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Table of Contents
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Full Text

ISSN 0008-6495

Conference On Caribbean Culture
In Honour Of Professor Rex Nettleford

Caribbean Quarterly
Volume 43, Nos 1&2
March-June 1997



VOLUME 43, Nos. 1&2



(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.)

Conference On Caribbean Culture
In Honour Of Professor Rex Nettleford

Introduction iii
Barry Chevannes
Opening Address 1
George Lamming
Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom Thirty Years
Later 16
Lloyd Best
Caribbean Culture: Future Trends 25
Stuart Hall
Rex Nettleford and the Renaissance of Caribbean Culture 34
Kamau Brathwaite
Re-engineering Blackspace 70
Erna Brodber
The Significance of Folk Culture in the Development of
National Identity 82
Closing Address The Continuing Battle for Space -
The Caribbean Challenge 90
Rex Nettleford
Rex Nettleford A Revolutionary Spirit 96
Michael Manley

Books Received 101



Editorial Committee

The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Deputy Vice Chancellor, Editor
Compton Bourne, Principal, St. Augustine Campus, UWI
Sir Keith Hunte, Principal, Cave Hill Campus, UWI
Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of History, Mona
Neville McMorris, Dept. of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
The Editor
Caribbean Quarterly
Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor
University of the West Indies
PO Box 42, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
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Email: vsalter@uwimona.edn.jm.

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like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of relevance to the
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The invitation which brought the group of luminaries on Caribbean culture
to the March 1996 Conference at Mona in honour of Rex Nettleford simply asked
that they address any issue they felt to be of importance. The only exception
was Edward Seaga, who the conference organizers felt had both the expertise as an
anthropologist and the experience as a promoter of native art forms explicitly to
address the question of The role of the folk in the formation ofnational identity. All
others had the freedom to put before the plenary audience the issues of concern to
them. We had enough faith that whatever fare they chose to serve would be
consumed by hungry but discriminating participants.
The resulting eight speeches which are presented in this double issue of
Caribbean Quarterly in the order in which they were delivered at the Conference
represent a remarkable collection of wisdom and prophetic insight, extraordinary
for their overlapping and mutually reinforcing contents. Some would see the
"extraordinary" not in this, for indeed this had been life's work for many of these
eight speakers, but in the final and complete triumph of the cultural which they as
it were presided over. In any event from their various quarters Hall from global
ethnic London, Brathwaite from syxcoraxic New York, Lamming from his Atlantic
Barbadian coast, Seaga from his West Kingston ghetto, Brodber from her black
space in Woodside, Rohlehr from calypso Trinidad, Best from anywhere and
everywhere in the Caribbean, Nettleford from his colossal stretch across continents
and dimensions all spoke in harmony, if not in a single voice, over the three days
and one night of the Conference, on the centrality of culture to the endeavour of the
Caribbean people.
This surely is the central theme of these plenary speeches. Delivered as
they were under the part sponsorship of the Faculty of Social Sciences (the other
part of the Institute of Caribbean Studies) and in that faculty's new lecture theatre,
they represented a powerful symbol of culture coming (back) in from the cold where
it had been thrown out by a social science that had lost its bearing and wandered
far afield in realms of vanguardism and name-calling; represented, in the thoughtful
pronouncement of the Griot Kamau Brathwaite, a healing. For in situating the
Conference as a celebration (Chevannes as celebrant, Nettleford as celebrated)
within its 500 (5000) years cultural history, using his inimitable "audio- (now,
obviously, graphic-) mural", Brathwaite declares a healing of the gulf between the
social sciences and the humanities, the centrality of culture now replacing the
centrality of politics.
Every wound once healed remains sensitive for quite some time, and can
be re-opened. So it remains to be seen for us who inherit the task of building on
this remarkable event how whole the body can again become. But the speakers leave
absolutely no doubt of the centrality of culture. Lamming, in his brilliant opening
address, attributes the deformity of our political culture to the neglect and
back-seat relegation of the arts, which has resulted in a great distance between those
who produce and those for whom the social product is intended. For Best the issue
is not simply a matter of historical failure, but one that has epistemological
dimensions, as our "validating elites", the intellectuals, having accepted Eurocen-
tric rationalism as their thought premise, compartmentalise culture away from
modern science, away from education. The result is our present crisis of self-knowl-
edge and self-confidence. If to some Best seems fantastical in his blueprint of an
extradisciplinary university based on only two faculties, a faculty of history and a
faculty of geography, it is to dramatise the importance of time and space in what

he calls a new paradigm of interpretation. For, he reminds us, our pursuit of
knowledge can only be textured by who we are and where we are (and he might
have added "and when we are"), and grasped through the imagery of the arts of
the imagination, of which science is but a subset, "poetry in another incarnation"
Culture is central because self-awareness or self-definition is, in the view
of the plenary speakers, central. It is, says Lamming, a prerequisite for our
membership in and our peculiar contribution to the human race. For what is peculiar
about the Caribbean is "a profound and unique historical experience' called black.
Affirming oneself as black is not a matter of race but the affirmation and appro-
priation of an experience, hence the question of where one stands in relation to that
experience. Without this self-affirmation we remain stagnant and vulnerable.
Self-definition is to Brodber the central most important requirement of the
act of emancipation, a hundred and sixty years old but still not complete. It is the
struggle for space, a Nettlefordean theme also, blackspace. Here, as with Lamming,
blackness is not about colour or phenotype, but about the identification of feelings
and sensibilities. Creating or "re-engineering' blackspace is, as she puts it, "to align
ourselves with the traditional Afro-Caribbean population and help it carry on the
job of providing an alternative for these societies" Such an alternative is precisely
what ethiopianism is about, an epistemological/philosophical grasp of one's posi-
tion in time and space. Ethiopianism, introduced by the enslavers to subdue the
enslaved, was reversed to become, according to Brodber, a philosophy of liberation
and action.
Ethiopianism also figures strongly as well in the presentation of Stuart Hall,
as a paradigm with the power to guide us through the global forest created by the
west. For ethiopianism, in the story of exodus, introduced to "civilise" us, became
instead a powerful metaphor transcribed by our ancestors out of the mouth of the
master, and reinterpreted with all the ambiguity and double inscription into an
instrument of our own resistance and recivilisation. We therefore need not fear
globalisation. Fear arises only with the failure of self-knowledge, while self-
knowledge traces but does not repose in the memory of the past, in this case Africa.
Here Hall sounds a warning: an ethiopianism that takes metaphor for reality runs
the danger of exclusivity and ethnocentrism.
It is here that Nettleford stands out in the minds of the plenary speakers as
a true beacon. Manley describes him as a "revolutionary spirit", not only in his
successful combination of the artist's intuition and the analysis of the political
scientist, but, like Marcus Garvey, in breaking away from the stifling conventions
of colonialism and recrossing the middle passage, back to "those roots in our
history which we must one day incorporate within our assumptions about ourselves
and our innate worth" Identity becomes for Nettleford a point not of arrival but
of departure, one to be used to chart the present, as Bob Marley and the Rastafarians
have done, achieving, says Manley "transcendal self-assurance" A Renaissance
man, as Brathwaite calls him, or Regional cultural Guru, as Seaga names him, or
the "incarnation of the peril and promise inherent in our state of betweenity", as
Best describes him, Nettleford knows where he stands. Brodber recalls his self-de-
scription: "one of those Jamaicans of the colour of the black in the flag" This is
not indulgent stuff. Brathwaite is right, Nettleford is ENIGMA, rather that icon,
light-absorbing rather than light-reflecting, inscrutable but compelling, compelling
because inscrutable, more persona than person, a mask. "Nettleford absorbs the
light and is ENIGMA that stage in people's cultural development beyond the
postage stamp, beyond the icon, beyond that horrible word 'commodification',

beyond, in fact, any kind of psycho-political modification" His significance lies
not in his own personal accomplishments, but in his historical role in the renaissance
of Caribbean culture, in which through art, both artist and audience come home to
the ancestral spirit of the folk.
That sense of "coming home" is one of the powerful undercurrents in the
integration of Caribbean culture. If as Lamming says, one would be hard put to find
another region anywhere in the world where the imagination of the artist "is so
completely dominated by the lives of people from down below" Seaga having
himself crossed the bridge of privilege to enter the world of the folk counts the
journey as "among the richest experiences of my life". The fact that Caribbean
artistic tradition has made and continues.to make this link makes of our artists,
architects of society. For, as Lamming, Hall and Best show, the time-and-space
integration of reality through the centrality of the creative arts amounts to a
paradigm for all our endeavours, be they in economic planning, law, or politics.
Here, dance, the creative art in which Nettleford's genius has made its greatest
impact, forging, as Seaga reminds us, one of the leading institutions of dance in the
western hemisphere, the National Dance Theatre Company, becomes an idiom for
life. Drawing on Nettleford's own explication in his Dance Jamaica, Lamming
shows the importance of the community in creative artistic (and, indeed, any other
form of) production, as both source of inspiration and temper against arrant
individualism, but the importance also of building on inherited style to create
something new; something, Hall adds, appropriate to the contemporary circum-
stances. For living cultures draw on tradition, but only to interpret the present.
This brings us once again to the focus on culture and identity. In a rivetting
explanation of what is the meaning of diasporic culture in the context of globalisa-
tion, Hall invites us to consider not so much the model of culture in people's minds,
but how we think about it. Warning against reification, and focusing on the
distinction between culture as it is lived and culture as it is reflected on, he lays out
the basis for an understanding of diasporic culture. Seeing culture as reflexively
constituted by and at the same time constituting the expressions of it, whether these
be the creative arts, speech, foodways, and so on, enables a people to escape being
entrapped in the traditions of the past, even as they must of necessity draw on the
past for their own identity and sense of self, and to get on with living in the here
and now. In other words, the children of the diaspora are forced to make a symbolic
return home if they are to know who they are, but they know at the same time that
they can never really go home again. This is the diasporic condition, whether the
diaspora be of the Africans of the Caribbean or the Jamaicans, the global ethnics,
in London. It is this knowledge of self which reduces the feat of modern western
hegemony in a global world.
But if culture is a reflexive mode of living and thinking, the individual may
both embody the expressive power of culture as well as impose new directions on
it. This is why, Brathwaite argues, the sharing of collective responsibility for such
individuals, the artists, the griots, the living memory banks is itself an expression
of culture, culture as an integrating cosmology, a "Nettlefordean holistic" force,
"weaving us all together"
That weave, precisely, is a knitting of crossed lines, ofcontradicting omens,
which as Seaga presents it, is responsible for the peculiar contours of the Jamaican
folk culture, on which he focuses, but he is at pains to contextualise it in the real
world of its social and physical environment. Cultural identity, as he sees it begins
from birth, when it is shaped, contradictorily, by the great indulgence, on one hand,

and strict discipline, on the other, of a loose but nurturing family structure that goes
on to produce both a pattern of indolence and a deep sense of competitiveness and
striving, strong bonds of affinity and a deep sense of individualism, both at the same
time. The "informal, indulgent, unregimented life experience" provides the foun-
dation on which the creative imagination can flourish, whether in the arts, in
religion, in trading or in style. It is here he notes that Jamaica has made its greatest
mark, particularly in its music.
The fact that eight sages have spoken so persuasively on the centrality of
culture to the lives of Caribbean society does not make it become policy. The
question remains as to why not, why culture remains so marginal. A measure of the
difficulty facing all those who share this view may be seen in the long and tireless
road travelled by Nettleford, preaching the importance of self-awareness to our
emancipation from all kinds of slavery, mental as well as economic, and the perilous
neglect of culture in our system of education, both themes he found it necessary to
return to in the closing plenary. Interestingly, Seaga, a former Prime Minister and
still practising politician, not only knows it, but in his tribute makes it quite clear
how highly valued Nettleford's contribution has been throughout the region and
beyond. The difficulty is twofold: how to give culture its centrality, without making
of it a shibboleth, without in fact threatening the other "claimants"; and how to
extend the paradigm which the creative arts present to other areas of social life, in
effect how to bridge the social gap. Lamming, Best and Nettleford confront this
difficulty, all pointing to a reformating of our education, in both structure and
content. We ignore this at our peril and that of our children.
Guest Editor

I. The Paper,"Rex Nettleford: A Revolutionary Spirit," by the late Michael Manley,
substitutes for the presentation of Gordon Rohlehr, which regrettably is not included
in this volume, due to the author's pressure of work. Failing health had kept Manley
from presenting at the Conference, but of his own volition and as testimony of the high
regard in which he held Nettleford personally as both friend and adviser, he wrote his
appreciation. In including it in this volume we pay a small posthumous tribute to the
author, one of the Caribbean's greatest political leaders and patron of the arts.




The Vice-Chancellor, Minister of Government, Your Excellencies, Ladies
and Gentlemen, comrades and friends, and Rex. One honour generates another and
I want to thank you Nettleford for making the occasion possible where I would
appear in what has always been for me a very friendly constituency on the Mona
Campus, and in such circumstances.

Dream is ultimately the foundation of all reality, just as faith is the breath
of life in every believer. And that is why I think it appropriate to begin by tracing
a geography of voices, which celebrate a curious paradox of fortune that Rex
Nettleford describes as 'the plurality of forms whatever the unanimity of feeling'
The phrase is taken from his study The Caribbean: Crossroads of the Americas,
and the full text reads:

There is no political centre in the Caribbean of which I speak,
nor any agreed on cultural kernel such as a common Carib-
bean language. Therein lies the region's strength to be sure,
but also its weakness.

The plurality of forms, whatever the unanimity of feeling, is evident in
other areas as well. It is the same Caribbean plurality of forms, unanimity of feeling,
which engages the Martiniquan Edouard Glissant in his philosophical polemic
Antillean Discourse (translated by Michael Dash).

"''We cannot deny the reality....Cultures derived from planta-
tions, insular civilisations, social pyramids with an African or
East Indian base and a European beat, languages of compro-
mise, general cultural phenomenon of creolisation, patterns
of encounter and synthesis, persistence of the African pres-
ence, cultivation of sugar cane, corn and pepper, site where
rhythms are combined, people formed by orality; there is
potential in this reality

What is missing from the notion of Caribbean-ness is the transition from
the shared experience to conscious expression. The need to transcend the intellec-
tual pretensions dominated by the learned elite and to be grounded in collective
affirmation. Our Caribbean reality is an option open to us. It springs from our natural
experience, but in our histories it has only been an ability to survive.

This present isolation postpones in each island the awareness of a Carib-
bean identity and at the same time separates each community from its own true
identity. One is not Martiniquan because of wanting to be Caribbean; rather one is
really Caribbean because.of wanting to be Martiniquan.

And Lloyd Best, for him as for Glissant:

"The unit of Caribbean community can only be plantation
America, the Antilles Greater and Lesser without exception,
and therefore embracing Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Repub-
lic, the French departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe,
Aruba and the Netherland Antilles, along with Guyana and
Belize. That, by culture and tradition, is the primary family

In an address to the Third Europe-Caribbean Conference held in Jamaica
in 1990, the social scientist Bernardo Vega of the Dominican Republic reminded
his audience that the goals of Pan-Antillanism were always very eloquently
expressed at the end of the last century when Cuba was becoming independent -
expressed by Eugenio Maria de Hostos, and by Betances in Puerto Rico, by
Gregorio Luperon in the Dominican Republic, and by Jose Marti in Cuba. More
than 150 years ago after multiple invasions, a Dominican priest and poet, and I must
say mulatto it is yery important, cried out:

"Yesterday I was born Spaniard. In the afternoon I became
At night they said that I Ethiopian be.
I am English they say today
I do not know what will become of me.

But Vega continues:

"Culturally we know we belong to the Caribbean. Our syn-
cretic music and carnival are a common heritage to all is-
lands" All Caribbean people relate to and see themselves in
the work of Pales Matos, Carpentier, Pedro Mir, Cesaire,
Brathwaite, Walcott and Naipaul.

And in 1979 the Cuban novelist, Carpentier in Havana:

And so Carifesta 1979 is something more than a mingling
of enjoyment and music; is something more than a fete, it is
rather a ritual of identification. There may be days of rejoic-
ing, of dances, of merriment; but days which will mean much
more, because in these we shall come face to face with what
unites us, and what distinguishes us; that which makes us
alike, and that which makes each special the particular, and
the general, that which belongs to each, and that which is the
heritage of all.

And in his Nobel Prize address, Derek Walcott wanted to make it very clear
how he came to be standing where he was:

"And what delight and privilege there was in watching a
literature, one literature in several imperial languages -
French, English, Spanish -bud and open, island after island,
in the early morning of a culture, not timid, not derivative any
more than the hard white petals of the frangipani are deriva-
tive and timid. This is not a belligerent boast but a simple
celebration of inevitability: that this flowering had to come.
This is a benediction that is celebrated, a fresh language and
a fresh people, and this is the frightening duty owed. I stand
here in their name, if not their image but also in the name
of the dialects they exchange like the leaves of the trees whose
names are subtler, greener, more morning-stirred than Eng-

Federation may have failed to create common institutions, but the cere-
mony of marriage has certainly succeeded in reinforcing that earliest tradition of
kinship by blood. To speak therefore of the Caribbean family is to speak of a
collective and personal experience of the deepest intimacy. And this has been a
dominant characteristic of the world of artists when we honour them: their recog-
nition of common predicament, of common need and of common destiny.
It was once a condition of stability in this region to ignore the existence
and to deny the human worth of the enormous majority of men and women whose
labour made that order possible. The mark of their exclusion was the black skin.
Cried Fanon,

"On that day, completely dislocated, unable to be abroad with
the other, I took myself far from my own presence, far indeed,
and made myself an object. What else could it be for me but
an amputation."

I know there are those who tremble at the sound of that blunt and simple
word -'black'- and who, apologising for your own victimisation nervously antici-
pate a message of race. But when we say 'black' it has no biological meaning, nor
is it used in the service of racial applause. When I say 'black' it is the name of a
profound and unique historical experience borne by a particular group of men and
women whose presence in the world was destined to transform the eyes and ears
of the world, and whose ultimate liberation will be the decisive contribution to the
liberation of mankind.
It was a moment of some profound symbolic importance that the world
seemed to rediscover its meaning, as people, wherever they were, waited and
watched for Nelson Mandela to make his first footfall out of prison. We had never
known any comparable experience in this century.
And the significance of the Rastafari Movement in its native Jamaica is that
they confronted us, in the most dramatic way with a question which remains central

to the politics of culture. Where do you stand in relation to blackness? This is also
the question that haunts the pages of Rex Nettleford's numerous and astonishingly
varied investigations; although, in his case, it is as though Ariel had entered some
heretical conspiracy with Caliban to subvert the foundations of all their relations
without causing any total collapse of the kingdom.
It is curious that in so cautious a land as Barbados an answer was being
forged almost 50 years ago by the native poet, the late H.A. Vaughan in a rebuke
to the black classroom of that island:

"Turn sideways now and let them see
What loveliness escapes the schools,
Then turn again and smile and be
The perfect answer to those fools
Who always prate of Greece and Rome,
The face that launched a thousand ships
And suchlike things, but keep tight lips
For burnished beauty nearer home
Turn in the sun, my love, my love
What palm-like grace, what poise, I swear
I prize these dusky limbs above
My life. What laughing eyes, what gleaming hair."

It was this condition of self-denial, this condition of self- erasure that Edna
Manley encountered in the Jamaica of the late nineteen thirties and forties, when
her participation in the political lives of the ordinary and the poor alerted her to the
astonishing beauty of their physical presence. And she set out, as sculptor and
painter, on a remarkable labour of love and duty to return that black face to its own
eyes, and to train those eyes to see again what they should never have forgotten.
The same role fits exactly the career of Beryl McBurnie in Trinidad. The language
of sculpture and the language of dance are different aspects of the same function.
They are tools, devices of the imagination which, encountering a moment in reality,
set out to discover the meaning, the essence of that moment by creating an order
out of what had appeared too ordinary for serious attention. The imagination taught
us to see.
And Beryl McBurnie, as dancer and teacher of the dance created a wholly
new vocabulary for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. She made the body laugh,
she made the body sing, she made the body weep. This range of mood and emotion
could be heard through different accents: the Amerindian, the African, the Indian,
and a creolising synthesis of all these.
I do not believe it is easy to find anywhere outside this region an example
of creative cultural work where the imagination of individual artists is so completely
dominated by the lives of people from down below. Whether it be literature or music
or dance or the visual arts, each form has derived its power from an involvement
with the realities of the poor.
The art of Francesco Slinger (The Mighty Sparrow) embraces all forms -
he sings, he dances, he employs in the telling of stories all the narrative devices of
the novelist. His act is visual. His themes, for all the laughter they provoke, are a

source of great disturbance. The enslavement of our educational system, the chaos
in our sexual relations, the political leader in the role of the bad John he offers
us back our several humiliations.
But there is behind the extravagant vigour of this musical genius a persistent
legacy of rage. For Sparrow was descended from a dangerous decade, before the
steelbands got elevated to the status of national orchestra and the streets of Carnival
were ruled by warriors.
Think of some of the names of the bands Desperadoes, Renegades, Red
Army, Hell yard, Conquistadors. These are clearly not the names of patron saints
in communion with the Holy Spirit. They are all declarations of war on behalf of a
turbulent folk who reminded all agents of power that space was not for sale. It is
the world to which the novelist Earl Lovelace returns us with such melancholy in
his novel The Dragon Can 't Dance.
This tradition of resistance is at the heart of Sparrow's art and it is an
inescapable Caribbean phenomenon whenever the artist goes seriously to work.
The supreme example is Bob Marley.

'Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights.

But to accept Marley is to accept the moral necessity of entering into battle
against all those forces that would halt or extinguish the possibility of men and
women becoming truly human. It is to aid by all means possible that process of
struggle against the racism of white power, the epidemic of class discrimination
nurtured in these neo-colonial cells, by a new breed of aspiring blacks, the assault
on individual dignity by the personal abuse of official power. For the State has never
been at peace with the democratic hunger of the general populace.

'Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights.

Surprising as it may seem all these themes converge in that great reservoir
of activity we associate with the name Rex Nettleford. It is especially in his
celebratory history of the dance theatre of Jamaica, Dance Jamaica, that we find,
in my view, his most comprehensive articulation of a mode for creative response
to change and the obstacles which impede change: a model which holds good and
bears immediate relevance to a great variety of intellectual discourse and social
He has served as the National Dance Theatre Company's (NDTC) Artistic
Director and one of its leading dancers; and this experience of the first 21 years
prepared him to conduct a lucid and passionate argument that the material base of
our existence must always be supported and informed by a native cultural vision
which has absolute confidence in its human worth.
Normally, ignorance of a new vocabulary in dance or any other form of
communication may be corrected by study, but some people are averse to study.
Nettleford and his colleagues encountered a deeper level of resistance to their
earliest experiments. It is worth recalling one crude and startling example of such

resistance. The dance, African Scenario, was staged in 1962, as an item in the
programme Roots and Rhythms. The occasion was the celebration of Jamaica's
independence and it was the Company's first attempt to draw directly on the sources
of African ritual, employing West African ceremonial dress, songs of the Akan
people of Ghana, and drummers: a Caribbean evocation of the ancestral links as
these would have been perceived and felt over the years in the region itself.
Independence was a most appropriate occasion to recover and articulate
this dimension of our history. But the experiment did not recommend itself to
everyone and as Nettleford records:

"Some members of the Jamaican middle class were disturbed
by the work and walked out of the Little Theatre in Jamaica,
complaining that the drumming was too loud. To be charitable
from this distance, there may have been some justification"

It would be a great relief if we could recall such an episode as a minor
amusement, too frivolous for further attention. But the influence of this minority
does not die out in accordance with our wishes. It may go into hiding or play dumb
in a moment of militant plebeian affirmation, but it is funded by a remarkable
capacity to bounce back and assert the dominance of its values when we least expect.
This is at another level Lloyd Best's quarrel with that class he calls the "validating
elites." They cannot read his drum.
In Barbados a similar class announced its panic about the form which any
celebration of Emancipation would take, warning that too frequent reference to
slavery might awaken a passion for revenge which the national interest (meaning
the tourist industry) could not afford. Here, right here, in a sense,is the heart of our
dilemma. How to eat and remain human?
A more sophisticated kind of challenge soon arose for Nettleford and the
Company over the choice, style and direction which they would have to take in
order tojustify its role as an authentic guide and force in the national consciousness.
Now we do not often associate dance-theatre performance with this kind
of ambition; but Rex Nettleford felt no embarrassment, makes no apologies for
insisting that such ambition was the very root of his own conception of what he was
involved in. And he is at pains to offer the definition by which he and the Company
should be judged by the society and region they set out to interpret and explore.
And I quote this very important passage for all disciplines.

"The dance is not only a performing art; it is also an art of
community effort that proclaims the virtue of cooperation
over unrestrained individualism. It is self-evident how this
relates to self-government, nation building, and social organ-
isation. Traditional government leaders have dismissed the
sensitive intellectual gifts of peasant experience, precisely
because they have been regarded as too mundane or folk-loric
to guide affairs of State. Yet it is the peasant who realises that
the individual dancer usually has little to offer outside of
community ritual."

This is a very political conception of an intellectual's relation to his work
and the organic intention which such work carries for his immediate neighbour-
I want to draw a parallel statement whose remoteness in this does not
obscure its relevance to this interplay of individual and community.
Werner Jaeger, the great German classicist, in Paideia, a study of the ideals
of Greek culture, writes:

"Education is not a practice which concerns the individual
alone; it is essentially a function of the community. The
character of the community is expressed in the individuals
who compose it, and for a man more than any animal species,
the community is the source of all behaviour. The formative
influence of the community on all its members is most con-
stantly active in its deliberate endeavour to educate each
generation of individuals so as to make them in its own image.
The structure of every society is based on written or unwritten
laws which bind it and its members. Therefore education in
any community, (be it a family, a social class, or profession,
or some wider coniplex such as race or the State) is the direct
expression of its active awareness of a standard."

The question to be posed here is this: What is that standard which it is the
function of education to make us actively aware of, and which reinforces the
authority of the community as the source of all behaviour? How can it be identified
and nurtured in a society which approves and applauds money-making as the
highest social purpose? This is the fundamental and daily challenge for every
teacher of whom the artist is an example. Whether we opt to preserve the coherence
and continuity of a society, or degenerate into the miscellaneous and transitory
functions of a service station. Society or service station? That is at the heart of the
deliberations which pay tribute to Rex Nettleford.
Nettleford's definition of dance has application beyond the specific form
of dance, and it reinforces the claim for culture as the major informing influence in
any civilising strategies for conscious human development. It is not all self-evident
to most government leaders (or indeed, to leadership in many areas of civil
participation) that artistic expression is an intellectual discipline which has the
power to quicken and nourish the general sense of social responsibility.
It is precisely in this area of art and its relation to social reality that the
NDTC sought to justify its,existence as an institution which required the most
rigorous training of its members, and the critical involvement of the wider commu-
He writes:

"That commitment also sought to extract from its audience
and the critics a serious appreciation of the historical, social,
and cultural context in which the development of the dance

and other expressions of the Jamaican imagination were tak-
ing place.

All artists begin with a legacy of style and techniques which influence and
define the particular genre they practise. The older the legacy, the more authoritative
its influence will be. This authority of established achievement is graced by the
name, 'classic' classical ballet, classical art and the literature which achieves
the status of 'classic' But such influence also poses the greatest challenge to a
creative imagination. It may be a severe handicap for those who are intimidated by
the weight and prestige of antiquity. Or it may be a guide to other and more original
forms of self-discovery.
The National Dance Theatre Company was no exception. They started as
beginners in specific and varied methods of training inherited from London, New
York, Chicago, the Caribbean. And they had to discover which learning experiences
were appropriate for their purpose, and which they would have to abandon. How
do you arrive at the proper dialect of the tribe?
Nettleford says:

"Here is one problem. There is no English word that describes
the basic steps for Kumina, dinkimini, tamhbu, Elu, all
indigenous Jamaican dance forms. Thus dance steps derived
from Caribbean rituals are best expressed by Caribbean

The parallel with Caribbean literature is obvious, and provides an oppor-
tunity for comparative study in critical responses to the development of the novel
and the dance. Both passed through phases of scornful hostility, then a softening
of attitudes, conveyed by the news of international approval and curiosity ; and
settling later into a more critical native evaluation of the work under scrutiny. It has
been a rough road, a very rough road of question and argument of both social
relevance and artistic standards. And no Caribbean artist known to me has escaped
this plague of historic self-doubt and cultural dependence.
Nettleford says:

"The debate continues to the present day and is not likely to
dissipate until the society at large comes to terms with itself
as part of the process of decolonisation and self- definition."

The question of discovering language is not only about the dance and
literature. It is a great plague for the economist of the day. All of the terms we are
using per capital income, etc, have no meaning at all in relation to the reality of
people.....You go tell an unemployed man downtown Kingston he represents
$5,000 ....and you are likely to lose your head. There is no connection between him
and anything about $5,000 per capital income!
The National Dance Theatre Company has emerged from all this as a
wonderful example of continuity and rejuvenation. At this time they have created
and performed over 100 works. They have toured 16 countries with remarkable

impact on audiences in Moscow and New York and London, Georgetown, Port-of-
Spain, Toronto, Mexico.
By focusing attention on the immediate environment as the most appropri-
ate material for imaginative interpretation, the Dance became an essential tool of
research. The dancers discovered the cultural wealth of rural Jamaica. The National
Dance Theatre Company learnt and taught more significant history than anyone
could possibly have discovered in the curriculum of any Caribbean school.
It is a crippling deficiency of the regional educational system that it has
been reluctant to understand and accept the role of art as an international discipline,
and most powerful medium in the education of feeling. Economic advisers and
planners have been diminished by this neglect. They plan for a new society whose
cultural base and perspectives are nowhere on their agenda because they think, in
all innocence, that such matters can wait until the other structures are securely put
in place. In this respect Jamaica has been more fortunate than some of the other
territories in the Caribbean Commonwealth. In the areas of dance in my observa-
tion, and in the related arts of theatre and of music, they are the most advanced in
creativity and organisational strength, and their artists have displayed a more critical
awareness of the meaning of what they do.
You may want to explore the factors that have made this so. There is a
possibility that topography may be one factor. If you have mountains you have
somewhere to run and hide! All we Barbadians have is the sea! But they have also
been more conscious perhaps of a tradition of struggle for freedom waged by the
world from down below the Maroons, Bogle, Garvey, the Rastafarian move-
ment. Also, the material base of the society produced a nationally conscious middle
class about which Nettleford makes this acid comment; but it is not the acidity I
want to draw to your attention.
I am going to quote the passage because it is a very interesting way in which
he capsules their location in colonial struggle.

"When the brown middle classes, from whom the vice-regal
aides were drawn, became frustrated with their lack of power,
they allied with black labouring classes as they had done
during the final days of slavery to fight against the alien rule.
Although they provided leadership for organizations fighting
against colonialism political parties, trade unions and dem-
onstration groups they surrendered as if by barter to the
indigenous impulses of the black majority."

He is insistent, in his own way, on the relation of class and culture. Now
there is, as you would know, an enormous social distance between those ordinary
folk who created the Jamaican dance forms, Kumina, dimkimini, tambu, and that
prestigious minority who found the drumming of African Scenario a disturbance
they couldn't endure. They did not only walk out of the theatre. Many walk with
authority. When this authority achieves ministerial office, it strikes a deal with the
drummers, dancers and other to perform a caricature of themselves for the enter-
tainment of seasonal visitors. Here the economic becomes cultural, and the cultural
becomes economic.

To quote Nettleford:

"The Company has also avoided becoming a scratch group
deployed at the whim of a bureaucratic tourist ministry eager
to entertain and amuse vacationers lured to the exotic delights
of the Caribbean."

And Walcott, in the same Nobel Prize speech is lamenting:

"This is how the islands from the shame of necessity sell
themselves; this is the seasonal erosion of their identity."

I have to be very careful here, because in Barbados I am told that tourism
is my business, and I am walking therefore on a very slippery ground. I hope that
this is strictly between me and you. But there is a formidable challenge here in
defending the authenticity of your cultural space against the eroding shame of
Nettleford continues,

"If the Dance Theatre Company wishes to continue to meet
the challenge of making some central reality for the people of
the Caribbean, then the Company's future role will be tied in
with the awesome task of shaping a new society on the basis
of self-definition and artistic discovery."

It is the regional character of Nettleford's exposition which offers a model
of serious engagement for men and women who now talk, it would seem to me,
with a total lack of conviction about the regional integration movement.
Nettleford's synoptic vision may serve as a guide in other areas of enquiry.
The legal profession increases its ranks every day, accumulates private wealth from
its squalid exercise in property litigation, but rarely produces an intellect which can
provide us with a Caribbean philosophy of the law.
Now during the changing of the flags on the occasion of Trinidad's
independence one Trinidadian was heard to say: "But what a hell of a thing;
Trinidad now get what I always had."
I have been forced to reflect on the gap between this man's recognition of
self freedom and the manifestations of 'independence' in the realities of politics.
And it made me recall a statement by the Jamaican Sociologist, Orlando Patterson,
commenting on the identification of parties and trade unions in Jamaica.

"The Jamaican worker has no conception of a capitalist and
bourgeois stratum as his real opponent. Instead his hostilities
are directed against the other half of his own class which
supports the opposing political party. There can be no greater
travesty than a Labour Day celebration in Jamaica. Battalions

of policemen are called out in advance. Not, as one would
expect, to prevent damage to employers' property, but to
prevent one half of the working class tearing the other half to

And what have been the politics of British Guiana but another spectrum of
this reality: the same contradiction inherent in a struggle which forced men,
otherwise not without honour, to summon race to their rescue? If the identity of
party and union in Jamaica makes for a screen that deliberately obscures the
essential conflicts of choice and commitment, it is the fictitious posture of non-
identification between Indian peasant and urban Negro which made British Guiana
totter toward the primeval tomb of race. For those Indian hands whether in Guyana
or Trinidad have fed all of us. They are the jewels of a true native thrift and
industry. They have taught us by example the value of money; for they respect
money as only people with a high sense of communal responsibility can.
And so there can be no section of citizens with any greater claim to the
citadels of power in those lands. I could not be so foolish to think there are no
differences between these peoples. They made a different journey to the Caribbean;
their heritage was different; their psychological encounter with white power had
different reverberations. But what is the totality of these differences? Do they
constitute a rejection of the Caribbean reality or an extension of it?
The ascription of race and racial differences had been effectively used
during the colonial period and with even greater insistence after Independence.
Race is a political construct which is intended to subvert the normal relations of
men and women in the process of work. It is the process of work in all its variety
which defines the human spirit. This work, whatever its vocational character, is an
integral part of the whole. We make this whole and are made by it at one and the
same time. This reciprocity is constant, but it is not static, for a man who is
organically related to his tasks is continually recreating himself.
What is my identity? I live it and at the same time create it. What is the
West Indian identity? It is the process in which West Indians are and will continue
to be involved as they choose their tasks and recreate their situations. There is no
fixity of location in this defining process. Identity is the accumulation of layered
identities: it is always plural.
Time and again, text after text, Nettleford will return to this fundamental

"How does one transform the empty power of manipulated
symbols into power with substance. Is it not the capacity of a
people to make definitions about themselves on their own
terms and to be able to follow through to action on the basis
of those actions? No development strategy is likely to succeed
without resting its objective and intent on such definitions"

But there is a great cleavage here in our intellectual agenda.

Unfortunately, the West Indian historian is not an active and informing
influence in the popular consciousness. The language of economic advisers conveys
little or no meaning to people outside their immediate circle of colleagues. Novelists
function without a substantial and continuing reading class even among the
certified graduates of the region's university. This literature has hardly aroused the
active interest of many who make up the political intelligentsia.
And one great divide in the intellectual agenda that I refer to is this. We
hardly hear from our scientists in the public domain. I am wondering how many
scientists are on the panels.
The organising agents of the communications media radio producers and
television managers are vaguely aware of the region's creative writers. They may
know their names, and a few episodes of scandal which shadow their personal lives.
This failure of involvement co-exists with the widespread and vivid enthusiasm for
a great volume of imported drama which advertisers make available through the
television stations of the region.
I would therefore invite them to examine the possibilities of popular theatre
as an instrument for the distribution and dissemination of knowledge: the ways in
which this particular form of popular expression can be put at the service of
historians, novelists, economists, social scientists, community health workers; and
how this can be done without in any way neglecting or violating the theatre's more
familiar function of entertainment.
In all the areas of statistical and imaginative enquiry about Caribbean
society, there remains an enormous distance between those who produce (artists,
teachers, technocrats) and the general populace for whom the social product is
intended: And I am working from the assumption that this failure of participation
by the general populace in the social product of the intellectual classes presents the
greatest threat to our regional and cultural sovereignty. This deprivation works both
ways. It impoverishes the popular consciousness; and it places a very rigorous
constraint on the development of the intellectual workers themselves.
What kind of theatre, for example, does the average Caribbean historian
envisage as expressive of his or her interests as these relate to the distribution of a
knowledge and the discovery of a Caribbean civilisation? What forms of collabo-
ration could take place between economists who formulate strategies of develop-
ment, and theatre directors who are preoccupied with raising the social and political
consciousness of a given community? And how should such form of collaboration
proceed? What should be the role of organised labour in the production and
management of cultural activity, and in the creation of people's theatres?
Nettleford identifies one example of self-definition in Norman Manley's
relation to Jamaica.

"He believed that the people must believe in themselves and
their own destiny and must do so with pride and with confi-
dence, and with the determination to win equality with the rest
of mankind, and equality in terms of humanity which, irre-
spective of power and wealth, can be measured by the grow-
ing values of civilisation and culture."

It is more than half of a century since Norman Manley made this statement
which Nettleford refers to. It was part of a wider plea for greater civic responsibility
among the privileged classes, and in public life. During that interval we have seen
the emergence of new class formations and the elevation of black people to high
office, and more elaborate styles of material comfort.

But it does not appear that this change in fortune has made any substantial
difference in the relation between leadership and those who are led. The temptation
to find the shortest possible route to wealth has increased, and so has the frustration
of an idle and disenchanted youth. The rural population continues its decline; the
cities grow more crowded and more dangerous. From Kingston to Port-of-Spain
the story is much the same. And emigration is a rescue which is only available to
those who have had expensive training, and whose skill ensures their survival

The experiment to place the mass of the population in a new and more
critical relation to power came up against a certain lack of comprehension on the
part of those who were to benefit from the change. Michael Manley conceded this
weakness which was a critical faction in his loss of power. He wrote:

"It is now clear that as part of the political organisational
response, political education, in a profound sense has got to
be the heart and start of the political process. This political
education begins by a process of internal educational dialogue
that looks at the social and political history, that begins with
simple but basic analysis of the nature of the society, the
nature of the economy, the nature of the class structure."

To the best of my knowledge no political party in the Commonwealth
Caribbean has ever shown much enthusiasm for carrying out, in a systematic way,
the kind of programme of political education which Manley acknowledged to be
essential to any major change in popular consciousness.
For over a half a century the leadership of both Party and Union, from
territory to territory, have deliberately omitted this basic work from their pro-
grammes of mass organisation. The omission could not have been casual. And we
must assume that many a leader, then and now, recognized that such political
education at mass level would inevitably alter the relationship of leader to the rank
and file of those being led. It would have put an end to the uncritical adoration of
the leader as great tribal chief, infallible and beyond reach. This has been a
characteristic deformity of the political culture of the Region, and it has persisted
whatever the ideological character of the leaders.
The late Carl Stone also made reference to this tendency to personalise
power at the expense of institutional machinery; and complained that strategies and
objectives towards change were often clearly articulated, but there was no com-
manding vision of the new society to be created.
Now, we should never assume that the political mind is always suitably
equipped to articulate a commanding vision of the new society Our dysfunctional
system of party politics does not allow it. The politician is overwhelmed by concrete
tasks to be performed, decisions to be taken urgently, sometimes abruptly, often

without any pause for prolonged reflection. He is haunted by the fear of failure to
deliver. His working hours are spent in a permanent state of emergency. The shadow
of parliamentary opposition, where it exists, blurs his sense of priorities. He lives
with intrigue and the constant threat of betrayal within his own ranks. It is a feverish
atmosphere, and hardly conducive to that state of reflective self-consciousness from
which "vision of a new society" is born.
But if we could change the style of politics from permanent campaigning
for the seasonal cockfight you call 'elections', and work towards the creation of an
intellectual tradition of politics; then the political leader may arrive at such a vision
if he enjoys a certain measure of collaborative support from other modes of thought
and perception the historian, the poet, the students of philosophy and the social
sciences, the economist and the theatre director who recreates the cultural history
of the nation. It is this collective dialogue between the different categories of
sensibility which ultimately gives voice to a commanding vision of the new society.
But it is precisely this voice which has often withdrawn its service from
any form of political engagement. There is a large category of intellectual workers
who view such involvement with misgiving. The risks are too great. There is also
the technocrat who believes that the efficient management of a modern society is
essentially a technical operation. If you can identify the appropriate technologies,
and recruit a certain calibre of personnel, with the right kind of managerial expertise,
then the efficient organisation of a modern democracy can bypass the political
process. It really does not matter what electoral games are played or who wins,
since the correct decisions will ultimately be made and implemented by those whose
technical expertise is indispensable to this process. Politics and ideology are viewed
as an antiquated pastime. This malady of theirs may be defined as 'technophilia'
and it threatens the foundations of the autonomous political community. Lloyd Best
lives in a state of a permanent mourning for this class of validating elites of which
he is himself a reluctant member but he is extremely acute when he is putting them
under scrutiny.
And he says:

"This is the particular propensity on the part of the managers
of institutions. The most conservative individuals are the most
successful achievers, the sherpas, the highest of the mountain
climbers. The reason they are conservative is not only or
mainly that they often have interests to protect, and also enjoy
the strategic positions of command with which to protect
them: The point is that success in itself has its own impact on
the capacity to listen, on the ability to listen to feedback.

If you recall the passage from Piedia about the influence of the community
to create each generation in its own image, I would like to juxtapose a contrary
though supportive view. It is from the Brazilian Paolo Friere:

"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Edu-
cation either functions as an instrument which is used to
facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the
present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes

the practice of freedom, by which men and women deal
critically and creatively with reality, and discover how to
participate in the transformation of this world."

We need, therefore, to transform our schools from the archaic institutions
which we inherited, and nurture them as intellectual agencies which decolonise the
mind. The pursuit of knowledge should never be divorced from the struggle against
human exploitation. Every boy and girl should know what is meant by the menace
of imperialism as well as understand why, in the interest of their own survival as
men and women of dignity, it is absolutely necessary to resist it.
Labour colleges should be national institutions, as familiar as the political
parties throughout the land, and functioning as the main centres of a popular,
intellectual culture, attracting men and women of all races and social backgrounds,
and every level of learning. We need to recover the cultural history of Africa and
the African people, and put this discipline at the centre of the curriculum. And
whenever African and Indian meet in the Caribbean as a common force of labour,
the cultural histories of African and Indian people must be an essential part of the
learning process of all Caribbean citizens.
But the most urgent cultural and political task of education is to deepen and
nourish the regional consciousness in each territory. A genuine national identity
will only be experienced when there is a liberated regional Caribbean of one people,
and an environment is created in which we may be able to say:
"Here man is truly man, and the world he lives in is a human place."
This has been the foundation of all Nettleford's work; the gift his genius
has bestowed on us; and for which we now say Thank You.

Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom:
Thirty Years Later


It was only long years after that I understood the limitation
on spirit, vision and self-respect which was imposed on us by
the fact that our masters, our curriculum, our code of morals,
everything began from the basis that Britain was the source
of all light and leading, and our business was to admire,
wonder, imitate, learn; our criterion of success was to have
succeeded in approaching that distant ideal to attain it was
of course impossible. CLR James, Beyond IA Boundary, p. 38-9

I Nettleford
This gathering for Conference here at Mona is of course a winty play, a
wind dance. Blood thicker than water, water more than flour. Never for a moment
has Nettleford been less than lucid on the point in all its ramifications: whether
plural culture, national identity or personal selfhood. With every fibre of his being,
intuitively, he has been able to chart and fix our precise location: in the Caribbean,
in America, in the West, in the Atlantic.
He has himself been incarnation of the peril and promise inherent in our
state of betweenity: as Afro-Saxon, mainly but not only African, precipitated,
mostly by accident, into the practice of European institutions in America; trans-
ported to the challenge of inter-culturation by the realities of a relentless colonisa-
tion whether settlement, conquest or exploitation.
Like Walcott, Nettleford has had no illusions but that we are divided to the
vein much less biologically than ethnically which is to say, not so much racially
as culturally. Irretrievably, we are mulatto and mestizo; in terms of Brathwaite, we
are Afro-creole, Indo-creole, Euro-creole, Luso-creole and tochtho-creole, all
required by the imperative of another language, another idiom, to inherit the
landscape or to inherit afresh.
Naipaul then and Kincaid now have described the enduring terror, the terror
of the spiritual dislocation following on a migration that was always forced or
involuntary, or at least disagreeable as domestic servant, indentured labourer,
Lamming, Selvon, Brathwaite, as poets in Senghor's metaphor for architect
and for artisan as much as for artist, and Sherlock as expositor and chronicler -
have shifted the sensibility of our creative response as poetry, and as politics and
above all, as popular subversion and therefore as necessary subversion.
Vic Reid and Wilson Harris and Leroy Clarke, painter, have placed the
accent on the quest for ancestral origins and for green beginnings as myth, and
therefore as choice. CLR James, as philosopher, has supplied the encompassing

distillation, as equivocation of method and of meaning so that we know where we
stand in the universal scheme.
Any such listing of intervention does not and cannot in any way be
exhaustive or even throw the edifice into appropriate elevation. It is simply to hint
at one possible matrix of assessment and appraisal. It is no exaggeration to add that
Nettleford straddles the peaks and in something that resembles the right propor-
tions. His seminal idea is that selfhood as algebra negritude as arithmetic are
a continuity which carries its own capacity for self-regeneration. It need not scorn,
repudiate or reject any fertilisation from outside. Mervyn Alleyne has spoken of
European lexicon, African syntax. Rex has offered European melody winning the
interest, African rhythm dictating the tempo.
I first heard of Rex from Roy Augierjust after he had left Mona for Oxford.
Over the years, we have developed our own code of fraternity. We have talked,
mostly by indirection and in snatches and fragments, guerrilla encounters befitting
the social and cultural condition of the average Caribbean person. We have always
been candid and honest and intimate making ointment to ease the pain of the
other as well as to sing the honour of being full participant as well as presence on
the stage, in our time. I remember our first urgent exchange; it was an admonition
about claims being made for the New World man. I remember the most recent; it
was on the "Breakfast Club" KLAS radio programme when he carefully drew the
distinction between the Campuses, on the one hand, the University, on the other.
In this vein, I am happy to see that Stuart Hall is also announced for this
ceremony of the souls. The whole world knows my great teachers, in order of
appearance, to have been Gocking, Demas, Brathwaite and James. Many suspect
that a paternity suit would prove me guilty of the New World Quarterly, the New
World Fortnightlv by extension of the Stabroek News, Tapia and the T& TReview.
What even Stuart Hall may not know is that it all began at Richmond Road in Oxford
where Demas was his housemate and where Stuart's New Left Review then the
Universities and Left Review apprenticed me to the modalities, to put it that way.
I make bold to say we need other conferences mounted on the work of both
William Demas and Stuart Hall, I also add Archie Singham, a Tamil smart man if
ever there was one, beyond reproach as intellectual provocateur and institution
builder. Forgive me the licence.
My proposal for Nettleford, first advanced in a Graduation Address to the
National Institute for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology in Port
of Spain, and reiterated in the Elsa Goveia Lecture delivered at Cave Hill in 1994,
is that he be mandated to launch a new Graduate wing of the University assembled
explicit with the humanities at its core but approached from an extradisciplinary
standpoint not interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary. Initially only two faculties
would run: History and Geography, allowing specialisations such as climatology,
botany, zoology, agronomy, chemistry and physics to emerge by natural process.
Embedded in the matrix of these two basic and existential studies, the University
would move to develop a number of schools: economics, management, entrepre-
neurship and business; total theatre including music and street theatre; literature,
language and critical exploration; fine arts embracing painting, sculpture, pottery,
architecture, and more; ethnology, anthropology and archaeology; sociology, psy-
chology, politics and philosophy.

The outreach of the University would be in two directions. First it would
target all the CARICOM countries now including Surinam, and actively trying to
incorporate Haiti, Santo Domingo and Cuba. A premium would be placed on the
acquisition of the languages: above all, French creole, the other creoles, English,
Spanish, French.
Secondly, the University would try to network established centres of
excellence panyards, mascamps and calypso tents in the case of Trinidad, as
metaphor for other
expressions such as dance theatres and playhouses. The aim here must be
to forge circuits of interdependence with a view to making these locations the nerve
centres of apprenticeship for undergraduate and for secondary school students and,
above all else, the platforms for an export drive.
The premises of this approach are: activation of the autonomous centres of
excellence, creation of the circuits of interdependence, systematic development and
promotion of cultural and related intellectual and personal services mounted for
sale to the rest of the world. The search is for activity with a potential for breaking
our excessive dependence on imported services, as well as for job, income and
foreign exchange generation within that policy context.
Apart from anything else, the system of education is required to carry
within its own womb the ways and means by which it would pay for itself in the
increasingly globalised order.
Detail here is manifestly required but at this point wholly unnecessary. The
problem precisely is to have the courage and the confidence of incompleteness as
the inescapable condition for collective and participatory exchange and intercourse
about matters which concern us all deeply. These are not matters susceptible of
treatment by a computer model the unstated assumption in that extreme case being
that rigour so-called, or quantification, or the heaping of evidence and of argument,
will somehow confer finality as well as validity.
The underlying issue precisely is the scheme of values including the
merits of materialist science, its underlying cosmology, its relation to ethnic and
religious tradition, the theory of history which it subsumes, and the rank to which
it relegates us in the Caribbean, along with many others, in "the architecture of
cultures on a universal scale", to borrow a phrase from the novelist Wilson Harris.
In these matters, what looks like a deficit in persuasion needs to be examined first,
for what it refuses to concede about premises and methodologies in the quest for
cognition and second, for the extent to which the deficit is self-correcting, so to
speak. [This is exactly the problem faced by Ministers of Finance where structural
adjustment is said to require fiscal consolidation and Budget balance when what
it needs in fact are fiscal imbalances which are self- correcting and risky and which
conceivably demand quite different and very innovative programmes of action.]
As offered here the scheme for University expansion and reform is clearly
unworkable. What recommends it is not only what it means to imply about the
orientation, the point and the promise of Nettleford's type and class of output, in
the realm of continuing studies, in dance theatre and in so much else, but also what
it posits as the considerations to be acknowledged in the planning of education-
planning. We cannot expect everything to be financed only when Governments

have budget surpluses, or more likely, as with the Ramphal Commission on the
Crisis in West Indian nationhood, at the pleasure of the multilateral and/or the
bilateral funding agencies.
The education programme cannot but be regional in scope, it must be
anchored in the landscape, impregnated by ethnic tradition, practical in job creation
and skill orientation and adequately funded whatever the national income or the
budget balance. Happily this view has of late achieved much more currency and
clarity than it did in the past but is still, I find, surprisingly unclear. It is still almost
routinely confused with the idea that the University must become more business
and community-service oriented and must place a greater emphasis on science and
technology and on skills that are bankable in a knowledge-driven world. These are
certainly real requirements but are not as bankable as they may seem without
opening us to the risks of self destruction, given initial conditions and points of
The sequence might be precisely the opposite: that before the University
can play its proper role in business, in commerce, and in the compelling practical
life of the Caribbean, it would first have to address, indeed confront, the ontological,
the phenomenological, the epistemological and the philosophical question. Perhaps
that provides real reason and not merely pretext for a reversion today to the seminal
question of independent thought and Caribbean freedom, thirty years later.
II Independent Thought
What we must focus on now is the way that we the validating elites have
been approaching the question of responsibility for change in the years since
self-determination ceased effectively to be contested in the corridors of the colo-
nizer. My position paper on the issue was presented in Montreal in 1967. 1 had come
to Mona in January 1958. Bliss indeed was it in that dawn to be alive and to be
young was the very heaven. The West Indies Federation had been launched earlier
that month. It was a season of great anticipation and almost unbridled hope. They
were years of passionate, mostly informal debate, first fuelled by the University
programme of Open lectures. CLR James came in 1960. On Campus were Bunny
Mann, Attie Graham, Frank Solomon, Terrence Baden-Semper, Duke Pollard,
Angela King, etc. On the Faculty side, apart from the professional social scientists
at the ISER MG Smith, RT Smith, George Cumper, David Edwards, soon Alister
McIntyre and Archie Singham were Roy Augier, Esther Unger and Elsa Goveia,
resource persons even before the concept was born.
The West Indian Society for the Study of Social Issues was not founded
until the October term of 1960-61 grouping Walter Rodney, Orlando Patterson,
David Beckles, David Dabydeen, Norman Girvan, Eric Abrahams, Adlith Brown
and of course many others.
The period 1958-61 was clearly a threshold as had been the periods 1935-38
and again 1944-46, which, in their different ways, successively clinched the issue
of self-determination and responsible government leaving only the question of
modalities which included options such as federation, unitary statehood or singular
independence, principality by principality.
Perhaps the whole span of time covering the 60 years to 1994 should be
taken as one marked by stages of evolution and critical thresholds. The opening of

the Mona campus in 1948. The Rodney riots and the accompanying impulse but
no more than impulse to repression, in an already authoritarian tradition, even
more unpractised in the intellectual tradition than it was in political self-organisa-
tion, marked another threshold period running, I would hazard, from 1968 to 1974.
During those years, until the oil shocks created more awesome preoccu-
pations, tendencies already long present rapidly crystallized fixing the context in
which the campuses would evolve. The cultural rather than institutional hostility
to philosophical speculation would soon establish an admittedly always uneasy
hegemony over the elite imagination. It would create a climate of pragmatism of
opportunism even among Faculty and students alike, one from which the academy
is probably only now recovering. There was of course no absence of political
activity even radical political activity but is that not precisely the point?
Most of it, I find, was orthodox, comforting and comfortable, wary of
plumbing foundations, oriented mostly towards a marxism, a crypto-Marxism, or
a social democracy, which had the effect of relieving adherents of the creative
responsibility for articulating precisely what they wanted to stand for, or designing
new paradigms, new language, new concepts, new, viable and independent media
and new vehicles of selfhood. Most of the elements ideology, leadership, praxis
and parties along with material and institutional resources, internal as well as
external, seemed pre-ordained in the bargain, or already written.
This is what set the decor to the functioning of the Caribbean Community,
launched in 1973. Can we not say, in retrospect, that it posed limits to what would
be attempted and what would be achieved: in Georgetown, in St Georges, in
Kingston, and most everywhere else? Did it not give primacy to governmental as
distinct from political relations among the peoples and islands of CARICOM?
Did it not frame our attitudes to and our transactions with Cuba, still to be evaluated
in the light of the sequel. In the end, did not this seminal period on campus, in the
University and among the emerging elites, not create the conditions under which
the notion of sovereignty, whether regional or territorial, would all but collapse?
How can we say that we've been facing up to Liberalism Triumphant and
Rampant, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end to the Cold War, the rise of
the USA from its traditional posture of isolation, driven by its new experience with
external shocks and with a vulnerable dollar, striving desperately to case the joint
in the global village, and obliged tojuggle all manner of trade frustrations generated
either by Japanese competition or by the still developing challenge from a resurgent
European Union?
By 1994, out of Port of Spain would come (sotto voce) the new CARICOM
dictum: NAFTA at any price and the devil take the hindmost and the West Indian
Commission. Ramphal had invented the Association of Caribbean States as an
invitation to the Twelve to deepen their relations that, if invited to swim in a Spanish
pond, the Anglophone CARICOM would at last have learnt to swim or at least to
float. Have we not decided to drown? I wonder.
The suggestion here is twofold. The genesis of this boundary situation in
which we find ourselves today with not even the Windward Islands sure as to
where the integration movement is heading is a developing and enveloping failure
on the part of the validating elites to think through our predicament. This is as true

in the life of the mind as well as in the practical day today politics though the key
cadre at both levels have been trained at the University, with the campuses at its
core, to fix the agenda of discourse if not the actual decision.
The speed with which we have adopted the orthodoxy is cause for reflec-
tion. Qualitatively, the global village and the knowledge problem can scarcely be
said to have posed any new challenges to West Indian self-management. The
challenges are formidable, it is true, but to us they have not come like a thief in the
night. They have been with us since the end of the Napoleonic Wars at the turn to
the 19th century. The global village has always been with us. We are its incarnation.
We can derive any number of benefits from a recognition of the potential of that
now almost universal condition and from a sensitive and effective exploitation of
what is for us a critical resource. Ours is a crisis of self-knowledge, a crisis of
self-confidence, one into which we have been precipitated latterly on account of
the approaches we have carried perhaps necessarily to the rendezvous with
popular and therefore subversive democracy, via the stances we adopted during the
transition to independence and beyond.
There were and still are problems in the relation between culture and
institutions, to be vigorously addressed, knotty issues of leadership and manage-
ment, government and administration, power and submission, power and obedi-
ence, authority and participation. The whole undergirding of our selfhood has
needed to be comprehensively examined. But did we not have too much reason to
be convinced of our own competence in the mechanics of the colonial culture? Did
we not emerge from the colonial encounter so subjugated and yet so confident in
our capacity to treat with the legacy, so in a hurry for the rewards, the results and
the proof of our liberation, so dazzled by the illusions of own performance, that we
scarcely ever stopped to revise the transcendental?
CLR James was appalled. It was not the absence of a Department of
Philosophy at the UWI that struck him. It was the theoretical and philosophical
speculation which was at such a premium. More than ever now with the semester
course system, the atomisation of teaching endeavour and the commercialization
of research, the social sciences are hostile to the required reconceptualisation of
their internal relations. The needed structural adjustment, it seems to me, would
entail an investment pause increasingly more costly as it continues to be postponed.
The same problem of imperial education which James had discerned at QRC before
1932 was as prevalent and as virulent among the validating elites in 1962. He
commented at the time that we were proceeding to independence as if to a funeral.
Is the problem today not as instrumental as it was then what with some of our
economists claiming that there is no such thing as the Caribbean economy and what
with leaders pursuing almost blindly marketisation, liberalisation, divestiture and
facilitation, in much the same way as we pursued nationalisation and centralisation
25 to 40 years upstream?
III The Revolt Against Classical Orthodoxy
Rex Nettleford is of course right. The University is not just the campuses
and non-campus colleges and teaching facilities. The accountability and the respon-
sibility rest with the validating elites of every race and every class. Is the pervasive
unresponsibility which is not irresponsibility but the failure even to recognize an
issue of responsibility not reason for theoretical work to revise the theory of

society, to free it from the assumptions of quite different contexts and to resolve
the inherited difficulty of branches of inquiry which are non-additive owing to the
institutional and historical assumptions drawn eclectically from an assortment of
In different degrees, are all ethnic groups not so footloose and so persuaded
that theirs is a second-class status that unresponsibility may well be intrinsic to
social order and therefore prohibitive of change? Whatever the basis of the
solidarity on which the cleavages have emerged whether class as property
relations, class as income and wealth, race, religion, caste, colour, homeland or even
gender, latterly and increasingly too.
This is at least a fertile hypothesis. Which means we have no excuse for
predicating the enquiry on a sociology borrowed from another place and another
time. Philosophy is the discipline of which the very stock in trade is universality.
It aims to equivocate the different varieties of truth and has ended up with a query
as to whether equivocation and distillation can ever effectively order the field; as
to whether, in the end, we must not suspend our discrimination and our judgment;
or whether we are not compelled to work with a notion of relevance only within
the confines of tradition, of ethnic tradition.
Heidegger has invited us to be wary of every offering in the Western
materialist tradition as far back as Socrates and particularly since the paradigms of
Plato and Aristotle. He proposes that we can gain authentic self-knowledge only in
relation to time and therefore to place. The truth is authentically true only in relation
to landscape. There may well be grounds for being wary of this phenomenology as
well of this ontology which treats in being and time and person, in regioning and
releasement, in a choice thought, meditative or calculative.
We cannot address, let alone resolve these knotty issues here.
What is certain is that we are on our own, needing no particular light or
leading. The dominant tradition of scientific materialism, was, in any case, set in a
particular cultural and historical context,. cocooned in an ethnic tradition, substan-
tially religious, traced by choice, to Greece rather than to Egypt but incapable, in
the end, of withstanding the onslaught of the rebels even in its own domain. Here
I will simply remind us how open the season is by enumerating no more than a list
of the directions from which the queries have come.
The philosophical tradition has of course been challenged by the phenome-
nologists and Heidegger's concept of das ein, Sartre's etre la. Descartes argued
cogito ergo sum. The postulate now is to invert the proposition: it is because I am
that I think.
The whole classical paradigm of order and equilibrium which has so
permeated even the social sciences especially the economics has now been
irretrievably undermined. Godel's theorem has clinched the significance of inter-
ference and threatened to demolish the distinction between physics and poetry. The
Christian view of the invisible hand has been subverted. Nature is no longer a decor
set by God but a changing reality created by the cultural perception of Man. The
thermodynamics have been comprehensively upset as the quantum mechanics have
been compelled to face the instability of matter, its capacity for spontaneous
activity, the capacity of the molecules to communicate among themselves, the

possibilities of order that are contained in chaos, the end of the notion of universality
in the physics. While time was once sacrificed on the altar of eternity, physics is
now in search of a third dimension neglected. Relativity has opened a window on
a whole new frontier of the cosmos.
The dominant theme is evolution, diversity, instability uncertainty and
disequilibrium. We are no longer confident of the distinction between complex
systems and simple systems. The Newtonian notion of stable systems, closed,
self-regulating no longer holds sway. We are much less sure that the triumph of
science in a given ethnic tradition has entitled it to rule. We are indeed much less
sure of the triumph of science, even as science advances and as technology
biotechnology and information technology have been subject to what one observer
describes as an evolving "scientification," which is to say the impermanence of
So it is that Copernicus persuaded us that man was not at the centre of the
universe; Darwin that man is not so different from animals he too was subject to
random selection; Freud that none of us is fully lucid about ourselves the
subconscious is also germane; Heidegger that man is no longer defined by his
capacity for thought.
Rationality is no longer identified .with certainty nor probability with
ignorance. The Earth itself seems to be a process of continuing creation and
recreation of generating information and destroying it in creative and adaptive
sequence. The human brain and human rationality are not without significance. It
has been pointed out that the dynamic complexity of the brain cannot be an accident.
The brain must have been selected for its very instability. Biological evolution may
well be the history of dynamic instability of the organisms in competition and
What is at issue here in this new paradigm of interpretation are of course
the relations equally between person and nature and between person and person.
The counterpart to the non-equilibrium physics and the non-linear mathematic is
the instability of the social system, its intrinsic creativity. The counterpart to the
biologists' Gaia hypothesis of the earth as a self-creating organism is that there
exists a whole chain of being in which the present encapsulates the past as an input
into its own re-creation.
Well, have we not known all this or suspected it all along? Have we not
been compelled to believe in the pursuit of our selfhood? Did we not come to know
it through a way of knowing through the imagery of the creative arts which we call
the arts of the imagination?
Some simple conclusions. We are on our own. There is no limit to what we
can create. There is no linear ordering of society in terms of inferior and superior.
The imagination is all. Science is only a sub-set of arts of the imagination, it is
simply poetry in another incarnation.
IV The University
This brings me back to what, in terms of independent thought, the Univer-
sity should now be undertaking. I have not suggested anything which I expect to
be pursued in practice. All I wish you to do is understand why I have proposed.

Then the modalities of adapting existing structures will select themselves as we go
What I have suggested is that we place the humanities at the centre of our
preoccupations. In the Caribbean, the creative arts have raised the central issue of
regeneration through the creative activities of the popular culture. Wilson Harris
described the condition as "the eclipse of the person in slave property, the eclipse
of the resources of sensibility."
Elsa Goveia has described the regime of economics and politics from which
the multitude were excluded. Harris has fixed the power of the creative response
as a subversion beginning with the limbo: making space where previously there
was none; being, space, nothingness; that is the metaphor which in his person
Nettleford has embodied and which, in the variety of his profession, he has
converted into possibility.
The University community not only the campus leaders have to see that
it is the creative arts which will here open up the philosophical as well as the
scientific questions. The arts develop only in relation to a situation which is to say
to where ethnic tradition is joined to landscape with its own physics and chemistry
viewed through the prisms of religion and culture.
The arts therefore hold the key to synthesis. In the social sciences, we have
had the disturbing phenomenon of what I have described as institutional prolixity.
When the Economics Department failed to do its job, we invented a Faculty of
Management; when that disappointed we added an Institute of Business. This
history has been parallel in all the Faculties and we cannot now discern the logic
of the treadmill. The consequence has been the inexorable expansion we have
witnessed without any corresponding rewards but the build-up of the problem
diagnosed by the Chancellor's Commission. The emphasis is on governance,
administration, accountability, responsibility and funding.
I submit that these may only be symptoms of a failure at the bottom of
which is the epistemological question. How do the Caribbean people learn about
themselves and for their own purposes with the resources they now have? How
does a community, a tribe, a race, a State, a nation, a people, save itself from
impending damnation? How does a culture escape from itself? How does a system
generate its own fertility?
The first thing would be to plumb the dimensions of our own predicament.
In the case of the social sciences, had we fixed the manifestations of dislocated
personality, plantation economy, segmented multi-ethnic society and submerged
subversive culture in their common historical matrix, I doubt we would have had
to follow the disciplinary specializations of the European tradition, multiplied the
overheads, and confused the heads of the students in the bargain by compelling
them to add Marshallian or Keynesian economics to Parsonian, Weberian or
Marxian sociology, to Malinovskyesque anthropology and to the Westminster
political science of Mill, all of which are premised on a different set of institutions
- all of which are set in a different landscape.
You can see why I am advocating an extra-disciplinary approach, a
Caribbean approach. I scarcely have to explain why it is Rex that I would like to
see in charge of this capability.

"Caribbean Culture: Future Trends"


A special word of greetings to Rex, for whom I would have travelled the
ends of the earth. Unfortunately I only needed to travel from London to be here on
this occasion. And I have been asked to say something about future trends, which
is pretty easy because you cannot get up and tell me that I am wrong, because none
of us knows.
I have been asked to say something about the future and in that context it
has to be something about how Caribbean culture travels, it being itself the product
of an enforced travelling, but also well travelled. I have got to figure out how to
talk about that because I have lived out of the region for most of my adult life and
therefore what I have observed at close hand and worked amongst our people from
the Caribbean, from the African Caribbean Diaspora, especially, who helped
undertake a second migration, a "double diasporization" I would call it. I am sorry
about the word but I cannot find any other, a double diasporization to Europe. In
terms of the future, I want to address the question of the diasporic nature of these
cultures in the context of globalization, which is the term which is now so frequently
invoked to set the contexts for the transformation in cultural life which belong to
late modernity and which is, as you know, a theme quite rightly in my view
established as an organizing focus for a whole series of what would have been up
to now extremely interesting contributions in the conference itself. I think about
these questions in the context of rereading that marvellous essay to which interest-
ingly Lloyd Best referred this morning. There is no collusion between us.
Thinking of "Melody of Europe, Rhythm of Africa, in Rex's Mirror,
Mirror a book which after all grasped the centrality of questions of cultural
identity for Caribbean people long before the subject of identity became quite as
trendy as it is now, and which has provoked certain reflections about our cultural
models, what I really want to talk about is not so much about the culture itself but
how we think about the nature of the cultures which we are discussing.
What strikes me about cultural models is that we sometimes actually talk
to one another, especially if we are intellectuals, in order to make other people feel
small, as if what they should really do is stop thinking and just walk out in the street
and shake hands with some culture just kind of go and meet it. Therefore, I will
start by saying there is no such homogeneous object there called "the culture"
which you can just put your hands on if you do not believe reality exists then why
not kick it? Well if you kick the culture, unfortunately about 8000 fragments and
bits spin off into the ether; so there is nothing there. I want to insist to you how
important are the models, that is say the thematic analysis which we bring to culture
itself, the imperative models which we use in order to talk about it at all. And I want
to insist that those models are not just the models that public intellectuals, academ-
ics, spokespersons and political representatives, policy makers and so on, discuss.
I want to talk about the lay models, the kind of folk taxonomies in the

heads of ordinary folk about culture. And there is no place in which there are quite
so many folk taxonomies about culture as the Caribbean. For some reason the
Caribbean is of such profound importance, a matter of life and death, that everybody
has a view about culture. You know stories about taxi drivers in various cities
around the world, how X told you how he drove Saddam Hussein and he says "I'm
gonna bomb ...", etc. All these wonderful stories of people give tremendous
insight. Taxi drivers in Jamaica tend to tell you about the culture. So there are
models about what this thing is in their heads. And I want to talk about the culture
because in part I want to suggest to you that there remains (I think we have advanced
in some way but I suspect there remains) a kind of rift between the culture that we
are currently living in late modernity and how we tend to think about it. It is exactly
this gap between the life of culture as it is lived and the life of culture as it is reflected
on that I want to address.
Now not only in his essays and in his work but especially in his work in
dance, his life's work in dance, Rex has both represented a contribution of a major
dimension to Caribbean culture, and reflected on it within the practices of the
expressive arts. We sometimes make, I think, a phony distinction between those
who are as it were in performance of the expressive arts and the reflection on culture
within the arts. I want to talk about a contribution which both constitutes culture
and is constituted by it, in a sort of double helix or hermeneutic a sort of W Helix
or harmonic move and I bear in mind especially the role which the expressive arts
have played in the cultures of New World Blacks in exactly this reflexive way. It
is not just that these cultures tend to be particularly rich because of what they
produce in terms of expressive forms and practices, but that those expressive forms
have a kind of self-reflexive move on the nature of the culture itself. They are a
kind of criticism in performance, and it is that which leads me to ask some of the
things about how we are thinking about the models in our heads and which come
out of that example. Because I think in Nettleford's work he has set us a paradigm,
an example, of how to think about the way in which cultures combine, select and
synthesize traditions, the way in which they draw on a variety of enunciative
modes for their production, for want of finding a language (as if the language is
always there and all you have to do is to go and record it), but to build a language,
particularly a language of the body, which is both old and new. Old because it relates
to that which had gone before it. It relates to a wide range of uses of the body in
different cultures, which have made the possibility of using the black body in this
way at that moment. In that sense it is deeply routed in the path that wholly in order
to produce that which is something new, that which is not only explained by what
it came from, that which cannot be restored simply to its origin, which is not another
good repetition of what went before, but which although reflected on its elements
is more than the sum of its parts.
Now I think that's the model. I do not know whether at a certain point Rex
talks about that, as he does in some of his writing and dances, or at some other
times his writing gets other people to dance like that.
I had make a television programme on the Caribbean which some of us
might have seen. We used Rex. One of the wonderful sequences is of him rehearsing
young dancers. I don't know if you have ever seen him rehearsing young dancers,
not the ones that are really practitioners but the young ones where he does things
at one and the same time; finding the way of shifting the weightier parts of the
body from one way to another, teaching them to re-think their body in their bodies,

which of course when you watch it happen is like an education, it is like the Latin
term educare, that is it creates the illusion that you are drawing out what is already
there. But of course the education cannot be drawn out. I would like to add a
completely generic view of what education is about. It is not all inside waiting to
be drawn out, it is the illusion of drawing out that which becomes natural in practice
because it is being made out of what has been made, and this double movement of
nineteenth century and new out of what has been made and of transforming the old
into the new, which is neither a break with nor a reaction to it, nor a renewal of the
past, nor simply an imitation of it.
That is the particular model of culture that I want to investigate with the
term diaspora, although I want to suggest to you that it is not an easy word to pin
down because it is quite ambiguous in meaning. In the same way, sometimes I
seem mostly to be writing about how one use of ethnicity is o.k. and the other is
not; one use of race is tolerable and another is unacceptable. And here we are with
diaspora. It'sjust been coined, it's flashing around the academics in North America
like quick silver. And I'll tell you that it is a rather troublesome term. Nevertheless,
I will stick with it for the moment and even stick with calling the first roots and
the other routes. How else can I tell you that these things which sound the same are
actually different? And that is actually part of my point. When I say roots you don't
know which of them I'm talking about, and actually I'm talking about a very
important distinction between the two, and about the relations between them. Well
it strikes me that there's a major discrepancy between some of the ways in which
we still think about culture and in which we still live and practise it. That's what I
really want to address.
Let me put it in another way. Caribbean cultures like most diasporic
cultures by definition are cultures usually of forced (or if not forced, largely forced)
migration. They are born of travelling, rupture, appropriation, loss, exile. A kind
of spiritual homelessness lies at the centre of diasporic experience. Now it would
be unthinkable to have a culture of that kind which did not in later manifestations
make the redemptive moves. How could it fail to try to redeem that which it own
culture has as it were lost, the centre of what holds it together. It must make a
redemptive move, but my argument is not about making the redemptive move, but
how to make this redemptive move. Which redemptive move should we make in
relation to diasporic culture?
I want to say something now about some diasporic cultures with which
people in this room may not be so familiar with. When I watch young African-Car-
ibbean men and women now in the irrevocably multi-cultural London, which is one
of the new diasporic cities of post war global-migration and globalization, it's
difficult to make out exactly where they are and what they are up to culturally. That
it is partly because they are already presenting us with a varieties of ways of being
black which were undreamt of in our philosophy. Now I don't have time to paint a
picture of this, so I am just using some snap shots. I hope you are not going to ask
me, "Are they poor?" Yes. "Are they black?" Yes. "Are they largely unem-
ployed?" Yes. "Does the State look after them?" No. Can I take that for granted
and move on to say that nevertheless they are living a sort of life, that they do have
a culture, have some ideas, are doing something with themselves. So can we talk
about that a little bit.
They are (I want to just pick out about five things about them) confident

living in their blackness in a white society as never before. I got there before any
of them, old as a Methuselah I tell you, I was before the migration, you know, before
the Exodus, I can tell you. Watch the generations. Can they feel at home in this
society that they have read about, been taught about and learned poems about and
know everything about, except they don't know about it by living in it. Well these
folks are confident about living in it as they are. Yet in speech, accent, etc. they are
in a sense at home, and in another sense not at home. And there are all kinds of
ways in which one can see their distancing and sense of alienation from the culture
which does not nurture them. Just some other interesting facts: they are more deeply
Caribbean in speech and rhythm than any previous black generation. Their parents
can hardly understand what they are saying. Now they are used to parents making
a very strenuous effort to be able to communicate intelligibly to something else.
They came all this bloody way to do something for the education of their children
who talk exactly like they talk in West Kingston, only moreso. Some parts of their
lives therefore are lived within a kind of black community which has not a great
deal to do with many parts of what might be called British life. You are tempted to
say "Oh this is a kind of ghetto resistance culture." But let me tell you that their
actual cultural interchange with this often hostile white society is fluid and open
and constantly being reconstructed in an astonishing way.
This is the mobile phone generation. These kids may not be able to afford
a place to live, but they know they have to be in contact with anywhere, and where
I live in Brent, they are actually at the street corner speaking to New York. I mean
you don't know where they are speaking to, but the idea that they shouldn't speak
to New York does not enter their heads. They are, if I can put it a very obviously
and very truncated and abrupt and simplified way, these are global ethnics. They
are ethnic in the sense that they have a very strong identity to, and links with, the
cultures from which they come, especially as they have been reconnected to it
through the most advanced modern technology. So they know what is moving and
shaking in the local cultures and they have built their own different but remodelled
local cultures for themselves. But at the same time they have a much wider notion
of what is the global community to which they belong. Please don't think I am
trying to romanticize it. I am not telling you they they are having a wonderful time.
They are bloody well not having a wonderful time at all. Racism is on the increase
everywhere in Europe. We are talking about British identity on its back foot; it
cannot play off the front foot, but on the back foot. We are on the last defensive
here. We are really back back- against-the-wall here. So this is no easy time. I am
talking about survival strategies.
You might say, "what does this have to do with the cultural models?" I
am coming to them. What their parents say is "they are very different from how I
was when I was young" And it's very true, they are. And what especially middle
class Jamaicans, but not only middle class Jamaicans, who come and take a quick
snap shot of them moving like fish in the sea through multi-cultural London, what
they say is "I have never seen anything like it. They have completely lost touch
with their culture." Well you can see from what I've said that that seems to be quite
the reverse of the truth. I don't know anybody who is more in touch with their
culture, but I know what is being said. What is being said is that they are not
Caribbean peoples like we were. What they are noting is the racing ahead, the
retranscription, the alteration in the configuration of the culture itself. That is what
they are noting. And I want to say it to you that it is quite a common response even
from people who on this very day might well have been in the globalization session,

which to my astonishment is about nothing but fusion and cross-over: talking about
music, I have never heard so many cross-overs in my life, there is a cross-over every
two seconds. Yet when we come to making the cultural judgements, we do not
describe culture as a culture of cross-over, we define culture as something longer
and deeper and more stable and more predictable, more organized, with clearer
lines, and looking more like it did when we were their age. I want to talk about this
now. You won't like this phrase at all but let me give it to you, this "narrative of
loss", in our cultural memories. It seems to me an astonishing paradox to find that
narrative of loss which needs to explain where it comes from, because these are
cultures that are the product of loss, and these generations have only survived
because they have managed to find something to put in place of the loss. Our folks
could not have survived the nature of racial slavery in the new world unless they
had found something to put in place of the loss. This is not a question about whether
we should remember the loss. Of course, we must remember it. But we must have
found something. So what I am wondering is what the models are of course they
are anxious to talk about what is new and what is exciting about Caribbean culture,
but I feel sometimes at the middle of these sentences a kind of halting of the breath,
as if they are not quite sure that if the culture moves on them, it is something which
they can live by. Culture is something to live by. That's why it is of such prime
importance; that's why so many people have so many folk models of it in their
heads; that's why they talk about it. It matters, it really matters. Without it, in this
setting, they don't know who the hell they are, or where they came from or where
they are going. So it matters. Mattering in that way leaves one to talk in a certain
kind of way about culture, and I want to say I think there are some problems about
that way of talking about culture.
We talk about globalization, but the Caribbean is itself the product of
globalization. We are bewitched by the modem form of globalization with messages
of capital and labour migration moving from one place to another, but globalization
began with us. We were at the back end of globalization, but we were also its
leading edge. We started it. Modernity started here. Modernity did not (as is the old
Marxist story) begin in the womb of capitalism in Europe, which roamed around
for the whole middle ages and finally produced a market. It was produced by the
process of conquest, exploration first, then conquest, then the decimation of
indigenous people, then the transportation around the world, of blood and violence
that went into the making of the world market. That's where what we now call
modernity started, and we were in the ship that took it from one place to another.
But we know all about it in a sense, especially about kinds of modernity. Now
globalization is in this sense never-the-less a very puzzling phenomenon because
in its modern form it presents all kinds of difficulties, which seem precisely to
threaten the fragile cultures which we have developed and you know the stories:
globalization produces homogenization, all the culture looking the same, it is big
arm commodification, which is that everything becomes something which you can
buy and sell. It has of course its own deeply rooted power-dramatic people talk
about you now. People talk about the rapidity of movement in modem globalization
as if the corporate executive in the jet up there and a kind of black man on his camel
are both modern nomads in the same way. There it is a massive power-dynamic in
who moves and who stays still; who moves fast and who does not, etc.
So of course there is a massive discrepancy in the power of those people
who are involved in globalization, and it has the effect of what is sometimes called
disembodying that is to say at lifting cultures out of their apparently deep

grounding in landscapes, in the very practices of peoples' lives in a certain spatial
terrain, within certain particular history, ofdisembedding them from it, as if culture
can be exchanged and flown around the world, popping up here and there. And
modern globalization has its absolutely rivetting fascination with difference. It can't
get enough of it. We talk about homogenization. Modern globalization insists on
eating a different cuisine every night. The exotic people are not themselves eating
a different cuisine, they are just eating the same old Indian meal, dal and rice every
night. What to be at the top end of globalization means is that you can choose
whether you want to eat simply or to eat extravagantly. The reach of those who are
at the centre of globalization and the containment of those who are at the other end,
or at some of the other end is enormously wide, so it is not surprising that we see
globalization as without question a seriously damaging danger and threat to the way
in which we have thought about our own fragile cultures coming into existence.
I am sure you know the meaning of what has been termed the
coca-cola-ization of the world, the Nike-faction of the world, the Madonnalization
of the world and therefore it is inevitable that confronted by the kind of cultural
and economic and political power, which is massed in the new global culture
industries, that we should regard the current way of thinking and practising about
culture as fighting off globalization, and as if we are pulling back in the defense
of those forms of culture which we have managed (with such difficulties) to put in
place between us and the memory of our profound loss.
Now, I have not the time and I do not have the words to express what our
culture would be like without this moment of re-memorization, without the remem-
ory of all those parts of ourselves, aspects of our culture, of our people's experience,
which were never told to us, which didn't form part of the dominant culture, which
was excluded, rendered invisible. I can't describe to you what our culture would
be like. Just imagine what it would be like, if we had not been through that moment
of recovery. I don't have time to go into it but, I don't want you to mistake my
understanding of how profound that moment has been. I speak of it as a moment,
but of course it is not one moment at all. Hundreds of different moments within
the arts and culture of our region have been reflected or marked by this task of
naming what was not named, of speaking what could not be spoken, of uttering the
words of a trauma which was too terrible to find words for at all, which was the
kind of sublimity of the violence of racial slavery. That moment of recovery is what
I would call the moment of roots, the moment when you name something about
where you came from, which has to be recovered.
The problem with that naming, therefore, is not with the move, but with
how the move is made. Ferty Benenon, the great German Theorist (who died by
committing suicide on the border on the French- Spanish border, with gunflashes
behind him), said this:

"To articulate the past historically also means to recognize it,
means not to recognize it as the way it really was. It means to
seize hold of a memory as it flashes up in a moment of

We read again, "To articulate the past historically doesn't mean to recog-
nize it the way it really was, for the way it really was despite what the historians

sometimes says is of course always a matter of selective reconstruction, of narra-
tivization of interpretation, and so on. I am not suggesting there is no difference
between one historical account and another, but to say this is how it really was, we
can stop telling the story because that is how it really was, that moment never
What Benenon says is that to articulate the past historically means to seize
hold of a memory as it flashes up in the present, that is to say from the same point
of today the history of the present reaching for this or for that of its past which it
needs in order to tell itself something that it needs to know now, today, in order to
get to tomorrow. It is the past in the interest of becoming not the past in the interest
of repeating what you have always been. But, Benenon adds in a moment of
danger. Well what is this danger that Benenon is referring to? Well I think danger
is quite simple; let me try and encapsulate the danger by talking about my two
diasporas. The diaspora is a term where I suppose the longest history of usage is
within the history of the Jewish people, and despite the relations between blacks
and Jews in many places which are all not that wonderful, the idea of the Jewish
diaspora and the suffering of the Jewish people and of its history, has played an
important role in black intellectual life and in black thought. But that pales into
insignificance beside what we all know about, which is the way the figure of
Exodus, and Redemption itself has played a role in our culture. There is no more
important Biblical story. (I know you will arrest me for saying this, because its
heterodox and it shouldn't be said.) To people in the Caribbean, the story of the
Exodus, of being plunged into slavery and exile and of the release from slavery
and exile and of the long Exodus, and of being led out of the terror and violence of
the past into the promised land is the most powerful metaphorical story. We didn't
make it up, we borrowed it from some body else. I am coming back to that point.
We re-read it in such a way as to give it a kind of importance it does not have in its
original text. Do I need to go on? We made a diasporic reading of a sacred text, but
never-the-less the text remained important. There is a sense in which that story plays
such an important part in trying to understand not only how people came to speak
of freedom itself, to give it a kind of metaphorical urgency, again and again, ( I'm
not talking here about religion at all, nor about faith as it were), I am talking about
the power of metaphor, the power of a metaphor in a sacred book where practically
nobody could read, where this was the only book practically you (the slave) could
read; that they (the master) would allow you to read. This was the book that they
thought would transform the slave into something else. And this is not another book,
not a sacred book which somebody brought with them, not one which they sent to
buy or brought over, not one which they smuggled in. The one they were made to
read yielded up a story and a figure and metaphor, which enabled them to find a
way for themselves of speaking of freedom. And what is most important about that
is that for centuries we have been unable to tell when this figure is used whether
they (the slave) really meant free up there or free down here.
Exactly. It was the ambiguity of the reading, the double inscription of the
reading, so that people say "You mean the freedom train, that is what you mean,
the freedom train?" "No! No! I am speaking about going to the promised land!"
But as soon as his back was turned you might ask "By the way, how could one get
to the promised land?"
The same words, exactly the same words, but, with an absolutely different
meaning. The capacity to reappropriate and transcribe out of the mouth of the

master, not yet in your own words, the very words he had brought to civilize you,
you managed to de-civilize yourself in a sense, recivilize yourself in another way.
Now that is one reading of the diasporic, of the story of redemptive exodus,
the story of the promised land, the story of return and salvation, the story of the
flight into freedom, the flight from terror and violence. It is a massively powerful
metaphor of freedom. But I want to say before you suddenly say "Oh well, is that
what we are? Yes terrific! We now have a model of a diasporic culture, then I'll
buy that one off the shelf', let me remind you that this remains also a troubling
story. It is a story of a chosen people, it is the story of a sacred book, it is a story of
policing tht people in a certain way and agendas according to the law, it is a story
of the law of the Father, it has a very powerful constitutive outside-nobody who
doesn't belong can ever hope to get inside. What's more it means it about returning
to the Promised Land and if it just happens that there are rather a lot of Palestinians
who have somehow over the ten centuries kind of wandered in and tethered a few
goats and tilled the soil and think that by now some of it might belong to them, now
they are going to be expelled in the very name of the diasporic, because this notion
of the diasporic says we are all out there but just waiting to go home, waiting to go
back to where we started, waiting for it to all come right.
I want to say to you that I think that even if you have gone so far with me
in the argument, that everything with my view in respect to the future turns on this
very fine line between the right and the wrong way of reading the diasporic. If our
response to the problems and terrors of globalization ( don't doubt for a moment
that globalization has the most terrifying possibility in it) if our only response to
that is to climb inside the bunker, to pull down the hatches to begin to talk about
tradition as if it is a one way train taking us back to where we came from, that there
is only one kind of culture, one set of peoples, one history, one way of living that
experience, you know all enclosed within one frame, if we are going to resolve the
tremendous problems of debating among us what it might mean to be black and
free in the twenty-first century, according to the narrow confine (and I use that as
a metaphor), if we do that, we will have capitulated to globalization. It would have
won, because it would have driven us back in on ourselves, but more importantly
it would have driven us back in a way which requires us to destroy exactly how
we got out of Babylon in the first place, by making it up, by making it anew, by
making it new by forging it, by fooling them. They expected us to turn up in the
expected place, and we turn up somewhere else. It is the capacity to transcode, to
take the codes and turn them against themselves, to reconfigure the elements in a
new way, to be open to traditions which of course have often been used against us.
They are the masters' discourses but to appropriate the masters' discourse is to turn
the language against the source from which it came, and as you turn it exposing all
those meanings which were always locked up within its purview but which were
not released in the uses that they made of it. It is to believe always that meaning is
never finished. Now I want to say to you as urgently as I can that if we go into the
struggle with the powerful forces of modern western globalization as it were telling
ourselves the terrible story, that once it gets told there is no place to go, you might
as well write our own death warrant now.
Globalization as it was when it first started, is inscribed in power there
are no cultural relations which are not inscribed in power. I am not talking about
looking for some free space. Nobody is going to say "Oh come in the Caribbean
and be yourself. Have a fete here for a little while." Nobody ain't going to say that

to any body, and they never said it to us either. They only made the space, we push
back to say just give me a little room, air, just a little room and air. That is always
how culture is inscribed in power. But we talk about hegemony like we need bad
dreams to put ourselves to bed at night, we exaggerate the power of capital, capital
is a fantastically powerful force, but it doesn't know a thing about what people do
with culture. It has not the remotest idea. It believes it can tear up and lock up the
way in which you can consume, it believes it can calculate you as a consuming
individual. And everytime it does that people have exploited the tiny margin of
difference which it allows just that way in which no historical process is able to
swallow up the future. People that have been exploited just to that margin, have
used it in a different way, to groove it in a different way, to negotiate, to open some
space, to borrow, to steal, to translate. We despise translation because it is not the
original. Translation is the most fantastic thing in the world, because although it
never gives us the original, it gives us access to this wonderful array of other
literatures, and other expressive forms.
We should learn to live with what we can get of other cultures, because that
is richer than being so impoverished that only our culture will do and I believe that
from my deepest heart that if one does not look for the inevitably contradictory
nature of globalization itself it is itself a contradiction, as modern globalization
lives only by negotiating the local. That is what its pre-occupation with difference
(which I talked about before) is really about. It wants to find a way of inserting
what it produces. It is not satisfied with your just buying it, it wants to reach your
desire, it wants to reach your sense of self, it wants to touch your identity, it wants
to get inside the game, and so it must nativise or indigenize itself. But indigenization
means it has got to go inside the bodies of people and in there something different
happens to it the transcoding begins, another kind of rhythm inserts itself on
the dominant, that is what hegemony means. If you use the word "hegemony", it
does not mean to buy it. It totally controls us. It does not mean the notion that
hegemony was just the same name for "the game is already wrapped up" We mean
hegemony precisely because power always constitutes the ground of its own
resistance. It always provides the space in which something different which can be
said otherwise, than the way in which it is being said or has being said to us. And
this notion therefore that it is precisely by retranscription (by resignification) that
the diasporic culture is obliged to exist. It cannot exist any other way, and to think
of it only in terms of the repetition of its origins, (as if culture can do nothing more
but preserve and maintain that which is fixed), is to lose the game before you start
it. So I want to urge on you a notion of the diasporic which lives with the notion of
dissemination, of the scattering. The seed has gone out. It is not going to come back
to its original ecology. It now has to learn to live in new climates in other soils. It
has to learn to resist pests that it never resisted before.
The one thing you do not get in nature is a clone. It's not given to repeat
itself as it was, because to repeat itself would be to die. It's going to use its new
ecology to construct a culture of a different kind. It is going to live with dissemi-
nation. It knows that unless we have made the return to our symbolic home in our
hearts and minds we will never know who we are, but it knows at the same time
that you can't go home again.
Nettleford, Rex "Mirror Mirror: Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica", Collins/
Sangster, 1970

Ren flettleord
>yuuung. tuku tuku tha. patak<
the Renaissance of Caribbean Culture
KB5 mar968mar969mar96 11/12 mar96 12 mar96 13 mar96 13/14 mar96 14 mar96 15 mar96

How do you strike words
make them flight sparrowes
or a great clatter of green parakeets in the homing early amber of evening
unless thru the soaring of pan
the nine strings of the voice of the sycorax

How do you strike light
so that it fragments into the early wet unity of rain-
bow dances newances
unless thru the bough or blow of the prism

How do you strike the rocks of these islands
make them sing
wonder. fisherman's net wisdom


Barry Chevannes & the rOOt of this Conference

traordinary event in itself: first time in our 500 yrs of postColumbian history that we
have such a happening there was PR in 1958, Carifesta 72 in Guyana & these are LANDMARKS
too, but mainly as PERFORMANCES distillations & enactments of the culture. This is the first ti-
me we have a concentrated comprehensive refleXion on it. Put together, the two st
reams strands events begin create an IMAGE of ourselves

first thing i wish to do is 'read' the Programme. why read the programme? is impor
tant, even before we begin what's left of this 'talk', to know it (programme) isn't final,
there will be surprises, spill-overs & above all fabulous creative interventions & im-
provisations the very heart & essence of Caribbean style. But the Programme as pro
gramme, as imprimatur, as stamp, inscription, printed memorial, is important be-
cause it provides us w/the palimpsest or imprint of the ORIGIN of the idea of the
Conf the concept of 'Caribbean culture' in the mind or minds of its 'organizers'
its progenitors if you like at a moment of implementation or 'birth' now officially
registered as March 1996 by what is known as the Social Sciences Dept of the UWI at
Mona & sparked by the present chairperson of that Dept Barry Chevannes

now Chevannes represents. is part of. comes from. a group of Caribbean intellectual
(s) and i make a distinction between intellectuals & academics who enter the UWI as TEA-
CHERS or postgraduate research persons in the mid-sixties mainly in the social sci-
ences, at the period or during the period of political Ja independence; a moment gree

led fleetingly by them as the NEW DAY but increasingly seen as cause for disappoint
ment, dissatisfaction, anger & concern because, for them, the culture of independen-
ce, seen by them at that time as almost exclusively POLITICAL, remained too much a
culture of dependence: that the psycho-social the class & economic inequalities of the PLAN
TATION were not only too much IN PLACE & CONSOLIDATING but that the new
native political leadership DIRECTORATE was the more favour word was appropriating
unto itself all the trappings & power of the former colonial regime in the name of a
new native but personalist & increasingly corrupt dispensation And these were idea
(s) shared by similarly placed & disposed intellectuals figured around the journal
Public Opinion in 'wider' Jamaica, and on the St Augustine campus & some elsewh
eres 'xtramurally' throughout the anglophone Caribbean joining what was becom-
ing known as the general IIIW postcolonial discontentment w/what was being seen
as postIndependence 'independence' (therall of Nkrumah,Congo/Lumumba, the Nigerian Civi War, Achebe's Man of
the People <1966>. Naipaul's Mimic Men, Desmond Dekkers 07T )

by the mid-sixties, in the anglophone Caribbean, this IIIW postIndependence discon-
tent was taking a number of often overlapping sometimes sequential forms: cultur-
ally, in the image of

at first in Ja and then spreading to most of the other Caribbean territories & the
outlands of the Caribbean diaspora and not necessarily as nyabinghi rasta, but often
rasta as part of the

Yout Revolution
which in part had brought Fidel Castro to Power (icon of Che etc)
and which later spread to Paris & the US (indeed to most W Europemetropoles) as Student
demanding change in the curriculum & the university/admihistration relationship -
indeed demanding & reflecting the changing concept & status of YOUTH in most W
societies changes in Youth's relationship to Authority esp parental & parent-
substitute inc politicians & the clerisy

some of this Yout Move went into (esp in the US) Civil Rights
which meant in that context another phase in the Race War

in the Jamaica these energies express themselves in

first the Rodney Riots
in Ja (1968); since, in Ja, Rodney's emphasis on African History as cosmological aspect of political
economic & social change, attracted Rasta, Yout, Stu, sufferers,
antiPlantation race-conscious militants

followed by the seizure of the Creative Arts Centre
ICACI (1970) w/its call for cultural revision of the CAC and by extension,
cultural, intellectual & academic revision of the UWI curriculum towards
& coincident w/Yard Thealre,BonigoMan ed Rupert Lewis, Ital, Rasta Voice, Abeiig,
Pivot, Moko, Tapia (in Tdad ed Lloyd Best)Raloon (in Guyana)Manjak
(in Bdos)NAM Speaks in SV, and a whole set of stu & Rasta & sufferer expression -
Savacou 3/4 (1971) etc -
not only calling for change, but at last -many of them-demonstrating elements of change,
often in direct confrontation w/ police & the Establishment -

& then the spread of this MOVE/MANT to Trinidad w/its far more
complex racial situation or rather its differently structured racial situation -
culminating in the declaration at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in POS
& all that follow tumble-down & topsy-turvy from that

& then there was a small group of university lecturers & PGs at Mona along w/various
sympathetic but disconcentered intellectuals outside the Univ, who were to crystallize,
first thru Abeng and after this was BURN DOWN

into other forms of expression; & then the formation of the Workers Party of Jamaica
led by Trevor Munroe, in which Chevannes played a long & dedicated role

But Chevannes is not a simply single-category intellectual. I He was one of that again
small group of Jamaican intellectuals who had started out on the road to the Roman
Catholic priesthood but had been stopped in their tracks on the road to August Tow
(n) by a vision of more secular and for them, I suspect, at that time, more NATIVE

he is/was also a very fine composer of militant POWER music, fashioned in the chr
omatic scale of the Catholic liturgy, but chronicling in a remarkable preMarly mann-
er, the history & struggle & aspirations of the Yout w/his lament for Jason Whyte,
the young fisherchild s who in a small boat w/his father was adrift for weeks out to
sea & had to live thru & survive the death of the face to face father from heat, thirst
& terror, Chevannes not only caught the spirit of the time, but that music, as Pam O'G-
orman has pointed out in a ja jour article & as we who heard it know, remains tho nowstrangely neglec
ted one of the great classics of Caribbean expression in song

Part of that neglect has to do w/changes in Ja society since its Rev 70s; part of that ne
glect stemmed from Chevannes' own increasing allegiance to POLITICAL rather th-
an cultural solution, putting away his guitar for other kinds of gauntlet And it not
until his full-time return to academia in the 90s, that we find from him a reconstitu-
tion of his elements, and a return, as this extraordinary event which he conceived &
masterminded, demonstrates, to his shall we say original holistic notions of the im-
portance indeed the immanent importance of culture, not only to our society, but to
our society-in-crisis

'Reading' the Programme

so now we come to a reading of the Programme. as I say, is the first event of its kind
- of this resonance in the 500 years. Chevannes' perhaps personal revenge on Ch-
ristopher Columbus & the conquistadores. its present untitled plenaries promise to
be ORACULAR// w/ perhaps the poss exception of this present oracle' i mean what can i sayl a prismatic
rendering of anglophone Caribbean Vision, even tho only one wois inc

the panels travel thru panCaribbean literature to reggae, soca, ringbang, dancehall,
kumina & konnu in the age of dancehall; thru concepts such as the 'new' globalizati
on which i read as yqolde MERCANTILISM to the 'older' Creolization & Identity, tho the
Plantation seems strangely absent at least as signal windmill; there is 'recent' Gend-
er and the old but still unresolved Class in its many contxts. The East Indian presen-
ce is recognized altho I still don't see enough integration of spokespersons & issues
from that part, as GL wd say, of our constituency, in the present programme

here is Rastafari (welcome!) Mortimo Planno, now, in my fonulation, a Ratlbri Ancestor & ENIGMA a friend & mlleague I have not
een for years, appears at my Plenary and later on the Restlari Panel. I am also inform by Lambros Comilas that a book by Planno. long in the planning.
Is now [mar96j aboul to be publsh by whom? & one wonders why this is so HUSH-HUSH and Is not an important cultural event unless something
wrong withe book? announce to the Conference. .
& cricket which fancy that! is 'new' ('unkindest cut' & all & all!) & we look forward nxt time to
a CLR James-like consideration of the role of Caribbean sport & athletes generally, as
aspects of panCaribbean cultural expression & one notes w/interest Nettleford's own recent lDec951
print-initiative relating the psycho-choreography of cricket to the psycho-choreography of dance, which suggests that
we might soon see this (new) departure on the NDTC stage

reading the program i see religion, i see labour, i see dance (yes! as we shd on this occasion),
& i see many Cuban participants all the more emancipatory at this time of Crisis. i

see also that we are looking at Publishing which needs a follow-up conference (along
w/the tribe of booksellers) all to itself/themselves. If our artists hold the mirror up to na
ture, who holds the mirror + the mirrorof the tv movie screen up to the artist w/out dr-
opping it smudging it cracking it or twitching it off on personalist grounds?

i see Maroons but i don't see & menot carpin finding FAULT fe finding FAULT yu understand! what
shd be major companions of the Conference no contribution from Science as GL po
inted out that night (Opening Ceremony 3March961 at the barricades of the Undercroft [the Un-
dercroft Is a pleasant & distinctive open space under the UWI's Admin Building designed as the centre or focal point of the University & is the
only open space apart from the largely neglected Stu Union dancefl- oor, & two swimmingpools, that is OPEN AIR on a campus in a tropical
culture. 'Banricades' because the Undercofl from the beginning is also the centre of student & Union protest > Univ & Govl administration (s)]
& i see nothing of History, the motherdiscipline of Science AND the Arts esp since Pr-
ofessor Nettleford is'a HistoryMajor Undergraduate underParry, Augier& Elsa Coveia & history of
course deals w/ the ORIGEN & development of our culture or so it shd

w/v little, too, on COMMUNICATIONS & the GEOGRAPHY/GEOLOGY of Commu
nication(s) -what & why unitesdivide us& how the Harmattan affect ourweather

i read Philosophy in the Program but not yet Psychology from a region that boasts Fr
antz Fanon & Frederick Hickling, among others & that seems to glory in schizophre
ne & hybrid & mulatto & rainbow* and that long on-going surprising & often vit-
uperative debate on LANGUAGE by which i don't mean our general lack of Fr or Sp
thus remaining separated from each other in this Our Caribbean; but i'm thinking
here of this vicious circle biting our own tail(s) over the Q of the use of NATION-
LANGUAGE- why is it regarded as inappropriate in certain conixts: education/school instruction,
'high-up' occasions etc etc etc

rApat from the socio-histori-

cal place of the 'mulatto' in pa
(n)Caribbean culture, we mig
ht note Derek Walcott's (not at the cont)
self-definition 'mula- tto of style'. Ken
Corsbie, the G uyaneseCaribbean
actor (not at the Cont) & founder of the
MeOn (e)/DemTwo/allAwe literary/th-
eatre concept, proudly announ ces to
his audiences that he's a MONGREL.
Atthe Conf Gor don Rohlehr delivers
a lively Paper on multitude (not only ih
(e) psyhheno phenom but mAul tMitude &
mulilattitude) & Margar et Gill, young
poet from Barba dos intervenes at the
Panel Re ligion & Identity & Culture to
relate her own experience on th (e)
manic depressive pendulu (m) to
religious illumination epiphany
&'spirit possession'
& declares that 'madness' sh (d) be
part of any Caribbean I-
dentity/Religion discussion]

But it wd be impossible to pour 5000 years of space travel into a little room of 3/4 day
(s) and I can tell you Barry, that we GLAD fe what we get & can't make enough noise
to praise & thank you



and so to Nettleford. Where does Rex fit into & along this audio mural? born in Fal
mouth, raised Bunkers Hill, Trelawny, on the cusp of our people's uprising of the
30s. We know he's astonishing; but to have, thru Barry, inspire the thunderstorm
of this Conf, makes us begin to wonder & examine just IHOW astonishing//& the wi-
ne of this astonishment, as Earl Lovelace puts it, reflected in these goblets of ideas,
words, gestures, implications, catches, thru him, our own astonishment that not on-
ly has he done so much, but that, on reflection, all-a-we have done perhaps even
more than we expected & is what this Conference makes us realize

the first essence & quality of Nettleford is proud but self-effacing humility. We are as
tonish at just HOW MUCH the man has done, because he never blow a conch-shell
bout it & we now take it almost for granted that a one person cd be a University Pro-
Vice Chancellor w/all that that implies in travel, meetings, discipline, discretion, di-
plomacy, headache & heartache; also teacher, TU Education lecturer & Continuing
Education tutor & professor; and not only that, but Dir of that Continuing Education
enterprise that involves what Lloyd Best calls in his Plenary 'extracurricular method
ologies & modalities' not only for Kingston & Montego Bay but for the whole far-fl-
ung telephone Caribbean & wherever the University serves &/or its influence is felt
or called upon

then, as you must have heard and most of us know there is work w/UNESCO, th
(e) OAS, Caribbean Governments, cultural resource person in Canada, to the Com-
monwealth & I sure to several private corporations now anxious to keep in step w/
the new nations of nativism, culture & multiculture. There's also the Institute of Ja-
maica, the Cultural Training Centre, the Sir Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative
Arts shall i will stop here? his own National Dance Theatre Company. This one a
lone it took Diaghilev & Berto Pasuka a whole short lifetime to deal w/ Rex does
this all and praise the Lord, look like he going live for eh eh eh eh for a long time


and so we call him Renaissance Prince, now truly King, the Caribbean Renaissance

But that's making him an icon & icons are soon reduced to statues & to postage sta-
mps, sold across boundaries, found in New Age marrakeches, & when the time co-
mes, collected & APPROPRIATED. Icons reflect back upon us the light we cast upon
them. Why we need them. Nettleford doesn't do that, tho I mean it doesn't happ-
en like that/that way w/him & why perhaps we call him 'proud but unassuming'

for we face here a much more awesome & implacable energy than what an icon can
display/provide. Nettleford absorbs the light & is ENIGMA that stage in people's
cultural devel beyond the postage stamp, beyond the icon, beyond that horrible word
'commodification', beyond, in fact, any kind of psycho-political modification. The
Sphinx remains the Sphinx remains the Sphinx even though Napoleon cuts off its
nose And it's this quality of ENIGMA that allows his work & draws us to him in the
way we draw & are so please to testify about within/ beyond the 'confines' of this Co

IEN IGMA, quality of dark, absorbing light, of course
also partakes in 'engmalic' = insutab- Ie or MASK a quality of
OPAQUE usually read not read on the face. Nettleford's face, as a
malt- erof fact, as befits a powerfimer, is wonderfully mobile, like
his Intonation & voice, but is only so a act of performance not of
personal revelation -
not the pros leor repose But more to the point Is the little we know
of his background, leaving hi (m), to acquaintances associates &
the public, mu ch more persona than person. We know that he

spring, as he Ikes to say even boast tho he also adds IU ALL
ofus' Trom the canepiece' and we know, atc to legend, there was
strong ancestral Grannmolher & thai he supported himself thru
school & college. But HOW etc No picture of per- sonal deal
emerges as say in his cousin novelist (s), even tho RN himself is
a prolific writer; nor does he seem to subscribe to the idea, pul
forward (d) In my Caribbean Man In Space & Time (1975) that
before or along wour sociocultural an alyses, we shd locate' ou
own 'place' win the discourse, as we note Gordon RoNehr (for
the fist tIe known to me) offering during his Plenary, as, in a diff
way, did Ema Brodberin hers. Not a sh- adow of ths in Nelleford.
Not even his Oxford
Rhodes Scholar xperlence. As I hecomes fully gr own more ie
Shango then ?t Bilew. is only withe material being coll for this
Conf to honour him thal we hear that he write poetry whie at Comrn
wall Co& asanundergradalMonal

and so to my main consideration here this morning


Rex Nettleford & the renaissance of Caribbean


We can begin by saying- counterto the long history of V S Thomases that not only did the
Caribbean have a culture before we get here, it also begins its cultural history w/our
arrival: Europe, Africa, Asia & the interculturative consequences

or we can say that Caribbean culture in its second nativist mode (the first being the Amerindi-
an)'begins' when its Africans begin eating YAM soon after the starvation epidemics
of the Am Rev before which we imported all or most our food as we still do- certain
ly our protein, from N America saltfish in the form of maggots

when YAM was permitted as a solution to starvation & the survival of slavery the
Africans begin to eat again (nyam) not only their food (yam) but our god (nyame)
express in the culture as the birth of resurrection Yam (hence Yam festivals) & leading to
the slaveAfrican encounter w/their own resistance fire & creativity NAM MAN
spill backwards the capacity of cultural disguise as condition of physical & cultural
survival, prevalence, countervalence & emergence right here on the slave plantati-

now the notion of Renaissance usually implies a new cultural dispensation evolu
tionary revolutionary eruption disruption transgression adaptation NEW USE of
what/ from what becomeknownas a Classical Tradition. For the slave, that Classical
Tradition had to be his/ her Africa actual or in various forms of memory rememory im-
agination possession delirium dream vision
and by the 1930s, when Nettleford is born, the Caribbean is about to enter its first holis-
tic postslavery cultural revolution, out of a new discourse of slave/ black/African classic
al narrated above all by Marcus Garvey

If the Caribbean & esp the anglophone Caribbean can be said to have consciously xpe
tience a ?first cultural renaissance, it wd have to be located in this period, xcept that

it lacked widespread so called literate dissemination & the majority of the p of this
wd-be renaissance had no or enough political & econ power w/which to found & n-
ourish institutions of permanent resistance since for us 'renaissance' implies almost
permanent resistance > the legacy of the mercantilist Plantation also

for 'best' renaissance conditions we have to wait until the postIndependence period
& passion of discontent & 'subversive transgression' first at the UWI from c1965 wh
ich I already mention, when Barry Chevannes is going to sing Black-up at Yard Th-
eatre & had started his study on Jamaica People's Churches that wd lead to his 1971
MSc & his recent book on Rastafari (1994) and Nettleford returns from Rhodes Sch
olarship Oxford to start the NDTC(w/Eddie Thomas) on the dot, as it were, of Ja's Inde-
pendence 1962

Nettleford, however, is not at this time identified w/the soul rebels of the Rodney
RiotS(that honour goes to Geo Beckford), the Seizure of the Creative Arts Centre (that hon
goes among others to the late Timothy Callender of Barbados) and he makes no statement
or reflection, as far as I know, on the Black God of the Port of Spain Cathedral

but he has already as early as 1960 in fact, been associated w/ MG Smith & Roy Augie
(r) w/the U-blinding Report on the Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Ja & from 1963
had initiated the series of conversations w/ himself in the guise of public ruminations on
the problematic of race & national identity in a developing society: Our Heritage
(1%963),'Our national identity & our attitudes to race' (1964) revised (1965) as 'National iden
tity & attitudes to race in Jamaica'

the conversation, you see beginning to become more confident & outreaching, w/th
(e) message tho critical of racial hypocrisy what he call bammi whites & roas breadfruit blacks hope
ful, even xpectant, that the gravitational urge towards national identity & NATION
wd increasingly subsume if not obscure racial divisiveness in Independent Jamaica.

Hence also or therefore his publications ref Norman Washington Manley at this ti-

he is also assoc w/Sir Philip Sherlock* (one of his mentors& xemplars) & Louise Bennett*
(an enduringsourceof inspiration), w/ the Ja republication of Walter Jekyll's seminal (18969)
Ja song & story (1966) and a first ever selection w/notes & intro of Miss Lou's poems,
Ja Labrish (1966), which precipitated a long & perhaps still continuing debate w/Mer-
vyn Morris on the pro & cons, the newances of what later wd be called in many quar
ters if not on the UWI Campus, nation-language

ras we move towards a History
Caribbean culture of the arts >Ivy Baxter,
Arts of an Island (1970), A J Seymour,
Guyana cu Iiure (1972) Brathwaite, The
lov (e) axeI' (1976)book-length ed forth-
coring (1996). BagjnCulture(1979),
BarabajanPoems (1994). Nettle ford,
Caribbean cultural Identi
ty: the came of JamaIca (1978), Gordon
Rohlehr, Calypso & so-
clsty(1989) among others<

we need to recognize & record the
enormous national/regional
& diasporic contribution & influ- ence of Sir
Phlip & Miss Lou as thresholds to Our
Caribbean cul lural renaissance & how they
be come Anoestors to ensuring gen-
erations, in which Nettleford is key &
But Nettleford's first major reaction to the perturbations of the Caribbean renaissan-
ce in its most militant phase so far, was Mirror Mirror identity, race & protest in Ja-
maica (1970), which since it employ a tidalectic rather than a dialectical approach to wh
at was now seen as the question of race, was seen by several intellectuals in the Soci-
al Sciences Depts here, notably Geo Beckford and Vaughan Lewis (& it shd be noted that

the discourse for change & the programmes for action in the (political) culture was coming, as I said when
I begin this, from the Social Sciences & not, w/ the brief but decisive exception of Walter Rodney, from
the faculty of Arts & General Studies) who fine him too 'ambivalent' their version of lidalect

1 ) tidalectic (the term is being dev
by KB) doesn't mean 'ambivalent' at
all, but a certain kind of natural ti-
dal procedure w/in a continuum ra
other than a trajectory out of it towar
ds a fixed 'objective' 'solution"

(2 ) One diff between Nettleford & th
(e) Soc Scientissatthis time- in addof cou
rae to the diff given to the importance of cul
ture/ arm, u ref below, is that at this time -
the 60. the Soc Scientistshad at their dispo
sal a confident If inported (Rex's cri of them)
vo cab 'objective' & 'goal-oriented' which
allow them to be dialectically ?certain ab-
out SOLLTION; whereas Nettleford & mT
stof the'Culturaliist'were @ill smuggling to
wards utterance hying for the NATIVE
song to sound the native problem/idea

Lewis also felt in 1972/73 that in Nettleford's work certainly Mirror Mirror, 'Cult-
ure is too narrowly defined' & that the book 'concerns itself to too great an extent w/
"images"' & this was to be, for a long time, the criticism of social science depts of PO
LTICS at the University & of young radical political activists throughout the region

& the IIIW what Trevor Munroe in BongoMan call BLACK CULTURALISM & so-
me of us signify as NEGRITUDE

this Conference therefore represents a great healing of the gap or gulf between Nett-
leford & the social scientists, who, as this Conference indicates, have come the long
road back round to a recognition- i hope- of the centrality of culture to our functional
reality & where how why we are ourselves in the world

it is also my contention that it is Geo Beckford's Black Paper on the NDTC & the con
sequent series of seminars at the Creative Arts Centre which Nettleford & some me-
mbers of his Dance Co attended/participated in, that led to the single most important
(t) 'change' in the direction of the NDTC's work & in Nettleford's own orientation
of thought the return to roots w/Kurnina (1971) From the moment of Kumina Nett
leford begins to move & be moved tho less consciously so, from glittering ikon to gli
mmering enigma, tho the full graviton of this is still some way off; & in his role of
the King in Kumnina, Rex himself begins to become King & a whole new integration
of thought & action & artistic expression & social understanding & compassion beco-
mes increasingly evident, centred more & more on his discoveries & exploration wi-
thin the HOUMFORT of the NDTC & radiating outward into multivalient work wh
ch increasingly becomes not many works but the single expression of a hool

we can trace the probable road to Kuinina from African Scenario & the Afro-West
Indian Suite (both 1962) thru the early Pocomnania (1963) Two drums for Babylon (1964)
his first rastafari statement in dance, Misa Criola (1967) + satirics such as Kas Kas (1965), xtend
ing the vocabulary of social intimacy/social mimicry

but w/ Kumina(1971) recorded music is replaced by a whole new cosmology- the NDTC Sin
gers & Musicians under Marjorie Whylie & real live kumina drummers, which fro-
(m) their first vibration of magical realism transform & BRING HOME audiences th
roughout the Caribbean & the AmericanPlantation diaspora generally

but it also transforms & BRINGS HOME the Company; and for the first time in our
history, a living part of our ancestral folk (in this case Kikongo Jamaicans) is given the opp

ortunity to give a sp/ a rk of their spirit to a group of colleagues who until

this moment of contact wd never have been recognized as such. What N
ettleford & the NDTC is trying to do w/Kumina & from Kumina on, is establish a n-
ative Great Tradition out of those very elements of folk gifted to them by the people
of the kumnina. and is thru the overstanding acceptance transformationn of this, th-
at Nettleford & his NDTC, for the first time in our 'renaissance' history, are able to e

power us by at last returning our selves to our selves, & in so doing alter-

what before had been a marginal Little Tradition into a protean Great one
(the only other such 'moment' in our culture significantly // if a little earlier to this
- is Derek Walcott's presentation of Ti-Jean a his Brothers (1950) + Dream on Monkey Mountain

From this hool this houmfort and here we begin to witness the emergence of


Nettleford begins the true founding of his Party or shall we say base & hoom & Company:
a committed group of highly skilled, wonderfully tuned & disciplined dance/music-
al/magical artists who perform like professionals but are, as Nettleford constantly po
ints out, far more independent than professionals who in renaissance times have to
rely on Pals & Principalities & Powers for their sponsorship & who are always in da-
nger of having to dance before Herod for some dreadlock victim's head. Nettleford
sees his Company as truly independent & self-sustaining, creating susu partnerer') supp
ort for its members where/when needed: housing, education, further training, abo-
ve all dedicated contribution to community & becoming a model, he suggests, as to
how we might run our own national affairs* & leads him thru reggae attributes to
Jimmy Cliff (1974) Bob Marley (Court of Jah 1975),The Crossing (1978/Nettleford's choreo-response to
Alex Haley's Roots) & Dance Jamaica (1985/Nettleford's own dance career/dance philosophy golokwati) to
one of the major txts of our renaissance, Inward Stretch Outward Reach (1993) the ti-
tle alone signalling the xtent of Nettleford's own artistic & philosophical integrative
development & providing us w/one of our most elegant tidalectic expressions so far,
concern w/culture as the emergeoning of true-true nationhood in simultaneous re-
lation to meaningful regionalism (Sherlock, the Manleys) all based on his faith in & consta-
nt advocation of in assoc w/ his personal activities towards/& in the service of the develop-
ment of the creative talent of our people

T Towards the end of
Dance Jamaica (1985) perhaps
the most confident & 'integrated'
moment so far in N ettleford's
thoughtlreflection/x pression we
find a fascin
eating expression of confid- ence &
faith in the creat- ive process as
practical, therapeutic, problem-
ing, an exercise in labour pr
oductivity, worker partici pation,
authoritative lead-
ership/management, art as politics
in the sense of model for nation-
building holy & holistic; reflectin
(g) of course Nettleford's own
testimonio as long, successful &
dedicated ar ist/activist who is at
th (e) same time cultural ad viser
to Independence po- stcolonial
governments, es (p) the
revolutionary de- mocratic socialist
govern- ment of Michael Manley's
Jamaica (1972-1980) in whi-ch
Nettleford was not on ly Cultural
Advisor & Com-missar but
Chairperson of the vital

Committee on W orker
Participation (see Dan ce Ja, p310,
n 1) and all the time Artistic Director
of the continuing & consistently &
increasingly success ful NDTC a
remarkable achieve ment of
constellation in itself which from its
inception becomes, as Nettleford
co nfirms in Dance Ja, a mo del &
catalyst for dance & the arts
generally in Ja & throughout esp
the ang phone Caribbean & its di
aspora w/the formation of simile
dance companies & equally
important dance training centres
& schools (even the desire &/or
WILLING- NESS towards such
aspiration) & an increasing cadre
of teachers, esp in Ja, hand- ing
on the Nettleford/NDTC
'vocabulary' & tradition

The passages called below reflect
not only Nettlefor (d)'s
worklachievement in this one
sector of his con tribution & his
justifiable PRIDE in this & its
applica tion & FUTURE in the
proce ss of the arts & nation-

building but fabulous in the
procedure of the arts in the
process of na- tion-building; but
some of his philosophical
mantrums :the African/Greek
concept of the individual-in-comm
unity, express also in T S El iot's
'Tradition and the in- dividual talent!
( 953) which clearly influence him -
as it make sense to most ar tists-
in-community; post -Freudian
concepts of ego-satisfaction &
actual ization, socialist notions of
mobilization& worker participation
& the contain uing Platonic
discourse of the place of the
authorit-arian LEADER the
AUTH- OR! in social-national (ci-
ty-state) development

=N's word/concept is more spe
cifically that of 'earned author ity'
based on skills &the rmn
itted impartation of these to the group
fr the sake/the GOODof the group=

There is also a remarkable juxta
position in Nettleford of Ed- uard
Glissanfs idea of 'relation'to speak of
power/cultural (cre ole)
relationships) (in the Caribbea

(n) elsewhere) & the idea in- deed its
relationship to the me aning in its root
in real as In property managementt
power not as a case of property but .of Ie
lationship))Jp269) which cd ce
rtainly bear more examination

(But) the conceptualizati-on &
actualization & SUC- CESS d
the NDTC, and the proposal for its
hard/well-earned mkissi as gift &
blueprint to/for nation& future are,
however, as far as I know,
entirely or- iginal w/ Nettleford

'The making and performing of a work
of art is a complex pro cess involving
the mobilization of individual skills to
effect col elective action. Dependence
on in dividual effort ensures the full
est collaboration of all member (s) of
the group. In this sense there is
more worker participa- ion in the
process of creation than in a typical
industrial oper action. The participants
gain sa- tisfaction from the knowledge
that their separate contribution (s) are
essential to the whole.

Thus the emphasis on social re
cognition, ego satisfaction, and self-
actualization within one's work takes
precedence over ec onomics and
other practical nee ds. Performing arts
companies are likely to offer more of
this kind of intrinsic satisfaction th an

other marketplace endeavour (s), and
thus chronic tension an (d)
resentment against manage ment are
lessened. When tensi on occurs,
which is inevitable in the competition
over roles or the persistence of
personal poin ts of view, it is likely to
be re solved in creative compromise,
since ego satisfaction and self
actualization are made possible (e)
through actual performance' [DJ pp26

On the Q of leadership: Ihe Co-
mpany retains a leadership str- ucture
that perceives manage- ment power
not as a case of property but one of
relationship p269

'The development and survival of the
National Dance Theatre Company is
the story of a vol- untary action group
operating continuously in a poor
Third Wor Id country over a period of
[th- irty-four] years. The Company's
very existence is based on coll-
aborative management as wel as the
dynamic interaction of all its
participants, with creat- ive skills and
leadership being m
utally enforcing. This group Ithe
Company] has succeeded in ma- king a
deep impact on the cultu ral life of
Jamaica Its unpaid members, who
have occupation (s) as teachers,
doctors, lawye rs, civil servants,
farmers and bankers, among others,
are ded icated to the view that their

efforts in the area of dance wi II
contribute discipline as well as a
sense of process and cultu ral
awareness to the task of n ation
building.' [p267]

There is also the vital challenge & issue of our relationship to Revolutionary
Cuba & Haiti both of whom, esp Cuba, I'm glad to see well represented at this Con-
ference. During Jamaica's own revolutionary 70s, there was an important rapproche
ment w/Cuba, resulting in important political & cultural changes: the training of Ja
yout (brigadistas) 'in Cuba, the loan of Cuban doctors & agricultural experts to Ja, the
establishment of a Cuban-model holistic Jos6 Martf Secondary School nr Sp Town,
the Cuban participation in the anglophoneCaribbean Carifestas (1972 in Guyana, 1976 in
Jamaica) and Cuba's own hosting of Carifesta 79 in Havana & Santiago; & the opening
(g) up of Cuba's prestigious until then Latin American literary competition & prize,
the Casa de Las Americas p remio (still going strong) to the anglo- & francophone Ca
ribbean & the award (in good US dollars) over the years in several categories to several Ca
ribbean writers, some of whom might never have been heard of had they had to de-
pend solely on Euro & US publishers. In all this, Nettleford, as Cultural Advisor to
Michael Manley played a leading role in organizing these cultural changes on pers-
onal & institutional levels; but it was Nettleford's NDTC relationship w/the great
legendary Cuban prima ballerina, Alicia Alonso, then head of Cuba's own Danza Na
cional, that was perhaps most productive, resulting in the introduction of vital new
vocabulary into the NDTC's repertoire, most dramatically & influentially w/Eduard
(o) Rivero's(EduardoRiveroWalker, as it turnsout,a JamaicaCuban!) Sulkari (1980)

T o sum up my 'justification' of Nettleford
not that he needs it not that I need to but this is a moment of golokwati
of halfway tree crossroads reflections on the culture when we can pause sit sip dip
the palm-oil eat the eto mash plantain that the elders have bless

then, as major intervention in our Caribbean
cultural renaissance, I will rehearse my present notions of culture viz -

but before this, a ca V eat:


Archives, Pyramid & 'the Great Library of Alexandria'

that the very culture we are at this momentaffirming celebrating in these rooms, appears in many ways
to be underthreat not only from'xternal forces' but 'ye olde xternal forces' in modernor shall we say po-
stmodern or postmodem guise; but far morealamnning under threat from we ourselves as in many places,

what we big-up as we-culture appears to be on the point of implo S in g if not negatively

xploS in g : crime, dis -ease, widening radiations of poverty both material & spiritual,
corruption, by now the age of Dis. dis- tress dispair & disrespect. distrust disrupt. encompassing
disunity all parts of the present distructive discourse'out there' if not'in here' although it shd be/must
be'IN HERE' too-an apparent failure or short-circuit of a certain disdirection of development -best -

perhaps worse x p Ie s s at present in the mirror mirror of those other icons of the Caribbean
renaissance theWest Indies cricket team i finish my 14 mar96 revisions of this pice the mornmingwe fail by 5 runs >
Australia to get into thefinals of the World Cup- & this after our'stunning defeat by 'smallside'newside' Kenya.

another equally grave(every pun intended!) consideration, raised by me in the

document HELP ,(1988/89)
in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert
& the apparently routine roulette-like killings in the sprawl of Kingston
(rr/1994) is the relationship between 'culture' & 'catastrophe', like when I told some
wd-be comforting & ?comfortable professors at Harvard the day after
that hurricane that they
(their university & all that that implies in wealth prestige & continuity)
are lucky, in a time of 'peace'
not to be in the path of regular irregular natural disasters
In the fragile Caribbean, the development of our culture or rather the consciousness,
respect & nourishment of it depends to an inordinate degree

(& this applies to other areas like politics & 'leadership' as well) on brilliant but fragile
vulnerable nonetheless like he who we so lavishly & justly honour here today
So that if something sudden & unexpected happen to that individual
Good Cod Jah Obdthal well forbid! -
the very culture that that individual is icon & enigma of, suffers an in ordinating
wound or

blow; not only in &thru that person that personssuddenunprepared-for N I or xit/ab
sence-but because that person is supported by no/little by too likkle infrastructure
- by no/ too little personal, community & institutional in other words, by very little
real & really cultural LOVE. like when on the computer, the shadow of the powercu
(t) darken out the language & you nevva SAVE the document.

again Rex is in many ways a remarkable exception to some/much of this, in that in
addition to his persona/person, he has, in step w/ Independence, been able to build/
help build 'support institutions' the NDTC, the XtraMural/Continuing Dept of the
University of the West Indies. the Trade Union Education Research Institute, the Cu
Itural Trg Centre, Caribbean Quarterly. And along w/Richard Allsopp's at-long-last

Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (CONGRATULATIONS /he was able to bring a
copy w/him to the Conference) our Library announces an annotated Bibliog- raphy of
Nettleford (ol6olo/ weneednow something similar for every one-a-we on campus!) But the deep deep
signs memorials & omens of a culture-its NAMs- inhere not only in the in- stitutions
built &/or associated with tho, as I say, that goes a long deep ways is like a PYRA MIDS of

the whole. But is what INSIDE the pyrA mids the treasures, archives stored th- ere
hopefully eterne- that is =important =divine enduring =involve in the cycle/proces (s)
of continuity; that becomes the mark timehri of every individual civilization & c-


so that to give a personal catastrophic example when Gilbert destroys my own at IT (Irie Iri
sh Town), it is as Carolivia Herron says in her Intro to Shar(1oo/the po aboul it)as if the Lib
rary of Alexandria has gone again; for me, it is as if I have been blinded in my meta-
phors; cosmology totally disordered, my personal contribution to the culture what
that's worth -is almost irrevocably eradicated & destroyed, my name no longer Kam
au but almost back to little naked Eddie on the unverberating hillslide

So as we celebrate Rex, let us then understand what 'culture' truly means: its gains,
its costs, its labours, our communal collective responsibility to it & the sensibility of
its icons, the immemoria of its individuals that become the common heritage of the
all So we shd say'the same for & about Una Marson, Beryl McBurnie, John Hearne,
Andrew Salkey, Slade Hopkinson, Tony McNeill to name a few at random Bob Marley
(has the nation got his archives yet?) Chad, Oya, my Mother, Miss Queenie, Oshogbe, Erna
Brodbe- (r), Marjorie Whylie (what of her sacred drums?), Gloria Rolando (Hijos de Baragua)
Kean Gibson(& all her flim footage), Noel Dexter (archives of the Univ Singers-you hear themsi
ngthat OpeningNight for Rex), Cliff Lashley (so cruelly CHOP UP butso elan here & in spiritual), Lorn
(a) (the cahier of her amber poems), Ileana, Wycliffe Bennett (material on Ja Stage on Caribbean
Culture & Identity), Hill (ditto + the Tdad Carnival, the Caribbean theatre arts), Gordon Rohleh
(r) extraordinaryy memory is enough but not enough those notes, recordings, the lifetime literature &
kaiso information), rich Richard Allsopp (the vast volcanic lake from which his thousand -yr-
old Dictionary comes), we here, Miss Lou (site sell demn tief so many things from her) where are
the CLRJamesarchives now?- AND REX HIMSELF?. his art, the world-flung gifts, the
greenprints, music, books, the documents, notes of the shore-away ideas,.

what is important about these personal LIBRARIES OF ALEXANDRIA is that, for
one, they represent the personal intensely dedicated not only wrok but LIFE of all th-
ese artists/intellectuals & therefore GRIOTS therefore the tribo/national MEMORY
in an apparently 'erased' society; colonial- and notonly colonial situation; where the Of

ifcial Archives are not always to be trusted/are not always caring/are necessarily sel-
ective & therefore too easy SOLD /reflective of yes an official &officially slanted
point of view: no old slaves sing in CaribbeanPlantation archives, no voices of (till re
cently & then how ,nuch?) our OT (Oral Trad), no NL (NationLanguage) culture etc etc etc and
then the often indifference, neglect even of what demrn have: the stories of the (Br) colon

ial Governor of Grenada who, to save space/get space/gain space, dumps the entire
archive of that island into St Georges Harbour; the more recent time the JBC did sim
ilar 'springcleaning' and you might not SPEC this one from the royal reaume of Shakespeare an-
cestors & Her Majesty the Queen- the (London) BBC's 'reluctant decision' to scrape (to scrap no
(t) RAP but rape) the entire vocal pyramid (194862) of their Caribbean Voices collection

the wonderful exception here is the
Library Collection of the Institute of
(1879-now) -
asante sana to the Englishman

archivist/historian/librarian Fran k

may Oshune tek im hann

again 'for space' True they thoughtfully & generously donated copies of the scripts
to the UWI Library Mona some lovely 25 red reinforce cardboard foolscap boxes;
but the heart of Caribbean Voices is those very soul & destroyed voices (Sam, Geo Lam-
ming,Shake Keane, Salkey, Mittelholzer, Naipaul, Carew) of the Caribbean literary renaissan
ce. because is not only what we see of these /of us or hear of these/of us or hear from
these/of us that matters the future meaning of the ARCHIVE is the submerge syco-
rax that mutters underneath where all the love & lava is

less anything than this is face facecard showtime charade. the figment not the
figure of the meaning of the nation.

But the tidalectic response to this is again
forum Nettleford
who wd see what I juss say as codicil & caveat, part of the historical
tidalectic ebb & flow of all societies w/more green & grain in the bargain,
than decay. based on his sense of the 'culture of partnership' & the
'investment in human resources'
('if we cd have survived slavery, we can survive anything',
he aeclares wla smile into a recent/March96 TV interview)

so that the work of the Caribbean/Americas which collapses time & space
& integrates them
into new chromatics (some critiques might even say

chromantics tho never anachromantics or anansemantics)
w/a new vocabulary & METAPHOR of seeing & VOICING the vision -

may express itself first or 'historically' from within the BOX
(boxification/colonialism/emprisonment) of the Plantation (& the idea/ideology & vocabulary
of the Plantation)
whose icon is Sisyphus

the eternalizing attempt (see Orlando Patterson's 1964 classic)
to escape the prison/box through internal physical revolt or 'xtemal'
physical or metaphysical (psychological) migration
toeldorado, 'foreign', Zion, Itiopia, the Ancestor
(Europe, Asia, Africa, the Imagination/DWs ImagiNation)

& then (now)
tidalectics of alterNative -
(not ignoring not even 'transcending' the Plantation, but recognizing its sisyphean terms as only
one aspect of its reality, one turn or term of the tide) -
into or onto

a shango or promethean
response to catastrophe

(natural & social like slavery & colonialism & the rule of the caudillolPlantation)

a marley or orphean
response to NATURE (mkissi ofthelandscape)
& the people the FOLKCULTURE the
NATIONLANGUAGE CULTURE of that landscape wall its resistances &

a sycoraxian
nurturing of all this underground before or until EMERGENCE
as a response to downpression of the Plantation

an ogotemmellean
response to the need to restore COSMOLOGY (problematic&miracleof fragmentation)
at last we can use the word, perhaps the most lasting & 'validating' tribute of them all -

a nettlefordean
holistic vision (concem w/the'interaction between the real world & the world of [ideas] theory'/Nettlefordon
Ja TV 13Mar96)
weaving us all together in this great work of fu- ture & making of this place
a home

where as the song in the TVshow says
an evvabody knows yr name

And as the drums, now live
led by a real kumina master, begin to mutter in the darkness
the inexplicable transformation of structure begins
It is as if, as audience, we are being drawn by a great vortex of sound into the movement of the stage no longer stage or
siege but lighted ship & island
And as a harsh shiver of voices suddenly breathes agitation of water out of the tide of the drums

> / want to know oo I want to know o o o <

it is as if we have spoken & been spoken to from a deep involuntary sounding
And all this while the bodies moving, steady inexorable progress
thru song thru sound thru thunder
torso flung back from pelvis the rib cage illuminating skeleton & genesis
of dream the bare feel shuffling freely forward whole body now flung forward flailing to acknowledge


the drums
Wave upon wave of dancers. diagonal entrances & xits

clash, clash warrickstick.
weave upon weave of interweave clash divide
and the entranced singers crying deep from w/in our psyche
riding blind on the horses of dreams

And it was fitting that all this shd have been rejected a few weeks later by some English critics Sadlers Wells, where the group
went to celebrate the 1-2-3-4-5-6 10th anniversary of their founding: colon colon semicolony. Here, so far from home &
Carifesta, their art becomes 'religious frenzy, evoked by rhythmic drum... and forceful singing. expressed through groups
olst- omping and gyrating dancers.




It was not in The' Tradition it was not of The' Tradition these
Caribbean middlepassage bodies & musicians
Where were the structures where? They had eroded & obscured the European boundaries of form colonial & capital to
boot -
as we in Georgetown know, rising to meet them wlthe sound of rain-
fall falling in our ears, applause acknowledging this little victory so
very near our tears


the poems pretlx & postxt
both KB
the first unpub for this Con(
'Kumina' at end is Carifesta 72
Barbados Advocate Nov 72
The Age of Dis
briefly from TTRITrench Town Rock (1994)
the reminder of Professor Nettleford's neo-African utterance patterns' (seedecoundertille)- the characterzation is also
hers is from Marjorie Whylie's Panel presentation: 'Nettleford as musician'

Re-engineering Blackspace


There is one creative endeavour that I feel moved to talk about in this gathering
and that is the completion of the task of emancipation. It is opportune I think that we spend
some time thinking about this and entering it into our meditations, this task being one on
which he whom this conference honours, Rex Nettleford, has applied much of his psychic
and physical energy; has given the work of his head in formulating it into hypotheses and
theories; his hands in writing not just for academics but for popular readership; has given
his body (and imagination) to dancing and choreography forcing these issues onto the open
stage; has given his voice on radio and TV, conducting the issues into the ears not only of
the literate but of the illiterate of which our communities are well supplied. In this Rex
Nettleford not only tells us that the work is there to be done but offers an approach to the
task of completing emancipation. His life and work design a methodology: they recommend
that we reach into our store of talents, identify them and this completed, apply all ten to the
task at hand.
Who besides participants in this conference are the 'we' to which I refer? Rex
Nettleford was the first academic that I heard on this University campus (Mona) refer to
himself in an intellectual discourse as 'one of those Jamaicans of the colour of the black in
the flag' This young man had just come down from post-graduate work in Oxford; "bright
can't done", had, in a public forum in 1964(?) in out-of-many-one colour Jamaica identified
himself in terms of a specific colour and besides had put himself and that colour into the
analytical scheme: two revolutions with one shot self in scientific analysis and colour of
self in scientific analysis. We here like him have skin colour. We could borrow his
self-inclusive approach to our studies and while we make our deliberations of service to the
task of emancipation, look at the man in the mirror, note his phenotype, reflect on his
consequent experiences, develop our personal perspectives and openly bring this to bear on
the issues at hand.
Kamau Brathwaite in 1974 presented the rationalisation for this self-inclusive
colour-coded approach to discussions among Caribbean thinkers. In his Contradictory
Omens (p33) he says

"It is my conviction that we cannot begin to understand statements
about 'West Indian culture', since it is so diverse and has so many
subtly different orientations and interpretations, unless we know
something about the speaker/writer's own socio-cultural back-
ground and orientation"

In this work he analyses Caribbean society and in particular Jamaican society to
conclude that the plural society model with its clean lines does not represent the pure truth
and modifies it into the 'orientation model' (p25) which sees Caribbean and Jamaican
culture-areas in terms of two great traditions African and European, creolizing into a
socio-cultural continuum within which there are a number of inter-related orientations which
sometimes overlap. The 'we' of the Caribbean, to paraphrase, are of different shadings on
a black-white continuum and different orientations on the European-African cultural con-
tinuum. Our sensibilities are fashioned by our location on these twin continue. It is not

enough to know you are black, you must know what your shade of black is, the nature of
the experience it allows you and you must be able to identify the parallel point on the
European-African cultural continuum to which that experience exposes you. For Brathwaite,
it is a must that the Caribbean person entering into the intellectual arena knows, can and is
willing to articulate his personal perspective as an important part of his conceptual frame-
work. Brathwaite puts his money where his mouth is: he tells us where to find his
Brathwaite's fractionalising of the society is very valuable here. For him there are
"four inter-related but significantly differing orientations

(1) a Euro-centred elite which includes metropolitan experts and owners of
significant property who have their being outside of the society,

(2) a Euro-centred creole upper class of property owners who reside within the
society and celebrate the values of the Euro-centred elite but are not accepted by them as

(3) a creole intellectual elite who in reaction to the two other groups' ability to
claim a space in Europe, have settled for the Caribbean as theirs trying now to make it as
European as they can, and
(4) the Afro-Caribbean (black) population, of illiterate labourers who with no
access to the establishment and its values, have in the process of survival been creating what
he calls a 'little tradition', rooted in the Caribbean space. The first of these orientations
appear to belong to white faces, the second and third to a mixture of both and the last to
black. In the hands of these last lies the development of a "real Alternative Tradition" a
process which Brathwaite sees as stymied by the fact that "emancipation saw no change in
the structure of the area; no change in the mercantilist system; no real change on the
Rex Nettleford recently drew our attention to the incomplete nature of the historical
process which began in the British Caribbean in 1834. In Emancipation the Lesson and
qe Legacy: challenge to the Church, the Emancipation Commemoration Lecture 1994 (p4),
he says,

"The legal emancipation of the enslaved Blacks was to make it
possible for the development of a society of 'self-directed souls' "

He rues the fact that these 'souls' and the society they were to create is still waiting
and wanting. Brathwaite meets Nettleford the emancipation process is not complete. Both
agree that the completion of the emancipation process means change and that change is good
for these societies. Brathwaite makes it clear that the change and the good would have had
to (and I assume will have to) come from the acceptance by groups 1 to 3 of the tradition
evolving out of the Afro-Caribbean population. Insistence is the other side of 'acceptance'
- the more 'proactive' side as they say today. Had the 'Afro-Caribbean (black) population'
insisted....but Brathwaite points out too that this group, this orientation, this potential catalyst

"losing ground fast as more and more of their number 'get' educa-
tion, political power, material rewards within the world-powerful
Euro-American mercantilist system" (p30).

The Blacks, the light of our world according to this analysis are losing their candle
with time and their orientation can now neither be accepted nor can they insist that it be
accepted by the whole. Nettleford's comment quoted above, intimates that we, his readers
and audience, are part of the historical process began in 1834. Each of us then, called by
name, has a place in time, in one of the generations since 1834. Each of us then has failed
to bring emancipation to its fruition. Each of us has failed to be and has failed to get others
to be 'self-directed souls'
If Brathwaite and Nettleford are right in their analysis and are pointing their fingers
at our generation as among those who are losing the candle and those who are failing to
complete the task of emancipation, and if their prescription for change and the example they
have set us are worthwhile, then the Caribbean scholar accepting the challenge to work at
this task has to begin by finding his orientation, and positioning himself in relationship to
the Afro-Caribbean one, that which had held the Alternative Tradition, and has to put this
found self into the analysis. To thus position our personal selves as both Nettleford and
Brathwaite have done, is to locate our personal 'I's' on that great big Caribbean cricket field
as players, as batsmen, fielders, bowlers and so on working along with each other. Lloyd
Best admonished intellectuals in a 1967 "cropover" article in New World Quarterly called,
"Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom" (p29) "we are the people too", so we in this
room are really right out there with everybody else on the grounds mixing with them and
their shades and orientations. Action is required from this collectivity of people. What is the
game plan? At another time Lloyd Best dubbed academics 'intellectual workers' making
the point that there is work for all people to do together, that there are different aspects of
the work, the intellectual beingjust one of these. What is the game plan? What is the work?
To align ourselves with the traditional Afro-Caribbean population and help it to carry on the
job of providing an alternative for these societies. it is to this task, the re-defining of the role
of the intellectual worker that I address my comments in this paper which I call Re-
engineering blackspace.
The 311,070 persons of African ancestry emancipated in Jamaica in 1834 and fully
so in 1838, owned no land and were outside of the political system they had no vote. Few
had family power mates, children; few owned livestock. They owned no space. They had
no army, no ships, no compass, no respected organised grouping. All they had was their
individual minds and souls with which to create a viable space for themselves and their
progeny in Jamaica and eventually to weld themselves in a nation or a respected part of a
nation. As it was in Jamaica so it was in Africa of the diaspora except for the few
reconstruction years in the US South. Real emancipation clearly has to eventuate in some
accepted claim on space (physical and otherwise) in these countries to which our forefathers
were brought and into which we were legally emancipated. This space, like any other shelter
had to be engineered out of what exists. In 1834 we were asked to leave the old house:

Slave before, mi ben slave before
Mi no slave no more
Bury mi foot chain
Bury mi foot chain
Down eena market square.

But if not slave with a foot chain, who and with what? A new conceptual
framework, frame of reference, portrait of self had to be constructed. The end product of
this activity should be new blackspace. To work towards emancipation is to work towards
a new definition of self and its possibilities, a new definition of the possibilities of our
collective selves, is to re-engineer blackspace. This is the task.
According to Lloyd Best (p28) "....social change in the Caribbean has to and can
only begin in the minds of Caribbean men" by which I think he means Caribbean people.
He continues: "Thought is action for us" by which I know he means the intellectual class.
In this matter of re-engineering blackspace, of completing the emancipation process, the
part of the task awaiting the 'intellectual worker' is the development of philosophy, of
creeds, of myths, of ideologies, of pegs on which to hang social and spiritual life, the
construction of frames of reference. Are all intellectual workers of our varying ethnic shades
and cultural orientations expected to work on this task of completing the emancipation
process? Kamau Brathwaite in his summary to a discussion of his finding that a certain
Caribbean custom was explained by Orlando Patterson by way of the "Euro- scientific
tradition" when there was another (and more feasible explanation) in the Afro-tradition,
helps us towards a reasonable answer. He says (p41)

What I am suggesting here is not that there is a 'right' African
explanation, or a 'wrong' Euro-scientific one, but that a proper
understanding of ourselves can only be arrived at by a recognition
of both traditions, both areas of explanation; and that for the Afro-
Caribbean it will be increasingly more just to seek, in the first
instance, African explanations and sources of overstating.

To extrapolate crudely there are issues more germane to one tradition than to the
other, though the outcome will have relevance for both since they are, as postulated before,
part of an on-going creolising complex. Completing the emancipation process lies in the
domain of the Afro-orientation, of the children of the slaves legally freed in 1834. If the
'action' of those of them who are intellectuals is taught, then it is those who look in the
mirror and see a black face who must manufacture the thoughts and other intellectual
products that will eventuate in the change in the status of the black population, change of
the status of the traditions of this majority force in territories such as Jamaica. If those who
enter the intellectual factory must be able to identify their "socio-cultural background and
orientation" (p33), then clearly these are the people who must now begin the self-examina-
tion for since this is an 'afro' issue, there are likely to be retrievable and needed data within
the African tradition that might be of use and which they carry somewhere beneath their
skin. In this paper I would like to draw the attention of those who identify themselves as
black intellectuals ready for the liberating task of completing the process of emancipation
and producing a society of' self-directed souls', of which theirs must obviously be numbered,
to the efforts of other philosophers in the Afro-tradition, in the hope that their efforts might
be joined to expedite the job.
Nina Simone by way of introducing her popular song on the Black Gold Long
Playing Record, To be Young Gifted and Black says: "Tlhis is not addressed primarily to
white people; it doesn't put you down in anyway; it simply ignores you for my people need
all the inspiration and love they can get" This paper seeks primarily to engage black people
but it is very aware that their personal reconstruction and the extent to which they carry out
the task of the first freedmen and freemen is the extent to which all racial and ethnic groups

dealing with us are freed, for a skewed saucer at the bottom of the pile will cause all the
others to fall and break. In any case, who is 'black'. If we are to follow the methodological
strand we have been pursuing "self-directed souls", "we are the people too", "the
speaker/writer's own socio-cultural background and orientation...as a kind of navigational
aid", we see that our definition of our phenotypical and social colour lies in our determina-
tion. It is not the social scientist's definition: it is what you see in the mirror.
So we here in this room have each identified our 'I'. If you find yourselfto be black,
you will have great difficulty in holding back the tears as you feel the lash on Cudjoe's back
and watch with him as he sees his love raped by someone against whom to retaliate means
certain death and the hope of ever protecting her; you are likely to feel the intense emptiness
of Ottobah Gugoano kidnapped, tricked by those who look like you and sold to men of
strange complexion and landed in Grenada's plantation far away from your Africa and your
noble station. See his Thoughts on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce
on the Humnan Species submitted and published in Great Britain in 1738. If you see yourself
as black, you can't help but feel. But how can the history of this West Indian futility be
written? What tone shall the historian adopt? Shall he be as academic as Sir Allan Bums,
protesting from time to time at some brutality, and setting West Indian brutality in the context
of European brutality? Shall he, like Salvador de Madariaga weigh one set of brutality
against another, and conclude that one has not been described in all its foulness and that this
is unfair to Spain? Shall he like the West Indian historians, who can only now begin to face
their history, be icily detached and tell the story of the slave trade as if it were just another
aspect of mercantilism?
Thus asks Naipaul in that well quoted passage from his Middle Passage. No. You
feel. To follow any of the minds above is to desert the Afro-tradition and the journey to
blackspace. You feel, so "detached" is not your position: your story is not 'just another
aspect of mercantilism" You feel: can you still be the 'objective' scientist of the twentieth
century? To feel and to feel attached is not to commit the academic sin of distorting. It is to
claim your psychological space. Is to look through your 'uppentary'. From this perspective
while empathising with Gugoano, you can as logically praise or blame him for accepting
the story of his African captors. I have no quarrel with a text which asked its young readers
to note certain things when they walked down Downing Street. My quarrel is with those
who select this text for an ethnically Indian third form in a Trinidadian high school. The
writers speak to English students who would want to and should want to and could walk
down Downing Street. They seek to engage the students' emotions, bring their "I" into their
classwork and allow them to identify with the people of their past. This approach I applaud
and recommend for to assume your 'I' brings emotion, brings perspective, brings identifi-
cation with our forefathers and allows us, should we follow suite, to do something George
Beckford begged us to do, stop seeing slaves and to see instead 'enslaved persons' To
borrow another sentence from Lloyd Best in his article already mentioned (p30):

To do this is to opt for the view of the people not as an abstraction
the masses, but as a community of persons.

To find the 'I' allows us then not only to be human but to see the people whom we
as black Caribbean intellectuals want to serve, as humans with a potential for a range of
Lloyd Best's sentences before the one just quoted, create a point of departure for

But there is much that is private experience, much that the people
know; much that is real to the people. But the society is not moved
only by what is real to individuals and groups. In an important sense,
what is collectively real is what is politically significant. To arrive
at that and then to make it common public property is our task.

I intend to show that Ethiopianism is a 'politically' significant product of the minds
and souls of Caribbean people of the Afro-tradition, intent on laying down a philosophy
towards the completion of the emancipation process; that it has re-engineered and can
continue to re-engineer blackspace. As such it deserves the attention, even the assistance of
today's Caribbean intellectuals.
Ethiopianism is "collectively real" It has been so at least since the late eighteenth
century and still is alive today.
As Nettleford and others have taught us, in the religious ideology that Africans
brought to the New World, physical death was not the end of life. Quite the contrary: it
opened one to a new life as an ancestor, a living dead, having potential power over mortals.
This understanding, transmitted orally, synchronised with a major tenet of Euro-American
Christian philosophy, that there was to man, the possibility of everlasting life and commun-
ion with the 'passed' saints. This philosophy is literature based and, with learning to read
and write denied to the enslaved, as well as, in some places religious instruction, Euro-
American Christian philosophy came to them in whispers. As the whispering game we
played as children demonstrates, we take from whispers what fits into our frame of reference.
A particular aspect of Christianity was joined (or rejoined) with African religious ideology
even before we began to handle the Bible, the centre piece of this Christianity. The notion
of everlasting life and of a connection between the living and the dead strengthened the
African notion of the existence of the 'I' and the 'I' in each human being and the eventual
liberation of the corporeal 'I' into the more potent non-corporeal 'I'
Though Africans came to the New World from several parts of Africa and several
different political groups and were more likely to think of themselves as Ga and Ibo than
African, a Euro-American consciousness dictated that they be labelled according to this
consciousness. Thus in the New World all were 'African' and 'slave' It was also a
Euro-American consciousness which called them children of Ethiopia and drew their
attention to Psalm 68 verse 31.

Prince shall come out of Egypt, Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her
hands unto God.

Eighteenth century Euro-American missionaries justifying their christianising of
the enslaved on the grounds that 'Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands' were of their
own volition singling out the enslaved population in the New World as elected by their God
for a more mystic task than that of the hewing of wood and the drawing of water for their
use. The enslaved African would naturally favour this reading and favour the Bible, this
Euro-American authority on right and wrong, on ethical and spiritual issues. There is
evidence that the use of the term was not particular to clerics. Brathwaite on page 30 of his
Contradictory Omens calls us in inverted commas 'Ethiop's Authorized', a phrase he culls
according to his footnote, from a poem published in London in 1764. Evidently the term, if
not always the connotation was in public usage.

The enslaved person's reading of the Bible when literacy came to him, showed him
mortals who had "stretch"(ed) their "hands unto God" and had their corporeal 'I's' liberated
on earth. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. What couldn't happen if they the
New World Ethiopians followed the Biblical injunction and stretchede) (their) hands unto
(this New World) God"? Cock's mouth had indeed caught Cock for in their definition of
their slaves as African and Ethiopian, Euro-America had given their slaves as African and
Ethiopian, Euro-American had given their slaves the basis of a liberating philosophy which
they would develop into further philosophy, and action based on that philosophy. The
enslaved African's reading of the Bible showed him several other references in it to Ethiopia.
White-American religious groups of the eighteenth century had thought of America as the
new Israel and of themselves as the chosen of God. "Cock mouth really did catch cock" for
it was the word 'Ethiopia', and neither the word 'America' nor the word 'Britain' that
appeared in the Bible. The conclusion: we, not they, are the people selected by this Christian
God, is inescapable. By various intellectual strategies, the man Moses selected by God to
be the world's greatest magician and with this gift to lead his people out of bondage, became
a black man and the Israelites, black for 'Israel' now read 'Ethiopia' We are without doubt
God's people enslaved to be taught a lesson and prepared for greater work on earth, the light
of the world.
This view of the New World black as (a) divinely selected and (b) selected for
moral world leadership, is a crucial part of what is called 'Ethiopianism' and is the base of
many intellectual workers who have located themselves within the Afro-tradition and have
sought emancipation or to complete the emancipation process. The evidence of this in the
early history of the enslaved African is clearest in North America in revolts of such as that
which the brothers Gabriel and Martin Prosser attempted in Virginia in 1800 and Nat Turner
in 1831 in Virginia4 The historians say that the Prossers likened themselves and their fellow
bondsmen to biblical Israelites one I suppose was Moses and the other Aaron and argued
that "God would stretch forth His (?) arm to save and would strengthen a hundred to
overcome a thousand" Understandably. If the Ethiopian stretches forth his hand to God
there has to be an accompanying stretching forth by God if action is to take place. So the
Prossers marched on Henrico County, Virginia sure of their special relationship with God.
Nat Turner felt too that he and his people were special to God. God had spoken to him a
he had to the prophets of old and given him a special charge concerning a special people.
There is evidence that persons enslaved here in Jamaica if they didn't see them-
selves as special to the God of the Christian church certainly saw themselves as especially
close friends of some of his prophets. Edward (Kamau) Brathwaite recalls an incident in
which two black Baptists were sent to trial in 1816, in Black River "accused of fomenting
rebellion" The leader of the rebellion had been charged with singing a certain song,
obviously thought by the Establishment to be seditious. He had countered that:

"He had sung no songs but such as his brown priest had assured him
were approved by John the Baptist...[who] was a friend to the
negroes,..." (page 211)

Sam Sharp and Deacon Bogle, were too, men steeped in their Bible. No doubt they
saw themselves as special appointees to a special people.
The Prossers, Turner, Sharp, Bogle had done their research from the one book
available to them and had applied it to their social situation and had designed an action-ori-
ented strategy accordingly. They were intellectual workers. If we here have difficulty in
seeing such 'unschooled minds' wearing the gown and the mortar board, then let us look at

Edward Blyden praised in Europe and Asia as an academic. Blyden, the son of Danish West
Indians transported from Africa and enslaved here, in 1878 and again in 1882 propounded
a methodology for christianising the continent of Africa. Blyden began his argument with
the fact that Greek intellectuals had presented Ethiopia as 'the place the Gods loved to dwell',
not the malarial land it was currently being made out to be and that for them Ethiopians were
a most highly venerated people not the despicable maneaters of current mythology. Ethiopia
and Ethiopians were historically special. This condition dictated that those organising
missionary work in Africa should pay attention to the lessons implied in God's dealings with
Ethiopia. He has sent Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch, made him baptise him and leave him
to minister to his people. If Africa is to become a part of the larger Christian world and
Blyden agreed that it should for Ethiopia would 'soon stretch forth her hand to God', then
it must be missioned by people of African descent in much the same way as the Ethiopian
Eunuch was baptised and left to convert his people. Blyden's programme added another
element to Ethiopianism: what happens in and to Africa ought to be the business of Africans
and Africans of the diaspora. These strands the specialness of Africa and Africans and the
responsibility of Africans of the diaspora towards Africa appear as well in the work and life
of Alexander Crummel (1819-1898) the African-American Cambridge graduate and Bishop
Turner of the African Methodist Episcopalian church who was one of the first of his stature
to declare that "God is a negro"
All of the above-mentioned were clerics if also writers. Crummel's life and works
are the subject of one of Wilson Jeremiah Moses monographs. Ethiopianism also entered
the thought and frames of reference of the more unmistakable academic and of the literary
artist. It appears in Dubois' Children ofthe Moon, in Lawrence Dunbar and obviously so in
his Ode to Ethiopia. The political and literary efforts of our own Marcus Garvey were clearly
influenced by this Ethiopianism. One of his popular lines, 'Africa for the Africans at home
and abroad' smacks of Blyden, and his African National Anthem leaves no doubt concerning
the presence of Ethiopianism in his conceptual framework. The lines "Ethiopia, the land of
our fathers, Thou land where the gods loved to be" harks back to Blyden's exposition in his
essay Philip and the Euinuch.
The internationalisation of the notion of Ethiopianism and behaviour in accordance
with this, is very clear in the British West Indies of the 1930's. Our own Jamaican Una
Marson sidetracked the more local concern of social work with children to apply herself to
this cause in London. Sent there as secretary of the Save the Children Fund, to lobby on
behalf of that group, Una Marson chose to work for Haile Selassie, exiled emperor of
Ethiopia and the League of Coloured People. Ethiopianism according to the researches of
the British government of the day was popular in Jamaica in the late 1930's. It blamed this
complex of beliefs and feelings for the riots of the time. A secret document, "an extract from
conclusions of a meeting of the cabinet held on Wednesday 25/5/1938" says concerning the
riots in Jamaica:

We had done a great deal for this island but nevertheless there were
causes for discontent. In addition there was a good deal of racial
feeling between coloureds and white people which had been much
stimulated by events in Abyssinia and had now become serious.
(Commonwealth Office, CO 137/839 file no 69056)

As the above indicates, Ethiopianism has its secular side. It also stimulated a secular
programme. In 1938 C.L.R. James. an Afro-Trinidadian re' sance man, extremely well
thought of in Trotskyite circles, left England for the US/ tried by his conviction that

blacks were destined to be the vanguard of the international labour movement. He left the
USA nearly twenty years later, even more convinced of the pivotal role that US blacks would
have to play in the international socialist movement. If we interpose the phrase 'that God
said' into the last sentence we see that this position fits very well into that of the clerics who
had earlier maintained that blacks and particularly the New World variety, had been divinely
selected for work of global significance. Padmore, (like James, a Trinidadian) of one of the
generations of those freed in 1834, in 1935 parted company with the Communist Intema-
tional on the grounds that it was sacrificing the interest of black labour to that of the balance
of power between white countries. He thereafter vowed to and did concern himself
exclusively with making blacks into socialists. Crummel (according to Moses, his biogra-
pher) had stressed the "responsibility of the individual to the group" (p290). In other words,
Blacks have to see to their own redemption before they take on the divine challenge of being
the light of the world or the salt of the earth. Padmore's position is reminiscent of this. With
scholars such as James and Padmore, Ethiopianism found in Pan-Africanism a secular arm,
more to the taste of the 'schooled' CLR James wrote of Marcus Garvey:

Up to 1918 blacks, as a whole, played no particular role in world
politics. The world was not conscious of them except as objects.
Blacks were not conscious of themselves. A spirit of frustration,
humiliation, rebellion is not political consciousness. The man who
both made blacks conscious of themselves and the world conscious
of blacks as a force to be reckoned with in world politics was a
Jamaican, Marcus Garvey. By 1925/26 Garveyism as a force was
finished, but the political problem represented by black people had
been placed before the world once and for all. Henceforth it had to
be taken into consideration in all calculations on a national as well
as on an international scale.

Is Ethiopianism 'politically significant'? Garvey had translated the Ethiopianist
ideas of those before him into a populist instrument with which to carve out a black political
space. Pan Africanism was to continue this work. It has been neglected by the more recent
clerics, academics and political practitioners in Africa of the diaspora, in favour of insular
nationalism, but it continues to be part of the 'unschooled' intellectuals of the Afro-tradition
who feel that emancipation is incomplete. Chief among these in the post-Garvey days were
the Rastafarians who in their different organizations have been honing, in particular, the
religious aspects of the concept and designing a praxis.
The 'singers and players', whom says the Bible, 'will be there', have as rastafarians
or others, been disseminating the ideas of Ethiopianism in its several forms.
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
says the Rastafarian Bob Marley in a song that needs no referencing and he sings about
himself in Natty Dread [ILPS 9281]
Dread, Natty Dreadlocks
Dreadlocks, Congo, Bongo I
Holding hands with Brathwaite and Nettleford, he continues:
Children get your culture
And don't stay here and jester

Or the battle will be hotter

And you won't get no supper
From the Trinidadian calypsonian Superior comes :
No matter where you bom, you still African, yes man.
I don't care where you born, you still African
Black Stalin, Trinidadian calypso king for 1979, draws our attention to Ethiopian-
ism as a political tool for uniting the Caribbean area. In this winning poem Caribbean Unity
the two wings of Ethiopianism meet. Black Stalin points to the political gains in defining
our collective selves as-
..........one race
From the same place
That makes the same trip
On the same ship
But he also recommends the religious aspect of Ethiopianism Rastafarianism as
the way forward:

If the Rastafarian movement spreading
But the Carifta dying slow
Then is something Rasta done
That the politician don't know...

Black Stalin locating his personal 'I' openly in Ethiopianism, takes a swing at the
intellectuals who have barricaded themselves against this understanding, long part of the

Mr West Indian politician
You went to a big institution
How come you can't unite
Seven million
When West Indian unity
I know it is very easy
If you only rap to your people
And tell them like me
That is one race
From the same place
That make the same trip
On the same ship

Of EthiopianismWilson Jeremiah Moses, an authority on the history of black
nationalism, has truly written in his Golden Age ofBlack Nationalism

Among black writers it made repeated appearances during the
nineteenth century and by World War 1, Ethiopianism had become
not only a trans-Atlantic political movement but a literary movement
well-known among all black people from the Congo basin to the
mountains of Jamaica to the sidewalks of New York. (p24)

It remains with us. It is there among the dreaded obeahmen who look to Solomon
and Moses and their formulae, supposedly collated from ancient manuscripts and preserved
and most certainly dispensed by the DeLaurence Company of Chicago. It remains among
the Black Jews some of whom are still gathered in Caribbean. Not to mention the Rastafarian
groups who have undertaken to keep Ethiopianism publicly alive so that we can "free
ourselves from mental slavery" and begin to write the relevant songs, the "songs of
Ethiopianism is politically significant. It has historically created a continent of
consciousness. African Methodist Episcopalians in South Africa sang the same songs and
had the same hopes as African Methodist Episcopalians in British Guiana and the USA.
Padmore felt that Ghana was as much his business as Trinidad was and Dubois found his
way to Africa to be gathered up to his ancestors. It created for the enslaved persons
emancipated in 1834 and 1863 a physical space which transcended geographical boundaries.
As we have seen, it constructed a space for the enslaved African in Western religious
thought, thoughts on which other generations worked to produce an instrument which
created political and pyscho-physical space. "We" here "are the people too" Is it 'collec-
tively real' for us, 'politically significant' for us?
Now that you who see black in the mirror feel this reality, you find yourself, like
Jesus with Moses and Elijah at his transfiguration, only the souls you are talking with are
Paul Cuffee an African-American who, caring about Africa, in 1815 began taking New
World blacks back to Africa to help to build it; with the Prosser brothers, Nat Turner and
Sam Sharpe who believed they were God's people and slavery was not the right way for
them to live; with clerics Blyden, Crummel and Turner who felt that Africa was family and
it was the divine duty of all 'Ethiopians' to make it the best that it could be; with the learned
philosopher Dubois, with James and Padmore; with Marcus Garvey; with Una Marson,
with the large body of pop singers and calypsonians; with the Rastafarians, the black Jews
and the obeahmen. What are they saying? Their words are in print and therefore more
accessible to you than to anyone else. Can you help to write 'those songs of freedom'; help
those young people who sit up late into the night to hear what Mutabaruka a Jamaican dub
poet can tell them to help them make sense ofthemselves? Can you do as Lloyd Best expects
of intellectuals, make the information "common public property"? Can you join with the
little tradition not to study it, not to report on it but to reason with it in a shared-learning
mode, and help to build the myths, the ideologies, the religious and political philosophy that
will make us what this tradition thinks it can be the light of the world, the salt of the earth,
that can help us to be what Rex Nettleford want to see self-directed souls. The little
tradition has laid a foundation. Finally, I ask of you as an old West Indian migrant to Britain
once asked of me: please give the youth more than a past of slavery with which to carve
out a blackspace in this white world. It is for the intellectuals in our society to tell those who
are Ethiopianist that the Ethiopianism that attracts them has a distinguished and respected

1. Brathwaite, Kamau "Timehri" in Savacou No 2. p33, UWI Mona
2. Nettleford, Rex Emancipation the Lesson and the Legacy: Challenge to the Church, the
Emancipation Commemoration Lecture 1994, Webster Memorial Church, July 1994 (p4)
3. Collected from an informant in St James. See "Conveniently Deafman" page 15 tape reference 63
St James in Ema Brodber Life in Jamaica in the early twentieth century a presentation of ninety
oral accounts. ISER Doc Centre 1980.


4. Harding Harding, Religion and Resistance among Antebellum negroes in August Meir and Elliott
Rudwick (eds) The Making ofBlack America, New York, Athenaeum 1969
5. Gayraud S Wilmore Black Religion and Black Radicalism Orbis Books 1984
6. Brathwaite, Kamau Creole Society in Jamaica Oxford University Press, 1971
7. Davies Carole Boyce, "The Africa Theme in Trinidad Calypso" CQ Vol 31 No 2 p77
8. Moses, Wilson Jeremiah, Golden Age ofBlack Nationalism, Oxford University, 1978

The Significance of Folk Culture in the Development of
National Identity



Nothing, save the omnipresence of Jehovah, is more all embracing than the
definition of "culture", the totality of beliefs, behaviour and values. Based on this all
encompassing perspective, we should expect the influence of culture to dominate funda-
mental reasoning, the creative process and the final shape and form of national identity. But
so taken are we by the forces which impact on our economic lives, affect our social order
and determine the national psyche, that we have mostly failed to recognize the powerful
underlying dynamics of culture.
Cultural identity is often characterized by the differences which exist between
similar things, moreso than the sameness between different things. This is particularly so in
heterogeneous societies where the mix of difference is more readily identifiable.
In emerging nations, such as ours, the mix is generally stratified in two layers:
traditional society shaped by the experiences of folk life and contemporary society molded
by metropolitan influences. Jamaica, is a well defined model of this dual society: two
Jamaica's blended at points of contact.
The focus for this discussion is on the identity emerging from traditional or folk
culture, influenced, in part, by other cultures.
For this discussion on the significance of folk culture in the development of national
identity the focus will be only on the experiences of folk society.
Pre-natal and Early Childhood Nutrition and the Underdeveloped Mind
The joumey of these experiences begin with birth, indeed, the pre-natal period of
Folk wisdom creates its own appropriate technology characterized as a mix of
pseudo-scientific and ethno-religious lore. Food and drink are perhaps the most widely
applied categories of traditional beliefs and practices.
Although nutritional studies have analysed much of the nutrient values in Jamaican
food staples, insufficient work has been done to establish beneficial or harmful effects of
the traditional menu of pre-natal nutrition which is still prevalent, particularly in poor rural
communities. Cultural practices do not promote the use of fresh milk from the cow
particularly because livestock rearing is not practised on a wide scale in small farm
households. The use of "bush" teas, lacking protein values, is still prevalent, although
Health clinics are addressing the problem for expectant and nursing mothers by
distribution of milk powder as a source of essential protein, to the extent that milk powder
is widely available in clinics from the USAID PL480 programme, or through small sachets
distributed commercially, nutrition for brain development in the formative stage of infancy

is adequately covered. However, the alternative to milk continues to present a problem as
there is no other widely available protein which is affordable to mothers in low income
households. Even the sachet, is becoming unaffordable just as commercial baby food has
ceased to be a viable option to low income purchasers. A familiar failing in the nutritional
practices of early childhood nutrition is the use of half-measure portions of commercial
brands of feeding to save money.
The consequential impact in terms of inadequate brain development begins from
this primary stage to set the base for impulsive, aggressive, rather than reasoned, behaviour
in childhood years and beyond.
Certainly, the ability for a full productive education is impaired by the underdevel-
oped brain and a course ofjoblessness and frustration established. An identity crisis emerges
when fifty percent of graduates from primary schools are educationally impaired, leaving
less options for participating in a fulfilling life while opening doors to undependable,
quick-fix, informal, and often illegal, channels of opportunity.

Early Infant Training the Over-indulged Demand-Satisfaction Child
The newly born infant enters a traditional folk society in which s/he is over-in-
dulged, whether breast or bottle fed. Suckling is on demand, feeding schedules are not
practised by nursing mothers. A syndrome of satisfaction by impulse is the inevitable
consequence of this feeding regime.
Weaning, particularly in poor rural areas, extends well beyond the term prescribed
for counterpart mothers who observe the more rigid prescribed standards for child rearing,
some of which conflict with other demands on a mother's time. It is not uncommon for
infants to be suckled for one and a half to two years.
Toilet training too is unregimented. Bed wetting and diaper soiling are indulged
for longer periods than the prescribed course in more regimented societies, until, naturally
developing functions and growing social rebuke establishes appropriate habits over an
extended period of time.

The Aggression Trauma
The over-indulgence of early childhood is in sharp contrast to the realities of the
aggressive world into which young children are introduced in the post-weaning, pre-school
period. It is as if the infant is now a recognized being suddenly able to know better and to
understand more.
Aggressive reactions to misconduct involves corporal punishment as part of the
strict training regime of this stage which prescribes, "hi fe learn better now" This implies
that the young child is now of age to do better.
An ambivalence emerges at this stage. The earlier relationship of unrestrained
affection and over-indulgence in the satisfaction of primary needs which characterized
infancy, is now subject to sharp rebukes, rejections and hostility.
The family is no longer a source of unrestrained love but suddenly, in addition, an
agent of discipline and, at times fear.
Tlie confidence of self and the security with which children should be strengthened
at this stage, is weakened. Later, these are factors which shape insecurity in the maturing

adult leading to submissiveness and lower levels of achievement or aggressive responses as
the route to success.
As the child advances beyond the stage of constant parental care and observation,
s/he is introduced to a competitive environment in a wide range of relationships.
Whether rural or urban, household space is limited and diminishing. One large bed
generally accommodates several family members in poorer households. Even space under
the bed, or on the floor, is used for sleeping in very large one room households.
Inadequate space is no different from insufficient food, particularly in poor inner
city households. The position is openly stated: "is one time a day pot cook a yard". In farming
communities, this is usually a heavy evening meal after returning from the field; in urban
life the mid-day meal is the most certain, the reliance on a single heavy meal is one of the
underlying factors in the prevalence of diabetes.
Urban children face a yard space struggle which spills out onto the streets.
Overcrowded schools and inadequate desk space add to the competing demands for space.
The aggressiveness of this competitive environment is tempered only by the
widespread recognition that there is a need to share, the generosity of spirit of the poor who
are truly "their brothers keepers", is legendary. In rural Jamaica, gifts of goods are lavishly
bestowed; in inner city communities, neighbours adopt the helpless poor; generally, dis-
tressed persons are sheltered even by storing personal belongings in cramped quarters, on
traumatic occasions, such as, the loss of a home by fire or eviction.
Rural environments, which have less struggle for food and yard space are less
aggressive than urban areas where the competition for scarce benefits create daily on-going
aggressive responses. The temper of life is even more heightened by the lack of adequate
rest on over-crowded beds where elbows and knees make sound sleep impossible. This lack
of adequate physical rest reduces energy levels in the day leading to low productivity and
irritable responses.
The other side of the coin is the quality of achievers imbued with a spirit of
aggression and competition overcoming the odds of scarcity to which the experiences of
life expose them. This evolves naturally as we follow the train of experiences in the
development of the child.
A continuing indulgence of children in contrast to regimented regimes, dictates a
relaxed approach to school attendance. Appreciation that every day in school counts is
limited by the economic necessity for children to abstain from school on certain days of the
week to take care of younger ones while elders gather market loads, or sometimes to also
help in gathering produce for markets themselves. The realities of poverty make these
abstentions understandable, if not acceptable.
But greater abstenteeism results from a factor which has nojustification economi-
cally. Attendance records indicate a well established pattern of approach to attendance. At
the beginning of the year, the term or the week, attendance is low. On a weekly basis, the
pattern shows maximum attendance, on Tuesday and Wednesdays, with a Monday level
attendance on Thursdays, and dramatic fall off on Fridays, in rural schools. Urban schools
have mostly overcome the Friday fall-out as parents prefer to see children in the safety of a
regulated school environment than unsupervised at home.

The same pattern holds for term and annual attendance with absenteeism highest
in the early and late periods, peaking in the middle, even rain-affected days carry the same
impact in rural areas where there is a tendency to absenteeism after the affected day.
The basis for this pattern, which can reduce attendance annually to some 70% of
enrolment in rural areas, is the same indulgence which spares the application of rigidly
enforced regimes of conduct reinforced by discipline.
The argument is:
At the beginning of the week term ofyear
"School jus' open. Dem don haf to rush"
After the mid-period peak:
"School soon finish. Mek dem stay home and do something useful" And
"Is de las' day. Them can wait til Monday" (or next term or next year.)
This same attitude and practice prevails through working life for own-account task
workers who use Mondays to "mark out de work", Tuesdays and Wednesdays for full work
days. Thursday show reduced output because Friday is "pay bill" and there is little work
at all.
Children who survive this crucible test of indifferent attendance go on to be
achievers. Parents recognize by the eleventh birthday whether the child's "head can tek
learning". Every sacrifice is made to encourage and support those performers in the category,
even to the greater neglect of others.
On secondary school graduation, many of these achievers, if not able to afford
tertiary education immediately will work for years to accumulate funds to enable them to
complete a tertiary course.
The obstacles experienced in the development of the child, screens out those who
qualify by a process of survival of the fittest. The consequence is a small, but well qualified
segment of the labour force with practical or tertiary skills, who, drawing on the competitive
skills earned in their aggressive environment of growth, survive the damage of an over-in-
dulgent child rearing culture, and become a cadre of proud self-made socially mobile
Jamaicans that are the base of the growing middle class.

The Informal Family
Family structure envelops all these experiences in the development of the child.
Characteristically, it is a loosely structured extended family, generally with matriarchal
Rural households are more cohesive than urban counterparts because, residentially,
fami ly land provides adequate space for most members. Where there is no male grandparent,
"granny" is the household head; often she is "mama" to young grandchildren for whom she
cares, while the biological mother, often called "sister" by her young offspring, is freed to
continue school, work, or find a better partner. Uncles and aunts often substitute for grand-
parents, depending on circumstances.
Within this loose, extended family structure, members come and go but the family
remains a strong bond of affiliation and security.
The large extended rural family is more narrow in the urban setting and less bonded.

But the structure, rural or urban, is loose enough to accommodate the rearing of children by
different family members. Included are informal adoptions. The concept allows many
Jamaicans in this culture to categorise themselves as being 'raised' by a particular family
Again, this structure is symptomatic of the indulgent nature of family life and
disposition to care and share which is a prominent feature of the Jamaican identity.

The Creative Being
Consistent with the indulgent nature of training relationships and the informal
pattern of family life, there is a corresponding absence of regimentation which allows
creative forces to blossom. Indeed, creativity becomes an essential skill in the wider arena
of daily life.
The arts are the most widely recognized area of folk talent, but so too is the creative
flourishes evident in stylistic sports, in religious form, in trading patterns and, overall, in the
individualistic life style of the folk culture.
Jamaica's contemporary music is a product of the raw talent that enables untrained,
unlettered composers to produce an awesome range of lyrics and melody that has established
itself in the world as more than an ethnic variety of song.
Jamaica, is perhaps the only country in the world in which the singer is almost
without exception, the composer. Although borrowing from the storehouse of traditional
rhythms and even some of the folk music repertoire, Jamaican contemporary music began
as an indigenously created version of the rhythm and blues of the Southern United States
with Jamaican Rhythms as the unique factor. The message music of Bob Marley was not
the element which characterized the Jamaican identity. It was the unique rhythms which
spanned the periods of the ska, rocksteady and reggae. More recently, dancehall and deejay
music have created new beats which, while fitting easily into international musical forms,
still retain a Jamaican identity.
This intuitive creativity is easily translated into painting, sculpture and other art
forms. Kapo, as the pioneer intuitive sculptor and one of the early exponents of intuitive
painting, drew heavily on the experiences of the indigenous religious cults of which he was
a prominent leader.
Jamaican religious cults developed as the precusors of the evolutionary path
followed by Jamaican contemporary music, drawing on influences of the Southern United
States in a fusion with the folk heritage of Africa. This is equally true of other more formal
religious denominations not classifiable as cults.
African dance and musical heritage fused with the songs of fundamentalist faiths
in the Southern United States, are the common denominators of the many spiritual religions
which abound in Jamaica. Their strength is the room provided for creative, impromptu,
personalised expression, rather than structured worship and the belief that the individual can
communicate directly with the supernatural through spiritual possession. This liberation of
self unleashes creative dance movements, a unique spiritual language, speaking in tongues,
and the ability to compose impromptu melodies in the state of spiritual possession, recall
the impromptu presentations of the deejay.
Artistry in sports, is most evident in the grace of the cricket batsman who exhibits

a poetry in motion that only a stylish individualist can achieve, true, there is a correct copy
book for every cricket stroke which conforms to classic traditions. But the stroke play
nurtured by a creative culture, carries a stylistic stamp that almost commands applause for
the stroke moreso than the runs.
Creative individualism is so enshrined in the national identity of Jamaican folk
culture that central to our folklore is the hero of all individualists Anancy. The creative
resourcefulness of Anancy is legendary not only in lore, but in the reality of all areas of folk
Two examples; prior to the commencement ofa Jamaican music industry, all labels
were removed from imported records to hide the true identities. The labelless records were
given Jamaican names and sold for exorbitant prices to sound systems operators, the
forerunners of today's discos. These were the popular hits on which each operator possessed
an exclusive and made his reputation: Tom the Great Sebastian; Duke Reid, Coxsone, were
among the pioneers.
After the tunes had their exclusive runs they were reintroduced on the original
labels and sold to the general public at reduced prices. Where else would such a creative
scheme be devised from an every day trading transaction.
Beating regulations of every type with creative ingenuity is a national pastime
practiced by our folk hero role model, Anancy, and his character players. Individualism is
the resource base; the informal indulgent un-regimented life experience is the crucible in
which, in many forms and many ways, self-expression is shaped into art forms, spiritual
liberation, athletic elegance, ingenuous trade practices and cunning devices of all types.

Faith as Guidance and Discipline
The conclusion should not be drawn that form and structure is absent from the life
style of folk society. To older folk, in particular, faith in traditional practices are guiding
factors in many areas of life.
Faith is the driving force which maintains traditional beliefs. Particularly, religious
faith is a fundamental guiding principle in character formation from infancy. The role of
faith as both a stabiliser and resource base to meet challenges and overcome problems, is
one of the given truths of folk life. Faith is of medicinal value whether pharmacologically
or spiritually.
Although scientific medicine is displacing traditional healing practices, there still
remains a body of prevailing wisdom which prefers the "doctor's shop" or home remedies
concocted from herbs or medicinal plants to the technical mysteries of pills and hypodermic
injections. To these believers, good medicine isjudged by quantity (it must be "nuff'); colour
(preferably dark); and taste (the bitter the better). Usually sold in a pint bottle, if the cork is
deeply stained, or a little of the potion tested on concrete leaves an etching, the medical
value is acceptable as "strong", capable of purging "bad blood' or other infections.
For many years, the innocuous little pills or small colourless injections potions,
made little headway against more robust traditional formulae. Indeed, in recent years, folk
medicine has begun to establish its own bona fides. Pharmacological companies are
beginning to recognize the value ofancient medicinal wisdom with the result that biotechnol-
ogy has isolated a number of medicinal herbs of important value which are now the base of
accepted prescriptions for the treatment of medical ailments.

Notwithstanding the success of scientific medicinal treatments, the evolving inter-
national recognition of folk medicine creates an abiding faith that "belief kills and belief

Resting of this article of faith is the effectiveness of spiritual therapy. Widely
different applications exist among Jamaica's spiritual churches and practitioners from the
laying on hands by faith healers, the use of spirits to do good and evil, the tables, baths and
balms of the balm yard, the potions, charms and guard rings of the obeah man, the wisdom
of the secret and forbidden sixth and seventh books of Moses and the prescriptions of "high
science" from the outlawed publications of de Lawrence.
A friend of mine, an attorney, who was very pleased with the outcome of a very
difficult case on which he had used his best legal skills, was gratified to hear the accused,
now a free man, proclaim the genius of the "man" responsible for his release. But the
attorney's pride was utterly deflated when the accused ventured further, "if me mother nevah
go country fe me, I would a nevah get weh"
Faith dwells both in Jehovah God as well as in balm yard. Sunday morning is
Jehovah's time; Sunday night many of the same observers "jump revival". There is no
conflict: different spiritual powers are needed to deal with the problems of life and there is
more than enough faith in our folk culture to embrace God, the Trinity, archangels and
prophets, as well as the spirits of the dead.

"Respect Due"
The supernatural is due respect. So too is man. The social order prescribes the
ratings for respect:

Marital Status

are some of the distinctive attributes. These historically favoured rankings prevail in rural
society moreso than inner cities. It is, in fact, in the inner city that the dynamics of inter-
personal relationships is undergoing the most radical change.
In the new order, "respect is due", as the saying goes. Male dominance in the ghetto
rests on the power of control. This is respect in a powerful but narrow sense, so powerful
indeed, that the act of disrespect is as much a cause of violence as disputes of romantic
Often, the cause is seemingly trivial. Two girls pass each other; one "cuts her eye"
at the other. The offended sends for her brother; the offender, her boyfriend. Both arrive
with weapons. One man is slain, the other is his killer. 7he N itirms gang becomes involved;
so too does the killer's friends. A gang war begins.
Recall the use of aggression as a training tool for young children who learn that a
lesson backed by aggression is more effective.
It would be wrong to believe that "respect is due" only in the narrow circles of

comer youth and their dons. "Respect is due" as a broader protest in defiance of the
traditional forces of privilege and oppression, real or black-consciousness promoting
self-worth and racial pride.
No profile of the national psyche of Jamaican youth and young adults, in particular,
can ignore both the cry and the struggle for respect as a prominent feature of the national

There is good reason for this. A sense of justice is fundamental to the Jamaican
personality. "Is injustice", "is disadvantage", are familiar cries.
Acts of brutality, dispossession, oppression and unfair treatment evoke a deep sense
of sympathy and understanding, as also recollections of the historical injustices and cruelty
of slavery which survives in the national psyche as a cultural retention.
The strength of this pervasive sense of justice is one of the true stabilisers in
Jamaican life as well as an effective dynamic which guarantees the democratic process, for
though the crime be unjust the penalty must bejust. Extreme anger often dictates otherwise,
but a deep sense ofajust process is the rule, not the exception, in characterising the Jamaican
No analysis of the Jamaican identity as it prevails in folk culture, is adequate
without acknowledging the sense of humour that portrays the cultural characteristics of
earthy folk life.
It may arise in the descriptive names of people and places: a one-eye man is known
as "ace-blank"; a shortman as "drop short" Some pet names are too descriptive for polite
reference. Some places too frankly described for comfort. A surveyor asked the farmer
through whose hut, high in the blue mountain, the parish line for St Thomas and Portland
passed, in which parish would he prefer to be recorded as a resident. "put me eena St
Thomas", the farmer replied, "too much rain deh eena Portland"
Concluding Remarks
The significance of folk culture to the national identity is not fully told in the limited
presentation of some of the more obvious characteristics. A true presentation warrants more
extensive treatment than this character sketch. But as a true character sketch it is unlike the
case of the schoolboy who lamented that he failed the test which required him to draw a
character sketch of Othello, because he drew him with two swords.
In the dual society in which, we live in two Jamaica's, there are many thousands
who regretfully portray the world of our folk culture and its people with the same miscon-
ception as the school boy's Othello.
So many are afraid to cross that bridge to enter the other world because of the fear
of what they may lose without knowing the cultural treasures that await them. I crossed that
bridge decades ago and until today that journey has been among the richest experiences of
my life.

The Continuing Battle For Space The Caribbean Challenge
Final Session


It is my hope that this conference on Caribbean Culture will prove to be a watershed
for the Social Sciences and the Humanities in their engagement with this region's ceaseless
quest for what those who tenant it have been seeking for all of half a millennium namely
that sense of place, that sense of purpose, that sense of self that will situate them where they
belong as concentrated, full-fledged, creative resourceful constructive members of the
human race. That quest by way of assertion, continuing re-affirmation and re-inventing of
self, the quest for authenticity rooted in action have underpinned many of the offerings of
participants in this Conference. And I join in the celebration of the continuity of effort which
enjoys a trajectory of pedigreed engagement as George Lamming so pointedly reminded us
in his brilliant address at the opening of the conference. I pay tribute to George Lamming
himself and all his peers in the several literary arts, Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite
chief among them, who have challenged this region in such awesome ways over these past
forty years. The CLR Jameses of this world, Norman and Edna Manley, the iconic Philip
Sherlock who monitored an entire generation into sanity and certitude, Marcus Garvey who
understood holistic development, the Rastafarians who gave to the Bob Marleys, Jimmy
Cliffs and Peter Toshes of this world the kind of vision that made their music soar even
while it deepened. Then there are the great calypsonians of Trinidad and Tobago who were
the marvellous artists and are celebrated in the seminal writings by colleague Gordon
Rohlehr of their rebellion, with cause and purpose, against the obscenities of ages. And what
a region we have produced in preparation for the turbulence, chaos and certain uncertainty
of the Third Millennium which is already with us!
I am grateful to my colleagues in the Faculty of Social Sciences and in the Institute
of Caribbean Studies at Mona who have mounted this exercise in the pursuit of the great
truths to which we have long been directed by the people from below. It is to the credit of
the University that it continues to take heed of such realities and to indicate its willingness
to meet what our great visionary Lloyd Best impishly recommend are urgent areas ofconcern
if this institution of growth which we gave ourselves back in 1948 is to keep growing. The
Faculty of Social Sciences has been integral to that growth and with it have come repeated
threats of its early abolition to save the nation from threatening creeds and transgressions
against the received orthodoxies of our situation. The UWI does have a grand reputation as
That Rasta Report on which I cut my teeth as something of a "public scholar" or
as an "egghead" as a former Jamaican Prime Minister chose to call "the whizz kids from
Mona" was among the first to start giving trouble in a Jamaica that some would claim had
known peace up to then. But that Report for which the late M.G. Smith, and the still active
Roy Augier must take full responsibility with the late Arthur Lewis pushing fire from above,
must be located at that milestone on thejoumey of relevant scholarship through engagement
with ourselves. I refer to the cultural pluralism-stratification debate which gave vent to the
contentiousness and cantankerous nature of the West Indian; but it also advanced the plot,

to the lasting credit of those who engaged each other in intellectual battle for as long as they
had strength so to do.
The second milestone was undoubtedly the public-oriented movement that came
to be called the New World Movement targeting regional integration in answer to our failed
marriage after three years of coexistence by trial. It says much for those rebels, as they were
deemed to be, that they themselves were so steeped in Victorian respectability that they
seemed hellbent on having the union consecrated in front of an altar and with confetti at the
end of the aisle rather than resort to that ancestral cultural phenomenon we call "living in
sin" or concubinage from which state many of us in any case sprang.
The New World group has since been blamed for revolutionary thinking that gave
us the Rodney riots and kindred transgressions like Black Power and what emerged into
taking sides with lhat global combat which split the world into two contestants in that hot
combat between cold warriors entrapping us all in that bipolar world which saw the
two-thirds world as spectators to be let in at a price. And what price! Grenada, Cuba, and a
dose of Marxism-Leninism which robbed us of valuable energy that might well have been
spent in deeper, extensive explorations of self and society on our own mental landscape, in
our own space however contracted.
I, for one, regard this as no net loss when all is said and done. We are a people of
options after all. No one basket for all our eggs!
And the capacity for code-switching provides us with the flexibility and adaptabil-
ity needed to cope with the disparate elements in our lives. Our pillars of Christian piety can
be the greatest backsliders with Bible in both hands and malice and meanspiritedness in their
hearts. Devout socialist pathfinders have been known to tenant the most luxurious mansions
and the crispest of cars complete with cellular. Such contradictions are omens of successful
existence in these parts. My only regret about the Left-Wing Sixties and Seventies is that
we did not creatively engage that alien creed in the way our ordinary people, the real people
in the land, long demonstrated how they could in dealing with something like Christanity,
making this region into a laboratory of life-giving forms of worship ranging from Santeria
in Cuba through Vodun in Haiti, Pocomania in Jamaica and Zion revivalism all over, to
Shango in Trinidad and Cumfa in Guyana.
I regret that we did not give to the world a School of Caribbean Marxism (with
CLR James as icon maybe) that could rival the Frankfurt School or any other such variations
on that theme which we had every right to borrow but should have allowed to catch in our
own soil. For the soil is plenty and pretty fertile able to send up rank shoots for our
development as much as it is able to serve as burial ground for all alien matter.
It is this authenticity of the ecology of our landscape that we have helped to shape
our survival and beyond. My own upbringing as peasant and depressed urban urchin, or
"leggo beast", schooled me in this awareness which was to be reinforced by a heavy dose
of History on this very campus with likes ofElsa Goveia, John Parry and Roy Augier steering
an entire generation around to consciousness. This self-awareness has its forging, we know,
in the crucible of slavery and the plantation but especially in the period of post-Emancipation
- a period yet to be fully investigated in terms of the intellectual ferment that fuelled the
talents of people like J J Thomas, Marcus Garvey, CLR James, Norman Manley and the
scores of unnamed teachers (and preachers) who provided a former generation with the
courage and will "to be".

Such will and courage drove so many of our forebears to forms of action that would
restore to themselves their humanity above all else. And we are right to persist in the search
for modes of re-integration, re-affirmation, as well as of the relationships between the micro
and the macro, the terrestrial and the celestial, the relationship between the inner space of
the mind and heart and the outer physical space which we tenant.
This battle for space which Paget Henry reminded me I have written about is by
no means a post-modem monopoly. In fact what the so-called "civilised world" is now
anxious about has long been part of the repertoire of Caribbean concerns since so much of
what this region chose to become was rooted in the exploitation and dehumanisation of a
large slice of humankind. That loss of wholeness, of totality, of harmony which attended
the exercise was to be of much concern to the mass of our population a couple centuries
before it became the centre of philosophical discourse and polemics in Western Europe.
Long before Hegel and long before Marx, the ordinary people of this region consciously
grappled with the fragmentation and alienation of Man at all levels individual societal,
physical, psychic and cosmic. Our forebears knew that disharmony and confrontation arise
out of such lack of wholeness and they turned to what their descendants on university
campuses may well do they tumed to the exercise of their creative intellect and creative
imagination throwing up not only belief systems and expressions of artistic culture, but also
organic means ofcommunication, native-born and native-bred (Kamau Brathwaite's nation-
languages), and systems of production, distribution and exchange which our economic
planners would do well to salvage from the folklore to which they have relegated them and
incorporate them into the mainstream.
The responses to our alienating dehumanising, homogenising history by those who
went before us remain the best departures for study and analysis in any effort to comprehend
our existential reality and to glean guidance for an uncertain future. There are; the invention
of languages oral, scribal and that which comes with the non-verbal use of the expressions
from those of yore to contemporary Rastafari, the force of which continues to be misunder-
stood and less-counted under the guise of hermeneutics and the intellectual discourse shaped
by Christian orthodoxy; the invention of family patterns or the re- interpretation of estab-
lished ones whether nuclear, extended, matrifocal or matriarchal; the invention of new
artistic expressions drawing on ancestral rituals and other cultural manifestations to create
new classic fonns in an unending cycle of creating and re-creating; the invention of
modalities of economic survival and operations with numeracy outweighing literacy among
a population of higglers for capital formation taking the fonn of "partner" or su-su. Then
there are dubious creative fonns of hustling, admittedly, not always in the best interest of
our new nation-states. There is also that great strategy of demarginalization better known
as maronnage that hit-and-run withdrawal modality that is part of the psychic inheritance
of the oppressed anywhere. Whether physical, psychic or ethical withdrawal, the mind is
always creatively active to guarantee survival and beyond. Many a Caribbean intellectual
like the Caribbean artist has got to be a latter-day Maroon ambushing the society under the
camouflage of intellectual investigation and analysis and artistic invention. When both these
maroons find alliance as individuals or in concert it is time for action. The fear by the
politicians of egg-head and subversive artists is quite understandable. For nothing can
out-flank the creativity that underpins all meaningful actions by the human being them-
selves all acts of intelligence. George Lamming is right: the creative artist is high on the list
of a civilisation's finest intellectuals just as the creative intellectuals are numbered among
a civilisation's finest artists. Our ordinary people in this region have known this for a long
time and have bequeathed to us a heritage which we ignore at our peril.

Following on what George Lamming said, our forebears learnt how to eat and still
retain their humanity. What a challenge confronting our elected representatives! For this
takes long- distance running rather than the sprinting which five years at a time in office
often dictate. The kind of leadership demanded of them does not mean a monopoly by the
State of the functions employed to move education, our sure salvation, which our grand-
mothers from the canepiece knew it to be. Least of all Imust the field of education be hijacked
by Ministries of Education, served by unimaginative, pedestrian, technocrats who forgot
that there are a certain number of human values that need to be activated and kept alive in
human-scale communities like ours values such as the dignity and responsibility of the
individual, the freely chosen participation of individuals in communities, equality of
opportunity and the search for a common good and cultural certitude, all of which can be
realized through the field of education.
It is here that a sense of daring is badly needed in any plan or strategy for the way
forward. All the actors in the system need to be more alert in the creative response to the
challenge that is already upon the region. The factor of culture and its role in education have
apparently given bureaucrats and some teachers more difficulty than they have the very
politicians who are frequently bashed and often unjustifiably vilified for being philistine and
The neglect of culture as integral to education persists among many in the region's
public bureaucracy and the teaching profession in the region despite some of the clearest
evidence that many of the people who have had anything of value to say about this region
are those who have exercised their creative imagination to make sense of Caribbean and
human historical experience and existential reality.
The names of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh, of the Mighty Sparrow,
David Rudder, and Lord Kitchener; of Louise Bennett, Mutabaruka and other such public
poets; of George Lamming, Samuel Selvon, Wilson Harris, VidiaNaipaul, Loma Goodison,
Merle Collins, Kamau Brathwaite and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, all come easily to
mind. They all celebrate the creative potential of the textured resourceful population in the
Caribbean from which they sprang. And they stand as latter-day Maroons who have
successfully fled the terrain of the sort of schooling that still over-emphasizes "rationality
alone, technocratic reasoning, restrictive organizational or community structures and an
[excessive] reliance on traditional approaches" in the learning process. They have therefore
managed to escape having their creative potential destroyed. Indeed, but for their own
determination and the help, as some of them have admitted, of a few farsighted teachers,
they might have fallen on that conspicuous heap of well-trained but highly uneducated souls
who tenant too many positions of trust and power in the region. Not all is lost however,
despite the sorry gap between the arts of the imagination and what is deemed to be traditional
and acceptable intellectual preparation. Barclays Bank, for all its colonial predilections,
once recruited an English Literature graduate from the UWI into the banking profession
nurturing him to a high level of decision-making responsibility in what is now Barclays'
successor in one of the more populous territories of the region. An Oxford Classics major
presides over the Caribbean Development Bank and yet another heads the Caribbean Tourist
Three swallows do not a summer make, admittedly, but this provides evidence of
the possibilities when the creative potential of people are not stultified by unimaginative
employment practices and wrongly conceived, narrow manpower-needs education. The
present Director General of the World Bank is a cellist, incidentally! I myself would have

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