-
former have all conspired
happily to place her head and
shoulders above every other
aspiring folklorist in this
part of the world.
She has travelled and per.
formed in almost every cor-
ner of the globe; ("and my
dear, I have never bought a
plane ticket in my life!")
and when she is not dashing
off to New York to ride a
donkey-cart down Fifth
Avenue as part-of a TV com.
mercial stint, "she is busy
working on her scripts for
her thrice-weekly 15-minute
programme entitled "Miss
Lou's Views" and her Satur-
day Programme "Ring-Ding" another, and seek to redis.
on Radio Jamaica. cover the cultural bonds
"I have been performing that. link u together."
on "Miss Lou's Views", for One of theQbitgeit snags to
seven years. now," declared the development of'folk cul-
Miss Lou ih person, "but for ture, Miss Lou feels, is some
the last three years I had people's tendency to look
the programmes out. down down on folklore.
from nightly to three nights "Do you know that people
per week Mondays Wed- would read Burins'and S ae.
nesdays and Fridays. spare and enjoy the .dia-
"I find the programnies loots written in the various
enjoyable. I comment- on the. Pasaiges, but when it comes
local social scenes in Jamal- to their own West Indian
ca and I sometimes relate the dialect they tend to dismiss
changes to the outside world. it because it is to them an
"S o m e times I speculate unpleaaint reminder of their
that the trade relations in slav ancestry. They just do
not appreciate the rich herl-
Stag of folklore slavery has
t p "For instance -think ..o
some of thie ,prbs aiid
S Page sayings that we have today
that wfee originally handed
ette Earle down to us from our slave
"There are many situ.
nations that crop up in mod-
ern times that we can find
the Caribbean would event- nothing so appropriate to
ually make the World Bank describe them as an old par-
go bankrupt, A-ha! able or proverb.
"Wre have such a wealth
"Then I have regular stage of material here that we
performances going, like the could base our culture on.
"Jamaica Pantomime" which Don't tell me that we are go-
ended last week after 63 ing to despise what is our
sold-out performances of ow!" .
1,100 seats." Miss Lou, who...is the wife
MVss Lou, who is seeing of draughtsman Eric Cover-
Guyana for the first time, is ley and stepmother of his
amazed at the cultural heri- 22-year old son and foster
tage of the Guyanese peo- mother of a 12-year old
pie. daughter, applauded the con-
IT'S RICH cept of Carifesta '72. and ex-
pressed the hope that cul-
"Man!" she exclaimed, "do tural expositions of this sort
you realise the wealth of would become a periodic
talent you have here just feature.
waiting to be developed? "I can recall that_ there
"I was at the rehearsals -
at the Cultural Centre last
night and I heard the Guy- a one such Caribbean Fes-
anese practising their pieces tival held in Trinidad in
for the Guyana presentation 1958.
and do you know that I did "It was arranged by the
not hear one piece repeat- member territories of the
ed? now defunct West Indies
"I for one never realized Federation and it was called
the rich culture you had "Federal Festival."
here and I know that so 'I wasamong the perform-
much could be done to have ers in a stage show entitled
this culture developed. "Caritb Gold" and I had to
"The individual folk cul- recite some lies that told of
ture of the Caribbean terri. life in Guyana -and the love-
tories could be developed and ly food and fruit that are
be appreciated immensely if here.
we make a serious effort of "Soon after this exposi-
exposing our folk art to one tion, the Federation dis-
solved so the idea of a Carib-
bean Arts Festival was never
A. BIT. OF REST
"However," she continued,
"w'th this new spirit of
Caribbean -togetherness in
every aspect of life, arts
festivals such as this should
come off every two or three
years with different terri-
tories being the host each
time. This I think would do
much for the development
of the Caribbean Culture as
The Jamaican poet rested
on her first day in Guyana
and on the second allowed
members of the Press and
radio and a host of actors and
fans to trickle in steadily to
chat with her at her Echili-
bar Villas residence.
"I came to Guyana a tired
woman," she explained. "for
before leaving Jamaica I had
to record 22 programmes to
leave behind me. That's why
I had to spend the day re-
covering," she said, before
bursting into a song-entitled
"Rib ba Bank O'Valley,"
which is the name of her
house in Enfield, Gordon
Town, Jamaica, and which
also is the title of a Jamai-
can folk song (its tune ii the
popular "River Bank. Jump
Up" by Byron Lee).
Miss Lou's ready wi' char-
aeterises most df her speech.
You ask her how long she
has been in folk art and she
replies dryly. "Since ah was
a pickney "
Ask her if she likes food
and she quips earthily,
"Lawks, if I like food!
'Oman ah love food!"
The love she has for the
rich and varied folklore of
her country was born in hes
youth .and she reemmbere
with nostalgia how she
earned her first professional
"I was a member of Ste
Paul's Presbyterian Church
and after performing at a
function there, (I did some
of my poems) I wa.s invited
by a Mr. Eric Coverley (wh.
later became my husband) to
take part in a Christmas
morning concert he had ar-
ranged. I went and perform?
ed and he paid me one gui_
nea my first professional
Shortly after this remark.
two persons who were to per,
form with her at on the AT
"Kinds of Folk" show at th#
National Park, came in to
some script reading and Mis
Lou terminated theinterview
with a .proverb said in he.
characteristic style: "Chil
'tory de foh talk, but lanf
bench na deh foh draw." -