Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00067
 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 1993
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: VID00067
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
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Full Text



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Together we Achieve

Editor Leela Heame
Assistant Editor Dahlia Fraser
Computer Operator/
Editorial Assistant Joan Whlte
Design and Production Dennis Ranston

JAMAICA JOURNAL is published on behalf
of the Institute of Jamaica by
Institute or Jamaica Publications Limited.
Managing Director
Patricia V. Stevens

Secretarial Services Fath Myers
Accounts Ngozi Crooks
Sales Reps Denise Clarke, Sophua Pusey
Advertising Sales Gloria Forsyth
Printers Hyde, Held and Blackburn Ltd.
All correspondence should be addressed to:
IOJ Publications Limited
2a Suthermere Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica
Telephone (809) 929-4785/6
Fax No: (809) 92-68817

Back issues: Some back issues are available. List
sent on request Entire series available on
microfilm from:
Umversity Microfilms,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, LISA.
Subscriptions:J$140 for 3 issues (in Jamaica
only): UK: Individuals: 15, Insuituons: 20.
All other counties: Individuals: US$25.
Institutions: US$30.
Single copies: JS50 (in Jamaica only)
All sent second class airmai.
We accept UNESCO coupons. Contaa your local
UNEscO office for details.
Advertising: Rates sent on request.
Index: Articles appearing in JAMAICA JOURNAL are
abstracted and indexed in HISTORICAL ABSTRACTS,
Vol. 24 No.3. Copynghl 1992 by Institute of
Jamaica Publications Ltd. Cover or contents may
not be reproduced in whole or in part without
written permission.

Cover: Norman Hamilton
Number Fifty Poinciana Street from the
Little Theatre Movement's fiftieth pantomime,
Fifty-Flfty (p. 2).

37 JMbTI-4-Rfpier Jr and the Medical
Profession in Jamaica, 1860-1862. Pt 1
by Philip Alexander

11 Port Royal Dockyard Repairs in 1789
by Richard Issa

25 Tribute to Bernard Lewis
by Thomas Farr and Elaine Fisher

Science and Technology

17 Arawak, Spanish and African
Contributions to Jamaica's Settlement
by John Rashford

The Arts

2 Fifty Years of Pantomime
by Rex Nettleford

48 Columbus at the Abyss
by Robert Bensen

Regular Features

29 Art: Insiders and Outsiders: The
1991 Annual National Exhibition and
Homage to John Dunkley
by Peter Cresswell

55 Books and Writers
Review: Darell E. Levi's Michael Manley:
The Making of a Leader by Herman McKenzie

Poems by Anthony McNeill

62 Youth Journal
Drugs: How Use Became Abuse

57 Contributors

Schoolers 1989

From Foreign-born to Native-Bred
One of the genuine traditions I
of modern Jamaica is the
annual Little Theatre Move-
ment Pantomime which has
opened on every Boxing Day
since 1941. This makes it
older than such other pop- Th
ular 'institutions' as the
Jamaica Labour Party though
not the Bustamante Industrial
Trade Union and the People's
National Party which were both
fifty years old in 1988. The
Jamaican 'panto', though reaching
fifty only in 1991, boasts an even
more ancient pedigree having come
from the line of nineteenth centui
English pantomimes. These in turn are
to have descended from Renaissan
commedia del arte which spread to Fra
the rest of Europe complete with such st
ters as Harlequin, Pulcinello and Scar

i-, This ancient lineage would
Sfta naturally have legitimized its
Ify migration to upper St
SAndrew, Jamaica where by
the late thirties expatriate
Britons and the native high-

e m a can sing the issue of 'legitimate
theater Jamaican -re'.
It took all of six of the new-
San torn i rn I e found pantomimes to attract
dan m e capacity audiences to a
record-breaking run. Spot-
1 41 1 1 light magazine of March 1948
Reported glowingly that
by capacity' audiences saw the
Rex Nettleford Cinderella pantomime twelve times
Rex Neteor between December and January last
ry and still want more'. The Gleaner had
supposed earlier reported this to be 'an unprecedented run
ce Italy's on the box office'.
nce and to On December 26, 1987, a new panto, King
ck charac- Root, opened and later played over one hundred
amouche. times at the Ward Theatre then being 'revitalized'


by the new Ward Theatre Foundation
spearheaded by the Little Theatre's
President, Henry Fowler. Bruckins of
1988 and Schoolers of 1989 were to
break the century mark at the Ward as
well, leading up to the fiftieth
pantomime Fifty-Fifty which, despite
the economic difficulties attendant on
the inflationary spiral and the pro-
gressive devaluation of the Jamaican
dollar, had as long a run as its im-
mediate predecessors.
The actual founder of the Little
Theatre Movement was Greta Fowler.
She was its moving spirit for over thirty
years, giving to the LTM ideal, form
and purpose and enticing to the Ward
Theatre masses of the population each
year to help shape what was to emerge
as an indigenous form of Caribbean
popular musical theatrewithout parallel
in the rest of the region.
The pantomime is, of course,
legendary and, like all legends, invites
controversy. To some it is now an
Establishment piece to be deified,
rivalled, ridiculed, and bad-mouthed
even while it is imitated, admired, and
defended to the death (sometimes by
the same people). It may be detested by
the envious, irritating to those
'genuinely concerned about theatre
development', and 'embarrassing' to
the snobbish but it cannot be ignored.
Some would not demean themselves to
write for it while others would give an
eye-tooth for the opportunity. Some
may well find it far too daunting,
having to start from scratch to bring
together elements of music, drama,
dance and elaborate scenic designs on a
shoe-string budget. Better to remount
the Broadway musicals which have
been created and shaped by the efforts
of others. Some simply write their own
theatre-pieces mounted at the same time
as the pantomime and giving to the
Jamaican stage the sort of fare that may
be considered short on aesthetic range
though long on quantity.
The fiftieth anniversary pantomime
had its share of 'rivals' including Gian
Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night
Visitors which played up to the week-
end before the fiftieth pantomime
opened and was the inaugural
presentation of the newly-formed
Jamaican Festival Opera Company. The
critic for the Daily Gleaner saw it as
'another welcome alternative' in the
'broadening of the theatrical options
offered to the public'. He declared that
'roots theatre' was getting more

Greta and Henry Fowler wtih the programme for Banana Boy, 1961

competition. The truth was that 'roots
theatre', including the LTM Pantomime,
rooted in the 'folk' realities of both
urban and rural Jamaica, has always had
alternatives and competition from
foreign imports.
The moral of this is that there is
room for all in a town that has
ballooned in population since 1941
when the first Christmas pantomime
was performed. The LTM Panto con-
tinues in magisterial, if vulnerable and
enviable, splendour at the Ward.
Since the late sixties, the Pantomime
has played, at an average, to some
seventy-five to eighty thousand people
a year, the only form of Jamaican
theatre to have competed with the
popular cinema for some four decades
and won. It remains unrivalled in its
appeal to a wide cross-section of the
Jamaican populace. Yet, for that very
reason, it has no excuse to be smug.
Rather, it has an obligation to continue
improving itself by way of continuing
exploration and experimentation.
The panto has nurtured many of
Jamaica's major talents in the theatre
today, affording them exposure to tens
of thousands but, more importantly,
offering opportunities for sustained
creative work over a six month period -
from rehearsals to end of run, in any
given year. The great theatre personal-
ities associated with the pantomime are
Louise Bennett and the late Ranny
Williams who both invested the genre
with conventions of characterization
that have now become part and parcel
of the idiom. Audiences still flock to
North Parade in search of the seemingly

endless variations they expect on the
archetypal Mother Figure and Brer
Anancy or the Sam Fie man, in much
the same way as their British counter-
parts celebrated such stock characters as
the Dame played by a man and Prince
Charming played by a woman. Peggy
Dougall, Greta Fowler's sister, played
Jack in 1941 in the first pantomime,
Jack and the Beanstalk.
Just as the metropolitan form has
changed in Britain itself to meet the
tastes of succeeding generations so have
the Jamaican productions. They have
journeyed from Jack and the Beanstalk
(1941) Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
(1946) [a second Aladdin followed as
late as 1952], Cinderella (1947),
Beauty and the Beast (1948), and Alice
in Wonderland (1950) through the
Jamaican Anancy series, which
flourished in the fifties, to more
integrated and genuinely original works
(in terms of book, lyrics, music and
choreography.) Among these are
Banana Boy (1962), Queenie's Daugh-
ter (1963), Gloria Lannaman's classic
Dickance for Fippance (1974) and
Barbara Gloudon's eight or nine box-
office and artistic successes dating from
the end of the sixties. These include the
controversial Trash of 1985, River
Mumma and the Golden Table (1986,
co-authored with the young Aston
Cooke); Schoolers, in 1989, 'developed
from a concept by Owen Ellis (Blacka)
and Michael Nicholson'. And, for the
fiftieth anniversary production she
wrote the book and lyrics for the very
Jamaican Fifty-Fifty.
What could be considered to be the


first 'Jamaican pantomime' appeared as
early as 1943 as Soliday and the
Wicked Bird and the first Anancy
episode appeared in 1948 when Noel
Vaz co-conceived and staged Bluebeard
and Brer Anancy. All of the panto-
mimes have served as vehicles for some
of Jamaica's finest actors and actresses.
The highly accomplished Leonie
Forbes comes quickly to mind but Lois
Kelly-Barrow (later Miller) introduced
a distinctive persona in her memorable
time with the pantos as did Charles
Hyatt before his departure to Britain in
the sixties. There were also such variety
stars of yesteryear as Lee Gordon, Tony
Ableton and Eric Coverley. Mrs Kelly-
Miller was to return for the fiftieth
anniversary panto after an absence of
fourteen years.
No other single writer has created as
many scripts (and lyrics) for this annual
theatre event as has Barbara Gloudon.
Her impact on the genre has been as
impressive as it has been worrisome to
certain of her critics. It was her Trash
which stirred resentment at what she
herself stirred up in the savaging of the
growing pretentiousness among 'up-
towners'. The piece showed a certain
contempt for the kitsch that signifies
the indulgences of the nouveau riche in
the characters of King Nuff and
Princess Polyester.
Oliver Samuels, the talented
comedic successor to Ranny Williams,
brought to the character Nuff his
impeccable timing and total under-
standing of the vulgar pis-elegance of
the 'just-come'. It was a damning
portrayal of the obscenity of sudden
and unexpected opulence and it hurt
certain spokespersons of the acquisi-
tive middle-strata. The language of the
streets which was used bothered even

. I

I 'A -

more. Yet the people who speak and
create this language for daily commu-
nication approved. They loved and
understood Trash.

From Trash to Fifty-Fifty: Exploring
the Panto

From Trash (1985) to Fifty-Fifty
(1990) Barbara Gloudon has demon-
strated genuine attempts at crafting a
formula for her LTM panto plots not so
much designed to break images merely
for the sake of being iconoclastic, but
rather to reflect as faithfully as one can
the aesthetic energy, form and feeling of
some of the primal social and cultural
reality of her environment. But more
than anyone else she has taken risks
with the Jamaican panto, which leave a
number of people uneasy, even while
admittedly making sense to the
audiences who see them at the Ward.
As anticipated, the fiftieth
pantomime was cause for critical
concern. A good thing too, for it was
clear that the 'Jamaican panto', as it is
called, was very much alive. 'The
audience certainly sounded pleased: its
members laughed a lot throughout the
show' observed the Gleaner's critic in
his review of Fifty-Fifty on February
10, 1991. But he concluded that the
seemingly well satisfied audience were
'lovers of cartoons, those fast-paced,
short animated features which keep
children happily watching television on
weekday afternoons'. He found two
and a half hours of the cartoonesque
Fifty-Fifty too much for him. Not
everyone agreed with such summary
The Gleaner critic in fact analyzed
the 'problem' he has with such

- s -

Aladdin, 1952

experimentation with earnest candour, a
certain conviction and even noticeable
care. But there are other ways of
looking at what is clearly still evolving
after fifty years!
Some of us who invoke the excel-
lence of such North Atlantic musicals
as West Side Story and My Fair Lady
(narrative works) or Cats and Chorus
Line (idea-pieces held together by
movement and well crafted staging) not
only bring to the appreciation of those
undoubtedly fine works preconceived
notions that as metropolitan fare, they
must be good; we also forget that by the
time we see them, at home or abroad,
we have been well schooled in what the
'story' or idea' behind the show is.
Here in Kingston the panto audiences
are part of the creative process in
making the pantomime work. Both
creators and audiences start from
scratch as it were.
Admittedly, the creator(s) of the
Jamaican panto must work within
tenacious constraints. The panto is
expected to be family entertainment.
The 'slackness' of some of the nation's
so-called roots entertainment cannot be
part of the fare in any overt form. And
the 'badness' which to some is synony-
mous with being 'progressive' cannot
go unpunished. Many complained that
Gloudon failed in Schoolers to have the
Law overpower the dope-pusher
corrupting the youngsters in the
schoolyard with 'sweetie' laced with
cocaine. Instead, it was the community
that dealt with him, not by hacking him
to death but by getting him to cease and
desist and to voluntarily give in to self-
reform. Fantasy? Surely this is fine for
theatre! But the real possibility of
community healing was Gloudon's
message (and hope).
'Logic' does not always present it-
self in conventional form in the
development of the Gloudon plots. The
locus of Fifty-Fifty is a yard 50
Poinciana Street itself a microcosm of
Planet Earth. Each of the many and
various characters in the habitat,
emerges as an identifiable entity of the
dramatic personae replacing the jolly
faceless Chorus of traditional panto-
mimes. Today the young actors build
their character parts with great care and
emerge from the mass not merely with a
couple of lines to utter but with greater
dramatic focus, body language and
modes of dress, each a distinctive
thread in the tapestry.
There is in Fifty-Fifty a proliferation


of images through repetition. The
magic number three recurs in the three
daughters, the three sons, the three
soothsayers (Righteous Sisters). But
they do not simply mirror each other;
they perform quite different functions.
Associated with this is a certain density
of symbols and meanings which the
ordinary Jamaican viewing Fifty-Fifty
fully understands. Mother B is the
messenger of hope, she is the 'griot'
(the keeper of the records) and Mother
Earth (the symbol indelibly carved into
the genre by Louise Bennett). The three
Righteous Sisters gospel-grind out their
Words of Warning on earth; (Mother B
comes down from Heaven to do her
own warning against greed ('barrelitis')
and profligacy manifest in the loose
hedonism of the yard with Reggeh and
Streggeh of dance-hall culture making
it known that they are a 'different two
of a kind'.
Other images emerge from the bas
relief; for example, the newfound 'self-
assertion' of women who withdraw
their services from their spoilt para-
mours, the pomposity of educated fools
like Mr Plato as well as the deep
respect for high school education which
only the male juvenile lead has. The
ludicrousness of 'cultural penetration'
through North Coast tourism seems
thrown in for good and topical measure.
But it is part of the tapestry of foibles of
a society that the panto has long helped
to laugh at itself even while seriously
addressing the harsh realities that
confront it.
The interweaving by Gloudon defies
the logic of the simple linear narrative
so dear to the hearts of many a
theatregoer and critic. What is done is
far more clever and coherently
integrated than is sometimes allowed
the playwright.

From 'Scratch' Group to Resident

The issue of language in the LTM
panto is a hot one among some persons.
The language of the urban young
bothers the pure of tongue who insist
that they cannot understand the
language most of us speak most of the
time. Some used to object to Louise
Bennett on exactly the same grounds.
But it is the general social challenge
which the panto offers that has con-
cerned a number of people, especially
when it has changed course to reflect

Busha Bluebear4d 1958 production in Port of Spain.
I to r Reggie Carter, Barbara Lewars, Charles Hyatt, Miss Lou.

the realities of its own Jamaica. Louise
Bennett and Ranny Williams were to
emerge as centrepieces rather than as
sideshows. Leading ladies were no
longer drawn from some prominent
family of quality (including the First
Family in the colonial governor's
mansion) and English fairy tales were
to be replaced by the native stories with
which Jamaica abounds.
Still, all classes and manner of
Jamaicans continue to see the LTM
panto each year. The pantomimes are
visited annually by returning Jamaicans,
by uptowners and downtowners, by
people from rural Jamaica and by
resident aliens. They flow over to the
mini-pantos uptown that provide the
topicalities without the music, dancing,
and elaborate scenery, but no less fun
for many in the adult audiences hungry
for harmless ribaldry and the risqu6
away from their children.
The LTM panto now runs until late
April with, since Johnny Reggae
(1978), a possible short season in
Montego Bay where an enterprising
impresario, Sidney Reid, takes risks to
share the country's most popular
musical theatre fun with his
Montegonian enthusiasts. The panto has
of course gone further afield. Pirate
Princess and Trash enjoyed London
runs in the eighties. The 'Jamaican
pantomime' had gone back home,
astounding Britons with its mix of
preservative and innovative powers.
And Antigua and St Kitts as well as the
Cayman Island and Toronto-based West
Indians have hankered after Jamaican
panto scripts and music for a long time.

The LTM production of Schoolers
played to enthusiastic capacity houses
at the Gusman Theatre in Miami in
1990, some thirty-two years after
Busha Bluebeard journeyed to Port-of-
Spain on the occasion of the launching
of the West Indies Federation. The
fiftieth pantomime played to capacity
houses in Miami, New York and
Toronto in early 1991.
Many a time complete scripts are
non-existent since what ends up on
stage each year is usually the result of
an evolutionary process involving
varying inputs not only from the
scriptwriter, lyricist and composer but
also the producer (LTM as the backer)
and, most importantly, the director
presiding over the team of colleagues
such as musical director or composer,
movement co-ordinator or choreo-
grapher, set and costume designers, as
well as the lighting director. This, in
fact is the way a truly creative musical
evolves anywhere.
A creative and innovative director is
critical to the panto and the LTM is
lucky to have had such ones as the
renowned Noel Vaz (a major contrib-
utor, especially in the historic transition
from British-type pantomimes to the
Jamaican musical-type panto), Norman
Rae, Maurice Harty, Bobby Ghisays,
Lloyd Reckord and, of late, Brian
Heap who has directed some five
between 1985 and 1990. In 1987, a
couple of young up-and-coming
designers appeared in Paul Hamilton
(set) and Norman Russell (costumes),
and also a new crop of gifted actors and
singers with a track record of some


three pantos behind them and a year-
long training workshop in between.
That new crop of vibrant actors,
actresses and singers pointed direction
to a much needed change from the
pantomime's annual dependence on a
scratch group put together, admittedly
by exciting audition sessions where
'discoveries' were often made, to a per-
manent group committed to sustained
application through inter-panto training
and personal development.
The Pantomime Company, as the
LTM has called the new unit, is the
brainchild of Barbara Gloudon and
draws not a little on the accumulated
skills honed for many in the Cultural
Training Centre. The LTM, which
founded the School of Drama and
nurtured the NDTC which in turn
established the School of Dance, is now
benefiting from the products of those
enterprises. It is a significant develop-
ment, too easily dismissed by those who
are interested more in producing a good
night's show than in the long process
leading up to the mounting of that very
show. The 1987 pantomime production
team working on King Root struggled
against great odds in the race against
time to complete the refurbishing of the
Ward Theatre by Boxing Day. Only the
disciplined professional approach and
well-developed skills of the cast led by a
maturing Volier Johnson and the quite
magnificent Dorothy Cunningham,
together with the technical direction of
veteran lighting designer and Little
Theatre manager, George Carter, made it
possible. The work of yet another young
find in the energetic Stage Manager,
Larry Watson, was to become vital to
the success of the annual show after

Vehicle for Original Music

For years, the annual pantomime has
been an important vehicle for original
music. In 1987, all the elements were
held together by the first-rate musical
compositions of Noel Dexter whose
talents as lyricist had been revealed
during Sipple Silver (1984) and served
King Root no less. He was to repeat his
success in Carmen Tippling and Ted
Dwyer's Bruckins. Dexter stands tall
among a distinguished line-up of
composers of integrated panto musical
scores among them, Carlos Malcolm
(Banana Boy), Sonny Bradshaw
(Morgan's Dream of Old Port Royal)

Peter Ashbourne (The Witch, Johnny
Reggae 1978, Ginneral B) Conroy
Cooper (Pirate Princess) Grub Cooper
(Tantaloo, Schoolers) and Eddy
Thomas (Hail Columbus). Behind all
this the fantastic Louise Bennett, as
folklorist, generously shared her
knowledge and grasp of Jamaican
traditional music with the LTM in just
about every panto mounted between
1956 and the early seventies. The
memory of Mapletoft Poulle (as adapter-
arranger of that music and leader of the
panto orchestra) was celebrated, as it
were, in 1987 with the rich musical
arrangements by Desmond Jones,
formerly of Chalice, and the return of a
Mapletoft-type orchestra under the
leadership of Jack Willacy. The fiftieth
pantomime was to utilize the talents of
an array of composers including Peter
Ashbourne, Grub Cooper, Noel Dexter,
Barbara Ferland, Mapletoft Poulle,
Marjorie Whylie and John Williams.
It is not to the credit of the LTM
administration that, despite the evidence
of musical gems, there is far too little
preserved by way of recording from this
spate of original music. A musical is
after all, remembered in large measure
by its music though in the case of
pantomimes (Jamaican and British) it is
admittedly the 'story' and the magic in
the staging that tend to linger in the
memory. It is as though the Jamaica
panto has fallen between two stools in
this regard. Or maybe the organization
has not been as aggressive as it could
have in marketing its product.

The Role of Dance

The matter of creating movement for
the pantomime over the past thirty years
of the Jamaican musical theatre has
been as integral a dimension to the total
effect of the LTM pantomimes as it has
been to the now legendary 'integrated
American musical' form which, un-
doubtedly, influenced our efforts here.
The early LTM pantomimes, true to
their English model, utilized dancing to
add spice to the spectacle. This, indeed,
was the way in which dance was first
used in musical theatre everywhere in
the West. The dance was little more
than an expendable diversion to pep up
or hold up the plot, whether in grand
opera, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, or
the American musical, though Agnes de
Mille had begun to revolutionize its use
in the watershed Oklahoma.

Changes on the metropolitan theatre
scene were not lost on the LTM
producers. Both Greta and Henry
Fowler of the LTM kept abreast of
developments in the London West End
theatre in particular; and returning
theatre artists such as Noel Vaz never
scrupled to force the form out of anti-
quity into modernity and relevance.
In addition, Greta Fowler had that
entrepreneurial eye which beamed into
Jamaican realities. This brought to
centre-stage not only Louise Bennett,
the people's poet, and Ranny Williams,
the most popular comedian of variety
concert and radio fame, but also the
music of Jamaica in contrast to popular
American and British show tunes
borrowed and used without compunc-
tion in earlier days. It was clear that
when we fell back on our own resources
gems such as Barbara Ferland's much-
loved 'Evening Time', composed for
Busha Bluebeard, became possible.
In time the LTM bowed, therefore, to
the dance of Jamaica when that art form
began to show signs of taking-off, even
if that take-off was to be underrated by
veteran critic Harry Milner who
described it as entering, after 1960, 'a
period of prolonged ethnicity, proto-
Africanism and folksiness . .' The
truth of the matter is that dance in
Jamaican pantomime, as in the rest of
the country's burgeoning theatre, had
had its full dose of what, from other
people's perspective, might well have
been described as a period of prolonged
ethnicity but of the Aryan persuasion
- proto-Europeanism, and a folksiness
rooted in the cultures of mid and
southern-European peasants dancing the
mazurka and the tarantella.
In the process of indigenizing the
pantomime, dance which reflected the
movement patterns of this part of the
world in the body-language of its
people, provide an undoubted route to
authenticity and artistic credibility. The
LTM continues to follow this route to
its advantage and, like the entire dance
movement, puts great store in the long
process of cross-fertilization, selection
and distillation of essences, which
remains the best guarantee for an
enriched and dynamic cultural life

Classical Ballet's early predominance

The names of the choreographers
between 1941 and 1954 reveal the

primacy of (European) classical ballet
as the art of dance theatre in Jamaica.
And understandably so! Hazel Johnston,
Joan McCulloch, Hazel Doran, Anatoly
Soohih and Gloria Stone all worked in
an idiom which undoubtedly kept the
idea of dance-theatre alive in Jamaica.
And they brought it to the service of
pantomimes such as Jack and the
Beanstalk, Cinderella, Beauty and the
Beast, Robinson Crusoe and Aladdin
and the Magic Lamp. However, as early
as 1943, Soliday and the Wicked Bird
had been billed as a Jamaican
pantomime. In both this and Aladdin
and the Magic Lamp (1946), La Ciba
Sonami (lone Williamson) privately
choreographed the solos danced by
Hugh Morrison who performed under
the stage name Gabriele. Miss Sonami
used Modern Dance approaches to
shape the dances. However, Joan
McCulloch, the ballet teacher who
choreographed the pantomime com-
mended Morrison for his 'port de bras'
(read, carriage of the arms) and Esther
Chapman's weekly showered critical
acclaim on the piece. It is clear that, in
spite of a wish to 'Jamaicanize' and the
influence of Modern Dance, classical
ballet still had strong claims to primacy
in Jamaican dance theatre.

Yet, in 1949, an unusual title,
Bluebeard and Brer Anancy, emerged.
The choreographer was Anatoly
Soohih, the Russian emigr6 who was
married to May Phang (pronounced
Pang) of Balaclava. Dancing in it as the
'Spirit of the Weed' was Ivy Baxter
who was on the eve of her remarkable
pioneer work in creative dancing.
Although the pantomime records list
Anatoly Soohih as choreographing
Bluebeard and Brer Anancy, the dance,
entitled the 'Garden of the Weeds', was
actually choreographed by Ivy Baxter
with, according to Noel Vaz,'her
students dancing the weird creatures
most cleverly costumed by Stella Shaw'.
In her book The Arts of An Island,
Ivy Baxter writers: 'The story of Blue-
beard lent itself well to woodland
scenes. It was adapted to the Jamaican
setting in a dance called "Garden of the
Weeds" in classical ballet style'. Later
she adds, 'The "Dance of Weird Crea-
tures", one of the sections of the dance,
was one of the most effective ever done
in this type of show.'
The transition to what came to be
known as creative dance had now
begun. Noel Vaz described 'Garden of
the Weeds' as 'an outstanding and valid
piece of imaginative work which literal-

ly burst on to the scene through a back
cave entrance.' Such fantasy scenes
were memorable aspects of many of the
early LTM pantomimes, with liberal
use, in some cases, of ultra-violet lights
and strobe lighting both of which were
temporarily abandoned, perhaps for
relief from the over-use of the past.
Ultra-violet lighting was, however,
reintroduced for the fantasy scene in the
fiftieth pantomime.
In 1950 the LTM reverted to Alice
in Wonderland and to Hazel Doran for
choreography. In 1951 there was Dick
Whittington and his Cat with May
Soohih and Barbara Fonseca sharing the
honours as choreographers. May Soohih
continued to present dances in classical
ballet style while others, including Ivy
Baxter, did the creative dance pieces.
As late as 1957, Soohih offered a stock
dressing-the-bride transformation
ballet-scene while Jeff Henry from
Beryl McBurnie's Little Carib Theatre
brought in samples of Trinidadian lore
for Busha Bluebeard.

Change to Creative Dance

Not until 1958 did things change
radically to accommodate the increas-
ingly definitive developments in


Jamaican dance-theatre. Following her
successful 'Creations in Dance' show at
the Ward in 1954, Ivy Baxter had gone
on to create dances for Anancy and the
Magic Mirror to which she brought
from her dance-show set pieces suitably
adapted. The Baxter dancers, of whom I
was one, did not rehearse with the rest
of the cast. We rehearsed in the Baxter
studio in Caledonia Avenue, Cross
Roads, and took the dances down to the
Ward to fit them into the production.
Such was the way in which the ballet
studios had operated. For the dances
could exist independent of the show and
vice versa. In addition, the LTM en-
gaged the entire group and not
individual dancers just as it was with
the classical ballet schools.
By 1958, Eddy Thomas had formed
his Dance Workshop and had behind
him a distinguished record of perform-
ing and composing with the Ivy Baxter
Creative Dance Group. He was invited
to choreograph Quashie Lady,
unashamedly modelled on My Fair
Lady, the Broadway hit musical. His
type of dance, could now be trusted to
carry an entire pantomime. Granted,
both Baxter and Eyrick Darby (Anancy
and Beeny Bud) had led the way in
It was in 1959 that I returned from
studies at Oxford with two years of
experience in dance-creation for
musicals and undergraduate revues in
Oxford, at the Edinburgh Festival and
Henley-on-Thames. Greta and Henry
Fowler (on holiday in Oxford in the
summer of 1959) had seen my chore-
ography in Aristophanes' The Birds,
irreverently but good-humouredly
updated into a rock musical with
original music by Dudley Moore, later
of movie-star fame.
Greta Fowler then and there com-
pelled me to make a solemn promise to
work with the LTM as soon as I returned
to Jamaica. A few months later, I took
over the choreography of Jamaica Way
which Robin Midgely (then of JBC) was
From this point, dance started to help
advance the plot rather than being used
only in set pieces fitted into the perfor-
mance. The idea of the triple-threat
performer (actor-singer-dancer rolled
into one) gained currency. Alma Mock
Yen (especially as Mantaripa in Carib
Gold), Leonie Forbes and, later, Dorothy
Cunningham (in numerous pantos) are
up to now the best examples of this new

n and Bert Rose in Carib Gold, 1960

persona on the panto stage. Louise
Bennett and Ranny Williams, however,
commanded choreographers and
composers to bend to their genius; and
there is today a 'Ranny Step' that has
survived him as there is a Miss Lou way
of putting over a song.
Carib Gold followed Jamaica Way in
1960. Louise Bennett and I co-directed
and I also choreographed. This
Guyanese tale about pork-knockers
pleased but did not excite, for all its
visual attractions. There was much
dance some felt too much. It was not
until the 1961 panto Banana Boy that
the dance 'made the musical move' in
what was then regarded as the inte-
grated musical style. Carlos Malcolm
wrote the totally original musical score
and I both directed and choreographed.
Many of the dancers involved were to
form the nucleus of the National Dance
Theatre Company Barbara Grant (later
Requa), Pansy Silvera (Hassan), Yvonne
da Costa, Gertrude Sherwood, Bert Rose
and Audley Butler.

The Influence of the National Dance

The National Dance Theatre Com-
pany was founded in 1962 and has ever
since maintained a close and continuing
relationship with the Little Theatre
Movement. In the early days, Greta
Fowler, as President of LTM, sat on the
NDTC's Management Committee and I
was acting as an in-house consultant-
choreographer to the LTM. The avail-

ability of a trained group of dancers
meant that between 1962 and 1970
dance became more important and
choreography in pantomimes gained
increasing popularity. Choreographers
were also drawn from the Company
Apart from myself, Eddy Thomas,
then an NDTC co-director, Sheila
Barnett, principal dancer, choreo-
grapher Neville Black and founding
member Joyce Campbell, all created
dances for pantomimes
By 1971, Jackie Guy, just beginning
his career as an NDTC dancer of merit,
was ready to try his hand in the same
field. That year it was Music Boy, for
which I was artistic adviser to the entire
production. Other new talents for that
decade were Bert Rose, Patsy Ricketts
and Tony Wilson.
With Barbara Gloudon's record-
breaking pantomimes of the eighties
there came a change in staging. In
addition to the choreographed dances
there was also more and more 'Move-
ment' for the musical numbers. This
was perhaps exemplified in the 1986,
River Mumma and the Golden Table in
which the staging and choreographic
talents of former NDTC principal
Cheryl Ryman were employed. Her
extensive research into Jamaican
traditional dance was clearly evident in
the way she used the bodies (largely of
non-dancers) to punctuate the story.
For Schoolers (1988) the LTM re-
cruited two young dancers from the
LTD group, George Howard and Erald
Waysome, who together introduced a
great many of the steps from current

8 JAICA jouRNAL 24/3

popular dance-lore to be assembled and
staged in what turned out to be a highly
successful watershed pantomime. In
Fifty-Fifty, Howard again shared the
design of movement with me as I staged
the musical numbers and helped shape
the movement quality of the entire

Choreographing or Staging...?

The distinction which I have made
between the staging of musical numbers
and the choreographing of set dances in
pantomimes or musicals in general is
one with which not everyone would
agree. The magic word 'choreography'
is much misused in Jamaica, not least by
persons who parade models around on
ramps in the now popular fashion
shows. It is significant that a genuine
choreographer such as Bert Rose bills
himself as staging fashion-shows rather
than 'choreographing' them.
Musicals do, in fact, call for the
staging of musical numbers as distinct
from choreographing in the strict sense
of conceiving a dance-work from
scratch and designing movement
vocabulary, patterns and style for that
work. I myself shifted significantly in
Dickance for Fippance (Gloria Lanna-
man's tribute to 1938) by emphasizing
the staging of musical numbers working
for the overall movement effect of the
entire production. The Witch (by
Gloudon) was similarly handled though
the dance of the Cat was a choreo-
graphed piece as was the dance of the
Rolling Calf in Brashana 0 (another by

In King Root, for example, there was
strictly speaking just one pure-dance
sequence, in the 'fantasy scene' with
Christopher Morrison dancing the spirit
of the Scorpion in King Root's den.
Much else on the pantomime scene is
really a staging of musical numbers
requiring of all actors good movement
coordination in addition to skills in
acting and in turning a tune.

Vehicle for Choral Theatre

The LTM panto has focused on
ancestral elements in Jamaican trad-
itional lore and has in turn contributed
to the development of yet another form
of theatre which I have termed 'choral
theatre', that genre of presentation that
the NDTC singers pioneered. It is now
expertly executed by the Jamaican Folk
Singers and the University Singers as
well as by more recent exponents such
as Carifolk and that delightful north-
coast group of young entertainers
known as the Hatfield Singers. We all,
in turn, owe what we have to the folk
singing tradition of rural Jamaica. It was
that tradition that forced us in the very
early days of festival competitions to lift
a whole set of renditions out of the
category of Folk Music and place them
in one we laboriously designated 'Inte-
grated Song and Dance'.
A useful lesson for 'choreographers'
of musicals to learn is never to indulge
in delusions of grandeur and make
exaggerated claims for his or her
contribution to the whole for it is the
whole that finally matters as synthesis of
word, sound and movement, with

drama, music and dance mobilized and
assembled into a unified vocabulary for
artistic communication.

'After this, what?'

The LTM pantomime challenges
Jamaican choreographers to straddle
both worlds of the musical and dance-
concert stage as it challenges the
composer, designers, directors and
playwrights among us to share in such
communication. If fifty years of con-
tinuous work is cause for celebration, it
is also reason for challenge. For the
question always is: After this, what?
Many playwrights could be more
modest in subjecting themselves to the
demands of the genre and, in the
process, contribute to the creative
change and development I have heard
some of them express they would like to
see. I, too, share their hopes. Both
Romeo and Juliet and Pygmalion under-
went enormous sea-change to become
two of the century's finest American
musicals West Side Story and My Fair
Lady. William Shakespeare and George
Bernard Shaw would have approved.
Lesser talents may well be advised to be
a little more adventurous if not a little
more humble.
A history of the Jamaican panto-
mime is in many ways a history of the
theatre and Jamaican social devel-
opment since 1941, including the
changes in the way in which Jamaicans
perceive themselves. It is a history
waiting to be properly written.

LTM Pantomimes 1941 1991

1941 Jack and the Beanstalk
1942 Babes in the Wood
1943 Soliday and the Wicked Bird
1944 Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
1945 Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
1946 The Rose and the Ring
1947 Cinderella
1948 Beauty and the Beast
1949 Bluebeard and Brer Anancy
1950 Alice in Wonderland
1951 Dick Whittington and His Cat
1952 Aladdin
1953 Robinson Crusoe
1954 Anancy and the Magic Mirror

1955 Anancy and Pandora
1956 Anancy and Beeny Bud
1957 Busha Bluebeard
1958 Quashie Lady
1959 Jamaica Way
1960 Carib Gold
1961 Banana Boy
1962 Finian's Rainbow
1963 Queenie's Daughter
1964 Bredda Buck
1965 Morgan's Dream of
Old Port Royal
1966 Queenie's Daughter
1967 Anancy and Pandora

1968 Ananncy and Doumbey
1969 Moonshine Anancy
1970 Rockstone Anancy
1971 Music Boy
1972 Hail Columbus
1973 Queenie's Daughter
1974 Dickance for Fippance
1975 The Witch
1976 Brashana 'O'
1977 Twelve Million Dollar Man
1978 Johnny Reggae
1979 The Honourable AllPurpus
and the Dancing Princess
1980 Mansong

1981 Pirate Princess
1982 Tantaloo
1983 GinneralB
1984 Sipple Silver
1985 Trash
1986 River Mumma and the
Golden Table
1987 King Root
1988 Bruckins
1989 Schoolers
1990 Fifty-Fifty
1991 Mandeyah




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Nathaniel Walls's sketch of he Naval Dockyard, 1789



Much has been written about Port Royal since it was first
founded.There are detailed descriptions of the erection of the
original fort there in 1656, the great earthquake of 1692 and
various historic events that took place subsequently. In addition,
buildings there such as Fort Charles, the other forts, St Peter's
Church, the Royal Naval Hospital and Nelson's Quarterdeck
have all been the subject of individual studies,
by Richard Issa

J A JRNAL 243 1
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The daring expeditions of the past and contemporary exca-
vations have also been fully described and the findings
documented in detail. For some reason, the Naval Dockyard,
has been neglected in the written records although it played
an important part in the history of Port Royal from 1735, or
even earlier, until 1905 when it was closed. Perhaps the best
history of the Dockyard is the concise account in the report on
the excavations at Port Royal, 1969-1970, published by the
Jamaica National Trust Commission.
The Dockyard is of great historical importance, not only as
an essential part of eighteenth century naval history but also
as the site of much of the seventeenth century town. The area
to the windward of Old Port Royal was the site of the original
church, the original King's House, and probably the
residences of men such as Sir Thomas Lynch, Sir Thomas
Modyford, Samuel Barry and Sir Henry Morgan himself.
After the catastrophe of the earthquake, the development of
the Dockyard was a piecemeal affair. In the earlier part of the
eighteenth century, it was much smaller than in later years
and was enclosed by the line of the old town hall which
continued from the new church, diagonally across the
peninsula, to the ruins of the pre-earthquake church. The site
included three great careening sheds.
The strategic importance of the Dockyard increased through-
out the century as the successive wars between the European
powers were increasingly fought out at sea. The same can be
said of other British bases in the West Indies. They guaran-
teed superior mobility to the British Navy, especially over the
French who were obliged to sail back to France for refitting
and repairs. At one time or other, from the eighteenth century
to the age of steam, the Port Royal Naval Dockyard catered
for the repair of most of the famous ships of the British Navy.

Today, Morgan's Harbour Beach Club is located on the site
of the old Naval Dockyard. Some of the original buildings
remain. For example, the present changing rooms were the
pitch houses in which pitch for caulking vessels was prepared.
Recently, I came across a letter written from Port Royal on
April 11, 1789, by Nathaniel Watts to Sir Charles Middleton in
London, the then Comptroller of the Royal Navy.
The letter, reproduced below, gives an account of the
progress of the expansion work at the Port Royal Dockyard.
Included with it is a plan of the yard showing it 'as it now is,
and also as it is to be when complete'. The letter and plan are
of particular interest since there is so little in print about the
Naval Dockyard. Detailed information about the work and
costs is given and Nathaniel Watts, whose progress with the
work has obviously been unfavourably compared with that in
Antigua, gives good reason for the apparent delay. The 'Late
War' he refers to was with the French who had alllied them-
selves with the Americans in the War of Independence. It was
in 1782 that Admiral Rodney beat the French navy decisively
at the Battle of the Saints, so saving Jamaica from invasion.
Clearly, further conflict is anticipated.
In 1789 Brigadier General Alured Clarke was Lieutenant
Governor of Jamaica. Commodore Alan (afterwards Lord)
Gardner was Naval Commander in Chief at Jamaica.
Nathaniel Watts is described in the Jamaica Almanack of the
time as the Naval Surveyor at the Naval Yard at Port Royal.
Sir Charles Middleton was Comptroller of th Navy from 1778
to 1790; later, at the age of eighty, he devoted his experience
and energy to the successful organization and execution of
the campaign which culminated in the victory over the French
at Trafalgar, some sixteen years after this letter was written.

Port Royal Jamaica 11th April 1789.

Herewith agreeable to your desire, is inclosed a
Sketch of this Yard as it now is, and also, as it is to be
when complete. The different state of things are
represented by tints of various Colours, and further
explained by words.
The want of Timber materials from the unexpected
delay of their delivery to carry on the Works proposed in
the last, as likewise in the Estimates for this year, viz,
To complete if possible all the Embankments. To Pile and
prepare the Ground for the Mast Storehouses &c. And
to Prepare for and commence the Repair of the Two
Careening Wharfs, has prevented anything more being
done towards these Works, than preparing such small
quantities as were fitting and could at times be
reasonably procured.
Two small cargoes, one of Pitch Pine and the other of
Hardwood Timbers, are delivered by the Contractors
within these few days. In the Contract for Pitch Pine, is
included all the Timber of that sort, required for the
Mast Storehouses and for the Embankments.

The Repair of the Eastermost Careening Wharf will,
so soon as some of the larger Timbers are delivered, be
commenced and proceeded on until finished, and the
Westermost taken in hand immediately after.

In consequence of these disappointments, and by the
opinion and approbation of the Commander in Chief, of
which information was sent to the Navy Board by
Letter from the Officers of the Yard, dated 14th
February last. The Storehouses marked K.l.m, on the
Site of the Old Sheds Q.R.S. was adopted in lieu of such
other proposed Works as could not be proceeded on. The
Foundations are all laid and the Brickwork rising very
fast, the Door and Window frames of the lower Story
being already made and the upper Floor Timbers are
preparing. This Building will be finished in the present
Year, provided the Large Paving Stones for the Ground
floors, and the Slate for the Roof arrive in time; or, if
that covering should not be adopted, An Order to
Shingle it.

The Estimate for the present Year 1789, as now It may be proper to observe, the very great uncertainty
proposed stands thus, that must ever attend an Estimate of times when Works
are to be carried on by the Artificers of the Yard, because,
. Sterling the repairs required to the Ships, are very uncertain, and
The Storehouses now Erecting are Estimated at 3856.8. 612 accidents unforeseen, often bring them to a Wharf to
heave down or undergo some repairs. On such occasions,
Repairing the Eastermost Careening Wharf, the the whole strength of the Yard is generally employed for
Timber being supposed to be paid for......... 3926. 0. 0. an uncertain length of time.
This Amount the Hardwood Timber, and also
of the Pitch pine expected to be soon delivered It is therefore presumed, now supplies of Timber are
for both Careening Wharfs, and likewise, the expected to be coming in, and as much as possible to
Pitch pine Timbersfor the Mast Store House avoid any interruption to the proceeding of these Works,
as also for the Embankments is computed to be '
as also for the Embankments s computed to be it will require the assistance of Ten to Fifteen House
Sy s Carpenters to be constantly employed on them, and

12247. 8. 6'/2 there will no doubt be times, when employment may be
found for more. And it is very certain, that Bricklayers
There will remain unfinished and to be carried into and Masons cannot continue their work, unless the
Execution on the 31st December, 1789. The following Carpenters keep pace with them. The Shipwrights will
Works. They are arranged in the manner that now find much employment in the part they take in the
appear mist proper to proceed on, viz. Careening Wharfs &c.

For the Year 1790

. Sterling

Repairing the Westermost Careening Wharf.
TheTimber being supposed to be Paid for ...... 3926. 0. 0
Procuring the Hardwood Timber to Erect the Mast
Store House. The Pitch pine Timber. Board and
Shingles being supposed to be already provided.. 4681. 0. 0.
Towards Providing Materials for the Low, and
also for Large Store houses .. ............... 4000. 0. 0.

12607. 0. 0.
For the Year 1791

To be wholly employed in Building the remaining
Storehouses, The Low ones first, that their
Erection may not embarrass the business going
on in the Large ones, as would be the case,
were these first Built. .and occupied, because
the Low ones are situated behind them .......

12500. 0. 0.

For the Year 1792.
For Completing the Store houses, For the
Embankments For Extending the Walls of the
Yard further into the Harbour. For Building
the Coopers Shed, the Watchmens House, the
Cookroom, and for Repairing the Working
Masthouse &c .................. . . 11936. 0. 0.

The obstructions and difficulties hitherto occasioned
by the want of Timber materials, being it is to be hoped
soon removed, The Works may be proceeded on in the
regular order above arranged, which with due deference
is there submitted.

It gives pleasure to be informed, that the Works at
Antigua are so forward. One reason is, if I remember
right, there was on spot a considerable quantity of
Timber, that had been brought from the Southern Islands
at the end of the Late War. It was intended to be used in
such parts of the Works where it could be properly
employed. This enabled the Officers there, to commence
when Orders were received to proceed, and that was
prior to the Orders sent here by a considerable time.
When it is considered that the Amount of the Estimate
for that place, does not reach to two fifths of that for this
Place, it will of course occur, that the extent of the
Works will consequently require a proportional part of

I hope and endeavour to give every satisfaction in my
poser, as success will make me happy.


(For the Year ... 1789
(For.. D ..... 1790
Recapitulation (For .. DO ..... 1791
(For.. DO ...... 1792

12247. 8. 61/2
12607. 0. 0.
12500. 0. 0.
11936. 0. 0.
49290. 8. 61/2

Your most obedient and
most humble servant

Nathaniel Watts

Sir Charles Middleton Bart.






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Out ofAlbion
And Lebanon,
Out of Erin
And Aberdeen,
Out of Guinea
And Ashanti,
Out of Bombay
And Old Cathay.
Out of traders' din
And slavers' sin,
Came the man
Whose progeny,
Motley and sun-tanned,
People this land,
This land we love
Far, far above
Our power to say
In splendid way.

Out of many
Comes a beauty,
At times, unseen
Through cloudy screen,
But shining still
With valiant will
In the struggle
Of a people
To be in aim
And single name
One realm at peace
And glad release
From blinding hate
And sordid state,
One, in harmony,
Hope, and destiny.
Out of Many, One Nation
V.H.Percy 1






by John Rashford

The national motto of Jamaica is Out of
Many, One People. It is a recognition of
the diverse geographical and cultural
origins of Jamaicans. This recognition,
however, is not generally extended to
include the great variety of useful plants
upon which the people of Jamaica now
depend. Yet, like the people, most of the
important species commonly associated
with the human environment also have
diverse geographical and cultural origins

and are now established as 'one' in the
form of Jamaica's settlement vegetation.
The different plant communities of
vines, herbs, shrubs, and trees that make
up much of Jamaica's vegetation today
are the result of human settlement and
the activities associated with it. These
plant communities are the ones with
which people are in regular contact, and
upon which they depend for their
domestic, economic, recreational and

religious life. In addition to Native
American influence, Jamaica's settle-
ment vegetation is the outcome of the
island's position in the post-Columbian
world, the development of which has
been based, in part, on the worldwide
dispersal of useful plants. This paper
focuses on the Arawak, Spanish, and
African contributions to Jamaica's
settlement vegetation up to 1655 when
the British captured the island.2


Human selective pressures
Human pressures that produce
settlement vegetation are exerted in two
fundamental ways. The first is our
impact on wild plants: both those
spread in natural areas by nonhuman
biotic and abiotic dispersal,3 and those
spread in human areas by nonhuman
biotic and abiotic dispersal, and human
incidental dispersal.4 The most common
human responses to wild plants are to
destroy them to make space, remove
interference, and create useful products;
to tolerate them when they do not
interfere; and to preserve, protect and
plant them when they are valued. Wild
plants can be divided into weeds and
what might be called naturals. Weeds
are common because they derive a
positive advantage from the settlement
environment and thus cause interfer-
ence with human activities. It is as a
result of this interference that they are
regarded as weeds and an effort is made
to destroy them.5 Naturals are common
and do not interfere, so they are
generally tolerated.
The second human selective pressure
influencing the development of settle-
ment vegetation is the cultivation of
domesticated and wild plants.6
Domesticated plants, whether grown
from seeds or vegetatively, are plants
that have been genetically modified to
the point of dependence on human
activity for successful reproduction and
The Arawak transformed Jamaica's
natural forests into settlement vege-
tation by their responses to wild plants
and their cultivation of largely
introduced domesticated plants. The
Spanish and Africans continued this
process. Today, much of Jamaica's
natural vegetation has been transformed
into settlement vegetation (Swabey

Introducing roots and fruits to
While most of the world's people
depend on grasses for their basic
nutrition, Jamaicans, in common with
other groups in humid equatorial and
tropical marine environments, depend
upon a complex of herbaceous root
crops and tree crops. This complex is
identified in the island's Census of
Agriculture (1973) as a 'food forest',
and elsewhere as a 'tangle of productive

vegetation' (Money 1972:10), 'artificial
woodlands (Adams 1971:5-7), an
'arboretum' (Fitzgerald 1978:14), and a
'tropical jungle garden' (DN 1976:28).
The plants that make up this complex
are from around the world. They are
now part of the ordered, distinctly
Jamaican way in which different
species are distributed throughout the
island's settlement environment.
This process of diffusion began with
the Arawak who were dependent on a
complex of roots and fruits which many
scholars believe originated between
3,000 and 7,000 years ago in South
America's tropical lowlands east of the
Andes. The Arawak brought this
complex with them to Jamaica as they
migrated north through the Caribbean
archipelago (Grigg 1977).

There were an estimated 60,000 to
100,000 Arawak in Jamaica when
Columbus landed in the New World in
1492. They lived by fishing, farming,
collecting, and hunting, and were
among the earliest occupants of Jamaica
to change the natural vegetation of the
island. They did so when they altered or
destroyed small patches of forests to
create space and to provide products
necessary for their villages, gardens,
and fields.
Chief among the important domes-
ticated herbaceous plants in the fields of
the Arawak were the starchy root crops,
which included cassava (Manihot
esculenta), their staple: sweet potato
(Ipomoea batatas), a valuable plant in
the humid tropics; yampi (Dioscorea
trifida), the only important New World
yam; arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea)
a perennial aroid7 with swollen rhiz-
omes; Spanish arrowroot (Canna
edulis), another rhizomatous aroid; and
coco (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), also
an aroid, but with a thickened under-
ground stem called a corm. Corn (Zea
mays), another of their staple crops, was
probably also planted in their fields.
Turning from Arawak fields to their
home gardens,8 we find that the
important cultivated crops were peanut
(Arachis hypogaea), pineapple (Ananas
comosus), squashes (Cucurbita spp.),
peppers (Capsicum spp.), beans
(Phaseolus spp.) and possibly the
callaloo (Amaranthus spp.) and bottle
gourd (Largenaria siceraria). Callaloo,
one of Jamaica's most loved vegetables,

is widely used in the Americas. Pickers-
gill and Heiser (1977:808) note that the
'hypothesis that the different cultivated
species of Amaranthus were domesti-
cated independently, in different areas
and from different wild species, still
best fits the known facts'. The bottle
gourd is an African plant (Pickersgill
and Heiser 1977:815-816) that has long
been important to people in many parts
of the world. Evidence of its use in the
Americas is present in the earliest levels
of many archaeological sites, from
Mexico to highland and coastal Peru,
dating back from 6,000 to 10,000 years
ago. This plant could have been present
in the gardens of the Arawak.
Especially important to the Arawak
was tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), a plant
deeply associated with recreation,
medicine and religion. Oviedo wrote
'This plant is very highly prized by the
Indians, and they grow it in their
gardens and farms ... they believe that
the use of the plant and its smoke is not
only a healthy thing for them, but a
very holy thing' (cited in Williams
1963:20). Other plants that might have
been in their gardens were wild cucum-
ber (Cucumis anguria), sweet cup
(Passiflora maliformis), prickly pear
(Opuntia dillenii) and dildo pear
(Stenocereus hystrix).
Except sweet cup, prickly pear, dildo
pear, bird pepper (Capsicum frutes-
cens), and possibly the callaloo and
bottle gourd, the crops mentioned above
are herbaceous plants that require
systematic cultivation. As such, they
represent one important component of
the Arawak's settlement vegetation.
The other important component was
wild plants, especially trees, which are
often described as 'half-wild' or 'semi-
cultivated', or plants that 'volunteer' or
are 'spontaneous'. These wild plants
would have appeared in Arawak resi-
dential areas, especially in association
with home gardens, toilet areas, and
dump heaps; they would have appeared
in their fields, though fields were
primarily devoted to root crops; and
they would have appeared along paths,
and in recreational and religious places.
Wild plants, as previously noted, are
incidentally dispersed in the settlement
environment by humans and other
animals, and by wind, water, and other
abiotic means. Human incidental
dispersal results from three basic
processes: harvesting, adhesion, and
mediation. In incidental dispersal by
harvesting, seeds are spread by


rejection (they are spat out); by loss
(where collected fruits might be lost
while being taken from one place to
another); by discard (where the fruits
have been collected and processed and
the seeds thrown away); and by
defecation (where the seeds are ingested
with the rest of the fruit). In incidental
dispersal by adhesion, plants or seeds
become attached to people, their
equipment, or their animals and are thus
spread in the human environment. And
in incidental dispersal by mediation,
human settlement as a built environ-
ment, together with the activities
associated with it, affects animals and
other natural agents that in turn have an
impact on the dispersal of plants.
The fruit trees the Arawak inci-
dentally dispersed by harvesting in
association with rejection possibly
included sweetsop (Annona squamosa),
soursop (Annona sapota), custard apple
(Annona reticulata) star apple
(Chrysophyllum cainito), seagrape
(Coccoloba uvifera), guinep (Meli-
coccus bijugatus), stinking toe
(Hymenaea courbaril) and macca fat
(Acrocomia spinosa). The seeds of the
hog plum (Spondias mombin), red coat
plum, and yellow coat plum (Spondias
purpurea) could also have spread by
rejection, though it is uncertain whether
they were initially introduced to
Jamaica by the Arawak (Adams
Seeds that could have been inciden-
tally dispersed by discard in association
with harvesting are those of the papaya
(Carica papaya), cashew (Anacardium
occidentale)9, mamee (Mammea
americana), annatto (Bixa orellana),
and calabash (Crescentia cujete).
The seeds of the guava (Psidium
guajava), like those of the sweet cup
and other Passiflora species, dildo pear,
prickly pear, and wild cucumber are
ingested and could have been primarily
dispersed by harvesting in association
with defecation.
The situation, however, is not as
simple as presented here. The seeds of
some trees such as the sweetsop, nase-
berry, and star apple which the Arawak
would have primarily rejected are
sometimes accidentally swallowed.
This is especially true of the guinep. Its
round, smooth, seeds, about the size of
large marbles, are surrounded by a thin,
slippery, gelatinous pulp (because of
the likelihood of accidentally swallow-
ing the seeds, the guinep is regarded as
dangerous for very small children).

We can appreciate the complexity of
human incidental dispersal when we
consider that the ways in which the
Arawak used fruits would determine the
ways in which their seeds were dis-
persed. Moreover, fruits with multiple
uses have seeds that would have been
dispersed in a variety of ways. While the
guava, for example, is suited to human
dispersal by defecation, it also can be
spread by other kinds of harvest dis-
persal, and by adhesion and mediation.
Today, human mediated dispersal of the
guava is especially evident when we
consider the influence of cattle and other
browsing animals that spread seeds by
defecation. Guava, because of its
success in pastures, is now listed as one
of the twenty-five worst weeds in
Jamaica (JAS 1954:574).
Of course, all the fruit trees
mentioned above that were incidentally
dispersed by the Arawak could also be
spread in their environment by other
animals and by natural forces. Consider
the pimento (Pimenta dioica), which is
the only native species among the
plants of major commercial importance
in Jamaica. The ripe berries are not
highly regarded as a fresh fruit so
incidental dispersal by the Arawak was
probably insignificant. Where the
pimento would have benefited most is
from the open spaces created by the
Arawak. This is the case today. 'The
pimento tree,' writes Rodriquez
(1969:5), 'is reproduced from ripe
berries and in general the processes of
propagation are started by such "natural
agents" as birds, bats, lizards and
insects. . When sown by these
"natural agents", pimento will be found
to grow under other trees, beside fences,
stone walls, stones, clusters of shrubs
and other points convenient to its agents
for depositing the seeds.' Other impor-
tant plants in the Arawak settlement
that were not used for food that would
have been spread by human incidental
dispersal and nonhuman dispersal are
the cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) and
cotton (Gossypium spp.).

The Spanish

Following the Arawak, the next major
event that, in time, would contribute
significantly to the development of
Jamaica's settlement vegetation began
in 1492 when Columbus stumbled
across the Americas in his effort to

demonstrate the possibility of reaching
the wealth of the Indies by sailing west.
At this time, the worldwide distribution
of wild and domesticated plants did not
include any significant exchanges
between the Old World and the New.
This was also true of people and their
domesticated animals, and of the pests
and diseases associated with both.
Columbus set in motion a biological
and cultural exchange between the Old
and New World that in effect doubled
the plant resources of both hemispheres
and contributed greatly to the develop-
ment of our present world system
(Crosby 1969:195).
Columbus discovered Jamaica in
May 1494 on his second voyage to the
New World while he was exploring the
southern coast of Cuba. Since the island
showed little promise of gold or other
sources of wealth, it remained largely
unexplored and unsettled for the next
fifteen years. This situation changed
when the Spanish started their penetra-
tion of the American mainland and
began to develop Jamaica as a supply
New Seville, the first Spanish
settlement in Jamaica, was established
in 1509 on the north coast in what is
now the parish of St Ann. The town
was never completed, however; it was
abandoned after about twenty-five years
while still being built. Whatever the
particular circumstances were that led
to its being abandoned, the drier coastal
plains and river valleys on the island's
south were clearly more suited to the
pastoral life of the Spanish. These
plains are the most extensive area of
flatland in Jamaica, and stretch for
some twenty miles west from the
Liguanea plains of Kingston, through
the St Jago plains of St Catherine to the
Vere plains of Clarendon. Describing
the Liguanea plains not long after the
British capture of the island in 1655,
Bryan Edwards (1972:149) wrote,
This part of the country was also
abundantly stored with homed cattle and
horses, which ran wild in great numbers;
and the first employment of the English
troops was hunting and slaughtering the
cattle, for the sake of the hides and
tallow, which soon became an article of
export. It was supposed by Sedgewicke,
that the soldiers had killed 20,000 in the
course of the first four months after their
arrival; and as to horses, 'they were in
such plenty (says Goodson) that we
accounted them the vermin of the


Sea Grape


20 JAMAicA jOURNAL 24/3

Bamboo and yam poles

Pimento grove

Inside Jamaica's food forest


The Spanish, like the Arawak before
them, had both a negative and a positive
impact on Jamaica's vegetation. On the
negative side, natural forests were
altered or destroyed to create space and
provide fuel, wood, and other resources.
The trampling and predation of do-
mesticated animals also had a major
and long-lasting impact on the island's
natural vegetation and on the settlement
vegetation of the Arawak. On the
positive side, the Spanish planted native
and introduced crops, and they
continued to tolerate, protect and
cultivate any useful trees and shrubs.
This was especially true of the pimento,
which they exported, and the naseberry,
one of their favourites.
Spanish efforts to grow wheat and
barley in the lowland tropics were
unsuccessful, so they adopted cassava
and corn as staples. Other New World
crops adopted included tobacco, the
smoking of which would spread to the
rest of the world; cotton, with which the
Arawak wove the cloth they wore and
the hammocks they slept in; and cocoa,
the source of what was to become a
popular beverage in Spain.
Of the crops characteristic of the
Mediterranean grape, fig, olive, and
the citruses only the citruses became
important in Jamaica. Most of the
familiar species sweet orange, sour
orange, lemon and lime were
introduced by the Spanish. They also
succeeded with the fig (Ficus carica),
though it never became popular or
widespread in Jamaica.
The Spanish were particularly
successful with sugar cane. In time, its
cultivation in every suitable environ-
ment on the island would entail the
forced introduction of many Africans
and the obliteration of Jamaica's
lowland forests. Other important plants
introduced by the Spanish were
European vegetables; plantain (Musa
sapientum var. paradisiaca), which,
with corn and root crops, was an
important staple during slavery; and
banana (Musa sapientum), though not
the Gros Michel variety which was to
later become the basis for the
development of the island's banana
industry. In time, sugar cane, banana,
and the citruses became among the
most important commercial crops in the
economic and social history of Jamaica.
The Spanish also introduced the
pomegranate (Punica granatum), ginger
(Zingiber officinale), and indigo
(Indigofera tinctoria), and they
continued the introduction of tropical

American crops that had not yet
reached Jamaica, including the cocoa,
avocado, and chocho (Sechium edule),10
The coconut, wherever its place of
origin might ultimately prove to be, was
introduced to Jamaica by the Spanish as
we see it mentioned in accounts of the
island published soon after the British
took control (Harris 1901:129).
Of the plants introduced by the
Spanish, indigo became naturalized,
and the sour orange, lime, and avocado
were added to plants that are commonly
incidentally dispersed in Jamaica today.

The forced introduction of Africans
throughout lowland tropical America,
beginning in 1505 and continuing for
some three and a half centuries, led to
the early exchange of crops between the
Americas and Africa. Grigg (1974:36)
writes that 'In this way the greater yam,
Sorghum vulgare, pearl millet, cowpeas
and colocasia reach Brazil and the
Indies. . .' The Spanish introduced
Africans to Jamaica in 1517, eight years
after the founding of New Seville. This
occurred when the Arawak, devastated
by exploitation and disease, were
rapidly declining in numbers. For over
a hundred years before the British
captured the island, especially during
the period in which the southern plains
were settled and developed, the
exploitation of Africans was the basis
of the Spanish occupation of Jamaica.
Africans had the same selective
impact on plants as the Arawak and
because of their numerical majority,
they contributed greatly to the
development of Jamaica's settlement
vegetation. The species they preferred
were the ones that were preserved,
tolerated, protected and cultivated. An
anonymous author writing of the

'characteristic traits' of African
Jamaicans at the end of the eighteenth
century reports that 'Fruits of all kind
they eat... Among their favourite ... is
one with a hard shell called the locust
(stinking toe, Hymenaea courbaril), the
pulp of which is of so disagreeable a
smell that most Europeans would not
touch it' (Higman [1797] 1976:15).
Early introductions to Jamaica
include melon (Citrullus lanatus), cow
peas (Vigna unguiculata), and several
kinds of yam (Dioscorea spp.), the
traditional staff of life for many West
Africans and African Jamaicans.
Published accounts written not long

after the British capture of the island
suggest that other plants were probably
also introduced to Jamaica in associ-
ation with Africans.'" These include the
gungu (Cajanus cajan), a leguminous
shrub producing one of the most-loved
peas in Jamaica, providing an indis-
pensable ingredient for Sunday dinners
and for meals during the Christmas
holidays (the time it is in season); sorrel
(hibiscus sabdariffa), an important
beverage plant in Jamaica; tamarind
(Tamarindus indica), a very common
tree that serves as a seasonal marker
and is widely used for food, beverage
and medicine; bissy (Cola spp.), as the
kola tree is called in Jamaica; castor oil
(Ricinus communis), a medicinal plant
now spread throughout the tropics; John
Crow bead (Arbus precatorius), an old
world plant now pantropically
dispersed, useful to Africans in
religious practices, and as a source of
poison, medicines, and ornaments; and
okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), a basic
ingredient in Jamaica's traditional
pepperpot soup. The same anonymous
author mentioned above reports,
The soup known by the name of
Pepper-pot, is a favourite dish; in the
composition of which they use calilue of
several sort, ochros, plantanes, yams,
cocos, salted meat and fish, and Kayan
pepper:- the young sprouts of the large
cotton tree, and the tender leaves of
prickly-pear are sometimes used as

Of plants introduced in association
with Africans, the tamarind, castor oil,
and John Crow bead were added to the
plants that are commonly incidentally
dispersed in Jamaica today.
When the Spanish fled Jamaica in
1655, there were many important plants
that had not yet reached the island.
These include, for example, the ackee
(Blighia sapida), from West Africa, the
most important dooryard tree honoured
by being the source of the national fruit;
mango (Mangifera indica), a tree whose
abundant fruiting allows Jamaicans to
'wash pots and turn them down' when
it is in season; and bamboo (Bambusa
vulgaris), one of the most useful
Jamaican plants which, although
sometimes cultivated, is often a giant
naturalized weed restricted primarily to
river courses, ponds, water holes, road-
ways, inaccessible hillsides, pastures,
and areas in ruinate, i.e. land in which
agriculture has been abandoned (Lewis
1965, Eyre 1966, Symes 1971).
At the beginning of the twentieth

22 jIAMc iouURNAL 24/3

century, William Harris, who was sent
from Kew Gardens to Jamaica to be
Superintendent of the island's Public
Gardens, was able to conclude,
Jamaica may be described as the garden
and or orchard of the West Indies. There
is probably no tropical colony which has
benefitted to such a large extent by the
introduction of the fruit, economic and


1. This poem by V.H. Percy appeared in
his book of poems titled Teacher's Punch
which was probably published in the 1960s.
No publisher or date of publication is given.
2. The plants discussed in this paper are
those that now grow in Jamaica. This does
not mean, however, that all plants cultivated
today are direct descendants of the earliest
3. Nonhuman biotic dispersal is dispersal
by birds, bats, reptiles, and the like, and
nonhuman abiotic dispersal is dispersal by
wind, water, gravity etc.
4. Human incidental dispersal refers to the
unintentional spread of plants from rejecting
seeds, defecation, and the like.
5. Botanists state that the identification of
a weed is an agricultural and not a botanical
concept. They also point out the fact that the
same plants which are identified as weeds are
also frequently appreciated as wild flowers
and are used for food, animal feed, medicine,
and raw material for various purposes.
6. The importance of cultivated wild
plants should not be overlooked. Clarissa
Kimber, who has been studying 'dooryard
gardens' in the Caribbean (1966, 1978, 1988)
reports in a study of Puerto Rico (1973) that
an average of 45% of the useful species were
of 'spontaneous origin'.
7. Aroids are in the family Araceae which
includes many familiar house plants such as
the genera Dieffenbachia, Philodendron,
Spathiphyllum and Syngonium.
8. Rroot crops apart, the distinction bet-
ween field and home garden was probably not
as rigid as this paper might suggest. Many
garden plants could also have been field crops.
9. It is uncertain if avocado and cashew
were grown by the Arawak. Of the cashew,
De Candolle ([1886] 1967:199) writes: 'The
species is certainly wild in the forest of
tropical America, and indeed occupies a wide
area in that region.... Dr Ernst believes it is
indigenous only in the basin of the Amazon
River . His opinion is founded upon the
absence of all mention of the plant in Spanish
authors of the time of the Conquest a
negative proof, which establishes a mere
10. There are those who believe that the
cocoa, chocho and avocado could have been
introduced to Jamaica by the Arawak.
11. There is much room for discussion in
identifying the origin and dispersal of crops

ornamental trees and plants of other
lands as this island (1910:181).

Jamaica has benefited greatly from
its diverse natural flora, from the rich
exotic flora introduced by the Arawak,
Spanish and Africans, and from later
introductions, especially in association
with the island's botanic gardens
(Powell 1972, 1973; Eyre 1966).

and wild plants. Earlier I suggested that lime
was introduced by the Spanish. McClure
(1982) thinks differently: 'The first Citrus
seeds were taken to America by Columbus ..
but it is not clear when C. aurantifolia
originally reached the Caribbean. Soon after
the first West African[s] . had been
introduced, Sloane (1696) and Oviedo (1526)
refer to West Indian cultivation of the lime.
Various authors speculate that the lime either
preceded Columbus or was introduced by
Spaniards shortly after 1492, but there is no
convincing evidence to support these
hypotheses .. It seems more likely that
social ingression of the west African heritage
may have been responsible for this introduc-
tion.' This argument could be extended to
several other plants.

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Bush. Sangster's Ltd, Kingston, 1921.
Flowering Plants of Jamaica. UWI,
Mona, Jamaica. 1972.
Census of Agriculture, 1968-1969.
Government Department of Statistics,
Kingston, Jamaica. 1973.
CROSBY, Alfred. 'Metamorphosis of the
Americas' in Seeds of Change. H Viola
and C Margolis eds. Smithsonian
Institution Press, Washington. 1991.
DE CANDOLLE, Alphonse. Origin of Cultivated
Plants. Hafner, New York. 1967.
EDWARDS, Bryan The History . .of the
British Colonies in the West Indies. Arno
Press, New York. 1972. [1793]
EYRE, Alan. The Botanic Gardens ofJamaica.
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FAWCETT, William. The Public Gardens and
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FITZGERALD, Frances. 'The New York
Voyager: Jamaica On Its own Terms'.
Ms. 1978.
GRIGG, D.B. The Agricultural System of the
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HARRIS, William. Historical Notes on
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HIGMAN, Barry (ed.). Characteristic Traits of the
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Caldwell Press, Mona. 1976. [1797]

This has given rise to a settlement
vegetation that is now distinctly

I would like to thank Brad Huber, Robert
Tournier, Caroline Hunt, Joko Sengova, and
Barbara Borg for helpful comments on earlier
drafts of this paper.

Guide. Jamaica Agricultural. University
Press, Glasgow, Scotland. 1954.
KIMBER, Clarissa. 'Dooryard Gardens of Marti-
nique'. Yearbook of Association of Pacific
Coast Geographers 28:97-118. 1966.
.'Spatial Patterning in Dooryard Gardens:
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GeographicalReview 63:6-26. 1973.
.'A Folk Context for Plant Domesti-
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OVIEDO, G. F. de. The Natural History of the
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H.M.S. Providence, 1791-1793. Institute
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RODRIQUEZ, D.W. Pimento: A Short
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Citrus. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical
Club 102:369-375. 1975.
SLOANE, Sir Hans. Catalogus Plantarum...
Printed by D. Brown, London.
SWABEY, C. 'Plant Introductions', in Glimpses
of Jamaican Natural History Vol I.
Institute of Jamaica, Kingston. 1949.
SYMES, Guy A. 'The Jamaican Forest' in
Jamaica Journal.Vol. 5 No. 4 Institute of
Jamaica, Kingston. 1971.
WILLIAMS, Eric. Documents of West Indian
History: 1492-1655. PNM Publishing Co.,
Ltd, Port of Spain, Trinidad. 1963.



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Charles Bernard Lewis, Jr was born
in Worcester, Massachussetts in
April of 1913. Bernard, as he was
generally known, attended public
schools in Westchester, Pennsylvania
and Providence, Rhode Island. In 1931,
he entered Brown University, also in
Providence, and graduated in 1935 with
a BA degree in Biology. During these
years he also seems to have acquired a
considerable knowledge of geology. In
addition, he was something of an
athlete and took part in track meets, his
best event being the broad jump. He
was considered to be of Olympic
calibre but was unable to take part in
the trials for the United States Olympic
team that went to Berlin in 1936. It was
during his university years that Bernard
met and became a lifelong friend of
Jesse Owens, the American sensation of
those memorable games. After Brown
University, Bernard went on to become
a graduate student and instructor at
John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
There he was awarded a Rhodes
Scholarship to Oxford where he studied
from 1936 to 1939.
In 1938, he was a member of an
Oxford University Biological Expedi-

Director of the

Institute of



Thomas H Farr and
Elaine Fisher

tion to the Cayman Islands. The team
did much collecting and several pub-
lications were produced as the result of
their work. Bernard's contribution (with
Chapman Grant) was The Herpetology
of the Cayman Islands, published in
1940 by the Institute of Jamaica. An
even more important event for him that
year was his marriage in October to
Lucille Bodden whom he had met in
Grand Cayman.
While visiting Jamaica in 1938,
Bernard contacted the Board of Gover-
nors of the Institute of Jamaica and
presented proposals for the setting up of

a Natural History Museum. He must
have been delighted when the Board not
only accepted his proposals but also
invited him to accept the post of
Curator of the Museum. His salary was
to be 500 per annum, supplemented by
some perquisites.
September 1, 1939, the day Adolph
Hitler sent his troops into Poland, was
the day Bernard took up his new post.
Two days later, England and France
declared war on Germany; the Second
World War had officially begun.
The Institute of Jamaica already had
the nucleus of a collection of animals
and plants. Bernard immediately set to
work to improve it, a task in which he
was greatly aided by local school-
teachers. However, as the war con-
tinued, collecting equipment, petrol,
tyres and automobile parts became
scarce or entirely lacking so that field
trips had to be curtailed. In the mean-
time, in spite of material and manpower
shortages, work on the construction of
the Natural History Building had begun.
It was actually completed in 1945,
before the war ended in August.
With the coming of peace, field trips
were again possible. Bernard spent


many hours in the field but his
administrative duties increased,
especially after he was appointed
Director of the Institute in 1950. This
meant that he spent most of his time
'tied to his desk' or in committee
Bernard Lewis had a wide interest in
zoology and he was also very
knowledgeable about botany and
geology. He had been a good choice to
revive the natural history work of the
Institute and his wider interests also
made him a good choice for his new
post as Director. He entered with
enthusiasm into historical and archeo-
logical projects. He had a natural
interest in painting and he put a great
deal of effort into preparing the
building on North Street which was to
house the Jamaica School of Art. He
even became adept at restoring prints
The Institute of Jamaic expanded
considerably during Bernard Lewis's
years as Director. The Arawak Museum
at White Marl, the Military Museum at
Up Park Camp, the Folk Museum in
Spanish Town, the former African
Museum at Devon House, and the
National Library on East Street,
successor to the West India Reference
Library, were all developed as new

Divisions of the Institute. Nor did he
neglect the Institute's Junior Centres on
East Street and at Half-Way-Tree. He
was very much involved in the original
planning for the development of a
museum at Port Royal and was one of
the key members of the committee that
planned the Zoo at Hope. In connection
with the Zoo, he made a trip to Belize
and Costa Rica to obtain Central
American animals which would add
interest to the Zoo's collection.
Bernard Lewis was a prolific writer.
He contributed articles to local
newspapers, JAMAICA JOURNAL and
local Science and Historical Society
publications. For a while he was editor
of the Natural History Notes of the
Jamaican Natural History Society of
which he was a member. He was also a
member of the Geological Society, the
Historical Society, the Gosse Bird Club
and the Library Association. He served
on the government Historical Monu-
ments Committee, Wildlife Protection
Committee, Scientific Research Coun-
cil, Jamaica National Trust and the
Jamaica National Commission for
Even when he was Director of the
Institute, Bernard never hesitated when
heavy furniture, boxes and books
needed to be moved. His strength and

energy aroused comment, even when he
was middle-aged. In fact, his energy
and keenness could be disconcerting to
some of his companions when after a
full day of collecting natural history
specimens they found themselves still
collecting at a light trap at one o' clock
in the morning in an area such as
Portland Ridge.
It came as a great surprise to Bernard
to receive an OBE in 1957, an honour
of which he was justifiably proud and
for which he received many congratu-
lations. Another well-deserved honour
came in 1959 when the Institute of
Jamaica awarded him a Silver Mus-
grave Medal in recognition of his
encouragement of Arts and Science in
He went on retirement leave on
August 1, 1973 after thirty-four years of
service to the Institute. In October,
1976, he suffered a severe stroke from
which he never fully recovered. He and
his wife Lucille moved to Tampa,
Florida, where he died as a result of a
fall in September 1992.
Throughout his life, Bernard Lewis
set an outstanding example of a man
totally dedicated to his work and to the
mandate of the Institute of Jamaica:
For the encouragement of Art, Science
and Literature.



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Margaret Chen. Cross-section of Substrata. Mixed media on canvas on plywood. 300 x 286 cm

Insiders and Outsiders
The Annual National Exhibition 1991
and 'Homage to John Dunkley'
by Peter Cresswell

T ve called this article 'Insiders and
SOutsiders' because I am writing as an
outsider; a visitor to Jamaica with scant
knowledge of its artists, its traditions, and its
expectations. On the other hand, I could be
considered an insider of another sort; an artist
schooled in the European tradition, a lifelong art
educator and theorist, a paid-up member of the
transatlantic mainstream.
Commentary by insiders on outsiders and by outsiders on
insiders seems to me to be particularly valuable. It avoids the
pitfalls of endless convolution and can, at its best, throw
fresh light on topics which may otherwise be near to
exhaustion. Like translation, it is only successful when
essential threads are teased out and the overall theme is
The little that I do know of Jamaican art has led me to an
awareness of another insider/outsider debate within the
culture itself. This has given particular piquancy to the
'Homage to John Dunkley' section where a group of invited
artists has been asked to make a work in homage to John
Dunkley. These artists are all working in full knowledge of
the debate and have had to address it to a greater or lesser
degree in the work shown.
If I am an insider European, or transatlantic, tradition
and all of that then John Dunkley was clearly an outsider.
He was, for all practical purposes, self-taught, or perhaps one
should say, self-taught in professional isolation. It could be
argued that all twentieth-century artists have been taught to
be self-taught; one must remember that Van Gogh and
Cezanne would both have been seen as outsiders in their day.
Dunkley's vision was similarly unfamiliar to contemporary
professional insiders. It lacked the 'hooks' by which the
trained artist is recognized. These are the bits and pieces
which would have snapped him into history and would have
revealed the nature of his understanding of the catalogued art
of the past. In many ways, it is the complexity of these hooks
which has made the European avant-garde so baffling for so
So, from my European perspective, Dunkley is an
outsider, but from a Jamaican perspective he is most
emphatically an insider. He is one of the fathers of a new
tradition, one which owes little or nothing to the documented
weight of the European post-Renaissance thought.
This is a new sapling which has grown from seed, seed
which has been carried by the wind, an uncultivated variety.
It has grown in the ground beyond the garden and now has a
sturdy trunk. It is now starting to spread its branches and to
bear fresh fruit. It is also beginning to catch the eye of the
gardener. Now that 'Moder' has become 'Modernist' and
has been packaged and dispatched, caught like a log which
has snagged on the bank of a river while the tide of history
roars on, Post-Modernism is dissipating its force producing
eddies and back currents. It has de-concentrated and de-
centralized the energies and concerns of artists so that a

much wider search must now be made for what is vital and
what is significant.
So what does all this mean for the 1992 Annual National
Exhibition and its consort, the 'Homage to John Dunkley'?
Some two hundred and eleven exhibits were on show in
these two exhibitions, some by artists who had been invited
to exhibit and some by artists whose work had been selected
by a jury from the greater number submitted for possible
inclusion. The spacious galleries were full but not
overcrowded and it is to the jurors' credit that they had
obviously erred on the side of inclusion rather than
exclusion. The organizers had thrown out a pretty wide net.
To be eligible, the work had to have been made by a
Jamaican or to have been made in Jamaica.
Although the catalogue listed the inclusion of a wide
range of forms of visual art, one could be forgiven for
gaining the impression that this was largely an exhibition of
paintings. I found it disappointing that there was so little
sculpture and that what there was, was so modest in ambition
and scale. However, it is true that much of the work defies
categorization by medium, which is anyway becoming a
rather fruitless task these days. 'Assemblage' is the rather
pompous term used to describe the bit of this and bit of this
The exhibitions gave an overall impression of youthful
vigour, demonstrated by young and old alike, and, where the
energy and commitment had evolved into a secure and consid-
ered form, considerable quality. There is a noticeable absence
of the worst excesses of self-indulgence, something which is
all too common in my part of the world. Amen to that.
If value judgements have to be made, and value
judgements do have to be made, not just by pundits, but by
every one of us, then I have to say that these exhibitions were
very uneven in quality. I think that this stems more from the
varying degrees of ambition evident rather than from a lack
of basic skills. The artist who has attempted to achieve
significance has the potential to be interesting, even in
failure, but in this show, too many for my taste, set out to
achieve what they already knew that they could achieve and
seemed to be much too aware of the market place to have
given their all to an exhibition of this kind. No names, no
pack drill as the saying goes.
There were obvious insiders/ outsiders (take your pick or
viewpoint) in this exhibition but they only revealed them-
selves at the extremities of a spectrum, where most of the
interesting younger practitioners occupied a middle ground.
Everald Brown, Wilfred Francis, Ras Dizzy, Woody Joseph
and Alan Zion all exhibit typical insider/outsider credentials,
at one extreme. All are self-taught and seem free of the art
historical hooks which I referred to earlier. David Boxer,
Hope Brooks and Colin Garland are good examples of insider/
outsiders at the opposite extreme, precisely because they do
exhibit the hooks. So what of the rest? Are they simply
somewhere between the two extremes? Does it matter?
How do young artists like Petrona Morrison and Robert
Cookhorn 'African' develop? They are both formally trained
so they have been cursed (or blessed) with hooks. They are


both casting around for form and material which has flesh
and blood. They are both steeped in the culture of their
birthright. Whether Everald Brown was trained and whether
his work is any more intuitive than that of a trained intuitive
practitioner, seems to me to be supremely irrelevant.
(Intuition is best described as those processes of thought
which cannot be described). From my viewpoint I see him as
an artist of great stature and maturity who, like Dunkley, is a
thinker and a visionary. One learns from the thinker and is
enriched by the vision. I would also contend that Brown like
some of the other insider/outsiders who have not been trained
in a formal sense, is not self-taught. Those working in this
tradition have too much in common to have not learnt by
looking and talking. Artists are thieves and good training is
good training in good thieving. As an artist, one always has
to give one's vision to the thieves as well as to the customers.
John Dunkley was particularly generous in this respect.
Consider carefully Brown's painting in the Dunkley
section, entitled Psalm 5. This seems to me to be a work of
metaphysics. He represents his own vision as a leaf sprouting
from a stem which separates the root from the ground. Those
better informed than I can elaborate the metaphor, but none
will convince me that this was simply a happy accident.
Brown has learnt from and is teaching other insider/outsiders
such as Woody Joseph with his carved, asthmatic figures and
the previously unknown Kingsley Thomas (he should take a
bow). On the other hand, artists like Wilfred Francis or
Charlie Bird, while exhibiting charming work show no sign
of having learnt from anyone. Paintings like theirs can and
do crop up in any society, at any time.
Jean Dubuffet espoused 'l'art brut' in France in the
thirties, and others have researched and collected 'outsider
art' in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. The products are
characterized by a lack of historical and cultural awareness.
They exemplify the passion for innocence which possesses
us all from time to time. Innocence, however, is not much in
evidence in Jamaican art. Brown and the others exhibit work
which is knowing. What they know may still be somewhat
obscure (it is to this writer) but it is clearly part of another
tradition, one with a distinct and individual root.
However, ignorance of the rest of the world's artistic
production cannot be the fertilizer for the next generation.
They need to be sufficiently confident of the root not to have
to keep digging it up to check that it is still there.
Some of this generation are already showing that they are
in full flower. Margaret Chen and Petrona Morrison both
used the opportunity to show large pieces. As the National is
the only gallery in Jamaica where such an opportunity can be
found, it was seized enthusiastically. The works require a
reading which assembles the image in the mind there is
more than meets the eye. One is provided with a rich land-
scape of sensation and data but in each case the spectator is
required to do some essential work. These pieces are environ-
mental. You enter their presence. Looking is just the start.
In her own way, each is attempting to metamorphosis
matter. In Petrona's case, the matter is still recognizable in its
found form: i.e. rusted steel. In Margaret's piece, Cross

Section of Substrata, the original matter is largely form-free
in the same way that paint is form-free while still in the tube
(if you discount the tube, that is). So to create form which
undergoes a second metamorphosis that is beyond the
simple matter-to-form stage which characterizes all painting
- while at the same time referring us back to the idea of
found form seems to me to be particularly engaging. The
impression is of a consuming non-specific material which,
like desert sand, buries and reveals, and in doing so invites
speculation. Is the vortex opening or closing? Is the hint of
human form being consumed or revealed? Are the two
sections episodes or elements of a single presence glinting
through the debris of the sea's edge? I found the piece awe-
inspiring and amusing. I was very impressed.
Petrona Morrison has constructed an icon. It reveals an
energy created by the search for identity. Each scrap of metal
has the potential to reveal part of this large identity and by
playing with these scraps, she begins the drawing in space
which has resulted in Messages Before I Fly. Knowing that
the identity is there while at the same time not knowing what
it is, or what it will look like, is a familiar puzzle for an artist
who uses intuition like a well-worn tool. This is a confident
and powerful piece of work. Other works which similarly
expressed the idea of an interior force or presence which
cannot be revealed by a simple representation of the world as
we see it, were those of Cheryl Phillips, Londale Campbell
and Robert Cookhome 'African'. In each case, we were
given a set of reference points which made an offer which
could not be refused without totally rejecting the work. One
was required to reorganize one's thoughts and responses to
deal with an unfamiliar situation, for both insiders and
outsiders, that is.
These rapidly maturing young Jamaicans are in the
vanguard of a new generation of artists. They are steeped in
the traditions of the Caribbean and are confident of their
roots. They are reaching out like branches to intermingle
with those thrown out from other trees with other roots to
form a canopy a freshly woven text.
Some of the more established Jamaican artists were best
represented in the 'Homage to John Dunkley' section. I was
particularly moved by Hope Brooks's piece, or pieces: four
panels each of four panels, bland, textured and mutely
coloured, these are a strange mutation of the art of painting.
Characters from Dunkley's paintings have been drawn and
then sieved through countless layers of compressed colour/
textures until they have to be re-seen as if for the first time.
As a consequence Dunkley is 'hooked', as a transmutation
has taken place. Milton George exhibited two condensed and
intense images. He pulls his forms from the dark into the light
by using coloured lines and marks. He, like Dunkley, inhabits
an enclosed space, typical of the experience of dense bush or
forest. I was less confident about his large painting, Meat
Eater, in the Annual National. It is a very ambitious piece, and
I applaud that, but it does feel a bit stretched, giving me the
funny feeling that I could see past the action into the more
mundane world beyond. He and the British painter John
Belany should share notes. They are kindred spirits.


Robert Cookhorne 'African
Voo Dun Voo Dun Voo Dun #0#0#0
Mixed media on cardboard. 103 x 87 cm

Hope Brooks. Panel from Summer Resort
Gouache, modelling paste on canvas.41 x46 cm

Everald Brown Psalm V
Oil on hardboard. 62 x 92 cm


i~f~r- "~&lp~'~--~4~,

, ,~55~

Kingsley Thomas. Love
Oil on hardboard. 36 x 29 cm


Petrona Morrison. Messages Before I Fly
Metal assemblage. Height 336 cm

Milton George. Meateater
Acrylic on canvas. 236.5 x 180 cm


Photo: Ruddy Hibbert

Gloria Escoffery
One, Two,ThreeFour: Colon Man deh Come
Gouache on paper. 63 x 96 cm

David Boxer
One of Nine Studiesfor Le Tombeau de Dunkley
Collage. 22 x 14.5 cm

Bryan McFarlane
Towards Triumph
Oil on canvas. 182 x 151 cm


Gloria Escoffery is another artist who felt more secure in
the Dunkley section. It was as if this project had given her
something more tangible to bite on than the terrifying
uncertainties of her singular vision. Hers is an art of literary
consciousness, difficult in its search for adequate visual
metaphors and often suffering from the relentless material-
ism of the innocently observing eye. I know the problem. I
also liked Owen Minott's Road Series. This is crafty stuff.
The photograph, usually so virginal in its omnipotent cloak
of science, has become a rapturous, sensuous, expansion of a
moment. Reportage has given way to the sign.
I wonder what John Dunkley would have made of it all?
Can the root observe the branches?
So what of the rest, the other excellent work in both
sections of this sweeping survey of Jamaican visual art?
What of the not so excellent work which gives these
exhibitions their homeliness? I suppose there was something
here for everyone. The look of Jamaica presented to
Jamaicans in a form which confirms the look of Jamaica to
those who know what Jamaica looks like. Images which
carry skill like a terrible choking burden, the triumph of
matter over mind.
The engaging work by young artists who have not yet
wholly found their way was the most rewarding aspect of the
Annual National. No amount of analysis can explain the joy
of anticipation which accrues when the young say 'budge up
make room for us.' Works by Lawrence Graham Brown,
Rosemary Chong, Anna Henriques, Peter Johnson, Bryan
McFarlane, Marlene Smalling and others all show the way.
All power to their minds, their intuitions and to their wrists.
The Annual National is a point of reference. It allows one
to sniff the air and to look out over a large landscape. But
what does it signify as cultural manifestation?
Jamaica is fortunate to have so many good artists working
in such diverse idioms. Jamaica is a very stimulating
environment for a visual artist. This convenient arrangement
should not however, blind one to the dangers of hyperbole
when evaluating the arts here.
There is only one adequate safeguard against this.
Jamaican artists must take it upon themselves to be self-
critical and to actively seek criticism from within their own
community and from without. We all like to bask in praise
but it is of little help if you are seeking to develop and grow.
In a country with a larger population, the weakest work in
this exhibition would not have been shown. It would have
had to give way to better work drawn from the larger pool of
artists available, but this would not necessarily have
produced a better exhibition just a more even one. The
Annual Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London is, in
some ways, a similar event to the Annual National. The ratio
of accepted works to those submitted is only about one in
twenty compared to the Annual National's one in two yet the
result is always the same. The Royal Academy summer show
remains a dreary experience. This is not the fault of the
ingredients; it is the cooks and the nature of the banquet
which produce such an indigestible hotchpotch.
The jurors for the Annual National were essentially

deciding what to exclude, the main body of the exhibition
having been predetermined by the artists themselves. Given
the size of Jamaica this is probably a structural reality which will
continue, just as the Royal Academy show has defeated all
attempts to change its image. So, in Jamaica, it is up to the
artists to drive up the overall standard by diminishing the size
of the tail. As I understand it, some of Jamaica's well
established artists gave the show a miss this year. This is a
pity. No one can pass up an opportunity to learn.
In this article, I have tried to connect with two themes
which are of intense concern and interest worldwide. One is
the dichotomy which is produced by the desire for local and
distinct cultures to be protected from the deadening advance
of technological standardization and the cultural imperialism
of the European-North American historical juggernaut, while
at the same time yearning to bring about a symphonic,
rhapsodic union of the creative energies being expressed with
those of other cultures. The other is the debate about the role
of formal education in the production and promotion of the
creative arts. In my experience, artists of all persuasions
divide themselves into those who see education as a pollutant
(including some who profess to teach) and those who see
education as so essential that the artistic production of a
society would simply wither without it.
I freely admit that one of my motives in accepting the
invitation to write this piece was that it provided me with an
opportunity to address these issues in a practical and material
context. These are important questions and it is only when
faced with the tangible reality of actual specific artistic
production that useful observations can be made.
I belong to the symphonizing educationalist camp, yet I
see no absolute need for either debate to be locked in
irreconcilable conflict. Roots are a given in any society. They
need to be cherished but a garden of roots without fruit and
flowers would be a dull place indeed. To flog my metaphor
to death, a good garden is a composition of variety held in
balance. Plants which are so vigorous that they envelop and
choke other plants (reggae) have to be kept under control and
one always has to keep one's eyes open for new and virile
plants which are growing wild in the bush. Jamaica has a
nursery bursting with artistic saplings, but I am a little
worried about the Bonsai-like* effect of the market place (I am
writing this in Japan).
Artists, like plants, need room to grow and this means
space and time. Given adequate studios and reasonable time
to think and experiment, some of these Jamaicans will be
able to step onto a world stage from a Jamaican base.
Without these essential requirements, they will be
condemned either to leave Jamaica to seek a more
sympathetic environment or they will settle for a life of
manic and stultifying production to satisfy a voracious public
appetite for more of the same.

* Bonsai the art of miniaturizing trees by careful pruning which
stunts their growth while keeping their overall shape.
Photographs by Martin Mordecai, except Petrona Morrisonp. 33 by Ruddy Hibbert


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4 X

Il i

John H pier, Jr
and the
MedicalProfession in Jamaica
Philip 9. Alexander
Part One
In December 1860, John H. Rapier, Jr, boarded a ship at New Orleans and,
with $92 in his pocket, headed for the Caribbean. He stayed about eighteen
months in all, four in Haiti and the remainder in Jamaica.


During that time he became an acute observer of and
commentator on West Indian society and politics, and sought
to establish himself professionally first as an agronomist,
then as a dentist, finally as a physician. Rapier's experience
provides a medium for exploring aspects of the nature and
development of the health professions in the West Indies as
well as the attitudes that helped shape and transform
professional life in a rapidly changing post-Emancipation
society. As a foreigner, his aims and goals were perhaps
atypical, but his unusual energy, perceptiveness, and knack
for feeling the pulse of a society ensured that during his
sojourn in the West Indies his life intimately touched others'
lives, and theirs his.1
While many of his contemporaries young men in search
of experience and fortune were looking to Europe or to
North American frontiers, Rapier consciously turned his
sights towards the Caribbean.

A black American, he felt that he had a better
chance of finding social and professional
opportunities in the West Indies than in either
Europe or his homeland.

He was confident that in the West Indies his colour would
not be a hindrance, and might even be an advantage, in
achieving his full potential.
This was not the first time Rapier had thought about
settling abroad. In late 1854 and early 1855 he had written to
the president of the American Colonization Society asking
for information on how to go about securing passage to
Liberia: 'Believe me, Sir,' he stressed, 'that I am serious in
my idea of Emigrating. In this Country I can not live.'2
When he got no response, Rapier decided to join his uncle,
James P Thomas, in migrating to Central America.
A boyhood acquaintance of Thomas's, William Walker,
had recently organized a confederation of states (Nicaragua,
Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica) in which blacks were
reportedly being appointed to high office. Thomas and
Rapier sailed from New Orleans in February 1856, hoping to
take advantage of the opportunities for blacks that had
opened up in the ranks of the confederation's civil service.
However, Thomas was quickly disillusioned by Walker's
dictatorial methods and Rapier by the poverty and misery he
observed in the society. They returned to the United States
after a stay of no more than a few months.
Rapier travelled up the Mississippi from New Orleans and
settled for a time in the Minnesota Territory, where his father
had some real estate interests. He worked briefly as personal
secretary for someone he had met during the Central
American venture. Next, he went into freelance journalism,
writing articles for five different Minnesotan newspapers,
including the Little Falls Pioneer and Democrat and the St
Paul Times. While his themes varied, some of his strongest
pieces dealt with civil rights issues. One article, 'Have
Colored Children Rights?' took to task the St Paul Board of
Education for not providing educational facilities for blacks
even though, like everyone else, blacks paid a school tax.
Another, 'Can Colored Citizens Pre-empt?' chastised federal

officials for not honouring homestead applications submitted
by blacks. In 1858, Rapier returned to the issue of emigration
in an emotionally charged address in which he urged blacks
to abandon '[this] land of inexorable prejudice, degradation,
and alienation' and seek an alternative homeland 'more
congenial, more liberal, and more willing to provide the
blessings of liberty and equality.'
Rapier's disenchantment with the United States was so
deep that he made a solemn vow to his uncle, James P
Thomas: . of one thing rest assured that never, so help
me God if I can help it, will I ever again live in any country
where I am a "damn nigger" and nothing more.' While most
members of Rapier's family shared this sense of anger and
frustration with racial injustice, they did not necessarily
sympathize with his despairing tone. They were a hard-
nosed, resilient, diligent lot who had achieved considerable
success, to the extent that their colour handicap would allow,
within the framework of American society. They had always
prided themselves on beating the odds.
The matriarch of the family, John H Rapier, Jr's grand-
mother, was a slave named Sally. In 1808 she gave birth to a
mulatto child, John, probably fathered by John Thomas, the
eldest son of Sally's master, Charles S Thomas, a tobacco
farmer and neighbour of Thomas Jefferson in Albemarle
County, Virginia. A few years later she gave birth to another
mulatto child, Henry. When one of the heirs of the Thomas
estate moved west to the Cumberland River Valley around
1818, Sally and her two boys were transported to Nashville.
With her master's permission, she hired herself out as a
cleaning lady and rented a two-storey house in the heart of
Nashville's commercial district, where she built up a thriving
'business tending fine linen and wearing apparel for the
ladies and gentlemen of Nashville.' Sally's contacts with the
white social elite resulted in the birth in 1827 of yet another
child, James, fathered by John Catron, first chief justice of
the Tennessee Supreme Court and an Andrew Jackson
appointee to the US Supreme Court. Late in life, James
recalled that his father 'gave me 25 cents once, if I [am]
correctly informed, that is all he ever did for me.'3
Sally was one of a number of slaves throughout the
antebellum South who managed to achieve a high level of
independence and self-sufficiency despite the legal strictures
which technically bound them.4 She helped her sons to make
the best of their precarious social position and ultimately to
secure their freedom. On Sally's advice, John hired himself
out to a Mississippi barge captain, Richard Rapier, who,
probably grateful for the loyal service rendered him, left
money in his will for the purchase of John's freedom and
whose surname John took as his own. Sally, meanwhile,
arranged for Henry to escape to Buffalo and organized an
intricate financial transaction to gain James's freedom.5
All three sons acquired their mother's entrepreneurial
acumen. John Rapier settled in Florence, Alabama, where he
opened a barber shop catering to whites one of the few
lucrative occupations open to antebellum blacks and
quickly saved enough money to buy a well-located house
which served as both business and residence. By 1860 he
had acquired substantial cash savings and entered into
several successful real estate and railroad stock deals. The
1860 Census listed him as one of the wealthiest free blacks in
Alabama.6 James Thomas and Henry Thomas also prospered
as barbers. James's establishment, located at his mother's
house in downtown Nashville, catered to prominent white


'bankers, merchants, editors, lawyers, politicians, and other
professional men.' Later moving to St Louis, he established a
chain of barber shops and bath-houses, speculated in land
and railroad stocks, and purchased an apartment complex.
At the peak of his career, he was estimated to be worth
almost half a million dollars. Henry Thomas made a good
deal of money off of barbering in Buffalo and moved to
Canada, where he purchased a hundred acres, built a house,
and put in a crop of wheat, corn, and barley.
John H Rapier, Jr, was thus born, on the paternal side, into
a family of relative privilege, resourcefulness, and
heightened expectations. His mother, Susan, was a free
black from Baltimore, Maryland, who marriedJohn Sr
around 1831. The union produced six children Richard G
(born 1831), John H, Jr, (1835), Henry (1836), James T
(1837), Jackson and Alexander (1841?) who were free
according to an Alabama law that assigned black children
their mother's status. Susan and her two infant children,
Jackson and Alexander, died in 1841 and were buried in the
white section of Florence cemetery a mark, perhaps, of the
status that John Sr held in the community. Subsequently he
acquired a slave, Lucretia, to help care for the remaining
children and, in 1848, started a second family with her. They
had five children: Rebecca, Joseph, Thomas, Charles, and
Susan; all born slaves in the eyes of the law. Although John
Sr tried to secure their freedom through the local probate
court, Lucretia and her children remained in bondage,
technically speaking, until the signing of the Emancipation
A good portion of John Sr's earnings went into providing
for his sons' education. In 1843 he sent John Jr and James to
the only black school in Nashville and kept himself well
informed on their progress: 'John writes very plain for a boy
of his age and practice. .. [He] has much taste for reading
as any child I know off and very good in arithmetic. ... All
my sons are in school and [doing] well.' Later John Jr and
James (subsequently a Reconstruction state officeholder and
congressman from Alabama) were sent to board with their
uncle Henry Thomas in Buxton, Canada West, so that they
could attend a local grammar school and acquire a thorough
grounding in the classics and other academic disciplines.
After John Jr started working as a free-lance journalist in
the Minnesota Territory, his father wrote to him with a sense
of pride and a reminder that success depended on his
continuing to be frugal, industrious, and sober: 'My Son,
you are getting good wages. I hope you will Save your
money and lay it out for land in place of liquor and cigars,
which is too often with young men of all colours. A little
money played out at the right time make a man rich in a few
years . I hope you will have it in your power to Show
[your brothers] that you have mad good use of your
opportunity '
Neither father nor son harboured any illusions, however,
about the extent of that opportunity. John Sr complained
bitterly at times about his confinement to the barbering trade
and the social problems he faced in the South. He thought
seriously about John Jr's suggestion that he 'Move out West
. Give Lucretia and the Children some Kind of a chance
for Justice, and yourself peace of mind,' but ultimately
decided against it.
In any case, John Jr's own optimism about the West was
short-lived. His experience in St Paul in the late 1850s made
him question whether there was a single place in the United

States where a black could find opportunity or justice. A
decade earlier, his uncle James Thomas had accompanied a
wealthy white client to New York and been shocked by the
racism of Northerners who professed to be the black man's
best friend. In the early 1850s, John Sr had subscribed to the
American Colonization Society's journal African Repository
-'to enform my Self with regard to the object of the
Colonization'- and just very briefly entertained the thought
of migrating.7
Although they were outspoken in their concern about the
constraints the society had imposed on them because of their
race, both James and John Sr were essentially resigned to
making the best of life in the United States. Thus, the older
generation ended up advocating a strategy of patience and
diligence ultimately accommodation that produced for
them a measure of financial success but that did not appeal to
the young, restless John Jr. He wanted something more and
headed for Haiti to find it.
Haiti had become an important racial symbol in
antebellum America. The Haitian Revolution, which had
begun with a slave rebellion in 1791 and culminated in the
establishment of a black republic in 1804, made whites
nervous or paranoid and gave blacks a sense of racial
independence and self-esteem.8 In 1829 the black militant
David Walker called for American blacks to look to Haiti for
political inspiration, take destiny into their own hands, and
throw off the shackles of slavery.9 Following the publication
of his pamphlet, Walker was never seen or heard from again,
the victim presumably of foul play at the hands of those who
considered his message dangerous.

As early as the 1820s, Haiti was also
perceived by many blacks and whites as a
possible solution to the racial problem in the
United States.

The president of the republic, Jean Pierre Boyer (served
1817-1842), and agents of the American Colonization
Society collaborated on a scheme to promote the emigration
of some American blacks to Haiti. This appealed to free
blacks who were anxious to enter the economic mainstream
and could not do so in their own country; it represented for
many whites, across the political spectrum, a way either to
generate opportunity for a dispossessed class or to remove
malcontents, essentially to solve a difficult American social
problem simply by sending it away. For its part, the Haitian
government wanted to recruit skilled workers who would
help build the ranks of the republic's middle class. Thus,
agents of the American Colonization Society were authorized
to seek out prospective emigrants whose costs of relocation
would be subsidized if necessary, and who, on arrival, would
be given substantial plots of land for cultivating coffee,
cotton, or tobacco. Blacks were grateful and whites gener-
ally breathed a sigh of relief that Haiti was one 'place in the
world... where the colored man can have .. opportunities
to acquire riches [and] will be ... completely invested with
the rights and privileges of civil and religious freedom.'10
This early emigration scheme had mixed success. Of the
seven to ten thousand black Americans who went to Haiti
through the early 1840s, only a few settled and became
prosperous there.11 Many returned home because they could


not deal with the primitive living conditions, language
barrier, or general culture shock. Emigration received new
impetus in the 1850s, however, as events in the United
States, for example, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law
and the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, threatened the
already precarious status of free blacks. Black militants such
as Martin R Delany and J Theodore Holly joined together to
promote an emigration movement distinct from the white-
dominated efforts of the American Colonization Society.
This movement evolved around a conscious sense of black
solidarity, a separatist-style ideology that contributed to the
rise of black nationalism. It was the kind of scheme that
would have appealed to Rapier and his father because of the
emphasis placed on blacks controlling their own destiny and
looking out for their own interests. By the mid-1850s, the
elder Rapier had become so disillusioned with the attitudes
and policies of the American Colonization Society that he
cancelled his subscription to African Repository, citing the
cynical motivation of white members who 'would not care if
all the free negros in the United States was at the Bottom of
the Sea, So they was out of the United States.'12
Haiti was revived as the destination of choice for many
free blacks. Holly, a Protestant Episcopal minister with a
wide following, made several trips there beginning in 1855
and spoke about the prospects in glowing terms. In 1860 he
reported that 200 blacks had sailed from New Orleans in
May 1859, 176 in June 1859, and 81 in January 1860.13 At
about the same time, the relatively new Haitian government
headed by Fabre Geffrard hired a white American, James
Redpath, as a public relations agent to promote the cause of
black emigration. Redpath published A Guide to Hayti in
1861, describing the island republic invitingly as 'the only ...
country in the Western world where the Black and the man
of color are undisputed lords' and quoting the Haitian
Secretary of State's appeal to American blacks to 'Come and
join us; come and bring to us a contingent of power, of light,
of labor; come and together with us, advance our own
country in prosperity.'14
John H Rapier, Jr, was part of this second wave of emigra-
tion to Haiti. He arrived there with high hopes, shortly before
Christmas of 1860. After securing lodging in Port-au-Prince
with a wealthy gentleman (a distant relative of Toussaint
L'Ouverture), he settled into a position as an English teacher.
Occasionally he contributed articles to local newspapers.15
Within two months, however, Rapier had decided that
Haiti was not the place for him. He was convinced that in
some ways the reality of Haiti fully measured up to the
rhetoric of people like Holly and Redpath. The commercial
opportunities in Port-au-Prince, particularly in the retail
trades, struck him as substantial, as did the potential for
making a good living from the cultivation of cotton and yams
in the rural districts. He was disturbed, however, by Haiti's
political instability and the constant threat of violence or
upheaval, provoked in part by international pressures.
Rapier's departure for Jamaica in early April 1861
coincided with a growing mood of trepidation on the part of
the Haitian government concerning Santo Domingo, the
Spanish colony on the other side of the island. Two weeks
after arriving in Jamaica, he learned that '2 Commissioners
have been sent from [Haiti] to protest before the English and
French Courts against the occupancy of Santo Domingo by
the authorities of Spain, and in the meantime Geffrard is
brushing up his guns, to drive the Spaniards into the sea.'

This news seems to have affected him almost as deeply as
that which he received at about the same time from the New
York mail packet at Kingston: 'the sad and horrifying
intelligence that the sword has been drawn in earnest, and
that Civil war, with all its terrors have been inaugurated in
the United States.'
Certain other aspects of life in Haiti disheartened him. He
considered the society as a whole to be intolerably anarchic,
an inference which he drew from observation of the mucous
behaviour and carefree attitude of local residents. The
situation alarmed him to such an extent that, with
characteristic overstatement, he began to question his own
commitment to abolitionism and universal freedom: 'This is
sharp language for a negro to use, but it is true as it is
strange. If ever I make my permanent home in a country
where negroes live in any considerable quantities, it will be
where they are slave.'
Another source of irritation was that American
immigrants did not appear to be satisfied simply with their
newly acquired opportunities in commerce and agriculture;
they also wanted to transpose to Haiti the lifestyle and value
system that they had known in the United States. '[They] are
beginning to remodel the national institutions,' Rapier
complained, '[and] among their moral introductions may be
ranked horse-racing, public Gambling Houses and other
resorts still more questionable.'
Rapier may also have run into difficulties because he was
light-skinned to the point of being taken at times for white.
Both social stigma and physical danger were attached to such
a complexion in Haiti. Rapier detected a deep hatred between
dark- and light- skinned blacks, a hatred that often
overflowed into violence and bloodshed. He pointed out the
irony of mulattoes fleeing oppression on account of their
black blood in the United States only to find that in Haiti
their white blood carried similar costs. Although Haiti's
ancien blanc law, forbidding whites from becoming
naturalized citizens, did not technically apply to him, it was a
mark of the inherent problems for those of light complexion.
Colour was not just black or white, it was shades of in-
between. Emigration proponents did not generally
acknowledge and perhaps did not understand this quandary,
which was more complex than Rapier himself had expected.

'As a black man,' he commented in retro-
spect, 'I would prefer Haiti to Jamaica, but as
it is . I prefer Jamaica by all odds. . Tis
better for [American blacks] to go to Haiti but
[Jamaica] is the country for the mixed bloods.'

Rapier arrived in Kingston in the second week of April
1861. Although he came down with a fever and was in bed
for a week following the two-day voyage from Port-au-
Prince, he lost little time in putting to work the enterprising
spirit that he shared with almost everyone in his family. In
less than two weeks, he made a commercial contact, came up
with a scheme for farming cotton, established himself
through a series of newspaper articles as an authority on
cotton growing, and apprenticed himself to a dentist. This
frenetic activity he outlined thus:

40 I AIJ 24/3




I met in this City the Revd. [S.?] R. Ward ... who is in his own
language is 'preaching for treasures where thieves cannot steal,
and planting Cotton to make money'. He has in about 20 acres
of Sea Island Cotton, and hopes to have 500 acres in during the
next year. The Manchester Cotton houses, are fostering this
enterprise, and there is some prospect of their sending out 1
million of pounds sterling to loan to Cotton Growers, and if
these prospects are not deceptive, I have the promise of...
200 or $1000 to commence with, as I have blown a great deal
about my knowledge of Cotton planting, and have written
several articles for the press, upon the matter, and have
succeeded in almost convincing myself, that I am a Cotton
Grower. But this Capital will not be forthcoming until the fall
if then. And you know that while the grass is growing the horse
dies, so I must find something in the meanwhile to '[make?]
my eat' as the Jamaican says. And while I was thinking over
this important item as I have only $58. in cash, I met a Dr.
Beckett from Canada, who has been humbugging the
Kingstonians to the tune of $200. per week for the past 3
months, under the guise of a Dentist, who proposed that I
should study the science of 'Teeth Manipulation' under his
Tuition, offering me board, and lodging in his house. I
accepted as I was paying five Dollars a week, for these
arrangements, and now I am waiting to hear from Manchester,
and in the interim studying Surgeon Dentistry.

'Let's see, open your mouth' (Honori Daumier) 1861

Rapier sensed that Jamaica, unlike Haiti, suffered from a
poor economic climate, the result of a decaying infrastructure
and stagnating retail trade. The country was in the throes of
a financial depression, fuelled by a number of factors includ-
ing a dramatic increase in the price of foodstuffs imported
from the United States and the withdrawal of tariff protection
of the local sugar industry by the British market against the
competition of slave-grown produce in Cuba and Brazil.16
This climate made Rapier's cotton scheme a long shot,
and he was not very optimistic about it. He estimated that if
one had $2,500 or $3,000 it would be possible to make a go
of it in agriculture -'but without Capital "Lord deliver us
from Jamaica".'

Rapier's doubts proved to be well founded, as the English
linen manufacturers reneged on their promise to inject capital
into West Indian cotton. Far from being discouraged, he
threw himself with added enthusiasm into his dental
apprenticeship. Within three months, he was doing extrac-
tions with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. In high
spirits, he wrote to his uncle James Thomas:

I am pushing along with all speed possible in my new
profession of Dentist. You should see me sometime have a
poor devil suffering with the toothache with his jaws distended,
lance in hand dissected around the molor, preparatory to
applying the forceps. And then to hear such screams of agony
as I can wring out of mouth. It is wonderful, indeed perfectly
astonishing, that I who have been but a few months in the
profession can make my patients bellow louder, hold on to the
tooth faster and longer, and finally wrench it out with more of
the jawbone sticking than my master who has spent years in the
profession. Aren't you proud of your promising nephew -
when I see you, I will just pull out two of your front teeth to
show you how it is done.

The slightly sadistic humor underlying this description was a
kind of an in-joke. As a youngster, Rapier would have had
the opportunity to observe both his father and uncle James
try their hand at dentistry. Because the field was so primitive
- at the time dentists were thought of as little more than
tooth-pullers its practice was totally unregulated and
barbers often offered dental services as an appendage to hair-
trimming. John Rapier, Sr, and James Thomas charged
between fifteen and twenty-five cents for a haircut, an
additional amount for a shave or scalp massage or beard trim,
and up to a dollar for extracting a tooth.17
In Jamaica, by way of contrast, dentistry was just
beginning to assume a more respectable place among the
learned professions. Although there was no official
regulation of dental practice (the first regulatory act was not
passed until 1905), the Royal College of Surgeons in
England had begun in 1859 to offer certificates attesting to
'the fitness of persons to practise as dentists.'8 The College
was the place where many Jamaican medical practitioners
earned their credentials. For various reasons, no more than
about 300 people were certified in dentistry by the College
through 1870, and there is no evidence that any of that group
ever practised in Jamaica.
Still, this awareness of dentistry as a field with potential
status was one reason that Rapier felt comfortable commit-
ting himself to it. Six months into his apprenticeship, his
initial tone of flippancy turned to one of pride. Despite some
financial problems, he was confident that he had chosen well
and found his niche in the professional world:

Although today I am almost penniless, and as naked as a
Kansas farmer after two years drought, yet I consider myself
infinitely better off than at any time in my life. Why you ask,
because I am learning and already have a fair knowledge of a
profession by which I can make an honorable and respectable
living without being an 'intelligent darkey' and still with this
determination, I expect one day to see a neatly painted sign
hanging over a door nearly opposite Dr. Hargrave's office ..
that will let the passersby know that there lives 'John H.
Rapier, Dentist'.

Dr Hargrave, a white physician and community leader in
Florence, Alabama, had shown an interest in Rapier, and


Rapier had corresponded with him from the Minnesota
The upward mobility that Rapier linked to his new
professional role was undercut by financial stress. As an
apprentice, he did not receive a regular salary and may not
have been given more than room and board in exchange for
his services. Dentistry, he found, was no different from
agriculture in that one needed capital to break away and go
into practice on one's own. Rapier's choice was clear: either
find the money to 'purchase an outfit' or continue to labour
essentially unrecompensed, for Dr Beckett.
He dropped some not so subtle hints on the subject to his
uncle James, who, not being saddled with the responsibility
of a large family (he did not, in fact, marry until 1868),

I'A d
Infi -,VA

t~~~~~ !o I iC

seemed a likely source of some free cash. James did not offer
to help out, however, and apparently 'blamed' his nephew
for being a dilettantish globetrotter, for not coming back to
the States and facing up to his responsibilities to his family.
Although he wanted to establish his own dental practice,
Rapier did not have the means. Between July and October
1861, he thought about going to South America, where Dr
Beckett planned to migrate, and continuing to work there as
Beckett's assistant. When Beckett decided not to go after all,
Rapier's enthusiasm for dentistry faltered briefly. Writing
from Mandeville in rural Jamaica, he tried to revive some of
his earlier agricultural schemes and, once again, to elicit the
interest (and capital) of his uncle James. Citing the frus-
trations of life as a Negro in the United States, he portrayed
Jamaica by way of contrast as an idyllic land where race was
no obstacle to prosperity in farming:
James I have found the Country for us, and an easy luxurious
and well paying business, with plenty of congenial society.
Kind, Affable, Clever Well educated people with an abundance
of rich marriageable daughters, with cultivated tastes and love
of music. Manchester Parish is the place, and Coffee growing
is the business Try [by?] some means or other to get hold on
a $1000 or $1500 and come to Jamaica and we will get three
hundred acres of land- put 60 acres down in Coffee, which in
three years will yield an annual revenue of $3000 The
[balance?] we will graze and raise ground provisions for the
markets-The first year in the Coffee piece we can raise
enough ground provisions to pay expenses of cultivation and

setting about the Coffee Orchard, besides enough [?] food for
ourselves The second year we will clear a little money -
enough to buy a few Cows and hogs &c The third year we
will get a tolerable fair yield of Coffee, the fourth year, and
henceforth, you may rely safely on $50 per acre clear profit -
on all your Coffee lands Besides you will grow plantains, &
bananas, and [raise?] as many hogs as you like in the same
field. Was there ever such a chance to get a good comfortable
home and live among a people who, if they have any prejudice
at all it is in your favour-
... This is the place for us for Father and the Children when
they can leave the South, for every man of our race If Mr
Johnson could come here with his family, and buy a property,
either sugar or coffee, in my humble opinion he would never
regret it. His family would have congenial associations, and
his sons would be whatever he wished them with a certainty
of succeeding to the utmost of their capabilities These
Negroes here plant 5 acres in Coffee, interspersed with Plantain
and bananas, with 5 acres more for his cows and horses and
provision grounds viz Yams Cocoas potatoes &cc, and he
never has necessity to work three hours a day, and yet ride a
fine horse, with heavy plated spurs strapped on his bare heels,
and wearing fine Cloth Clothes every time he wishes Shoes
he says hurts his feet. You must come to this Island, that is all
about it. But sotto voce, you had better take a run over to
England and come by the English Packet So your name will
figure in the passenger list, 'James P. Thomas from London' it
will help amazingly if you can say 'When I was in London the
other day &c' It will be the thing.
Knowing your sentiments, and how tired you are of the
infernal institutions and inconveniences of the U.S. I put
myself to some trouble to tell you these things . and
sincerely hope that I am not losing my eloquence in urging you
to take up your cross and follow me, and place an Ocean
between you, and oppression. I had rather own one acre of
ground and cultivate Yams in Jamaica than to be the owner of
$2000 per annum and be compelled to live in the U.S. or the

Perhaps recognizing that James was unlikely to be moved
by such hyperbole, Rapier soon resumed devising a strategy
to establish himself as a dentist. His financial predicament,
however, continued to worsen. By early December 1861 he
was literally penniless: 'I am out of money-not a dollar
have I in the world upon which I can lay my hands.' This
made it almost impossible for him to proceed with the
business of setting himself up in the profession. As a first
order of business, he needed to procure a case of dental
instruments. Dr Beckett, who was beset at the time by his
own problems relating to the bankruptcy of a brother in
Canada, succeeded in obtaining for Rapier a credit line of
$180 from a manufacturer of dental instruments in New
York. Rapier raised another $60 by pawning his watch. But
there were other expenses to be considered too: import duties
on the instruments, rental of an office and furniture, and
transportation from Kingston to Falmouth, the town on the
other side of the island where Rapier planned to begin work.
Rapier appealed again to his uncle for money. This time
he tried, with melodramatic effect, to give a sense of the
desperateness of the situation: '. . I am starving, an alien
upon a foreign shore .... if you will send [no money], then
for the Love of Heaven do not write to me, but let your
silence tell me, that I am abandoned... by him, upon whom
I had taught myself to look, as my best and true Friend.' His
spirits were at their lowest ebb yet. A strain of pessimism,
even despair, seemed to pervade his outlook: 'If I can get no


abandon all prospects for anything in the future better than
the life of a dog or a Negro, between which there is no
material difference that I can see, and if there is any, the
advantage is certainly with the dog.'
It is not clear how much of this represented a genuine
shift in mood, how much a designed rhetorical tactic to play
on his uncle's sympathies. As a matter of fact, the incon-
sistencies underlying his outlook are almost as difficult to
reconcile as his feelings or motivations: for example, he
talked in the same breath about putting out his shingle in
Florence, Alabama, and never again setting foot in the
United States. James Thomas, on the other hand, remained a
model of consistency. He declined to send financial
assistance and reiterated his opinion that Rapier should
return home. Stubbornly, Rapier chose to stay and soon came
up with yet another scheme.
This scheme was a logical extension of his aspiration to
become a part of the larger community of learned profes-
sionals. He began to think in terms of preparing himself to
practice not just dentistry, but medicine as well. If he could
not get on in one profession, why not try two? The idea was
not as outlandish as it might appear. At the time, practi-
tioners in health fields did not always define their work
within clearly demarcated lines of specialization, preferring
to protect their piece of the market by portraying themselves
as capable in a number of areas. This pattern continued
through the end of the nineteenth century, at which time it
was common for practitioners to hold credentials and work
simultaneously in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and other
fields. Rapier reasoned that he could put himself through a
medical course partly by earning money from dentistry on
the side. He also hoped that the added prestige of a career in
medicine would modify his uncle's intransigence on the
matter of helping out with some cash. After all, medical men
displayed impressive diplomas that, unlike the results of a
dental apprenticeship, could be seen as a tangible return on
financial resources committed.
While his rationale made perfect sense, the suddenness
with which he shifted strategy could have left one doubtful
about his ability to carry through on a commitment. Less
than four weeks had elapsed between his appeal for help to
set up a dental office in rural Jamaica and his announcement
of this new plan, which he described thus:

As to future, let me tell you that a Medical Gentleman offers
to permit me to read medicine under his direction gratis, while
I am pursuing my duties as a Dentist and, also, assures me, that
in 18 months, I will be fitted to enter the McGill University of
Montreal or the Queen's University in Toronto, in either of
which I can, by close application, in two years take the degree
of M.D. at the small outlay of $300 Another year in Dublin,
Edinburgh or London will give me the degree of Licentiate of
the Royal College of Surgeons. This involve the sum of $700
including board. This money I can earn in the time I am
reading here, and at the Canadian University, by the practice of
Dentistry. .. Think what a source of pride and gratification to
my friends and relatives, and you are both, and profit and
honour to myself such a consummation of my ambition would
What I a 'damn Nigger Barber' taking degrees in the Royal
College of Surgeons London? Will you keep me from this
enviable position? No, I answer you, I have known too well to
doubt your reply a single moment All I need is two hundred
dollars ($200) to accomplish all this and more. I can get rich in
this Island in that profession, with the [prestige?] of my

complexion to support my claims backed by degrees from such
Colleges, and you must and will let me have it, feeling
assured that no disappointment will come to me.

With supreme confidence that this explanation would set
everything right in his uncle's mind, he also started preparing
- prematurely, it might be noted to dress in a manner
befitting a respectable professional gentleman. He asked
uncle James to arrange for a tailor to make 'one light black
cloth coat,' carefully package it and send it to New York
where Dr Beckett would collect it and carry it back to
Rapier's optimism was partly rewarded. A little money,
half of what he asked for, arrived from the United States -
but no coat. Although this was not enough to set him up in
an office, he continued to work in dentistry with Dr Beckett.
He was making ends meet, if just barely. By February 1862,
two months after reporting himself destitute, he had saved
fifty dollars. He had also begun to explore his new field of
... I have entered upon the study of Medicine in this City -
under Dr. Scott's supervision, and am now up to my eyes, in
the medical nomenclature, about sutures, foramena, occiput
frontalis, and sinus, &cc while Physiology is also receiving due
attention. Anatomy is a beautiful study, and I take a
corresponding interest in it. My application is so strict, that
during the first week of my novitiate, I made the discovery that
when a human figure stood erect that it was much taller, than
when sitting down, and in either position the knees were much
closer to the ground than the neck, besides equally scientific
problems have been solved, by me, which can only be
accomplished by immense mental exertion, and vast erudition

This tongue-in-cheek remark was not an indication that he
took his studies lightly. He continued to carefully map out
his future career plans, and the means he would employ to
achieve them.

This essay is based primarily on materials in the Rapier Family
Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard
University. All quotations are precise transcriptions, with
occasional bracketed insertions to eliminate ambiguity, to
clarify syntax, or to indicate uncertainty about words or phrases
occurring in the original manuscripts.

1. Published historical studies of health in the West Indies have
tended to focus on slavery, on specific diseases such as leprosy
and yellow fever, and on other specialized topics framed within
a set time period. While a few biographical studies of
prominent individual medical practitioners have also appeared,
there exists as yet no comprehensive history of health
professions in the West Indies.
This essay is part of a larger project to prepare a book-length
social history of the medical profession in the West Indies, and
to develop an ongoing biographical database of West Indian
health professionals since the seventeenth century. I am
gathering a wide array of relevant information, especially
names, credentials, and dates of individual practitioners, and
pertinent collections of manuscript and other materials that
illustrate their unfolding careers. I would like to hear from
anyone willing to share such information. I am also interested
in conducting life-history interviews with practitioners and
their descendants or disciples, especially those who have a
historical interest in this subject.


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2. John H. Rapier, Jr. to William McLain, 28 December 1854
and 5 March 1855, American Colonization Society Papers,
Library of Congress. Quoted in Loren Schweninger, James T.
Rapier and Reconstruction (Chicago, 1978), p. 25.
3. The piece on Catron in Dictionary of American Biography
(New York, 1929), pp. 576-577, does not mention his extended
4. This phenomenon has been explored, for example, in John
Hope Franklin, 'Slaves virtually free in ante-bellum North
Carolina,' Journal of Negro History 28 (July 1943): 284-310;
and Marina Wikramanayake, A World in Shadow: The Free
Black in Ante-Bellum South Carolina (Columbia, SC, 1973).
5. See Loren Schweninger, 'The free-slave phenomenon:
James P. Thomas and the black community in antebellum
Nashville,' Civil War History 22 (1976): 293-307.
6. Seventh Census of the United States, 'Population Schedule
for Lauderdale County, [Alabama],' Volume VI, 1860, p. 39.
See also Loren Schweninger, 'John H. Rapier, Sr.: A slave and
freedman in the ante-bellum South,' Civil War History 20 (March
1974): 23-34.
7. John H. Rapier, Sr, to William McLain, 18 January 1854,
American Colonization Society Papers, Library of Congress.
8. For an account of the early Haitian impact on American
thought and life, see Alfred N. Hunt, Haiti's Influence on
Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean
(Baton Rouge, 1988).
9. Herbert Aptheker, One Continual Cry: David Walker's
Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829-1830) (New

PM aj

York, 1965), p. 60. See also William Pease and Jane Pease,
'Walker's appeal comes to Charleston: A note and
documents', Journal of Negro History 59 (1974): 287-292.
10. Genius of Universal Emancipation (May 1830): 67.
11. The numbers were estimated by antislavery leaders and
reported in Liberator, 1 September 1843.
12. John H. Rapier, Sr, to William McLain, 18 January 1854,
American Colonization Society Papers, Library of Congress.
Quoted in Loren Schweninger, 'The dilemma of a free Negro
in the ante-bellum South,' Journal of Negro History 62 (July
1977): 285.
13. J. Theodore Holly to S.D. Denison, 19 March 1860,
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society Papers: The Haitian
Papers, Archives and Historical Collections of the Episcopal
Church, Austin, Texas.
14. Quoted in Hunt, p. 178.
15. Schweninger, op. cit., p. 27.
16. These economic factors are summarized in G.T. Lecesnc,
'Brief historical retrospect of the medical profession in Jamaica,'
West Indian Medical Journal 4 (December 1955): 230.
17. Schweninger, op. cit.; Nashville Business Directory, 1853,
p. 68.
18. See Lancet (23 July 1870): 130; 'The dental practitioners
law,' Jamaica- Law 11 of 1905, 27 April 1905.
Illustration on p.42 from Medicine and the Artistby Carl Zigrosser, Dover Pubs.
N.Y. 1970
Part II of this article will appear in the next issue of



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June 21 July 23, 1993
The English Department of the University of Miami will host the third Summer Institute for Caribbean Creative Writing,
June 21 July 23, 1993. Caribbean Writers participating as Directors, fellows, and students will come from the ranks of
those writing in English.
1993 FACULTY: Poetry Director: Mervyn Morris Fiction Director: George Lamming
SUMMER INSTITUTE PROGRAM: The Institute will encompass three-hour workshops twice a week, in either prose
or poetry. Participants will be registered for one workshop or the other. Workshop directors will be responsible for
personally reviewing and individually meeting with registered workshop participants, and assigning necessary grades.
Participants who have successfully completed either workshop will be awarded six graduate credits. Those students and
fellows who are not registered in the M.A. Program at the University of Miami will still be required to register for credit
in order to attend.
COSTS, FELLOWSHIPS AND SCHOLARSHIPS: Tuition costs will be approximately $606 per credit, or $3636 for the
Institute. Room and board will be approximately $500 each. All international students are required to purchase insurance
and the cost will be approximately $80. Ten participants in each
workshop will receive varying financial assistance. This assistance
falls into three categories: James Michener Fellows will receive
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APPLICATIONS: The application deadline is February 15, 1993.
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***Applications and additional information may be obtained by
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call (305) 284-2182.


Where great minds meet

14-20 Port Royal Street Kingston, Jamaica
Tel: 809-922-9160-79
Cable: JAMCON Telex: 2281.

From Theodore de Borg, 1594 Courtesy Steve Solomon Detail from 1597 map by Wyflie Counesy Hon. Mauicc Facey & Mrs Facy

Columbus At The Abyss: THE GENESIS OF


.. .what we said of it became
A part of what it is
Wallace Stevens

by Robert Bensen

M massive symmetries frame the
beginnings of the New World.
On an island bracketed by two
continents, a grain of sand drops
through the neck of an hourglass from
one epoch to the next. The two hemis-
pheres close like a great watchcase, the
mechanisms of their separate histories
meshed and turning, set in motion with
the stroke of a pen.
The moment I mean is not that when
Columbus stepped onto the beach at
Guanahani, but when Columbus wrote
that he stepped onto the beach of
Guanahani. All we know of that
moment we know from Columbus's
Journal, the unassailable yet problem-
atic beginning to the literature of the
In the beginning was the Word, but

ever after, word and world have
generated each other. A literary work is
produced within historical circum-
stances determined by the ways we
perceive the world and direct our
actions. Those actions are a con-
sequence of meanings embodied in
language, which is devolved from the
need to articulate the meaning of
experience. The Mobius strips of our
chronologies entwine into chronos and
logos, time and language, those
problematically symbiotic twins who
regard each other uneasily, as the self
regards its reflection in a flawed mirror.
Or rather, the direction of regard is
always ahead or behind: language
anticipates or lags behind the experi-
ential moment, and in that dichotomy
language replaces the moment with

meaning, displaces the receding instant
with a version of the always ambiguous
original. The Structuralist critics are
right half the time in claiming that
reality is 'essentially a product of
language', and that any text reforms the
reality to which it refers.2 But reality
also undermines language and demands
that language be made new.
The simplest renewal is nominative:
Adam named the animals, and
Columbus named the islands,
exercising the primal right of dominion,
as if the bond between word and object
could be sealed with a declaration.3 But
language and temporal human expe-
rience are not so readily synchronized,
and the word is dislocated from its
meaning by the slippage in the Protean
syntax between the world and the word

or, in Columbus's case, the journey and
the Journal. By their very nature these
new lands demanded a renovation of
language that barely begins to be
recognized in the Journal, a renovation
that continues to be a major preoccupa-
tion of literature in the Americas. At the
conclusion of this essay, I will briefly
survey the Columbian dilemma of
being caught between the Old World
and the New as it appears in works by
three West Indian writers: Wide
Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys The Lost
Steps by Alejo Carpentiers and Another
Life by Derek Walcott.
We are concerned first with
Columbus's Journal as the Genesis of
literary testament of the New World.
Columbus would never have
acknowledged that status; he believed
he was in Asia and wrote to prove it.
That his Journal is a goldmine of
misinformation does not devalue it as
the first account of the European
encounter with the hitherto unseen half
of the world. Rather, his errors mark an
unerring tracery of the motions of his
mind encountering a reality that defied
his studied expectations.
Historians have long recognized the
ideas embedded in the Journal that
made possible the institution of
colonialism, with its brutal history of
slavery and genocide.4 I am concerned
here less with the ideas Columbus
brought with him, and which pervade
his perceptions of the places he visited,
than with his encounter with what he
truly 'discovered'. We will find that
encounter in the Journal itself, where it
goes beyond his heavily invested
purpose of proving his presence in Asia
to record the shock of a completely new
place forcing his language to its known
limits, where it breaks down in the face
of the unutterable. He could not come
to terms with the New World because
he did not come with terms that could
express the novelty of his experience.
Guanahani, lying before the caravels
at dawn on October 12, 1492, disproved
one monster-filled abyss even as it
opened another, an abyss where his
language would be separated from the
world that had formed it, and would
begin a transfiguration that has gone on
throughout the history of the New
World in the tangible form of our

Based on the correspondence and charts
of Paolo dal Pozza Toscanelli and

Martin Behaim, both of whom relied on
Marco Polo's account of his travels in
Asia, Columbus believed that if he
sailed due west from the Canaries he
would made landfall in Cipango
(Japan). He would then proceed to
mainland Mangi and finally to Cathay
to deliver letters from Ferdinand and
Isabella to the Grand Khan, and return
to Spain with proofs of his success: a
reply to the Spanish sovereigns from
the Grand Khan, perhaps official
emissaries as well and, of course, gifts
of gold and examples of the exotica of
the Orient.
Another proof could be had: the
testimony of the Journal itself. His
evidence must fit what is known about
Asia, and what is known is known
chiefly from Marco Polo. The copy of
Marco Polo he carried on the first
voyage (as well as Aeneas Sylvius's
retelling of Marco Polo in the Historia
rerum ubique gestarum of 1477), had
served as an authority to cite in arguing
for his venture. On his first voyage, it
would serve him in three ways: as
support for his reminders of riches and
fame to his recalcitrant crew in the final
weeks; as a Baedeker to the Eastern
lands; and as a literary model for the
narrative of his own adventures in the
Orient. Columbus needed only to select
the details of his encounters which
portray the setting of the story as the
lands of Marco Polo's travels.
Resemblances between Marco
Polo's and Columbus's narratives offer
circumstantial proofs of Asia. Like
Marco Polo, Columbus recorded with
particular care the items the people
produced for trade, their manner in
business, their appearance and stature,
their dwellings and communities.
Marco Polo had described the inhabi-
tants of Cipango as having 'fair
complexions' and being 'well made'
(III, 2). Hence Columbus's insistence in
describing the Indians, after their first
encounter, as 'very well built, with very
handsome bodies and very good faces';
and again a few lines later, as 'fairly
tall, good looking and well propor-
tioned.' (13/10). The Sea of Chim,
which surrounds Cipango, according to
Marco Polo, contains 7,440 islands
most of them inhabited. When
Columbus travelled south from Guana-
hani, 'he saw so many islands that he
could not count them. . And he says
that he believes that those islands are
those without number which in the
mappamoundes are placed at the end of

the east'. He could well have hoped to
find more circumstantial proofs which
would support Marco Polo's account,
such as spices (especially pepper), aloe,
fragrant wood, mastic, parrots, wax, as
well as such curiosities as Amazons,
cyclopses, cannibals, men with tails and
men with dog's snouts.
The last specimen that Columbus
collected as proof of Asia was rhubarb,
a plant that Marco Polo records being
present in various cities. Columbus's
men made their last collection at con-
siderable inconvenience. 'At midnight,'
as Las Casas paraphrases Columbus's
entry for New Year's Day, 1493, 'he
dispatched the boat to the islet of
Amiga to fetch rhubarb. It returned at
vespers with a basket of it. They did not
bring more, because they had no spades
to dig; he brought this as a specimen to
the Sovereigns.' He laments shortly
thereafter that the Pinta's desertion
prevented him from bringing back 'a
barrel of gold' (3/1/1493). The reaction
of the Sovereigns to their receiving a
basket of rhubarb instead of a barrel of
gold is not recorded, but a second
voyage was swiftly commissioned.
Daniel Boorstin believes that
Columbus mistook common garden
rhubarb for the Chinese medicinal
rhubarb, but that, after all, 'so many
false scents seemed to add up to the
authentic odor of the Orient.'6 Failing to
find absolute proof, he substitutes
circumstantial evidence and outright
self-deception. When the inhabitants of
the islands flee at the approach of his
ships, he sends one of the Indians
accompanying him ashore to assure
them that the white men were not from
the Grand Khan. These words, Columbus
records, made them 'certain that no harm
would come to them' (11/1). If
Columbus can show in his Journal that
these people know and fear the Khan,
then Cathay must truly be near.
Even his devoted scribe, the first
estimable historian of the New World
(as abolitionist), Father Bartolom6 de
Las Casas, conceded that Columbus's
faculties for self-deception were
remarkable.'How marvellous a thing it
is how whatever a man strongly desires
and has firmly set in his imagination, all
that he hears and sees at each step he
fancies to be in its favor.'7
Absolute proof of Asia eluded him,
of course: the cities and wealth and
person of the Khan. Lacking the
expected quantities of gold, he could
vein his prose with the Spanish oro (or


nunca, the first Lucayan word he
recorded), as if the glint off the word
repeated among paragraphs marbled
with azure harbours and verdant green
would seem promise of riches enough to
the monarchs, even as it glitters in the
sediment of river-mouths he has not
time to explore, piled in ingots inland on
islands he hoped to locate on future
voyages. The only source of gold he
found was the same as that which Marco
Polo found: hedging the predominance
of his admiralty is worth all the tea in
Marco Polo gave Columbus words to
listen for on the lips of these Indians -
Cipango, Mangi, Cathay, Khan but
the barrier of language was greater than
the ocean he had just crossed. One time
he takes Cibao or Civao (Lucayan for
Haiti) for Cipango, and another time
thinks the same of Colba (Cuba).
Repeatedly he is given to understand
the most valuable sorts of direction
from the Indians, then says that he does
not understand them. On Isabella
(Crooked Island), the Indians tell him
that Cuba 'is very large and has much
trade, and has in it gold and spices and
great ships and merchants'. In one
sentence he acknowledges that although
'I do not know their language, [their
signs say] it is the island of Cipango'
(24/10). The features of Cipango that he
took from Marco Polo allow Columbus
to conclude from a few gestures, an
elementary charade ships? How big?
Very big? that it is Cipango,'. .of
which marvellous things are recounted,
and in the spheres which I have seen
and in the drawings of mappamoundes,
it is in this region.'
The drive behind Columbus's
Journal lay in reconciling the disparity
between what he hoped to find and
what he found. If he could make this
unknown territory Asia in logo, it may
well be so in fact. Yet the disparity
between the two dominant strains in the
Journal assertions that he has found
Asia and descriptions of strange new
lands argue for speculating that
something in this new land announced
itself to him, that at some basic,
physical, sensory level he knew, was
capable of knowing, that this was
indeed new and not Asia, and that the
insistence with which he identifies it as
Asia is as much an effort to convince
himself as one to convince his backers
in Spain. Yet as the Journal proceeds,
Columbus's insistence on affirming his
presence in Asia diminishes in

frequency, and is almost completely
displaced by wonder at the strangeness
and beauty of each new island.
Through the first three weeks of the
Journal, he daily mingles his
descriptions with affirmations that he is
nearing his goal of the mainland cities,
Zaitun and Quisay. On his second day
in Guanahani, he writes that he would
explore the island to find the source of
the gold that the inhabitants wear
hanging from their noses, but 'in order
not to lose time, I wish to go and see if I
can make the island of Cipango'
(13/10). A week later, her writes, 'I
wish to leave for a very large island,
which I believe must be Cipango. . I
am still determined to proceed to the
mainland and to the city of Quisay and
to give the letters of your Highnesses to
the Grand Khan, and to request a reply
and return with it' (21/10). He waits a
day in Isabella for the local king to
bring his gold, and failing in that he sets
off 'for the island of Cuba, which I
believe must be Cipango' (23/10). In
Cuba, 'the admiral understood that the
ships of the Grand Khan come here, and
that they are large, and that from the
mainland it is ten days' journey'
(28/10). Two days later, Martin Alonso
Pinzon, captain of the Pinta, said that he
understood this to be 'a very extensive
mainland which stretched far to the
north, and that the king of that land was
a war with the Grand Khan' (30/10). 'It
is certain, says the admiral, 'that this
is the mainland, and that I am,' he says,
'before Zayto and Quisay, a hundred
leagues' (1/11).
He continued to explore the coast of
Cuba looking for Zaitun and Kinsai.
Not finding them, and not saying that
he has not found them, he gradually
stops saying that he is looking for them.
Less than two weeks after the above
entry, he speculates that the large
amount of cotton produced in Cuba
could be marketed directly 'to cities of
the Grand Khan, which will doubtless
be discovered' (12/11). He does not
mention Asia again for a month, until
he affirms yet again 'what I have said
on other occasions, [that] the Caniba
are nothing else than the people of the
Grand Khan, who must be very near
here and possess ships, and they must
come to take them captive, and as the
prisoners do not return, they believe
that they have been eaten' (11/12).
In a month, he would not be so sure
that these man-eaters are subjects of
Cathay. He says that 'they must be a

daring people, since they go through all
the islands and eat the people they take'
(11/11/1493), but he does not mention
the Grand Khan. He notes that the unity
of language he had observed in the
islands, which would align them with
Asia, seems to have diminished 'owing
to the great distance between the lands.'
In the last month of his Journal,
Columbus does not mention Grand
Khan at all, or his realm or his cities, or
the island of Cipango.
Ceasing to name the places he sought,
and less and less directing his voyage
thereby, suggests that his vision of the
Orient is slowly being replaced by the
even stranger, more exotic actuality that
he is exploring. The place itself, and not
the place as the Asia he had constructed
from his reading, comes to be the object
of his explorations. Where the known
leaves off and the unknown begins,
Columbus's language begins to fail, and
in that failure is the beginning of the
New World and its literature.
It begins with a phrase in the entry
for the second day in Guanahani. After
the elation and chagrin of seeing people
living in the Stone Age, naked, gentle,
free, yet 'very deficient in everything,'
and after enquiring about the source of
their gold, Columbus remarks, almost
gratuitously, that 'all is so green that it
is a pleasure to look upon it' (13/10).
All is so green that it is a pleasure to
look upon it. An impression conven-
tionally phrased, bland even by post-
card standards, but these are Columbus's
first recorded words on the look. As yet
he is scarcely seeing the landscape
except as a general and pleasant green.
In four days, on his third island, the
impression will become more particular
and problematic:
I walked among the trees, and they
were the loveliest sight that I have yet
seen; they seemed to be as green as
those of Andalusia in the month of
May, and all the trees are as different
from ours as day is from night, as so is
the fruit and the grasses and the stones
and everything else . Your high-
nesses may believe that this is the best
and most fertile and temperate and
good land that there is in the world.
[Fenandina, 17/10]

Columbus's growing enthusiasm
may cause him to overstate the land's
potential for agriculture, but the
emotional weight of the passage finds
its center of gravity in the earlier,
apparently contrasting figures in which

Columbus strains to articulate some-
thing special and quite specific about
the trees. First he compares their green
to the familiar green of Andalusia, then
he contrasts the difference between
them to that between day and night.
And having established that difference,
he goes on to catalogue other things
also subject to that difference, 'the fruit
and the grasses and the stones and,' he
adds, in some exasperated wonder,
'everything else.'
The comparison, of course, makes an
unknown understood in terms of the
known, and in that way is a microcosm
of the Journal as a whole, whose
purpose is to make these strange lands
identifiable as Asia. But here the proof
breaks down that equation, since the
initial comparison, and the apparent
contradiction, does nothing to help the
reader understand what these strange
new trees and grasses and stones may
be like. Within the contrast are
embedded two metaphors that require
we consider the trees of Fenandina as
night and those of Andalusia as day.
The absurdity of the construct indicates
a slippage in Columbus's language
between the syntax and sense, as if the
place itself has taxed the ability of the
man to express himself.
Even as the passage posed the
possibility of drawing lines of resem-
blance, and with them the reader's
understanding, between the two
domains, it reverses itself and says no,
day and night refer only to a degree of
difference, and that degree is registered
in the infinity between two absolutes,
day and night, light and its absence,
knowing and unknowing, to see and to
be in the dark. There is no shade of
similarity mediating between them in
which the eye can rest and understand.
Nor can both ever be present simul-
taneously for scrutiny, since one is
always in the dark, and absence. Either
is unknowable from any vantage from
which the other is known.
He says that the trees before him are
as different from 'ours as day is from
night' and literally this is so. It is day in
Fenandina while it is night in Spain, a
geo-physical perception within the
simile that tacitly argues for the earth as
globe by affirming the existence of the
antipodes. In his figure, the trees before
him are 'day' and therefore in the light,
visible, present, while those of
Andalusia are in the dark, benighted in
a realm so estranged from this one that
the familiar one has become a kind of

never-never-land. The noun tree has
split, since the tree-ness of the one sort
is not shared by the other. He worried
the idea further:
It is true that some trees were of the
kind found in Castile, but yet there is
great difference, and there are many
other kinds of trees which no one could
say are like or can be compared with
those of Castile.

His only escape from this indefini-
tion is to resume the narrative with a
story of some boys exchanging their
spears for pieces of broken dishes and
Columbus expanded his contrast of
the trees in Fernandina and Castile to
the fruits and grasses and stones and
everything else, in an attempt to
introduce clarity where none is
possible, for things are so unlike that
one almost excludes the possibility of
the other. Yet the attempt also suggests
that a border has been crossed, on either
side of which the names stay the same
but what they name is utterly changed.
In these moments of pure response to
where he is, unfettered by circum-
stantial proof of Asia, he confronts the
abyss as the edge of his known world,
where his efforts to locate himself
within his European frame of reference
fail, and reveal in the attempt that the
boundary he has unknowingly crossed
circumscribes not Asia, but Fantasia.

He will come to this point repeatedly
and often throughout the narrative, and
it causes him to suspend his purpose
and lose his direction. He acknowledges
the need to give his sovereigns a true
report of the islands' beauty, the chief
aspect of these new lands that he had
not expected. Each island, each
harbour, each inlet presents him with
surpassing beauty that requires ever
more extravagant praise. Isabella
(Crooked Island): 'the island is the
loveliest that I have seen, for, if the
others are lovely, this is more so. . All
these islands are so lovely that I do not
know where to go first, and my eyes
never weary of looking at such lovely
verdure so different from that of our
own land' (19/10). Again his strategy is
cut across the lines of resemblance he
has just established: '. . in the whole
island all is as green ... as Andalusia in
April . There are, moreover, trees of
a thousand types, all with their various
fruits and all scented, so that is is a

wonder. I am the saddest man in the
world because I do not recognize them'
(21/10). Juana (Cuba): he said he 'had
never seen anything so beautiful . .
The island is the most lovely that eyes
have ever seen' (28/10). Tortuga (Ile de
la Tortue): 'he said he had never seen
anything more lovely' (15/12). 'It is
certain that the beauty of these islands,
with their mountains and their sierras,
their valleys watered with abundant
rivers, is such to behold that no other
lands under the sun can appear finer,
nor more magnificent.'
Beauty proves to be the greatest
challenge to his language, island after
island. His relative success or failure in
that regard have been seized on by
critics to judge his worth as a writer.9
The more harshly he is judged, the
greater the critical failure to plumb the
rhetorical and linguistic problem that
Columbus faced. He is confronting a
strange new world with his Old World
language, and even in the attempt to
prove he is in Asia, the novelty of these
islands becomes an obsession.
While he finds less and less to say
about Asia that is, his language
dwindles as his hopes to quickly find
Cipango and the realms of the Grand
Khan fade the most salient features of
the lands before him prompt more and
more attempts to recreate their
He says so many things and so much
concerning the fertility and beauty and
loftiness of these islands which he
found in this harbour, that he tells the
Sovereigns that they must not wonder
that he praises all so much, because he
assures them that he believes that he
has not said the hundredth part.

Though such beauty prompts
expression, its power prevents it. After
calling Cuba 'the most lovely thing in
the world,' he tells his men that 'a
thousand tongues would not suffice for
the telling nor his hand write it, for it
seemed to him that he was enchanted'
(27/11). Enchantment: a term debased
by every copywriter for travel ads to the
Caribbean. And indeed his protestations
are those of the tourist: 'A man could
never wish to leave this place' (21/10).
'It was a marvellous thing to see the
trees and the verdure and the very clear
water and the bird, and its
attractiveness', so that, as he says, he
felt that he 'did not wish to leave it'
(27/11). He confesses that he 'delayed
more than he had intended, owing to the


desire which he had and the pleasure
which he derived from seeing and
wondering at the beauty and freshness
of those lands' (27/11).
I have distinguished in Columbus's
Journal two modes of writing with
different rhetorical purposes. The first
aims to establish these islands as the
Indies, to which purpose Columbus
directs his course, his conversations with
the Indians, and his observations of the
land as it provides evidence of Asia. His
appreciation of the beauty of the land,
however, places a very different
rhetorical demand on his expression,
which has no purposes beyond self-
expression, just as the appreciation of
beauty is an end in itself.10
Sometimes the purpose of his
voyage leads him to connect aesthetics
and economics, such as when he writes,
'considering the beauty of the land, it
could not be but that there was gain to
be got.' But such reasoning is the kind
of wishful thinking he produces later in
the same entry, when he writes that a
woman 'had a small piece of gold in her
nose, which was an indication that there
was gold in that island' (12/12). Las
Casas may rescue Columbus here with
his paraphrase from later voyage: 'he
said that even if there were no profits to
be gained here, if it were only the
beauty of these lands .. they would be
no less estimable' (Historia, 1, 131).
His observations of the region's beauty
serve the larger scheme of making
further exploration desirable, but his
need for evidence of riches does not
explain the piling up of impassioned
description, the insistence upon every
island being the loveliest, and his regret
that the inadequacy of his language
failed to convey the impression of
beauty upon him. Late in his first
voyage, according to Las Casas's
paraphrase, Columbus exhausts his
language but not his enthusiasm, for
since 'he has praised those already
visited so much, he does not know how
to praise this' (21/12).
Perhaps the clearest evidence of the
strength of his response to the land is in
a shift of sensibility discernible in two
passages from the Journal, wherein he
discusses how his purpose governs his
movements. On leaving San Salvador,
he chooses to seek gold above any other
discovery possible by a more random
venture, but already he is sorely
tempted. 'These islands are very green
and fertile and the breezes are very soft,
and it is possible that there are in them

many things, of which I do not know,
because I do not wish to delay in
finding gold, by discovering and going
about many islands' (1/10). He wants
his sovereigns to understand that to find
gold, he sacrifices another kind of
luxury. As long as he keeps his purpose
clear before him, the scheme for
replenishing Spain's treasury, he will
lose no time meandering through the
numberless islands he had found.
In five weeks, however, pragmatism
gives way to curiosity, at least in part.
'It is certain, Sovereign Princes, that
where there are such lands, there must
be innumerable things of value, but I do
not delay in any harbour, because I
wish to see as many lands as I can, in
order to give an account of them to your
Highnesses' (21/11). The urgency in
moving on is identical in both passages,
but the motive in the first is for gold, in
the second, for material to make a good
story. Las Casas relates that Columbus
said 'that he would have abandoned
everything to discover more lands and
to probe their secrets' (Historia, I, 136).
Las Casas later says of Columbus that
'what he most dearly desired, he says,
was to discover more (I, 146). New
wonders and writing about them
replaces gold, and the Khan's cities that
could supply it, as his immediate
objective. He is drawn more by wonder
than by profit. Just prior to setting sail
for Spain, Columbus wrote that what he
had seen so far was such a 'marvel' that
'he did not wish to depart until he had
seen all that land which there was
towards the east and gone along all the
coast' (23/31). He does not add, as he
did in the early weeks of the voyage,
that he is certain to find the cities of the
Grand Khan.
Marvels, wonders and enchantments
dominate his Journal not Cipango,
Mangi and Cathay. Though he believed
he had circumstantial as well as
tangible evidence of being in Asia, he
had in the Journal evidence that these
islands were of a territory hitherto
absent from the European imagination.
His text is truly the beginning of the
literature of the Americas, not only as
an historical document, but also
because of the encounter with the
qualities of the islands that drew
Columbus on a very basic, sensual
level. It was this encounter that
challenged the categories with which he
was prepared to invest his experience,
but the experience defied him in the
area he knew was so very important: in


its expression in the written record by
which his deeds would be made known
and judged in the Old World. Exactly
where his encounters led him beyond
his purpose and the proof thereof aside,
he found himself at the boundaries of
the language he brought with him. The
new world he never recognized as such
nevertheless pressured his language and
his preconceptions, as we have seen in
his Journal, toward taking the first
tentative step toward realizing the vast
potential that lay in that abyss of time
and language we know as the New
World. Visored by his language, he
steered in two directions, toward the
City of God and the City of Gold, El
Dorado, directions that would prove
murderously antithetical, but all that his
European imagination could afford.

In this fifth century of Columbus
American, in the very archipelago that
Columbus mistook, the problem in his
attempts in his Journal to come to
terms with the novelty, beauty and
essential difference of these lands from
Europe, persists in various forms in the
work of many writers. Three modern
classics from the Caribbean, Wide
Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Alejo
Carpentier's The Lost Steps, and Derek
Walcott's Another Life, all explore
aspects of Columbus's dilemma of
language and reality in encountering the
elemental, virginal New World.11
European misperceptions of the New
World bring tragic consequences in the
historical romance, Wide Sargasso Sea,
by the Dominican novelist Jean Rhys.
The delight that Columbus felt in the
islands' beauty, after three centuries of
colonial domination, has soured in the
eyes of Rhys's protagonist Edward
Rochester. His native, temperate
England had hardly prepared him for
the extremities he finds, and being
overwhelmed, his English degenerates
to the nagging whine of a school child.
Everything is too much I felt as I rode
wearily after her. Too much blue, too
much purple, too much green. The
flowers too red, the mountains too high,
the hills too near. And the woman is a

Living with Antoinette at Granbois,
a little house in the mountains of one of
the Windward Islands, though
potentially Edenic for Edwards only
makes him edgy. The very beauty of the
place causes his disquiet. 'It was a

beautiful place wild, untouched,
above all untouched, with an alien,
disturbing, secret loveliness. And it
kept its secret' (p.87). He wants the
secrets, the essential nature that he was
not part of, and which he could only
own, dominate and ruin.
Their marriage is emblematic of the
colonial situation. He exploits her, takes
her inheritance to enrich himself, then
resents his dependence on her. Though
the setting is idyllic, Edward and
Antoinette have no common ground
since niether's reality allows the possi-
bility of the other's. Their conversation
about their homelands is restatement of
the linguistic problems we found
inherent in Columbus's metaphor for
the difference between Fenandina and
Spain as that between day and night.
'That is precisely how your beautiful
island seems to me, quite unreal and
like a dream.'
'But how can rivers and mountains
and the sea be unreal?'
'And how can millions of people,
their houses and their streets be
'More easily,' she said, 'much more
easily, Yes, a big city must be like a
No, this is unreal and like a dream, I

When the conflict resulting from
such mutual alienation is played out in
the large field of New World history,
the outcome is genocide of the Indian.
Within Rhys's retelling of the story of
the madwoman in Charlotte Bronte's
Jane Eyre, when one reality excludes
the possibility of the other, the struggle
is to the death. Rochester prevails,
brings her in bondage to England,

reversing the route of discovery and
slave trade between hemispheres, but at
the expense of his wealth and wife as
she bums his English house down and
perishes with it. The Sargasso Sea that
Columbus's men feared would ensnare
their ships can be crossed, but the two
worlds that it separates are far more
alien and deadly.
Turning his back on Europe as a
dying civilization, the protagonist of
Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier's The
Lost Steps journeys up the Orinoco
river into the interior of South America,
its geography the scene for his own
inward journey back to the origin of his
identity. He discovers paradise, though
not the Garden of Eden that Columbus
believed to be in that region, nor the
city of El Dorado sought by Raleigh,
Aguirre, and so many other explorers
whose route he is retracing. His para-
dise lies at the head of the river, among
a primitive landscape and people where
he witnesses the birth of music. It is not
the European idea of a composer
meditating in solitude, his head filled
with imagined harmonies, but in the
counterpoint of two voices, one of a
dead man and one of his spirit, both
issuing from a shaman surrounded by
his tribe. This revelation precipitates his
dream of composing a threnody, now
that his music has finally found its
authentic ancestry among these tribes.
He was beginning to discover, in terms
of his own creative life, the meaning of
what had been intimated to him at the
beginning of his journey by the land
itself, 'the milieu that was slowly
revealing to me the nature of its values:
Adam's task of giving things their
names' (p.71).
The essential nature of experience in

the New World begins in the Edenic
possibility of beginning anew. The task
that had tongue-tied Columbus remains
for the modern writer of this
hemisphere. Some resolution must be
found between the traditions and
conceptions embedded in the colonial
languages and the yet unrealized
potential, however, sullied by history,
of the New World. 'The utopia on
which the New World is premised was
promptly corrupted by the epic of
colonization,' according to the Mexican
novelist Carlos Fuentes. 'The dream
was killed, yet the dream remains
alive.'12 In those writers most acutely
aware of the destructive heritage of
colonialism including Fuentes, Aime
Cesaire, Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo,
Octavio Paz, Jose Marti, Alejo Carpen-
tier, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Edward
Damau Brathwaite, V.S. Naipaul,
Derek Walcott, and many others their
literate despair is leavened by a sense of
the unspoiled potential yet available for
renewal in each fresh page.
The task of giving things their names
is another name for poetry, which
operates among the most intimate
relations between the world and the
word. The poet Derek Walcott used the
passage from Carpentier as an epigraph
to 'Homage to Gregorias,' the central,
crucial section in his verse auto-
biography of his boyhood in St Lucia,
Another Life (1973). The passage could
stand as epigraph to his entire body of
work, each part of which is part of the
world which remains for him Adamic.
He discusses that aspect of his work in
essays and interview, and it recurs in
dramatic and lyric verse, including
'Crusoe's Journal', 'Islands', 'Sainte
Lucie', 'Greece', in poems from

Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys

Alejo Carpentier Derek Walcott


Midsummer (1894), but chiefly in
Another Life.13
Walcott and his friend Dunstan St.
Omer, whom he calls Gregorias in the
poem, were awed and driven by the
realization that St Lucia was untouched
by art, that 'no one had yet written of
this landscape is so quick with language
that it speaks'. When he and Gregorias
swear as young men to 'put down, in
paint, in words' the whole island, they
are answered by 'every neglected, self-
pitying inlet/muttering in brackish
dialect' (8,ii). In the resonance between
the name and the named, art becomes
possible as a dialogue with place, as it
creates language and language recreates
its enduring aspect. 'The bois cannot
responded to its echo': this is a living
island inhabited by intelligence. It
could have been Columbus's had he
listened, but now it is Caliban's.
Yet also embedded within that lan-
guage is the denigration of history, so
that for the living, the task is to live up to
the name, not as mimics, but as people:
... trees and men
laboured assiduously, silently to
whatever their given sounds resembled,
ironwood, logwood-heart, golden
apples, cedars,
and were nearly
ironwood, logwood-heart, golden
apples, cedars, men...
Walcott posits another life in an
America freighted with history,
personal grief and love, that renews and
is renewed by the language formed in
the island of his birth. At the end of
Another Life, when adolescence is over,
his best friend broken by the
intoxication of alcohol and art, his first
love lost, his father dead and the man a
suicide who had taught him art, and he
is leaving for the life of a small-island
exile in the States, feeling like a
deserter or a prodigal son, the landscape
he had promised to turn into art
'inevitably shrunken' though it was he
who 'first extended my hand/to
nameless arthritic twigs' whose 'roots
refused English', still his farewell is a
reaffirmation of what was revealed to
Carpentier's musician about this most
ancient and new world:
Gregorias listen, lit,
we were the light of the world!
We were blest with a virginal,
unpainted world
with Adam's task of giving things their
...with nothing so old

that it could not be invented ...
The abyss is merciless for the faith-
less. Rhys's Rochester failed to under-
stand what Antoinette and the island
she was a part of offered because he
wanted only to graft their sensuality
onto the life he had been denied in
England. With the baggage of his Old
World values and language, essentially
Columbus's dilemma as well, he could
create nothing but tyranny and retreated
back across the Atlantic with the woman
he had driven mad with his own mad-
ness. The experience of Carpentier's
musician and the young St Lucian poet
are paradigms of the creative dialogue
possible with this New World he,
Columbus, had barely begun to discover.

1. The Journal of Christopher Columbus,
trans., by Cecil Jan (New York: Clarkson
N. Potter, 1960). We have only the
transcription edited by Bartolome de Las
Casas, though with every reason to
believe that it is faithful in summary and
quotation from the now lost original
journal. References in parentheses are to
2.See Terry Eagleton's chapter)
Structuralism and Semiotics' in Literary
Theory (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1983), pp.127-151.
3. Time pries them apart. The identity of
Guanahani has never been verified. The
present San Salvador was accepted as
Guanahani by consensus in the 1890s, but
a computer-assisted case in favour of
Samana Cay has been made by Joseph
Judge and James L Stanfield, 'The Island
of Landfall', The National Geographic
&0:5 (November 1986) 564,599. The
questions can never be resolved. Just as
Columbus wandered among numberless
islands in wonder and delight, so must we
still, for his acts of nomination and
proprietorship were casualties of time, try

and revive them however we will.
4. That history could hardly have been
otherwise, given the contradictory notions
inherent in Columbus's initial impression
that the Indians 'should be good servants
... and would easily be made Christian'
on his first encounter with them (10/12).
Two dates later the nature of such
servitude is made plainer when he
observed that 'with fifty men they would
be all kept in subjection and forced to do
whatever maybe wishes'. In 1499
Columbus instituted the encomienda
system of forced labour by the indians that
would nearly exterminate the race, though
he was thankful even on his deathbed for
the grace to have spread the Word to so
many new peoples. The early slavery
debate between Las Casas and Sepulveda
turned on whether the Indians were

descended from Adam and had souls. At
stake was the nature of the culture Europe
would impose on the New World as well
as the lives of millions of native American
and African people.
5. More than any other period of conflict
in history, the American conquest 'heralds
and establishes our present identity',
according to Tzvetan Todorov in The
Conquest of America (New York: Harper
& Row, 1984), p.5. His penetrating work,
to which I am much indebted, is a study of
early Spanish and Indian texts as they
reveal belief structures that determined the
course of this hemisphere's history.
6. The Discoverers (New York: Random
House, 1983), p. 237.
7. Quoted in Edmundo O'Gorman, The
Invention of American (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1961), p. 79.
Subsequent references to Las Casas will
be from his History of the Indies, trans.,
by Andree Collard (New York: Harper
and Row, 1971).
8. In Columbus's 'Memorial to Antonio de
Terres' (30/1/1494), quoted in Todorov,
9. Romantic historians such as Alexander
von Humboldt observed that Columbus
'retained a profound feeling for the
majesty of nature' (Cosmos, Paris, 1866-
67). A chillier spirit, Folson Young, said
that 'Columbus was not a very lucid or
exact writer, and he has but two methods
of comparison: either a thing is like Spain,
or it is not like Spain' (Christopher
Columbus and the New World of His
Discoveries, London, 1911). He compares
the islands to springtime in Andalusia,
Seville, Cordoba and Grenada, worthy
comparisons, but he realises that
something escaped the comparison. It is
unfair and wrong, however, to say that
Columbus is merely a 'business man' of
whom 'it is useless to demand .. lyrical
delicacies he did not feel', as does the
contemporary critic Ramon Iglesia,
Columbus, Cortes and Other Essays, tran.,
by Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1969) p.22.
Humboldt argues that, because of
Columbus's feeling for the uniqueness of
the natural world before him, he must be
credited with 'discovering' America. My
own argument is similar, though I extend
the analysis to the impact of the New
World on his language and rhetoric as it
anticipates the pre-occupations of modern
writers from the Caribbean.
10. Todorov concludes that Columbus had
rediscovered the motive of all grep,
travelers, the appreciation of beauty that
'serves no purpose, leads to nothing and
therefore can only be repeated' (p.25).
11. Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (New York:
Norton, 1966); Carpentier, The Lost Steps,
trans., by Harriet de Onis (New York:
Avon, 1979); Walcott, Collected Poems
1948-1984 Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986.
12. Jason Weiss, 'An Interview with


Michael Manley: THE MAKING

by Darrell E Levi
Heinemann (Caribbean) Ltd 1989

by Herman I McKenzie
Despite the recent flowering of scholarship on the English-
speaking Caribbean, much work still remains to be done to
illuminate the largely peaceful, but sometimes turbulent,
movement from colonies to independent nations; the
accompanying transition from the early fighters for Self-
Government and Independence to the more radical,
frequently socialist-influenced generation who very often
tended to be disillusioned with the post-Independence polity,
economy and social structure. Chronologically, and perhaps
in political attitudes and philosophy as well, Michael Manley
is himself a transitional figure, and if for no other reason, an
examination of his life and times might help to illuminate by
comparison and contrast the continuities and discontinuities
in the politics of Jamaica and the region with regard to such
issues as leadership (charisma, the 'Hero and the Crowd'),
succession, the vicissitudes of socialism, democratic and
otherwise, in the context of underdevelopment and
dependency in the Third World.
There are problems, however, among them being the
abundance of previous studies (e.g., by Stone, Stevens and
Stevens, Kaufman), not to speak of Manley's own writings.
Perhaps more difficult is the issue of detachment. While it is
true that every biographer is inevitably influenced by age,
gender, class, political persuasion and other aspects of
membership in a particular society, the influence of these
factors is intensified in the typical Caribbean case because of
the smallness of our societies: the biographer is very likely to
have been in direct contact (or be closely related to some-
body who has been in direct contact) with the subject. It is
difficult to achieve the critical and emotional distance
required for an objective appraisal of someone like Michael
Manley who, in the course of a career during which Jamaica
experienced a great deal of violence and economic
disruption, has (not surprisingly) aroused equally passionate
support and opposition (what Levi calls 'messiah and
muddler myths'). In addition, access to personal documents
and sources, and the subject himself is also more problematic
because of the many constraints and influences (direct and
indirect) which are easier to impose in a small society.
Perhaps an outsider would be better placed to surmount some
of these obstacles.
Darell E Levi, an American academic who has written
previously on Brazil, does not appear to have had any
research interest in the English-speaking Caribbean until he
attended a lecture by Michael Manley at Florida State
University in 1983 and was so impressed that he decided to
write the latter's biography. His proposal accepted by

Manley in the following year, Levi was granted interviews
by his subject, allowed much freedom to quote from
Manley's private correspondence for the 1970s and 1980s,
given unrestricted access to the PNP's files, and also
introductions to numerous friends and associates listed in the
acknowledgments. (Incidentally, the list doesn't seem to
include any declared enemies.)
Despite these obvious advantages, Levi does not explicitly
claim that as an outsider he is free from most of the
limitations mentioned earlier, and in fact confines himself to
the statement that, 'The foreigner can never understand some
things, but he can see and understand others.' Unfortunately
he does not share his reflections on the problems involved in
a situation where the possibility of direct access to one's
subject, as well as knowledgeable informants, means that is
is equally easy for the subject and informants, friends and
enemies to have access to (and even control of) the
biographer. It is even possible that, far from being free of the
insider's prejudices, the outsider may come to adopt them.
Discussion of such issues might have been more useful than
unexceptionable statements like: 'As a professional historian
I recognize my obligation to seek "the truth", but I also
believe that it is beyond the ability of limited mortals -
burdened by prejudices or nationality, race, gender, religion,
education, family, and culture to escape the essential
subjectivity of life. This book will be my truth; others will
find their own.' Or: 'While this book attempts a more
complex interpretation of Michael Manley (than local
"myths"), it does so in the recognition that even carefully
crafted history has the quality of myth about it.'

Levi's 'Truth'
Levi's story is of an aggressive and impetuous, yet shy
and sensitive young man, somewhat overawed by the
academic and professional achievements of his father,
returning to Jamaica after service in the Canadian Air Force
during World War II and an unremarkable stay at the London
School of Economics, to become a journalist and trade
unionist. Only hesitantly, according to Levi, did Michael
Manley, who originally wanted to be an art critic, embark on
the road to party, national and Third World leadership.
The treatment is reasonably comprehensive from
Manley's childhood to his period in opposition during the
1980s, with a brief epilogue on his return to power following
the 1989 elections. Although more than half of the book is


concerned with Manley's years of political leadership, the
period of his early 'preparation' is not scanted. In fact, for
this reader, this section was somewhat more interesting than
the chapters from the 1970s to the present, perhaps because
the story becomes less personal the closer we get to the
present. There are some surprising emphases, however. For
example, the narrative allots vastly more space to the
contretemps over United States Ambassador de Roulet than
to Manley's election as party leader. One is led to wonder if
the main determinant here might not have been the ready
availability of published material on the former rather than
the latter. Or the American audience? (There is, by the way,
nothing on the 'Spy Robinson Affair').
Given the polarization of views about Michael Manley,
many readers will probably be struck by Levi's attitude
towards his subject. He declares his position at the outset:
'We both understood from the beginning that neither of us
wanted to do an "authorized" or "official" biography.' But
this is no Kitty Kelly biography either: 'Michael Manley is a
powerfully charismatic man. I like him. I sympathize with
him and wish him well. I believe that his politics, while
sometimes impetuous and inadequately executed and
supported by his party are, in my view, nonetheless correct in
their direction and courageous in their advocacy... At the
same time, because I am a scholar, and because I take
Manley and his politics seriously, I have tried to blend my
admitted sympathy for the subject with as much critical
detachment as possible.'
Understandably, there is room for debate as to how far
Levi indeed succeeds in maintaining this 'critical
detachment' (for instance, when he refers to the Accredi-
tation Committee as a 'bright spot', or 'the bogus election of
1983'), but my main problem with this narrative is the
feeling that Levi's book makes Manley much duller and two-
dimensional than could have been expected.
A likely explanation is Levi's approach to the material:
although much of the story concerns a period which was
marked by high drama, terror even, as well as moments of
low comedy and savage farce, Levi's style is determinedly
low-key, and understated 'just the facts, ma'am'. The
writing is on the whole straightforward, serviceable and
clear, with reasonably apt quotations and anecdotes (though
not nearly as many of the latter, which would have been
useful in making the account more personal, less 'external';
also, there is not much humour: for instance, he does not
include any anti-Manley jokes). Whatever his own views, he
seems determined to be a chronicler rather than, say, an
investigative journalist. Thus, he frequently notes
contradictions between the sources, but refrains from explicit
comment. (Although it may be argued that the very noting of
contra-dictions between, say, two versions by Manley of the
same incident is a comment.)

Manley Outside
Those readers who simply want 'the facts' might find this
approach quite acceptable, but others who would like a
deeper understanding of Michael Manley will want more
than a spelling out of apparent contradictions and contrasting
views. To begin with, Levi does not give much information
on, or insight into, 'the making of a leader'. One would have
expected 'the foreigner' to explore the reasons for what his

own account suggests was the improbable emergence of
Michael as politician and party leader. Unlike Marcus
Garvey, the young Michael Manley apparently did not see
himself as a potential leader. What changed? (There are hints
of family mystique and noblesse oblige, but these are
undeveloped.) How and when was 'charisma' acquired? And
why did Manley defeat Vivian Blake by a 'surprisingly wide
margin'? (Incidentally, is 'moderate lawyer' all that needs to
be said about Blake?)
Equally unsatisfying is the treatment of Manley's seeming
ambiguities with regard to socialism. I can think of few
readers who would not want a more detailed analysis both of
his adoption of democratic socialism and more recent
playing down (or is it?) of that version of socialism. They are
not likely to be satisfied by bald statements about Manley's
'guilt about his privileged background and position', his
implicit rebellion against his father, or his growth as 'thinker,
activist, and leader since the defeat of 1980'. Part of the
problem doubtless stems from Levi's decision to eschew a
full examination of Manley's political ideas: '. .there is a
need for an intellectual biography, but in this first attempt I
thought it more important to use a comprehensive approach,
sacrificing a more profound treatment of Manley's ideas.'
At a more personal level, the portrait of Manley is largely
confined to the surface of things. The sources of his
'complexity' are not explored though there are hints of
Oedipal conflicts in Levi's account of clashes with authority
at school, and the implication that Manley's socialism is
partly attributable to 'his struggle with his father's record
and aura'. Further, it is difficult to get any sense of Manley's
development: for instance, we are told, rather than shown
that, '. . Manley grew by facing such difficulties [marital
estrangement; life-threatening illnesses; mother's death].' 'His
close brush with death and the other political and personal
events of the 1980s forced him to grow emotionally. ..'
It may be a blessing in disguise that Levi seems to feel
that we cannot really come to grips with such a complex
person. Rather than surrendering to the temptation of pop
psychobiography he goes no further than, 'the elusive truth
may be that Michael Manley is, indeed, many things to many
people.' Perhaps, however, he is up too close. A better
balance between subject and background might have helped.
True, Michael Manley is properly the focus, but his
singularity is difficult to appreciate because so little is said
about his contemporaries and his circle. So the reader is told
that Manley did such, made such and such decisions, and so
on, without being provided with any clear understanding of
what might have been expected given the players and the
game. Maybe this results from Levi's immersion in the
Manley sources. Even so, he seems surprisingly incurious
about others than Manley. For example, a key figure such as
Edward Seaga merits little more than 'The JLP's Seaga
overcame a lack of charisma by stringent organization of his
West Kingston constituency, control of the JLP, and a
reputation for financial wizardry.'
Then there is the failure to convey any real feel for the
texture of the society. Consequently, although the
colour/class system is sketched, there is no discussion of the
middle-class background. Thus, Michael Manley is said to be
from the progressive sector of the brown middle class, etc.
But there are no illustrations of either the 'progressive'
behaviour of this sector, or the non-progressive behaviour of
the rest of the middle class. Instead, the stereotyped portrayal


of a philistine society, against which a few heroes like the testimonies. Though it is, of course, convenient for the non-
Manleys quite inexplicably rebelled, slights a long tradition specialist to have in one place what is, among other things, a
of concern with social and cultural matters (e.g. Theophilus summary of these works. It is a pity that Levi did not make
Scholes, Dr. Love). The Manleys therefore seem much more more use of his opportunities as an outsider. After all, he has
exceptional, heroic, and ultimately mysterious in their social achieved access to material which might not have been as
and cultural attitudes than if there had been a fuller treatment readily available to a local, and has not had to be concerned
of the middle class, about possible sanctions. But these advantages do not seem
It can certainly be argued that this first ('interim') to have led to much new information on, or analysis and
biography should not be judged by the same standards as if it interpretation of, Jamaican/Third World leadership and
claimed to be a definitive work. However, given the political process. It is therefore difficult to see that people in
difficulties of such a project for an insider, Levi's biography the region (who are probably more likely to buy this book
is likely to be the standard text on its subject for some time to than those in metropolitan countries) will gain very much
come, a book to which not only foreigners but locals as well, from this account. They will still have to go back to Carl
especially students at various levels, are likely to have Stone, and for that matter Jamaica Farewell and even
recourse. Although this may be an unfair comment, given Jamaica's Michael Manley: Messiah, Muddler or
Levi's declared aims, it should still be noted that little of Marionette?
consequence seems to be added to the books by Stone,
Kaufman, Stevens and Stevens, or indeed Manley's own Herman McKenzie is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology and
Social Work, University of the West Indies, Mona.

The Institute of Jamaica
JAMAICA'S NATIONAL CULTURAL INSTITUTION was founded in 1879. Its main functions
are to foster and encourage the development of culture, science and history, in the
national interest.
It operates as a statutory body under the Institute of Jamaica Act 1978 and falls under
the portfolio of the Minister of Culture. The Institute's central decision-making body
is the Council which is appointed by the Minister.
The Institute of Jamaica consists of a central administration and a number of divisions
and associate bodies operating with varying degrees of autonomy.

Chairman: Sonia Jones
Executive Director: Beverley Hall-
Deputy Director: Yvonne Dixon

Central Administration
12-16 East St., Kingston. Tel: 922-0620

African Caribbean Institute/Memory
Roy West Building, 12 Ocean Boulevard
Kingston Mall. Tel: 922-4793

Cultural Training Centre (CTC)
1 Arthur Wint Drive, Kingston. 5
Tel: 929-2350/3
Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts
(formerly Jamaica School of Art)
Jamaica School of Dance
Jamaica School of Drama
Jamaica School of Music

Institute of Jamaica Publications Ltd.
2a Suthermere Rd., Kingston 10
Tel: 929-4785/6 926-8817

Junior Centre
19 East St., Kingston. Tel: 922-0620

Head Office: 12-16 East Street, Kingston
Tel: 922-0620
National Museum of Historical
Archaeology, Port Royal.
Tel: 924-8871
Fort Charles Maritime Museum, Port
Arawak Museum, White Marl
Military Museum,
Up Park Camp, 3rd GR Compound.
Jamaica People's Museum of Craft and
Spanish Town Square Tel: 984-2452
Old King's House Archaeological
Museum, Spanish Town Square
Tel: 984-2452

National Gallery of Jamaica
Roy West Building, Ocean Boulevard
Kingston Mall. Tel: 922-1561/4

National Library of Jamaica
12-16 East Street., Kingston
Tel: 922-0620

Natural History Library and
12-16 East St., Kingston Tel: 922-0620


Dr Philip Alexander is a Research
Associate in the Writing Program at
the Massachusetts Institute of

Robert Bensen is Director of
Writing, Hartwick College, New

Peter Cresswell, Senior Lecturer in
Fine Art at the Goldsmith College,
University of London, spent a year in
Jamaica lecturing at the Edna
Manley School for the Visual Arts.

Thomas Farr and Elaine Fisher
entomologist and botanist
respectively, are both attached to the
Natural History Division of the
Institute of Jamaica.

Rex Nettleford is a Pro-Vice
Chancellor of the University of the
West Indies, Director of the Trade
Union Institute and founder and
Artistic Director of the National
Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.

Dr John Rashford, a regular
contributor, is a lecturer in the
Department of Sociology and
Anthropology at the College of
Charleston, South Carolina.


An octet of poems

fom the ms Summer Maid

by Anthony McNeill

The West Indian Poet/1

Dennis Scott, poet and friend,
Has crossed to more radiant light.

His life was a model.

Near the end he wept:
All those songs,

All those songs,

And who now will write them,

which is my lament:

Under that mask

He was modest.

We remember his strict, stark
paradigm verses
We remember his service and kindness

We remember his rich,
loving, ironic, mock-

sinister laugh

We remember he was miracle-clever

& deeply Jamaican.

How strange to be 1/2-
brother to Larkin:

The latter loathed mountains
The former was wary of them:

Needless to say for the real,
Plains also have perils

The angel is more versatile

The Dove of the Future/1

I think I was mad from birth
and that determined

each drift of my work,
a lunatic singing alone
to himself,
choosing to live in room
after room
like a rose cell.

Of course what will raise me
is Death.

The popular view
of ghosts'
quite correct.

How easy to see us
in aftersight

The God of Night/i

Somebody else lived my life, not I"
seems proper for printing

on my tombstone
to be seen even

through strands of rain.
There's a raven inside

It calls and calls me
Blackening ice

I sight a chalk skull
in the mirror


made my void laugh


The New Poem/i

When I think of Johns Hopkins
Tulips in spring

When I think of my mentor
Elliott Coleman

Courtly and kind
When I think of good Olive

mercurial beauty
who gifted my son
When I think of odd women
who transited love

When I think of my early
moderate fame

I do not weep
their adequate loss

The poems succeeding
were wild to bless

The Jamaican Musician/i

Don Drummond you rest
At the summit of music.

Struck Lady Day only,
Equals your slant agony.

Your fellow-musicians' allegros
mirrored my country

happy and young.

You slowed it down,
visioning on

to a Lucifer-future.
It's upon us now

as you forecast it,
Far East

The Death of Love/2
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to smoking.
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to pleading.
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to sorrow.
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to anger.
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to venom.

Don't leave me, I say,
turning to absence.
Don't leave me, I say,
turning to hatred.
Rogue Dread

The Ghost's Meditation/I

Supposing you were fully assured
of living forever
what would you do.
Would you go to your
job tomorrow
and stay.
Would you hold up a bank
or a planet.
Would you shed
your husband or wife.
In time you awaken,
a matchless wraith

The West Indian Poet/3

At 49 surely,
shouldn't one have

a handle on pain.
Does aging augment it,

In less than a year

I'll be old,
who was young yesterday.

Poem I cry through




The Write


The Latest in Foreign Novels
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Phone: 968-2307

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on Video Cassette
80 delightful minutes of folk songs, folk lore,
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Kingston 8, Jamaica Telephone: (809) 925-4883 -- 1

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Drug-Producing Plants

Girl in Cornield, Jerry Craig Courtesy of the artist


Jerry Craig's painting of poppies
growing wild in an English wheat
field shows the brilliant summer
flower which is found throughout
Europe. Even in this form, poppies are
associ-ated with death: they are worn
on Remembrance Day in memory of
those who died in battle in the First and
Second World Wars and the wars that
have followed. The cultivated poppy,
however, has brought death to thou-
sands through the misuse of drugs
produced from it: opium and its deriva-
tives. Yet for thousands of years, opium
was used for beneficial purposes until it
was replaced by modern, more reliable,
man-made drugs. Other plants have had
their valuable special qualities abused
and have become part of today's drug
culture. Two in particular stand out:
coca and marijuana, or ganja. But the
poppy has the longest-known history.

The Oriental Poppy (Papaver somni-

The quality for which the poppy was
most valued is seen in the second half
of its Latin name: the power to bring
sleep. More than four thousand years
ago the Sumerians knew this as did the
Greeks later. Through all the centuries
since, the poppy 'milk' extracted from
the seed-head has been dried to form
opium in its raw form. Refined, it could
be used as a cure for insomnia, as a
sedative, a pain-killer and, in stronger
doses, as an anaesthetic. It was also
smoked to induce hallucinatory dreams,
a highly addictive practice. Until the
last century, opium was almost the only
anaesthetic known, but increasing
scientific research brought new anal-
gesics and anaesthetics, first from
opium itself in the form of morphine,
many times more powerful than opium,

and codeine, which is still used in some
mild pain-killers and cough medicines.
Heroin, one of the most dangerous of
addictive drugs, was also produced
from opium with the addition of
chemicals. It has no medicinal use. All
three of these opium derivatives are part
of the drug culture of today and they are
all addictive. They are swallowed,
smoked or injected for one purpose
only: to give a temporary feeling of
relaxation and exhilaration that is so
unlike everyday life that the user has to
return to it repeatedly and so becomes
an addict. Only two possibilities then
remain: breaking the habit and going
through the inevitable and excruciating
symptoms of withdrawal from the drug
or remaining an addict to meet an early
death from drug-related infections or
from an overdose. The US News and
World Report of August 17,1992,
reported, 'Drugs most frequently me-


Colombian indians chewing coca (mid nineteenth century)

ntioned in autopsies: cocaine, heroin,
codiene.' Yet two of these sub-stances,
deadly when misused, come from a
plant which, with its power to relieve
pain, was for countless centuries a
blessing to those who suffered.

Coca (Erythroxylon coca)
Long before Europeans reached
South America, the Indian inhabitants
had discovered the unusual qualities of
the leaves of the coca shrub. Chewing
them gave a feeling of immense energy
and freedom from tiredness, making it
possible to carry great loads and work
for long hours without feeling hunger
or fatigue. The reason for this is that the
coca leaf is the only source of cocaine,
a stimulant that works on the higher
levels of the brain. Indian workers still
chew coca today but William Emboden
writes in Narcotic Plants that the
amount of cocaine extracted in this way
is never enough to bring about addic-
tion or death. Europeafrs\discovered
other uses for the leaf. In the
nineteenth century, coca was
mixed with wine to increase its
effect and later came to be used as
a painkiller and anaesthetic. In
America, coca was one of the
original ingredients of Coca Cola
until 1904 when such use was
prevented by law. And medical ,
scientists discovered many uses
for it in eye surgery, dentistry and
local anaesthetics. It is still used
for some specialized surgical pur- l i
poses today but not as an injec-
tion since addiction to cocaine can "
be too easily acquired and, in
some cases, a single injection can
prove fatal. Cuaim

The illegal use of cocaine as a
supposedly 'recreational' drug appears
to increase. Tons of cocaine are pro-
duced in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia
where parts of the tropical rain forests
are seriously harmed by the chemicals
used in cocaine production and
afterward poured away into the nearest
river. A world-wide network smuggles
the drug to eager buyers and many
countries struggle to limit the damage
to their societies brought about by
addiction, lawlessness and deaths
resulting from the illegal use of what
was, originally, a beneficial leaf.

Ganja (Cannabis sativa)
Cannabis Sativa has many names:
ganja in Jamaica, but around the world,
marijuana, pot, hashish, bhang, kif,
grass, weed, hemp and others which
show how widely it is known and used.
It appears to have originated in Asia but
has spread round the world, cultivated,
interestingly enough, for two very
different reasons: as a drug and for its
fine, strong fibres.
Marijuana, or ganja, is not con-
sidered to be as physiologically
addictive a drug as the opium deriva-
tives or cocaine, but is seen to be a first
step to the more dangerous drugs as
well as presenting its own dangers such
as detachment from reality. It is
therefore illegal in most Western
countries. Cannabis can be smoked,
used as snuff, eaten in cakes and
candies, mixed with milk and used as a
tea. It can produce feelings of hap-
piness, well-being and increased self-
esteem. Its use as a drug has been
widespread for centuries. In Africa, the
people of the Zambezi Valley had a
communal ritual in which they would

stand over a smouldering pile of ganja
and inhale the fumes. And in North
Africa, where it is known as kif it is
commonly smoked, but as part of the
accepted culture.
Under the name of hemp, or Indian
hemp, Cannabis was extensively
cultivated for its strong, natural fibres.
In India itself, it was the centre of a
huge industry producing cords and
ropes, sailcloth and sacking, or crocus
bags, but since the invention of nylon
and other synthetics, the industry has
dwindled. The hemp industry also
existed in the USA. The 1901 United
States Department of Agriculture Year
Book includes an article on this subject
which gives the information that the
annual average production of hemp in
Kentucky for the previous 25 years had
been 8,7000,000 pounds. No mention is
made of hemp as a drug.
With Cannabis no longer an indust-
rial crop, it would appear to have no
use except as an illegal drug. However,
as with other drugs mentioned here,
Cannabis was found to have medicinal
qualities in the nineteenth century until
it was replaced by more effective sub-
stances. More recently, three medical
preparations have been developed from
Cannabis and are being manufactured
here in Jamaica: Canasol, for the
treatment of glaucoma, an eye disease;
Asmasol, for bronchial asthma and
coughs; Canovert for seasickness.
This development is an encouraging
example of the special qualities of a
plant being put to use for the good of
people instead of being so abused as to
bring about their destruction.

The assistance of Dr T Farr of the Natural
History Division of the Institute of Jamaica
is gratefully acknowledged.


--- ---- ---

Treasures of Jamaican Heritage

Triton Shell Horn

The Triton Shell shown here comes from the Arawak site at Chancery Hall, St Andrew. The fact that the shell has
clearly been adapted for use demonstrates that the Arawaks were familiar with methods of transforming marine
shells into horns for signalling over long distances or, possibly, as musical instruments.
The shell is approximately 11cm in diameter at its widest part and 19cm in length. The apex, or narrow end, has
been chipped and smoothed to form a mouthpiece while part of the umbilicus end has been roughly chipped away
around the body of the shell and at right angles to it. The purpose of detaching this section could have been to
improve the quality of the sound.
The shell has been carefully polished smooth to such a depth that the characteristic dark brown to creamy
yellow markings of the Triton are barely visible.
Random dotted markings criss-cross the exterior of the shell but these are probably the work of other marine
animals rather than made by the hand of man.
The discovery of this shell, and at least one other like it, opens up the possibility of adding shell horns to the list
of Arawak musical instruments.

With acknowledgements to G P Lechler and Basil Reid,
past Presidents of the Archaeological Society of Jamaica


Nobody does

-7-_ -i



i 33%

33 ~


I p ti ,,4\




Trumpet Tree
(Cecropia peltata L.)

The Trumpet Tree or Snake Wood is a member of the family Moraceae and is
-rierefore related to the Fig, Breadfruit and Jackfruit. It is a tall tree and seldom grows
to a height less than 35 or 40 feet. The trunk and branches are hollow and
membranous septa (divisions) within them add to their strength and cause the annular,
or ring-shaped, marks on the surface.
This tree is a native to Jamaica and abundant in the West Indies and Central, North
and South America. The fruit is edible and tastes like fig. Birds feed on the fruit and so
contribute to its wide distribution
The soft, hollow wood is seldom used except in making match-sticks, boxes,
crates, and paper pulp. The branches are used to make floats for fishnets while the
trunks are split lengthwise and are used as gutters. The strong, fibrous inner bark has
been used for making ropes, hammocks, and has some value in tanning. The smaller
branches, when cleared of septa, are used as wind instruments.
The dry wood is very suitable for producing fire by friction, and the Arawak Indians
used it to start their cooking fires. Jamaicans use the leaves and flowers in home
remedies to alleviate various ailments.
The tree grows readily wherever natural vegetation has been removed and is very
common in Jamaica.

Natural History Division, Institute of Jamaica

Printed by Hyde, Held & Blackburn Ltd.

09/19/00 4f134-MB 24

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