Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00054
 Material Information
Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: February-April 1987
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090030
Volume ID: VID00054
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Table of Contents
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    Back Cover
        Page 69
        Page 70
Full Text
* A* f H

* . .. '

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Slave Higglers

Folk Singing


SO l'p )~


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-, ';-i
r '

L, ,i"

Treasures of Jamaican Heritage


Saxophone A

Bamboo, an empty thread spool,
a tin funnel and masking tape
are the materials used to make
this unique saxophone, one of
the treasures in the collection of
traditional musical instruments
owned by the Jamaica School
of Music.
It was made in 1979 by
Mr W. "Sugarbelly" Walker,
one of Jamaica's foremost
nightclub entertainers during
the 1960s and early 1970s as
well as a leading exponent of
While the use of bamboo in
making musical instruments,
particularly stringed
instruments, is an old and
unfortunately dying tradition
in Jamaica, Mr Walker is the
only person known to have
made a bamboo saxophone.

Jamaica School of Music
Cultural Training Centre,
Institute of Jamaica



Jamaica Journal is published on
behalf of the Institute of Jamaica
12-16 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica
by Institute of Jamaica Publications
All correspondence should be
addressed to:
IOJ Publications Ltd.
2A Suthermere Road, Kingston 10,
Telephone: (809) 92-94735-/6
Olive Senior

Assistant Editor
Maxine Patricia McDonnough
Design and Production
Camille Parchment
Patsi Smith

Support Services
Faith Myers Secretarial
Eton Anderson Accounting
Back issues: Most back issues are
available. List sent on request. Entire
series available on microfilm from
University Microfilms, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48106, U.S.A.
Subscriptions: J$50 for four issues
(in Jamaica only); U.S.$15, U.K.
Retail single copy price: J$15 (in
Jamaica only); overseas U.S. $5 or
U.K.3 post paid surface mail.

Advertising: Rates sent on request.
Index: Articles appearing in Jamaica
Journal are abstracted and indexed
in Historical Abstracts and America:
History and Life.

Vol. 20 No. 1 Copyright 0 1987
by Institute of Jamaica Publications
Limited. Cover or contents may not
be reproduced in whole or in part
without written permission.

ISSN: 0021-4124

Vol. 20 No. 1


February April 1987

History and Life

2 Lime and Earth: Jamaican Traditional Building Materials
and Techniques .... 2 by Ann Hodges

31 Slave Higglering in Jamaica 1780 -1834
by Lorna Simmonds


10 Fire in the Tropical Environment
by L. Alan Eyre

The Arts

39 Jamaica School of Music
by Pamela O'Gorman

17 Linton Kwesi Johnson: interviewed by Mervyn Morris

28 Poems: Reggae fi Dada by Linton Kwesi Johnson

59 Sweet Pepper Sunday, God's Work by lan McDonald

Regular Features

61 Art: The Jamaican Grand National
by Gloria Escoffery

, ,,:

'I-. .
-.s- L.^ .)

4,, [

Music: From Field to Platform: Jamaican Folk Music in
Concert .... 1
by Pamela O'Gorman

51 Books and Writers

Reviews: David Dabydeen's Hogarth's Blacks
by Gloria Escoffery
Lorna Goodison's I Am Becoming my Mother
by Edward Chamberlin
Stewart Brown's Caribbean Poetry Now and
Valerie Bloom's, Touch mi; Tell me!
by Victor L. Chang

National Library of Jamaica
COVER: The higgler has been a part of Jamaican
life for centuries and as our article on slave
higglers beginning on p. 31 shows the vendors'
behaviour as well as attitudes towards them
have changed little over time. The early
twentieth century watercolour is by A.S. Forrest.

58 Caribbean Profiles: lan McDonald
by Edward Baugh

68 IOJ News: Musgrave Medallists

26 Notes on Contributors





f f -
/ *

Jamaican Traditional Building Materials and Techniques ...2

Lime and Earth

Text and illustrations by Ann Hodges

It is the property of the lime made from the shell marble, so common in this
island, to contract with age all the closeness and solidity of stone. I have seen
plaister taken from an old Spanish tank, or cistern, which could scarcely be
broken with a hammer.
Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (1774)

B before the cement factory was si 4'. r,
set up in the 1950s, cement
had to be imported into Jam-
aica in barrels. This was done for the
construction of reinforced concrete r-
buildings which began to be built here -
after the 1907 earthquake. For most
masonry buildings, however, cement
was not required, as there was ample
white lime available for making mortar.
This was used for bonding stonework
or brickwork, and for constructing
masonry walls using wooden structural
frameworks. 'Spanish walling', wattlee
and daub', 'nog', and 'kick and buck'
are some of the names given to these
construction techniques, some of which
date back over 400 years to the early
Spanish occupation. Many buildings built
with these techniques a considerable
time ago are still standing today, to
testify that reinforced concrete is not
the only type of construction that will
withstand earthquakes and hurricanes.

In much of the island, limestone is l.
found in abundance, as was wood until
quite recently. Together these are burnt
to provide white lime.
Apart from its use in construction,
lime was also used in the clarification of
sugar. On some estates large stone kilns
are found among the estate buildings;
no doubt these provided lime for both
the sugar factory and for construction.
Apart from these elaborate kilns, in
many communities lime was burnt in a
fashion similar to that used to burn Lime washed walls with 'red work'.
charcoal today, and this practice was
common until the 1950s.

Figure 1 shows a plan and cross

Houses of nog construction



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section through a typical lime kiln of
this type.
Mr Granville Howell of Comfort
District in Manchester pointed out to
me the spot where his father built a kiln
every year, in the bottom of the culti-
vated valley overlooked by his house.
He explained the process:

Yu get man who know how to build de
kiln, yu put in a ting call funnel, right
down in it like a merry-go-roun, an yu
pack de wood it come like a dish an
it go right roun, an yu break de stone
an tek de stone an trow. An yu get dis
ting called duck ants nest light it
wid fire an yu have some good dry
wood in de funnel an it burn an burn
until it catch every woodhead an it fill
right roun, an it burn. Generally yu
trow de fire from evening throughout
de night. Den in de morning it drop.

In the burning the stone (calcium
carbonate) must reach 950 degrees
centigrade. At that temperature it gives
off carbon dioxide, and quicklime (cal-
cium oxide) known as 'temper lime' is
produced. After three or four days the
powdery temper lime is cool, then in
two weeks or so when it has been 'slak-
ed' by the addition of rain or atmospheric
moisture, it becomes stiff and white,
hydrated and ready for use as 'white
lime'. (Figure 2).
White lime is mixed with earth or
sand to make mortar. The mortar hard-
ens by combining with atmospheric
carbon dioxide to form calcium car-
bonate limestone. Because the har-
dening process relies on drying out and
the combination with carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere, lime mortar gains
strength very slowly.
A somewhat different chemical pro-
cess takes place when in addition to cal-
cium hydroxide the lime contains a per-
centage of clay materials, principally
silica and alumina. The lime is then said
to be 'hydraulic', and sets, producing a
fine crystalline formation of hydrated
silicates and aluminates of calcium. This
produces a harder, quicker drying mor-
tar, and mortars using soil high in
alumina or 'stoke hole ash' from the
sugar factory (high in silica) were once
There is evidence that molasses was
also once used in mortar, making it
harder. The chemical reason for this is
not known, but the use of lime in the
sugar-making process with a waste sludge
being produced, may well explain how
it came to be tried in the first place.
Today lime is rarely burned. Not

Figure 1:

View of a Spanish building (from Long's
History of Jamaica).

only has cement become widely avail-
able, but the wood needed for burning
the lime is no longer as easy to find be-
cause woodlands have been cut over for
lumber, charcoal and firewood.

Ways of Using Mortar

Nog Construction
Nogging is an old English term for a
brickwork panel set in a wooden frame.
In Jamaica nog is a generic term for
masonry in a timber frame; so we have
stone nog, brick nog and, nowadays,
concrete nog.

Spanish Walling is a name for stone nog,
presumed to have been used by the
Spanish settlers in Jamaica. To build
a Spanish wall house, a frame is first


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constructed of four-inch round or square
timbers, with a sill and wallplate, and
uprights about three feet apart, driven
into the ground, with diagonal bracing
at the corners. Horizontal planks are
notched into the posts to support the
windows. Pest resistant wood such as
braziletto or guango is used. Usually,
the roof is put on and covered with
thatch or shingle before the walls are
infilled between the posts.
Once lime is burned and ready for
use the mortar can be mixed, using red
dirt. Mixing lime mortar is hard work:

De man have a long hoe. If it is a big
bed of mortar yu goin mix yu put six
kerosene tin of lime an 24 of dirt put
it around an yu trow de water in de
middle an yu stir up, stir up, till yu
have him like soup, den yu trow down
de earth. Yu trow earth now an de man
knead, and de man knead. Strong man
will mek a bed of mortar, tek around
an hour.

The resulting mortar is like a dry putty.

Boards are then fixed to the outside
of the posts of the house, and the
mason breaks stones and packs them
in mortar against the board between the
posts from the inside. First a layer of
mortar, then a layer of stones, then
mortar then another row of stones 'bruk
joint' to the row below. The boards are
left in place for a day or two and then
removed and replaced higher up, until
the whole wall is filled in. The stone
pieces are about four inches at the bot-
tom of the wall, reducing to three inches
at the top.
The wall is rendered using the same
three to one earth/lime mortar mixed
to a soft consistency, thrown on, level-
led with a board and then trowelled
with a mason's trowel to get a smooth
then by tomorrow you will notice it
crack, have lots of cracks ... Dem dey
mortar cracks yu don't tek de trowel
alone, yu tek a brush, from coconut,
beat out de coconut brush an yu dip

House of nog construction.


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it in de grout and grout de crack an
rub out all de crack, den when yu going
to refine it, mason tek him trowel an
dash an rub until de work become hard
. .yu watch it still, an as soon as yu
see dose cracks, yu tek out all de
cracks, tek bout three days.

And so in a Spanish wall house, wood,
earth and stone, found right there on
the site are combined to provide a
durable, smooth masonry wall. The
grout used in the smoothing is made by
mixing additional lime and water with
some of the same mortar.

Brick Nog. In brick nog the frame is
infilled with brickwork laid in lime mor-
tar. This was a traditional English form
of timber frame construction, and was
often used for buildings in towns. The
brickwork and timber were plastered
over with lime mortar.

Rice granary in New Broughton, Westmoreland of wattle daubed with clay.
10 .

Framework for a concrete nog house. Note
the wires strung between the posts for rein-

Water catchment with water tank of kick and buck in the foreground, St. Elizabeth.

Unrendered brick nog.

Wattled wall.

Appreciating our environment

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ur concept of environmental concerns
need not be restricted to the preserv-
ation of the beauty of our natural
landscape or the protection of our
traditional ways of life such as that
F Pfound among the swamp dwellers of
the Black River morass. The horizons of our heritage and our
environment stretch to encompass the legacy of our forbears
and the invaluable pioneering work they did in establishing a
basic knowledge and understanding of our natural resources.
One such personage is Sir Henry Thomas de la Beche, who
was born of Jamaican parentage in London in 1796 and
brought to Jamaica as an infant. His grandfather, Thomas Beach,
had held the distinguished position of attorney general and
chief justice of Jamaica. His father, who inherited Halse Hall in
1775, changed his name to de la Beche in 1790, and died at
Bath, St. Thomas in 1801. Henry Thomas, now five years old,
was taken by his mother to England where he completed his
education at the Military College at Great Harlow.

De la Beche's massive contribution lay in the field of geo-
logy. He joined the Geological Society of London in 1817, and
travelled throughout Europe gaining a sound knowledge of
minerals and rocks. In December 1823, Henry Thomas de la
Beche returned to Jamaica for one year, where he conducted
a geological survey and produced a map of the eastern half of
Jamaica which showed the types of rocks as well as their geo-
logical ages. This map was published by the Geological Society
of L6ndon in 1827 and is believed to be the first true geologi-
cal map of any area in the Western Hemisphere.
De la Beche's geological work did not end with his departure
from Jamaica in 1824. Upon his return to England, he con-

tinued to pursue his geological career, establishing and becom-
ing the first Director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain.
He was a prolific writer and produced many publications, often
illustrating them by reference to his work in Jamaica.

Sir Henry died in 1855, but the work he had started in Ja-
maica was to be continued in 1859 by the appointment of
the first director of the Jamaican Geological Survey, Lucas
Barrett, and James Gay Sawkins, his assistant. When Barrett
died by drowning, Sawkins, with three assistants, produced a
geological map of Jamaica in 1865. The next major phase of
geological work was conducted by Matley and Stockley be-
tween 1921 and 1951 and formed the basis for the modern
surveys initiated in 1949 by V. A. Zans, who laid the ground-
work for the latest geological map which is a lasting tribute
to his legendary diligence and purpose.
The juxtaposition of Sir Henry Thomas de la Beche's
pioneering map with a contemporary geological map sym-
bolizes the link between the past and the present. Succeeding
surveys and geological maps have formed the basis of mineral
resources development, a significant contributor to Jamaica's
economy and it all began with the 1827 geological map of de
la Beche.

Shaping the future today
in everything we do

* U


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In Jamaica this method of con-
struction was used well into the 20th
century for construction of new Corpor-
ate Area suburbs such as Vineyard
Town, Kencot and Rollington Town.
It is interesting that in Long's history
he describes a typical Spanish building
which was built in this manner. Perhaps
'Spanish walling' once referred to brick
as well as stone nog.

Concrete Nog uses a wooden framework
as for Spanish walling, but in order to
contain the stone/sand/cement concrete,
it must be shuttered with board on both
sides, as the concrete is more liquid
than lime mortar. The concrete is
poured two feet at a time and stones
are added. Often, barbed wire is stretch-

ed between the posts in the plane of the
wall to give added reinforcement.

Wattle and Daub: To build a wattle and
daub building, four-inch timber framing
is used, similar to that used for Spanish
walling. Panels of wattle are then made
between the uprights and braces, using
small flexible round wood such as wild
coffee or split bamboo. The whole is
then plastered over with lime/earth mor-
tar, or clay.
To make a wattle panel, rods are nail-
ed to the sides of the posts and vertical-
ly to the frame. One-and-one-half inch
strips of wood or split bamboo are then
closely woven horizontally between
these rods.
The framework is left to dry and

warp before it is plastered.

After it is newly wattle it tick, yu
know, an tough . after yu mix de
white lime wid de earth yu tek yu
trowel an tek e up an trow it on de
wattle, an tek yu trowel an fine plaster
it an yu do it inside an outside, an after
yu paint it yu don't know nuttin like
dese is in dere.
If yu go to Manchester an see some
everlasting buildings an anybody don't
tell yu dat it is wattle, yu would

In some places such as in the Blue
Mountains, clay is still used, but the
wall is considered makeshift, to be re-
placed with proper boarding when that
can be afforded.
In southern Westmoreland granaries

Old unrendered house of Spanish walling
showing the timber framework.

Unrendered concrete nog wall.

- .

are built using wattle daubed with clay.
Limewash. Nog walls can be decorated
with 'whitewash made from white lime
and water. To this is added common salt
or mason's 'glue' dissolved in hot water,
either of which serves to stabilise the
limewash, preventing it from rubbing or
washing off.
Colour can also be added. Subtle
colours are traditionally produced by
adding finely sieved earth or prepared
red ochre, known as 'red work' or yel-
low ochre, 'yellow work'. Washing
blue can also be used to obtain a blue
Kick and Buck

The water tank by the Red Hills
school in St. Andrew which supplied
that community until the 1950s when
standpipes were installed, is still known
as 'buck an kick', but in Red Hills the
origin of this name has been forgotten.
Elsewhere, however, a technique known
as kick and buck is remembered, as a
way of making waterproof linings for
A hole seven to ten feet deep is dug
for the tank. The lime and dirt (a one to
three ratio) is mixed just barely damp,
and then packed around the inside of
the hole.

S ,, Eighteenth century lime kiln
at Prospect, one of the historic
monuments of the Parish of St
Thomas. The kiln's interior is
lined with brick and the exterior
is of cutstone.

Yu go roun as far as you can go until
12 o'clock . Then you have some-
thing now you call the mallet an you
go wid that an you tuff it an yu tuff it
but you tuff it an meK it level. Yu pack
it about six inches thick, but yu going
to get it down to three when you are
finished wid it, when yu finish tamp it.

The afternoon is spent beating the
mortar with a mallet or sticks, compact-
ing it to a water-tight finish. Each day's
work is bevelled at the top so that the
next day's work will overlap, and to en-
sure that the joint will be waterproof,
the work cannot be left to dry ott for
too long.
Yu must try and finish by Friday, even
if yu haffi use spare man. Why yu have
to finish by Friday, yu cant leave this
work until next week.

Above ground level a cut stone wall four
feet high by two feet six inches thick is
built using lime mortar, and the kick and
buck is taken right up. The earth dug
from the watertank was traditionally
used to build a water catchment for the
tank, again with the addition of lime
and stone. The water catchment often
doubled as a barbecue in sunny weather,
for drying pimento, ginger, and other

The Future
The speed with which knowledge and

skills can be lost is frightening.
In 1943, the journal of the Jamaica
Agricultural Society published excellent
articles describing good practice in
"Housing for country districts", "Mor-
tar floors and barbecues", "Red dirt and
lime mortar", "Spanish walling" and
"Wattle and daub". All were describing
techniques then in use. Today I am talk-
ing to the men at whom those articles
were aimed, who tell me:
De ting is dat of today its not easy to
get de lime because people cut out all
de wood an burn coal and tings like
dose. But de other ting again is dat de
younger generation doan know nuttin
about it. Deh have no knowledge now,
so if anything like dat, yu would haffi
use de older men to learn dem, right!

For both cultural and economic rea-
sons there is in Jamaica a growing in-
terest in the conservation of older build-
ings, and the use of traditional materials
such as brick. Younger men and women
need to learn the properties and ways
of using lime mortar from the older
masons to meet a growing market for
these skills.
It should also be noted that nog tech-
niques (probably using cement mor-
tar as lime is both scarce and time con-
suming to use) are cheaper than block-
work and, as Edward Long puts it, 'Ex-
cellently contrived . . to guard against
the sudden concussion of earthquakes,
the impetuousness of hurricanes, the
drift of the heavy periodical rains, and
the heat of the sun'.

HODGES, Bill, "Building materials and tech-
niques" unpublished manuscript, 1979.
Jamaica Agricultural Society Journal, April-
May 1943.
LONG, Edward, History of Jamaica, 1774.

Interviews with:
Leon Ellis, Clarendon, 1986
Granville Howell, Manchester, 1986
Vincent Reynolds, St Elizabeth, 1986

Research for this article was sponsored by the
Memory Bank project, Office of the Prime
Minister, 1 Devon Road, Kingston and the
Construction Resource Development Centre
166% Old Hope Road, Kingston 6.

Fire in the

Tropical Environment

Text and illustrations by L. Alan Eyre

For thousands of years, fire has been
the most potent agent in the human use and
transformation of our tropical environments. In the
past quarter of a century, its effects have been more
widespread, more pervasive and more devastating
than during the entire millenia of man's occupancy
of these fragile ecosystems. Rainforest, monsoon
forest, seasonal xeric forest, savanna, and tropical
grassland are all being modified at an accelerating
rate under inexorable ecological, demographic and
economic pressures. Dr L. Alan Eyre, Reader in
Physical Geography at the University of the
West Indies, explains the past, present and future
role of fire in Jamaica and the rest of the
tropical world.

ire is a very powerful agent of environmental modi-
fication. In the tropics, only macro-climatic change on
a geological time-scale has had a more profound effect
upon vegetation and soils. Unlike the subtle effects of cli- A fully developed crown fire races through tr
matic change, those of fire can be spectacular in scale and
extremely rapid in time. The great forest fires which burned
uncontrolled for three months in 1983 on the island of
Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia) had an approximate total
energy yield of 5.7 x 1025 ergs roughly equivalent to five
volcanic eruptions on the scale of Krakatoa or the con-
sumption of 100 million tonnes of coal. In Australia, in a
really massive head fire raging uncontrolled through mature
eucalyptus or tropical scrub along a fifty kilometre front, a
hundred thousand tonnes of fuel may burn in two or three
hours an energy output comparable to exploding one
Hiroshima-type atomic bomb every three seconds. Even such
a relatively small fire as the east rural St. Andrew fire in Jam-
aica in 1977 wastefully and pointlessly dissipated 1.2 X 1022
ergs of energy, in the process using up fuel from wood and
grass equivalent to a supertanker full of oil.
Of a land area slightly less than fifty million square kilo-
metres within the latitudinal tropics, nearly a third is desert,
rather more than a sixth is closed rainforest, and nearly half A not infrequent sight from the air anywhce
consists of seasonal xericI and monsoon forest, savanna and fost firere like this one sends thousands of
grassland. nutrients ten kilometres into the air to be dis1

topical eucalypts.

e in the tropics. A major
tonnes of valuable plant
versed by upper winds.

(including area under cultivation)

Million kms2 Percentage
Mountains 2.8 6
Deserts 15.0 30
Rainforests 8.1 16
Seasonal xeric and monsoon forests 8.4 17
Savanna and grassland 15.4 30
Total 49.7 99

In tropical deserts, the lack of fuel to burn generally limits
the use of fire, although after rare rainfall events which induce
rapid plant growth, fires of low intensity can be very exten-
sive indeed. In 1974-75 in the desert region of Australia
north of the Tropic, an area about twenty-five times that of
Jamaica was burned over. In such areas, control is out of the
question, and would make little economic sense, except
where, for example, homesteads or tourist centres are at risk.
In the closed rainforest, natural fire is absent or rare, and
widespread modifications due to fire are almost entirely of
human origin. It is in the xeric forests, savannas andgrasslands
that the utilization of fire has been most effective and where
it has the greatest facility and potential to modify the

Traditional Fire Ecology

On a geological time-scale, man's use of fire has developed
at a time in the world's history when the proportion of
oxygen in the atmosphere has been at its maximum. The coal
forests of the Carboniferous Period flourishedin an atmosphere
much less conducive to combustion than those of today
[Burkner and Marshall 1967]. Chinese anthropologists
claim to have found evidence at Choukoutien that cave-
dwelling pithecanthropi (Homo erectus?) used fire there as
long ago as half a million years before present, and some Aus-
tralian scholars contend that Aboriginal peoples had already
mastered techniques for the use and control of fire before
reaching the tropical regions of that continent [Singh et al
1981]. 'The tropical open woodlands of northern Australia
have been burned annually or every second year for at least
the thirty thousand years that Aboriginals have inhabited the
mainland. [Cheney 1985 p. 69].
The Aboriginal poet Bill Neidjie has expressed his tradi-
tional faith in tropical fire ecology:

This earth I never damage
I look after.
Fire is nothing, just clean up.
When you burn, new grass coming up.
That mean good animal soon:
Might be goose, long-neck turtle, goanna, possum.
Burn him off, new grass coming up,
New life all over.
We, Aborigine, burn, make things grow,
Tree grow, every night he grow.
Daylight, he stop,
just about dark, he start again.
Rotten tree, you got to burn him
Use him to cook,
He's finished up. (Neidjie 1985 p.35]

Use of Fire by Indigenous Peoples

Much of tropical Australia bears the marks of the Abori-
gines' use of fire. The very dominance of the genus Eucalyp-
tus is widely attributed to this and considered to be a fire
climax.2 'Fire has been a significant part of the environ-
ment for tens of thousands of years or longer.' [Stocker and
Mott 1981, p.425].
The Aborigine's use of fire has always been deliberate and
purposive, even if there have been many occasions when their
undoubted skills could not prevent an uncontrollable and de-
vastating wildfire. An early nineteenth century explorer
made the comment: 'The dexterity with which they manage
so proverbially a dangerous agent as fire is indeed astonishing.'
[cited in Nicholson 1981, p.69]. For felling trees, hunting
game, smoking out reptiles, clearing tracts of country to en-
courage new plant growth and make food collection easier,
making campsites and maintaining trackways in the forest,
no other technique can equal skilful firing for speed and ef-
It would be surprising if, after so many millenia of living
in close harmony with a fruitful, richly-endowed tropical
ecosystem, the Aborigines did not comprehend the impact of
their fire strategies upon their habitat. In general, it seems
that their time-proven practice of selective burning in a
mosaic pattern by controlled early dry season fires, while cer-
tainly maintaining the dominance of pyrophytic genera3 over
wide areas of seasonal xeric and sclerophyll forest4 and
savanna/grassland, did not greatly threaten the moist forest
biomes.5 These were protected, since the Aborigines were
clearly aware that the life-forms of the flora and fauna in
such biomes are easily destroyed by fire.
The indigenous stone-age inhabitants of Jamaica used fire
in much the same purposive manner as those of Australia:

For maize planting the ground was first cleared by fire by the
men, then the women took over, each armed with a pointed
stick and a bag of grain which had been soaked in water for a
day or two, hanging from their necks. They moved along in a
row and at each step made a hole with the stick into which
they dropped a few grains, covering them with the foot
.... The Arawaks made their dugout canoes from the trunks
of cedar or silk cotton trees. The trees were felled by means of
fire, then hollowed out, first by charring, then by chipping
with stone axes and chisels [Black 1958 pp. 16,17].

Columbus, usually a careful observer, while in Jamaica esti-
mated one canoe as being twenty-nine metres in length and
over two metres in beam [95 x6Y2 ft.] [Morrison 1983] There
are no trees left in the island that could even remotely make
a canoe of those dimensions.
In fairness, however, it should be noted that not everyone
is equally impressed by the supposed skills and bush knowl-
edge of stone-age peoples, past or present. After a long period
of disdain, there came not very long ago a recognition that
primitive societies may be both wise and technologically effi-
cient within certain limits. This reaction has perhaps now
gone too far, with eager crusaders for stone-age technology
assuming that it is and has always been in harmony with the
environment, while all modern land-uses are detrimental and
disruptive. Luke and McArthur, perhaps the leading scientists
in this field at present, have made this cautious comment:
'Various theories are held about the use of fire by the Abori-
ginal population . some people enthuse over an unproved
concept of a careful fire husbandry.' [1978 p.18].

Areas in the tropical Americas where fire has significantly degraded
the forest environment in the past twenty years.

Modern Use of Fire

Field research and actual experiments by Hoare et al
[1980] in the Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land, Northern
Territory, Australia, demonstrated that the fire regime em-
ployed during the past century by Europeans has had startling-
ly different effects on the tropical environment from the
methods developed over the millenia of Aboriginal occu-
pancy. Instead of patchy, specific early dry season burns
which consume the Sorghum grasses in selected localities but
are not intense enough to destroy woodland and forest to any
significant degree, the Europeans introduced a policy of large-
ly unplanned, hot, fuel-rich, late dry season fires which are
too intense to control and which severely defoliate trees, in-
hibit growth and place stress on the survival capacity of
many species.
This modern fire management or lack of it is causing
severe degradation in life-form and structure of the entire
spectrum of tropical vegetation and, according to Hoare et al,
this situation will continue to worsen unless replaced by a
regime more akin to the traditional approach of the indig-
enous users of the land.
In 1986 the present author examined the effects of fire
throughout Kakadu National Park and elsewhere in tropical
Australia. The deleterious effects of most present and recent
fire regimes abound on every hand. Monsoon forests, com-
prised of fire-intolerant species, are being adversely affected
in many locations, even within the relatively protected
environments of the national parks [Kikkawa and Monteith
1980; Davis et al 1986]. Even among eucalypts and other
pyrophytic genera, mortality of large trees is very evident,
while coppicing and other abberant growth forms are com-
mon responses to frequent and very hot and damaging fires.
Thus, while fire is an important component of management
in northern Australia, as in broadly similar tropical biomes
worldwide, it seems that as practised for the past century
and widely at present, it is often reckless and too drastic.
It involves fires which are too hot, too big and at the wrong
time. A growing cadre of experienced environmental scien-
tists are calling for modification of the current practices
[Webb 1968; Gill et al 1981]. Fire, they say, is 'a good
servant when it is used with discretion and at the right time
in order to obtain the right effects' but 'a bad master if
allowed to be used indiscriminately' [Ewusie 1980 p. 188].

Luke and McArthur are not particularly sanguine about
the future: 'the greatest problems will develop when con-
flicts of interest arise between managers whose aim is pro-
tection . and those whose annual fire plan involves the
burning of vast areas of natural vegetation' [1978 p. 274].

Fire in the Rainforest

Brazil and Indonesia, each with populations approaching
one hundred and fifty million, are the two huge countries
where a non-traditional fire regime is the unchallenged tamer
and transformer of the tropical rainforest. Both countries are
in the midst of massive programmes to relocate millions of
their people on 'virgin' land in regions with a humid tropical
forest climate. Myers [1981] reports that in Amazonia, Brazil,
U.S. $10,000-million-worth of usable timber has gone up in
smoke in the past few years, much of it in the 'hamburger
belt' (Brazil and Central America supply much of the de-
mand for meat in U.S. fast food chains McDonald's alone
'consumes' three hundred thousand cattle a year!). This
burning turns lands with a self-sustaining and cyclic biomass6
of 50,000 tonnes/km2 into one with a mere 2000 tonnes/
square km Over one large area of approximately one million
square kilometres within Brazilian Amazonia, the deforest-
ation rate, mainly attributable to fire, has been carefully cal-
culated to be 9 per cent annually [Fearnside 1986].
Conditions in Indonesia closely parallel those in Brazil. In
Kalimantan (Borneo) and Irian Jaya, where millions of 'trans-
migrants' from overpopulated Java are being resettled and are
using fire vigorously to clear almost virgin forest, recent re-
search has shown that most of those resettled could not sus-
tain cultivation on the sites they were allotted for more than
a year or two [Repetto 1986]. Malingreau et al [1985] has
described the process clearly: 'During the dry season land
is cleared, and after a few weeks the vegetation is set on fire.
When fires spread outside cleared land, larger trunks act as
chimneys, increasing the heat, and spread the fire both along
the ground and through the treetops.' Grasses and pyrophytic
shrubs quickly proliferate. These are much more difficult to
cope with than are the forests.
Countless diseases and pests attack plants in tropical re-
gions, especially where some form of monoculture replaces
the burned-out forest. Parasitism is rife. Decay is as evident
as the abundant life. In some ways fire 'cleanses' the environ-
ment, as the Gunwinggu of Arnhem Land say: in other ways
it disrupts the delicate balance, weakens plants, introduces
fungi of decay and often opens the way for virulent organ-
isms and diseases. 'Fire sensitive rainforest species will even-
tually be eliminated from the environment except in very
sheltered aspects due to burning off escapes from agricultural
land' [Luke and McArthur 1978, p.257]. This can be seen
wherever agricultural land abuts rainforest. Canefires, because
of their frequency and intensity, and the prevalence of
burning embers or 'flyers', are particularly liable to carry
over and damage adjoining forest.
That a climax rainforest can be reduced by persistent
fire to an economically almost worthless grassland has been
clearly established by Robbins and others in Papua-Niugini
where 'wide-scale firing has maintained the disclimax and
prevented forest regeneration' [1983, personal communi-
cation]. So far, attempts to utilize these 'green deserts' of
Imperata for an extensive but inefficient beef industry have
yet to get off the ground.

Fire in the Seasonal Xeric and Monsoon Forests
In the seasonal xeric forests throughout the tropics, some
tree species are tolerant of occasional fires. Some species of
Acacia require fire to germinate their seeds [Cheney 1985].
Many eucalypts can survive fire by quickly sending new green
shoots out from lignotubers or latent buds beneath the bark
or underground, and by shedding seeds enclosed in woody
capsules which can protect the endosperm from temperatures
of hundreds of degrees celsius. Some characteristics of the
eucalypts have even suggested to botanists that these trees
are actually designed to invite and encourage fire volatile
oils which can cause whole trees to explode, and long strips
of bark which enable flames to race rapidly up to the forest
canopy and turn the whole forest into an inferno. Yet,
despite all this natural protection, fire can still be too in-
tense and too frequent for even the eucalypt forest to adjust
to, and under such pressure inexorably the entire biome be-
comes degraded and impoverished. Matuie trees are crip-
pled, the age structure of the forest is modified adversely and
slowly but surely the most unproductive and useless species
of plants take over. In some parts of Arnhem Land, bare rock
and sterile quartzite sand have replaced lush seasonal forest.

Fire in the Savannas

In the savanna biome, fire is so important as to be a way
of life. The Rupununi savannas of Guyana, for example, are
believed to be due to a complex interaction between climate,
soil and fire. The soils are for the most part exceedingly
infertile, impoverished by a regime of tropical weathering
characterized by alternate waterlogging and dessication. As
for climate, there is some evidence that at least five months
continuous moisture deficit is probably a critical factor in
limiting tall forest growth, and the boundary of the savanna
biome in South America in fact broadly coincides with the
area experiencing seven months of moisture deficit annually
[Hills 1974]. But, as with many other tropical savannas re-
searched closely in the field, it is fire, mainly of human agency,
which maintainsthe savanna environmentin the Rupununi, and
aids its advance at the expense of the adjacent tropical season-
al forest [Budowski 1956].
The predominant vegetation in the Rupununi is a Trachy-
pogon/Curatella association. Trachypogon plimosus is a
coarse, unpalatable grass with a carrying capacity for cattle
of about one beast to every four square kilometres. Curate//a
americana is a scrub tree so fireproof that it is useless even
for firewood.
Most of the Rupununi savannas experience at least one
burn-off a year; some parts may have as many as three. Vir
tually all fires are left to burn out of control until self
extinguished by natural barriers or lack of fuel.
Both native Amerindian and non-indigenous populations
consider that fire in the savannas serves at least five purposes:
to create ash as fertilizer; to induce new growth of grass; to
destroy pests and poisonous fauna; to clear land for culti-
vation, especially along the forest margin; and for easier
hunting of game. All these purposes are very short term in
nature. In the long run all aspects of the savanna ecosystem
deteriorate and degrade in terms of biomass yield, quality
and diversity. It has been demonstrated that controlled graz-
ing with fencing maintains biomass both yield and quality
more efficiently than firing the open range in the time-

honoured way. In fact, this practice gradually improves the
environment so that more palatable fodder species can in
time be introduced successfully.
Should grasses not be maintained by use of fire, it is like-
ly that much of the Rupununi, like most savannas through-
out the tropics, would fairly quickly revert to a low closed
bush of xeric life-form.
In parts of tropical Australia, for instance on the Barkly
Tableland (possibly a fire-induced grassland), unappetizing
grasses are being systematically replaced by tropical legumes
such as Stylosanthes humilis. These legumes make possible a
dramatic increase in the carrying capacity, or stocking rates
of cattle, as much as twenty times on one cattle station,
Soudan, visited by the author in September 1986. These
gains cannot be sustained unless dry season fires are pre-
vented. This is another indication that a stone-age technique
appropriate for an under-populated planet may well be most
inappropriate for today's more crowded world.

Effects of Fire
A considerable amount of research has been carried out in
tropical regions on the effects of fire. Some effects are now
proven beyond doubt. Others are less certain. In some in-
stances research findings are conflicting. Among the certain-
ties might be cited the following:

Controlled early dry season fires increase humus and
some other nutrients (in Nigeria by 30 per cent)
[Moore 1960].
Nearly all other fires reduce humus and most other
nutrients by up to 12 per cent [Edwards 1942; Moore
Fire reduces the water-retaining capacity of the soil,
making it more susceptible to drought damage [West
Soil biota7 are reduced by burning, except for some
fungi such as Penicillium [Ewusie 1980].
In savanna areas fire stimulates some grasses, Themada
triandra, for example, at the expense of others, such as
Trachypogon montufari.
Fire temperatures range from 7000C in tall grass to
over 11000C in closed forest.
Fire induces laterization and induration8 of the earth
[Korem 1979].
Fire can cause increased erosion hazard [Sheng 1986].
Fire can cause an explosion of the termite population
[Perry etal 1984].
This last effect was unsuspected until fairly recently. It is
now becoming accepted that the spectacular dominance of
termites in certain ecosystems where fire is frequent and
widespread may not be 'natural' but a disequilibrium induced
by fire weakened vegetation [Fox and Clark no date]. In
Belize, for instance, Williams [1965] demonstrated that this
is the case with Pinus caribaea in the Mountain Pine Ridge.

'A Revolutionary Strategy'

A number of Dutch scholars associated with the environ-
mentalist organization Mondiaal Alternatief have radically
questioned the entire traditional mythology of fire as a man-



'ason fire rapidly spreading through cured Sorghum agement tool in the tropics, especially now that population
pressure is becoming acute in many areas: 'Vast acreages of
seasonal forest have been converted into open savannas. The
S- way in which fire ruptures cycles and denudes soil surfaces is
so drastic that it must be considered the most effective desert-
ifying agent.' [de Weille 19781 A Czech scientist, A. Korem,
working in West Africa, has also put a serious question mark
l- over fire ecology, pointing out that soil in unburnt sacred
sites is many times richer in organic matter than soil in the
'9 regularly bush-burned fields of the peasants. With growth in
'population density and so more rapid rotation of burnt
patches, shifting cultivation is increasingly unable to main-
tain agricultural and pastoral fertility [Korem 19791. E.J.
van der Werf describes the situation in Ghana:
Burning, a practice which was suitable many years ago, nowadays
is a devastating one. Burning as a practice stimulates fire resist-
ant low producing grass varieties; high productive grass varieties
will become less frequent. The shifting cultivators used bush-
fire as a means for the clearing of land and for chasing and
hunting small game. In some parts of Ghana artnual bushfires
are part of the festivities belonging to the traditional religion.
*A complete disturbance of the ecological balance of the country-
S '' side is an effect of indiscriminate burning which augments large
and uncontrollable plagues of insects. Besides, also crops can
be destroyed by the fires [1983 pp.12-131.
"0 W'"e have to recognize this as also describing the present
.situation in Jamaica.
The Indian scientists Shiva, Bandyopadhyay and Jayal
.' [1985, p. 332] stunned by their experience in their own sub-
continent, call for 'nothing less than a revolutionary strategy'
in reversing the fire mania which has become so much a part
of man's use and misuse of the tropical biomes. They de-
mand 'a radical departure from the present concepts'. Korem
and de Weille see this new strategy in terms of greater inten-
sity of land use, with more application of composts, wastes
rve at Governor's Bench, St. Andrew (Jamaica), and manures instead of their utterly wasteful combustion.
nployees have illegally burnt over a 42-degree 'Permanent cultivation of land in the tropics is unthinkable
to raise peas and other short-term crops. without organic fertilizers.' [Korem 1979 p.6 .

A late dry se
savanna grass.

In a forest rese
government er
slope in order


The 1977 east St. Andrew fire (Jamaica). Each symbol represents 10 hectares of forest and tree crops (including coffee) in
the river basins destroyed or damaged by fire.

It is interesting that in the village of Via in northern
Ghana, stricken by the Sahel drought, only one farmer gave
up burning crop residues and used them instead as bedding
for cattle. He used animal manure rather than fire-ash as
fertilizer. While nearly all his neighbours became refugees de-
pendent on foreign aid, he alone came through the disaster
wealthier than before. His soil has become rich in humus
his farm has better soil moisture and a higher water table
than any other part of the district.

Charity Begins at Home
In all this sad story of fire in the tropics, Jamaica does not
appear in a very good light. Youthful fire-bugs abound. We
annually burn down and waste forty per cent more hectares
of Caribbean pine than we plant.9 In the highlands of
Manchester and Trelawny, around Coleyville and Craighead
and Wait-a-Bit, the fine stands of conifers planted in the
1950s are rapidly being depleted and not replanted. In east-
ern St. Andrew the fires of 1977 decimated pines and eucalypts
and have accelerated the trend in that area towards a degraded
savanna (above). Small farmers, many of them elderly, con-
tinue to hail fire as their aid and friend, and fail to observe
the damage it is inescapably wreaking on eroding hillsides
and dwindling water supplies. Forest is treated notas an asset,
but as an impediment. Only in a few areas, such as south St.
Elizabeth, do the dangers of fire and the virtues of careful or-
ganic husbandry appear to be clearly appreciated.

We have a law in Jamaica which states:
If any person on Crown lands declared to be a forest reserve ...
kindles, keeps or carries any fire . he shall be liable to a
penalty not exceeding fifty dollars. It shall be lawful for the
Minister by order from time to time as occasion may arise to
declare any lands other than Crown lands a protected area and
to prohibit the firing or clearing of the vegetation [The Forest
Act (Jamaica) 1937 Cap. 134].
This law is a dead letter. There are few, if any, prosecu-
tions, even when known arsonists including ignorant or

lazy farmers and forest employees looking for extra work -
set fires or let fires 'get away' and burn many square kilo-
metres of valuable timber, coffee, sugar cane and other
Science is now seriously questioning Bill Neidjie's time-
honoured contention that fire in the tropics 'is nothing, just
clean up'. Informed opinion is demanding 'a better tool to re-
place fire' [Korem 1979]. For decades now, while advanced
countries continue to produce vast, seemingly unsaleable,
mountains of surplus agricultural produce (it will cost the
EEC over a thousand million pounds sterling just to store
some of these surpluses through 1987), the tropical coun-
tries have been steadily declining in their output per capital
(and per hectare too). Evidence is now overwhelming that
this is due in large measure to the carry-over of slash and
burn technology, developed for long rotation, into areas of
near-permanent or settled farming. The 'revolutionary stra-
tegy' which greatly reduces the use of fire and recognizes
its limitations and hazards, and which moves rapidly to apply
known and proven alternative conservation techniques, will
probably offer the only hope of reversing this trend and mak-
ing the tropical environment, including Jamaica, much more
productive so as to meet our essential needs.
It might be thought that pyrophilia (love of fire) is so
deep-rooted in Jamaican culture that there is little likelihood
or hope of changing attitudes. Not long ago, a senior govern-
ment administrator gave the author a press clipping which
strongly commended fire as a rejuvenator of natural eco-
systems, unlocking stored nutrients and revitalizing plant
materials, and urging that it would be foolish to protect the
environment from fire altogether, a position with which the ad-
ministrator apparently agreed. As we have seen, under very
special conditions and properly timed, there is a limited role
for low intensity fire where excessive accumulation of fuel
and litter would itself pose a major fire hazard. But, apart
from this, research has suggested that we should re-educate
ourselves to an altogether different type of ecologic system.

That this is possible is illustrated by the experience of
Korea. Although Korea is not a tropical country, the lessons
from there are salutary. Twenty years ago, the mountains of
that country were 'desolate' due to misuse of fire and reck-
less tree felling [Hack-cho 1976, p.248]. Rigorous appli-
cation of conservation laws, which absolutely require every
landowner to manage the vegetation on his property or have
it managed for him, coupled with community and private ini-
tiatives, have drastically reversed the trend, outlawed the
reckless use of fire, and are quite rapidly producing a greener,
wooded, more productive Korea.

If Jamaica is truly 'land we love', and charity begins at
home, then can we not do something similar in our land of
wood and water? As environmentalist Hurtado [1986] has
recently stressed, 'government action will never provide the
whole answer'. Only when entire communities get angry
when their common resources are endangered or actually
destroyed will the needed changes come.

1. Seasonal xeric forest comprises species adapted to a long dry
season. Many of these such as acacias (macca in Jamaica) are
thorny with delicate leaves.
2. A fire climax is a vegetation association in which the dominant
species are fire tolerant. In the absence of fire, other species
probably would replace the eucalypts quite quickly.
3. Pyrophytic genera are those adapted to and fairly tolerant of fre-
quent and/or severe fires.
4. Sclerophyll forest consists of trees with small, hard, leathery
leaves. It is generally intermediate climatically between rainforest
and seasonal xeric forest.
5. A biome is the total plant and animal (ecological) community in
a given place, designated by one of a limited number of geographic
categories such as rainforest, savanna, etc.
6. Biomass the total amount of living organisms in a given area.
7. Soil biota include termites, ants, worms, bacteria and fungi. Cer-
tain fungi are particularly important, perhaps essential, for the
survival and regeneration of many very large forest trees such as
'cotton trees' and guango.
8. Laterization is a severely soil-degrading process, not yet fully
understood, in which a hard, iron-rich brick-like texture or layer
develops at or just below the surface (Latin latus, brick). Indur-
ation is not so severe, but a definite hardening or concretion of
the soil is evident.
9. FIDCO News release, November 1986. There is disagreement
about the fire resistance of Caribbean pine. 'Caribbean pine
(P. caribaea) is quite fire resistant' [Cheney 1985, p.801.
Pinus caribaea is not well adapted for resistance to fire' [John-
son and Chaffey 1973, p.14] .

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Linton Kwesi Johnson

Interviewed by

Mervyn Morris

8 December 1982

MM: Linton, where were you born,
and when?
LKJ: I was born in a small town called
Chapelton, in Clarendon, in August of
1952. I came from a very poor peasant
family. My father and mother were both
from Clarendon, and they left the
mountains really to come down to
Chapelton which is a bit more ur-
ban, to make a better life. Eventually
they left and went to Kingston. My

mother went on to England, and I
went there at the age of eleven to
join her.
What schools were you at in the country,
before you left Jamaica?
While I was in Chapelton I attended
Chapelton All-Age School. Then when
my mother went to Kingston, I went to
live with my granny, and I went to
Staceyville All-Age school. My grand-
mother lived in a place called Sandy
River, which is at the foot of the Bull
Head Mountains in Clarendon.

How old were you when you moved to
Sandy River?
I think I was seven.

And then eleven when you left Jam-
aica. Where did you go to in England?
My mother was living at the time off
Acre Lane which is just on the out-
skirts of Brixton, or part of Brixton
if you like. There were a lot of Jam-
aicans around. In Brixton market you
could see yam, banana, all the things
that you were familiar with in Jamaica,

you could still hear people talking in
the Jamaican way, the Jamaican lan-
guage. And at school there were a lot
of boys who had just come up like my-
self from the West Indies, so it was very
easy to settle down. But I found a lot of
things quite shocking. For example,
when I saw the English houses at first I
thought they were all factories because
they had these big chimneys on them,
you know, and they looked ugly. And
another thing I found surprising was to
see a white man sweeping the streets.
All the white people I saw in Jamaica
drove fish-tail cars and smoked cigars.
So when I saw someone, a white person,
actually sweeping the streets it was a bit
of a revelation.

At school it was, to begin with, a very
traumatic experience, because you were
called 'black bastard' by the white kids,
all kinds of racist names, and told 'you
live in trees' and 'you eat monkeys', and
all kinds of things. The teachers would
behave not so drastically but in a similar
way. For example, if you were noisy in
the class they would ask you where did
you think you were, Brixton market on
a Saturday afternoon? Once I was run-
ning along the corridor I was late for
a lesson and a teacher jumped out of
his room, grabbed me by the collar,
dragged me into his room, gave me two
strokes of the cane, and asked me
if I thought I was in a jungle, and I
should learn to walk and not run. And
you had these experiences with teach-
ers from time to time. Quite a lot of
teachers at Tulse Hill School were phy-
sically assaulted by black pupils be-
cause of the way they treated us.

Have the attitudes within the school im-
proved since the time when you were a
From what I gather, there's been a lot
of changes.

You did well enough at school, how-
ever, to get a number of '0' levels.
Yes. I've always been very interested
in learning, and I think I've always been
ambitious. I wanted to achieve some-
thing educationally, and the fact that
my parents, particularly my mother,
made so much sacrifices I mean,
having to wash people's dirty clothes
and scrub their dirty floors, and deny-
ing herself some of the luxuries that
young women like to have, in order to
facilitate my education I felt that I
owed it to her, as well as my own am-
bitions. That generation of boys, like
myself, who went to England at that

age, we had that kind of incentive to
learn, you know, we wanted to get on,
in spite of the odds against us.

Is your mother alive now?
Yes, my mother is alive. She lives in a
place called Luton, which is in Bedford-
shire, and she works in a car factory,
Vauxhall car factory as an assembly

Your father, I know, died this year.
When exactly did he die?

In June. He'd been ill for a long time.
He died young, fifty-six.

In sixth form which subjects did you do?
Economics, commerce, accounts, British
Constitution (which is now called govern-
ment or politics or something). I did
CSE maths.l had done my English and
some other subjects in the fifth year. I
began to do 'A' level economics and 'A'
level British Constitution. But I left
school soon after I started my 'A' level
courses, and found a job and got mar-
ried and all that.

Your wife is Jamaican?

Yes. My wife also went to Britain around,
I think, '63 like me. She's originally
from St. Catherine, Spanish Town.

You now have three children? How old
is the youngest?

The youngest is seven, his name is Mar-
cus. And then there's Eric, he's nine,
and Karen, who's eleven.

After you left school, what jobs did you

The very first job I did was to work in a
tailoring firm as accounts clerk cum
switchboard operator cum salesman.
Then I left there and went to work in
the civil service as a clerk. I worked in
the Treasury for about a year. And
then I realized that the GLC, which is
the Greater London Council (Local
Government), paid more money for the
same work, so I left the Treasury and
went to the GLC. And then the GLC
sent me to do housing advice you
know, when they're redeveloping a
black community and people had to be
rehoused, they sent me to deal with the
black people. And then I left that job
and went to college.

What year did you leave school?

What year did you enter University?

You entered Goldsmith's College, I
believe? University of London?
1973. I couldn't have gone before, be-
cause I hadn't got my 'A' levels until
then. I did my 'A' levels at home while
I was working.

At what stage did you start writing fair-
ly seriously?

I began writing when I was about seven-
teen. I was still at school and I was in
the Panthers, the Panthers' youth sec-

What year was that?

About '69, '70, I began writing poetry.
And how I began, it was this book I
came across in the library the Black
Panthers had a black literature library
and for me it was a new thing, you
know, I didn't know there was such a
thing as black literature, I mean I
thought books were only written by
Europeans and I came across this
book and began reading it, by W.E.B.
Dubois, called The Souls of Black Folk.
I mean, I've never been through such a
deep emotional experience with any
other piece of work of art by anybody.
And I just felt like I wanted to write
too, to express and say something about
what was going on in England with
young people, and how black people
were being treated, and so on.

What were the aims of the Brixton or
of the British Black Panthers?

Oh, we had a list of aims and objectives
and programmes and policies and all
that, but I can't really remember it
offhand. Basically, to fight for things
like justice in the courts, to fight against
police brutality, to fight against racist
practices in factories and places of
employment. These basic civil rights,
really, we were dealing with at the time,
but it was the politics of race, you know,
which obviously was a limitation. We
were never anti-white. There were other
black groups in Britain at the time who
were preaching a kind of anti-white
doctrine; the Black Panthers never
were anti-white but we always put a
great stress' on blackness and all this
kind of thing. We preached black con-
sciousness and black pride and being
proud of, you know, your blackness
and your African ancestry. We organ-
ized political campaigns in solidarity with
African liberation struggles that were
going on at the time in Mozambique
and Guinea and these places. And our
activities would include door to door

sessions where we would go in the com-
munity to black people's houses and try
and get them conscious, so to speak,
because they weren't conscious! Selling
the paper on Saturdays I used to go
out every Saturday. At one time I'm
sure my wife must have hated the
Black Panther movement, because I
spent six nights a week there: I would
go out every night come home straight
from work Black Panther; out selling
papers; we'd have history sessions where
we'd go through books like The Black
Jacobins by C.L.R. James, chapter by
chapter, verse by verse, and somebody
would give us explanations and make
comparisons from that revolution to the
contemporary situation; then we had
readings from Mao and Frantz Fanon
and all those people who were in vogue
at that particular time. It was a tremen-
dous education for me, that is where I
got blooded, if you like, in politics and
in political practice and in what it is
to be in an organization and to organ-
ize campaigns and to take part in
demonstrations and this kind of thing.

What happened to the Black Panthers
eventually? And at what stage did you
cease either being a member or being
an active member?

I think the Black Panther movement lost
a lot of its youth section, a lot of its
young members, because of the attitude
of the leadership, and the organization
was basically destroyed by the state
who deported quite a few of the people.
Some were deported, some were im-
prisoned. And of course the state in-
corporated others into projects, you
know, they give you some money and
you go to them with some idea that
you can solve the problem of the black
youth on the street, for example, and
they give you a few thousand pounds
and you're basically helping yourself,
because you never really seem to get
around to helping anybody. So the state
helped to destroy the organization
through harassment and incorporation,
then. For a while it tried to survive as
a black workers' movement and I think
the leadership of the organization just
basically degenerated, really. By '73,
'74, I was no longer involved with the

For a couple of years I tried to get in-
volved with Rasta, and I went as deep
as I could go in it without calling my-
self a Rasta, because I couldn't identify
with this Selassie thing. I just couldn't
identify with that at all.

Linton Kwesi Johnson when he left Jamaica
in late 1963.

That will have been in the early 1970s?

Yeah. This would have been around '73
to around '75. Which is when I started
the group Rasta Love, where I used to
recite my poetry with Rasta drums,
bass, funde and repeater. We began that
in '73, with basic Rasta drums, and
from time to time we might have a bass
guitar with us or a soprano saxophonist
would come and jam with us, and we
performed basically in the community:
schools, libraries, youth clubs.

At what stage did you join Race Today?
I joined Race Today in 1976, but I have
always been associated with it from its
very inception.

Which was when? Its inception was
when, about?

1973. Race Today existed before then,
as something else. The only continuity
we have with the past in the name Race
Today. Race Today was, basically,
a race relations rag of the Institute
of Race Relations, set up by business
interests and academic interests to study
the natives, so to speak.

Darcus Howe, who had been in the
Black Panther movement with me, was
offered the editorship. He took it, and
promptly, with the connivance of John
LaRose and other people, hijacked Race
Today literally, physically, hijacked
the magazine, typesetter and everything,

and went to an old house in Brixton and
squatted, and built an organization
around the journal, transforming the
journal, from a rag of the Institute of
Race Relations, into a political weapon,
which could be used to inform and to
mobilize people around struggles of
blacks and Asians in Britain and the
world over.

What does the Race Today Collective
do, beyond producing the journal?

Well, we're involved in the black move-
ment. We're involved in building mass
organizations, or mass-based organi-
zations, and assisting others in that pro-
cess. For example, the George Lindo
Action Committee, which was an or-
ganization of working-class blacks, form-
ed to free a man who was wrongfully
put in prison Race Today was central
to the organizing of that. We're actively
involved in the campaign to keep carni-
val on the streets of London, because,
you know, at one time the government
wanted to ban it. We're involved in or-
ganizations like the New Cross Massacre
Action Committee. And we work in
close alliance with the Black Parents'
Movement (which is an organization of
parents) and the Black Youth Move-
ment (an organization of youth) which
work together. We're collectively known
as The Alliance.

Would it be accurate to say that Race
Today and the Race Today Collective
are in a sense more accepted by the
state than the Black Panthers were?

Well, we're respected and feared. We're
able to do things and to get people out,
and to win a lot of court cases, for
example, we're known for that. And
we're not only respected and feared by
the State but also by the black national-
ists and the middle-class blacks, who
generally don't like us, because our
politics are different to theirs.

Apart from more or less straight political
work, Race Today is also involved in a
kind of cultural exploration of black
life, and one of the more recent things is
your involvement in the Black Book
Fair, officially the International Book
Fair of Radical Black and Third World
Yes. We have a little section of the or-
ganization, it's more or less independent
of Race Today, but we can't really sepa-
rate them. It's called Creation for Liber-
ation. That came into being around
1978. I was trying to mobilize fellow
artists like myself, whether they be in-

evolved in performing poetry or music
or painting or whatever, to have a group
of people who would be committed to
doing public performances to raise
money for struggles, or for campaigns,
and also to foster the development of
the creative expression in Britain among
the black artists. And to that end we
have sponsored tours for Oku Onuora
and Michael Smith in Britain; we've
tried to publish unknown writers in
Race Today; and we've put on various
poetry recitals and variety concerts and
music concerts with rock groups as well
as reggae groups.

What about politics in the sense of
members of parliament? Do you form a
pressure group that might affect parlia-
mentary elections in Britain?

No, we don't view the parliamentary
system as being one that can guarantee
radical and revolutionary change. We
believe that all that the electoral system
does is to reinforce the status quo, and
that basically what we're after is some-
thing completely different, where the
society would be organized on a com-
pletely different basis, with those who
create the wealth holding the reins of

But would there not be a stage in
between now and the ideal time when
working through the parliamentary sys-
tem would be a natural kind of strat-
egy? Do you not have alliances with
parliamentary people?

Well, not really. No. I mean, if there
are parliamentary people who are on a
public platform and we believe it's a
platform that we think we ought to
share then we will share that platform.
For example, Darcus and I have spoken
on platforms with MPs, but itwas around
issues like unemployment and South
Africa, for example, which cut across
ideological divisions.

Where is the politics that you're talk-
ing about going? I mean, how will it
achieve some greater voice for black
people and other people who are dis-
advantaged in the British society?
Only an independent movement of
workers can present an alternative to
what exists; and we agree with C.L.R.
James's position that the only structures
that exist, the only formations that
exist, are the black movement itself, to
a certain extent the shop stewards'
movement, and the women's move-
ment. These, we believe, point possibil-
ities to the way forward. Obviously,

blacks don't live in a vacuum, and we
can't transform our situation indepen-
dent of other groups within the society.
And the things that affect us are the
things that affect white working-class
people, only our situation is more acute
because it's .compounded by the ques-
tion of race. So quite frankly, we only
see the way forward as through a strong
mass movement of workers, and that is
something that you have to build over a
long period of time. It doesn't happen
by wishing it, you know, into being.
And we want to enter it from a position
of strength, otherwise we'll be sucked in
by the Socialist Workers' Party and
sucked in by the Communist Party and
sucked in by all these little opportunist
so-called left-wing groups who basically
want to exploit the colonial conditions
against which blacks are fighting, to fur-
ther their own ideological aims.

Now Linton, can we return specifically
to your poetry and when it started in
the early 1970s? Of the poems which
have been published, can you remem-
ber which is the very earliest in com-

The earliest in composition, of the ones
which have been published, is "Two
Sides of Silence" I wrote that in 1972,
followed by "Five Nights of Bleeding",
"Doun de Road", "Yout Scene" (in
fact "Yout Scene" is the first poem I
wrote in the Jamaican language, the
very first one), and "Double Scank".
They came out of a thing that I was
doing an experiment with, called "Notes
on Brixton."

The poem "Di black petty-booshwah"
- it's the first poem I ever wrote where
the music was there first before the
words. I was messing around with the
bass guitar cause .I'm not really a
musician I was sitting down with
my little bass guitar that I work out my
bass line with, and messing around, and
just going up and down the A string and
I found this combination of notes (da-
da-dada-daa-da-di-di-di-di-di-di-di .)
and after I worked it out the words just
came, the words just suggested them-

We've dealt pretty fully with a lot of the
political background to your poetry, be-
cause especially in recent years your
poetry has been very firmly concerned
with political action and with helping
to further that. But you began in the
early 1970s writing poems which to
many listeners suggested what was in
fact the case, that you were intimate

with Jamaican popular music. Would
you say something about the connection
between your interest in popular music
and your beginnings in writing verse?

Well, from a boy here in Jamaica I'd al-
ways loved music. As a little boy I'd
make bamboo fife and make, you
know what time of the year was it? I
can't remember if it was Easter or Jon-
konnu time or whatever, a certain time of
the year we'd go down to the river, get a
old butter pan and get a piece of old
khaki and get some mud and bush and
cord it, and I used to make that and
play fife and drum and I've always been
interested in music and loved music.
And when I entered adolescence I began
buying records, and I used to fancy
myself as a singer. I always used to,
when the records were playing, close my
eyes and pretend that I was singing the
song and all this kind of thing. And then
I became interested in the music be-
cause I found that, growing up in Eng-
land, you're listening to all kinds of
music you're listening to American
music, British pop, all kinds of music,
middle of the road music but reggae
music stood out. Number one, it was
very danceable. And number two, there
seems to be a great social focus on the
part of lyricists: they were always sing-
ing about whatever was happening in a
society at a particular time; and I found
this fascinating. And I found the style
and the nature of our music also fascin-
ating, and I became a student of it.

So when I began to write poetry ...
When I began to write, in fact, I had no
poetic models to draw from because I
wasn't very much into poetry at school.
I remember I quite enjoyed it when I
was out here in Jamaica, but in those
days they taught you parrot fashion and
you just learnt everything and the whole
class said it. '0 wind a-blowing all day
long,/O wind that sings so loud a song
But I was very much into the
poetry of the Old Testament. I used to
read to my grandmother (who was illi-
terate) at nights; and she used to love
the Psalms, the Proverbs, Songs of Solo-
mon, Ecclesiastes. And I used to love
that kind of poetry; and when I began
to write I used to write a lot of 'thou'
and 'thy' and all this kind of thing -
that was my poetic model. And then
I found that what I wanted to say could
have been much more easily and more
appropriately expressed in the Jamaican
language. And I don't know how or why
it happened, but from the moment I
began to write in the Jamaican language

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music entered the poetry. There was al-
ways a beat, or a bass line, going on at
the back of my head with the words.
And so I developed this style of writing
- always with music in mind, always
hearing music when I'm composing my
poetry, or writing my poetry. And it
was only the logical development, I sup-
pose, of it, to bring out the music at
another stage which was inherent in the
poetry. Quite a few of the poems in
Dread Beat and Blood came out of my
experiences with that workshop situa-
tion with Rasta Love. I would do my
poetry and they would give me the
drum accompaniment, I used to play
funde myself in fact in the group, and
they would do their Rasta chants and
sing their Rasta songs. So it was like a
poetry and Rasta music thing. And then
everywhere I read people kept on say-
ing, 'Oh, your poetry sounds so musical,
you can hear the reggae beat in it, why
don't you put it to music?' So that is
what eventually happened, when I was
working at Virgin Records. I worked
there as a freelance copy writer when I
was still at college. Virgin Records is an
English record company, and they had
just become involved in reggae at that
time. When I was there I used to write
biographies on the artistes ...

This would have been when?

About '77. This is after Dread Beat and
Blood had been published. I did radio
ads for them. And I was just earning
pocket money. And being there I natural-
ly put to them I put the idea to a
friend called John Varmon an English
fellow who was doing most of the
marketing, and he put it to the directors
and they said yes, and I did "All Wi
Doin Is Defending", which was very
poorly recorded, and sounded awful,
but they were satisfied with the returns
they got from that, they were confident
enough of the returns they got from
that, to do an album, and that's how I
made my first album, Dread Beat and
Blood, which was made over a week-
end in fact. We laid down the tracks on
the Friday night, we overdubbed on
voice on the Saturday night, and mixed
on the Sunday.
Are there problems in having actual
music behind the voice?

Yes,there are a number of problems.
Firstly, when you're beginning to do
the thing it's a problem with the musi-
cians, of them understanding exactly
what you're trying to do, and being sen-
sitive enough to it, to realize that what

you're doing is poetry and not just
straight pop music or straight regular
reggae music and that there's a differ-
ence. There's always a danger of people
mistaking what you do for just reggae,
and accepting it on the level that they
might accept a deejay or a singer. There's
also the danger of the music overwhelm-
ing the word so that the word be-
comes just a little additive to the music,
you know. And one has to guard very
carefully in the actual recording and the
actual mixing to make sure that the
voice is heard. That is the greatest
danger, I believe.

I think even now, although your rec-
ords are on sale and have been bought,
you sometimes perform items without
music. How does that tend to go?

Oh, it goes very well. I always insist,
if I'm performing in a music context -
that is, at a music venue where people
go for musical entertainment if I'm
performing with tapes which I used to
do, i don't do that anymore because I
work with a band now I always do a
couple of poems, two or three poems,
always, without musical accompaniment,
to remind my audience that that is what
I'm about: poetry, you know. And in
fact most of the work I do is just poetry
recitals. I do far more poetry recitals
than I do musical performances. And
recently I toured Scandinavia with a
band called Dennis Bovell Dub Band -
excellent musicians from London and
it was a good tour and we got a tre-
mendous response. It was the first time
that I had done it with a band, because
I normally used to do it with a tape -
you know, mix down my music on tape
and just recite the poetry on top of it.
That was rewarding, but I still find I get
much more out of reciting to a small

group of maybe 300 people in a room,
just doing the words, it's much more
intimate, you get much more feedback
and you pick up the vibes from the
audience and it's a much richer and
deeper experience.

When you're performing with a band,
are you conscious of the band's per-
formance varying in the same sort of
way your own reading of a poem would
vary from performance to performance?
Oh yes. Sometimes the band is tighter
than other times, you know. Occasion-
ally a musician might play a bad note,
or an instrument might be too loud.
But at the same time it's easier for me
as a performer. The musicians they take
a lot of the strain off of you, because

the audience is watching them as well;
it's not just you there. So in that sense
it's easier, yes. But to get back to the
music. After a while I became actively
interested in studying the music, and I
used to go out and buy records and lis-
ten and copy down the words and
analyse the words, listen to the differ-
ent beats and compare different styles
of approach, different studios, differ-
ent producers, and then I began to do
some freelance writing.

When I began to do the poetry with the
music and people were looking for a bag
to put it in, to describe it, I said 'reggae
poetry'. I said 'reggae poetry', but I
realized soon after that it was a mis-
take, because one is looking for a way
of describing a particular style, and I
suppose it's accurate in so far as there's
a thing like jazz poetry, you know -
you have 'reggae poetry' because it's
largely connected to the reggae music

I also coined the phrase 'dub poetry',
but I was doing that as a student of reg-
gae music. I did that as early as 1974. I
came up with the term 'dub poetry' and
'dub lyricism' as a way of talking about
the deejays, the reggae deejays, because
at that time I tried to see them, and
tried to argue that what they were doing
was really poetry, and that it had a lot
in common with traditional African
poetry in so far as it was spontaneous,
improvisatory and had a musical base.
I was surprised a few years later to see
the term 'dub poetry' applied as an
umbrella term to describe what people
like Oku Onuora, Michael Smith, Brian
Meeks, Mutabaruka, myself and others
were doing. I think Oku Onuora's theory
goes a little bit too far, because if it's by
definition something connected to
music and to the reggae tradition, then
I don't see how he would locate Miss
Lou in that. If anything, Miss Lou is
working in a mento tradition rather
than a dub tradition. And since I my-
self, and Oku Onuora himself and
Michael Smith are using original music,
which comes out of the poetry that we
write, to call it 'dub poetry', I think, is a
little misguided, because 'dub poetry'
implies that you get a piece of dub
music and put some poetry to it -
which is what the deejays do. They get
a piece of instrumental music or a song
with the lyrics taken out, and impro-
vise spontaneous lyricism describing
everyday happenings and events. And
that is what I was trying to get at when
I wrote this thing about 'dub poetry'.

It I -:



:' A

1 1



Where did you write it, Linton?
I think you'll find it in an article I wrote
in Race and Class called "Jamaican
Rebel Music", published in June '76.
And I think it also appeared in an article
I did on the Jamaican deejay called 'I-
Roy' which was published in either '75
or '76 in the New Musical Express.

Mind you, the fact that the term is in
origin slightly misleading need not be a
problem for long once people have

adapted the term to applying to a
group of people that they more or less
know they mean. I wonder if you'd say
a little bit about how you would see the
distinction between what the so-called
dub poets are doing people like Oku
and Mikey and Muta and so on and
what the deejay performers are doing.

The deejays, obviously they have a
history and tradition which has evolv-
ed since the early talking tunes of Prince
Buster in the '60s and the rhythmic

mouthings of people like King Stitt
and Count Machuki over the shuffle
rhythms of the ska, to the stage where
people began to actually come up with
lyrics, to evolve a lyricism. It's rooted
in the sound system culture, and it's
functional in so far as the whole idea
behind it is to liven up the dance, and
to 'nice up the dance', and to get people
involved in the music. So in that way
it's by nature different from so-called
dub poetry, because dub poetry func-
tions on another level.



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On what level?
As something within its own right: as
poetry, it functions as poetry to be re-
cited to poetry-listening audiences,
something separate from the sound sys-
tem tradition. Where the overlap comes
is that we, all of us, I think, have been
inspired, and have been impressed, by
the deejays. I myself particularly by
people like Big Youth, U-Roy, I-Roy,
Prince Jazzbo, King Stitt, and I was also
influenced, I believe, by Prince Buster's
talking tunes and Lee Perry's talking
tunes, things like "Ten Command-
ments of Man" and "Judge Dread" and
"The Lecture" and "Kimble the Nimble"
and all these things by Lee Perry. An-
other difference is that the whole nature
of the composition is different: you sit
down and you compose a poem, you
write a poem, always with music in mind;
the deejay now he begins with music, he
begins with a piece of pre-recorded
music to which he improvises lyrics. The
nature of his art is closer to the African
oral poets in so far as it's spontaneous,
and there's not that element of spontan-
eity in dub poetry you sit down and
you work it out and you write it and
you compose it and you change this
word and that word. But the lyricism of
people like Michigan and Smiley, for ex-
ample, the odd Yellow Man, the odd
Brigadier Jerry, or even some of the
things by Big Youth, could stand in
their own right without the music, as
poetry. Again, to repeat what I said be-
fore. I tried to argue that what they
were doing was in fact poetry hence
the term dub poetry, you see. There is
that overlap.

What do you see as the future of dub
poetry? Do you think the better poets
will simply emerge, write some things
that are dub and some things that are
not? Or do you see it as a kind of trend
that might continue? I ask this partly
because one of the key things about dub
poetry is that it has widened the audi-
ence. The only poet in the Jamaican
context that had an audience as wide as
the dub poets would be Louise Bennett.

Yes, I think it's a very interesting trend
and development, and I think the more
the merrier for the time being, and ob-
viously the wheat will sort itself out from
the tares. The good ones will, hopefully,
progress and go on to writing different
kinds of poetry and deepening their
knowledge and their experience of poet-
ry per se; and the charlatans and the
pretenders will probably disappear off

the scene. When something new starts
everybody jumps on the bandwaggon;
there are some people who obviously are
talented, like Michael Smith and Oku
Onuora and Muta and so on, and there
are others who are not. I think we'll
have to wait and see who are the real
talents and who are just riding on the
bandwaggon. But I think it's a healthy
development. My only caution is that I
think people should remember that
poetry is much wider than dub poetry.
To talk dub poetry alone or to call your-
self a dub poet is a limitation, you know,
it's putting yourself in a bag and it's a
dangerous business. I think when asked
how would you describe yourself you
should say that you're a poet and you
write a style of poetry which could be
described as dub poetry among other
things, because to just say I write dub
poetry is to limit yourself.


And to add it's something that's not
particular to Jamaica, it's something
that's developing throughout the Carib-
bean. They generally tend to call it
'rhythm poetry'. But it's a trend, it's a
modern day trend in the entire Carib-
bean. There's Abdul Malik from Trini-
dad; there's a group there called Net-
work who do what they call Rapso, like
a rap poetry with calypso rhythms, and
they incorporate mime and dance with
it on the stage very good performers.
There are quite a few other people.
There's this fellow in Barbados.

Bruce St. John?

Bruce St. John, of course. But I'm
thinking of this Rasta poet from Bar-
bados. Michael Rasheed Foster. There's
a whole lot of them. Since the poetry is
oral it would be very difficult for music
not to creep into it, and I think the
most sensible vehicle for the dissemin-
ation of that kind of poetry is the rec-

What do you find takes most of your
time at the moment, and how much
time are you finding for actually writing
new poems?

Most of my time is taken up with earn-
ing a living, Mervyn; which means actual-
ly going out and performing poetry,
going and performing at music venues,
doing tours in Europe, and then doing
my freelance journalism. The rest of
my time is taken up with my political
work. It's very hard to work out a bal-
ance, because sometimes I feel I should

be doing more political work, but then I
have to be out of the country for quite
a lot of the time. And sometimes I think
that I'm performing too much and I
need more time to actually sit down and
write. I don't really find the time -
I've gotten so many ideas for poems
which have just vanished into thin air
really, simply because I haven't had a
chance to sit down and let them germi-
nate in my mind and so on. But I'm
working on some new poems. I think
I've got enough material together now
for a new album which I intend to make
next year.

Nearly all your published or recorded
poetry in recent years has been very
firmly political. One of the exceptions
I can think of is the poem "Lorraine".
Do you write a number of poems which
might be broadly considered a- or non-
political? Or you just don't now?

I never have. From the time I began
writing, my initial inspiration came
from the general conditions that black
people were living under and what we
were experiencing in British society.
And that has been the mainstay of my
creative source .. like I'ma one theme
writer, I suppose ...

What about "Lorraine"? That seems to
open up a whole range of possibilities
which you have not really been doing
much with recently.

From time to time I get tempted to
write light-hearted little things like that.
But, tell you the truth about that poem:
it's just simply that I got fed up of
people saying to me, you're always wri-
ting about the ugly things in life, why
can't you write about love and all this
kind of business. And I said, well, I'm
going to show people that I have a sense
of humour, so I just sat down and wrote
this poem. But funnily enough I've had
experiences where I've recited that
poem and people take it seriously and
ask me 'Oh, did that really happen to

Have you thought about the title of
your next record?

Yes. Provisionally its called "Making
History". It's the title of one of the new
poems that I wrote, dealing with basi-
cally what has happened over the last five
years, with the riots and the responses
of official society to it things like the
New Cross Massacre, where thirteen
young children were murdered by fas-

cists who threw an incendiary device
into a sixteenth birthnight party, killing
thirteen children, injuring twenty-seven.
You know, what is happening in the
world generally what is going on in
Poland, and you know, what's going on
in England now at the moment, really,
Scarman and all that. I mean, official
society seemed to be surprised when the
Asians fought off the fascists in South-
all in 1979, they seemed to be surprised
when young blacks insurrected in
Bristol in 1980, surprised when the
whole country was in insurrection in
1981. And the poem "Making History"
simply says, well, it's not no great mys-
tery, you know, we just simply making
history we making history in Britain

1 January 1986

There has been news in Jamaica that
you have recently given your 'farewell
concert' in London. When was that con-
cert, and what exactly did you mean by
'farewell concert'?

The concert was the 7th or the 8th of
December, 1985 at the Camden Centre
in London. What I mean by 'farewell
concert' is that I am taking my leave
from the stage as a reggae performer.
When I began to write poetry at first it
was simply a need I had as a young
black person growing up in England to
express my ideas about how I felt about
our experiences there, and I just chose
poetry as a means of doing that. Then I
got involved in recording, and through
making records I've been able to take
my poems to a much much wider audi-
ence than I could have ever dreamed of
reaching through poetry alone in book
form. But that has its own drawbacks,
because although I've performed in
about twenty-one countries played to
hundreds of thousands of people, sold
hundreds of thousands of records, I've
realized over the last few years that my
poetry has suffered as a consequence.

In what sense has your poetry suffered?
It's suffered in terms of the craft of
poetry. The kind of poetry I was writ-
ing, that I am known for, at least,
would be written in a way that a poetic
idea would come to me as a musical
one. The two would the be same thing
- a musical idea or a poetic idea, I
can't find any better way of putting it.
But eventually I found that I was get-
ting drawn closer to the music, and try-
ing to write within the strict parameters

of the reggae form which is very limiting.
You're not conscious of it at the time,
but you get drawn closer and closer and
closer to the music until in the end what
you're doing is basically making reggae
songs or composing reggae music. Basi-
cally, I think I've been able to sustain my
popularity over the years because of the
strength of the music, number one, and
because people generally identified with
the sentiments of what I was saying. In a
sense I have consciously seen it as my
function to document the experiences
and highlight the moments of the
history of blacks in Britain, and that is
what I've been using my poetry to do
over the last few years. But to go back
to the original question about why I'm
withdrawing from public performances
on the stage ...

On the stage with music...

On the stage with music, yes. I mean,
I'll still do the odd poetry reading. And
I don't know, I mean, if somebody
makes me an offer that I can't refuse -
to go somewhere that I've never been
with the band before, I will, because
that's how I've been earning my living
over the years. But another reason why
I've stopped I've stopped because I
want to give myself some time to write
some better poems and I want to stop
because I feel that I've been very very
very lucky indeed and I don't want to
push my luck too far. Also, I don't think
I have anything more to say which I
haven't said, or which other people
aren't saying, as effectively or even
more effectively. There are a lot of
powerful voices around the place now.
And dub poetry is very much alive. If
I have achieved anything, I feel that
what I have achieved, in Britain at least,
is to show the black youth of England
or young black people in England that
you don't have to be immersed in classi-
cal literature or to have been to a uni-
versity to be able to write poetry that
strikes a common chord of response
among your peer group.

Is there a particular activity that you
may be involved in which will keep you
going on a regular basis in terms of in-

No. It's a big step I've taken. I have a
little savings that could tide me over for
a couple of months. After that I don't
know where I'm going to earn my bread
and butter from, but I'll have to find
something. And I'm not a proud fellow,
I can do anything.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, poet and
performer, is at present better
known in the United Kingdom,
Europe and the United States
than in Jamaica where he was
born. He was nominated for a
Grammy Award this year for
LKJ in Concert (Rough 78/LKJ
006). His other records include
Forces of Victory (Island, 1979:
ILPS 9566), Bass Culture (Island,
1980: ILPS 9605) and Making
History (Island, 1984: ILPS 9770).
He is the author of three books of
poetry: Voices of the Living and
the Dead (first published 1974;
Second Edition London: Race
Today, 1983), Dread Beat and
Blood (London: Bogle-L'Ouver-
ture, 1975) and Inglan Is a Bitch
(London: Race Today, 1980).

Ann Hodges, an architect, is a
consultant to the Women's Con-
struction Collective. Her current
series in JAMAICA JOURNAL is
an outgrowth of her special interest
in the conservation of historic
buildings and traditional Jamaican
technology. Her first article on
Thatch appeared in the pre-
vious issue (19:4).

Lorna Simmonds is an assistant
lecturer in the Department of
History, University of the West
Indies, Mona. She is currently
working on a doctoral thesis in
the field of urban slavery.

Alan Eyre is reader in the Depart-
ment of Geography, University of
the West Indies, Mona. He has
been involved in environmental
issues in Jamaica for many years
and is president of the Jamaican
Geographical Society.

Pamela O'Gorman is the director
of the Jamaica School of Music.
Her recent work has been focus-
sed on developing courses which
teach music in a multi-cultural
context. Miss O'Gorman is the
regular music columnist for JAM-

Mervyn Morris is a senior lecturer
in the Department of English,
University of the West Indies,
Mona. He has written three books
of poetry The Pond, (1973),
On Holy Week (1976), and Shadow-
boxing (1979). He is a regular
contributor to JAMAICA JOUR-


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Reggae fi Dada

by Linton Kwesi Johnson

galang dada
galang gwaan yaw sah
yu nevah ad noh life fi live
jus di wan life fi give
yu did yu time pan ert
yu nevah get yu just dizert
galanq goh smile inna di sun
galang goh smile inna di sun
galanq goh satta inna di palace of peace

o di waatah
it soh deep
di waatah
it soh daak
an it full a hawbah shaak

di Ian is like a rack
slowly shattahrin to son
sinking in a sea af calamity
where fear breed shadows
dat lurks in di daak
where people fraid fi waak
afraid fi think fraid fi taak
where di present is haunted by di paas

plenty innocent a die
a deh soh mi bawn many rivahs run dry
get fi know bout staam ganja plane flyin high
learn fi cling to di dawn di poor man im a try
an wen mi hear mi daddy sick yu tink a lickle tr try
mi quickly pack mi grip an tek a trip

mi nevah have noh time
wen mi reach
fi si noh sunny beach
wen mi reach
jus people a live in shack
people livin back-to-back
mongst cockroach an rat
mongst dirt an dizeez
subjek to terrorist attack
political intrigue
kanstant grief
an noh sign of relief
o di griss
turn brown
soh many trees
cut doun
an di lan is ovahgrown


fram country to town
is jus thistle an tawn
inna di woun a di poor
is a miracle ow dem endure
di pain nite an day
di stench of decay
di glarin sights
di guarded affluence
di arrogant vices
cole eyes af kantemp
di mackin symbols of independence
a deh soh mi bawn
get fi know bout staam
learn fi clin to di dawn
an wen di news reach mi
seh mi wan daddy ded
mi ketch a plane quick
an wen mi reach mi sunny isle
it woz di same ole style
di money well dry
di bullits dem a fly

holding awn bye an bye
wen a dallah cant buy
a lickle dinnah fi a fly

galang dada
galang gwaan yaw sah
yu nevah ad noh life fi live
just di wan life fi give
yu did yu time pan ert
yu nevah get yu jus dizert
galang goh smile inna di sun
galang goh satta inna di palace af peace

mi know you could tek it dada
di anguish an di pain
di suffahrin di problems di strain
di struggling in vain
fi mek two ens meet
soh dat dem pickney could get
a lickle something fi eat
fi put cloaz pan dem back
fi put shoes pan dem feet
wen a dallah cant buy
a lickle dinnah fi a fly
mi know you try dada
you fite a good fite
but di dice dem did loaded
an di card pack fix
yet still yu reach fifty-six
before yu lose yu leg wicket
'a noh yu bawn grung here'
soh wi bury yu a Stranger's Burying Groun
near to mhum an cousin Daris
nat far from di quarry
doun a August Town


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Slave Higglerin

in Jamaica


By Lorna Simmonds


o date, the historiography of slave economy in the
Caribbean has concentrated on rural activities.1 Th,s
article explores the urban activities associated with
an important aspect of the Jamaican slave economy. the
internal marketing system. Implicit in this examination will
be the nature of the sexual division of slave labour which up
to now has not been treated in depth in either rural or urban
slave studies.
The Urban Slave Economy
The nature of Jamaican urban slavery was greatly influen-
ced by factors such as population density, fluidity and variety
in terms of economic activities and social groupings within
the urban milieu. In the towns, especially Kingston, Port
Royal and Montego Bay, there was a large proportion of free
coloured and black female slaveowners. This factor, together
with the presence of foreigners and transients connected to
the shipping trade; the predominance of mercantile interests
and the concentration of slave labour in economic activities
such as shipping, artisanal occupations, domestic trade and
marketing, all combined to affect the life style of the slaves.
British West Indian slavery which had been conceived as an
integral feature of the plantation labour and capital structure
was somewhat of an anomaly in the urban context.
The division of labour and economic functions of urban
slaves were determined by sex and residence, in contrast to
the plantation setting where the majority of slaves who were


engaged in field labour were assigned the same work, regard-
less of sex, their placement in the gang system being deter-
mined by physical condition and age. In other areas of plan-
tation life, specific positions such as those of drivers and arti-
sans were dominated by male slaves while the domestic occu-
pations were filled mainly by female workers.
In the urban context, the division of labour on the basis
of sex was more sharply defined. Slave women in the towns
were engaged mainly in domestic situations as cooks, wet



nurses, ladies' maids, seamstresses, washerwomen, nannies,
cleaning women, household servants and in the marketing
trade. Male slaves were employed as coopers, caulkers, bakers,
carpenters, masons, butchers, silversmiths, and brickmakers
on public works programmes and as fishermen and wharf
slaves, manning the vessels which plied the coasts of the is-
land, i.e. droghers, wherries, and plantation boats and on
vessels involved in the North American and Spanish-American
Women slaves and slaveholders formed the majority of
the urban population. In 1817, of a population of 17,798
slaves in Kingston, 9,685 were female, and of a total slave-
holding population of 3,499, 1,957 were female. Female
slaveholders owned a total of 5,900 female slaves.2 This situ-
ation was replicated on an islandwide scale. Barry Higman
[1976 pp. 58,78] estimates that for twenty-six towns in
Jamaica for the years 1829-32, there was a ratio of 83.29
males per 100 females. In those years, the closest to that
of Kingston in favour of females was 90. 2 : 100 for Vere.
There were also more Africans than creoles in the urban
slave population. In 1817, almost ten years after the aboli-
tion of the slave trade, the slave population of Kingston con-
sisted of 9,147 Africans and 8,651 creoles.3 Females pre-
dominated in the African population: 6,699 to 3,448 males.

The Marketing System
Female Monopoly

By the latter part of the eighteen h century, the internal
marketing system was a well-entrench d part of the Jamaican
economy, dominated by rural slave provision producers and
urban slave hucksters. In terms of the sexual division of
labour, the rural component was at best shared between the
sexes, with the possibility of the men being the principal
cultivators, while urban marketing was dominated by females.
There are no known statistics available on the extent of
the marketing population, but by extrapolation from
contemporary descriptions, examination of the influences on
the Jamaican marketing system and from the way in which
the system has developed to the present, one can conclude
that women were in the majority.

Sidney Mintz [1955 pp. 95-103] in commenting on the
role of women in the Jamaican marketing system, stated:
There is ample reason to suppose that the market system in
Jamaica had important African antecedents. The vast majority
of Jamaican slaves came from West Africa, where markets were
highly developed, and where women were predominantly the
marketers as they are in Jamaica today. However, the Jam-
aican pattern could develop and persist only because the slave,
and later the freedman, had access both to land and to market-
ing institutions so that he could produce and exchange food-
stuffs and craft articles.
Perhaps the most significant point to be made about Jamaican
internal marketing, in terms of its present character, is that it is
carried on largely by women rather than by men ....

The majority of female slave higglers might have been
African women, and thus would have been influenced by
traditional forms of West African provision-marketing. L.R.
Vagale [1977 pp. 1,2] in discussing the traditional features
of marketing by the Yoruba people (from whom a substan-
tial portion of the Jamaican slave population was derived)
comments that Yorubaland is one of the most 'prosperous
cultural areas of tropical Africa', and attributes this pros-
perity primarily to the raising of cash-crops and trading. He
suggests that the presence of traditional market structures
strengthens the economic base of the towns and that 'the
market as a business institution has given a large measure of
economic opportunity and social security to women, who
form the bulk of the traders'. Commenting further on the
role of women in the West African marketing economy, he
Some of the striking and distinctive characteristics of markets
not only in Nigeria but also in the entire West African region
are to be found in the social structure of the trading com-
munity. Yoruba women play a very important role in trading
operations. In fact, the females constitute the majority among
the traders; and in certain sectors of trade, the market-women
hold a monopoly.
He ascribes this monopoly to several factors, including a cer-
tain 'degree of specialisation and a marked division of labour
between males and females'.
Female slaves were concentrated in the city of Kingston
and dominated the domestic occupations and marketing-
higglering trade within the city and between Kingston and
the smaller towns and adjoining rural districts and com-
munities. Higman [1984 p.227] has estimated that sixty-six
per cent of all urban slaves worked as domestics in Kingston.
Many female slaves seemed to have been involved almost
exclusively in the higglering or vending of some product,
while others described as domestics were employed in
hawking wares about the streets of the towns for their
masters', but more particularly, for their mistresses' benefit.

Freedom of Movement and Action

The relative degree of independence enjoyed by male
slave artisans, fishermen, sailors, and skilled slaves who hired
out their labour, was perhaps equalled only by those female

Slave owners wholly dependent on their slaves' labour and
initiative for the procurement of an income, found higglering
P., an invaluable source of employment for slaves who were un-
skilled and whom they were unable to furnish with skills or
apprentice to a tradesman. The use of slaves as part-time
traders also provided for the owners a wide margin of flexi-
bility as they were also able to use these slaves as personal
i.'l'^ ,domestics or hire them out. A Kingston inhabitant in the
1790s, complaining of the diversion of domestics to the hig-
S" "glering trade, wrote to the editor of a contemporary magazine
q the most flagrant [abuse] is daily practised in the very domestics
of a Magistrate being employed as higglers: while those who
I have not slaves of their own cannot procure an hired servant to
Sdo their household business. [Columbian Magazine, 4: 1

,In the slave, the slaveowner had the potential of earning a
,i steady and substantial income with the least effort and little,
if any, outlay of capital, although the actual returns would
Depend to a certain extent on how enterprising the slave was.
Marketing Activities

The marketing of goods by urban slaves was undertaken in
different ways. Goods were carried about on trays or in bas-
A .- kets, sold at stalls on the major streets in the towns, or on
it J street corners, sold in markets at stalls or by roving sellers, or
sold by slaves travelling by coastal droghers or overland to
other towns or rural communities. The growth of street vend-
ing, particularly in Kingston, was matched by constant ef-
Sforts by the town authorities to regulate it. In 1815, the
Kingston Court of Common Council ordered the police to
'cause the Ordinance respecting Higglers to be strictly put in
.' .,L.' force, by apprehending all persons found vending goods, pro-
visions, etc. about the streets, as mentioned in that Ordin-

slaves who participated in the marketing of provisions. Vend-
ing by slave women of a wide variety of dry goods, provisions,
handicrafts, and baked goods was an economic mainstay for
a substantial portion of the urban slaveholding population, as
well as for the slaves themselves. Slaveowners derived income
from this source of slave employment, and slaves (indepen-
dently of owners' receipts) were able to pursue an indepen-
dent mode of living in the towns. The slaveholders derived a
double benefit: the procurement of a steady income, and re-
lease from the obligations of providing for the material needs
of the slave.
Higman [1984 p.237] in examining the role of higglers in
West Indian towns during slavery, observes:

slaves were specifically employed in the sale of goods for
the benefit of their masters . .. Wherever they plied their
wares and whatever they marketed, the urban slaves generally
enjoyed a relatively independent existence and were always j i
responsible for dealings in cash or kind. They worked under a
variety of systems. Some sellers were given a range of goods to
sell and were expected to deliver their daily takings to their
owners. Others were employed under a system of self-hire and
were expected only to make fixed periodic payments to their -
owners, so that they were responsible for choosing and pur-
chasing the goods they were to sell; and they retailed them by
whatever mode they preferred. In either case, the seller was in-
volved in a series of commercial transactions which could not
be directly controlled by the owner and which provided ex-
perience of a way of life separate from the slave condition.

ance' [Royal Gazette 23-30 September 1815]. Street vend-
ors were frequently apprehended and fined. Newspapers
carried regular reports on penalties imposed: e.g., 'two
negroes . fined in the mitigated penalty of 10s. each, for
hawking and peddling goods through the streets' [Royal
Gazette 4-11 June 1803]. 'Two seizures were also made by
the Corporation on Monday, of a quantity of dry goods,
found in the possession of negroes who were higglering about
the street of Spanish Town. The goods were afterwards
publicly sold, by order of the Magistrates, for the benefit of
the said Parish' [St. Jago Gazette 21-28 November 1802].

As marketing activities increased throughout the period of
slavery, town authorities were constantly engaged in regu-
lating public markets and providing new facilities. In addi-
tion to the established beef market, there were several other
permanent markets in Kingston. There was the 'Sunday
or Negro-Market' in Princess Street that was in 1795 described
as 'so shut up with tables that in some places there is hardly
six or thirty inches room for people to pass and repass'
[Columbian Magazine Vol. 2 1796]. In 1817, the Kingston
Common Council proposed an ordinance 'suppressing the
irregular market kept in upper King-street, and for estab-
lishing an additional market-place on the Parade, for provi-
sions and other articles coming for sale from the country'
[Royal Gazette 26 April 3 May 1818].
Again in 1823, Alderman Mitchell of the Common Council
moved that:
a Market-house be built on the land lately purchased in King-
street, as the money required for the purpose could be easily
obtained on loan by the Common Council, and the interest
would be paid from the rent of the additional stalls. The
present Market, he contended, was quite inadequate, and
so crowded as to prevent decent persons from visiting it.
[Royal Gazette 15-22 February 1823].

Itinerant Higglers
Another important branch of marketing by urban slaves
was the itinerant trade. Slaves travelled over land and by sea

to markets and estates to sell their goods. This branch of the
trade was also one of the more important means of susten-
ance for slaves who had run away from their owners. In 1822
an inhabitant of Spanish Town complained that 'Having ob-
served, for some time past, the streets of this Town to be
greatly infested with a set of Hawkers, Peddlars, &c. from
Kingston, to the great injury of the trading part of the com-
munity and in the very eye of the Police, . .' [St. Jago
Gazette 9-16 November 1822], he felt compelled to call
upon the magistrates to take steps to counteract this 'grow-
ing evil' which would eventually ruin the 'fair trader, who is
obliged to contribute to the public revenue'.

In 1817 it was reported that:

The Inhabitants of this [Falmouth], and we understand, most
of the other towns in the County of Cornwall, are preparing
petitions to the Honourable House of Assembly, against the
prevailing practice of vending all kinds of Merchandise and
Stores upon Sugar Estates, and other Plantations ... the Man-
agers of which it would be supposed would suppress this trade,
as, this practice if permitted, must soon destroy the Establish-
ment of the Regular Trader, and consequently ruin the Towns,
which in cases of internal commotion, exclusive of their im-
portance in other points of view, afford the best protection to
the inhabitants.

And, in order also to put a stop to the present extended sys-
tem of higglering Dry Goods of every description about the
country, by hired Negroes and others, the Magistrates of Tre-
lawny are determined rigidly to enforce the Law in all cases ....
[St. Jago Gazette 27 September 1817].

Measures employed against the slaves involved in this branch
of the trade would equal the same penalties meted out to that
'dangerous description of slaves, runaways'.
Slaves vending goods to passengers on ships in the major
harbours were also a common sight. Robert Renny [1807
p.241] on arriving in Port Royal harbour in 1807, was met
with the sight of 'a canoe, containing three or four black
females [who] came to the side of the ship, for the purpose
of selling oranges, and other fruits'.
The occupation of itinerant higgler, although profitable,
was fraught with danger. Accidents occurred fairly frequent-
ly. For instance, in March 1819, several women and child-
ren drowned when a canoe which conveyed market men and
women from Passage Fort to Port Royal upset on the return
journey. In the same year, a market canoe with four slaves
travelling from Port Henderson overturned in a sudden
squall. The passengers were saved by the crew of theSapphire
man-of-war, but the provisions were lost.
Travelling long distances on lonely roads also left itinerant
higglers vulnerable to attack. For instance, a case was report-
ed in the St. Jago Gazette of 1810 of three Negro women re-
turning from the windward parishes, where they had been
hawking goods, being overtaken and attacked by a Negro
man 'between the eight and nine mile-stones'. One of the
women, belonging to a free Negro man named Rowly of
Kingston, had her throat cut and was not expected to live.

Runaway Slave Higglers

The marketing system provided a source of support for
rebellious plantation slaves whowere accommodated within it;
it also diverted the possible rebelliousness of the urban slaves,
providing a well-defined and tangible role for them within
the economy. Slaves who ran away from their masters work-
ed as higglers, following the same patterns as those who com-
municated regularly with their owners. In 1797, Isaac Fox
advertised for a creole wench named Bess who had run away
two weeks before and who 'was well known about this town
[Kingston], from having been accustomed to sell fruits ....
It is supposed she is harboured at or near the east end'. Juno,
formerly the property of Elizabeth Crichton, and then of
M.G. Silva, having run away six months previously, was
described as being 'well-known about Sally-Solas as a hig-


.' .- *.-.
-^ f- *- *
),ar- *. i

gler, and seen very often on the Windward-road' [Jamaica
Courant 28 July 1823]. Quasheba, a forty-year-old creole
woman who had been used 'to higgle at Old-Harbour and
Clarendon Mountains', had run away from her owner who
lived on Orange Street, for eleven months past [Royal Gazette
17-24 June 1797]. Sukey, a Portuguese-Congo slave, who
was suspected of having obtained a false ticket to work out,
was believed by her owner who lived in Port Royal, to be hig-
glering between Spanish Town and Kingston [Royal Gazette
19-26 August 1800], while Molly, a creole woman, formerly
the property of a Spanish Town inhabitant, was reported to
her master in Kingston as having 'been seen lately higgling in
several estates in St. Mary's and St. Thomas in the Vale'
[Royal Gazette 5-12 July 1800].

Sale of Stolen Goods
Slaves came into conflict with the law in another import-
ant area. This was their implication in the theft of goods, rang-
ing from sugar and coffee from wharves, cloth from the
stores, livestock from pens, country negroes' provisions from
the markets, and household goods from their owners' houses.
Slaves whose owners were unable to afford the goods with
which to higgle, resorted to this method of obtaining a
livelihood for themselves and their masters. Residents of the
major towns were always convinced that the large and in-
creasing incidents of robberies within the towns were direct-
ly related to the practice of slaves having to hire themselves
out and provide their masters with regular sums of money. It
was felt that instead of gaining honest employment, these
slaves engaged in robbing houses, wharves and stores and selling
the products.
Slaves dealt in stolen goods in association with other
slaves and with free persons and foreigners, particularly
sailors. Ordinances restricting hawking and peddling by
slaves were enforced in the hope of limiting the trade in
stolen goods. In 1819 in Kingston, it was reported that:
On Sunday sundry articles of ironmongery, exposed for sale by
slaves in the market, were seized, being in violation of an Act
of the Legislature, passed in 1791, prohibiting the practice of
hawking and peddling within the parishes of this island. For a
considerable time past it had been the mode, by which stolen
articles of various descriptions were disposed of [Royal Gazette
27 February -6 March 1819].

In 1810, a French female of colour was convicted of hav-
ing bought stolen coffee from a slave. She was fined 50
in accordance with an Act passed by the House of Assembly
in 1809. This Act was given much attention in the con-
temporary newspapers. The St. Jago Gazette [17-24 Febru-
ary 1810 ] reported:
The late act for preventing depredations on coffee and other
products, prohibits slaves from selling or having it in their
possession, without a regular ticket, any produce, under the
penalty of thirty-nine lashes, and the produce to be sold for
the benefit of the poor. No maroon can sell without having
an affidavit from his superintendent . . Slaves carrying pro-
duce to market must have tickets, and no person to purchase
from them under a penalty of 50 1.

The paper commented on the woman's conviction, as
We hope that the above [conviction] will be a sufficient caution
to check the purchase of stolen goods in this town [Spanish
Town]; as, with such an example before them, no one con-
victed of such a crime will merit the least lenity. It is to be
hoped the Police constable will be vigilant in watching such as

t :.-


may be suspected guilty of this mischievous practice, as this is
the season when coffee is carrying to market, and when depre-
dations are most likely to be committed [St. Jago Gazette
3-10 February 1810].

The sale of stolen provisions was of great concern, but of
more immediate and constant concern was the burglary of
houses and sale of stolen goods by slaves. The trials of slaves
before the sitting magistrates and before the slave courts in
the towns were dominated by cases of these descriptions.
Typical of the reports in the newspapers was that of Phillis,
a slave girl hired to two white young females named Long-
more who was found with stolen goods which she had been
vending for them. When Phillis was examined, and the Long-
mores' house was searched, it was discovered that the goods
given to Phillis to be sold, and stored at the Longmores'
house, were in fact the property of a Mr Solomon Marks and
had been stolen from his shop about six weeks before [St.
Jago Gazette, 25 Oct. 1 Nov. 1828]. While male slaves
figured more in the reported thefts of goods from wharves,
stores and houses, female slaves played a greater part in the
vending of these goods.

Competition for Established Traders

The higglers had a profound impact on the local econo-
my of the towns. They provided stiff competition for estab-
lished shopkeepers and other free traders. Laws seeking
to regulate 'Negro' trading, were undoubtedly aimed in part
at stifling this competition. The following commentary on
the practice of higglering was apparently influenced by that
Kingston at this time pays one hundred pounds yearly to a
police officer, who, as a retail shopkeeper himself, will feel
the force of what follows. If in the course of his rounds he
should remark, that the poor inhabitants who pay rent for their
shops their share of poll and parish taxes honestly buy
from the merchant and endeavour to be punctual in their re-
turns: If he should observe that this useful and deserving class
of citizens, have their trade interfered with by shoals of idle
and disorderly slaves who infest our streets and lanes, obstruct
the common pathway and keep extensive shops in the piazzas,
(to the constant annoyance of foot passengers and the peace
of the inhabitants) for the sale of beef, pork, herrings, saltfish,
shads, salmon, bread, flour, rice, corn, meal, biscuit, barley,
and every possible article of edible commerce even to our
horses' grass how can this hired officer pass by such fla-
grant breaches of our laws without the remembrance of his
The miscreants here described, who live free from rent and
taxes, and who frequently recruit their stores with the spoils
of the night, can well afford to undersell the honest white
traders. Negroes, in general, will most assuredly prefer that
mode of purchase where tenfold advantages offer, that is,
in buying stolen goods from their own colour, rather than give
a full and fair price to the merchants for this commodity
[Columbian Magazine 4: 1 1798].

Quite clearly the writer was dismayed by the hustle
and bustle of 'Negro' marketing as well as the loss of Negro
customers to white traders. Urban slaves as well as those
from the country, who were described as converging on the
towns in their thousands on weekends to dispose of their
wares and purchase for themselves and their families 'the
various necessaries, which . . [they] can only procure in
the towns' [Stewart 1823 p.207], were major consumers.
Slave higglers facilitated the distribution of imports, local
products and provision goods. They provided a very import-
ant link between the 'protopeasant' plantation-slave pro-
vision cultivator and the urban consumer. They also pro-

vided the vital ingredient in the producer-trader-consumer
complex, completing the urban/rural-female/male division
of labour between those who distributed and those who
produced. The female slave higglers provided the chief means
by which the rural slave population was able to acquire the
necessary and desired supplements to the basics provided
by their owners, and some urban slaves were able to obtain
the entire means for subsistence independent of their owners.

Market Control

In their role as middlewomen in the provision trade,
slave higglers had the power to regulate the price of 'country
provisions'. Residents of the towns complained of female
slave higglers controlling prices by monopolising the sup-
ply of provisions. A resident of Spanish Town wrote to the
editor of the St. Jago Gazette [11-18 July 1829] reporting:
the undue advantage which the higglers in the market at
present possess, and, at a time of such scarcity as we are now
labouring under, has operated greatly against the poor of this
community. I had occasion to pass through the market
yesterday when I saw a woman sitting on the ground, and
several persons collected around her. I heard a great noise as if
they were quarrelling. Curiosity led me to the spot to see what
was the matter, but, instead of a fight, the woman I saw on the
ground, had taken possession of a bag of provisions that
belonged to a country negro, and would not allow him to sell
any one of the bystanders as much as 5d. worth of the pro-
visions, as it was her intention to purchase the whole bag,
and thereby obtain a monopoly in the market. This practice,
I am told, is pursued by the higglers generally. Should such
things be permitted, Sir, when provisions are so scarce?

His suggested remedy was the application of the police laws
to the markets.

There were similar occurrences in Kingston. In 1818, it
was reported in the Royal Gazette [4-11 July 1818] that:
Sunday morning, as a number of country negroes were pro-
ceeding to this city from the Windward parishes with asses,
laden with provisions, they were met by a multitude of hig-
glers, who forcibly threw several of them down and took the
provisions they wanted, leaving in return what money they
deemed adequate and then made off. It is hardly necessary to
observe, that this is the consequence of the hoards of higglers
who infest this city, are daily increasing in number, and it is an'
evil that, if not checked, will occasion further burthens on the

inhabitants, which are already large, as they will be com-
pelled to double the weekly sum allowed for the maintenance
of their negroes.

Following a spate of bad weather in October 1815, a Kingston
resident reported that:
The parochial enactments against higgling were never more
deserving of serious attention than at the present moment ....
[the October rains having] destroyed two-thirds of the vegetable
provisions, throughout this part of the island, and caused an
alarming scarcity. The very scanty supply lately brought to this
city is chiefly intercepted and bought up by negro and mulatto
higglers of the town, principally slaves, and many no doubt,
runaways, before it reaches the proper and legal market-place,
and these locusts thereby levy a contribution of 75 to 100 per
cent in profit upon the inhabitants, and at the same time defraud
the industrious and praise-worthy planters of small properties,
the mountain gardeners, and the industrious slaves, who culti-
vate these provisions and vegetables, of a great proportion of
their hard-earned and just profits [Royal Gazette 13-20 July
It was suggested that the repression and possible 'anni-
hilation' of these practices could be gained by dispatching a
body of border guards on Sundays and Saturdays to check
these abuses by urban slave higglers. This measure had been
adopted by inhabitants of St. Catherine and would be cen-
tred on the route from the north as:
The greater part of the supply of country provisions and
vegetables for this market come in by the North road, and as
the demand for Up-Park-Camp is pretty large, the higglers of
this city go beyond that distance; and, indeed, even to the
bottom of the mountains, to meet the country negroes coming
down. ibidd.]

Legislation Relating to Higglering
In addition to the annual act of the House of Assembly
regulating activities of hawkers and peddlers, the Kingston
Corporation and other town councils were constantly passing
regulatory measures, but to no avail. For instance, there were
ordinances prohibiting the trading by higglers in various
items, such as that passed by the St. Catherine (Spanish
Town) Vestry under the Police Law:
no slave, the property, or in the employment, of any per-
son residing in the said town shall be allowed to sell or re-
tail any of the articles following, viz. plantation provisions,
poultry, fruit, or vegetables, grass, or corn, or shall be used or
employed in bringing the same to town on sale, or be at all
concerned in the vending thereof . [St. Jago Gazette 5 -12
April 1806].

Any slave found contravening this law would be punished
unless he/she were under the owner's permission, in which
case the owner would be liable to pay a fine of 40s. Other
laws sought to restrict the hours of trading in the established
market ibidd.], and establish a licensing system: 'all Hawkers
and Pedlars, to apply to the Clerk of the Vestry for Licences
for Hawking and Peddling Goods, Wares and Merchandize,
and that the sum of Eight Pounds be paid for each licence
.'[StJago Gazette, 14-21 May 1831].
As slavery neared its end, pressure from advocates of
amelioration and gradual abolition contributed to a perceptible
softening of attitudes of town officials towards higglers. The
effect of metropolitan and missionary surveillance which
could be more effective in the open ambit of the town com-
bined with the obvious strength of the higglers' will to bring
about these changes. The regulatory laws mentioned above,
both relate to Spanish Town, but the first was passed in 1806
and the latter in 1831, on the eve of abolition. In fact, after

the early 1820s the focus of the town authorities became the
regulation of marketing hours and the observance of the Sab-
bath as was required by the amelioration laws and missionary
pressure, resulting in the suppression of Sunday markets and
substitution of Saturday markets. This contrasted with earlier
efforts which were aimed more at suppression rather than
regulation of higglering.
In 1815, the Court of Common Council of Kingston passed
an ordinance instructing the police to 'cause the Ordinance
respecting Higglers to be strictly put in force, by apprehend-
ing all persons found vending goods, provisions, &c. about
the streets . [Royal Gazette 20-30 September 1815].
By 1824, Alderman Mitchell of the Kingston Corporation
passed a resolution requesting that the fourth clause of the
23rd Ordinance passed in 1803 respecting 'hawkers, pedlars,
and higglers' be repealed. This clause restricted the sale of
vegetables and ground-provisions to those slaves on whose
grounds these provisions had been grown [Royal Gazette
21-28 August 1824]. In a statement which would have been
directed at the activities of the marketing population which
included a significant portion of slave higglers, Alderman
Mitchell, noting the necessity for change, commented in
1824 that:
such a regulation might have been necessary at that period
[1803], but a material change had taken place in the state of
society since that time, and the clause in question prevented
many persons from making a livelihood by this traffic, which,
if repealed, would not only benefit them, but the public: -
The Ordinance was read and agreed to.

Alderman Mitchell was seeking to formalise and make legal
what had become an accepted and prevalent activity of the
urban slave economy.
With the onslaught of the moral revolution, town officials
were occasionally involved in trying to enforce the amelio-
ration law relating to the Sunday markets which robbed the
missionaries of their potential congregations. In 1831 the
editor of the Watchman proposed that markets be established
in St. Andrew to 'lessen the attendance at the Kingston Sun-
day market that foul blot on our character and scene of
everything that is abominable and disgraceful . .' [St. Jago
Gazette 19-26 March 1831]. The editor of the Kingston
Chronicle was more positive in his assessment of the situation.
He commented that the Sunday markets were fast disappear-
ing and that it would be impolitic to try to suppress them
any faster by force (because of the reaction of the higglering
population to such in 1826). He suggested promoting the
Solas and Parade markets on Saturdays which would in time
annihilate the Princess Street (Sunday) market. The Parade
market should be furnished with awnings for the stalls, as
was done in the West Street market, to protect the vendors
from the weather and 'induce many sellers of dry goods, and
other articles of necessity, to resort thither for the purpose
of sales'. The King Street market could with 'equal facility'
be abolished, as the 'higglers are the cause of keeping it up'.
It might be impossible to stop the flow of traffic to the King
Street market, but it could be regulated 'if there was a proper
vegetable place erected' [ibid.]. The editor regretted that the
committee appointed to make recommendations on the mat-
ter had not yet reported, until which time it might be advis-
able to license the higglers and extend the opening hours of
markets on a Saturday to 9 p.m. or later to ensure that hig-
glers and buyers completed their business before Sunday.
By 1834 more stringent measures were taken to ensure

the abolition of Sunday markets. The Peace Office in Spanish
Town issued a notice stating that:
from and after the first day of August next (Emancipation
day) ensuing, no person whatsoever shall, on Sunday, expose
for Sale, in any Market, or in any Shop, or other place, any
Goods, Wares, or Merchandise, or Provisions, under a penalty
not exceeding five pounds for every offence . . (Druggist
Shops, Taverns, Lodging Houses and sale of fresh meat and
milk were exempted) in conformity with the Act for the
Abolition of Slavery [St. Jago Gazette 12-19 July 1834].


The examination of the activities of slave higglers gives
further lie to the myth of the lazy, shiftless and unenter-
prising Negro who was enslaved. From studying slave resist-
ance and other positive accomplishments of New World
slaves and, in this case, activities of urban slaves in Jamaica,
one gains an improved understanding of the more positive
dimensions of slave activities. The response of the white
authorities to higglering was a constant spate of regulatory
and suppressive measures which were met by the defiance
of the higglers. Year after year, new acts and town ordinances
had to be formulated to deal with new activities by slave
higglers. It is also obvious from the tone of newspaper edi-
torials and contemporary descriptions that the slave higglers
were regarded as a threat and competition to established
white traders, and throughout the period they kept up a
relentless pressure on their free white and coloured counter-
parts. The shift of focus of measures regarding higglering to-
wards the end of the slave period implies a victory for the
slaves. Instead of continuing to press for the suppression and
cessation of higglering by slaves, by the 1820s the authorities
had to concede that their activities represented a deeply em-
bedded social and economic institution and laws became
regulatory rather than suppressive.

The establishment of higglering as an economic institution
in the towns had implications for the post-emancipation
future. An inhabitant of Kingston writing to the editor of
the Kingston Chronicle and City Advertiser in 1831, on the
eve of emancipation, saw the time when a substantial num-
ber of Kingston higglers would form a part of an indus-
trious middle-sector grouping within the Jamaican urban
economy. He traced the possible path of this group from re-
tail traders in markets to their establishment as shopkeepers
and merchants [St. Jago Gazette 19-26 March 1831].
Eugene Genovese [1975 pp.536-7] in his comparative
assessment of the Jamaican and American southern slaves in
their roles as provision-producers and marketers, concludes
that the Jamaican slaves had a more admirable record. In the
Jamaican situation:

The palinkas [provision grounds] and related Market Sundays
transformed the slaves into part-time peasants and petty traders.
When emancipated, they had already acquired the habits, ex-
perience, and talents of an independent peasantry and petty

bourgeoisie. Their masters had underestimated this side of the
system and had seen only its integrative functions [and this in
regard to the rural component] especially its tendency to
curb rebelliousness by giving the slaves a stake in the system.

Unlike the Jamaican slaves, the American slaves 'did not
have Market Sundays and could not create an incipient petty
bourgeoisie' [ibid.]. Today's ubiquitous Jamaican urban fe-
male marketer can be viewed as part of a continuum from
the female-dominated West African marketing system to the
internal marketing system of the days of slavery through
freedom, to the more recently regularised system of the 'in-
formal commercial importers'.

1. Caribbean studies ofurban slavery have beenundertaken mainly by
Barry Higman for the British West Indies; Edward Brathwaite
for Jamaica; Neville Hall for the Danish West Indies; and Frank-
lin Knight for Cuba.
2. Slave Registration Records Kingston 1817.
3. Ibid.


GENOVESE, Eugene, Roll Jordon Roll, London, 1975.
HIGMAN, Barry, Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-
1834, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
,Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834, Balti-
more: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
MINTZ, Sidney, "The Jamaican Internal Marketing System", Social
and Economic Studies 4:1, 1955.
PATTERSON, Orlando, The Sociology of Slavery, London: Mac-
Gibbon and Kee, 1967.
RENNY, Robert, A History of Jamaica, London, 1807.
STEWART, John, An Account of Jamaica, London, 1823.
VAGALE, L.R., (ed.) Anatomy of Traditional Markets in Nigeria:
Focus on Ibadan City, Ibadan, 1972.

-.i -
-1 *-T' 1Wr~r~ .
________CI~~ C. r"-Vr. rnre

Teacher-trainees at the School of Music will use the skills they acquire there in classrooms, churches and community centres all over the Caribbean.

Jamaica School of Music
By Pamela O'Gorman

I n 1976 when the School of Music
left 19 Hope Road and became part
of the Cultural Training Centre it
had just undergone a major upheaval in
policy and direction. The new emphasis
was on Jamaicanisation, but the change
was reformist rather than revolutionary
in that the school retained what it con-
sidered the best of the old system while
adopting new paths which were con-
sidered more suited to Jamaican needs.
The model on which the school had
been founded in 1961 was that of the
British Royal Schools which were mono-
cultural and already outmoded in being
based on a nineteenth century tradition
of training musicians that was inadequate
for the needs of the twentieth century
There was no disagreement with
what should be taught of the art form,

since this follows the main components
of music itself, which are universal.There-
fore the general pattern of a music cur-
riculum tends to be the same every-
where. This is why musicians from what-
ever culture and whatever background
can relate on a plane of immediate under-
standing and recognition. Everyone
undergoes the same basic training, the
same kind of pain in acquiring the skills
of one's profession.
Our divergence from the traditional
European and American model came
over (a) the question of mono-cultural-
ism and (b) identifying priorities in ac-
cordance with predominant needs in
our society. We retained classical music,
but introduced jazz, pop and folk. In
the latter, the resources of the Folk
Music Research Department which pre-
viously had no organic connection with
the school were called upon in providing

material; but at the same time a totally
new folk aspect was introduced by in-
cluding drumming as a.compulsory part
of the curriculum.
Even in 1975, the idea of a multi-
cultural school of music was fairly
novel. Looking round for colleges or
universities that taught jazz or popular
music and from whose experience and
advice we might benefit, we found none
in Britain and only three in the United
States. Of these, one (Berklee College
of Music) was an independent private
school specializing in jazz, the other
two were university departments which
tended to have an uneasy relationship
within the school of music of the univer-
sity. Their main difficulty was in being
taken seriously, both by faculty and

Within Jamaican society we had none

of the problems that other countries
might have faced in changing an en-
trenched tradition within a long-estab-
lished academic institution. Our main
problem was dealing with traditional
minds, both in the music profession and
in the society at large. We all know that
colonialism does not end with the
departure of the colonizers, it continues
long in the minds of those who insist on
walking backwards into the future. Our
greatest problem, fourteen years after
the British had left and the school had
been founded, was dealing on one hand
with that section of the population
whose minds were still colonized and on
the other hand, with that which knew
what it wanted but had no knowledge
of the process whereby it could get
there. The school staff contained both.
The challenge the administration faced
was reconciling these often-conflicting
streams those who had training and
experience of the educational process
but were fearful of where the school
was headed and those jazz and popular
musicians who were thrust into the role
of teachers without any experience of
systematic processes of formal training.

The majority of the staff today are
either those who weathered the storms
of the last ten years, setting new paths
and establishing a tradition; or those
whom they trained as wholly Jamaican
musicians with a deep knowledge of
the musical and educational needs of
Caribbean societies. I refer to people
like Marjorie Whylie who established
the folk music syllabus and intro-
duced the drum as a principal instru-
ment of study; Joan Tucker, who devel-
oped the music education curriculum
and helped give schools a new perspec-
tive on music in the classroom; Audrey
Cooper who gave the Junior School a
totally new multi-cultural thrust that
makes it a unique institution of its
kind; Michael Dyke, a JSM graduate
who has given the African-American
Studies Department both depth and
stability; Lyndel Bailey, Clyve Bowen,
Marcia Lumsden and Alfred Wilson,
also JSM graduates, who have helped
to consolidate the innovative work of
their former teachers; and the instru-
mental tutors, Vibart Seaforth, Michele
Boulet, Derek Stewart and Audrey
Cooper who over the years have given
the kind of training in performance that
has helped ensure that JSM student con-
certs are of a consistently high standard.

In underdeveloped countries where

The School of Music caters to classical instrumentalists who wish to teach their instruments well;
prospective classical artistes are encouraged to continue their studies abroad.

there are neither the funds nor the re-
sources to cater to everybody, priorities
have to be worked out in hard terms of
how graduates will earn a living when
they leave the institution. Training in
the art, for art's sake, is a low priority
that has to be met after the needs of
the wider society have been attended
to. Therefore, the criticism that the
school has no string programme, as
European institutions do, does not
take into consideration the fact that
Jamaica at this time cannot afford to
support a symphony orchestra which
provides the only regular employment
for such musicians.

These are the considerations which
account for JSM being the kind of in-
stitution it is. In Jamaica there are three
main areas of demand for trained pro-
fessionals performers and arrangers
in the field of popular music; music
teachers in schools; and instrumental
specialists who teach privately.

Classical Music

There is no possibility of the classi-
cal performer making a living if he or
she does not also teach or conduct a
choir, or perform light classical music
(an activity that many classical artistes
misguidedly regard as prostitution). For
many a performer, there is the impor-
tant matter of ambience. Music has to be
seen as well as heard, its style has to be
absorbed 'through the pores'. Given
the gross lack of opportunity for this
to happen in Jamaica in regard to classi-
cal music, prospective classical artistes
are best advised to study abroad to
'breathe the air' and avoid, at all costs,
the kind of naivety that can result from
a lack of first-hand experience in those
vital and vibrant aspects of the art form
which are only fleetingly found here in
an occasional concert. In fact, this is
what all our foremost classical artistes
have done. Willard White, Nerine Barrett,
Curtis Watson, Paul Shaw, David Johns


Drumming and rhythm lie at the heart of the Caribbean musical aesthetic. The drum is taught
early to students of the Jamaica School of Music Junior School.

and Orrett Rhoden would love to live
and work in Jamaica. They simply can-
not. Therefore, the school caters to
classical instrumentalists who wish to
teach their instrument well, or who can
earn a good living playing light classi-
cal music in 'hotels and restaurants. It
encourages would-be Rubinsteins to go

Popular Music
While the classical performer has to
remain abroad and become absorbed
wholly into the European profession,
the popular performer who earns an
international reputation makes enough
money to allow him or her to spend a
good deal of time working at home.The
recognized reggae star dares not travel
far away from his roots, and he does not
need to. Jamaica now has recording stu-
dios that compare with anything in New
York, and the fact that popular music is
so much a part of the recording industry
ensures that the musician can work at
home and also be supported by royalties
from record sales without being wholly
dependent upon concert appearances.

Meanwhile, there is still a flourishing

music industry locally in advertising,
tourism, audiogram and the concert
platform. A good living can be made,
if one is a sound enough musician and
gets the right break.

It is, of course, not necessary to have
a certificate from the Jamaica School of
Music in order to obtain a job in the
field of popular music, locally; but the
certificate is a guarantee that its holder
has undergone two years of intensive
training in instrumental work, impro-
visation, theory, reading, ensemble work
and stage performance. The certificate
also guarantees that the holder knows
about professional responsibility, func-
tioning in a group and how to handle
a contract. These days it also guarantees
some knowledge of electronic equip-
ment and use of synthesizers. It is
designed to ensure that a young per-
former can enter the profession with the
kind of knowledge, based on broad and
intensive musical experience, that will
enable him to function effectively as a
member of a team.
The new breed of popular musician
has to be disciplined and educated for a
profession that is becoming more and
more competitive as the recording in-
dustry and the hotel industry become
more musically demanding. Further-
more, two years in the school gives young
musicians an opportunity for experi-
mentation which the pressures of the
commercial world do not allow. One of
the most exciting aspects of the African-
American Studies Department at present
is its experimentation with Caribbean-
based music and the exploration of new
Musicians in the field of popular

music tend to remain anonymous to
the public at large, because they func-
tion as members of a group. Ex-JSM
students are to be found everywhere in
the local profession. In fact, it might
be easier to record that very few are out
of work.
With regard to a recurring question
concerning the JSM contribution to
local reggae, I can only repeat what I
have already written elsewhere [O'Gor-
man 1984]:

People often ask the question, 'What
has the JSM done for the development
of popular music in Jamaica?' Anyone
associated with a training institution
finds this an exasperating question.
Individuals not institutions develop
music. In fact as we look at the arts we
find that all new artistic developments
originate with one unique individual -
and only after the artistic personality
is fully formed. Institutions give basic
training. What happens to the indivi-
dual and his art at the end of that train-
ing is quite outside the control of the
institution. The corollary also obtains.
If some ex-JSM student becomes a
future Cliff or Marley, the institution
might be able to claim credit for a sound
basic training: it could not claim credit
for the individual imagination and
creativity that have taken the music
to some new stage of development.

Music in Education

The school has never been able to
satisfy the demand for music teachers in
primary and secondary schools. While
working to meet these demands, it has
endeavoured to cut across tradition and
introduce an entirely new approach to
music teaching in the classroom.

Under the old system (which is still
the only one officially recognized by
the Ministry of Education) a music
teacher was not considered qualified
without two diplomas either from the
Associated Board or Trinity College of
Music, London. It did not matter that
they were performer's or teacher's
diplomas that only tested the candidate's
ability to perform three or four pieces,
decipher some abstruse aural tests and
read a piece of equally abstruse music.
The system was built on the assumption
that if you could perform classical
music you could teach in a school -
which is utter nonsense. Furthermore,
such people were totally unprepared
for functioning in a Jamaican class-
The old system is familiar so
familiar that it is worth describing in
order to look at it anew:

+. I

Unfortunately most music-teaching in
Jamaica and other places has been con-
cerned solely with the acquisition of
musical literacy and learning about the
lives of dead European Composers or
musical subjects that are quite outside
the experience of the pupils. It is easy
to see why this has happened. This
mode of teaching becomes an exten-
sion of other school subjects like English
or mathematics, which also deal with
symbols. It is easy to evaluate in terms
of right and wrong; it gives an art form
the kind of respectability which, in
Western culture, is always accorded the
written word. If you go into a school
and find a class learning EGBDF and
FACE and drawing treble clefs, but
making no musical sounds, then let me
assure you that they are NOT learning
music. Similarly, knowing that Beeth-
oven was a German who was born in
1770, who died in 1827 and was deaf
has nothing to do with music. [O'Gor-
man 1986].
One also ventures to tread on the hal-
lowed ground of the national festival,
not so much to criticize the movement
which is excellent and necessary, as the
way it is misused as an end in itself:
In Jamaica we have an annual Festival
in which hundreds of schools and thou-
sands of children compete for medals
every year. It is possible to hear some
exciting performances of folk music
and European music in Festival and
you can easily go away with the im-
pression that there is a tremendous
amount of musical activity in Jam-
aican schools. In fact, nothing could be
further from the truth. All the time al-
loted to music is spent preparing a few
songs for Festival in pursuit of those
coveted medals. Very little learning of
music actually takes place. Weeks and
weeks of repeating the same songs sup-
plants all other musical activity with
the result that hundreds of pupils leave
school having been deprived of the op-
portunity of creative expression, of
broadening their musical horizons, of
preparing themselves for a lifetime of
listening to music and living with music
as an essential part of their everyday
Of course there will be exceptions.
Some teachers do manage to com-
bine preparation for competitions with
other modes of musical behaviour; but
they are rare. If you do happen to find
a teacher who can give children the
thrill of performing well, combined
with listening skills and the oppor-
tunity for creative work, then you
have found a treasure indeed [O'
Gorman 1986].

The school's music education pro-
gramme has endeavoured to impart
listening and performing skills and to
develop creativity in the classroom
through the use of Caribbean instru-
ments and materials and environment-
al sound sources. For too long our child-

Students of the Department of African-American
performance before entering professional life.

ren have been educated out of their en-
vironment to a value system that ori-
ginates in other countries. Over the past
ten turbulent years in Jamaica, we have
realized that the solution to our prob-
lems has to come from within not
from without. In this context it is of
the utmost importance that children's
education be geared to the individual's
ability to set his own goals. In music,
as in the other arts, we have an inexhaust-
ible wealth of material on which to
draw in working towards that end.

Teacher trainees in the School of
Music are not primarily performers.
They learn a number of musical instru-
ments piano, guitar, conga drums,
recorder and possibly others and they
are given wide training in different
kinds of classroom activities so that
they will be able to operate in almost
any situation in the Caribbean classroom
- even in the schoolyard, if necessary!

They are interested more in the pro-
cess of teaching and learning than in
the product. Therefore, while a drum-
ming ensemble will hopefully eventually
reach the stage at which it will become a
performance item, the process of reach-
ing that stage is considered of even great-
er importance. On a purely rhythmical
level, it develops muscular co-ordination;

Studies receive a thorough grounding in stage

Students of popular music receive training in
instrumental work, theory, reading and stage
performance; they are also guaranteed some
knowledge of electronic equipment and the
use of synthesizers.

I I P~

on a mental level, memory, concentra-
tion and aural perception; on a social
level, the elements of group inter-
action with the potential for individuality
and improvisation; on an emotional
level, emotional release and a channel
for musical expression; on a cultural
level, a knowledge of traditional material
that brings into the school music that
is related to the child's cultural environ-
ment. Drums are the heart of the Carib-
bean musical aesthetic and they should
be basic classroom equipment in every
Caribbean school.
Space does not allow for dealing with
other classroom activities which the
JSM graduate is taught to deal with in
schools. They encompass abstract
creative work using an infinite variety of
environmental sound sources, more
formal creative work using African-
American compositional devices such as
call and response and ostinato and
African-American forms such as reggae
and calypso, dub and blues.

Ten years ago, the idea of multi-
culturalism was novel. Today it has be-
come an ideal to which many institutions
are striving and the pioneering work
that JSM has done in the field is receiving
wider and wider recognition both in
Europe and Latin America. In 1983,
Britain's Manchester Guardian carried
an article, from which I quote:

Keith Swanwick, Professor of Music
Education at the London University
Institute of Education who has recent-
ly returned from a short working tour
of the Jamaica School of Music, is
convinced that the internationally res-
pected British music colleges could
well learn important lessons from their
colleagues in the Caribbean ....
'We know that many musicians in
Britain will make their living in popu-
lar music, but apart from a few courses
S. .there is no training in styles of
popular music in the Afro-American
tradition', he said.
He feels that this visit to Jamaica . .
highlights serious problems in the British
musical education syst m which are not
even being considered.

Keeping faith during ten turbulent
years in which, at one time or another,
we have appeared to be in conflict with
all the cultural modes of our pluralistic
society, has paid off. Today, people are
less inclined to regard different cultural
expressions as being mutually exclusive.
The ramifications go far deeper than the
level of music, even culture, alone.

Our philosophy has been to place

Jamaican and other Caribbean music in
a position of centrality, as a core com-
ponent of all curricula, whether the
student intends to be a teacher, a per-
former, a classical artiste or a pop artiste.
At the same time, all music are ap-
proached in their own terms, on a basis
of equality.
It is a philosophy we will continue to
practice in the belief that:
There is only one music, which splits
into different styles, just as there is one
Earth which splits into different coun-
tries and political systems. These styles
are not opposite or exclusive. They
deal with the same life themes and use
the same raw material.
It is only when bne style, wrongly, is
accorded priority or privilege allied to
social status, that barriers are set up
and music becomes a divisive factor.
Music is a language in which pop and
classical are but dialects of the same.3

1. The predominant attitude of black families
towards jazz as a university subject at that
time (1975) was described by David Baker,
head of the Department of Jazz Studies at
Bloomington, Indiana University by means
of a quote which he said was typical: 'I'm
sending you to University to get an edu-
cation; not to play jazz! '

2. "Missing the boogie beat" by Nicholas
Soames, The Manchester Guardian, 6
September 1983.

3. This quotation by Elizabeth Nichol is in-
cluded in Music for Everyone Guide-
lines for Music Education as a Continuous
and Developing Process published by the
City of Bradford Metropolitan Council
Directorate of Educational Services; a
movement towards multi-cultural music
education in which JSM has been in-
vited to participate.


O'GORMAN, Pamela, "Music as a Core com-
ponent of the General Education Curri-
culum in the Caribbean", paper pre-
sented at a workshop sponsored by
OAS and presented jointly by the
schools of Art, Dance, Drama and
Music of the Cultural Training Centre
as part of the CARICULT Programme
19-23 May 1986.

--- "The First Twenty-One Years in the
Life of the Jamaica School of Music,
1961-62 to 1982-83", British Journal
of Music Education, 1:1, 1984.








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From Field to Platform

Jamaican Folk Music in Concert .... 1

by Pamela O'Gorman

here is nothing that reflects the
dynamics of Jamaican cultural
life so vividly as present-day trans-
lations of rural folk music into the
language and conventions of the concert
platform. The transition that has to take
place from music in its natural setting to
a performance on stage is a difficult one
involving the integration of performance
styles and aesthetic modes so essentially
different from one another that they ap-
pear to be in conflict. It is the way in
which that conflict is resolved artistically
that makes for the overall style and
character of a performing group, as well
as the impact which the music makes
upon the audience.
In Jamaica, the performance style of
authentic folk music is African, no
matter what the origin of the music
might be. We can readily see this in
Rastafarian or Revival performances of
European hymns. The percussive and
rhythmic accompaniments, the synco-
pated treatment of melodies that were
originally written in equal note values,
the absence of any variety in dynamics
and, above all, the open, somewhat
relaxed vocal timbre that is obtained by
directing the sound to the face, rather
than the head, make for a style of per-
formance that is unmistakable. By
European standards it is considered
The performance aesthetic is also
African, in that the members of the
audience are seldom, if ever, passive
recipients of what is played or sung.
They are active participants who dance,
clap, sing or provide verbal encourage-
ment to the performers. The music is
not intended to be listened to for its
own sake. It is functional used as part
of a communal activity that is by nature
integrative. Personal emotion is often
expressed objectively and shared openly
with others; disintegrative forces that
threaten the individual or the community
are described in song and dance and
thus absorbed into an integrative pat-
tern that brings the community closer

Marjorie Whylie, leader of the NDTC Singers, with drummers.

together. There is a total absence of
self pity, of personal drama and the re-
curring 'I' that one finds in European
culture, which is centred so much more
on the individual in isolation.
This situation presents the stage per-
formance with a number of problems,
typified by the arguments that rage as
to whether "Carry Me Ackee" should be
sung slowly and sadly or lifted up on a
bright mento rhythm which belies the
sense of the words but which some ex-
perts say is the way it should be sung.
The crux of the problem is that the
prevailing aesthetic mode in the theatre,
as we know it, is European. The artists
are separated from their audience and
what was once functional and commu-
nal by nature now becomes an aesthetic
object, expected to provide entertain-
ment, pleasure and/or enlightenment in
itself and at the same time withstand
the scrutiny of the critical tradition that
is so integral a part of European art.
There are four prominent folk sing-
ing groups in Kingston at present The

Jamaican Folk Singers, The National
Dance Theatre Company Singers, The
University Singers and the Carifolk
Singers. All resolve the problem in a
different way which makes for four
very different groups whose character-
istics inevitably reflect the background,
expertise and training of their directors.
It says much for the quality of their in-
dividual work and the adaptability of
Jamaican audiences that all the groups
attract large and appreciative houses,
though there can be no denying that
each group has its own hard core follow-
ing that regards it as being better than
the others.

The Jamaican Folk Singers
The Jamaican Folk Singers under
Olive Lewin lean more towards the Euro-
pean aesthetic than towards the African.
This is not surprising considering that
Olive Lewin is one of the most highly-
trained classical musicians in the island,
being qualified in violin, piano, voice
and composition. This, of course, is not

a valid explanation why the group
sounds as it does. Let me put it another
way: the Folk Singers would not sound
as they do if their director were not a
highly accomplished classical musician.
Whatever they present is distinguish-
ed by finesse, precision and control. The
voices are perfectly matched, without a
hint of harshness. The pitching is accu-
rate and the melodic line is delivered
with a clean legato, consummately phras-
ed to bring out every nuance and cadence.
It is this tendency to move the music
somewhat from its original function and
to seek out its intrinsic beauty that
dominates Lewin's approach. One con-
tinually receives a message: 'I think this
music is beautiful and I want you to see
the beauty of it too' and she pro-
ceeds to win over the listener with a
combination of seductive sound and
compositional craft that invite contem-
plation of the music for its own sake.
Her approach is more melodic and
harmonic than rhythmic and the con-
troversial "Carry Me Ackee" is a good
illustration of this. Against a guitar ac-
companiment and a vocal arrangement
that make full use of chromatic har-
monies, the melody is sung in such a
way as to convey deep poignancy:

(Fairly fast)
Carry me ackee go-a Linstead
Market (
Not a quattie wort' sell; (pause)
Carry me ackee go a Linstead
Market (')
Not a quattie wort' sell. (pause)

Lo- rd () What a night (') not
a bite (Pause)
What a Saturday ni - -ght (pause)

(Slower still)
Lord (') what a night () Not a
bite (Pause)
What a Saturday night.

(The Jamaican Folk Singers Album Vol. 3)

There is an inclination in the work of
the Singers towards songs that are slow,
sad and introspective. In fact all of
Lewin's work is tinged with an under-
lying note of melancholy. It makes the
brighter songs less memorable than the
contemplative ones, simply because
they lack the incisive, happy abandon
that characterizes most West Indian

Olive Lei, leader of the Jamaica Folk Sgers
Olive Lewin, leader of the Jamaican Folk Singers.

The Jamaican Folk Singers in concert.
music of that nature. And it makes for
very subtle changes in the meanings of
certain songs.

We find this in "War", a work song
which by its functional nature would
demand an explicit, unyielding beat,
One does not know whether, in the
original, that beat would be reinforced

by the anger of the words, or whether
the anger would be reinforced by the
beat; but it would most likely be con-
veyed in some form. In Lewin's inter-
pretation the beat becomes more impli-
cit and is stretched slightly for dramatic
purposes. Consequently the song con-
veys more sorrow than anger, which
makes for an interpretation that isessen-

tially more feminine than masculine.
(God forbid that anyone should regard
that as a pejorative statement!)
The Pocomania song "Yerri Mi" is
interpreted as pure drama. Placed with-
in an Introduction and Epilogue hum-
med by bass voices, below the tessitura,1
thus investing it with an eerie, spine-
chilling quality, the song conveys its
message of death and the supernatural
by proceeding with a slow rhythmic
inevitability not unlike the cumulative
effect of the Funeral March of the
Chopin B Flat Minor Sonata:

Yerri tme me Nana, yerri me,
Country man a dig hole fe bury me
(The Jamaican Folk Singers Vol. 2)

How utterly different this is from the
NDTC Singers' performance of the same
song, which is very fast and rhythmic,
all personal emotion being absorbed
into the cathartic momentum of the
Pocomania ritual.
Inevitably, the question will be ask-
ed, 'Who is correct?' Personally I do not
think it matters. It is more important to
be clear in one's mind about the inten-
tion of each performance. In relation to
the original, it would appear that the
NDTC performance/arrangement is
more authentic and aesthetically more
African, being intended as part of a rit-
ual. The Folk Singers' performance/
interpretation is more dramatic, person-
al and emotional, more centred on the
music as an aesthetic object. Each
shows a different but equally valid aspect
of a Jamaican musical creation.
Olive Lewin has discovered and
arranged some glorious Jamaican songs.
One of the most glorious and most tan-
talizing is "Bad Madda'n Law", a modal
melody of such tragic nobility that one
wonders about its true origin. This is the
stuff of which epics are made. The spirit-
ual resonance that emanates from the
song speaks of the genius of a whole
civilization. One finds it difficult to
accept the incongruity of the words, as
one does with many Kumina songs.

Bad madda 'n' law, bad madda 'n'
Bad madda 'n' law siddung an'
tell 'tory (Iepeat)
Wonda wha' me do you mek mi
name a-ring,
Wonda wha' me do you mek mi
name a-ring,
Wonda wha' me do you mek mi
name a-ring,

Ratta tear off me clothes an'
mi cyan go dung dere.
Rio Grande come dung an' me
cyan go across
Rio Grande come dung an' me
cyan go across
Rio Grande come dung an'me
cyan go across
Ratta tear off mi clothes an' mi
cyan go dung dere.

Bad madda 'n law, bad madda 'n
Bad madda 'n law siddung an' tell
(Authentic Jamaican Folk Songs, Vol. 1)
Were the words added to a tune
long-remembered? Apart from the
sleeve note that the song 'is used in vary-
ing versions for Kumina meetings in the
parish of St. Thomas', the lack of in-
formation is tantalizing.2
One cannot examine the work of the
Jamaican Folk Singers without also
referring to their use of harmony. Be-
cause of their tendency towards a
more European performance-style, their
arrangements tend to make extensive
use of harmonic colour. The slow
contemplative songs which are favour-
ed by the group depend for their
momentum more on harmonic ten-
sion and the moulding of the melodic
line than on rhythmic interest, even
when accompaniments are provided by
drums and guitars and Lewin uses all
her harmonic resources with an uner-
ring sense of colour and perspective.
There are some European musicians,
especially, who find the arrangements
galling, since contemporary European
musical tastes tend to reject what they
consider the over-sentimentality of nine-
teenth century harmonic language. They
prefer a more sparse, monochromatic
On the whole, Jamaicans are not
bothered by such considerations and
many of Lewin's arrangements are by
now so familiar that they are consider-
ed the norm by which all others are
We should not underestimate the im-
pact which the Jamaican Folk Singers
had when they first appeared on the
Jamaican stage. Here, for the first time
since the Frats Quintet, folk song was
treated with the kind of respect that
was given to classical music. In fact, on
the sleeve note of the Singers' first al-
bum, Olive Lewin herself wrote: 'Most
of the performers for this album have
had formal training in music and this is

reflected not only in the choice of
songs, but in the presentation.' No
doubt this had the effect of a softening-
up process on those audiences that had
always regarded folk music as a mani-
festation of lower-class vulgarity and
who had thus been rendered incapable
of discerning the intuitive genius of so
much of Jamaican music. With the ut-
most care and respect and in her own
highly individual way, Olive Lewin has
helped make this genius manifest.

The NDTC Singers

The National Dance Theatre Com-
pany Singers stand almost opposite to
the Jamaican Folk Singers in the African-
European cultural spectrum.
Under the directorship of Marjorie
Whylie, one of the Caribbean's most ac-
complished female drummers and
musicians, and the paternal eye of the
NDTC's Artistic Director, Rex Nettle-
ford, the performance style they have
developed is predominantly African.
Their vocal timbre is relaxed and open,
their approach to song is rhythmic
rather than melodic and the added im-
petus of the drums which most often
accompany their performances make
for a hard-driving forward momentum
that carries the audience along with
The role of the Singers within the
Dance Company to a certain extent dic-
tates their repertoire and their style.
Their main function is to provide ap-
propriate music for certain dances and
suitable entertainment for audiences
during the changing of stage sets. They
do not have the time to build up an at-
mosphere or explore a theme as many
singing groups do (although their recent
exploration of songs from pantomime
and reggae classics has been an outstand-
ing success). Their impact needs to be
immediate and forceful, especially as
they perform more often to dance audi-
ences than to musical ones. Perhaps this
is why most of their songs are in fast
tempos that project a lively, captivating,
Caribbean exuberance.
The Caribbean style places less em-
phasis on the sensuous appeal of the
voice than on verbalization and rhyth-
mic interest. It contains few variations
in tempo and the dynamic range is nar-
row, being generally moderately loud to
loud. This is due also to the effect of
the drums which tend to push up the
dynamic level.
An examination of their slower,
quieter songs reveals their difference

The NDTC Singers in performance.

from the Jamaican Folk Singers as much
as their ritual songs, which we shall dis-
cuss later. The examples mentioned be-
low are from their albums, The NDTC
Singers (Vol. 1) and Traditional Songs
of the Caribbean (Vol. 3)

Their treatment of "Liza", a song
that lends itself to a romantic approach,
is straightforward and unsentimental.
Although the singers do slow down at
the ends of some stanzas for expressive
purposes, the tempo is generally unvary-

Similar treatment is given to "All Me
Rock" (Vol. 1), one of the comparatively
few examples of songs in triple time,
which generally invite a gentle approach.
The arrangement of the voices is simple
and straightforward and there is little
phrasing or tone colour. The accentual
treatment of the triple rhythm is also

interesting. Whereas a European ap-
proach would place strong emphasis on
the first beat and would lighten up beats
2 and 3 (Lewin phrases her triple rhythms
in groups of six beats 1 2 3 4 5 6
which gives an even smoother effect)
the African/Caribbean articulation
places equal emphasis on beats 2 and 3.

An element of improvisation creeps
into "Dis Long Time Gal" (Vol. 1),
where the usual Mento quadruple rhythm
is transformed into a light-hearted
waltz in which a humorous 'commen-
tary' on the piano and variations in the
voice part are clearly aimed at a know-
ledgable audience that already knows
the song.

Another 'waltz song', "Goat Meat"
which is included in Vol. 3 has a vigorous
Caribbean quality far removed from its
European original.

Given the predominantly African ap-
proach of the NDTC Singers, the use of
the piano to accompany so many of
their songs appears to be something of an
incongruity. Whylie is a highly accom-
plished pianist and a master of Carib-
bean piano style (which deserves a study
all to itself) and it is easy to see how
natural it must be for her to give an ad-
ded impetus to the singers by leading
with the piano, as she does in accom-
panying the Dance Company. Personally,
I find the timbre of the piano an intru-
sion.3 Perhaps others feel differently.

The great achievement of the NDTC
Singers has been their re-creation of
Jamaican ritual music, Pocomania and
Kumina. There are two examples of
each on record which differ slightly
in content and more than slightly in
quality, the second pressing (by the

For the Record ....
In the music column for 19:3 ("Music in Local Advertising") on p. 38 a television commercial for gin was erroneously identified as being a commercial
for Gilbey's Gin. This should have been for Gordon's Gin.

The NDTC Singers have incorporated a great deal
Marjorie Whylie on drums at left.

OAS) being superior to the first al-
bum in balance and sonority.

The NDTC's performance of Poco-
mania aims at authenticity and is one of
the few that succeeds in projecting the
ritual as serious ceremonial. (How many
stage performances of the closely-
related Revival have we witnessed that
reduce audiences to laughter at the
participants, afterwards leaving a sense
of embarrassment in the theatre that a
religious belief has been reduced to
being a subject of public ridicule!). The
NDTC's Pocomania includes a convin-
cing example of 'groaning' and in earlier
days featured the haunting soprano of
Joyce Lalor 'cymballing' above the
other singers, not only giving an unfor-
gettable sound perspective to the general
presentation but lending an effect of
exultation that was curiously stabilizing
at the same time. Nevertheless, I some-
times wonder whether real pocoo' drums
rather than congas would not lend the
performance an even greater authenti-

Kumina is a seminal work. For the
first time it combined authentic tradi-
tional drumming with trained dancing
and singing. Nettleford aptly refers to
his singers as a 'choral orchestra'
[Nettleford 1985] and this is exactly
their role in Kumina. It speaks volumes
for the Singers that they were able to
match the brilliance of James Walker
and Obadiah Lewis, the Kumina drum-
mers from St. Thomas, but volumes
more for the vocal arrangement of the
Kumina song "I Want to Know". ("Beg

of authentic ritual in their work. The traditional musical instrument the benta is played at right;

yuh one piece o' Condi" is also heard in
Volume 3).

I want to know, I want to know
Who cross da river, I want to know;
Only da righteous, forward will go.
Step cross da river one by one an'
wash your sins away!

The use of the overtone series in the
vocal performance along with the wide
range provides a sound perspective that,
together with the relentless heartbeat
of the kbandu, the tension generated by
the cross-rhythms of the playing cyas
and the catta 'tick and the re-integra-
tion of sound with movement, arouses
a response in the listener that is funda-
mental, atavistic. The rational mind is
stilled and a primeval force is awaken-
ed that touches our innermost being.

By any standard, Kumina is a remark-
able achievement of instinct, imagin-
ation and execution that brings to the
surface deep resonances that help us
to understand the true meaning of the
word 'civilization'.
It is no small part of the accom-
plishment of both the Jamaican Folk
Singers and the NDTC Singers to have
revealed, in their own different ways,
something of the ancestral wisdom and
the musical genius of this part of the
Caribbean. For that, Jamaica owes them
an enormous debt.
My next article will deal with the
work of two of our other groups,
the University Singers and the Carifolk

1. tessitura = the natural 'lie' of any voice,
high or low; its average pitch.
2. According to Marjorie Whylie, who
has heard other slightly different ver-
sions of the words in St. Thomas, the
song is also sung by the Benta people
of St. Mary. Their version includes some
Congolese words.

3. This is because the piano is tuned slight-
ly out of tune with the natural pitch of
the voice, in order to make completely
available all the twenty-four keys in
European music.

NETTLEFORD, Rex, Dance Jamaica: Cultural
Definition and Artistic Discovery, N.Y.:
Grove Press Inc. 1985.

Authentic Jamaican Folksongs by the Jamaican
Folk Singers arranged by Olive Lewin
(Hummingbird Label).
The Jamaican Folk Singers In a Programme of
Jamaican Folk Songs Vol. 2/71 (Hum-
ming bird Label).
Ossie Harvey Productions present The Jamai-
can Folk Singers Vol. 3 Encore!
NDTC Singers of the National Dance Theatre
Company of Jamaica (Dynamic Sounds
Traditional Songs of the Caribbean by the
Singers of the National Dance Theatre
Company of Jamaica, Inter-American
Musical Editions OAS 005.
West Indiana with the NDTC Singers (Dynamic
Sounds Production)'

Pamela O'Gorman is Director of the
Jamaica School of Music and our regu-
lar music columnist.




Not everyone knows that
Jamaica's largest producer of
alumina and the largest milk
producer are one and the same
company: Alcan.
That's because Alcan
diligently restores mined land,
and uses it for agricultural
operations. In fact, most of
Alcan's 30,000 acres are under
agriculture, employing over three
hundred Jamaicans.
In 1986, besides producing
over 4 million quarts of milk,
Alcan also supplied a large
percentage of Jamaica's beef,
as well as making a significant
contribution to the horticultural
and agricultural output.
Alcan provides Jamaica with
more than just alumina. Alcan
jobs for
produce for
r for export
S to benefit
Na' Jamaicans.


Alcan Jamaica Company ii
Quietly Achlieving Important goals
Member of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica


By Gloria Escoffery

Hogarth's Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art
David Dabydeen
Denmark: Dangaroo Press, 1985
pp. 155: 88 black and white illustrations
U.K. price, hardback 12.95, paperback 6.95

lacks have been present in England since the reign of
Queen Elizabeth I, who, anticipating the arguments
of some twentieth century Britons, complained that
they were depriving the native white population of food. In
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they became a
familiar sight as slaves who provided a cachet of privilege
for wealthy families, as runaway slaves and simply as menials
who blended in with the boisterous lower classes. In art too
they were extensively represented on different levels of social
significance, as 'sooty minions' and respectful servitors in
aristocratic portraits; as comic figures in popular prints; as
commercial motifs on inn signs and trade cards advertising
luxury products from the colonies. How surprising it is, then,
to realise -- as David Dabydeen points out in the intro-
duction to his study of Hogarth's Blacks, that no art historian
has previously investigated their presence in English art of
this period. This is especially strange with regard to the works
of Hogarth, which have been so intensively mined for inform-
ation about eighteenth century manners and morals.
Of all the artists who have specialised in narrative pictures,
Hogarth is the one of whom it may most truly be said that
every picture tells a story. 'The chairs and tables, the masks
and fans, the swords and cudgels, have all their articulate
message in the story; there is a sermon in a dial, a moral in a
cobweb, a text in a paper of tobacco.'1 Blacks appear in more
than twenty of Hogarth's works, often as key figures in the
composition. Why then this pervasive 'colour blindness' -
to borrow Dabydeen's phrase which caused scholars to
neglect so important a source of information?
Into this 'dusky' breach rides David Dabydeen, a scholar
of West Indian background, undertaking not merely to rustle
up an additional sheaf of unrelated notes, but to provide a
coherent exposition of Hogarth's view of life with the black
as a key to the artist's thinking. This, according to Dabydeen,
is an economic rather than a metaphysical view. What Ho-
garth saw was a world rotten to the core but full of curious
and diverting ironies for those with stomach to digest the
squalor along with the high spirits. For here was a society in
which prosperity, limited to an avaricious few, was based on
cynical, or hypocritical, exploitation of the many. And at the
base of the social pyramid was the slave, the metaphorical
nigger in the wood pile a potentially disturbing and danger-
ous figure his alien eyes cynically reflective or popping out
of his head at the 'civilized' goings on at which he was the ever
present unobserved observer.
This radical reinterpretation, which wrests the black from
his former obscurity, may or may not be an eye-opener for
Hogarth scholars. It is, at any rate, likely to catch on and
change to some extent the outlook of the general British
public, both black and white, or at least of those who drop in
at the Tate Gallery, say, and pausing before the Marriage'a la

Mode paintings and engravings, vaguely relate what they see
there to their perceptions of life today. In a world of rapid
fire communication, what the specialist unveils today, pro-
vided it coincides with the drift of popular feelings and ideas,
tomorrow becomes general knowledge. Dabydeen's book, in
line with current British television programmes which strive
to promote harmonious race relations by exposing the minor-
ity view, makes a head start in the polemics of 'black con-
sciousness', launching it into the area of art appreciation.
The deep neurosis which prevented Hogarth's contemporaries
from fully understanding his works, even though they eager-
ly purchased them, did not end with the discovery by the
Romantics of his 'passionate democracy'.3 The radicals of
successive generations sided with Hogarth in his sneaky de-
fence of the underdog, but underestimated the scope of
his humanitarianism. Moreover, if Dabydeen's thesis is valid,
they missed the subtlety of his subversive techniques; these
included consciously using the racist myths of his day 'as a
yardstick as well as a stick to beat the whites'.4 The artistic
distancing of painful truths by the medium of satire is a valu-
able therapeutic exercise. So is the academic candour and dis-
cipline of objectivity in revealing how this is done.
Hogarth's Blacks, though obviously extensively researched,
is no scholarly tome designed to gather dust on the book-
shelves of specialists. It is very readable and profusely illus-
trated though because of the popular format, and price,
the details in the black and white illustrations are not al-
ways as clear as one would wish. The cover design is attrac-
tive, featuring a bright colour reproduction of the painting
representing the Countess's5 levee in the Marriage "a la Mode
series. For readers of scholarly bent there is an index, a select-
ed bibliography and an adequate complement of footnotes.
The thesis behind the book is novel, the raid on tradi-
tional scholarship audacious. How well does it succeed? Let
us look first at the argument, observing how it is set out,
then consider some points raised by the evidence.
Dabydeen uses the introduction first to state his objec-
tives, then to give a biographical note on Hogarth. The second
section is brief but important. In the last analysis it is the
reader's human understanding of Hogarth's motivation as a
satirist that inspires confidence in Dabydeen's view of
him as someone who would include the blacks in his over-
view of the oppressed. The artist had in his childhood known
poverty and humiliation. His father spent time in debtors'
prison, and so Hogarth believed died prematurely due
to suffering caused by wealthy and influential men who
I-l -su -- -Al -r -- I -1- I

Detail from A Rake's Progress.


either broke their promises to him or exploited him. After an
apprenticeship in which he functioned as an artist in a more
or less conventional way, Hogarth turned to satire as an out-
let for the residue of bitterness which remained with him
even after he had achieved some fame and success. It is
reasonable to suppose that such a man, who turned his intelli-
gence to dissecting every aspect of the commercialism which
depersonalized human relationships, would have given some
thought to the evils of slavery.
In the first chapter, Dabydeen outlines the role of blacks
in art and society and explains the rationale of the artistic
models against which Hogarth's intentions, in his more con-
ventional works, must be interpreted. This section culmi-
nates in a paragraph loaded with questions which must be
taken as rhetorical. Why so disproportionate a representation
of black males? In those portraits of aristocratic white ladies
why were cute little black boys so much in evidence?
Next follows the main body of the work, which deals first
with the aesthetic theories outlined in Hogarth's treatise The
Analysis of Beauty and then zooms in on the satires, the
other relevant 'serious' works having been dealt with in the
previous section.
There is not all that much to hold on to in relation to
blacks in The Analysis of Beauty, but Dabydeen makes the
most of what there is, convincingly explaining the artist's
point of view vis-a-vis contemporary debates which brought
into question the full humanity of blacks. Hogarth defended
the view that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so that
there may be a black, as well as a white, ideal of beauty. For
him pigmentation was only skin deep and not an index to the
quality of the psyche. Black skins were as interesting as white;
the main thing was that artists should avoid monotony in the
rendering of skin tones. Clearly Hogarth was no racist, though
- judging from theatrical presentations he had seen, he did
think there was something basically graceless and primitive
about the dances of 'hottentots', as Africans were then com-
monly designated. From this point it is a small step to as-
sume that he had a positive attitude towards the rights of
blacks to be regarded as fully human beings and exempted,
like their fellow sufferers at the bottom of the white social
scale, from the humiliation of slavery.
The title given to the final section, which is devoted to
analysis of the satires, gives a pointer to the dominant idea in
Dabydeen's thesis. It is "The Theme of the Savage and the
Civilized in Hogarth's Work". The author proceeds system-
atically to explain the social content of the satires the rele-
vant 'serious' works having been analysed in the previous sec-
tion. He deals with Enthusiasm Deliniated, Credulity and In-
dustry and Idleness as a single group and the noon episode of
Four Times of Day along with the Four Stages of Cruelty as
another. Then he takes in turn the major serial satires, Mar-
riage la Mode, A Rake's Progress and A Harlot's Progress
the last of these furnishing him with clinching evidence of
Hogarth's commitment as a humanitarian fully aware of the
evils of slavery. The detail from the Bridewell Prison scene of
the pregnant black woman beating hemp is strategically -
and successfully enlarged to illustrate the point that black
and white women of the lower class frequently shared the
same fate of degradation, deportation and slavery.
In the course of this survey several strands of the savage/
civilized theme are brought out. Dabydeen shows how
Hogarth explored the white stereotypes of blacks, using
them to expose the vices of the upper classes. Black virility
is proposed as a healthy 'natural' counterpart to debased and
effete white eroticism. Gluttony appears as akin to cannibal-
ism. The decadence of taste among collectors of objets d'art
is shown in the context of the auction (at which both works
of art and slaves came under the auctioneer's gavel); also art
collecting is set within the context of pagan totemism. Anti-

Details from Industry and
Idleness (left) and Four
Times of Day.

social nakedness of the madhouse may be preferable to ex-
cesses or foppery, the nonentity of being a black 'nobody' to
exposure as a white antihero. The emphasis in Hogarth's
message varies, according to the dominant theme of the satire,
and there are varying degrees of participation by the blacks
in what is going on. At the Industry and Idleness banquet the
black serving man is no more than a bland witness who pro-
vides a sane point of reference. At the Marriage a la Mode
levee, his sexual presence is a significant reality. In Four
Times of Day (noon) he appears as the frank and lecherous
wooer of a white wench.
This summary gives an inadequate account of the lucid
exposition of the theme in all its ramifications. So luminous
are the insights most of them that one wonders why
they were never discovered before.
Dabydeen's technique of elucidation varies from the time-
honoured method of reference to verifiable historical data
through the search for analogies in artistic models to the even
more slippery identification of Freudian symbols. Acknowl-
edging his debt to previous Hogarth scholars, he alludes to
persons, events, debates, books and ballads known to have
figured in Hogarth's experience and turned up as clues in his
satires. Among these are the part played by Gonson and
others in the Georgia Settlement scheme of 1732, the
Oglethorpe commission to investigate conditions in prisons,
Whyston's advocacy of 'primitive christianity', the 'black
joke' and the Crebilion novel Sopha. Hogarth delighted in
making the hunt more pleasurable by inserting his topical
allusions in out-of-the-way places. Significant details are oc-
casionally tantalisingly absent from the illustrations in the
present text. Counterchecking with the Thames and Hudson
edition of the complete engravings5 produced decipherable
evidence of the Gonson graffito (misspelled 'graffitto') not
on a wall but on what appears to be a window shutter. The
novel Sopha, which is more important as a clue to Hogarth's
awareness of the lubricity of blacks in the contemporary
white imagination, is nowhere to be found in the engraved
version of the Countess's levee given in the Dangaroo Press
edition. Evidently it appeared in the painting, but disappeared
with a portion of the sofa when the cover illustration was

A point which Dabydeen fails to make, probably because
it is not central to the issue in hand, is that not all versions of
Hogarth's designs are identical. Copies of an original paint-
ing may differ in details from each other and from the en-
gravings, which in turn went through stages or states in which
the artist reworked his ideas; he even occasionally introduced
entirely new 'sub plots'; as in the Rake's Progress episode in
which the gentleman is summoned from his sedan chair to be
arrested for debt.6 Extant prints indicate that the medium
itself, with its stark contrasts of black and white, set the
artist thinking along the lines of moral/aesthetic elaboration
of black/white confrontations. In the original state of the en-
graving of the arrest of the Rake, there were no gambling ur-
chins and no zigzag white lightning pointing to the sign-
board of the 'whites' club, which so effectively balances the
signpost of the 'blacks' in the opposite corner, occupied by
the gambling boys. Dabydeen draws attention to the fact
that the central gambling boy is (by race) black. The boy on
the right with the shaggy wig is clearly a mulatto and not
merely 'prince of the shoeblacks' as the editors of the Thames
and Hudson edition suggest; the two readings are not mutual-
ly exclusive. The way Hogarth has placed him opposite a very
teutonic-looking youth who faces him over the head of the
diseased looking 'winner take all' suggests that Hogarth might
have had in mind current jokes about miscegenation. Black
and white pugs do, it is true, appear in many of the satires,
but the active role in this composition of the spotted dog at
the foot of the officer on the left does suggest some such
special significance in the drama of opposites.
The idea of human colour changes is, surprisingly, rather
cursorily dealt with in the section dealing with the Analysis
of Beauty7 when the engraving titled The Discovery is men-
tioned in connection with jokes occasioned by the claim of
one Mary Toft to have given birth to rabbits. The print is
not, unfortunately, reproduced. The Thames and Hudson
editors' explanation that it refers to a practical joke played
on a certain actor-manager is too meagre; would that Daby-
deen had ventured a more satisfying explanation. Is the black
woman fondly greeting a white gentleman (as a friend glee-
fully draws back the bed curtain) a mistress or a progenitor?
Perhaps it really doesn't matter.
Part of the sheer fun of looking at Hogarth's puzzle pic-
tures is the leeway allowed for novelistic invention. The
Thames and Hudson editors assure us that the Amazonian
lady in the Marriage'a la Mode visit to the quack doctor is an
old whore; Dabydeen identifies her as the wife of the quack,
incensed at having her husband's professional reputation
challenged. I prefer the latter explanation. It fits in better
with his coherent view of the scene as a satirical comment on
the pretensions of popular science.
Any critic who ventures into the field of influences and
analogies in art history puts his credibility at risk. Hogarth
was, undoubtedly, eager to take on the 'Old Masters' on their
own ground. Dabydeen introduces some interesting lines of
speculation concerning the appearance of blacks in tradition-
al representations of the betrayal of Samson and the dis-
covery of the infant Moses. If he is right, Hogarth certainly
gave some serious thought to the traditional role of blacks
in art as critical and independent eyewitnesses. Of course
there was, as Dabydeen points out, already a literary tradi-
tion of using an exotic personage to satirise European vices
and foibles; this technique strengthens his argument, when he
later points out the significance of the Moor peering in at the
window in Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism.
One does not need to agree with every one of Dabydeen's
analogies to appreciate the tenacity of his hold on his theme.
There is an obvious resemblance between Hogarth's white
woman embraced by a black in Four Times of Day and
Titian's satyr and nymph, a less visible one between Hogarth's

Caliban and his chocolate serving black. When Dabydeen calls
in the ghost of traditional madonna and child paintings to
suggest some subliminal link with the 'political imperial
notion of mother country and child country', he seems to be
drifting a little; surely the relevant source of inspiration was
those cupids and psyches who were so much involved in their
mistresses' amours. However, he quickly gets back on track
by referring to the visit of the magi theme in religious art.
Lack of adequate evidence weakens Dabydeen's argument
with regard to Hogarth's painterly handling of black skin pig-
mentation. However, the young black drummer in the Cap-
tain Lord George Graham conversation piece does seem to
be sympathetically drawn as the socially equal foil to his tur-
banned white counterpart in the composition; this is entire-
ly in keeping with the mood of carefree parody of upper
class stuffiness. The matter of Hogarth's intentions in con-
trasting the whiteness of the ladies with the blackness of the
chocolate server is also open to dispute. In the cover picture
they seem not at all 'doughty' [sic] complexioned but
rather pink and white. Maybe Hogarth intended to comment
on the use of cosmetics, or on the artistic tradition of de-
picting ladies as rather pallid compared with the ruddy-
complexioned gentlemen. Even so, if darkness as well as
ruddiness betokened virility, perhaps the strong contrast with
the complexion of the black does make a relevant point,
given the prevalence of sexual innuendo in this work. Looked
at in another way, the tinted white of the ladies' faces plays
tunes with the silvery white drifts which appear here and
there, lending a capricious, rococco air to the composition.
All works of art of honourable quality offer infinite scope
for diverse interpretation in formal terms. Dabydeen points
to the 'obvious vaginal symbol' of the curtains; one might
with equal validity refer to the phallic presence of the val-
ance, of the emasculation symbol of the castrato's bent chair
Dabydeen's book will bring a gleam to the eye of many a
young student of history in the Caribbean. The affective con-
tent is high voltage stuff, and it is to the credit of the author
that he has avoided emotional language, reserving expressive
treatment of the theme for his poem Slave Song, which
deals with the theme of black virility. The only time he has
been caught by this reader using unduly heightened language
here is when he describes the clothes of the slave in the Van
Dyck portrait of Henrietta of Lorraine as 'blood coloured'.
Dabydeen has predictably started a trend. One can only
hope that his successors in this field will be equally intelli-
gent and objective. In selecting Hogarth he has put in his
thumb and pulled out a plum, but there are still hundreds of
English art works to be examined.

1. Austin Dobson; quoted by Dabydeen on p. 9.
2. The infamous William Beckford of Fonthill purchased Hogarth's
Harlot's Progress and Rake's Progress in 1745. Sir Archibald
Grant who commissioned Hogarth to do a copy of The Beggar's
Opera, absconded with charitable funds and was expelled from
the House of Commons; Hogarth pilloried him as a thief in a
later version of the painting.
3. Richard Altick; quoted by Dabydeen on p. 9.
4. Dabydeen; p.130.
5. Hogarth; the Complete Engravings, Joseph Burke and Colin
Caldwell, Thames and Hudson; first published in Great Britain
in 1968; reprinted 1974.
6. The version of the Rake's arrest shown in the present text is the
third state of the engraving.
7. Slave Song, Dangaroo Press, won the Commonwealth Poetry
Prize for 1984. See Jamaica Journal 19: 1 for review.

14(Em""m mi


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By Edward Chamberlin

I Am Becoming My Mother
Lorna Goodison
London: New Beacon, 1986

lwas sent, tell that to history'. The voice is that of Nanny
of the Maroons, from a poem by Lorna Goodison in
*her new book, I Am Becoming My Mother. But the
voice, in the wonderfulway of poetry, is also Lorna Goodison's,
and it rings through this volume with an extraordinary
authority. One of life's most compelling images is of human
beings surrounded by more than human forces, the finite
within and around the infinite. Juxtaposing these, literature
makes us aware of the majesty of both; aware both of the
pathos of human joy and sorrow and of the power of fate
and nature, of history and hurricanes; and aware too of
how the clarity of our surest moments our acceptance
of birth and death and love, of war and peace is always
informed by mystery. It is in this noblest of imaginative
traditions that Goodison's poetry belongs, with a child's
sense of wonder in the adult everyday.
The achievement of this book is especially notable because
it is essentially poetic, being inseparable from the way in
which its language is both rooted in the speech of the land,
and rises into song. 'Eat each day's salt and bread/with praise',
the poet enjoins her son, 'and may you never know hungry'.
A poet less certain would have put 'hunger', perhaps; but
Goodison writes with a startling assurance, which is combined
(in a familiar paradox) with a surrender to uncertainty, an
uneasy wait for sudden rightnesses of language and imagin-
ative logic. The poem from which these lines are taken is
called "My Will", and tells of the poet's bequest, generous
and humorous by turns, a giving away of what is not exact-
ly hers, in language that makes it all her own.

for a start,
the gift of song,
this sweet immediate source
of release was not given me
so I leave it for you in the hope
that God takes hints,

This poem also tells of the poet's own determination, her
'will' in another sense; and her giving are richly ambivalent,
like the ambiguous self she identifies in "My Last Poem", the
first in the book: 'now you send conflicting signals they said/
divided I turned both ways and fled'.
There are haunting images of this division in some of
Goodison's mulatta poems "Mulatta Song", "Mulatta Song
II", "The Mulatta and the Minotaur"; but in one of them,
"The Mulatta as Penelope", she achieves something special,
uniting in the central figure of the poem contradictions that
are both individual and universal. The poem binds together
the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, as well as what Rex
Nettleford once called the melody of Europe and the rhythm
of Africa; and it also concentrates, in the contradictory reso-
lutions of Penelope, all that is most fragile and most firm
about a woman waiting, as indeed we all wait, for the turn-
ings and returning of love. The mention of Penelope recalls
another book of poems, published over thirty years ago in
the West Indies: Eternity to Season, by Wilson Harris. Its
subtitle was "Poems of Separation and Reunion", and it
celebrated the interrelated logics of assent and denial, of en-
gagement and detachment, which sustain all poetry that brings
together the eternal and the temporal. Harris provided three
epigraphs to his collection, each of them concerned with the
framework and network of weaving; the first refers to Pene-
lope waiting for Ulysses' return: 'In the daytime I would

weave the mighty web and in the night unravel the same.
This is part of Goodison's sensibility too, part of her recog-
nition of what Walter Pater once called, in a terrifying and
heroic phrase, 'the strange and perpetual weaving and un-
weaving of the self' that characterizes all those who surrender
to the world, and so prevail over it somehow, sometimes.
Goodison celebrates the otherworldly heroism of ordinary
women, women such as Rosa Parks, who quietly said 'No';
and Winnie Mandela, who holds her dream of reunion with
Nelson amidst the waking nightmare of their separated life,
and praises the freedom woven into a bedspread (taken by
the police, since it was in the colours of the ANC) and into a
word, Azania, a place not yet on the map, but which can
never be taken away, being part of a people's dreams. And
Goodison celebrates women like her mother, a person of
courage and love, whose heritage is represented in one of the
poems about her ("For My Mother May I Inherit Half Her
Strength") by simple things by the work she did, especially
sewing, and by the way she walks, straight-backed. For all of
these women, Goodison has words: 'We are rooting at/the
burying spot/we are uncovering/ Our hope' ; so 'Come lady,
tie bright ribbon-grass round your waist/Let you and I bloom
redemption in this place'.
Nourishing all the rootings and flowerings in this book,
there is water, in rivers running to the sea, or as rain, or in
the magic of divining, discovering hidden sources of *water
below ground, the well springs of life. In "Keith Jarrett-
Rainmaker", Goodison opens 'Piano man/my roots are
african/I dwell in the centre of the sun . So my prayers are
usually/for rain'. Then she binds together in wonderful con-
fusion two ways of being in this world, two ways of work-
ing, with Jarrett divining water in the dry times, pullingn)
down . waterfalls of rain'.

My people are farmers
and artists
and sometimes the lines
so a painting becomes a
december of sorrel
a carving heaps like a yam hill
or a song of redemption wings
like the petals of resurrection
lilies all these require rain.

In the deserts of central Australia, the aborigines hold
sacred certain water holes, which are places where spirits
dwell, who in the period called the 'dreamtime' made the
rivers and the hills and all the living things. These spirits gave
each clan their land and their dreamings, stories and songs
about the people's ancestry. Goodison's dreamings are one
with these. And they are dreams that she shares, for she is a
poet in the old sense, a diviner herself, stirring a sense of
wonder, in words of hidden life.
But Goodison's poetry also offers a vision of a common
language, in which common people are ennobled. The voice
that speaks is both comforting and uncompromising, a voice
somewhere between the old and the new testaments, between
judgement and forgiveness, and between the old (African and
European) and the new worlds as well. It is also a voice that
has listened. In one of the great passages in literature, John
Keats moved from a celebration of the immortal song of the
nightingale to one instance:

The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn.
The effect of this passage is in part owing to its recounting of
the noble story of the stranger in Judah, working in the fields
of grain; but it is largely because of the tender honesty of the
phrase 'sick for home' that the sorrow becomes transformed
into other than a set piece, becomes transformed into the ex-
quisite anguish of being human, and being homesick. This is
the home of which there are many images, but which are all,
like the Lake Isle of Innisfree or Ethiopia, heard in what
Yeats called 'the deep heart's core'. It is to this core that all
the images of a just society refer, the images of a land in
which everyone shares in the commonwealth, and in which
money is not the measure. It is the only point of reference
that matters, this deep heart's core; it is, even as a haven
from strife, compounded of both the good that it encloses
and the evil it rejects; and its light is dramatized by the dark-
ness that surrounds it, as an island by the sea. This is what
Goodison writes about, with extraordinary grace and power,
and comfort:

Sleep now beloved
fold yourself in softened sails
I wait for you in the A ftergale.
Calm will be our mooring.
'The tongueless man gets his land took', says a Cornish
proverb. Jamaica, if it stays in the hands of such gifted
makers as Lorna Goodison, can be sure of its inheritances,
sure of remaining a place where people exercise their most
cherished right, the right to speak in their own tongues.

Edward Chamberlin is Professor of English and Principal of
New College, University of Toronto. His book on contem-
porary West Indian and Northern Irish poetry is to be publish-
ed soon.

By Victor L. Chang
Caribbean Poetry Now
Stewart Brown (ed.)
London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984
Touch mi; Tell mi !
Valerie Bloom
London: Bogle-L'ouverture Publishers Ltd., 1983

Hodder and Stoughton have been fortunate in their
choice of Stewart Brown as editor of this new, and
welcome, addition to Caribbean poetry anthologies,
Caribbean Poetry Now. He has taught African and Caribbean
literature in Britain and Nigeria, and was for a time a teacher
at the St. Ann's Bay Junior Secondary School in Jamaica. He
is himself a practising poet, and I believe that this combination
of experience in the field and his own sensitivity as a writer
has resulted in a volume that has much to recommend it.
First of all, the book is attractively printed so that most
of the poems hold on one page without appearing cramped,
since we are given generous margins. There are ten poems in
eight sections, each preceded by an attractive sketch by Jen-
nifer Northway which illustrates some aspect of that section.
So, for example, "Section 3: Folks" shows customers inside
a traditional Chinese shop while "Section 6: Home-Country
Life" highlights two women at a standpipe in an obviously
rural setting.
The book is undoubtedly designed for school use and is
aimed primarily at those pupils taking the CXC English B

Valerie Bloom

Examination, but this should not diminish its appeal to the
general reader because this is an excellent selection. With
pupils in mind, Editor Brown has provided a chapter of
"Notes and Questions" which is not exhaustive but rather
sensibly points to a variety of ways of approaching poetry.
It leads students to see that appreciating poetry is not a
matter of merely retelling a story, but rather one of exam-
ining and appreciating form, language, mood, technique,
tone, imagery and so on. The questions prompt students to
identify, for example, 'important differences of tone and of
emphasis' between Goodison's "For My Mother" and Roach's
"To My Mother", or to 'trace the different facets' of the link
between language and identity in Walcott's "Names". Again,
students are asked to compare and contrast the language of
Bennett's "Back to Africa" with that of Smith's "Roots".
Some very provocative questions are also fired. Students have
to consider whether or not they think poetry has any con-
nection with politics, or whether a line can be drawn between
what is political and what is 'private' or 'literary'. Some of
the questions are undoubtedly difficult but they should
prove stimulating and should nudge students into develop-
ing finer and more discriminating judgements of literature.
The selection of poems includes work by older writers
such as Philip Sherlock and Martin Carter, along with estab-
lished names like Brathwaite, Morris, Scott, Wilson Harris,
and Walcott but it also includes fresh, new voices like those
of Wayne Brown, Robert Lee, Oku Onuora and Michael
Smith. There is, too, the significant presence (for the first
time in a school anthology) of women writers such as Pamela
Mordecai, Lorna Goodison, Valerie Bloom, in addition to
the monumental 'Miss Lou', Louise Bennett. I can only re-
gret that the editor could not have drawn, too, on the fine
work of Christine Craig, Jean d'Costa, and Olive Senior.

While the selections are predominantly Jamaican (over
fifty per cent), there are representative poets from the other
territories like Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Mont-
serrat and Grenada to justify the title Caribbean Poetry Now,
though I suppose, there are those who will rightfully ques-
tion whether the concept of 'Caribbean' ought not properly
to include work by French, Dutch, and Spanish writers of
the region. But that, in fact, is to hope for too much at pre-
sent. There is still a lot to be grateful for here. Brown, unlike
the editor of the Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse, does not
arbitrarily and mistakenly make a foolish distinction between
the 'oral' and the 'literary' tradition, a forced categorization
which makes nonsense of any placing of a poem like Brath-
waite's "The Dust" or of Dennis Scott's "Guard Ring".
Rather, he opts for an anthology that represents 'the range of
language, style, and concern' that characterize the poetry as a

whole, and groups them under the headings "Roots"; "Child-
hood and Adolescence", "Folks", "One Love", "Home/City
Life", "Home/Country Life", "Old Folks, Death and Grief",
"Gods, Ghosts and Spirits". But even in this Brown is not
rigid. He shows he is aware of the problem of grouping any
diverse set of poems, and he encourages and prompts students
to consider other types of organization, and to suggest alter-
native placings for certain poems. While there will be no
general agreement on how poems should be grouped (should
they be at all?), still, Brown's seems more satisfying than
Figueroa's "Art", "In Our Land", "Interlude", and "Beyond";
Ramchand and Gray's "Making", "Narrative Poems",
"Voices"; or Salkey's even more eccentric groupings in Break-
light of "The Concealed Spark", "The Fire of Involvement".

Another valuable aspect of the book is the list of "Sup-
gestions for Further Reading and Listening" which, though
not complete, is a step in the right direction as it promotes
the notion that poetry should be not only read on the page,
but also heard especially in the case of the dub poets. Per-
haps Brown could have supplied an index of first lines, in
addition to the index of poets and poems which would have
been more valuable had it also contained some biographical
details of the poets that would certainly help us to establish
an historical and island context for the writers. For instance,
knowing that Valerie Bloom has been living and working in
England for some time would explain in part some of the
concerns in the selection from her work, made clearer in her
volume Touch mi; Tell mi Still, Brown's book is a model
of what such collections should strive to be, and I recom-
mend it highly.


It is a known phenomenon that where there are large
mountains close to the sea, the moist winds bring much rain,
but on the other side of the mountains there is often what is
known as a rain shadow where there is very little rain. This is
what immediately came to mind on reading Valerie Bloom's
collection Touch rni; Tell mi If one is female and chooses
to write in Jamaican creole, then one has to reckon im-
mediately with the towering figure, the giant mountain, that
is Louise Bennett, and to recognize that one will fall right
away in her rain shadow! This is not to say that any writer
using the creole must automatically evoke that giant figure.
In many ways, one could say that Michael Smith and Oku
Onuora, for instance, are the literary offspring of Bennett in
their language, approach and social concerns, but they have
managed to establish separate identities, develop unique
voices so that they are not just echoes of their literary for-

Valerie Bloom has a harder time of it. Her technique,
form, style and metrical structure are so similar to those of
Bennett, and the Introduction by Linton Kwesi Johnson is
insistent about these resemblances. We are told, for example,
that like Bennett she 'uses the iambic quatrain with its ABCB
rhyming scheme', that 'she invokes our laughter with her
craft of words'. Again, like Bennett 'her style is conversation-
al and she uses the monologue to great effect . her themes
vary from the local to the universal . .she is an accomplish-
ed performer of her verse'. So it is ground which has been
well-tiavelled before.

Despite this, Bloom does add a dimension of her own: she
is concerned with rural Jamaican folk in the first half of her
book (where Bennett was more concerned with urban folk)
and with the black emigrants to the United Kingdom. These
she shows as still having problems though in different cir-
cumstances. The inhabitants of her "Tenement Yahd" are
faced with shortages of an entirely different kind:

De TV a tan which part i' deh.
Ef yuh noh like i'go buy yuh own!
An anodda ting, yuh owe mi ten poun
For de bill come fe de telephone.

Of the thirty-one poems, about half are concerned with
the experiences of the Jamaican emigrants to the U.K. and
there is a fine ironic tension between the language which the
personae (all female, by the way) use and the new situations
confronting them. The Jamaican folk culture has been trans-
posed into new surroundings and the problems have changed
but the old way of saying persists. So wherein Jamaica Louise
Bennett's narrator is lamenting that "Dutty Tough", the
same accents are now directed towards far less urgent prob-
lems, as in "Wha fe Call i":

Breakfus, elevenses, an brunch,
lunch, dinnah, suppa, tea,
Mi brain cyan wuk out which is which,
A n when a de time fe hab i'

It is not now the shortage of food that is the problem, but
its quantity!
The distancing of the personae from the Jamaican scene is
used to good effect in "Trench Town Shock" (also in Brown's
anthology) where in reporting news from home, the persona's
use of the refrain 'At least' a soh dem sey' develops and re-
inforces the irony in the poem:

De police sey "tap or we opin fiah."
But yuh know ow di bwoy stay,
Im gallop back come attack dem,
A t leas' a soh dem sey.
Dem try fi aim afta im foot
But im head get een di way,
Di bullit go straightt through im brain,
At leas'a soh dem sey.

The first half of the book presents us with familiar types:
sly, calculating females, lying employees, opportunists and
'Mout-ha-Massy' gossips. There is very little that is new here
but the poems are funny enough and frequently depend for
their humour dn a rather obvious irony.
The layout of the book is pleasant though rather obvious-
ly (for. economy?) printed from typed rather than type-set
camera-ready copy and there are a number of occasions when
corrections or insertions were done rather clumsily and not
exactly on line. One other objection to the collection -
which I have noted elsewhere is what seems to me an in-
consistency and illogicality in the written rendering of the
creole. Why, for instance, spell fire as fiah when there seems
no other way it could be pronounced, and when anyone who
knows the creole would automatically give the word its 'right'
value anyway? Is there anything to be gained from rendering
was as wus, label as lable or adding an 'h' to no, yu, and
so? Even more distracting are the inconsistencies. Bloom has
wooda (for would have) on page 54, and yet spells this
would on page 55, and lick (p.27) becomes lik (p. 28).
While there is as yet no consensus on how we should ren-
der creole in print, there could at least be some internal con-
sistency so that the appearance of the text of creole poetry is
not made even more daunting than it already is by eccentric
renditions as wrated for raatid, crahsis for crosses and min
for mine. Admittedly, Bloom has provided a glossary at the
back of the book but I rather suspect that this is more with an
eye on a foreign readership than anything else.

Victor L. Chang is a lecturer in the Department of English,
University of the West Indies, Jamaica.








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By Edward Baugh
A sked whether he is Trinidadian or Guyanese, lan
McDonald replies, 'I'm Antiguan by ancestry. Trini-
dadian by birth. Guyanese by adoption, and West
Indian by conviction.' He was born in St. Augustine, Trini-
dad in 1933. After studying at Queen's Royal College, Port
of Spain, he entered Cambridge University in 1951 to read
for an honour's degree in history. On graduating in 1955, he
took a job in Guyana as secretary to the Bookers Group
Committee. He has lived in Guyana ever since and is now a
senior executive of the Guyana Sugar Corporation.
His autobiographical novel The Hummingbird Tree [Heine-
mann, 1969], a sensitive and engaging part of the literature
of West Indian childhood, won the Royal Society of Literature
prize for the best regional novel of 1969. He has also publish-
ed a few short stories; but from the fifties he had acquired a
reputation as a poet among the small circle of readers of Bim
and Kyk-Over-AI, for his distinctive blend of lyrical and folk-
epic qualities in poems like "The Stick Fighters", "Jaffo the
Calysponian", "The Four Knives of Freeman the Cane-
cutter", "Yusman All, Charcoal Seller", and "Rumshop Girl".
In 1975 Faber and Faber published eleven of his poems in
Poetry Introduction 3, and it was not until 1983 that his first
slim volume of poetry, in a limited edition of only about 150
copies (Selected Poems Georgetown: The Labour Advocate),
was published.
He began writing at school in the sixth form. under the in-
fluence of 'a magnificent Englishman . .called John Hodge,
who was one of those incredibly inspiring teachers [who]
gave us a group of about five of us this impetus to write.'
There was also the example of V.S. Naipaul: '. . when I
was in the 5th form he was in the 6th, and he was a great
figure and considered in those days a great eccentric as well.'
At Cambridge, although he was reading history, he:
spent an awful lot of [his] time going to other lectures, in-
cluding a lot of lectures in English literature, because they
had people like F.R. Leavis then, and [he] was always fascin-
ated by English.
At Cambridge, too, his prowess at lawn tennis matured. He
was captain of the university team, and also captained the
West Indies team six times between 1953 and 1962. For the
last three or four years he has done a regular radio comment-
ary, on public affairs, in Guyana. In 1984 he collaborated
with A.J. Seymour to revive Kyk-Over-AI, which Seymour
had edited from 1945 to 1961. The revived journal has been
thriving. In 1986 his adopted country awarded him the
Golden Arrow of Achievement for his contribution to sport,
communications and the sugar industry.
McDonald has recently been enjoying a surprising burst of
poetic creativity. He says, 'In the last two or three years I've
written more poems than I wrote for the first fifty years of
my life.' He has completed a strong collection entitled Mercy
Ward and is now working on an 'Essequibo Sequence'. He ex-
plains that Mercy Ward stems from one poem, "God's Work":
. it's about an old man who worked for me as my gardener
and handyman but became after ten, fifteen years much more
a part of the family and friend, and he took ill a very strong
man and he died, after a very agonising illness; and he was in
this hospital for some time and I used to visit him often, and it
was really through that I began to recognize the people in
the ward with him, and talk to some of the doctors, some of
the nurses, and I wrote a poem about him when he died, and it
really flooded from that.
We eagerly await the publication of lan McDonald's Mercy


by lan McDonald

Sweet Pepper Sunday God's Work

Hook-nosed Amoroso, Mister Edwards, more my good friend
Eyes blazing, Than gardener and handyman at home,
Spade beard bristling white, Served me well for half my life.
Demanded the right Prince, they called him, born about that colonial time:
To better food. I called him Mister Edwards until the hour he died.
Slop and sausages Strong black face, handsome old man,
Were not his fare, Ashy cap of curled short hair,
So he said, Never sick a day until a day he sick.
And made it clear "Wind by the heart" he said
He wanted action. But the heart was sound, too sound,
A buzz arose: It took months of agony to kill him
Rebellion in the air! Ripping his guts away slowly
He wasn't just ignored, Until that strong, good man was nothing.
He had a victory:
On Sunday, the Ward
Served, on special china, "God's work ", he would say
Red sweet peppers When the rain pelted down
Stuffed with garlic crab. And floods rushed in the rivers
Worth remarking, A nd storms lashed the tree-tops.
This conqueror of Drab. And "God's work" now he said
Not often did you see When the pain wracked him
Such cookery. Spasms crumpling up his face
Somebody skylarking! Sweat dripping in the effort to hold back
But Amoroso, The gut-contracting cry not quite escaping.
Eyes blazing, "Prince Edwards, he too strong for cry",
In the humming Ward But his last day in my arms he cried.
lifted up his fist "God's work!"
In triumph God should play more.
To the Lord!

Edward Baugh is Professor of English at the University of the
West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

SThe Hon. Edna Manley, O.M.,

1900-1987 Gloria Escoffery

ta/he morning of 10 February
1987 cast a long shadow which
darkened the mood of thousands
of Jamaicans. This was the day on
which the media broke the sad
news that Edna Manley, O.M.,
beloved matriarch of Jamaican
cultural life, had the night before,
in her sleep, drifted away from this
trouble-fraught land of the living.
The sun had risen as usual, yes, but
there seemed to be something for-
ced in the way it dispensed its glit-
ter regardless of the circumstances
of individual lives. And yet there
was a sense in which it provided
universal solace and joy, remind-
ing the nation that had so loved
this woman that she had amply ful-
filled her destiny. According to a
tradition in some folk cultures the
master craftsman always placates
the spirits by leaving some detail
of his work incomplete and so it was
appropriate that the Resurrection
theme, on which the artist had been
working up to the night of her
death, remained in the form of an
almost completed sketch, rather
than a solid piece of sculpture or a
For me, sitting down a month
later to write this tribute, I must
confess that this is the toughest
journalistic assignment I have ever
undertaken. Not that there is too
little to be said; on the contrary
there is too much. Even if there
were no restrictions of space I
would find it difficult to put into
words my sense of loss, which is
not merely an abstract sense of
regret for the passing of an esteem-

ed national figure but a personal
grief at the realisation that this
wonderful lady is no longer to be
found in the particular niche of her
St. Andrew home, where her friends
came visiting to benefit from her
conversation, her laughter, her zest-
ful enjoyment of the birds and
flowering orchids and vista of hills
from the terrace.
Some persons who have spent
their youth and middle years at the
hub of the moving wheel resent old
age with its intermittent ill health
and enforced inactivity. Edna
Manley never retired into a shell or
spent her time regretting the 'good
old days'. After each spell of ill-
ness, as soon as she was allowed out
of bed, she would be back at work
in her studio, and beyond that she
found reserves of energy to write
notes to friends and welcome them
as visitors. She wanted to be kept
up to date with what was going on
in the individual world of each of
her friends. Towards the end of her
life she seemed to glow with a radi-
ance that I have seen in no other
human being; perhaps this was be-
cause she was aware, as she said,
that she was living 'on borrowed
time'. If someone had said to her
truthfully 'You realise that
after your death we shall be mov-
ing into a new era', I think her
eyes would have lit up with specu-
lation and interest. She, more than
most people, understood that the
artistic flowering she had nurtured
was designated and rightly so --
an art movement. To creative
people the most exciting thing
about any movement is that, like
the workings of that inner monitor
which is ever searching for new
ways to make explicit the verities
on the threshold of consciousness,
it remains (to them) unpredictable.
There is a great deal of complex
symbolism in Edna Manley's work
that needs to be elucidated. Her
main message, however, comes out
strong and clear. It is that all four-
or two-footed creatures which ---
literally or metaphorically leap or
gallop, gambol or slink after their
prey, or simply cavort for giddy
love of life like goats on an arid

mountainside, are precious. No
wonder her favourite poem was
William Blake's "Tyger": The deep
self-knowledge which ensured that
no amount of adulation would
cause her to modulate the spon-
taneous warmth of her response to
people in all walks of life, must
have made her aware of the tiger
potential of her talent.
This ravening beast could well
have torn to shreds her marriage,
her commitments to family and
partnership with Norman Manley
for the welfare of the young nation
they both loved; not to mention
snatching her from those public ap-
pearances and committee meetings
which fell to her lot as wife and
mother of prime ministers. How-
ever, the tiger's claws were sheath-
ed. Nevertheless, it was not within
the scope of her temperament to
emulate the lamb. Instead she has
left with us, in addition to the pro-
phetic, disturbing image of the
Negro Aroused, her soul liberating
Horse of the Morning, which speaks
with such authority of the exuber-
ance and self-discipline involved in
the making of art.
Nature was always a profound
source of inspiration for Edna Man-
ley. Drawing initially upon the
imaginative heritage of the English
Romantic Movement, she proceed-
ed on the basis of her Jamaican
experience to a realisation of the
heights and depths of humanity in
travail. Her own astonishing resili-
ence and courage were mirrored in
her work, and manifested in the
cyclical nature of her progress from
theme to theme. The pessimistic
Jamaican who moans and groans
about the future of our nation would
do well to reflect on the transition
from Edna Manley's despairing
Ghetto Mother of 1982 to the hope-
ful and lyrical last works as she
moved towards her own death.
Transcending the loss of primal
innocence, she seems to tell us,
are cycles of birth or rebirth and
death of generations, cycles with-
in which we are swept along not
always entirely in control of our
fate but always hopeful of amelior-
ation through spiritual regeneration.

The Hon. Edna Manley, O.M. was a Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica. The Jamaica School of
Art has been renamed the Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts in her honour by the
Government of Jamaica. An extended illustrated essay on Edna Manley's life and
work by David Boxer appeared in JA MAICA JOURNAL 18:1 1985.

The Jamaican Grand National

Out of many one expanding ripple of communal creative

by Gloria Escoffery

T he 1986 annual national exhi-
bition, which opened early in
December and is scheduled to
run for three months, is solidly in place
at the National Gallery. These 144 as-
sorted works, several of them enormous,
must have taken some heaving and hoist-
ing to propel into place; they occupy
the foyer downstairs, the main mez-
zanine area, and one room on either side
of this open space. Though intangible
and not subject to quantitative or
qualitative analysis, the feelings and
ideas likely to be aroused by this expose
of the national psyche should not be
underestimated. In an environment in
which strategies for economic survival
are constantly being jettisoned by the
mere whiff of marijuana drifting past
the nostrils of a police dog, the potent
images dreamed up by our artists should
not be ignored.
Within a few days of the formal Sun-
day morning opening, foreign digni-
taries being shown around by members of
the gallery staff would have encounter-
ed representatives of that fairly exten-
sive body of urban patrons built up over
the years. Some of these art lovers can
seldom, if ever, afford to adorn their
homes with works of art; they never fail
to visit the annual show, however. Others,
who may be observed earliest on the
scene sniffing out the odd dark horse
which may have entered the race by
way of the selection panel, while osten-
sibly studying the form of the long dis-
tance frontline favourites, are dignified
by the name of 'collectors'. As for the
individualists who produced the works,
they tend to shun the opening but ap-
pear soon afterwards. To them the plac-
ing of their own work how well it
hangs or reposes in present company, is
of paramount importance. The sharpen-
ing of self-definition, which results from
seeing oneself placed among one's peers,
whether junior or senior, more or less
educated, is worth reams of art criti-

William Rhule, Farming. Oil on plywood. 12 x 20'.

The conclusion to be drawn from
this preamble is that the National Gal-
lery has a serious annual responsibility
in the continuum of our culture. It must
at the same time somehow manage to
present a coherent, attractive show . .
and to educate.
The 1986 exhibition is a tour de force
of curatorial expertise, demonstrating
the same flair for discovering illumina-
ting connections that curator David Box-
er brings to creating his assemblages.
Bewildered by the sheer volume and
diversity of works by 76 exhibitors,
some of whom may have been eased in
by a tolerant jury with standards not
as lofty as he might desire, a less imagin-
ative curator might cling too slavishly to
conventional categories such as land-
scape, portrait, still life, genre, abstrac-
tion with all possible subdivisions
ingenuity might devise. Dr. Boxer uses
analogies of subject matter and theme,
but he plays these off against stylistic
trends. In this flexible, free-wheeling
arrangement, he pointedly breaks down
his own distinction between 'main-

stream' and 'intuitive', inviting the pub-
lic to respond in ways that transcend
the obvious.

Why, for instance, has he removed
the three Everald Brown exhibits, a
musical instrument and two paintings,
from the room housing most of the
intuitives? Why, moreover, has the
Tabois nude been lifted out of that en-
vironment, deserting three other paint-
ings by the same artist? What motive has
inspired the placing of the two Leonard
Daley paintings in such sophisticated
company as Robert Cookhorne's South
African landscapes not to mention
Boxer's intellectual Holocaust assem-

The answers to these and similar
questions only become apparent if the
viewer takes the hint that works of art
should be responded to in the first in-
stant as if freshly minted and unique -
without the handicap-or dead weight of
preconceptions. Paradoxically, this way
of looking produces a gestalt which does
involve looking before and after. It is a


healthy exercise, if only because it dis-
courages the schoolroom habit of award-
ing merits and demerits. In a truly demo-
cratic community all have equal room
to breathe freely, and there is a process
of mutual enhancement by association.
The average viewer does not, as one
might expect, experience an exhibition
in logical sequence, methodically pro-
ceeding round the walls from begin-
ning to end. Allowance must be made
for the architectural plan, which directs
the flow of traffic in certain ways, and
to some extent determines the layout
of the exhibits. These factors appear to
have been intuitively taken into account.
Let us set out to follow the viewer from
the moment he enters the building.
In this instance the viewer probably
glances around the foyer to form a
general impression, then makes his way
directly up to the main floor. There he
is confronted, perhaps somewhat over-
whelmed, by an array of large paintings
on the dominant wall. Resolving to deal
with these later, he spends some time
examining the more 'hospitable' ob-
jects which engage his attention in the
open floor space; Michael Layne's two
globelike ceramic bottles with holes like
eyes. and a decorative musical instru-
ment for four players by Everald Brown.
Depending on how intellectual he is,
he may or may not turn his thoughts
to the difficulty of determining a bor-
derline between craft as a purely utili-
tarian function and as an expression of
the artistic will to make a joyful state-
ment. Proceeding towards the open
door on the right the normal direction
in which he reads a book he discovers
the two Everald Brown paintings, titled
Adam and Eve and Old Times, and intui-
tively registers approval of the single-
ness of vision behind the decoration of
the musical instrument and the design
within the canvases. No enigma of style
troubles his mind as he considers the
paintings, works of a true contempla-
tive in harmony with the natural uni-
verse; he who has eyes to see will spend
some time deciphering the strange beings
who inhabit those elaborately veined
leaf forms and calligraphic rocks.
Stepping into the enclave at the right
of the main lobby, the viewer experi-
ences a rude awakening to the here-and-
now of social reality reality, mind
you, not realism. What confronts him
from the centre of a wall displaying an
array of three commanding personages,
is Milton George's large oil painting The
P.M. Speaks at Eight. On either side, in

Tina Matkovic Spiro, Savannah. Oil and casein on canvas. 60 x 84". Collection: Virginia Miller
Galleries, Coral Gables, Florida.

Edna Manley, Worship. Acrylic/pencil on paper.
20 x 16'" Private collection.

spite of the flamboyant red background
behind the persona of the 'P.M.' are
two works by Robert "African" Cook-
horne which magnificently hold their
own: The Challenger on the left by its
haptic display of muscle and dark-toned
colours, The King on the right by the ir-
ridescence of its yellows. As I have re-
cently written at length about Milton
shall resist the temptation to launch

Phanel Toussaint, Expulsion from the Garden. Oil on canvas. 192 x 32".

Gene Pearson, Green Head. Raku glazed.
Height: 17".
into an interpretation of this new satire,
worthy successor to last year's Couple.
Suffice it to say that many plucked
feathers will fly as fighting cocks from
rival political camps get together to
compare their impressions of this 'por-
trait'. A safer, more unifying topic
would be Cookhorne's Challenger.
If ever there was a bang-on personi-
fication of the Jamaican psyche in its
present mood of contained aggressive-
ness which so beautifully finds ex-
pression in the 'real' world of sport it
is this prizefighter of Cookhorne's.
But brute force is not the only ideal in
Jamaican society. To balance the cham-

pion, Cookhorne has produced an epi-
tome of ginnalship, which he titles The
King. Cynical and self-assured as any
crooked politician or ganja baron, this
almost weightless, non-physical being
clutches to his breast in a gesture
which recalls that of the man in Milton
George's Couple the face cards of his
untouchability. Space at the top must
be reserved for the consultant, the per-
sonal adviser, the journalistic top brass.
Turning to the right, the viewer encoun-
ters the outsized, bespectacled skull of
Douglas Wallace's pseudo-intellectual,
brought to life in a witty cartoon titled
Learned Chatter. If these three artistic
cronies, George, Cookhorne and Wallace,
had got together and planned a program-
me of public enlightenment through
satire, they couldn't have produced a
more coherent statement.
Religious consciousness is a vibrant
part of Jamaican consciousness and the
dark places of the soul must be account-
ed for. Turning to the left of Cook-
horne's champion, the viewer enters a
more spiritual dimension by way of
David Boxer's sombre and moving Pieta
in Memory of Philip Hart. In the midst
of life, death; and-atse, hope. A glow of
faith emanates from Edna Manley's
charcoal study of a head for Resurrection.
The spirit world at this point lies in
wait for the wary viewer on his way to
the room behind the Boxer Pieta. I See
You is the appropriate title of Douglas
Wallace's bugaboo before whose watch-
ful eyes he must pass in order to enter.
This chamber of 'disaster preparedness',

as the next enclave may facetiously I
admit be called, contains a variety of
expressionist works, all in different
ways creating a sense of unease, al-
though David Boxer's Holocaust Self
Portrait, an assemblage with 75 manipu-
lated polaroids and accompanying
video programme is the only exhibit
which explicitly deals with the theme of
holocaust on a private and cosmic scale.
In a series of acrylic landscapes by
Marguerite Stanigar, rippling Munch-like
folds of land and sky combine with lurid
sunset colours to create an aura of apo-
calypse. The fluid rhythm of these works
contrasts with the angularity and sharp
tonal contrasts of Cookhorne's South
Africa's Landscape. The two Leonard
Daley paintings, especially The Crow
find an appropriate setting here. This
self-taught wild man of the intuitive
fold could never be quite at home in the
prosaic and tidy world of genre paint-
ers such as Tabois and Veron Williams,
and yet he too culls his inspiration from
the verities of folk life. His calligraphic
style, which recalls the cartoon technique
of Carl Abrahams at his most exuberant,
also has something in common with that
of Everald Brown.

Returning to the area on the far side
of the Douglas Wallace chatterer, the
viewer finds his attention magnetised by
Christopher Gonzalez's noble Crucifix in
beaten copper masterpiece of his re-
cent show at the Mutual Life Gallery.
There are, however, many other master-
ly works clamouring for attention, no-
tably the bronze torsos, male and female,
by Winston Patrick, two paintings by
Osmond Watson and a massive portrait
head carved in some hard wood by
Livingston Lewin.1 Clearly the dominant
theme in this central area of the room is
humanistic, regardless of whether the
mood is playful, as in Colin Garland's
small Carnival, or devotional, as in the
Osmond Watson icon an oil painting
simulating stained glass and aptly titled
Ecce Homo! Ecce Deus!2 The direct
antithesis of Gonzalez's suffering man/
god is Winston Patrick's humanistic tri-
bute to Greek sculptors of the archaic
or early classical period. This academic
study may seem to be an entirely new
departure for Patrick, but in retrospect
it is evident that his figures have always
had something classical about them, re-
gardless of how far they strayed from
the Greek canons of ideal proportion.
Here he appears in the guise of a Jam-
aican Donatello rediscovering the Greek
sculptures and infusing them with new

vigour. Inevitably comparisons will be
made with the Kay Sullivan male tor-
so across the room, in which there is
more 'realism' of surface play of muscle,
but less kinetic energy. If what the view-
er is looking for is a balletic interplay of
human bodies, he will obviously turn
away with relief from these noble essays
and return to look again at a small
bronze poliform high relief sculpture by
Susan Alexander titled Pas de Trois.
Interest in the human being as a
unique psychological phenomenon has
been a constant feature of Jamaican art.
Osmond Watson presents a fascinating
complement to his stylized Christ in
the form of a small, penetrating, Self
Portrait in oils. It is fascinating to see
this mature artist, like Renoir, like
Winston Patrick, revitalising his oeuvre
in middle age by study from life a dis-
cipline which tends to clear the board
of out worn stereotypes and provide a
new fund of images for stylization.
Mobility of features isdifficult enough
to achieve in painting; it must require
fantastic skill in woodcarving. Livingston
Lewin's portrait Head is extraordinarily
subtle in its play of expression, while
maintaining a monumental quality. From
here it is a few steps to the two Gene
Pearson heads, one in bronze and the
other in ceramic. Here elegance is the
keynote. Pearson's heads have the pi-
quancy of objects of desire which one
longs to handle and possess. The squat
pertness of the untitled bronze head
complements the grace of the long neck-
ed ceramic Green Head, in which the
graded colour of the glazing and raku
crackling add to the decorative effect.
Winston Patrick's double torso sculp-
ture initiates yet another train of thought
as one becomes aware of two ranks of
beings, male and female, lined up as if
for a beauty contest. The unspoken
question is: how do Jamaican men and
women view the opposite sex? Here the
male personae are outnumbered, but
very adequately represented; by Kay
Sullivan's sculpture and by a mural in
four sections by a young woman, Don-
nette Pownall, a recent graduate of the
Jamaica School of Art who has taken
her studies in the life room as a base for
this boldly sensuous work aptly titled
The Essence of Beauty. The artist uses
anatomical foreshortening and warm,
glowing colours to good effect, creating
plastic forms and a rhythmic overall
design. By contrast, Barrington Watson's
set piece of a nude young woman not
quite confronting her mirror image

Winston Patrick, Torsos (Male and Female).
Bronze. Height: 12", 12%'". Collection:
Wallace Campbell.
After the Bath seems, to tell the truth,
rather dreary and unconvincing.
There are several other studies of
women, including an awkward but
ambitious, lively attempt by Owen Jolly
to cope with a realistic representation of
a mother and daughter together within
the real space of a bedroom. Judy
MacMillan shows a sympathetic pastel
study of a young girl and Samere Tansley
two portraits of women handled with a
predictable combination of character
plus attractiveness. But, sad to admit,
ladies, the two strongest contenders por-
traying women of character are males.
Fitz Harrack has created a monument-
al Diana, who rises triumphantly chaste
from a base of untreated tree trunk.
This square-jawed huntress has some-
thing of the traditional ship's figure-
head about her, an impression accen-
tuated by the triangular outcrop of
wood which frames her head. By con-
trast, Gaston Tabois's painting of a
Pensive Nude is seductiveness personi-
fied; the decorative, flat green back-
ground complements the sculptural pre-
sentation of this Gauguinesque Aphro-
Another aspect of the humanistic
spirit is concern for moral issues. Valen-
tine Fairclough's disappointingly weak
Beggar by the Wayside3 introduces
another of these dramatically antitheti-
cal pairings in which this exhibition
abounds, as Rafiki Kariuki's Freedom
Fighter appears side by side with my
Tribute to the Mandelas. For Kariuki
the call to action is what matters: he
uses the persuasive posteresque technique
of depicting a violently protesting
man surrounded by a collage of news
items, slogans and flags. In my section-
alised 'component', which also uses the
technique of collage, there is no action;
extreme stasis is broken only by the al-

most imperceptible splitting open of a
stylised landscape to disclose the figure
of a woman. Thus is the romantic drama
of Kariuki's appeal complemented by a
classical statement from a world in which
social readjustments unfold with a
measured inevitability within the pages
of history.
Returning to the mezzanine area after
a warming up experience by way of a
more abstract, interestingly textured
mixed media by Kariuki titled Burning,
the viewer tackles the three large sym-
bolic works on the main wall. Tina Mat-
kovic-Spiro's paintings invariably have a
metaphysical, surrealist dimension. Here,
in two works titled Savannah and Win-
dow on Seville, she demonstrates the
vulnerability of man in the perspective
of cosmic events. In the twilight world
of the Savannah a mysterious space-
craft like a giant sea-egg shell hovers
over a landscape in which there is evi-
dence of human domesticity: the view-
er first takes in the scene as a whole,
enjoying the marvellous sense of space
without regard to the ominous events
taking place; then, examining the pic-
ture at close range, he discovers the tiny
figure of a frantic girl child caught in
the spotlight beam from the flyingsaucer.
Space and light are, likewise, important

I I .' ;


Osmond Watson, Self Portrait, 1986. Oil on
canvas. 12"x 9%".

elements in the Windowon Seville, which
seems to have been composed as the
daylight antithesis to Savannah. A small
boy goes out on a fine windy day to fly
his kite. In the area of sky framed by
one of two window apertures in a stark-
ly unroofed, unfinished concrete build-
ing, the viewer's eye is drawn to the frail
white image of the kite. He follows the
almost invisible string of the kite that
goes behind the corner of the building
and discovers the distant boy, who
gambols on the greensward of a wooded
In these two works the conceptual
content is adequately, even brilliantly
realized. The same cannot be said of the
next work, a grandiose composition by
Barrington Watson titled Piano Con-
certo, which merely provokes the com-
ment, 'Clever idea'. The superimposed
close-ups of hands diminish rather than
integrate the portraits of performers,
which are individually quite interesting:
'the centre does not hold'.
The rest of the mezzanine floor offers
little opportunity for standing back to
view the works. The viewer must also
forego the advantage of location in the
midst of a lively dialogue. However as
he proceeds around the walkway, turn-
ing back now and then to take a second
look, there are many stimulating analo-
gies and contrasts to be observed. He may
compare, for instance, Eve Foster's soft,
romantic Westmoreland with Maxine
Gibson's strange description of Straw-
berry Hill, Susan Shirley's architectural
rendering in watercolour and ink of a
small Old House with Martin Reid's
impressionist oil painting of Vale
Royal. Angela Staples's plastically as-
sured boardroom portrait of The
Banker with Dorothy Wells's sentimental

watercolour of a Senegalese woman;
both of these with Albert Garel's mix-
ed media portrait of The Mild Man-
nered Man and with the two Cecil
Cooper blow-ups of, evidently, the same
person an exercise in the use of two
different media, Graham Davis's essen-
tially decorative Bird with Andrew
Jefferson's anthropomorphically world-
weary Storm Turtle.
In the category of abstraction or
semi-abstraction, Petrine Archer leads
the field in sensitivity and subtlety with
two mantras titled Female Triangles and
Sweetest Taboo. This opens up avenues
of speculation along the lines of mascu-
line/feminine approaches, adventurism
in mixed media techniques and other
subsidiary ideas which occur as the
viewer studies the works of Judith Salm-
on, Karl (Jerry) Craig and Debi Ammar.
An interesting contrast is presented
by two adjacent works by two very
different artists sharing the common
thrall of a 'blue period'. Merrilee Draku-
lich pursues her theme of architectural
fantasy in Columns at Night, while Staf-
ford Schliefer tries to find a decorative
equivalent for human frenzy in Poco-

There are in this 'open' section several
works which may be grouped under the
heading of lyrical fantasy, or fancy.
These include artists within a wide range
of sophistication from Colin Garland
through Hopeton Fletcher, Alison West,
Irise and Richard "Von" White, to re-

Fitz Harrack, Diana.
Yellow saunders wood.
Height: 76".



June Bellew, Giant Fern Castleton. Pencil on paper. 22 x 30".

Livingston Lewin, Head. Height: 17".

Roy Reid, Four Sisters. Oil on hardboard.
28x 20"

cent art school graduate Jackson Chris-
tie. The viewer may note in passing the
current popularity of the mandorla -
or compare such details as the coconut
tree in Alison West's fanciful composi-
tion The Fruitful One with the sensitive,
naturalistic drawing of a giant fern by
June Bellew.
Having travelled full circle, the visitor
approaches the entrance to the intuitives'
room by way of David Pottinger's
Higglers an appropriate lead in; for
Pottinger is as one may never before
have noticed, the spiritual progenitor of
one rivulet in the intuitive stream. Street-
wise no less than field-wise and bible-
wise, they demonstrate that what varies

Donnette Pownall, The Essence of Beauty. Oil on canvas. Four panels each 58 x 21".

are one woman; Kapo as painter is rep-
resented here by two typical scenes in a
symbolic vein titled Merry Land and
Beach Farm. The epitome of naturalism
is to be found in the Tabois paintings in
this room, especially in Sligoville
Square, where the very texture of the
walls and gravel walks are cunningly
The intuitive interpreters of the bible
in literal terms tend not to be mystics
but good storytellers. This is certainly
true of Phanel Toussaint, who this year
has produced a masterpiece of refine-
ment in his Expulsion from the Garden,
which for some reason recalls the nar-
rative works of Carpaccio. Toussaint's
paintings contrast with the symbolic
interpretations of Albert Artwell, who
this year offers two works showing what

Gaston Tabois, Pensive Nude.
Oil on hardboard. 20 x 15".

Robert Cookhorne, The Challenger. Mixed
media on paper. 38 x 25". Collection: Tom
and Cindy Tavares-Finson.

is their degree of dependence on observ-
ed details. This ranges from the naive
and charming symbolism of William
Rhule's Farming and Coffee Time in the
Country to the humorous delineation of
details which appears in Veron Williams's
panoramas of village life; especially well
observed in the latter's Waiting on the
Country Bus, in which the stance of the
mother and daughter are so cleverly

captured. Social comment slips into
rather grotesque cartooning as Keith
Barrett records what takes place in the
Gun Court. With greater mastery and in-
sight, Roy Reid challenges the viewer
with an exciting snapshot of The Devil's
Den. Reid's interesting configuration of
FourSisters alternately garbed in black
and white, recalls Mallica ("Kapo")
Reynolds's famous carving All women

happened during and After the Flood.
As for friend Allan "Zion" Johnson:
this wily designer introduces some human
drama by inventing a bevy of angels like
insects with white wings which swarm
down in the midst of a revivalist meet-
ing. The closest in feeling to the gentle
mysticism of Everald Brown is Michael
Parchment, whose painterly and amiable
fantasies of Aborigines of Africa Land
and Around the River Bend are in strong
contrast with Tony Bag's two sophisti-
cated works; especially witty is the lat-
ter's line up of three Vendors an ex-
pose of the competition for 'bread' in
resort areas.
There is less sculpture here than one
would wish, such a pity when one con-
siders, for instance, the interesting en-
tries in this category in the annual
Ocho Rios Library art competition.
William "Woody" Joseph and Lester
Hoilett hold the fort in the woodcarv-
ing category with characteristic works
of a 'serious' nature which would be
distinctly out of place on a suburban or
souvenir shelf; Joseph Richards's carving
of a man Delivering the Sermon probably
would be. So, in fact, would Michael
Parchment's limestone Jack the Rabbit
and John "Doc" Williamson's alabaster
Family Bird seen here together in
familiar colloquy.

Returning after this cheerful inter-
lude, to the more 'mainstream' atmos-
phere of the foyer, the viewer finds him-
self in an asymmetrical space in which
there are opportunities for looking at
works in a variety of configurations. A
good 'river' habitat is fortuitously pro-
vided for this year's collection of people
as stones by Inansi (Nancy Burke), thus
justifying the current title, Rocky River
Point, a variant of last year's concept of
people huddled on an island. On a more
monumental scale, two mural works by
Eric Cadien titled The Figure and Two
Women with preparatory sketches -
reintroduce the theme of male versus fe-
male sensibility. Basing his motifs on
anatomical studies, Cadien gets further
and further from whatever it is that trig-
gers desire in erotic works, being more
interested in abstract forms, strong
colours and textures which command
attention while maintaining a stalwart
presence in a carefully planned archi-
tectural scheme. By contrast, Edna
Manley's relatively small acrylic studies
titled Birth and Worship achieve a ten-
der lyricism and freshness of vision
extraordinary for an artist in her eighties,
and one who produced a few years ago

the earth-bound Ghetto Mother. Her
motifs are feminine, but by no means
feminist, unlike the graceful semi-
abstract wood carving titled Tribute
to Women by Rachel Fearing, in which
the female form steps forward to claim
precedence over the accompanying
male. Two'other women artists, Hope
Brooks and Laura Facey-Cooper, who
once related to each other as teacher
and student, reveal the essence of the
temperamental differences which dis-
tinguish their respective works. Both are
conceptual artists concerned with the
material as message. Hope Brooks's aus-
tere and subtle diptych Old Book no.
Eight shows her to be something of an
ascetic working strictly within the philo-
sophic tenet that 'less is more'. Laura
Facey-Cooper is more literary and
romantic. In a mixed media composi-
tion titled Prophet which seems to be a
less dynamic follow up of her 1985
Slip of Moon mural and in her Moon-
shine Baby, executed in purpleheart
wood, soapstone and paper, she relies
on an element of human drama to carry
her 'message'. The disembodied child
featured as the moonshine baby and set
against a favoured background of ultra-
marine, may revive, for the viewer, im-
pressions received from similar images
upstairs; notably the tricycle piece in
the childhood sequence of Boxer's as-
semblage and the tragic girl child in
Tino Matkovic-Spiro's Savannah. Could
there perhaps be some common imagin-
ative exchange of images operating at a
subconscious level?
In close proximity with the Hope
Brooks and Laura Facey-Cooper works,
two exciting stoneware sculptures or
jugs by Norma Harrack reveal affinities
in terms of texture and feeling, the one
on the left, Uranus, relating more close-
ly to the quieter Hope Brooks composi-
tion and the one on the right, Sea Whirl,
with its patterning to suggest the rhyth-
mic movement of waves, to the more
rugged texture of Facey-Cooper's

Cadien's mural works invite compari-
son with another artist who has little in
common with him or with the women
mentioned above. This is Rex Dixon,
an abstract expressionist who employs
a soft edge technique along with straight
or not so straight lines which lend
definition to the design. Here is an artist
with distinct romantic or literary in-
tentions; this is suggested by the eso-
teric, cryptic title Saracen at French-
man's Cove.

In spirit there is more affinity between
the Rex Dixon paintings and Kofi
Kayiga's Mexican landscapes discussed
in the previous issue of JAMAICA
It is fitting to close with a lingering
look at the ceramics in the foyer, which,
making no disturbing claim on the emo-
tions, may send the viewer home 'with
calm of mind, all passion spent'. The
tranquility of Cecil Baugh's two stone-
ware vessels transcends all thoughts of
emotional upheaval an implication
suggested by the decoration of one of
them, titled After the Storm. David
Dunn's earthenware bowl titled Cele-
bration Bowl is more joyful than row-
dily convivial. One wonders whether
these two fine craftsmen chose these
particular works with some idea that
what was required was something more
'expressive' than purely functional
vessels, the beauty of which lies in
severe perfection of form. In any case
their works bring this experience of the
1986 show to a satisfying conclusion.

1. It would be helpful if woodcarvers could
identify the type of wood used in their
2. It is a pity to gild the lily. This luminous
icon is handicapped by a gold frame
which is too heavy and too ornate.
3. Valentine Fairclough produced one of
the most outstanding works of the 1984
national show. See JAMAICA JOURNAL
17:2. Too often Jamaica School of Art
students tend to fade out within a year
or two of graduation. Of course we al-
ways hope that a temporary eclipse will
be followed by a return of creative vigour.

Gloria Escoffery, O.D., artist, poet,
journalist, teacher is our regular art

located in the Tower Street foyer
of the Institute of Jamaica.
Gift items featuring various aspects of
Jamaica's flora and fauna include:
T-Shirts, notelets; notepads; tote bags;
tea towels; magazines, painted jars;
jigsaw puzzles; etc.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday
10:00 4:00 p.m.
Friday 10:00 -- 3:00 p.m.
Natural History Museum, 12-16 East Street,
Kingston. Tel: 92-20620.


mu,aratue Yedal/sts

Musgrave Medals for 1984, 1985 and 1986 were awarded on Friday 5 September 1986 at the Institute of Jamaica.
The Musgrave Medal was introduced in 1889 in memory of Sir Anthony Musgrave, founder of the Institute and
is awarded annually in recognition of outstanding contributions to Literature, Science and the Arts.


Douglas Hall
Historical Studies
Karl (Jerry) Craig
Art Education

Cecil Baugh

Trevor Beckford

Kathleen Bond-Hickling
Ena Helps



Fay Simpson
kDance Education

Mallica Reynolds (Kapo)

Alison Stimpson
Art Education


Karl Fuller
Gloria Cresser


Winston White

Derek Walcott Kenneth Ingram
Literature Librarianship and
Historical Scholarship

Louisa Jones (Ma Lou) Hazel Ramsay
Promotion of Traditional Pottery Preservation of Folk Culture




Aerial view of the Hermitage Dam taken 10 June
1969 while dredging was in progress.

1 1 L1\4.-4 I ML\- 71

The Hermitage Dam

T he Hermitage Dam
which supplies ap-
proximately forty
per cent of the water used by
Kingston and St. Andrew was
officially opened on 4 May
1927 by Sir Reginald Edward
Stubbs, Governor of Jamaica.

The construction took just
under three years and was
carried out by the firm Messrs.
Sir W.G. Armstrong Whit-

worth Ltd. at

a cost of

Sited 1,633 feet above sea
level at the neck of the valley
where the Wagwater and
Moresham Rivers merge, the
masonry dam, 700 feet long
and 142 feet at its maximum
height, creates a storage area
of forty-three acres. In addi-
tion to the water from the
Wagwater and Moresham

Rivers, supplies from a few
small streams are channel-
led via the Boar River pipe-
line for storage here. Water
stored in the Hermitage is
conveyed to the purification
plant at Constant Spring by
the Ram's Horn tunnel. The
spillway, which is 415 feet
long at the crest, provides
passage for flood water and
has been described as an 'im-
pressive concrete mountain'.

The designed capacity of the
Hermitage was 500 million
gallons but this has been re-
duced by repeated silting to
250 million gallons. In 1964
a massive desilting programme
was launched to remove
1,200,000 cubic yards of de-
tritus. Since then, periodic
dredgings have maintained the
capacity at approximately
393 million gallons.

Glimpses of Jamaica's Natural History

The Frangipani Caterpillar

."" hen fully grown, these spectacular caterpillars may be five inches in
S length. They feed on species of Plumeria, Frangipani, and rarely on
Allamanda. When several are present, they may completely defoliate
a tree. At maturity, the caterpillars crawl down the trunk and pupate or
change to the chrysalis stage on the ground beneath a covering of dead leaves.
About two months are required for the Frangipani Caterpillar to pass through
the egg stage, caterpillar stages, the chrysalis and finally to the adult moth.
The moth is dull brown and grey and very large, some individuals having a
wing expanse of slightly more than six inches. As many as eighty to 120 eggs
may be laid by a single female.
This species, Pseudosphinx tetrio (L.) has been reported from Florida, the
West Indies, Central America and south to southern Brazil and Paraguay.

Natural History Division
Institute of Jamaica

P1-N-D IN I-A 1C11-1-1crAPHNcIIrSIMIIro

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