VOLUME 45, Nos. 2 & 3 JUNE/SEPT. 1999
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permissiou..strictly forbidden.)
TOWARDS 2000 MODELS FOR MULTI-CULTURAL
Guest Editor Rawle Gibbons
Guest Editorial v
Introductory Remarks by Guest Editor viii
En Francais xi
En Espanol xv
Keynote Address : The Caribbean Artists' Presence and Education for
the Third Millennium 1
Discours liminaire 10
Discurso Principal 20
To Play Mas 30
Obeahing the Space 36
The Status of Creole in the Caribbean 41
Lawrence D. Carrington
Joanne Kilgour Dowdy
The East Indians and the Creative Arts in the Caribbean 64
James Isaiah Boodhoo
Rameela and Hosay: Contestation on the Periphery 67
Kenneth V. Parmasad
Carnival Transformations : A Carnival Project in CapeTown 71
Folking English 77
Short Pants (Llewellyn M. Mac Intosh)
A Literacy, Education and Arts Partnership 84
Joyce A. Wilkinson
Teaching, Performing and Responding to Shakespeare in Multicultural
(Postcolonial) Canada and Quebec 94
Some Notes on Designing and Evaluating a Portfolio to Teach and Assess
Musical Performance Skills and Multicultural Values 107
Lennisse Baptiste and Jerome de Lisle
From Multiculturalism to Culturalism 109
The Probabilities for Collaboration Between Policy Makers and
Art Practitioners 114
Towards a Policy in Arts Education (Drama) in Barbados 121
Multicultural National Policy and the Remaking of Communities 146
BOOK REVIEWS 155
BOOKS RECEIVED 162
Notes on Contributors 166
Information for Contributors 167
(All translations by the Latin American and Caribbean Centre (LACC), UWI,
(Cover Photographs by A. R. Thompsett of costumes produced by participants
at Carnival workshops described in his article Carnival Transformations: A Car-
nival Project in Cape Town )
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Vice Chancellor, Editor
Complon Boume, 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, C.S.I., Office of Vice Chancellor, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contriLutions should be addressed to:
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Abstract and Index : 1949-1990 and 1991-1996 Author Keyword and Subject
Index available. The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Towards 2000 Models for Multi-Cultural Arts Education is the double
volume issue of Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 45, numbers 2-3, 1999. Its publica-
tion on the eve of a new millennium is both timely and appropriate for educators are
at last recognizing that in order to truly educate there must be opportunities for the
development of the complete integrated person mentally, morally, ethically,
spiritually and physically. The plastic and performing arts combine other modes of
intelligence with the mental aspects and provide the appropriate learning media.
Multi-Cultural Arts Education for the Caribbean also provide the student with tools
for not only learning but for valuing :nd appreciating and finally internalizing the
wealth of cultural experience that has been produced by and for the region
especially over the past half a millennium when diverse cultures have met and
interacted in a wide range of circumstances.
This will ensure that the young people of the region enter the new millen-
nium well equipped to take their place on the world stage with not only more
knowledge of who they are but with enhanced self-esteem, and appropriate skills
to help them cope with a millennium that promise to challenge all to creative
Caribbean Quarterly welcomes Rawle Gibbons, Director, Creative Arts
Centre, UWI, St. Augustine who not only conceived of the idea of the conference
from which these papers originated but is an inspired artist and educator in his own
right. It is hoped that the publication of these papers will give to those who were
unable to participate in the Conference the opportunity to share in the deliberations
Towards 2000: Models for Multi-Cultural Arts Education
The papers in this volume were presented at the Creative Arts Centre's
First International Symposium 'Towards 2000 : Models for Multi-Cultural Arts
Education' St. Augustine, Trinidad, August 4-7, 1997. The event marked the
Centre's tenth year of struggle as an institution without adequate resources,
understanding, empathy or respect from its parent community. The marked ab-
sence of representation from the very faculty in which the Centre functioned was
as loud and truthful an Opening Statement as that Faculty had been invited to
One recalls this incident so that the significance of our gathering at the time
be clearly understood. The Symposium registered that the arts could be subject to
rigorous academic scrutiny, that scholars internationally were giving attention to
issues in the field and that we in the Caribbean had our own contribution to bring to
the debate. The first and most fundamental reason for the Symposium therefore
was the validation of the arts as the newest area of academic pursuit at the St.
Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Fittingly, as the UWI was
celebrating its 50th anniversary in the 1997-1998 academic year, the symposium
also launched our own programme for these celebrations.
In choosing 'multi-culturalism' as the theme for our Symposium, we sought
to bring together practitioners and education grappling with the challenges of
cultural diversity. We felt ideally positioned to entertain a debate generated in the
first place out of the Caribbean diaspora and on which the work of the Centre had
been premised. As arts educators we integrated and validated practical and
artistic modes of presentation within our deliberation. Workshops, exhibitions and
performances not represented in this volume, were all part of interactive theatre of
this signal event.
The selections in this volume are intended to point Caribbean educators
primarily toward the considerations, concern and context that should inform arts
education policy in this'region. These are addressed in four cardinal categories to
which the papers relate:
1) The function of art and the role of the artist in society.
Arts education policy must derive from an understanding of the value of art
and an acceptance of the roles of the artist in illuminating society. The three
master-artists on our forum addressed these themes each in his singular voice.
Keynote speaker, Professor Rex Nettleford presented his observations on the
theme by centering on (and centering) Derek Walcott. Nettleford, eminent dance-
artist, scholar and the University's Chief Executive, is himself the consummate
artist-educator, a fact which cannot be ignored in assessing his argument for The
Caribbean Artist's Presence'. Masman, Peter Minshall points to the art manifest in
mas, while Leroi Clarke, painter/poet/philosopher phenomenologically presented
himself as testifier to his art.
2) Descriptions/surveys of Caribbean arts/cultural phenomena.
Language was a focal point and treated in a fascinating variety of ways
throughout our deliberations. Lawrence Carrington's survey on the 'Status of
Creole in the Caribbean', updates our information broadly on the issues and
usages of creole in various communication modes throughout the region. Some of
these issues are textured into Joanne Kilgour-Dowdy's biographical 'Doublespeak'
in which language, Colonial education and performance interweave. Painter/nov-
elist/educator James Boodhoo traces Indo-Caribbean expressions through the
visual arts, while Parmasad's descriptive account of two East Indian festivals in
Trinidad, Ramleela and Hosay, reminds us of the value of communal art.
Several of our selections are accounts of practical endeavours in arts
education. Drawn from the Caribbean and wider afield, these illustrate some
common applications of the arts in education. Introducing Carnival Arts to commu-
nities in South Africa, Ruth Tomsett testifies to the power of mas as communal
theatre. Language is again in focus in 'Folking English', an experiment teaching
English with material from the oral tradition undertaken by calypsonian/teacher
Shortpants (Llewellyn Macintosh). Canadian Joyce Wilkinson details her pro-
gramme for teaching literacy through the arts in 'Literacy, Education and arts
Partnership' and Denis Salter, also Canadian explores how The Tempest could be
used to teach Shakespeare in his multi-cultural country. In the field of music
education, Lenniso Baptiste and Jerome de Lisle present a usefully analytical
format for performance assessment which could be of value to other disciplines.
The shaping of personal and collective experiences and experiments in art,
culture and teaching into directions for education policy emerges in the final
statement of the remaining papers. Henry Muttoo's 'From Multiculturalism to
Culturalism' captured so much in its style and its statement, the spirit, common
sense and communion of the Caribbean ethos, that it was possibly the most warmly
received piece at the symposium. Carl Brown's well-constructed argument for
'Collaboration between Policy Makers and Art Practitioners' is clear and insightful.
Presenting her Arts Policy for Barbados, Lucille Phillips focuses on drama in
well-researched, caring study, while Jean Small grounds her policy proposal in a
drama project done with a working class Jamaican community.
Of the original papers presented at the Symposium a few selected for
publication were not eventually submitted while one of those submitted, Robert
Ramesar's 'Caribbeings' had already been published in Caribbean Quarterly (Vol.
43, No. 4).
Thanks in the preparation of papers for this volume are due to Dr Funso
Aiyejina for his initial editing work; Dr. Dani Lyndersay, Symposium Co-ordinator;
Mrs. Niala Dwarika-Bhagat, documentalist, Ms. Camille Quamina, Transcriber, and
Ms. Gail Mclntosh, Administration.
This Symposium is dedicated to a marvelous educator and teacher-artist to
whom many of us now practising in the Caribbean owe a great deal. One never
knows where the road will lead, but I, for one, can't imagine myself as I am
(whatever that may be), where I am, without the inspiration of Jamaican poet,
playwright, theatre-artist, teacher Dennis Scott (1940-1991) deceased yet un-
One may say that the background for this event starts with Scott and the
Jamaica School of Drama. There, in the late 70's he commandeered young
talents from around the Caribbean, ostensibly to help him build an institution in
itself a tremendous opportunity but in effect, to teach us through the only way one
can in the arts: involvement in the process.
Learning by doing or rather learning by being, is, of course the primary
rule of arts education. We experienced other distinctions between our way of doing
things as artist-teachers and conventional approaches to education. Through his
envaluating of the input of each of us, we learnt that arts education admits the
learner as a valid partner in and contributor to the process. This was possible
because Scott responded not only to the intellect but to other modes of intelli-
gence (visual, aural, kinesthetic), and the intuitive that are equally valid to him as
dancer, actor, poet and choreographer. Running an institution without significant
funding meant a high premium was placed on finding creative solutions to chal-
lenges artistic and administrative. One learnt to trust the individual impulse and to
take responsibility for the product which is shared with a public, the third partner
in the process of arts education. These characteristics take arts education beyond
a classroom engagement and also express the values on which the call for this
Symposium is based.
Our first impulse in issuing this call was the need to reflect upon a decade
of work as an institution. Activity-based as arts-teaching is, the reflective aspects
of the experience may be forgotten or ignored to the detriment of the discipline. So
the intention of this Symposium was first of all, to provide us at the Festival Centre
with the opportunity to pause (!), take stock of what has been done and where we
are going. With a decade of work as an institution behind us, and with our
University fifty years in existence, it seemed the most appropriate time for reflec-
I am not at all sure that we at the Centre have had the luxury to 'pause,'
'reflect' as we would have liked. We certainly need to ask ourselves at more
regular periods than in the past: What is the impact of the work we undertake?
What difference is it making to the quality of personal and social living? How
deeply, if at all, does indigenous Caribbean culture influence what and how we
teach? How responsive are we to the realities and pressures of living what people
and communities in the Caribbean face daily? How do we sustain these connec-
tions in our art and teaching and -so vitalize our work? How integrated is our
curriculum? Can we, even with all that we don't have, be still more productive,
more resourceful, more creative? How do we build cultural identity/confidence in
all the currents of world technology? Do we surf the communications galaxy in a
pirouge or the 'gli-gli'.?
The time is also right because in the Caribbean we are also involved in a
process of educational reform in which the arts though not always for the reasons
or as quickly as we practitioners would like, are being pulled into that sphere of
seriousness called 'the curriculum'. A draft document on 'Education and Human
Resource Development' coming out of the 1997 CARICOM Heads of Government
meeting in Jamaica recommends that "the performing arts play a bigger part in
education and training" (Sunday Guardian 20 July, 1997. p.4). Music has joined Art
as subjects offered under the Caribbean Examinations Council and a syllabus is
being prepared by that regional examining body for the inclusion of modules on
Caribbean culture in its Social Studies syllabus. In trying to meet the delivery of
quality out of both primary and secondary schools, increasingly the administrator is
turning to the artist-teacher to ask: 'What can we do?' Our response has been to
undertake the training of Music and Drama specialists for the schools. We have
also devised training in Integrated Arts for primary and junior secondary levels,
where full-time facilitators in the arts are being appointed. Even the University, has
stirred in the same direction. Approval for courses in arts and culture is no longer
met with the jurassic suspicion of ten years ago. We can now offer a Major in
Carnival Studies alongside the more traditional areas of Music, Art and Theatre.
Each of these initiatives is of significance given the history of disregard for
the arts and arts-teaching in the Caribbean and while none is enough as a
movement, they signal the beginnings of genuine partnerships between the two
sectors which give us good reason for optimism.
It remains up to us, artist-teachers, to define what our work is about, to
show its relevance, demonstrate our competence and educate others administra-
tors, other teachers, the public into n fuller appreciation of what we do. That is the
second reason for holding this Symposium.
Our third is rooted in our use of the term Multi-Cultural, a term of particular
significance in countries like Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago where large
sections of the population are of different ethnic origins. The underlying social
reality in these countries is not merely Multi but mixed and this is true to a greater
or lesser degree of the wider Caribbean. African peoples forced to accommodate
European cultural norms introduced 'multi-culturalism' to the New World as a living
reality. If culture is how we choose to propagate our identity through time and
space, then 'multi-culturalism' (creolization) has been the vital factor in not only
African but all Caribbean cultures. This is why we use terms near and dear to us to
image the process: callalooo', 'pepperpot', 'pelau, 'oil down'. These are realities of
the palate which we don't contest. But mixing also implies 'mixing up' and we are
often confused as to the value of the mix. Is our 'multi-culturalism' a strength or
stemming from a history of degradation, a stain? Is it a loss of purity? How do we
reconcile the two impulses in each of us as Caribbean people the face through
which we see and love ourselves as Caribbean people and the ancestral mask that
will not rest? Does our multi-culturalism not merely make us more susceptible to
politically powerful cultures? How does it influence our arts or shape what we
teach? What is the significance of this debate in a world that is unswervingly
Our institutions in the region are only vaguely responsive, if at all, to the
fact we have overcome the disadvantages of size and relative poverty in increasing
our 'cultural territory' over the past two decades. Our contact with extra-Caribbean
cultures resulted in the Japanese Reggae band, Rastafariah communities in South
Africa and New Guinea, or the Trini-style Carnivals from Mid-West U.S. to Austra-
Still, it is our very multi-culturalism that generates in Trinidad and Tobago
our most impassioned controversies and often spurious debates. Arts and cultural
education have a crucial role to play in the de-construction of prejudice and myth
and in shaping new models out of the 'muddle' that multi-culturalism emits.
Panels have been organised on themes that would allow us to revisit the
cultural foundations of our practice Religion, the Oral Tradition, Heritage and
Landscape and Festivals. Language, Literature and Technology are included as
tools of our practice and the panels on Curriculum and Policy allow us to reflect on
any aspect of the education industry from teaching to teacher-training to admini-
We are here to share, support, strengthen. It is this the very spirit of the
arts we practise that I call on to infuse our proceedings.
Ce symposium est dedie a un merveilleux .ducateur, artiste et enseignant,
auquel sont redevables plusieurs d'entre nous qui pratiquons aujourd'hui dans la
region des Caraibes. On ne salt jamais ou vous conduiront vos pas. Cependant
moi, pour ma part, je ne peux m'imaginer tel que je suis (quel que soit ce que je
suis) ici et maintenant sans I'inspiration insufflee par Denis Scott (1940-1991), ce
poete, dramaturge, artiste de theatre et enseignant jamaiquain, aujourd'hui
decade, et pourtant toujours present.
On pourrait dire que Scott et lecole de theatre de la JamaTque constituent
larriere-plan a I'origine de cet evenement. c'est la, en effet, qua la fin des annees
70, ii a ((requisitionne)) les jeunes talents de toute la region. Officiellement il
s'agissait de I'aider a construire une institution (ce qui constituait en soi une
occasion exceptionnelle). En fait, cetait pour nous former de la seule facon
possible dans le monde des arts, c'est-a-dire en nous impliquant dans le proces-
Apprendre en faisant ou, plut6t, apprendre en etant, c'est bien sor la
premiere regle de education artistique. Nous avons pu mesurer dautres dif-
ferences entire notre facon de faire les chose*s en tant qu'enseignants et artistes et
les approaches classiques en education. Grace a l'evaluation faite de I'apport de
chacun d'entre nous, nous avons appris que l'education artistique acceptait lap-
prenant comme un partenaire valuable contribuant au processus d'apprentissage.
Une telle approche etait possible parre que Scott etait autant sensible a I'intellect
qua dautres formes d'intelligence (visuelle, auditive, kinesthesique) et a I'intuition.
II les trouvait toutes egalement valables en tant que danseur, acteur, poete et
choregraphe. La direction d'une institution ne disposant pas d'un financement
important signifiait qu'on faisait grand cas de la recherche de solutions creatives
pour reliever des defis artistiques et administratifs. On apprit a faire confiance aux
impulsions individuelles et a assumer la responsabilite du produit partage avec un
public, le troisieme partenaire du processus education artistique. Ces traits
caracteristiques entrainent education artistique au-dela de la salle de classes et
experiment egalement les valeurs sur lesquelles repose la demand justifiant [or-
ganisation de ce symposium.
En langant cette invitation, nous etions dabord motives par le besoin de
reflechir sur une decennie de travail en tant qu'institution. Etant donne que len-
seignement artistique est un enseignement centre sur les activities, on court le
risque doublier ou de negliger les aspects meritant la reflexion dans cette experi-
ence au grand detriment de la discipline. L'intention de ce symposium au Centre de
Festivals, etait donc, en tout premier lieu, de nous offrir I'occasion de faire une
pause (!), de faire I'inventaire de ce qui a ete fait et voir la direction a prendre.
Avec dix ans de travail derriere nous en tant qu'institution et avec les cinquante ans
d'existence de notre university, il ma semble que cetait le moment le plus approprie
pour une reflexion.
Or, je ne suis pas du tout sOr que nous ayons pu nous offrir, au Centre, le
luxe de ((faire une pause)> ou de (reflechir)) comme nous I'aurions voulu. Nous
aurions certainement besoin de nous interroger, et ce, a intervalles beaucoup plus
reguliers que dans le passe, sur I'impact du travail que nous avons entrepris.
Quelle difference fait-il sur la quality de la vie individuelle et social ? A quel point
la culture carafbeenne autochtone influe-t-elle, s'il en est, sur le contenu et notre
maniere denseigner ? quel point sommes-nous sensibles aux realities et aux
tensions de la vie, auxquelles sont soumis quotidiennement les gens et les commu-
nautes des Carafbes ? Comment entretenons-nous ces rapports dans notre art et
notre enseignement pour ensuite vivifier notre travail ? Comment notre pro-
gramme detudes est-il integre ? Pouvons-nous, malgre tout ce qui nous manque,
etre encore plus productifs, plus creatifs, plus ingenieux ? Comment pouvons
nous laborer une identity culturelle / creer une confiance en soi au milieu de tous
les courants de la technologies mondiale ? Faisons-nous du surf sur la galaxie des
communications en pirogue ou en ((gli-gli>> ?
Ce symposium tombe egalement a un bon moment. En effet, la region des
Caraibes est engagee dans un processus de reform educative ou on introduit les
disciplines artistiques dans cette sphere de serieux qu'on appelle (le programme
scolaire >, bien que ce ne soit pas toujours pour les raisons ou avec la rapidity que
nous aurions souhaitee. Un avant-projet de document sur (l'education et le
developpement des resources humaines), issu de la reunion des Chefs de
gouvernement du CARICOM, qui s'est tenue en Jamaique en 1997, recommande
que (des arts du spectacle jouent un plus grand r6le dans I'education et la forma-
tion>) (Sunday Guardian du 20 juillet 1997, p. 4). La musique a rejoint les beaux-
arts au nombre des matieres offertes par le Centre dexamens de la Caraibe. Cette
institution regional prepare, bar ailleurs, un programme visant a inclure des
modules de culture carafibenne dans son programme de Sciences humaines.
Pour essayer dobtenir un enseignement de lualite au niveau des ecoles primaires
et secondaires, les administrateurs sadressent de plus en plus a lenseignant et
artiste pour lui demander: Que pouvons-nous faire ? Nous avons repondu en
nous lancant dans la formation de specialists de musique et d'art dramatique pour
les ecoles. Nous avons egalement conqu una formation artistique multidiscipli-
naire pour les ecoles primaires et les colleges ou des postes d'animateurs en
education artistique, a temps plein sont en course de creation. Meme l'universite fait
quelques pas dans la meme direction. Les course de culture et beaux-arts sont
approuves sans soulever de soupcons dignes de lere jurassique, comme cetait le
cas il y a dix ans. Ainsi, nous pouvons offrir une specialisation en ((Etudes du
carnaval a c6te des domaines plus traditionnels en musique, th(etre et beaux-
Chacune de ces initiatives est important etant donnee la tradition de
mepris pour les beaux-arts et leur enseignement dans la Carafbe. Alors quauc'une
ne suffit pour creer un movement, ces initiatives indiqu'ent le debut d'authentiques
partenariats entire ces deux secteurs, ce qui nous donne de bonnes raisons detre
C'est donc a nous, artistes et enseignants, de definir le sujet de notre
travail, de montrer sa pertinence, de faire la preuve de notre competence et
eduquer les autres (administrateurs, autres enseignants, public) pour quils puis-
sent mieux apprecier ce que nous faisons. Telle est donc la deuxieme raison pour
organiser ce symposium.
Notre troisieme raison a ses racines dans I'utilisation que nous faisons du
terme multicultural, mot particulierement charge de sens dans des pays comme le
Surinam, le Guyana, la Trinite et Tobago ou de large secteurs de la population
appartiennent a des groups ethniques different. La reality social sous-jacente
dans ces pays n'est pas seulement simplement multi-ethnique mais metissee.
Cette verite dailleurs s'applique a un degree plus ou moins grand a ensemble de la
region des CaraTbes. Les populations africaines forces de s'adapter aux normes
culturelles europeennes ont introduit le (multiculturalisme> dans le Nouveau
Monde en tant que reality vecue. Si la culture se definit par la facon don't nous
choisissons de propager notre identity dans le temps et dans lespace, alors le
multiculturalismse ou creolisation est le facteur vital non seulement dans les
cultures africaines mais egalement dans toutes les cultures de la region des
Carafbes. c'est dailleurs pourquoi nous utilisons des mots qui nous sont chers et
proches de nous pour traduire ce processus de facon image : callalou, ((pepper-
pot >, ((pelau >, ((oil-down . Ce sont des realites du palais que nous ne discutons
pas. Mais melanger implique egalement melanger en selevant ) et nous sommes
souvent perplexes en ce qui concern la valeur du melange. Notre ((multicultural-
isme est-il une force ? Ou bien, en raisorT de ses origins liees a I'histoire d'un
avilissement, est-ce une souillure ? Est-ce une-perte de purete ? Comment ar-
rivons-nous a reconcilier les deux forces qui sont en chacun de nous en tant que
people de la Caraibe les Lraits sous lesquels nous nous voyons et nous nous
aimons en tant que Carafbeens ei le masq,ie ancestral qui refuse de rester
tranquille ? Notre multiculturalism ne nous rend-il pas simplement plus sensibles
aux cultures politiquement puissantes ? Comment influence-t-il nos arts ou
faconne-t-il notre enseignement ? Que vaut un tel debat dans un monde qui est
inebranlablement monoculturel ?
Nos institutions ne sont que vaguement sensibles, si tant est. au fait que
nous avons surmonte les desavantages de *dimension et de relative pauvrete en
accroissant notre ((territoire cultural au course des deux dernieres decennies.
Notre contact avec des cultures en dehors de la Carafbe ont pour resultats un
orchestra de reggae japonais, des communautes rastafariennes en Afrique du Sud
et en Nouvelle-Guinee ou les carnav.'s de style trinidadien allant du Mid-West des
Etats-Unis a lAustralie.
Cependant, c'est notre multiculturalism meme qui provoque a la Trinite et
Tobago des controversies les plus passionnees et souvent des debats specieux.
Les beaux-arts et I'education culturelle ont un r61e extremement important a jouer
dans la deconstructionn des prejuges et des mythes et dans le faconnage de
nouveaux modules a partir du fouillis que produit le multiculturalisme.
Des sessions ont ete organisees autour de themes qui nous permettrait de
re-visiter les bases culturelles de notre pratique : la religion, la tradition orale,
I'heritage, le paysage et les fetes communales. La langue, la literature et la
technologies, sont includes car ce sont les outils de notre pratique. Les sessions sur
la politique et le programme scolaire nous permet de nous referer a n'importe quel
aspect de lindustne de I'education de I'enseignement a la formation des enseig-
nants, a I'administration.
Nous sommes ici pour partager, soutenir, renforcer. Je fais donc appel au
veritable esprit de I'art que nous pratiquons pour qu'il inspire nos debats.
Je vous remercie de votre attention
Dedicamos este Simposio a un maravilloso educador, profesor- artist con
quien muchos que en estos moments obramos en el Caribe, estamos muy
endeudados. Nunca sabemos d6nde nos vamos a parar. En mi caso, por ejem-
plo, nunca habria imaginado poder haber Ilegado a sea lo que sea si no fuera por
la motivacion del poeta, dramaturge, artist de teatro y professor Dennis Scott (1940
1991) difunto pero siempre present. Se puede decir que Scott y la Escuela de
Drama de Jamaica son los precursores de este simposio. Fue en esa institucion
a fines de los anos 70 que el reclut6 a talentosos j6venes cariberos para que
colaboraran con el para crear una instituciOn, lo cual en si es una tremenda
oportunidad pero en realidad era para formarnos utilizando la unica forma possible
cuando se trata de para las artes: participando en el process.
Aprender haciendo o mejor dicho aprender siendo desde luego constitute
la regla principal de la formaci6n en las artes. Para nosotros hay otras diferencias
entire nuestro modo de hacer las couas siendc profesores artists y los enfoques
tradicionales de la pedagogia. Su evaluaci6n de la contribucion de cada uno de
nosotros nos enser6 que la formaci6n en las artes hace que el estudiante sea
participe de modo real y contribuya al process. Esto era possible porque Scott
respondi6 no solo al intelecto sino a otros modos de inteligencia (visuales, aurales
y kinesteticos) y a lo intuitive, que son igual validos para el siendo bailarin, actor,
poeta y core6grafo. El tener que administrar una instituci6n sin contar con
mayores fondos signific6 que habia que realzar la identification de soluciones
creativas a los retos artisticos y administrativos. Empezo a confiarse de la espon-
taniedad individual y de responsabilizarse por el product que se compare con un
pOblico, el tercer socio en el process de educaci6n en las artes. Estas carac-
teristicas Ilevan la formaci6n en las artes much mas alla del compromise con el
sal6n de clase y tambien expresan los valores bisicos de este Simposio.
Nuestro interest al hacer esta convocatoria fue la necesidad de reflejar
sobre una decada de actividades como instituci6n. Dada la naturaleza active de
la educacion en las artes, los aspects reflexives de la experiencia pueden ser
olvidados o no tomados en cuenta, lo cual perjudica la discipline. Asi, en primera
instancia, la intenci6n del Simposio fue proporcionarnos a los que estamos en el
Centro del Festival la oportunidad de detenernos para evaluar lo que hemos hecho
y hacia donde vamos. Con I. historic de una d6cada de funcionar como instituci6n
y con los 50 aniversario de la Universidad, pareci6 la forma mas apropriada de
No estoy del todo seguro que nosotros en el Centro hemos tenido la
oportunidad de detenernos para reflexionar de la forma que hubieramos querido.
Lo cierto es que necesitamos cuestionar la pregunta con mayor regularidad que en
el pasado: 6Cual ha sido el impact del trabajo que hemos desarrollado? C6mo
ha cambiado la calidad de la vida personal y social? 6Hasta que punto influye la
cultural cariberia indigena en que y como ensenamos? 6C6mo respondemos a
las realidades y presiones de la vida que confrontan las comunidades caribenas a
diario. 6C6mo mantenemos estas conecciones en las artes y en la ensehanza y
asi regenerar nuestro trabajo? Que tan integrado es nuestro curriculum? Pode-
mos, aun con todo lo que no tenemos, siempre ser mas productivos, mas em-
prendedores, mas creativos? 6C6mo desarrollamos la identidad cultural/la
confianza en todos los corrientes de la tecnologia mundial? 6Vamos a surfar la
galaxia de comunicaciones en un pirouge o el gli-gli?
El moment es oportuno ya que en el Caribe estamos participando tam-
bien en el process de la reform educativa donde las artes, no siempre por las
razones ni con la rapidez que quisieramos, estan arrastradas a esa dimension
seria Ilamada el curriculum. Un proyecto de document sobre Education and
Human Resource Development (Educaci6n y el Desarrollo de Recursos Huma-
nos) emanante de la reunion de Jefes de Gobierno de paises de CARICOM en
Jamaica 1997 recomienda que las artes dramaticas juegan un papel significativo
en la educaci6n y la formaci6n ( el Sunday Guardian el 20 de julio de 1997, p.4).
La Misica, igual que las Artes son asignaturas examinadas por el Consejo de
Examenes Cariberos y se esta preparando un curriculum para incluir modulos
sobre la cultural caribena en el silaba de los Estudios Sociales. Al tratar de
asegurar calidad de instrucci6n en las escuelas primaries y secundarias el admin-
istrador tiene que recurrir al artist professor para preguntar: 6Que podemos
hacer? Hemos recomendado el compromise con la formaci6n de especialistas en
MQsica y Drama para las escuelas. Tambien henmos disenado la formaci6n en las
Artes Integradas para las escuelas primaries y secundarias, donde se nombran
facilitadores a tiempo complete en las artes. Hasta la Universidad se ha encami-
nado en la misma direcci6n. La aprobaci6n de cursos en las artes y la cultural. Ya
no topamos con la suspicacia dinosauriana de hace diez anos. Ahora podemos
ofrecer una especialidad en Estudios de Carnaval junto con las areas mas tradi-
cionales de la Misica, Arte y Teatro.
Todos estas iniciativas son importantes a luz de la falta de importancia que
hist6ricamente podecian las artes y la pedagogia de la arte en el Caribe y aunque
ninguna se haya convertido en movimiento, senalaban el inicio de relaciones
sinceras entire los dos sectors, lo cual es motive de optimism.
Nos corresponde en nuestra capacidad de artists profesores definir lo
que es nuestro trabajo, demostrar su pertinencia, manifestar nuestra capacidad y
educarles a los demas los administradores, los demas profesores, el ptblico en
general necesitan tener un mayor aprecio de lo que hacemos. Esta es la segunda
raz6n por la cual convocamos este Simposio.
La tercera raz6n esta arraigada en nuestro uso del termino Multi Cultural,
un termino de especial significado para paises como Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad
y Tobago donde hay grandes sectors de la poblaci6n de distintos origenes
etnicos. La realidad social subyacente de estos paises no s61o es multi sino
mezclado: y esto es mas o menos cierto para el Gran Caribe. Los pueblos
africanos obligados a acomodar las normas culturales europeas introdujeron el
multiculturalism al Nuevo Mundo como una realidad vital. Si escogemos la
cultural como el vehiculo para diseminar nuestra identidad a traves del tiempo y
del espacio, el multiculturalism (creolizaci6n) ha sido el factor vital no solo en las
cultures africanas sino en todas las Caribenas. Esa es la raz6n por la cual
utilizamos terminos con los cuales nos relacionamos y nos son queridos para
simbolizar el process, por ejemplo calaloo, pepperpot, pelau, oil down. Estas son
las realidades del paladar que no cuestionamos. Mezclar tambien implica con-
fundir y a menudo nos confunde el valor de la mezcla. Nuestro multiculturalism
6es una fuerza o una mancha? dada la histona de degradacion. 6Significa una
perdida de pureza? ,C6mo reconciliamos los dos impulses en cada uno de
nosotros del pueblo Caribero la cara a traves de la cual nos contemplamos y nos
amamos como gente del Caribe y la mascara ancestral que no descansa? Nues-
tro multi-culturalismo nos hace mas susceptibles a las cultures political
poderosas? 6C6mo influencia nuestras artes o disenio lo que ensehiamos? ,Que
importancia tiene esta polemica en un mundo que es decididamente cultural?
Nuestras instituciones en la region solo reaccionan debilmente si acaso
hemos superado las desventajas de tamaro y pobreza relative para incrementar
nuestro territorio cultural a traves de las dos ultimas decadas. Nuestro contact
con las cultures extra-caribenas ha tenido resultado en el grupo japones de
Reggae, las comunidades rastafarianas de la Africa del Sur y Nuevo Guinea o los
Carnaval al estilo de Trinidad, desde el medio occidente de los Estados Unidos
Sin embargo, es nuestro multiculturalism que genera las controversial
mas alteradas en nuestros debates, a menudo sin fundamento. Las artes y la
educacion cultural tienen un rol critic a desempeharse en la deconstrucci6n del
prejuicio y el mito y en el diseno de nuevos models del marasma asociada con el
Hemos organizado panels sobre mas que nos permitiran revisitar nues-
tros raices culturales la Religi6n, la Tradici6n Oral, el Patrimonio Cultural, el
Paisaje y los Festivales. La lengua, la literature y la technologia son incluidos
como herramientos de nuestra actividad y los panels sobre el Curriculum y la
Political nos permiten reflexionar sobre cualquier aspect de la industrial educativa
desde la ensenanza hasta la formac.on del professor y la administraci6n.
Estamos aqui para compartir, apoyar y fortalecer. Apelo al mismo espiritu
de las artes para alimentar este simposio.
Keynote Address : The Caribbean Artist's Presence and
Education for the Third Millennium
We in the Caribbean have more artists per square inch than is probably
good for us. It is an affliction we should however welcome since that presence
speaks to some fundamentals about our history and existential reality and contin-
ues to inform the fact of our survival and beyond in a society that still finds strength
in struggle and in resistance to the systemic oppressiveness of a lopsided social
order founded on the dehumanization of the majority of its tenants starting with
chattel slavery, followed by indentureship and persisting in the alienation and
marginalization of the majority within a lopsided enterprise and outside of it in the
so-callled globalisation of a world economy. This new dispensation perpetuates
economic dependency on the part of the two-thirds world and reinforces the mental
slavery, which Garvey spoke about as far back as 1937 and which the great reggae
artist Bob Marley echoed in what must be one of the most powerful couplets that is
often cited as reminder of our responsibility to self and society.
The economists notwithstanding, it is the artist who has plumbed the
depths of our anguish and our possibilities, producing words and music, movement
and myths, syntax and satire. With these had come hard cash or precious foreign
exchange to the monetarists and bottom-line advocates who are yet to view them
as productive variables in the development equation rather than self-indulgent
exercises that cannot contribute to the per capital income, the GNP and the GDP.
Where heritage tourism has entered the development planning of bureau-
crats and political leaders, the products from the creative imagination of our popular
artists (calypsonians and reggae composers), of our festival arts (especially Carni-
val, Goombay-jonkonnu, Carifesta, Crop-over, Reggae Sumfest) and of individual
artists of world renown (as in nobel laureates and pop music superstars) are at last
being taken seriously.
All this must be music to the ears of a people who have had to cultivate
inner landscapes of creative action and innate structures manifest in language,
religion, artistic creation forged in the crucible of resistance to oppression and all
that would deprive one of one's personhood and the contradictory omens of a
society that is in constant flow having us all jumping from one foot to the other
knowing that we can stand on neither.
This Conference hosted by the University of the West Indies could not
have come at a better time. It comes at end of century when Planet Earth needs
the lessons which our artists (individual and collective) have taught for the journey
into the new millennium.
For nothing short of an expansiveness of thought embracing a new vision
of a groping rainbow world, a new sense of self and new ways of knowing to
underpin new ways of living, can guarantee us safe conduct. The significance of
the Presence in our midst of the Derek Walcotts, the George Lammings, the Earl
Lovelaces, the Vidia Naipauls, the Kamau Brathwaites, the Lorna Goodisons and
the Martin Carters, the Mighty Sparrows, Lord Kicheners, Chalkdusts, David Rud-
ders and Peter Minshalls, the Bob Marleys, the Jimmy Cliffs, the Peter Toshes and
the myriad of dance-hall legatees, the Beryl McBurnies and Ivy Baxters, the Pat
Bishops and Desperadoses, the Presence of all such treasured ones among us
rests precisely on the seminal contribution they have made and are making to the
quest, in the words of Sir Phillip Sherlock, "for richer forms of collective self-knowl-
That someone like Derek Walcott, Nobel Laureate, playwright., essayist,
painter, Caribbean man from St Lucia, man of wicked wit and perceptive eye is a
major contributor to this now global quest is impatient of debate ... a fact that should
not elude any Commonwealth Caribbean youth in acquiring an education from
primary school to university. He defines history, it is said, not as records of
monuments and empires in habitual celebration of domination and the humiliation
of large hordes of humanity but rather as a "self-redeeming, self-accepting story of
one's person, culture and of one's ultimate significance in the order of things".
What an excellent mission-statement for the planners and deliverers of education
to the generation that will inherit the 21 st century!
The significance of the Presence of the artistic genius of Walcott and
others at self-perceiving resides in the constant reminder, by his words and works,
of the richness of our turbulence, the creativity in our chaos, the priceless elements
of a deep knowledge and deeper understanding of our history and lived reality -
the irreducible kernel of our humanity.
The Nobel Prize which Walcott won in 1992 predictably brought pride and
joy to all our Caribbean hearts; but it is the inner strength and lasting impact of the
artist's poetic vision that survive the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the
crowd. Long after the national anthems have been played, the jump-up has ended
and the applause dies down, the man and his vision live on in the significance of a
compelling enduring Presence.
That Presence like that of all other great creative artists among us, contin-
ues to celebrate the individual and collective creative will of the Caribbean people.
It continues to eke out of their complex, hopeful yet despairing, caring yet wearying,
challenging yet frustrating existence, products of artistic excellence, habits of
tolerance and delicately balanced sensibilities. The Presence rates character over
skin in the effort to shape civil society made habitable for all who treasure the great
freedoms that underpin the fragmented, tortured progress of his Antillean kith and
It is that Presence of the creative artist and of kindred sousl who exercise
their creative imagination and intellect that will enable what was once Africa's,
Asia's and Europe's encounters on foreign soil to further forge in the crucible of the
Caribbean heritage, a viable plural society where people will live not just live side
by side but together. For that Caribbean heritage has been long given to racial
tolerance, (however flawed), to freedom (for which slaves fought so relentlessly in
ways not totally alien to contemporary artists) and to a creative ecumenism in
maintaining the integrity of differing belief systems, making the Caribbean Basin
into a vibrant laboratory of explorations in spirituality as it has been in the crafting
of Creole languages. For these religions and linguistic expressions are quite
powerful manifestations of the "newness" of cross-fertilised souls following on the
now historic contacts since 1492.
It is largely through the arts that we have come to understand the dynamics
of these 500 years of becoming, producing in all of the Americas (including our own
Caribbean) genuinely "new peoples" and a new sense and sensibility of sufficient
substance and uniqueness to make a difference in the development of humankind.
The Nobel Prize for Literature to a West Indian may well serve as a wake-up call to
Planet Earth to heed the significance of the reality of a part of the world once felt to
be tenanted by "non-people" but which is capable of unlocking great truths about
the human condition. It does this through the exercise of its creativity in the
crossroads of a global village which the Americas in general and the Caribbean in
particular have always been, and which a so-called "globalized" world of the 21 st
century is on the way to becoming. If we, indeed, heed the best among our artists,
we are not likely to go wrong in coping with the 21 st century, when it finally blooms
full-flowered. The plant is, indeed, already with us.
What the world of the fading 20th and the dawning 21st century must now
come to terms with, is that the idea of a "New World" starting in 1492 is, firstly,
a-historical for Native Americans (themselves admittedly changed through sus-
tained contact with alien cultures); is, secondly, particularly disturbing for people of
African ancestry whose centrality to the shaping of the Caribbean ethos is still
denied; and thirdly, is far too Eurocentric and mono-cultural for the comfort of
persons who may be part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part-Native American
but totally Caribbean. lie best among our artists, by definition, have no problem
with being the creatures of all their ancestors the textured, complex, concentrated,
offspring of the willful accidents of modem history. That this reality endows the
likes of us with a unique knowledge of the crafting of a new sensibility, not out of
some void as in the Book of Genesis but out of the disparate elements of differing
cultures, is cause for celebration rather than for self-negation, self-contempt or
It is that celebration of self that marks, as well, the significance of the
artist's Presence in this region. The celebration is by no means self-indulgent.
That abiding sense of history and an uncanny realisation reflecting the inate
wisdom of the people from below permeates, indeed, all that emanates from the
artist's creative imagination.
He/She acknowledges the vulnerability of the "tribe in bondage" but recog-
nises that freedom lies in the knowledge of said tribe "to fortify itself by cunning
assimilation of the religion of the Old World" so that what seems to be "surrender"
turns out to be redemption what seems the threat of a "loss of tradition" becomes
a "renewal" to tradition, and what may appear to be the "death of faith" turns out to
be its "rebirth." It is a powerful expression of the Caribbean's modes of survival and
beyond through the invocation of hope in the midst of despair the capacity to
transform liabilities into assets or as a Jamaican proverb sagaciously puts it "what
spwile mek style..."
This dialectic of hope-in-despair runs through the popular literature and
other artistic expressions of our Caribbean people. The reggae artists and the
calypsonians demonstrate this in their lyrics; and the collective wisdom of the oral
literature that is our traditional proverbs and stories speaks to this ancestral
capacity for survival..... and beyond.
The artist's Presence up and down the archipelago signifies this capacity
for such invincibility against all odds. Surrender is indeed transformed into re-
demption, potential loss into renewal, death into rebirth.
How many of our planners are endowed with such perception and, as the
Rastafarians say, 'overstanding'? The appeal to a sense of self does not in any way
mean for the artist a thoughtless rejection of the wisdom of ages or the intrinsic
worth of the Other, least of all for an artist like Walcott who admits to his perennial
apprenticeship in the presence of "masters" and his willingness to "steal" from the
treasuries of excellence wherever they are to be found, and not least from his own
richly interlaced Caribbean past.
But despite the myriad influences via the colonial conditioning of yester-
year and cultural penetration in these electronic times, the human being is able to
retain a capacity for self-reflection and self-realization. An earlier group of Carib-
bean political visionaries and educators understood this in terms of self-govern-
ment and Independence. A clear danger is that many of their successors are now
in danger of losing a hold of our sovereignty and of the conviction that the likes of
us can be the creators of our own destiny and must be if Caribbean people are to
give real meaning to the trappings of political independence decked out in national
flags, anthems and national symbols In building new nations many have under-
stood the significance of the artistic cultural presence not as manifestation of our
capacity to "be happy" in a state of primitive innocence but as the source of energy
for sustaining civilisation and our humanity.
That sense of self must be manifested in our capacity to distinguish
through our actions what in us is autonomous from what is determined. Contrary,
to still commonly held beliefs, the writing of poetry, the composition of a piece of
music, the creation of a play, the painting of pictures and so on are all forms of
action and not modes of escape from reality. They are valid routes to cognition
which the educational system ignores at our peril.
For every true artist understands the tension that exists between becoming
"self' and having that self as part of a wider whole. All art is, after all, mediated by
social reality and the self has to reach out as well as in, if it is to appreciate the
world. I have elsewhere spoken to the inward-stretch-and-outward-reach phe-
nomenon as a route to Caribbean wholeness. There can be no self-indulgence at
the expense of that sense of community so essential to the realization of that very
self. Walcott, himself a master in the very personal art of poetry, is also playwright
engaged in that intensely communal art of theatre in which he has participated as
director as well. He knows that self-absorption can be very counter-productive.
The self is multi-dimensional in our pluralist Caribbean, is multi-faceted in our
multi-layered, multi-sourced society.
We in the Caribbean know, and the artist reminds us by his/her Presence,
that there is no place for a kind of "spiritual geography which would chart an internal
versus an external world" as someone has put it. By living within the ambit of
interactive spaces, one is likely to have a "rounder understanding of something that
is [admittedly] essentially elusive" in other words, the acts of discovery of a
stabilized self-finding place and purpose in a complex, contrary, chaotic, schizo-
phrenic and unruly world. The ordinary Caribbean man and woman have an
uncanny feel for the challenge. From among them have come expressions from
icons like Lamming and Kamau Brathwaite in celebration of this, after all; and the
Presence of the artist signifies the sustaining value of all this in our unending quest
for self and society. Walcott warned against Carifestas becoming self-indulgent
happenstances rather than milestones on a vigorous continuing journey to self-dis-
covery, self-definition and a sustained exercise of the creative imagination in place
of intermittent outbursts of revelry. He believes that such outbursts may not be
lifegiving despite the ecstasy of instant gratification. The need is clearly for sus-
trained application to this most fundamental of developmental pursuits on the part of
governments and populace alike.
A further significance of the Caribbean artistic Presence and that of all of
likemind and genius turns on what may be seen as a further warning against the
adoption and promotion of touristic culture under the guise of serious cultural policy
in a region where tourism has become a major foreign exchange eamer -traditional
exports having fallen victim to globalization, neo-liberal market economics and the
realigned power of the North Atlantic manifested in multilaterals, new trading blocs,
military complexes, and transnational corporations.
Cultural tourism which is the proper name given it by UNESCO is harmless
enough, conceptually speaking; but in practice it is not necessarily so. Many a
Caribbean artist shares the view that our inheritance (collective and individual) is a
key aspect of our sense of self. It must, therefore, enjoy logical priority over the
satisfaction of others in search of surface titillation though there should be a
willingness to share that inheritance which will have been passed down from
generation to generation and organically assimilated by that self. What better
approach than to nurture one's culture for oneself and welcome our guests in to
share it with us?
The alternative is a peddling of heritage which having been manufactured,
must be packaged, advertised and constantly adapted to the changing tastes of the
consumers. The implications are far-reaching for National Trusts, Tourist Boards
and Hotel and Tourist Associations which are tempted to merchandise the heritage
often at the expense of the inheritance of a people's genuine myths, national
heroes, native names for native items of nature, and life traditions.
The Caribbean artist is rightly jealous of the integrity of the inheritance and
of the aristocracy of spirit that abounds in the relations among people and between
people and their natural landscape. 'Heritage tourism,' however tempting for those
concerned with the bottom-line, must eschew minstrelsy and keep the consuming
visitor aware of the existence in these islands of heart, soul, spirit and mind
independent of sun, sand and sea.
For the stereotype persists among many a consumer that, as Walcott told
his Nobel Prize audience in Stockholm, "a culture based on joy is bound to be
shallow". Sadly, rued the laureate, "to sell itself, the Caribbean encourages the
delights of mindlessness, of brilliant vacuity, as a place to flee not only winter but
that seriouSness that comes only out of a culture with four seasons. So how can
there be a people there, in the true sense of the word?" he asks.
Necessity here becomes the mother of a sorry sort of prostitution poetically
described by Walcott in that same acceptance speech at the Nobel Prize cere-
mony, as "the seasonal erosion of [our] identity, that high-pitched repetition of the
same images of services that cannot distinguish one island from the other, with a
future of polluted marinas, land deals negotiated by ministers, and all of this
conducted to the music of Happy Hour and the rictus of a smile".
The wider implications for art and culture in the development process is
therefore far less removed from the "action" of artists than first meets the eye. It is
now universally recognized that the importance of culture to development has to do
with the enhancement of the social capital, the sustaining of an ambience of civility
(and civilisation) based on the intellectual and cultural bedrock of any social
aggregation whether it be tribe, nation or region. On his own account Walcott
tuned, as a young undergraduate at the University of the West Indies (Mona), into
this understanding which he found to be evident in Jamaica in the 'Fifties with its
honeycomb of community organizations in communion with the creative arts em-
braced by founding fathers at the time. He was to make the entire region his arena
of action fanning out from St Lucia to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago going still
far wider afield into the Americas. He was to further encompass the globe, a
consciousness of which he had always had through that very colonial conditioning
which he transformed into redemption and means of self-discovery, self-asserting
without rancour and creating and inventing even as he broke images an approach
ignored by later "revolutionaries" who chose to ignore this tried and tested "Carib-
bean" modality of self-liberation.
It further exposed him, as it did all of his generation who received an
education, to antiquity and that meeting point of cultures in the Mediterranean
which gave to humanity not only Greece and Rome (to be hijacked by those who
were to feel they had a monopoly on civilisationn') but also Egypt and the great
monotheistic religions, thought systems and value-configurations of the Orient.
Omeros, a Walcottian masterpiece, may well be, speaking to the inheritance from
that cross-roads civilisation tenanted by kindred spirits of old. For aren't we the
creatures of that special creolizing process of becoming? An understanding of
such civilizations is not possible without knowing the cultural context in which they
The invocation of cultural values as part of the repertoire of modalities in
the service of Caribbean survival-and-beyond has been insisted on in large meas-
ure by our creative artists rather than by our economic planners and development
gurus. And we have been the richer for it! The idea that activity involving the
exercise of the creative intellect and creative imagination being "non-productive"
has long informed the texts of Annual Economic Reports throughout the region
despite the evidence of income generation and employment-enhancement (albeit
seasonally) arising from the activities of reggae artists and carnival revellers.
The Presence of the artist (from Walcott through Kamau Brathwaite, Sa-
muel Selvon and George Lamming to Bob Marley and Sparrow) challenges the
Caribbean to a greater awareness of the creative potential of self and society
without which "development" is well nigh impossible. The alleviation of poverty the
current buzz-phrase of the development school could well begin with the alleviation
of the poverty of spirit that breeds a coarsenea sensibility and saddles entire
populations with a paralysis of any will to innovate and think through problems
For development, argues a 1995 Unesco Report on Culture and Develop-
ment, "embraces not only access to goods and services, but also the opportunity to
choose a full, satisfying, valuable and valued way of living together, the flourishing
of human existence in all its forms and as a whole." Development entails material
improvement but no less so spiritual upliftment which is more than super-structure
Our artists understand why ones like themselves who include Lamming's
"people from below" and Norman Manley's "the real people" have been able to
achieve, because of their capacity to create. "History and elemental awe are
always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry [and maybe all that is art] is
to fall in love with the world, in spite of History"
"There is a form of exultation" declares Walcott, "a celebration of luck,
when a writer finds himself a witness to the early morning of a culture that is
defining itself, branch by branch, leaf by leaf, in that self-defining dawn, which is
why, especially at the edge of the sea, it is good to make a ritual of the sunrise.
Then the noun, the "Antilles" ripples like brightening water, and the sounds of
leaves, palm fronds, and birds are the sounds of a fresh dialect, the native tongue.
The personal vocabulary, the individual melody, whose metre is one's biography,
joins in that sound, with any luck, and the body moves like a walking, a walking
Despite all that I have said, the neglect of culture as integral to education
persists among many in the public bureaucracy and even in the teaching profes-
sion throughout the Caribbean. But a child learns the meaning of process and is
better able to relate outcome to effort, if he/she is encouraged to create a poem or
a song, act in a play, make up a dance, sing in a choir or play an instrument in an
orchestra (including the steelpan and the drum) as a normal part of his/her educa-
The discipline that underpins the mastery of a craft through which all art
finds expression, the demands made on continuous re-creation of effort and
application, the challenges encountered on the journey to excellence, habits of
realistic self-evaluation, the capacity for dealing with diversity and the dilemma of
difference, whether in the performing arts or in the key branches of sports, them-
selves for me part of the performing arts, constitute excellent preparation for
learning to be (which is the stuff of ontology), learning to know (the substance of
epistemology), and leading to live together (the essence of the creative diversity
which characterises Caribbean existence and is about to overtake the entire world).
Education's role must not only teach people to make a living, it must also teach
them how to live.
Adaptability, flexibility, ready code-switching, innovativeness and a capac-
ity to deal with the complexity of complexity, are all attributes of the creative
imagination which provide yet another route to cognition other than the Cartesian
rationalism we have inherited. For if we are because we think, we also exist
because we feel.
The strengthening of bonds between education and the community and
both with culture makes eminent sense for it speaks to the basics of civil society
rooted in trust, mutual respect, the harnessing of collective will and a fostering of
that sense of fellowship without which sociability and the capacity to join forces to
achieve greater ends for the good of all cannot be attained.
An education which does not inculcate and foster this, is not likely to be of
much use, however brilliant one might be on the computer or is able to collect an
abundance of '0' and 'A' levels in the examination system.
The giving of self through coordinated social action is possible only when
we are able to discover and to keep re-discovering who we really are, how our lives
have been forged from that textured history of the past half a millennium and how
our place is determined in the world a complex, mosaic of a groping world, itself
in search of certitude and ways of coming to terms with the physical environment
long despoiled and much degraded.
As I have had reason to say repeatedly to governments, teachers and the
institutions of learning they are the "major contributors to, and principal facilitators
of, the cultivation of that kingdom of the mind capable of interdisciplinary contem-
plation, with rank shoots of creativity sprouting from the exercise of both intellect
and imagination, and these in turn working in tandem to produce a self-reliant,
self-respecting, tolerant more fully peaceful and far less violence-prone, enterpris-
ing and productive community of souls." Such a community is in turn strategically
placed at a point of the compass that is education, charting the course round the
cycle of civilization which is the cycle of creativity.
The task for artists and educators in all this is self-evident though awe-
some, frightening, challenging and, for someone like myself, irritatingly satisfying.
Discours liminaire : La Presence de I'artiste antillais et
I'education au troisieme millionaire
Nous, dans les Caraibes, nous avons plus d'artistes au metrecarre qu'il
nous en faut peut-etre. C'est une affliction don't nous devrions pourtant nous
rejouir puisque cette presence revele quelques faits fondamentaux sur notre his-
toire et notre reality existentielle. Elle continue d'informer sur le fait de notre survive,
et au-dela, dans une society qui trouve encore sa force dans la lutte et la resistance
t la tyrannie systemique d'un ordre social inegal. Un ordre, base sur la deshuman-
isation de la majority de ses membres d'abord par I'esclavage, puis par la pratique
du travail sous contract. Un ordre qui persiste a aliener et marginaliser cette
majority au sein d'une entreprise inegale et, a lexterieur de cette derniere, dans la
soi-disant globalisation de leconomie mondiale. Ce nouveau regime perpetue la
dependance economique des deux tiers du monde et enforce I'esclavage mental
don't parlait Garvey des 1937. Esclavage mental dont Bob Marley, le grand artiste
du reggae, sest fait I echo dans ce qui doit etre un des couplets les plus puissants,
souvent cite pour nous rappeler notre responsabilite envers nous-memes et envers
En depit des economistes,c'est I'artiste qui touche le fond de notre ango-
isse et de nos potentiels, en produisant les mots et la musique, le movement et
les mythes, la syntaxe et la satire. Grace a eux, I'argent ou les precieuses devises
etrangeres ont afflue dans les caisses des monetaristes et partisans des resultats
financiers, don't on attend encore quils les considerent comme des variables de
production dans leur equation de developpement et non pas comme des activities
de complaisance qui ne sauraient contribuer au revenue per capital et au PNB.
Dans les pays ou le tourism cultural est maintenant pris en compete dans
les plans de developpement des fonctionnaires et des dirigeants politiques, sont
enfin pris au serieux les products nes de I'imagination creatrice de nos artistes
populaires (compositeurs de calypso et de reggae), de nos arts (plus particuliere-
ment le Carnaval, le Goombay-jonkonnu, Carifesta, le festival de Fin de recolte de
la canne, Reggae Sumfest), et de nos artistes de renommee international
(comme nos laureats du prix Nobel et les superstars de la musique Pop).
Tout cela doit sans doute resonner agreablement aux oreilles d'un people
qui a dQ cultiver les paysages interieurs de I'action creatrice et des structures
innees, manifestes dans le language, la religion et la creation artistique forgee dans
le creuset de la resistance a I'oppression et a tout ce qui priverait quelquun de
I'integrite de sa personnel, ainsi qu'aux presages contradictoires d'une society qui
narrete pas devoluer et qui nous fait tous sauter d'un pied sur I'autre en sachant
que nous ne pouvons nous tenir debout ni sur I'un, ni sur I'autre.
L'organisation de cette conference a I'Universite des West Indies n'aurait
pu tomber a un meilleur moment. Elle arrive a la fin du siecle, a un moment ou la
planete Terre a besoin des lemons que donnent nos artistes (individus ou groups)
pour le voyage dans le troisieme millionaire.
Seule une ouverture de pensee embrassant la vision nouvelle d'un monde
multicolore et avancant a I'aveuglette, une nouvelle perception de soi et de nou-
veaux modes de connaissance pour etayer de nouvelles fagons de vivre, peut
nous garantir un sauf-conduit. La presence parmi nous des Derek Walcott, George
Lamming, Earl Lovelace, Vidia Naipaul, Kamau Brathwaite, Lorna Goodison, Mar-
tin Carter, Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kichener, Chalkdust, David Rudder, Peter Min-
shall, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, la myriade des legataires du
Raggamuffin, les Beryl McBurny, Ivy Baxter, Pat Bishop et les Desesperados, la
presence de tous ces etres chers parmi nous repose precisement sur leur impor-
tante contribution passee et present a la quete de formes plus riches de
connaissance collective de soi >), pour employer I'expression de Sir Philip Sherlock.
S'il y a un fait qui attend impatiemment quon en discute, c'est que
quelq'uun comme Derek Walcott, prix Nobel de literature, dramaturge, peintre et
essayiste, antillais originaire de Sainte-Lucie, homme a I'humour corrosif et au
regard perspicace, apporte une important contribution a cette quete aujourdhui
mondiale... c'est un fait qui ne devrait echapper a aucun jeune du Commonwealth
des Carafbes au course de ses etudes, de lecole primaire a l'universite. Walcott
definite I'histoire, dit-on, non pas comme I'arch'ivage des monuments et des empires
en vue de commemorer, comme c'est I'habitude, la domination et I'humiliation
d'une grande parties de I'humanite, mais plutbt comme (l'histoire de la rehabilitation
et de I'acceptation de soi par soi-meme, de sa culture et de son importance
fondamentale dans I'ordre des choses >. N'es:-ce pas une excellent declaration
d'intention que devraient faire les planificateurs et les enseignants responsables de
education a la generation qui heritera du vingt-et-unieme siecle.
L'importance de la presence du genie artistique de Walcott et d'autres a
sauto-percevoir reside dans le rappel permanent, par leurs mots et leurs ouvrages,
de la richesse de notre turbulence, de la valeur creative de notre chaos, des
elements hors de prix d'une connaissance approfondie et d'une comprehension
encore plus profonde de notre histoire et de notre reality vecue, c'est-a-dire du
coeur irreductible de notre humanity
Comme c'etait a prevoir, le prix Nobel recu par Derek Walcott en 1992
nous a rempli le coeur de joie et de fierte, a nous de la Caraibe. Cependant, c'est
la force interieure et la duree de I'impression laissee par la vision poetique de
lartiste qui survit a I'eclat du maquillage et a I'odeur de la foule. Bien apres que les
hymnes nationaux et les applaudissements se sont tus et que la fete est finie,
I'homme et sa vision continent de vivre dans la signification d'une presence
envoOtante et durable.
Cette presence, tout comme celle des autres grands artistes presents
parmi nous, continue de celebrer la volonte creatrice, individuelle et collective, du
people caraibeen. Elle continue de rassembler petit a petit des products artistiques
de haute quality, des habitudes de tolerance et des sensibilities equilibrees avec
delicatesse a partir de son existence complex, optimiste et pourtant desesperee,
chaleureuse et pourtant agacante, stimulante mais frustrante. Cette presence
place le caractere au-dessus de la peau en vue de faconner une society civil
habitable pour tous ceux qui sont tries attaches aux grandes liberties qui soutien-
nent le progress fragment et torture de ses parents et amis de la Caraibe.
C'est cette presence de I'artiste createur et dames sceurs qui font travailler
leur imagination creatrice et leur esprit, qui permettra que ce qui etait la rencontre
de I'Afrique, I'Europe et I'Asie sur un sol stranger parvienne a forger dans le creuset
de I'heritage caraibeen, une society plurielle viable,oi~ les gens ne se vivent pas
simplement les uns a cote des autres mais ensemble. En effet, ce patrimoine
caraibeen a toujours ete enclin a la tolerance racial (malgre ses imperfections), i
la liberty (pour laquelle les esclaves se sont battus avec acharnement en utilisant
des methods qui ne sont pas sans rappeler celle des artistes contemporains) et a
un oecumenisme creatif, en conservant I'integrite de differences confessions re-
ligieuses, faisant ainsi du Bassin des Caraibes un laboratoire vibrant d'exploration
spirituelle tout comme il la fait pour la creation des langues creoles. Ces religions
et ces expressions linguistiques sont des manifestations particulierement puissan-
tes de la onouveaut6e des ames nees du croisement des cultures et poursuivant
les contacts aujourdhui historiques depuis 1492.
C'est en grande parties a travers les arts que nous arrivons a comprendre
la dynamique de ces cinq cents ans de gestation produisant veritablement des
((peuples nouveaux)) dans toutes les Ameriques (notre region des Caraibes com-
prise). Elle a produit egalement un nouveau bon sens et une sensibility nouvelle
qui ont une consistance et une particularity suffisante pour faire une difference
dans le developpement de I'humanite. L'attribution du prix Nobel de la paix a un
Antillais anglophone pourrait bien servir de sonnerie d'alarme a la planete Terre
pour quelle fasse bien attention a limportande de la realite d'une parties du monde
que Ion considerait autrefois habitee par des () mais qui est capa-
ble de devoiler de grandes verites sur la condition humaine. Elle le fait grace a
I'exercice de sa creativity au carrefour du village mondial que les Ameriques en
general, et les Caraibes en particulier, ont toujours ete. Village mondial que le
monde soi-disant (globalise>> du vingt-et-unieme siecle est en train de devenir.
Effectivement, si nous faisons bien attention a nos meilleurs artistes, nous ne
risquons pas de nous tromper en faisant face au vingt-et-unieme siecle lorsqu'il
aura atteint sa pleine floraison. La plante est, a vrai dire, deja parmi nous.
Ce que le monde du vingtieme siecle finissant et du vingt-et-unieme siecle
naissant doit aujourdhui accepter, c'est lidee que le ((Nouveau Monde , com-
mence en 1492 est tout d'abord historiquement fausse pour les autochtones
d'Amerique (eux-memes, il faut le reconnaitre, ayant change par suite de contacts
prolonges avec des cultures etrangeres). Deuxiemement, elle est particulierement
perturbante pour les populations dorigine africaine don't on nie encore quelles
soient au centre de la formation de la philosophies caraibeenne. Et troisiemement,
elle est trop europeocentrique et monoculturelle pour satisfaire ceux qui pourraient
etre partiellement Africains, Europeens, Asiatiques et Amerindiens mais entiere-
ment Caraibeens. Par definition, nos meilleurs artistes n'ont aucun problem a
etre le produit de tous leurs ance't-es, la procgniture complex, concentree,
melangee, nee des accidents deliberes de I'histoire moderne. Qu'une telle reality
nous accord une connaissance exceptionnelle de I'art de creer une nouvelle
sensibility, non pas a partir du neant comme dans La Genese, mais a partir des
elements disparates de plusieurs cultures, est une raison de celebration plut6t que
dauto-negation, de mepris ou de doute de soi.
c'est cette celebration de soi qui marque egalement 'limportance de la
Presence de I'artiste dans cette region. Cette celebration n'est en aucun cas
complaisante. Ce sens permanent de I'histoire et cette strange prise de con-
science qui reflete la sagesse innee des peuples domines, impregne, en effet, tout
ce qui emane de I'imagination creatrice de lartiste.
II ou elle admet la vulnerability de (la tribu asservie)) mais reconnait que la
liberty repose sur la science de ladite tribu a se fortifier grace a une assimilation
astucieuse de la religion de I'Ancien Monde de telle sorte que ce qui semble etre
une (( capitulation )> se revele etre une redemption, ce qui ressemblait a la menace
d'une (( perte de la tradition devient un "( renouvellement de cette derniere, et
ce qui pouvait paraitre la mortrt de la foi se revele sa (( renaissance )>. c'est une
puissante expression des modes de survive de la Caraibe et au-dela, grace a
I'invocation de I'espoir au milieu du desespoir, la capacity de transformer son passif
en actif ou comme le dit avec sagacite un proverbe jamaTquain, ((what spwile mek
style... (faire du neuf avec du vieux)
La dialectique de 'lespoir-au-coeur-du-desespoir circule dans la literature
populaire et dans d'autres formes depression artistique de nos peuples de la
Carafbe. Les artistes de reggae et les chanteurs de calypso en font la preuve dans
les paroles de leurs chansons. De meme, la sagesse collective de notre literature
orale que sont nos proverbes traditionnels et nos histoires, temoignent de cette
capacity anc'estrale de.survie... et bien plus..
La Presence del'artiste du nord au sud de I'archpel indique cette capacity
de telle invincibility envers et contre tout. La capitulation s'est vraiment transfor-
mee en redemption, la perte potentielle en renouvellement, la mort en renaissance.
Combien de nos planificateurs sont-ils dotes d'une telle perception et,
comme le disent les Rastafariens, overstanding >, c'est-6-dire de la faculty de
comprendre ? Faire appel a un sentiment de soi ne signifie en aucun cas pour
I'artiste, un rejet inconsidere de la sagesse millionaire ou de la valeur intrinseque de
I'Autre. Ceci est encore plus vrai d'un artiste comme Walcott qui reconnait son
apprentissage eternel aupres de ses ((maitres)> et avoue etre pret a ((voler ,
partout ou ils se trouvent, les tresors d'excellence, et en tout premier lieu, de son
propre passe caraibeen si richement entremele.
Malgre les myriades d'influences rescues par le conditionnement colonial
dantan et par I'invasion culturelle de I'ere electronique actuelle, I'etre human est
cependant capable de conserver la capacity d'auto-reflexion et d'auto-realisation.
Un premier group de visionnaires politiques et deducateurs caraibeens lavaient
compris en terms d'autonomie gouvernementale et d'independance. II y a un
danger evident que leurs successeurs risquent aujourdhui de perdre le controle de
notre souverainete et de la conviction que ceux de notre espece peuvent et doivent
etre les createurs de leur propre destinee si nous voulons que les peuples de la
Caraibe puissent donner un vrai sens aux accessoires de I'independance politique
affiches dans les drapeaux, les hymnes et autres symbols nationaux. En con-
struisant ces nouvelles nations, plusieurs ont compris importance de la presence
artistique et culturelle, non pas comme une manifestation de notre capacity a ((etre
heureux dans un etat d'innocence primitive, mais comme la source de I'energie
entretenant la civilisation et notre humanity.
Ce sentiment de soi doit se manifester dans notre capacity a distinguer
dans nos actions ce qui autonome de ce qui est determine en nous. Contrairement
aux idees generalement rescues, ecrire de la poesie, composer un morceau de
musique, creer une piece de theatre, faire de la peinture, etc., tout cela est une
forme action et nbn pas des modes devasion de la reality. Ce sont des voies
valables vers la connaissance, que le system educatif ignore a nos risques et
En effet, tout artiste veritable comprend la tension qui existe entire devenir
"soi-meme > et etre une parties d'un plus grand ensemble. La reality social, apres
tout, sert de mediateur a tout art et le moi doit chercher a atteindre I'exterieur aussi
bien que I'interieur, sil veut pouvoir apprecier le monde. Jai parle ailleurs du
phenomene detirement-interieur-et-de-visee-exterieure comme une voie vers I'in-
tegralite de la personnel caraibeenne. II ne s'aurait y avoir de complaisance envers
soi-meme au detriment de ce sens communautaire si essential pour la realisation
de soi-meme. Walcott qui est lui-meme un maitre dans I'art si personnel de la
poesie, est egalement un dramaturge et metteur en scene, engage dans cet art si
intensement collectif quest le theatre. II salt donc que I'egocentrisme peut aller a
lencontre des effects recherches. Dans notre society caraibeenne, aux textures
variees et aux sources multiples, le moi est pluri-dimensionnel et present de
Dans la Caratbe, nous savons, nous, et I'artiste nous le rappelle par sa
presence, qu'il ny a pas de place pour une espece de geographicie spirituelle qui
etablirait une carte d'un monde interieur oppose a un monde exterieur , comme la
dit quelqu'un. En vivant dans le champ despaces interactifs, on aura probablement
((une comprehension plus complete de ce qui est, il faut le reconnaitre, essentielle-
ment evasif >, autrement dit, les actes en vue de decouvrir par soi-meme sa place
stabilisee et son but dans un monde complex, contraire, chaotique, schizo-
phrenique et indiscipline. L'nomme et la femme de la rue ont un sens mysterieux
de ce defi, dans la CaraTbe. c'est deux que soi't venues des expressions reprises
par des ic6nes comme Lamming and Kamau Brathwaite en vue de celebrer cela
apres tout. La presence de I'artiste indique donc la valeur de tout cela dans notre
quete interminable de notre moi et de notre society. Walcott a mis en garde centre
le risque de voir les editions de Canfesta devenir des phenomenes complaisants
de hasard plutbt que des tapes importantes sur la route d'un voyage continue et
energique vers la decouverte et la definition de soi ainsi qu'un exercise soutenu de
I'imagination creatrice au lieu de festivities a explosions intermittentes. II croit que
de telles explosions ne sont pas productive malgre lextase de la satisfaction
immediate. II est evident qu'il faut une assiduite continue de la part des gouverne-
ments et du people pour la plus fondamentale de ces quotes en developpement.
Une signification supplementaire de la presence artistique caraibeenne et
de celle de tous ceux qui ont du genie et partagent la meme vision des choses,
porte sur ce quon pourrait considered comme un avertissement de plus centre
adoption et la promotion d'une culture touristique sous I'apparence d'une politique
culturelle serieuse dans une region ou le tourism est devenu une source impor-
tante de recettes en devises etrangeres alors que les exportations traditionnelles
sont les victims de la globalisation. de leconomie de march neo-liberale et du
regroupement des puissances de I'Atlantique Nord, manifeste dans les nouveaux
blocs commerciaux et multi'ateraux, les complexes militaires et societies transna-
Le tourism cultural, c'est le nom exact attribute par 'IUNESCO est assez
inoffensif, du point de vue theorique, mais ce nest pas necessairement le cas dans
la pratique. Bien des artistes caraibeens saccordent a penser que notre heritage
individuall et collectif) constitute un aspect cle de notre sens du moi. II doit donc
beneficier d'une priority logique sur la satisfaction d'autres individus a la recherche
d'une titillation superficielle, bien quil faille etre pret a partager cet heritage transmis
de generation en generation et assimile organiquement par le moi. Nest-ce pas la
la meilleure approche que de cultiver sa culture pour soi-meme et d'inviter ensuite
nos hotes a la partager ?
L'autre solution consiste a colporter un heritage manufacture et emballe,
pour lequel on doit faire de la publicity et qu'on doit constamment adapter aux
goOts changeants des consommateurs. Les implications vont loin pour les Conser-
vatoires nationaux, les Bureaux de tourism, les Associations hotelieres et touris-
tiques. Ces dernieres sont souvent tentees de commercialiser cet heritage au
detriment des mythes authentiques, des heros nationaux, du vocabulaire local
servant a designer des products naturels locaux et des traditions appartenant au
patrimoine d'un people.
L'artiste de la Caratbe a donc raison de veiller jalousement a lintegrite de
ce patrimoine et de I'aristocratie spirituelle qui foisonne dans les relations entire les
gens et entire les gens et leur cadre natural du paysage. ( Le tourism du
patrimoine )> aussi tentant quil soit pour ceux qui ne s'interessent quaux resultats
financiers, soit eviter la comedie et informer le visiteur-consommateur de I'exis-
tence dans ces lies d'un coeur, d'une ame, d'un esprit, d'une pensee independam-
ment du soleil, du sable et de la mer.
Or, pour beaucoup de consommateurs, le stereotype selon lequel une
<(culture basee sur la joie est forcement superficielle , ainsi que la declare Walcott
au public de Stockholm lors de la remise du prix Nobel. Le laureat regrettait que,
tristement, ((pour se vendrr les CaraTbes encouragent les plaisirs stupides et
d'une eclatante niaiserie, se presentlnt comme u- endroit ou se rendre pour fuir
non seulement Ihiver, mais encore ce serieux qui ne se manifeste que dans une
culture a quatre saisons. Par suite, comment peut-il y avoir la-bas un people dans
le vrai sens du terme ?
La necessity est devenue la mere d'une triste forme de prostitution
poetiquement decrite par Walcott dans ce meme discours, lors de la ceremonies de
remise du prix Nobel, comme (l'erosion saisonniere de [notre] identity, cette
repetition aigue des memes images de service qui ne permet pas de distinguer une
ile de I'autre, avec un future de marinas polluees, de ventes de terrains negociees
par des ministres et tout cela mene au rythme de musique de bar et accompagne
de sourires forces ).
Les implications plus vastes pou I'art et la culture dans le processus de
developpement sont beaucoup moins eloignees de I'action de lartiste qu'on pour-
rait croire a premiere vue. II est aujourdhui universellement reconnu que I'impor-
tance de la culture pour le developpement tient a sa contribution a lamelioration du
capital social, a I'entretien d'une atmosphere de civility (et de civilisation) reposant
sur le soubassement intellectual et cultural de n'importe quel group social serait-il
une tribu, une nation ou une region. De son propre aveu, Walcott, lorsquil etait
etudiant a I'universite des West Indies (Mona), s'est accord a cette conception quil
a trouvee en JamaTque dans les annees cinquante dans le dedale des organisa-
tions communales vivant en communion avec les arts, conception que les peres
fondateurs avaient adoptee a lepoque. Ainsi, Walcott allait faire de la region son
terrain d'action, se deployant de Sainte-Lucie a la Jamafque et a la Trinite et
Tobago et allant meme encore plus loin sur le continent americain. II devait
englober le monde entier don't il avait toujours eu conscience grace a ce condition-
nement colonial meme, q'uil a su transformer en redemption et moyen de connais-
sance de soi, s'affirmant sans rancune, creant et inventant meme lorsqu'il cassait
les images (une approche ignore par les 'revolutionnaires ) ulterieurs qui ont
choisi de ne pas tenir compete de cette forme ((caraibeenne ) d'auto-liberation qui
avait pourtant fait ses preuves).
Ce conditionnement las mis d'avantage en contact, tout comme ceux de sa
generation qui ont fait leurs etudes, avec lantiquite et ce point de confluence des
cultures de la Mediterranee qui a donned a I'humanite non seulement la Grece et
Rome (qui devaient etre detournes par ceux qui pensaient avoir le monopole de la
civilisationon )), mais egalement I'Egypte et les grandes religions monotheistes, les
modes de pensee et la configuration des valeurs de I'Orient. Omeros, ce chef-
d'oeuvre de Walcott, pourrait bien evoquer ce patrimoine herite de ce carrefour des
civilisations et habit par les ames soeurs du temps jadis. En effet, ne sommes
nous pas les creatures de ce processus special de creolisation du devenir ? Une
comprehension de ces civilisations nest pas possible si on ignore le context
cultural dans lequel elles se sont epanouies.
Ce sont en grande parties nos artistes qui, plus que nos planificateurs
economiques et nos gourous du developpement, insistent sur I'invocation des
valeurs culturelles comme une parties du repertoire des modalites au service de la
survive caraibeenne et au-dela. Et, cela nous a enrichis Depuis longtemps et dans
toute la region, les textes des rapports economiques annuels sont empreints de
I'idee que les exercices intellectuals et artistiques sont (dmproductifs malgre les
preuves de production de revenues et d'augmentation de I'emploi (quoique saison-
nier) resultant de I'activite des artistes de reggae et des fetards du carnaval.
La presence de I'artiste (de Walcott a Bob Marley et Mighty Sparrow en
passant par Kamau Brathwaite, Sam'n'el Selvon et Georges Lamming) lance un defi
la Carafbe en vue d'une plus grande prise de conscience de son potential
createur, pour soi et pour la society, sans lequel le (( developpement > est presque
impossible. La reduction de la pauvrete, ce cliche a la mode chez les specialistes
en developpement, pourrait bien commencer par la reduction de la pauvrete
spirituelle qui engendre un durcissement de la sensibility et paralyse des popula-
tions entieres, les privant de la volonte dinnover et de reflechir a leurs problems
de facon creative.
En effet, le developpement, selon un rapport de I'Unesco sur la culture et
le developpement public en 1995, ((comprend non seulement I'acces aux biens et
aux services, mais egalement la possibility de Thoisir un facon de vivre ensemble
qui soit pleine, satisfaisante, valuable et appreciee, I'epanouissement de I'existence
humaine sous toutes ses formes et comme un tout .. Le developpement comporte
une amelioration des conditions materielles mais n'en demand pas moins une
elevation spirituelle qui na rien d'une superstructure.
Nos artistes comprennent pourquoi des gens comme eux, y inclus (des
gens den bas selon I'expression de Lamming et (/e vrai people > selon Norman
Manley, ont pu reussir a cause de leur capacity a creer. (( Lhistoire et I'effroi
fundamental sont toujours a nos tout-debuts parce que le destin de la poesie (et
peut-etre de toute forme d'art) est de tomber amoureux du monde, malgre I'His-
II y a une forme d'exultation >, declare Walcott, ((une fete de la chance
lorsqu'un ecrivain se retrouve temoin du petit matin d'une culture qui se definit
branch par branch, feuille par feuille, dans cette aube d'auto-definition. Et c'est
pourquoi il est bon d'avoir un rituel du lever de soleil, et tout particulierement au
bord de la mer. Ensuite, a midi, les ((Antilles > ondulent comme I'eau qui s'anime,
et le bruit des feuilles, des feuilles de palmierS et des oiseaux forment les sons d'un
nouveau dialecte, la langue locale. Le vocabulaire personnel, la melodie individu-
elle, don't le metre est determine par sa biographies, se joignent a ce son, avec un
peu de chance, et le corps bouge comme une Hie qui march et qui march )>
Malgre tout ce que j'ai dit, on persiste a negliger la culture comme parties
integrante de I'education chez les bureaucrats de la function publique et meme
parmi les enseignants, dans toute la Caraibe. Pourtant un enfant apprend le sens
de (> et arrive mieux a faire le lien entire effort et resultat si on I'encour-
age, dans le cadre normal de ses etudes, a creer un poeme ou un chanson, jouer
dans une piece de theatre, laborer une danse, chanter dans une chorale ou jouer
un instrument dans un orchestra (y compris le tambour et les instruments du
La discipline qui soutient la maitrise du savoir-faire qui permet a tout art de
sexprimer, les exigences de la re-creation continue de I'effort et de I'application. les
defis rencontres au course de ce voyage vers la perfection, les habitudes d'auto-
evaluation realiste, la capacity a gerer la diversity et le dilemme de la difference,
que ce soit dans les arts du spectacle ou dans secteurs cles du sport (que
personnellement je consider comme un art du spectacle) : tout cela constitute une
excellent preparation pour apprendre a etre (ce qui est la matiere de I'ontologie),
apprendre a connaitre (la substance de I'epistemologie) et conduire a vivre ensem-
ble (I'essence de la diversity creative qui caractense I'existence caraibeenne et est
sur le point de semparer du monde). Le role de I'education doit donc etre non
seulement d'apprendre aux gens a gagner leur vie mais doit egalement etre de leur
apprendre comrhent vivre.
La capacity d'adaptation, la souplesse, la disponibilite a passer d'un code
a I'autre, la capacity d'innover et de negocier avec la complexity de la complexity,
telles sont tous les attributes de I'imagination creative qui fournit a la cognition une
voie autre que celle du rationalisme caraTbeen don't nous avons herite. En effet, si
nous sommes parce que nous pensions, nous existons egalement parce que nous
Le enforcement des liens entire I'education et la communaute et des deux
avec la culture tient parfaitement debout car cela s'adresse aux notions de base de
la society civil, lesquelles sont enracinees dans la confiance, le respect mutuel, la
maitrise d'une volonte collective et lentretien du sens de la camaraderie sans
laquelle on ne peut parvenir a la sociabilite et a la capacity de sunir en vue de
rPaliser un objectif superieur pour le bien de tous.
Une education qui n'inculque pas cela et ne I'encourage pas, risque de ne
pas etre tres utile quelque brilliant que puisse etre un individu a I'ordinateur ou aux
examens par sa capacity a reussir le brevet ou le baccalaureat.
On ne peut donner de soi dans des actions sociales coordonnees que
lorsqu'on est capable de decouvrir et de continue a redecouvrir qui nous sommes
vraiment, comment nos vies se sont forgoes a partir de cette histoire composite
vieille de cinq cents ans et comment notre place est determine dans le monde
(une mosa'ique complex d'un monde avancant a tatons, en quete, lui meme, de
certitudes et des moyens de se reconcilier avec un milieu physique longtemps pille
et enormement degrade). Ainsi j'ai eu raison de repeter a maintes reprises aux
gouvernements, aux enseignants et aux institutions denseignement qu'ils sont c(les
premiers a contribuer et b animer la culture de ce royaume de I'esprit capable de
reflexion interdisciplinaire, ou la creativity pousserait sur des rangs et des rangs
par suite de I'exercice de I'intellect et de I"'imagination tout a la fois, ces deux
travaillant en equipe pour produire une communaute dames autonome, tolerante.
ayant le respect de soi-meme, entreprenante et productive, beaucoup plus paci-
fique et moins encline a la violence . Une telle communaute serait a son tour
place strategiquement a la pointe du compas quest I'education, tracant le course
complete du cycle de la civilisation qui est celui de la creativity.
La tache des artistes et des educateurs dans tout ce processus est
evidente quoique impressionnante, effrayante, provocante et, pour quelqu'un
comme moi, porteuse d'une irritante satisfaction.
DISCURSO PRINCIPAL: La Presencia del Artista Caribefio y
la Educaci6n en el Tercer Milenio
Nosotros en el Caribe tenemos tantos artists por metro cuadrado que no
ha de ser muy bueno para nosotros. No obstante, es un mal que deberiamos
acoger ya que su presencia nos hace acordar algunos datos fundamentals de
nuestra historic y nuestra existencia. Nos habla de nuestra sobrevivencia en una
sociedad que todavia valora la lucha y la resistencia a la opresi6n sistemica de un
orden social desequilibrado que se fundada en la deshumanizaci6n de la mayoria
de sus cuidadanos empezando con la esclavitud y siguiendo con el trabajo
forzado. Persiste en la alienacion y marginalizaci6n de la mayoria dentro y fuera
de una empresa desequilibrada y en la Ilamada globalizaci6n de la economic
mundial. Esta nueva modalidad promueve la dependencia de las dos tercias
parties del mundo y la esclavitud mental de la cual hablaba Garvey desde 1937. El
gran artist de reggae Bob Marley lo ieitera en lo que ha de ser uno de los versos
mas poderosos que se cita a menudo como recordatorio de nuestra responsabili-
dad al ser propio y a la sociedad.
Sin hacer caso omiso a los economists, reconocemos que es el artist el
que ha penetrado nuestra profunda ansiedad y nuestras posibilidades y ha creado
palabras y mOsica, movimiento y mitos, sintaxis y satira. Todo esto significaba
dinero en efectivo y divisas importantes para los financieros y los que insisted en
tener resultados, quienes todavia necesitan verles a los artists como variables
de producci6n en la ecuacion desarrollista y no como actos auto complacientes
que no contribuyen al ingreso per capital, el PNB ni el PIB.
Al incluir el turismo patrimonial en la planificaci6n para el desarrollo, los
bur6cratas y los lideres politicos habran empezado a tratar con seriedad los
products de la imaginacion creative de nuestros artists populares (creadores de
la misica calypso y reggae), de nuestras artes de festivales (particularmente
Carnaval, Goombay jonkonnu, Carifesta, Crop-over, Reggae Sumfest) y de nues-
tros artists reconocidos mundialmente (por ejemplo nuestros ganadores del Pre-
mio Nobel y las superestrellas de la music pop).
Todo esto ha de ser acogido por un pueblo que ha tenido que cultivar
panoramas internal de acci6n creative y estructuras integrales manifiestas en el
idioma, la religion y la creaci6n artistic fundada en el crisol de resistencia a la
opresi6n y todo lo que le Ilega a quitarle a uno su identidad como persona, incluso
las manifestaciones paradojicas de una sociedad en constant movimiento que
nos hace saltar de un pie a otro sabiendo que no podemos pararnos en ninguno.
Este Simposio auspiciado por la Universidad de las Antillas se convoca en
moments muy oportunos. Se realize a fin de siglo cuando Nuestra Planeta Tierra
necesita aprender de nuestros artists (tanto individual como colectivamente) en
preparaci6n para el viaje hacia el ni~qvo milenio. Para el salvo conduct, hace
falta el pensamiento liberado que permit una nueva vision de un tentative mundo
arcoiris, un nuevo sentido de si y nuevas maneras de saber c6mo sostener nuevos
modos de vida. Es important la Presencia en nuestro medio de un Derek
Walcott, un George Lamming, un Earl Lovelace, un Vidia Naipaul, un Kamau
Brathwaite, una Lorna Goodison, un Martin Carter, un Mighty Sparrow, un Lord
Kitchener, un Chalkdust, un David Rudder y un Peter Marshall, un Bob Marley, un
Jimmy Cliff, un Peter Tosh, los innumerables representantes del dancehall, una
Beryl McBonnie y una Ivy Baxter, una Pat Bishop y los Desperados. La Presencia
de todos estos tesoros en nuestro medio es resultado de la fundamental con-
tribuci6n que han hecho y estan haciendo en la busqueda segun dice Don Philip
Sherlock para mejores formas del autoconocimiento colectivo.
Que alguien como Derek Walcott, ganador del Premio Nobel, dramaturge,
ensayista, pintor, hombre caribeno proveniente de Santa Lucia, de tremenda
sagacidad y perspicacia, sea un participate important en esta busqueda que se
ha vuelto global, es tema urgente de discusi6n. Es un hecho del cual no debe
olvidarse ningOn joven caribefio de la Mancomunidad, durante la trayectoria de su
educacion, desde la primaria hasta la universidad. Segun se dice, el define la
historic no en terminos de los archives de monuments y empirios que suelen
celebrar la dominaci6n y la humillaci6n de miles y miles de series humans sino
como la historic autoredentora y autoaceptora del propio ser y la cultural y la
importancia de uno en el orden de las cosas. iQue maravillosa declaraci6n de
intenci6n para los planificadores y educadores de la generaci6n que heredara el
Lo significativo de la Presencia del genio artistic de un Walcott y otros en
cuanto a la auto percepci6n, reside en el permanent recordatorio que son sus
palabras y sus obras, de la riqueza de nuestra turbulencia, la creatividad de
nuestro caos, los elements valiosos de un profundo conocimiento y mayor com-
prensi6n de nuestra historic y realidad vivida el nucleo irreducible de nuestra
Como se podria imaginar, cuando Walcott gan6 el Premio Nobel en 1992,
todo el Caribe se sinti6 orgulloso y feliz. Sin embargo, es la fuerza interior y el
impact duradero de la vision poetica del artist que sobrevive el rugido de pintura
y el olor de la muchedumbre. Mucho despues de que se hayan tocado los himnos
nacionales, que se haya terminado el Carnaval y que el aplauso haya terminado,
el hombre y su vision perduran en la important Presencia trascendente e impe-
Esa Presencia igual que la de los otros grandes artists creadores entire
nosotros, sigue celebrando la voluntad individual y colectiva del pueblo caribeno.
Descubre en la existencia compleja de este pueblo optimista a la vez desesper-
ante, carinoso y cansador, desafiante y frustrante, los products de excelencia
artistic, los habitos de tolcrancia y sensibilidades delicadamente balanceadas.
Esta Presencia da mayor importan(ua al car,mctfr de uno que al color de piel,
tratando de former una sociedad civil donde puedan vivir todos que aprecien las
grandes libertades subyacentes del progress fragmentado y solapado de su her-
Es esa Presencia del artist creative y sus almas gemelas que ejercen su
imaginaci6n e intelecto creativos, que facilitara que los encuentros que anterior-
mente eran africanos, asiaticos y europeos en el ultramar se fundan en el crisol del
patrimonio caribenio, una sociedad pluralista factible donde la gente vivira no solo
juntos sino tambien mezclados. Ese patrimonio caribeio por much tiempo ha
manifestado la tolerancia racial (por imperfecto que fuera), la libertad (por la cual
los esclavos lucharon tan consistentemente, empleando metodos no tan ajenos a
aquellos de los artists contemporaneos) y el ecumenismo creative preservando la
integridad de las distintas creencias y hacienda de la Cuenca Caribena un labora-
torio vital para investigar la espiritualidad y para formular los idiomas criollos.
Estas expresiones religiosas y linguisticas manifiestan de modo vital la novedad de
los almas mestizos a partir de los contacts ahora hist6ricos de1492.
Por mayor parte es a traves de las artes que hemos logrado entender la
dinamica de estos 500 ahos de devenirnos, produciendo en todas las Americas
(incluido el propio Caribe) lo que en realidad son pueblos nuevos y un nuevo
sentido y nueva sensibilidac de sustancia y singularidad suficientes para tener un
impact sobre el desarrollo de la hu.Lnanidad. El hecho de que el Premio Nobel
para Literatura haya sido otorgado a un antillano debe servir de Ilamado a los
habitantes de la Planeta Tierra para que presten atencion al significado de la
realidad de una parte del mundo que se creia estaba poblada por personas que no
eran personas pero que estaban capaces de revelar verdades importantes sobre
la condici6n humana. Lo hace a traves del ejercicio de su creatividad en la
encrucijada de una aldea global, lo que siempre ha representado las Americas por
lo general y el Caribe en particular y que el Ilamado mundo globalizado del Siglo
XXI esta a punto de devenirse. De hecho, si prestamos atenci6n a los mejores
entire nuestros artists, no corremos el riesgo de equivocarnos en como nos
preparamos para el Siglo XXI, cuar'do empieza todo a florecer. De hecho, la
plant ya esta con nosotros.
Al finalizar el Siglo XX y empezar el Siglo XXI el mundo deberia darse
cuenta de que la idea del Nuevo Mundo comenzando en 1492, primero es
ahist6rico para los natives americanos (los cuales estan decididamente cambiados
a traves del contact sostenido con cultures de otros paises). Segundo, es de
particular preocupacion para las personas de antecedentes africanos a quienes se
le niega su importancia en la formaci6n del ethos caribeno. Tercero, es de-
masiado eurocentrico y monocultural para que se sientan c6modas aquellas
personas que son en parte africana, en parte europea, en parte asiatica, en parte
indigena americana pero totalmente caribena. Los mejores de nuestros artists
por definicion no tienen problema con ser progenies de sus antecedentes, las
progenies complejas y concentradas de aquellos accidents deliberados de la
historic modern. El hecho de que nosotros tenemos un conocimiento Onico de la
formaci6n de una nueva sensibilidad, no en un vacio como en el libro de Genesis,
sino basado en los distintos elements de varias cultures, es motivo de regocijo y
no autonegaci6n, autocondena ni autocuestionamiento.
Es efectivamente esa celebracion del propio ser que senala el significado
de la Presencia del artist en esta region. Esta celebracion de ningin modo es
auto complaciente. Aquel qentido permanent de la historic y la concientizacion
peculiar manifestada en la sabiduria de las masas de hecho permea todo lo que
produce la imaginaci6n creative del artist.
Elella aprecia la vulnerabilidad del tribu esclavizado. Sin embargo,
reconoce que la libertad subyace en el conocimiento de dicho tribu para fortale-
cerse con la adopci6n sagaz de la religion del Viejo Mundo asi que lo que parezca
ser rendici6n viene siendo redencion. Lo que parece ser la muerte de la fe viendo
siendo renacimiento. Es una expresi6n poderosa de como sobrevivir en el Caribe
y mejor todavia c6mo invocar la esperanza en medio de la desesperacion y la
capacidad de transformar los pasivos en activos. Un proverbio jamaicano what
spwile mek style... lo explica muy bien (lo que sale chueco se hace moda). Esta
dialectica de la esperanza en medio de la desesperacion se encuentra en toda la
literature popular y otras expresiones artisticas de nuestro pueblo CaribeFo. Los
artists de reggae y los cantantes de calipso lo muestran en sus liricas. La
sabiduria colectiva de la literature oral que son nuestros proverbios e histories
tradicionales manifiestan esta capacidad ancestral para la sobrevivencia y mas.
La Presencia del artist por todo el archipelago refleja esta capacidad de
triunfar sobre todo obstaculo. La rendicion de hecho se torna redenci6n, la perdida
potential se convierte en renovacion y la muerte se deviene renacimiento.
6CCuantos de nuestros planificadores son dotados de tal percepci6n y
como dicen los rastafarianos, son destacados? La invocaci6n a una percepcion
del propio ser de ninguna manera significa para el artist que hubo un rechazo de
la sabiduria de los siglos o el valor intrinsico del Otro, menos aun para un artist
como Walcott quien reconoce un permanent pasantia en la presencia de los
maestros y su disposici6n de robar de las tesorerias de excelencia donde se
encuentren, sin olvidarse de su propio pasado caribefo .
A pesar de las distintas influencias o sea el acondicionamiento colonial de
ayer y la penetraci6n cultural en estos tiempos electronicos, el ser human es
capaz de guardar su capacidad de autoreflexi6n y autorealizaci6n. Un grupo
anterior de visionaries y educadores caribenos entendieron esto en terminos de
auto-gobierno e independencia. Un peligro obvio es que muchos de sus segui-
dores ahora corren el riesgo de perder el control de nuestra soberania y de la
convicci6n que gente como nosotros podriamos ser los creadores de nuestro
propio destiny lo cual nos corresponde si el pueblo caribeno fuera a dar significado
real a los simbolos de la independencia political que son las banderas nacionales,
los himnos y los simbolos nacionales.
Al construir nuevas naciones, muchos han comprendido el significado de
la presencia artistic cultural no como la manifestaci6n de nuestra capacidad de
ser feliz en un estado de inocencia primitive sino como la fuente de energia para
sostener la civilizaci6n y nuestra humanidad.
Ese sentido propio debe manifestarse en nuestra capacidad de distinguir
lo aut6nomo y lo determinado en nuestras acciones.
Al contrario de lo que generalmente se crea, la creaci6n poetica, la
composici6n de una pieza de musica, la creaci6n de un drama, la pintura de
cuadros todas son formas de acci6n y no modos de escape de la realidad. Son
todos caminos validos para el conocimiento que el sistema educative no toma en
cuenta, lo cual es peligroso para nosotros.
Pues todo artist entiende la tension que existe entire el desarrollo del
propio yo y el yo que es parte de un todo mas amplio. El arte, a fin de cuentas,
esta mediado por el realidad social y el propio yo tiene que extenderse hacia fuera
y hacia dentro si quiere apreciar el mundo. Ya he hablado en otro context del
fen6meno de estirar hacia adentro extenderse hacia fuera buscando la totalidad
No puede haber ninguna auto-complacencia que compromete el sentido
de comunidad que es basico para la conciencia del propio ser. Walcott, un
maestro en el arte muy personal de la poesia, es tambien dramaturge involucrado
en el arte intensivamente comunitario en el cual el ha participado tambien como
director. Sabe que la auto absorpci6n puede ser muy contraproductiva. El propio
yo es multidimensional en nuestro Caribe pluralista, es multifacetico en nuestra
sociedad de multiples niveles y origenes.
Nosotros en el Caribe sabcmnos y el (1) artist nos recuerda con su
Presencia que no cabe una geografia spiritual que demarque un mundo interno
versus uno externo como se ha dicho. El vivir dentro del ambito de espacios
interactivos le proporciona a uno la posibilidad de tener un entendimiento mas
pleno de algo que es esencialmente evasivo. En otras palabras, el descu-
brimiento de un lugar estabilizado donde se encuentra el propio yo y el objetivo en
un mundo complejo, contrario, caotico, esquizofrenico y turbulento. El hombre y
mujer caribeno regular tiene una extraordinaria reaccion al reto. De ellos han
salidoexpresiones de patrons como Lamming y Kamau Brathwaite en celebration
de esto. Le Presencia del artist significa el valor sostenido de todo esto en la
bisqueda interminable del propio ser y la sociedad. Walcott advirti6 que se
cuidara de que las CARIFESTAS no Ilegaran a ser events individuals y no
events vistos como parte de ese viaje continue y energetico al autodescu-
brimiento, la auto-definici6n y un ejercicio sostenido de la imaginacibn creative en
lugar de erupciones intermitentes de celebracion. El opina que dichas erupciones
no dan vida a pesar de la alegria de la gratificaci6n inmediata. Obviamente hay la
necesidad de aplicarse de forma sostenida a la tendencia desarrollistas mas
fundamental tanto de parte de los gobiernos'como de los pueblos.
Otro significado de la Presencia artistic en el Caribe y de los que com-
parten esa mentalidad y genlo, se expresa como un advertimiento contra la
adopci6n y promoci6n de la cultural turistica bajo el disfraz de una political cultural
seria en una region donde el turismo se ha convertido en un principal generador de
divisas. Las exportaciones tradicionales ahora son victims de la globalizaci6n,
economies neoliberales y al poder re-alineado del Atlantico del Norte visto en las
companies multilaterales, nuevos bloques de intercambio, complejos militares y
corporaciones trasnacionales. Como concept, el Turismo Cultural tal como fue
denominado formalmente por UNESCO, en si es inocuo. No obstante, en la
practice no lo es necesariamente. Muchos artists caribenos opinan que nuestra
herencia (colectiva y individual) es clave a nuestro entendimiento del ser propio.
Por lo tanto, era 16gico que gozara de prioridad encima de la satisfacci6n de otros
que buscan la titilaci6n de la superficie aunque deberia haber voluntad de compar-
tir esa herencia que se habra pasado de generaci6n en generaci6n y asimilada
organicamente por el ser propio.
nuestra cultural s6lo para nosotros los invitamos a nuestros huespedes a compar-
tirla con nosotros?
La alternative es la venta del patrimonio que una vez que se haya fabri-
cado, deberia ser empaquetado, anunciado, y constantemente adaptado a los
gustos cambiantes de los consumidores. Esto tiene implicaciones de largo al-
cance para los Fideocomisos Nacionales, los Consejos Turisticos y las Asociacio-
nes Hoteleras y Turisticas que a menudo acuden a la tentacion de comercializar el
patrimonio perjudicando la herencia de los mitos genuinos de un pueblo, sus
heroes nacionales, los nombres indigenous para los objetos indigenas de la natu-
raleza y sus tradiciones de vida.
El artist Caribeho con raz6n es celoso de la integridad de la herencia y la
aristocracia de espiritu que abunda en las relaciones entire las personas y su
entorno natural. El Turismo Patrimonial por lo atractivo que sea para aquellos a
quienes las importa como negocio, deberia hacerse promotores y concientizarle al
ptiblico consumidor de la existencia en estas islas de coraz6n, alma, espiritu y
mente independiente del sol, la arena y al mar.
Este estereotipo todavia existe para muchos consumidores. Asi se pro-
nuncio Walcott, al dirigirse a! public en Estocolmo en la ocasi6n de la entrega del
Premio Nobel una cultural arraigada uiI1 el regocijo Jiene que ser debil. Expres6 el
laureado entristecido. Para venderse, el Caribe promueve los deleites de un
brillante vacio, donde se puede escapar no s6lo el invierno sino tambien la
seriedad que caracteriza solo una cultural que tenga cuatro estaciones. Entonces,
6c6mo puede haber un pueblo alli, en el sentido verdadero de la palabra?
La necesidad aqui se hace la madre de una triste clase de prostituci6n que
Walcott describe en terminos poeticos durante el mismo discurso pronunciado en
la ceremonia de aceptacibn del Premio Nobel. Habla de la erosion peri6dica de
nuestra identidad, aquella repetici6n estridentada de los mismos imagenes de
servicio que no distingue una isla de la otra, donde el future es uno de marinas
contaminadas, la propiedad negociada por los ministros de gobierno y todo esto
acompanado por la musica de Happy Hour y el ricto de una sonrisa.
Las implicaciones mas amplias para el arte y la cultural en el process del
desarrollo es much menos ajenas a la accion de los artists de lo que parezca
inicialmente. Ahora se reconoce mundialmente que la importancia de la cultural
para el desarrollo tiene que ver con el aumento de la capital social, la sostentabili-
dad de un ambiente de actitud civica y civilizaci6n basado en el fondo intellectual y
cultural de cualquiera agrupaci6n, sea tribu, naci6n o region.
Por su propia cuenta, Walcott, siendo j6ven estudiante de grado en la
Universidad de las Antillas en el recinto de Mona, Ileg6 a participar en un
movimiento en Jamaica en los afios 50 que tenia un nucleo de organizaciones
comunitarias en comuni6n con las artes creativas que promovian los padres
fundadores del period. Este artist iba a hacer de la region entera su arena de
acci6n desde Santa Lucia a Jamaica y Trinidad y Tobago, yendo much mas alia
hacia las Americas. Iba ademas a hacerse conocido por el mundo entero, una
sensibilizaci6n que siempre habia tenido por el mismo acondicionamiento colonial
que el transform en redenci6n y medios de autodescubrimiento y auto-realizaci6n
sin odio, creando e inventando mientras a la vez rompia imagenes un enfoque que
fue rechazado despues por los revolwtionarios quienes optaron por no hacer caso
a esta modalidad probada Caribera de autoliberacion.
Lo acerc6, igual que a toda su generaci6n que habia recibido una educa-
ci6n a lo clasico y aquel punto de encuentro de cultures en el Mediterraneo que
habia dado a la humanidad, no s61lo Francia y Roma ( que luego fue secuestrado
por los que pensaban que tenian un monopolio sobre la civilizaci6n) sino tambien
a Egipto y las grandes religiones monoteistas, los sistemas de pensamiento y
configuraciones de valor del Oriente.
Omeros, una obra maestra de Walcott bien puede estar hablando de la
herencia desde la civilizaci6n de encrucijada, poblada de espiritus familiares de
antano. Porque 6no es que somos las criaturas de aquel process criollo especial
de devenirnos? No es possible entender tales civilizaciones sin conocer el context
cultural en que florecieron.
La invocaci6n de valores culturales como parte del repertorio de modali-
dades puesto al servicio de la sobrevivencia del Caribe ahora y en el future ha sido
de mayor interest para nuestros artists creativos y no tanto a nuestros economis-
tas y gurus del desarrollo. iY nos hemos beheficiado de esto! Para los Informes
Econ6micos Anuales de toda la region la actividad que involucrara el ejercicio del
intelecto creative y la imaginaci6n creative se consideraba no-productiva, hace
much tiempo a pesar de la evidencia de la producci6n de ingreso y aumento de
empleo (no imported que sea por temporadas) g!nerados por las actividades de los
artists de reggae y los participants en el Carnaval. La Presencia del artist
(desde Walcott hasta Kamau Brathwaite, Samuel Selvon y George Lamming a Bob
Marley y Sparrow) reta al Caribe a una mayor concientizaci6n de la capacidad
creative del propio yo y la sociedad sin la cual el desarrollo es casi impossible. La
eliminaci6n de la pobreza, la frase popular actual de la escuela desarrollista bien
puede comenzar con la eliminaci6n de la pobreza del espiritu que fomente una
sensibilidad cruda y produce entire poblaciones enteras una paralisis de la voluntad
de buscar soluciones inovadoras y creativas.
Un informed de UNESCO de 1995 sobre la Cultura y el Desarrollo postula
que el desarrollo comprende no solo el acceso d bienes y servicios sino tambien la
oportunidad de escoger un modo pleno, satisfactorio, valioso y apreciado de
convivir y el florecimiento de la existencia humana en todas sus manifestaciones y
como una unidad. El desarrollo comprende el mejoramiento material pero no
menos important es la elevaci6n spiritual que es mas que la superestructura.
Nuestros artists comprenden porque personas como ellos incluyendo las
masas de abajo de Lamming y el pueblo verdadero de Norman Manley han podido
lograr algo, a causa de su capacidad de crear. La Historia y la incredulidad
elemental siempre constituyen nuestro primer inicio porque el destiny de la poesia
(y quizis todo lo que sea arte) es enamorarse del mundo, a pesar de la Historia.
Hay una forma de Exultaci6n declara Walcott, una celebraci6n de fortune
cuando un escritor descubre que es testigo del amanecer de una cultural que se
autodefine, rama por rama, hoja por hoja, en ese amanecer autodefinidor que es la
raz6n por la cual, sobre todo a orillas del mar, es bueno hacer un rito del amanecer.
Entonces, el nombre, las Antillas culebrea como el agua resplandeciente y los
sonidos de las hojas, las hojas de las palmeras y los pajaros son los sonidos de un
dialecto nuevo, la lengua native. El vocabulario personal, la melodia individual,
cuyo verso es la biografia con suerte se une en aquel sonido y el cuerpo se mueve
como una isla ambulante, ambulante.
A pesar de todo lo que he dicho, muchos ,ntre la burocracia piblica y aun
en la profesi6n pedag6gica por todo el Caribe no consideran la cultural como
component integro a la educaci6n. Pero un nino aprende el significado de
process y es mas capaz de relacionar el resultado con el esfuerzo si el/ella se
anima a crear un poema o una canci6n, actuar en un drama, componer un baile,
cantar en un coro o tocar un instrument en una orquesta (incluso el steel pan y el
tambor) como parte normal de su educacion.
La discipline detras de la maestria artesana que da expresion a la obra de
arte, las demands para la recreaci6n continue de esfuerzos y aplicaci6n, los
retos que surjan en el camino hacia la excelencia, los habitos de la autoevaluaci6n
realista, la capacidad de tratar con la diversidad y el dilema de la diferencia, sea en
las artes teatrales o en las areas claves del deported, que para mi pertenecen a las
artes teatrales, constituyen una excelente base para aprender a ser materiala de
ontologia), aprender a saber materiala de epistemologia) y aprender a vivir juntos
(la esencia de la diversidad creative que caracteriza la existencia caribefa y esta a
punto de apoderarse del mundo enter. El papel de la educacion debe ser no s61o
ensenarle a la gente como ganarse la vida, sino tambien c6mo vivir.
La adaptabilidad, la flexibilidad, el cambio facil de c6digos, la inovaci6n y
una capacidad de manejar las complejidades son todos atributos de la imaginaci6n
creative que proporcionan otra ruta al conocimiento aparte del racionalismo
cartesiano que hemos heredado. Porque si somos porque pensamos, existimos
El fortalecimiento de los lazos entire la educaci6n y la comunidad y entire
estas dos y la cultural tiene much sentido porque se trata de lo basico de la
sociedad civil arraigado en la confianza, respeto mutuo, la aplicaci6n de la volun-
tad colectiva y la promocion del sentido de la camaraderie sin la cual no se podra
lograr la sociabilidad y la capacidad de recaudar los esfuerzos para lograr mayores
objetivos por el bien de todos.
Une educaci6n que no inculque esto ni lo promueva, no ha de ser muy util,
por brillante que sea uno con los computadores o por el ntimero de pases a nivel
ordinario o avanzado de acuerdo con el sistema de evaluaci6n.
La entrega de uno mismo a traves de la acci6n social coordinada es
possible s61o cuando podemos descubrir y seguir redescubriendo quienes real-
mente somos c6mo nuestras vidas han sido moldeados por la historic de la Qltima
nuestra porci6n en el mundo un mosaico complejo de un mundo que tantea,
buscando certidumbre y maneras de acomodarse al ambiente fisico que hace
much habia sido explotado y empeorado.
En numerosas ocasiones, me ha tocado reiterarles a los gobiernos, pro-
fesores e instituciones academics que son importantes contribuyentes y princi-
pales facilitadores del cultivo de aquel reino de la mente que es capaz de la
contemplaci6n interdisciplinaria, con brotes de creatividad al ejercer el intelecto y
la imaginacion y estos a la vez trabajando sucesivamente para producer una
comunidad de almas auto-suficientes, dignos, tolerantes, totalmente pacientes,
con much menos tendencia a la violencia, emprendedores y productivos. A su
vez esta comunidad esta colocada estrategicamente en un punto del compas que
es la educaci6n navegando alrededor del Ciclo de la Civilizaci6n que es el ciclo de
La tarea para los artists y los educadores en todo esto es muy obvia
aunque terrible, alarmante, desafiadora y para alguien como yo, incom6damente
"To Play Mas"
To play mas. What is it to play mas? What is mas? What is a mas?
There is no dictionary, encyclopaedia or any other authoritative piece of scholar-
ship to which we can refer. No universally accepted definition. We can only look
empirically, examine what mas is and has been in all its many manifestations in
order to arrive at an understanding.
'Mas' occurs as part of the Carnival of Trinidad. To come into being, 'mas'
involves conception, design, craft, construction, making. The thing made is worn or
carried by one or more persons. Something that may be twenty feet tall and forty
feet wide, or as minimal as grease smeared on the skin, two horns, a tail and a pitch
fork. It also involves the act of the wearing, the person going into the street or onto
the stage, and to the accompaniment of sound a beaten rhythm, a speech, a
soca road march, moving, dancing, miming, or otherwise portraying the thing, or
idea, or mood, or character the costume or structure is meant to represent. It
seems to me that this last characteristic, the action of moving in a mas, dancing,
miming, presenting what is worn or carried, is fundamental to what makes a mas, a
'mas'. It is performance, granted it is performance in a raw primitive, essential
form. The performance occurs in an environment that is often spontaneous and
chaotic. On a city, street or a cold wooden platform.
Now about that platform. There has been much discussion recently. That
platform is the natural evolution of the stage that is the street and the pavement. I
know of no other platform like that Grand Stanid Savannah. It is two pavements
and a street in between. And that platform is far from the civilized cocoon of a
theatre building with its proscenium arch, its wings, its flies, and backdrops, and
scenery, and padded chairs and ushers. But we might recall that performance
occurred in the street, or the clearing, or the hillside amphitheatre long before it
arrived on Broadway or the West End. 'Mas' in fact is the more direct descendant
of the ancient beginning of performance.
In addition to looking at how a mas happens, we can examine how the
society, the culture, speaks about it. In Trinidad, we inevitably speak of 'playing a
mas'. We do not say, 'What mas are you going to wear?'. We say, 'Wha' mas yuh
goin' an play?' And the mas we play even in the most fun of bands, has a character,
a sense of dramatic personage, or mood, or symbolic representation. We do not
say, 'I am wearing a Flamenco costume', as if we were going to a fancy dress ball,
we say, 'Ah playing' Flamenco dancer.'
Play: to perform, to act the part of, to give dramatic performance. Note the
same verb became a noun, refer into a story to be acted upon a stage a play. The
play of the mas is not the same as the play of the stage, but certainly they are
Let us look toward the historical development of mas, from which the mas
of the contemporary Carnival revolved. Take any of many examples and examine
the extent to which the play, the performance, is essential. The following are from
descriptions of Carnival observer Dan Crowley published in the 1986 "Caribbean
Sailor. Bad Behaviour Sailors. Traditionally walk
on their heels, with their hands held in front, fin-
gers spread and with a rolling gait. When walking
alone they mimic drunkards lurching diagonally,
right and left and dragging their feet. Variations of
staggering are added to this basic form plus
pirouetting and occasional short dance steps or
somersaults or other tumbling. A few sailors to-
gether may try more elaborate tumbling balancing
acts and every kind of antics, with spectators
particularly leering at young girls and making fa-
tigues. Our mas, the bad behaviour sailors walk 6
to 8 abreast with arms around each others shoul-
ders. The line thus formed moves 3 or 4 steps
diagonally right, then 3 or 4 steps diagonally left,
giving a convincing performance of drunken sail-
ors which is locally termed 'rocking the ship".
Alternative lines move in opposite directions so
that mutual sailor band up from 200 to 800 the
street becomes a mas of relatively patterned
Red Indians dance single file through the streets forming a serpentine wine
while bringing their knees up high at every step and banding their upper bodies
forward and then upright in time to their hand clapping.
African warriors. They danced in the leaping manner of the great Watusi
dancer in the film 'King Solomon's Mines" tossing their long manes back and forth.
One medicine man rode in a hut with several live Corbeauxs, a snake, a dog and
hundreds of scalps.
Now listen to this one. The bat. The performance of the bat is usually
called a dance but is more properly a mime. "A cyant do the bat dance very much
in daylight it could hardly see. It does start on one side like ah looking to grasp
something. Then ah do the crawl, wings overhead a bat could hardly walk and nick
now and then for sport. When ah see another bat, ah twinkle, like this. And when
ah see police horse do a little display. because you know bats and them like to suck
animals. Ah do ah flappin towards ah animal and stop and look like ah looking to
Midnight Robber. Crowley quotes a Robber. 'But is yuh action you know.
Jus because you playing a mas an you eh have the action, dat ent no use yuh know.
Is the action that carry me through, the action ah perform. It jus like you cyant say
yuh playing a robber, and you jus go and tell ah man softly, "stop my man". That is
nothing. Walk up to the man, say, "Stop! When I say stop, I advise you to stop!"
Why, most of these examples of mas playing tended to be individual or otherwise
faintly, intimate in scale.
The growth of Carnival and the irrepressible mas playing ambition of the
Trinidadian mas men, eventually produced mas playing spectacles on the scale of
entire bands several hundreds strong, and later several thousand.
Soon after Crowley published these observations in 1956, the Port of
Spain Savannah stage witnessed the extraordinary pageantry and drama of now
legendary mas portrayals. George Bailey, Harold Saldenah, the early Edmund and
Lil Hart from "Harts". I don't even have to describe the mas. The name on the
banner alone describes the pageantry of just one man. 'Back to Africa'- 57, 'Relics
of Ancient Egypt' 59. Perry Hittcliff, Totol Carmen were drawn and dethroned on
a pyramid and the whole thing brought across that self same stage for him to
descend off the Throne of the Pyramid, and every body to bow down before him.
'60 'The Saga of Merry England', and I as a little boy see with meh own two eyes a
black Elizabeth descending from a golden throne drawn by white horses. Hush!
'61 'The Byzantine Glory'. '62 'Somewhere In New Guinea", and me as a fledging
announcer trying so hard to describe it down town.
I so glad for the experience you know because it was teaching me without
me knowing. Then '69 'Bright Africa'. '70 'Tears Of The Indies', not to mention
Sally's 'Imperial Rome' and the myth of Valmond Jones as Nero with a little crystal
eye glass going across the stage to catch the tears.
These magnificent portrayals with their obviously strong performance ele-
ment reached their zenith in the mid 60's and then gradually declined to be
replaced by portrayals of fantasy and an attitude that playing mas should be fun,
meaning not taking one's portrayal too seriously, not being encumbered by sub-
stantial costumes, too many clothes, or the responsibility of a particular choreogra-
phy or enactment. Really this was a shift not from non-fun to fun, but a shift in the
perspective of fun or more broadly put, enjoyment or fulfilment.
Ironically, the success of the historical bands themselves, and the result
that greater numbers and the broader cross-section of people were drawn into the
Carnival, may have contributed to the shift. As early as when Crowley was writing
in '56, he made the following observations:
The historical bands and sailors are the only
masques whose faces register pleasure, excite-
ment or abandon. A much more common expres-
sion combines intensity, earnestness, exertion,
fatigue and a kind of fanatical zeal which must be
a much more powerful emotional experience than
The historical bands were also the beginning of the transition of masmak-
ing from a community based art form, to commercial enterprise. Crowley explains,
Historical bands tend to be more tightly organised
than other types, and are often brought out by
semi professionals who design the costumes,
contract the music, sewing bead and wire work
and the refreshments, direct the band in the
streets and on the stages, and give a fete after-
ward, all for a flat fee.
Other things contributed to the evolution of Carnival and mas-playing.
Among the most significant of these were the increased participation by the middle
class, and the particular attitude to Carnival and celebration that they maintained.
Now remarkably his was presaged by Barbara Powrie writing in the same '56
'Caribbean Quarterly of the changing attitude of the coloured middle class to-
wards Carnival. Among other things she observes:
The only social excitement available to the col-
oured middle class is the fete or spree which
covers anything from a cricket match to a beach
outing, from an informal drinking session, to an
organized party or dance. Rum drinking is the
almost invariable accompaniment to any fete.
Without such a stimulant, even the minor excite-
ment of the fete gathering would be recognized as
the unexciting occasion which it really is. This
need of excitement among other things, is the
value of Carnival for the coloured middle class.
Let me stray from the script here. The bourgeoisie, the middle class desires
comfort and escape, and I do not necessarily think that now the middle class as it
exists in the carnival and is expressed through it, can be described as coloured. It
is simply the middle class, and like the middle class of America that goes to Disney
and Fantasia to escape, so our middle class goes to Funtasia. To continue now
with a quote from Barbara Cowrie:
Carnival has lost much of its old appeal as a
means to excitement, and it is rapidly becoming
little more than a grand spree when most people
can dress in any old thing, or don their beach
party clothes. It offers a very pleasant opportunity
to take time off from work in office or shop.
That was 1956 and from that evolved fantasy and fun. Wayne Berkeley, Raoul
Garib, Stephen and Elsie Leung, Edmund and Lil Hart. Lil, I remember once
saying to me "There is nothing I can do." And Lil and Edmund was then known as
the fun band. "There is nothing I can do Minch it is what they want. I give them a
piece of cloth, they cut it off." And 'Hart' begat 'Savage', and 'Savage' begat
'Poison', and 'Savage' became 'Barbarosa' and begat 'Legends', and 'Harts' begat
'Young Harts', and 'Poison' begat 'Funtasia'.
Now Funtasia is the latest (please this is an observation), by no means a
criticism because it is all in the name of playing mas Funtasia, what a wonderful
name for the now of the mas and that's the latest introduction we have for the
coming Carnival. It immediately brings to mind, Disney's immortal Fantasia, a film
of which I am an ardent devotee. But much as I regard Disney's Fantasia, I
certainly do not regard his pastel pseudo-classic cartoon version of Beethoven's
Pastoral, as the definitive statement on that piece of music. As with Fantasia, so
To say this is not to deny the validity of the fun bands in the Carnival.
Whether you speak of the ancient roots of Carnival, the Holy Festival of India, the
bacchanalia, the Pagan Spring Festival, the African Harvest rituals, or the Trinidad
Carnival of this century or the last, Carnival, has always encompassed within its
cathartic ritual, the casual dressing up and drinking of the rum, the feteing and
carousing. It is a lovely, necessary, valid part of the Carnival.
But in Trinidad, the mas has also reached levels far more profound,
creative, artistic,, visual and inventive. And that heritage, that potential should not
be denied and forgotten simply because of the predominance of one narrow,
superficial, middle class definition of fun into which so many generations have now
grown to believing this is it. That many, many examples already given should make
it clear, crystal clear, dumbfoundingly clear that if mas is an art it is a performance,
that the ancient roots of Carnival contained powerful performance elements which
have been handed down through the millennia to present day Trinidad, that a mas
whether it is a Poison or a Tantan or a Saga Boy is not a "mas" unless and until it
is played. But evidently it is not clear. A reviewer, a theatre critic praises a work
such as Tapestry for its costuming, its design, its inventive use of material, and its
craft. We make our crossings hoping the chasm will echo our festive sounds for a
moment as the bridge begins to sway from the rhythms of our dance.
Obeahing the Space
It is said somewhere that in the beginning was the Word and the Word
was with God, and the Word is God. Then'God made man in His own image, and
one can assume then that the Word was made flesh. I contend then, that we are
each a word, a unique word cast forth to be uttered, and that is the premise of my
own determination in this space. The way I have adopted is the way that has been
virtually obliterated by those who brought us here. The way is Obeah. I look at
Obeah as a way. We need only to go back a bit and check out the various
chronicles and see the great effort meshed out to obliterate such a medium, such a
phenomenon. I am here to utter mv word. I believe therefore that every word is
establishing my way in that space... my Obeahing in that space.
In "The Douens", a book of poems that I wrote some time ago inspired to
say, the word was demolished to a blunt palm of unsightly river ends. The word is
demolished, man fell from grace, Africa fell out of grace. The question is asked,
"Who will rechart the ruin? Who will piece it together in its beginning and who will
utter decipher? There is an answer. A new poet, one who claims neither name nor
roof, one who will sacrifice child or field, one would utter words like nails stripped
from his own fingers, each a burning testimony of lava. The word, your every
gesture no matter what you do. The way Qf that word, obeah, finding your own
space, finding yourself in that space for the African spirit is most difficult. He
remembers bronze (Druncote?), he remembers the taste of that bronze as it
obliterated him. He erases psyche, a capacity for self, he is terrified at the very
concept of his thingness, his own word. When they found me, they found me on a
hill beating out a new compass from the debris in the skull of a man. One can see
the statement as a metaphor for the establishment or the invention of pan, for
A few years ago, some 27, 28 years ago, I started that journey in my own
work. I offer it to you. It is called the poet, using poet as the highest form of man's
expression, man's word. I began with fragments of a spiritual, all because as I
mirrored myself I saw myself as a fragment of my own being. Aided by
observations by such people as Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon and also in a very
strange way T.S. Elliot's "Wasteland" those were the three very interesting
references at the beginning of this journey in 1970. Fragments of a spiritual,
fragmented word, the demolished word, the "mashupness"of the psyche of African
I am trying my best to see the world through my own eyes, my unique
eyes, my African eyes; and that seeing is at the same time a reconstruction, a
recreation of my own eyes. It's a great task. It's an Obeah task. "Fragments of the
Spiritual": Having done "Fragments of the Spiritual", I moved on to "Douens". I
chose "Douens" at a time when I was trying to rewrite and redraw the folklore
characters of Trinidad and Tobago in particular, but the Caribbean generally. I
could go not too far with it once I had come upon the image of the "Douens". One
might say that that was the beginning of the utterance of my word. I had to admit
that I myself was a douen. What is a douen? The spirit of a child who died before
it was given a name, before it was baptized. Alf Cadallo, that illustrious artist who
I only had the privilege of seeing once on Duke Street, drunk, saw the loss, the
kind of tragedy that accompanies the artist in the space. Alf Cadallo left us this
image: backward turned feet, bloated stomach, a big head covered with a straw hat
directed in the opposite, walking forward and backward at the same time, going
nowhere wearing this huge hat, afraid of looking at the sun.
I saw African people in the space like the douens. I coin the phrase
"Douendom", but we were in fact existing or surviving in "Douendom" as douens,
incomplete, having no real will to complete. It is while working on "Douendom" that
I saw the other folk characters as being extremely significant to the re-evaluation,
the revolution, the change that should take place in this region as we are very
familiar with all our folk stories. Those stories that were told us as we went to bed
or frightened to bed. The La Diablesse for example Maman Di Glo, Soucouyant.
And I set out to redefine those images. I could not believe that my great-
grandmother, your great-grandmother, our mothers, would become the
soucouyants of the world. The soucouyant legends as they were, were old African
women, always African women who would turn into a ball of fire after taking her skin
off in the late evening and get through the jalousies, the cracks and crevices and so
on, and suck people's blood. Real strange image for my great-grandmother.
I changed that round a bit and I saw the soucouyant as institutions,
institutions that sucked your blood, that sucked our blood, sucked our vitality,
further diminished our capacity, for self-affirmation, self-declaration.
We run quickly on to the La Diablesse: very beautiful looking woman who
would come into a place of fun, gaiety, drunkenness. A time when the people there
would be loose, they would be in alert, and she would dance and she had all the
tools for dancing beautiful hips, breasts, big'paw paws' swinging all over the place
and stuff. And she could dance, and she had this fan she would fan very quickly.
Always it would be men, the men of the tribe in these places wasting their time,
easy prey. And we'll go after her hips, we'll go after the sexuality, the
sensuousness of her dance. And when she had enough of us in that place, she
would beguile us out and we would follow her, unaware as to who she really was.
What was this mysterious woman, this mysterious force that we were following.
And she would make a turn on you, but only when she arrived at a precipice. And
when she turned she would show her true colours, her true features. Then we
would notice that one of her feet was hooved and that her face, a skull. And in the
terror of that realization we would plunge to bur death down the abyss. You need
to look at that a bit.
Again for my own mind, in the seventies, this represents a certain kind of
deception in terms, the institution, of our own education etc. and you could go as
far as you want in terms of imagining the implications of that symbol or that
There is also Maman Di Glo. Hunters would leave, going after a dream.
They going to hunt, thev going to try to get food for their tables, their homes, they
have a purpose. They well armed to do this. Their camaraderie, all areas of
confidence going after something. But they would hear this sweet sound coming
to them in the wild, and it would attract them and it would shift them from their
course. And after great trial, they would come upon this woman in a pond, a lake....
and she singing such a beautiful song, this enchantress. And they would forget the
objective, they'd forget their duty they'd forget themselves.
All these little stories seem to suggest the loss of a self, the loss of the word
which is your duty, your being, your purpose for being here, and here is this, she
is generally a sort of mulatto-looking woman. She is a mermaid, but no one knows
that because we only see the top of her body.
Men here love breasts, something about their mothers, most of us are
breast-fed, most of us continue to be breast-fed and they would fall in love with her
breasts. They would also fall in love with her tresses: golden, long hair. And she
would be combing this hair with this gold comb most of us love gold, gold teeth,
gold earrings, gold chains, gold sneakers sneaking up. And suddenly there is fight
All the brotherhood that occurred in setting off this path, would disappear
because you sight the gold comb, you sight this woman, you sight her hair, her
breasts etc... there is fight. And those who would survive would swim across and
the prize is there waiting. Again, deception, when they get there they realize it is
not a woman at all. She is a fish and she would take them down to the bottom of
the sea. They drowned.
And there are others and you need to research them. These occupied that
moment in "Douendom" for me. In other words I use the symbols as revolutionary,
instruments, new instructive modes, new ways of seeing, new ways of wording our
space, interfering with the convention, that they had levelled on us.
For my own design I placed an obeah, the ritual. I placed Fragments of a
Spiritual under my left foot and I worked on it. And I placed "Douens" under my
right foot. This is an actual ritual in terms of my work, my wording of self. And it is
from there that I would rise, as it were, from under my feet, in the feet to the
summit. And I placed the summit on my head. I'll go past ankles, and knee, and
waist, and the chest, and the mouth to arrive at the head. And this took us some
seven movements through, from the first base of the triangle to the second base of
the triangle in terms of ascendancy, in terms of octaves. And, here we had for
example the "I Am" and so on and so on. One, two and then to the head (El
Tucuche), where we had the apotheosis of man.
El Tucuche is the second highest mountain in Trinidad. Aripo is the
highest. I assume the position that El Tucuche represents your God manliness,
your sense of self, the height of being, your height of your own being. People may
ask, why not Aripo? Aripo is the Godhead. I do believe in God, I'm searching for
Him. I must have some space between my own actuality and my dreams. El
Tucuche represents therefore that epitomy of man and I have a belief that man
came into the world like this and we measure His being or His wording or
languages of self by this angle.
His aim is to arrive at 90 degrees; his perpendicularity, if we may, his
verticality. And in achieving this if he does, he comes into full alignment with his
sun. He becomes invisible like a Martin Luther King and others who said "I have
seen it," and they disappear. Most of us dwell somewhere down here at about 2
degrees or 3 degrees. It is very difficult to get beyond that. But some of us and
there are I or 2 special ones in the place get way 450 heading towards the 90
degrees. So that is the work.
From there I had already pledged that for the rest of my life I would work on
this thing. One got terrified, you've reached El Tucuche, so what? So I begged a
little more and I moved on for another journey. The poet is doing a sort of cycle.
He is coming back down with the knowledge he achieves in the El Tucuchian. The
term "El Tucuchian" is now used to tackle any Herculean tasks. "Herculean" would
have been the other invention: those that have imprisoned us. El Tucuche is the
freeing up of self. So from that the apotheosis, the dividing of man went into
Pantheon where we saluted the gods.
I entered Orisa for example. I didn't join it. I entered it. I entered to search
for something. I am a child of Ogun and the Yemanja. I act that out to the full. I try
my best to identify with the aesthetics on the "ideaing" of these two Orisas. That's
why I create, that's why I am a warrior, that's why I fight. I'm trying my best to
"Obeah my, space". Dogs do it, deer do it. We don't as African people. Animals
will spot their boundaries. They pee here and pee there and so on, and hold it
together to my mind that's what "obeahing the space" is about. You who are more
scholarly inclined will examine the motif and expand on it. I am the artist and this is
what I offer.
We move past Pantheon in saluting the gods, to utterance, where I face
-that empty space, again trying to rename myself, to rename things. I am close to
sixty where I become an elder. And to become an elder is to sit again on that self-
throne. That eyeness "e-y-e" self. And we'may go on and on but time does not
The Status of Creole in the Caribbean
LAWRENCE D. CARRINGTON
The end of the second millennium is a good time to review the state of
languages whose birth can be dated within the latter half of this epoch. The
literature on the status of Creole languages1 has traditionally examined two fea-
tures of their presence in our societies: firstly, the functional distribution of lan-
guages in various social domains, and secondly, the attitudes of various categories
of users to the use of the languages. By and large, the social domains of use have
been determined by assumptions that place the languages of the society into
competing relationships. Thus, the assessment of the status of Creole languages
has been by reference to their coexistence with standard languages. In the case of
the Caribbean, those comparisons have been with major European languages
which have themselves been lexical sources for Creoles of the region itself. An
important part of the determination of status has been the degree of penetration of
the Creoles into those areas of the public domain that have been traditionally
dominated by the standard languages. The domains used as measures of pene-
tration are frequently the following: politics and government, education, the media
and the performing arts.
There has been no recent survey of the use of Creole languages in the
Caribbean region and such a survey is absolutely required. The more recent
studies of the kind have been limited in their coverage either to a particular Creole
language group, to an individual language, or to an individual country. For in-
stance, my own 1988 study (Creole discourse and social development) was di-
rected only at the French-lexicon Creoles of the region; Muhleisen's 1993 thesis
(Attitudes towards language varieties in Trinidad) focused on Trinidad only; Duri-
zot-Jno-Baptiste (1996) on Guadeloupe alone. Several other recent studies con-
tribute pieces of information to our knowledge of the status of Creoles, but their
data collection procedures and the analytical frameworks have not been governed
by common considerations. Summary statements on status, however carefully
they may be phrased, will be approximate and will not have the level of accuracy
necessary for planning until we can benefit from a survey that targets all the
varieties in the region with a common set of broadly conceived data collection
criteria and amply designed analytical frames of reference.
Government and politics
Haiti is the only country in the region which identifies its Creole language
as a national language within its constitution. Haitian is a variety of Greater
Antillean French-lexicon Creole and its constitutional recognition dates from the
end of the Duvalier period. Subsequent administrations have all consolidated its
position. Dominica proclaims the existence of its language (Lesser Antillean
French-lexicon Creole) in the country's coat of arms (Apwe Bondie se Late) but
there is no supporting statement in its constitution. Quite the opposite, both
Dominica and St. Lucia (where Lesser Antillean is also the vernacular creole) state
constitutional provisions that require ability to use English as a prerequisite for
election to the House of Representatives or nomination to the Senate. Further-
more, in the case of St. Lucia, the standing orders of the House require that English
be the language of address to the House. Constitutional statements about lan-
guage status do not apply to any other cases in the region. However, in several
states there is formal provision for the use of Creole languages and official prac-
tices in a number of domains demonstrate the political importance of the Creole
If the constitution is not the herald of the Creole languages in the region, it
is the political campaign that announces their political importance. Throughout the
region, those who seek elected office must prove their popular bona fides by
displays of bilingualism, including competence in the vernacular Creole language.
The requirement is not ritual because the representatives must be able to commu-
nicate with their constituents. The irony is that most of their constituents expect
them to maintain the linguistic status quo by not changing the dominance of the
official language in the sectors of public respectability such as the education
The education sector
The education sector has been the traditional battleground for those who
have strong views on the relative status and usefulness of the creole and standard
languages. The history of the spread of general education from the metropole to
the colonies and from the upper classes to the masses, has determined the norm
that education be available in the official language of a country. From the stand-
point of educational theory, there has been a contrasting concern that it is pointless
using as a vehicle for the instruction of children a language that they do not
understand. That position had variable effect over the centuries and creole lan-
guages have been used by various educational agencies, especially churches and
missionary societies, as media of instruction.
The churches have always understood what other educators have failed to
grasp, namely that people learn best in their own languages. Hence, they have
been major users of the Creole vernaculars for religious education. The develop-
ment of writing systems, dictionaries and grammatical descriptions has been a long
established contribution of churches and missionaries to the languages of the
Caribbean. Sranan of Suriname owes much to the work of early missionaries and
to more recent work by members of the Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL), a
Texas-based evangelical group devoted to the translation of the Bible into every
language of the world. Before long,St. Lucia will have! a Bible in St. Lucian arising
from many years of excellent linguistic work by David Frank, a member of the SIL.
The Catholic church itself has taught its catechism through materials prepared in
Despite the success of Creoles in creating Christians, they remained
outside the gates of the formal school system. (Perhaps the authorities were afraid
they would succeed in educating the pupils!)2 Although the debates about the
usefulness of Creoles for educational purposes have been current for most of this
century, it is the movement towards political independence of former colonies
within the last 40 years that has been one of the important stimuli for the discus-
sion. At the end of each round of the debate, if there is a gain for the Creole
languages, their use is restricted to auxiliary functions. The provisions are then
idiosyncratically implemented by teachers, schools, or educational districts in ac-
cordance with whatever practical limits the vocal sector of the population will
tolerate at the relevant time.
At present, teachers and virtually all education systems recognize the
importance of an acculturation period for beginners in schools. Accordingly, almost
everywhere, concessions are made to the fact that significant proportions of
students entering the school systems do not have sufficient working knowledge of
the official languages to benefit from their use as the media of instruction. Within
the formal school systems, the limited use of instruction through creole languages
has always been seen as a bridge to instruction through the official language. In
some cases, the transition has been made after perfunctory periods; in others, it
has been after more prolonged usage with varied, even though always inadequate,
results. The concessions that are made vary from case to case; sometimes, they
are rational and in other cases, irrational. For example, the 1983 concessions
made by law in the case of the French Caribbean departments approved experi-
mental use of Creole for instruction in areas of the curriculum with a cultural base
at the secondary rather than the primary level! On the other hand, the official
provisions for the use of Papiamentu in its zone of influence are for the initial levels
of schooling. Similarly, the concessions made in Trinidad & Tobago in the 1975
syllabus were at the primary level of schooling, the same level at which Haiti's
education reform of nearly two decades ago sought to instrumentalize their lan-
In discussing the education sector, it is important to amplify the summary
so that a clear distinction is made between instances in which there is a policy
prescribing and supporting the use of the Creole as a medium of instruction and
cases in which it is the personal decisions of individual teachers or general practice
that results in the use of a creole language as a de facto medium of classroom
interaction. The former case is real only when there is supporting written material
for a content of some kind to be presented in the language. Such cases are rare
and are currently operational only in Haiti, Aruba and Curacao.
A recent study by Hubisi Nwenmely brings us an account of the teaching of
the French lexicon Creole of St. Lucia and Dominica in metropolitan London with
references to related activities in the islands themselves. In her case, the learners
were literate adults who wanted to learn Creole for personal self-affirmation or for
social participation in the group of Creole-speaking "exiles" in the London area.
This is not by any means the first case of a training programme for teaching a
creole in an environment where it is not a working language. Several programmes
at university level have been offered by linguistics departments in the Caribbean,
the USA, the UK, Europe and elsewhere. The difference in this case is that the
London programme described by Nwenmely was mounted to satisfy a social rather
than an academic need, a need for affirmation of identity in an alien environment.
The programme which she describes has been accorded educational credit by the
London Open College Federation.
Her study is important for our present purposes because it treats the
teaching of a creole in a metropolitan setting, traditionally the most influential
source for educational innovation or mimicry in the Caribbean. It presents a
challenge to the educational authorities in St. Lucia and Dominica by demonstrat-
ing a successful accredited course for teaching the same language which they shy
away from in their own home-based education systems.
Another important area in the education sector, is the attitude of the
region's major school examination body for the part of the region where English is
the official language. The Caribbean Examinations Council has a policy by which
only the content of a subject is the focus of marking. Consequently, it is only in the
examination of English that students' scripts attract penalties for language use.
This policy affects the extent to which teachers in non-language areas reinforce the
language variety modelled in the study of English at the expense of Creole
varieties. Thus, although the school systems in the countries where English is the
official language may not be formally using Creole varieties for instructional pur-
poses, they are less actively resisting its use than in earlier periods of the history of
education in the same areas.
The print media
Creole languages have penetrated the media throughout the region. In the
print media, their longest established use has been in humour and in such literary
publishing as newspapers have carried over this century. Papiamentu has had the
longest history of use as a conventional medium for reporting of written news.
Haitian too has been established in that role even though the size of the literate
population of the country limits the potential for general advantage through the use
of the language. Periodicals published by church organizations have been the
longest standing regular publications of this type in Haiti. French-lexicon Creole in
the French departments and in the CARICOM states of St. Lucia and Dominica has
also been used as a limited medium of news reporting. Most commonly, this has
taken the form of modest inclusions within newspapers that are mainly printed in
the official language or of periodical magazines with regular features incorporating
pieces in the Creole language.
An interesting development can be noted in the case of contemporary
Jamaica where verbatim quotations from witnesses of current events and incidents
are increasingly included in the body of the reports by journalists. What is more,
the inclusions are in front page items, not in features buried in the columns as spicy
bits for entertaining the reader. It is also noteworthy that the persons interviewed
do not appear to shift their speech in the direction of English in response to the
interview. Creole quotations from persons such as teachers, who would be ex-
pected in the traditional analyses to speak English, could be interpreted to mean
that they do not feel constrained by the circumstances to be the hypocritical role
The Jamaica Observer carries a column called (W)uman Tong(ue) written
in Jamaican Creole by Carolyn Cooper, a member of UWI's English Department.
On a regular basis, the column features parallel texts written in the Cassidy-
LePage spelling and in what Cooper calls "Chaka-chaka spelling". This latter
spelling system is particular to Cooper who considers it to be more readily under-
standable than the Cassidy-LePage system. it is difficult to tell without a careful
analysis whether Cassidy-LePage is indeed the reference point for the majority of
those writing in Jamaican or whether the spellings in use are as idiosyncratic as
Cooper's. Even if further study shows Cooper to be without followers, the persist-
ence of the column may well be keeping the door open for an eventual review of the
writing systems of Jamaican.
A note on writing systems and technical supports
Writing systems have been developed for all of the Creoles of the region.
In most of the countries, this has been so for decades. Haitian has in fact gone
through several official writing systems and has finally stabilized its current system
without further change over the last 15 years. The system for Sranan has been
stable and unchallenged for a prolonged period. In the case of Papiamentu,
slightly different conventions exist in Aruba and Curacao but the differences do not
affect the mutual comprehensibility of the systems. In the case of the Lesser
Antillean French Creole, a common writing system has been agreed by scholars
since the mid 1980s. A writing system for Jamaican has been available since the
publication of the Dictionary of Jamaican English in 1967.
The extent to which the writing systems are known to the mass of the
population differs from case to case and is strongly determined by the levels of
literacy in the country concerned. Thus the writing system of Haitian may be known
among the literate who also use French, but is not available to the vast majority of
the population who do not. The absence of provision for the teaching of literacy
through the Creole languages means that only persons who have been made
literate through the official languages can have access to the vernacular language
in writing. The point is critical for correctly assessing the commitment of the states
concerned to the development of their Creoles. Without a policy for the develop-
ment of literacy through the use of Creole, the provisions for the use of the
language at any level are premised on the acquisition of literacy through the official
language. This is in many senses a self-defeating process.
The writing systems are supported by dictionaries that are available for an
increasing proportion of the Creoles of the region. There are several of good
quality for Haitian. Dictionaries for Papiamentu and Sranan have been available
for quite a long time. There is a historic volume for Jamaican, more than one work
for Guadeloupean, a major one for St. Lucian, a less ambitious volume for Domini-
can and a major volume in preparation for Trinidadian. Bahamian also profits from
a dictionary dating back to the early 1980s. Studies of the grammar of the Creoles
of the region abound but few complete studies are written for non-technical users.
This is a serious shortcoming because it reduces the efficacy for editing printed
material by persons who are not very conversant with linguistic concepts and
Radio and Television
The use of Creole languages in radio broadcasts is much more widespread
than it is in print. This is not surprising since Creoles have always had wider
acceptance as spoken rather than written' media, the latter presupposing the
existence of a writing system and wide knowledge of it in the society. In program-
ming which does not involve the reading of text, there is high use of local vernacu-
lars. This is especially so in the field of popular entertainment where almost all
radio personalities explore the full ra,ige of the varieties available in their societies
as they would in face to face communication. Music-based shows offer a wide
variety of exposure to the Creoles, not only in the lyrics of songs, but also in the
patter of the hosts.
The popularity of call-in talk shows, both for entertainment and for discus-
sion of contemporary issues, has increased the proportion of air time in which
Creole languages are heard on radio. Callers engage the hosts of the shows in
their own language and the latter respond in like fashion. The result is prolonged
dialogue frequently on topics of a sophisticated nature. Of importance, many of the
discussions between a caller and a host prompt calls from other listeners who pick
up the same topics but not necessarily in the same variety of speech as the
previous callers. The importance of the point is that it demonstrates the extent to
which the population may be focusing on the content rather than the medium of
Formal news broadcasting in which the presenter reads from a script
maintains the pattern of dominance of official languages although inserts of verba-
tim clips may contain vernacular speech. Even so, the presentation of formal news
broadcasts in Creole vernaculars is much more common than say 10 years ago.
Thus in St. Lucia and Haiti for example, news broadcasts in Creole are well
established features of the broadcast day. However, this is not the case in the rest
of the CARICOM region where English is the official language. In the Papiamentu
zone it is a virtual norm.
The final factor which accounts for the growth in the radio use of Creoles is
the dramatic increase in the number of broadcasting stations in the Caribbean
region. The development of FM broadcasting has had the effect of increasing the
number of stations. In every one of the countries of the region, there is competition
to fill the several niches of popular appeal with a resultant increase in the number
of programmes, advertisements and other communications that station operators
consider must be broadcast in Creole. The motive force for the growth of broad-
casting is not the language itself but rather the marketing considerations which
require that one reach every potential buyer of products in the society. Market
forces drive the shift to the language of the listener.
Equally powerful is the development of religious stations and religious
programming in which the vernacular Creole language is a major medium of
proselytizing. This is especially the case in the French Creole zones. However, in
the areas where English Creoles are the vernaculars an opposite tendency seems
to dominate the religious broadcasts. God is American and Americanized versions
of English are the preferred variety for religious programming.
The television medium differs from radio in that more of the video material
is of foreign (mainly American) rather than of local origin. Since the use of the local
Cieo:le vernaculars on television is restricted to locally generated programming, the
relative proportion of Creole used on television is lower than on radio. Curiously
enough though, the formal news broadcasts are time slots in which there is
frequent and prolonged use of Creole. The structure of the news programmes
includes live coverage of many events and incidents in which interviewees speak
their natural variety of Creole.
The most significant aspect of these developments is that the pressure to
shift one's speech in the direction of a standard official language for communication
in public (radio and television) appears to have been diminished. It means that
speakers may now have reduced inhibitions about the public use of their vernacu-
lars and equally importantly are making less negative evaluations of those who use
varieties that are richer in Creole elements than their own.
The music industry
A special note is necessary on the music industry. The Caribbean music
industry is essentially based on Creole French Creole and English Creole,
especially Jamaican and Trinidadian. Zouk, kadans, reggae, dub, dance hall,
calypso and soca dominate the region to the extent that dialect boundaries are
being lowered especially among the more youthful aficionados. The spread of
these forms of music throughout the world shifts the level of international accept-
ability of the vernaculars and feeds back into the region values that change the
profile of the users.
The performing arts and literary publishing
The Caribbean stage has long been a forum in which Creole languages
have enjoyed prominence. The developments that have taken place towards the
end of the century have essentially been in the kind of themes for which the use of
Creole is considered acceptable and even necessary. The thematic range long
ago transcended the farce and comic material that were originally the staple
applications accepted by the society. In general, the same literary perspectives
which have been declared in writings in the official languages of the region are
present in the material produced in the vernaculars. Drama of the most serious
contemporary type is presented in the region's Creoles. Poetry in the vernaculars
has changed shape and every level of literary exploration is being broached by
writers and performers whose quality cannot be challenged. Novels are less
commonplace than short stories but the numbers are growing. As far as the use of
Creoles in writing is concerned therefore, it is literary publication rather than the day
to day press that is advancing the public evolution of Creole languages in their
several societal functions.
Some issues that arise
I wish to turn now to a number of issues that arise from this sketch of the
status of Creoles in the Caribbean at the end of the 20th century. First of all, we
need to note that the status of the Creoles has been -measured by the degree to
which they have penetrated the domains of the official language. In particular, the
measure has included the extent of the use of Creole in writing. The measure may
be itself flawed because it assumes a priori that the domains in which the standard
language has traditionally dominated are the preferred domains for the acquisition
of status. What if they are not?
The assumption that Creoles acquire status as they penetrate the domains
of the official language is part of an established pattern of the measurement of
success in Creole societies. For instance, the progress of the formerly enslaved
and indentured has been determined by the extent to which they have replaced the
planter class in the latter's spheres of action. Success by occupation of the
enemy's space! However, we must be prepared for the possibility that the occupa-
tion of the enemy's space may no longer be the most useful index of status. Creole
societies may have evolved sufficiently beyond the desire to replace the planter
that the measures of status have to be revised.
Let us return to some of the interpretations that I placed on the data
presented earlier. In reference to the use of Creole in Jamaica in radio and
television interviews, I suggested firstly, that the pressure to shift one's speech in
the direction of a standard official language for communication in public appeared
to have been diminished. The second related proposition was that speakers'
inhibitions about the public use of their vernaculars had reduced. A different
interpretation is possible. Persons who use their Creole vernacular in interview
type situations on radio and television may still be operating within the established
social patterns; that is, public self-presentation requires them to shift their speech
in the direction of the official language. However, their shift may be taking them
away from one variety of Creole to another rather than moving their language out
of the range of Creole. In other words, they have exercised a traditional choice of
variety and it is their public-chifted variety which is in use, but that variety does not
belong to the English band of the society's range. They may still be operating with
the negative stereotype against Creole but are unable to get any closer to the
standard official language.
The third proposition I made was that people were making less negative
evaluations of others who used varieties richer in Creole elements than their own
and were focusing on content rather than the medium of communication. More
careful analysis at the level of discourse may be necessary to determine whether
the attitudes embedded in dialogue across language varieties are even, or whether
they are biased in one direction or the other. In other words, we need to determine
whether those callers who are operating in English are reacting genuinely to the
content of the submissions made by Creole speakers or whether they continue to
be affected in their interaction by the medium of expression. The opposite case
would also have to be examined.
Another issue that must be raised is whether the society has really
changed its views on Creole or whether it is a change in the social structure of the
Caribbean that has changed the data on language use. Within the last 30 years,
several Caribbean states have undergone major social and demographic disrup-
tion. The events in Trinidad in 1970 followed by the oil boom in that country
changed the relationship between the traditional social structure and the employ-
ment structure of the country. Similarly, Jamaica's experiment with democratic
socialism which climaxed in the 1980s with major emigration of significant numbers
of the middle classes and other skilled cadres of citizens transformed the structure
of Jamaica's civil service, educational services and private sector. Guyana also
underwent dramatic changes in the middle of its society when its economy floun-
dered in the least successful days of the Burnham and Hoyte administrations. If in
such circumstances, we examine the status of Creoles by referring to the language
behaviours of the same occupational groups, by examining language use in what
appear to be the same social contexts and by reference to the same possible range
of linguistic choices, our deductions are likely to be faulty.
The democratization of education and the triumph of the capitalist ethic
have allowed the Caribbean society to replace the escaped social groups with new
cadres. If this is the new middle class, they have brought their language with them.
It is to their credit that they have done so largely unselfconsciously.
At the beginning, I indicted that we need to have a proper survey of the
use of languages in the Creole Caribbean. My last remarks should show how
urgent this is. The issues I have raised must be among those that shape the design
of the survey if we are to understand the true nature of the status of Creoles in this
1 I am using the term "Creole" as a generic term to cover all of the languages of the relevant type.
Where a specific case is under discussion and where there is a readily recognized name for the
creole of the country, I shall use that distinctive name.
2. It is not only Christian faiths that have used Creoles for religious education. The Bahai'i have
prepared written material in Creole for use in Dominica.
Carrington, Lawrence. 1988. Creole Discourse and Social Development. Ottawa. IDRC. 102pp.
Cassidy, F.G. and LePage, R.B. 1967. Dictionary of Jamaican English. Cambridge. Cambridge Uni-
versity Press. 489pp.
Durizot-Jno-Baptiste, Paulette. 1996. La question du creole a I'ecole en Guadeloupe. Paris: L'Har-
Mohleisen, Susanne. 1993. Attitudes towards language varieties in Trinidad. Unpublished masters
thesis, Free University of Berlin. 128pp.
Nwenmely, Hubisi. 1996. Language Reclamation: French Creole Language Teaching in the UK and
the Caribbean. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 138pp.
JOANNE KILGOUR DOWDY
The Good Little Girl
It's funny how often they say to me, "Jane?
"Have you been a good girl?"
"Have you been a good girl?"
And when they have said I t,they say it again
"Have you been a good girl?"
"Have you been a good girl?"
I go to a party, I go out to tea,
I go to an aunt for a week at the sea,
I come back from school or from playing a game;
Wherever I come from, It's always the same:
Have you been a good girl, Jane?"
Sitting in yet another class, with still another white instructor before me, my
minds rewinds to the ship that Equiano was held hostage on. The professor is
transformed into the translator/captor who befriended the twelve year old boy. I am
now in the hold of the ship leaving Africa with the multinational cargo strapped in
spoon fashion below deck. The professor's mouth opens before me and the letters
come at me, spewing forth as from a dragon's mouth, so many mangled bodies
floating on a field of white. There is not much that I can do to defend myself.
Words are your own worst enemy. Every letter falls dead, unresponsive and still,
as the next letter takes its place quietly, orderly, like so many grave stones at the
military cemetery. The sense of stifling oppression builds up after a very little
All along you are talking to yourself, or rather, your self is speaking in the
idiom of feeling, intuition and stomach contractions. The speaker continues to hurl
black bodies, curled into letters, into the air. The hope is that you, the listener will
swim upward from that lake of orderly black matter and respond in an 'intelligible'
manner. All the while that you are swimming around in the sewerage, dead history,
dead mothers, dead cultures, are all floating around your eyes and ears, threaten-
ing to engulf your throat and render you paralyzed on arrival at the "answer".
Can anyone guess what it is like to translate into a foreign tongue every
blessed thought or emotion that ever crosses a person's consciousness? Is it any
wonder that descendants of the slaves, all across the world, are struggling to hold
on to their "native" languages so tenaciously? For all the promises of cultural
advantage, technological progress and educational excellence, the colonized peo-
ple of the world know that their very soul's survival depends on their never
forgetting that they are the products of a cross-pollination of nations. Let the
standard linguistic currency be English, but the truth of the history of imperialism
will not be swept under the carpet of indifference by those who paid most dearly for
the success of the colonial empires.
These descendants know that those of our ancestors who had the great
advantage of speaking just as their fathers and mothers did, enjoyed the privilege
of luxuriating in a community of fellow-feeling. Sight, sound and intuition had their
representative sound symbols. Meaning floated on a sea of acceptance and
ancestral intonation caressed the ear. The design of the "master" letters did not
lacerate their tongues. They did not face the unending dilemma of choosing to be
numb to the pain, as the words bumped and scratched over the insides of their
minds and their tongues. The master's language did not inhibit the impulse to
communicate in a form that was more kin to that of their preceding generations.
Language did not conspire to leave them feeling that all of their history was being
made into a bad foreign movie, with subtitles that had very little bearing on the truth
of the pictures on the screen that was their lives.
We who have endured colonization know that life isn't kind, and we accept
that the history of the prisoner is one of accommodation. The cell has to be made
into a home, the guards have to be transposed into well-intentioned relatives, the
harsh restrictions become just so many precautions that careful parents put in
place to insure that their "children" do not come to harm. So the letters stand here
on the page, sentinels keeping watch over the entire African diaspora. Every
thought is monitored, every emotion is subjugated and slapped into submission, so
that all the other listeners understand the translation of the lives that are rendered
Have you noticed how very few of the letters actually stand up? The "T"
and the "L", have a good shake at independence. But the "b" and the "d" are
pregnant, they are anchored by their swollen bellies, clinging to the general height
of all the other young members of the alphabet. The "m" and the "n", the "a" and
the "r" will never see life the way the other, naturally outspoken letters do, they will
always be subservient. And this view of the world has become second nature to
the point that there will never be another reality for the letters of the lower case!
And similarly, the view of the world as presented by my pen is often very compro-
mised. I too, have been forced to genuflect before the tradition of the conquerors,
feeling compressed into a language that has been forced on me.
I can already hear the defenders of the "Alphabet Republic". After all, the
verbose will interject, there ,s great freedom in discipline. Look at how uniformly
those letters line up. They don't ha' e to be to'd to stand, stoop or crouch, spoon
fashion, so that there is no space between each of them. And then when there is
space, you have just a hair's breath, whatever that is, so you can squeeze yet
another disgruntled word in next to the previous one. Of course, there is no protest
from these words, they belong to the power of the inventor. The power that
represents the intellects that have long since juxtaposed exclusivity with privilege.
The format of words on paper brings back ancestral memories to the
colonized "reader', a reminiscence of those who experienced the Middle Passage.
She hears in between the lines, the echo of the holds of the slave ships that came
from the west coast of Africa, and the tones of the linguistic history that was
transported intact. She can envision in the ant's trail of the letters, the travellers on
those ships coming ashore on the coasts of the American continent, and the
Caribbean, to face a new world of chaos and anarchy. The still sensitive descen-
dant of the slave can almost conjure up the sound symbols of the African continent,
those that had once made sense to the minds of the slaves. The clack, clack, clack
of the computer keyboard augments the new sounds of Europe which greet the
weary travellers. The continents of sound. crash about the air and shroud the
immigrants' consciousness. The touch of the whip against the flesh makes indel-
ible designs of meaning, imprinting sentences that can never be removed from the
pages of the new nation's history, and forces itself into a subterranean language.
These lashes have become the sounds that threaten to flood the silent spaces
between all the words in our books so that they might be heard and accounted for.
Lashes, forced penetration, cuts from iron chains and atrophied muscles from the
cramp of immobility conspire to reach out from their lower existence, and like the
imprisoned, throw out the sentinels who have diminished their existence to the
mere anecdotal reference to "the old days".
English, Spanish, French and Portuguese words should have no monopoly
in the transposition of Middle Passage emotion. Subjugated speakers, bereft of
their Mother tongue, have to unearth a language system which represents their
buried history. Remembered communal suffering has to transform the painful
experiences that are our heritage. From the depths of the master's discourse a lost
continent must drill its way up through the layers of linguistic history. Once forced
to compromise or choose invisibility in the world of acceptable language, the
sounds that were banished to that place must make a way through the spaces on
It's always the end of the loveliest day:
"Have you been a good girl?"
"Have you been a good girl?"
I went to the zoo, and they waited to say:
"Have you been a good girl?"
"Have you been a good girl?"
I want to blame it all on my mother. It is always easy to blame the mother,
and more important, the dead cannot speak. So from the vantage point of age and
the security from retribution, I want to lay down the beginnings of my personal angst
over language. When we were growing up in Trinidad, my mother always re-
minded us that we needed to learn to "curse in white". By this she meant, or I
believed that she meant, that we should always be aware that we had to play to a
white audience. We could protest, we could show anger, but we had to remember
that there was a white way, and that was the right way. I am sure that she had
accepted that this would be Lhe case for her children as long as the British imperial
sun did not set.
Being middle class and black, brought particular burdens and responsibili-
ties. Especially since our great uncle had actually been a past mayor of Port of
Spain, the capital of Trinidad. He had met and sat with Queen Elizabeth, Her
Majesty and the Emperor, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. If we were to continue this
outstanding tradition of service in public life, whether political or cultural, we needed
to have certain baggage. My mother plodded on unrelentingly in her effort to make
us deserving vessels of public acceptance. To "curse in white" was the epitomy of
embracing the creed of colonization. One not only had to look the part, light
skinned, chemical curls for a coiffure, but one had to sound the part, perfect British
diction. Maybe it was my actor's temperament that made the language such a
personal journey to me. I took on the project of "th's" and "wh's" with such
devotion, that I was given many opportunities to represent my grade school in
Choral speaking competitions and story-telling festivals.
Imitation is a grand play when you are young and impressionable. But I
can tell you a very painful memory about discovering the edge between fantasy and
reality. My friends were out in the middle of the street playing cricket, no less, when
I decided to join them. I was never good at sports, my hand and eye co-ordination
is more the product of wishful thinking than reality. But I ventured in, as a good
sport, and also as a way to provide entertainment for the group. Again, having the
soul of an actor can force you to put your person al image at risk for no good reason
except that it gives you a chance to affect the situation to your advantage.
Applause drives the reasoning of any self-respecting ham. In other words, any-
thing for attention. So here we are playing cricket, looking out for the cars turning
into the street and forcing us to scatter onto the sidewalks, and I hit a ball over the
fence nearest my left. It's a miracle that my make-shift bat even made contact with
the ball, and that I managed to direct it away from the pitcher. It's another miracle
that in the scramble for the fielders to find the ball, I scream out "Over there". Note
that the "th's" were intact. My English English teacher would have been proud of
me, but more likely, my mother would have been even more excited by my
"mastery of the language". The game stopped still for those few seconds while I
spoke. Then the giggling and snickering began. Someone was hollering my
phrase in the most exaggerated British accent. Then the others picked it up. It
sounded strange as any foreign language sounded to me. Who could have said
that phrase, was my question? Any sensible person in those given circumstances
would have enunciated "Ovuh dyuh!".
By the time I graduated from high school, rather secondary school, to use
our preferred label, I had the privilege of claiming to be a member of a television
production company, Banyan Television Workshop. We wrote short skits about
local people who were colourfull" because of their use of the Trinidadian language.
In other words, you could find these people anywhere we looked. The few people
who spoke British English, were in positions of authority and they made an effort to
impress the people that they were addressing.
This opportunity, to write and act these familiar characters, gave me a new
lease on life. The chains fell from around my tongue and my brain began to feel as
if it were oiled and moving along without hiccups. I had been granted the supreme
opportunity of an actor's life, my quest for legitimization was answered. Now I
could be any number of people from my environment, simply by changing my
persona. Even more exciting than that freedom, was the fact that I would be shown
appreciation for my facility to slip from one mask to the other. I could travel up and
down the continental shift, moving from Caribbean to English intonations, without
anyone being offended. All the shades of my existence could be called into the
performance medium, and I at last, could feel integrated.
School children are not encouraged to write in Trinidadian. It is viewed, by
our esteemed educators, to be a "dialect" not fitted to the expression of higher
thoughts. Our writers have their books published by British publication houses.
Our best student writing is designed to be read by foreign audiences, for example
the board of the General Certificate of Education in London. We are supposedly
writing so that our fellow Caribbean teachers can read our thoughts and English is
the best means of communication. Everyone who writes the language, knows that
they have to translate their thoughts as fast as they can speak, if they are going to
sound more than morons attempting to speak "the Queen's English".
What we've managed to do, as a nation, is to relegate our language to the
back room of 'other'. Our calypso singers, politicians and television stars, are
allowed to speak Trinidadian. But our daily newspaper is produced in the best
English this side of London. After all, I suppose it is important that Her Majesty can
read our daily goings on, regardless of the fact that we became an independent
Republic some twelve years ago. So who are we playing to? It seems the only
people who get to question the value judgement that we place on our indigenous
language are the cultural workers in the field of poetry and playwrighting. When we
represent Trinidadians in their natural speaking state, none of them sound like they
are distracted by the sound patterns of the English language.
The sounds of the mother continent Africa, play in and out of the language
patterns of Europe, India and Asia. The Trinidadian who has not been made to
subjugate her oral history in imitations of the most recent foreign television star, has
a plumb line to the African west coast. The spirits of her ancestors occupy a
chamber in her consciousness that make it easy to reach back, unselfconsciously,
to the deeper inspiration of her linguistic culture.
So I want to go back to my point about my mother's ambitions. In order for
a Trinidadian to make progress on the ladder of success, she has to embrace the
English language. If it means forgetting the fact that everyone else around you
sounds like they have inherited the tones and diction of two hundred years of
cross-pollination, due to the fact of the Middle Passage and all it entailed for the
involuntary immigrants, then so be it. Your job, as a survivor of the twenty-odd
generations of slaves and indentured workers and overseers, is to be best at the
language that was used to enslave you and your forebears. It is is a painful
strategy for survival, but maybe it is just another facet of the kind of transcendence
that the descendants of kidnapped slaves had to aspire to, in order to survive the
very memory of slavery and its impact on the colonized psyche.
So here is the situation that my mother finds herself in: she is very light
skinned, she comes from a politically privileged family and she is bright and
ambitious. She has children who are light skinned, they do not necessarily have to
use chemicals in their hair to look "good" as in "white-derived", and they obviously
have a talent for imitating language. What good mother would not militate all the
available supports to help her children access the power structure that several
centuries of black, white and Indian intermarriage delivered to their generation?
My mother made every effort to have us learn ballet, take piano lessons, join the
choirs that our school formed, and gave us the best representations of British
fashion that she could afford. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress, and
a co-conspirator in this upward push, so the burden was not entirely on my mother.
My brother and sister ran into peer pressure and gave into it. They never
perfected the tones and diction of the ruling class. In fact, they spent the better part
of their adolescence conspiring to pull down every vestige of British domination in
their lives. They joined the national student movement and marched in the street
carrying placards that protested the black government's involvement in oppressing
their people. They painted slogans on walls criticising the continuation of British
tyranny in the education programmes. They were both forced out of high school
before they completed their education. My sister went to secretarial school and my
brother went to work as a counter clerk at the national airline's main office.
I went to one of the prestige schools that was run by nuns. Their claim to
fame was the level of academic performance that they managed to cultivate in the
all female population. We were all expected to be bright, and speak "right". No
Trinidadian in the school rooms. To speak English, one had to practise. We were
given all the latitude in the world to suspend our reality as Trinidadians, the proud
survivors of three hundred years of British, French and Spanish domination, and to
revert to the one language system that we should have ripped from our throats at
the earliest age possible. Instead, we made our throats moist and forced our tones
up an octave so that our voices matched the quality of the few expatriates who had
survived the independence movement of the 1950's.
I think that I survived my high school years by assuming the best mask
ever fabricated: the mask of language. I invented a character who wanted to
please her teachers and her dead mother. I engaged a form of thinking that never
appeared to question authority and also never let slip any knowledge of an
alternative identity. My role was to survive, and to do it with the same finesse that
millions of black people had done over the centuries. I was determined to beat the
system that had been working to eradicate all vestiges of black genius, through its
autocratic approach to education.
When I was chosen to be the assistant Head Girl, a low level repre-
sentative of the principal's au thority, I created history. I became the "good girl." The
Head Girl and I chose to wear our hairnatural, so that we resembled Masai women.
We brought our Afro-centric identity to the attention of the school, and by so doing,
encouraged other students to feel free to express their Trinidadian attitude to their
education. We did not privilege light skins, as was the custom among prefects
before us. We were outspoken about our concern for the student population that
had previously been ignored or disenfranchised in the school community. Ours was
a new kind of leadership, and our fellow-students seemed to warm to the challenge
of forging a new identity outside of the colonial models that we had been given up
to that time.
The continental shift from Europe to Africa, was evident in our new black
pride. We could switch from English to Trinidadian as fast as radar could sound the
ocean depths. Over dyuh was now, present, and centre stage for our generation.
Well, what did they think that I went there to do?
And why should I want to be bad at the Zoo?
And should I be likely to say If I had?
So that's why it's funny of Mummy and Dad,
This asking and asking, in case I was bad,
Have you been a good girl, Jane?"
A. A. Milne
A person gets tense when someone screams at her. Have you ever
noticed how the eyes bulge and the breathing gets short, or completely stops?
"Read" the signs of abuse that register on the respondent's persona. Look closely
for those guideposts, the cracks in the mask, where the effects of domination
register themselves. In those crevices you will see protruding the legacy of a
nation's determined efforts to subordinate other countries. Peering back at you
from the fissures, will be the rising steam of teeming blood that represents all the
nations that have been indicted in the conspiracy to make Europe the only surviving
nation in that war.
I contend that the issue is between the ;oionized and the colonizer. When
the whole fruit is weighed, you must include the skin, the seeds the pulp and the
juice. So it is with the issue of language and the colonizer's intentions toward the
colonised. The aim of the colonizer is not to have the colonized learn to appreciate
her native language and to validate it as part of the currency of language. It must
be, instead, relegated to things of little or no value. In so doing, the coloniser
weighs the whole issue of the colonized's language, the history, the community
experience, the codes that represent a level of "taken for granted" issues, and
decides that the value is nil.
This is why it seems a necessary evil to develop a mask at a very early
age. The colonized person understands instinctively, and with the help of her
community's experience of colonization, that the survival technique for the subju-
gated group involves double realities. She must be in two places at the same time,
ovuh dyuh and here too, and not give any indication that her attention is divided.
She must operate from behind the mask of the "white" language. This reality
becomes a fact when she begins to appreciate her place in the cosmology of the
colonizer's world. Her lot is to act as a medium of languages, a channel, not an
interpreter. The Head Girl must never remember the Masai. This is the reality that
penetrates to her soul when she attempts to slip from behind her mask of "accept-
able" white language, and b'.gin to engage a conversation in her own tongue.
Firstly, there is mental conflict about tho priority that should be given to the
mother tongue over the master discourse. In the public life, the value given to the
patriarch's tongue, the master discourse, always supersedes that given to the
matriarch. The "language of intimacy", as Richard Rodriguez calls it, has no place
in the public arena. In other words, soul and reality occupy separate linguistic
spaces. This conflict duplicates itself in every aspect of life, when she tries to
negotiate the two worlds of language by building bridges from one side to the other.
Think of Malinche, mother of modern Mexico, who bore the children of Cortes and
acted as translator to the Spanish conquerors of her Aztec people. Her seeming
betrayal of her people must really have been the result of having too many words
to choose from. It must have alsJ been the resultt of the soul escaping the
articulation of its vision.
At a loss for words really describes the feeling of the soul in the "white"
language world. Thoughts come into her head in her family's intimate vocabulary,
and she strains to translate those ideas into the acceptable form expected in public
conversation. If she is confident about the tones and melodies that language can
convey, because of her heritage, she can listen for a melody beyond that which is
the scraping cacophony of the outsider's language. Her expectations of language
become her enemy.
She expects that her usual facility with language will be available to her
when she begins to speak in public. Instead, there are cold, metal sounds bounc-
ing off her teeth to fall between herself and her listener. The act of translation
cooling the passion of the thought, sends up a mist of miscommunication. Where
she expected to create an easy access to her listeners' acceptance, she finds that
her efforts help to create a glistening wall, icy with dangerous foreign sounds and
echoes of the unfamiliar tones of strangers. The result is the fate bestowed on
Malinche: you are christened "chingada" or bastard.
The continual shock of miscommunication serves to dismantle the
speaker's notion of language, how it works and the ways it can be used. The mask
becomes secure, refusing to let the soul take its place in the eyes. No light
emanates from within the colonized speaker. The continual disappointment with
the master discourse creates a shroud that covers every utterance with a doubt
about its worthiness. Where there are statements, she hears questions When
she needs to ask questions, they turn into statements that misrepresent her
thought. The familiar vocabulary, now devoid of meaning, bewitches the effort to
make sense. The voice in her head does not match the tone in her throat. She
sees and hears herself becoming a tape played at the wrong speed. Unless she
can reconnect with the sense of familiarity that she grew up taking for granted, she
will lose all ability to integrate the dominant idiom into her language system and she
will be rendered invisible and inevitably voiceless.
So, for the colonized speaker, the issue is not really about whether she has
a language or not. The issue is about having enough opportunity to practise that
language in "legitimate" communications. The central concern is about having the
freedom to go back and forth from the home language to the public language
without feeling a sense of inferiority. The main agenda concerns this right to
experience all the levels of language planes that have been created over four
hundred years of colonization. The issue is about letting colonized people commu-
nicate in their many spheres of communication, and not limiting them to jazz,
reggae, samba, calypso and zouk. Let the Head Girl be a good Masai and the
cricketer hit the ball beyond the boundary ovuh dyuh.
A great deal is at stake if the dominant culture continues to ignore the
presence of the army of black slave descendants who do not have spaces to speak
and hear all of their ancestral languages. For the dominant society which operates
as if it does not have to engage in any dialogue with these languages, repre-
sentatives of the accretion of many tongues, thinking that they have the absolute
power to wish things and people away by ignoring them, will find itself demoted to
the base level of the next wave of the majority population. In the twenty-first
century, four years away, the 42% non-whites will form a wave that threatens to
break with a crash.
Thinking that the only language geneaology that will ever be investigated
is the one belonging to the power brokers, the old guard will be taken unaware by
the new majority. Manlinche's grandchildren will appear, Nanny and Cudjoe's
children will join ranks, and Chaka's descendants will enlist in the movement.
Previously relegated to the fringes, the voices of the twenty-first century will find
themselves communicating with each other, creating a new form of discourse. This
discourse will embrace the layers of linguistic history that are presently denied a
place in the language of power. The faultlines of history will disclose new mean-
ings and with those plates exposed, people of colour and black people, w II enter
into the universal dialogue in their own tongues. Theirs will be a language '.hat lets
the soul back into the throat. While they have an understanding of the language of
their "superiors", they will not remain outside of it, feeling that they are neither friend
nor foe to the language system. They will practise using the correc'. verbs, or
finding the objects and subjects in sentences, and learn to stand within the creation
of meaning. Their imagination will be engaged, the similarities between their
private language and the master discourse no longer battling and ihe idea of
belonging to an inferior language group discouraged.
Where the present power brokers in the society can begin any discourse
by taking for granted that they will be understood, and accepted, the "minorities"
who approach their immediate attempts at communication from a position of
deficiency, will see a revolution take place. The marginalized speaker who knows
that she will not be heard when she speaks in her first tongue, the home tongue,
will come to see that she can say more in her language, and that other people will
accept her communication as valid and representative. Her need to communicate,
formerly unhappy forays into the unfamiliar territory of alternate language dis-
course, will blossom into the flowers that had been dormant in the arid land of the
desert of master discourse. The status quo that assured her that no one would
listen, or that they would complain that they did not understand her enunciation,
causing frustration and exacerbating the pain of crossing over to the other lan-
guage world, will disappear in an ocean of sound.
For many of the colonized, after ten to fifteen years of the cold reception of
our home languages in the world of master speech, we throw our hands up and
return to the safety of our home tongue. Not only is it safer, nurturing and
meaningful, but it now includes words and descriptions that denote the experience
of isolation from the language world of the powerful. We feel safe to hear our own
thoughts examined in discussions about the master discourse, as we begin to
reflect on the value of having a means to make sense of the experience with our
community. So rather than live with the idea that language is useless, since the
experience with the master tongue is continually frustrating, she begins to realize
that there are far deeper underpinnings in the value of community language and the
issue of voicelessness and power.
The pursuit of the understanding of this value for language and community
and the access to power within the society, will probably bring us closer to the
acceptance of our multiple language inheritance. We may begin with the notion
that everyone wants to communicate and that language is a repository of the lived
experience of a community, but when we emerge from the interfaces with outra-
geous displays of domination and issues involving the use and abuse of language,
we will feel the necessity of making a way through the surface of our language
habits to the deeper core of our language world. We will want to be people of the
subterranean continent, locking for the very centre of our beings beneath the
fathoms of historical sift.
There will be no more castigation of the dominant language, but an
insistence that the subjugated speaker's language be accounted for and given
equal value in the currency of communication. The faultlines will widen under the
pressure of the moving, subterranean energy. The soul, pushing through layers of
solidified experience and forgotten language patterns, will force and push its way
through the years of denial and burst into the mouths of the forgotten multitude like
hot molten lava escaping from a volcano. Out of the depths of the Middle Passage
will come the Ashanti, Swahili, Yoruba and Mende tongues. As these push up, into
the light, they will be pulling the tones of Europe and melting them into a hot molten
fluid, which will be cooled as it takes the shape of the new vocabulary. Language,
once the domain of selective references and particularly Eurocentric expressivity,
will course towards the sky flinging its verbiage against the walls of tradition and
forcing the brick to come down and melt into the new diaspora of communication.
The East Indians and the Creative Arts in the Caribbean
JAMES ISIAH BOODHOO
For over 150 years Indians have lived in the Caribbean. Starting in the
sugarcane Plantations to which they were brought and indentured they have
spread into every area of life in these islands. They were selected in India with an
eye for their suitability for manual labour, People with soft 'hands were turned away
regardless of their desire to seek greener pastures elsewhere. But no matter how
they tried many skilled and learned immigrants slipped in. Many were the reasons
for their wanting to leave their homeland poverty, famine, homelessness, unem-
ployment, domestic problems, persecution of one sort or another, desire for
adventure etc. And many were the occupations from which they came: policemen
jewellers, priests, pundits, farmers, street-sweepers, leather-workers etc.
Housed in the vacated slave barracks and provided with a mere pittance
they were a major cog in the wheel of the sugar-producing factories. Theirs was
not a climate for creative expression but for all that was against them they found
opportunities for cultural activities. Coming from mainly rural India with
predominantly oral traditions the immigrants naturally continued to practise those
cultural pursuits which required little or no physical baggage. Folk tales continued -
stories of kings and queens, beggars and holy men, and interspersed with dialogue
and songs. Folk songs remained unchanged. Religious observances persisted
deities and devils with literate Hindus and Muslims renewing the faith with readings
from their holy texts. Wherever these rituals called for particular objects and
decorations these were created- "deeyas" were made for divali; weddings required
hand-prints on the walls and a variety of decorative skills were employed on
garments and personal adornments including jewellery. Musical instruments -
percussion and stringed were produced and folk operas were performed on
festive occasions. Whatever paintings were done were as decoration of temple
walls. Later figures representing various deities were installed. There was no
woodcarvings except on the handles of cutlasses and knives and on the wooden
surface of drums.
This state existed for about one hundred years. Only one pen drawing has
surfaced during this time. It was done by "an Indian immigrant" and was a scene of
the big yard of Elspecorro Estate. The artist showed competence in capturing the
perspective of buildings and showing distance in the drawing of horses. There is a
good grasp of proportion. His name is not recorded. The drawing is reproduced in
Marianne Ramesar's "Survivors of Another Crossing". There is no reference in that
book to art. There is no record of individual artists among Indians before World War
II. This is not to say that there were no Indians occupied in Art and Craft activities
but easel art was non-existent. Art and craft were adjunct to other activities.
Thousands of Indians were involved in the other arts. In music there was
tremendous activity with hundreds of songs being composed and new styles based
on folk traditions were emerging. But these were not given national exposure.
Performers were regularly being unearthed and individual competitions were
promoted. In dance the folk traditions "Raja Harischandra, "Indar Sabha" and
others were a regular part of wedding celebrations on "cooking nights" as was "tent"
singing of "ghazals" in a local style. The-emergence of the Indian film saw the rise
of multitudes of singers and musicians performing to Indian audiences. "Gurus"
found eager pupils to whom they imparted their peculiar styles.
The first artist to emerge among the Indians is Mohammed Pharouk
Alladin. He has been without dispute the most influential of artists in Trinidad and
Tobago. Not because he was a great painter who created masterpieces but
because he was in a pivotal position in the fostering of art education and the
development of artists. Such a position did not exist before he came on the scene.
Alladin, after graduating from Teachers' Training College and, showing
evidence of some talent, was awarded a British Council Scholarship to pursue a
course for Art Educators in England.
He returned in 1949 with the most modern approaches to the teaching of
Art and Craft. He had been abroad when the most significant changes were taking
place in Art Education. He had always been a very good student and had
obviously made a good impression in England in this field because many years
later British experts were still speaking fondly about him.
He ran courses for teachers in the Primary Schools, (there were no art
teachers at the secondary schools). He established workshops for specially gifted
children in centres all over the country, created an Art Teachers' Association and
instituted an annual exhibition for them at the National Gallery. Many of these went
on to form a nucleus of art teachers and developed into artists of note.
This major influence among Indian artists was in the subject matter he
chose for his paintings. He showed that Indian rural life was a suitable area for
exploitation. And like Selvon he gave a new dignity to this subject. The Indian
artists now found exciting subjects in their own backyards and their own homes.
Except for the subject matter there was stylistically no thread linking these artists
with each other. And certainly not with India. No original art from India was ever
exhibited locally except for one miniature which was given by the Indian
government when Jodhpur was High Commissioner no painting, no sculpture, no
local artist of Indian origin ever studied in India, and as far as I am aware, only one
has ever visited India. This is not the case with music and dance.
Indian artists with formal training were all students in British or American
Art Schools and had imbued Western traditions. They were Western Artists. No
attempts had been made in any of these schools to sensitize them to any personal
vision that reflected their culture or origins. So these artists established
themselves among artists in their own communities and territories on their return.
Inspiration visually came from India in the most garish prints of gods and
goddesses. This is very much like the 'sacred heart of Jesus' prints over Christian
doorways. Bronze, cast-iron or plaster images were also brought over from India.
Local efforts were not valued in the same light.
With regard to economic support it is well known that Indians do not buy
art. Support for the visual arts from this quarter is nil. The cheapest stuff brought
fro India is valued more highly than anything local Indian artists could produce. The
clients for the Indian artist have come from the professional persons of African
descent and the local whites. And it is only fairly recently that their purchases will
include any subject matter, the only criterion being the quality of the work.
This half not been so in the performing arts where songs dance and music
as well as drama have enjoyed increasing popularity.
So the Indian artist persists in making his art to satisfy his personal needs
in the hope that his efforts would be appreciated first by his colleagues and then by
the viewing public.
Ramleela and Hosay: Contestation on the Periphery
In describing the cultural character of the Caribbean region, Gordon Lewis
identified what he called "a distinctive communality of leading features". As he
"The first of those features, and that from which
everything else flows, is the fact that the
European colonial powers created Caribbean
colonies de novo, practically virgin territories, -
once, of course, the original Taino Arawak -
Carib Indian stocks had been reduced by
exploitative practices... that is to say every
person in the Caribbean east of dramatic person-
nae has been a newcomer: the colonizer, the
African slave, the sugar planter, the merchant, the
overseer, the Asiatic estate worker, the colonial
official, they came to be members of overseas
communities that were culturally naked, devoid of
inherited tradition and accumulated custom..."
It was this historically created condition of a "culturally naked" landscape
which provided the genesis for the development of culture in the Caribbean
following the European encounter. And a symposium such as this, which takes as
its theme multi-cultural arts education, must of necessity address, with openness
and in-depth the multi-cultural nature of Caribbean society (with specific reference
to Trinidad and Tobago) arising from the condition of "cultural nakedness". But the
cultural landscape in this Caribbean world of diversity did not arise out of nothing.
No one "in the Caribbean cast of dramatic personae" was a "culturally naked"
being. We have refashioned the landscape with our labour, our effort and energy;
we have erected our sacred shrines and planted our flags in every corner, we have
transformed the vegetation with new plants; the air vibrates with our rhythms. With
time, a collage fabric of wondrous beauty is being woven, embracing an intricate
meeting and fusing of diverse patterns. In a significant sense, our meeting here
today is, at least in part, to contemplate upon the nature of the cultural fabric which
has placed the "cultural nakedness" to which cc:onism has reduced Caribbean
societies, and with respect to Trinidad and Tobago in particular, to examine the
ongoing interrelationship between culture and the formal educational process. It is
in this context that my paper needs to be viewed.
Hosay2 and Ramleela3 are two of the many popular festivals in Trinidad
which fall within the general category of cultural practices which I define as the
Indian cultural formation. Indian indentured labourers were first introduced into
Trinidad in 1845 and, based on newspaper reports of the time, the Hosay festival
was observed on plantations and in the public streets from as early as the 1850's.
It soon grew into a mass, popular street festival of the plantation Indians and was
already attracting the involvement of lower classes Africans. By the 1880's the
Hosay had become the most spectacular festival in Trinidad with growing popular
appeal. It was up to that time the only event in the lives of the Indian masses which
gave them a presence in the public space, outside of the regimentation of
plantation existence. Colonial officials began to view the event as an occasion for
"national Indian demonstration" and were quick to legislate against the observance
of the festival, seeking amongst other things to keep it out of the public domain and
to restrict it to the plantations. In 1884, the year of the first Hosay after the
legislation was enacted, Indians in their thousands resisted the colonial authorities
and in San Fernando the confrontation with the colonial police resulted in the death
of many Indian labourers (estimated at about eighteen (18). In addition to those
who died on the spot. about one hundred (100) more were injured).
The Ramleela consolidated itself as a popular festival during the period of
the establishment of Indian villages in Trinidad, as Indians from about the 1870's
sought to reconstruct communities following the end of their indentureship
contracts. If the Hosay was the most popular Indian festival during the phase of
plantation existence, then the Ramleela may be seen as the main popular festival
in the relatively later period of village/community settlement and organization. Both
these festivals have a historical presence in this society of well over 10 years during
which time they have come to be shaped by the environment in unique and distinct
ways have come to be influenced by climatic and seasonal cycles, labour and life,
conflict and struggle and by the cultural social and political contexts of their
engagement with the world.
We can speak at length about the multitude of ways whereby these
festivals can be harnessed in order to heighten, broaden and deepen learning in
the formal educational process.
We can speak about the beautiful and delicate craft work of the Hosay
tazias and the Ramleela effigies; about the rich living tradition of iconic art of the
Ramleela; of the use of spaca in these festivals; of the music/drumming, the dance,
the costumery, the sense of pageantry, and so much more. By themselves these
two popular festivals can be seen as schools for cultural education, cultural
understanding and uplift. But there is so much more that can pursued. There is
so much room for research, for writing, for expression. There are so many avenues
for the engagement of persons of knowledge and skill from the basic community
level, to the university. The Ramleela is observed today at about 25 community
sites all over Trinidad for a period of ten (10) days, leading up to the Divali festival
every year. Ramleela is also an increasingly important event im in the calendar of
dozens of primary schools. A conservative 1996 estimate of the Ramleela
audience and participants over the ten (10) days is in the vicinity of 95,000.
Although media attention is mainly directed at the St James Hosay, the
Cedros Hosay is another key region of its observance in Trinidad and popular
participation is no less obvious there. The Hosay is a popular street festival while
the Ramleela is a popular folk theatre. One needs to acknowledge, with deep
respect, the contributions and sacrifices which the ordinary folk have made to the
rooting, survival and advancement of these festivals in Trinidad many stood up,
many fought in the 1886 Hosay many died so that this culturally demanded
landscape may be clothed with the unmistakable mprint of the Indian cultural
In a significant sense a discussion on culture is really a discussion on the
relation of power. But culture, like many other things, has a contradictory nature.
Culture may be an instrument whereby power is expressed. But it is at the same
time the site for power contestation. In this sense both the Ramleela and Hosay
may be seen as a metaphor for the Indian cultural formation in this society.
As Eric Williams has pointed out Trinidad in 1833 was not a plantation
society... it was Indian indentured labour" which converted the island... into a
typical plantation economy.
In its engagement with this society, the Indian cultural formation was
confronted with an experience of oppression and subordination at two levels, all at
one and the same time at the level of the plantation as a total institution and at
another level, with the colonial state. Both the plantation and the state, operating
as an integrated system of the hegemonizing power was able to erect structures of
entrapment which barricaded the Indian cultural formation within well-defined
spaces of surbordination on the periphery while it directly and bitterly enjoyed the
articulation of the African cultural formation in the public domain. But more than
this, colonalism produced a body of knowledge and gave rise to a discourse of
hegemony which sought to confirm the location of the Indian cultural formation
beyond the sphere of the public, notions of "alien", "non-Trinidadian", "foreign",
"non-national"' "Racist", and other such terms came to occupy centre-space about
discussions on the Indian cultural formation. Adherents so to this cultural formation
had always to justify their right to belong and the debate is always stuck at the
colonial defined periphery. The right of authencity beyond the barricade of
marginalization often defined as divisive, racist, insular, etc. by those who take the
standpoint of hegemonic discourse produced by colonialism.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is still the perspective which governs a
large part of our exchanges on the Indian cultural formation in Trinidad. In spite of
the good intentions of individuals, it is my View that as things stand at present,
attempts at incorporating elements from the Indian cultural formation within the
formal education processes in this society will be dictated by the terms of this
well-established, institutionalized and deeply rooted discourse, which has simply
been reformulated in the post-independence era. This is not to throw blame or to
point an accusing finger the Indian cultural formation has still to be emancipated
so that it can engage its Caribbean world on level ground.
The resources are available, it has a long and proud history of resistance,
it is extremely resilient and has tremendous survival power. Whatever attention is
given during this symposium its role and place in the arts and education process -
in the Caribbean as we approach the twenty-first century one thing is certain: the
Indian cultural formation will continue its contestation from the periphery; it will
continue to lay claim to its authentic and legitimate place in the constantly changing
collage of a multi-cultural Caribbean and with faith in the Caribbean experience it
will continue to strive, as it always had, to advance the process of Caribbean
emancipation by shattering the barriers of marginalization and entering beneath the
full gaze of the radiant Caribbean sun, into the public space. The struggle
Carnival Transformations: A Carnival Project In Cape Town
It is on this landscape in the Cape Flats and on people in the Cape in South
Africa that I am invited to speak and of how they adapt, transform and appropriate
elements of Caribbean carnival to create carnivals of their own. What carnival face
will emerge from this landscape?
In pre-democracy South Africa, 1992, which happens to be the year of the
Columbus quincentennial, three women, Hazel Carey, Clary Salandy and myself, -
a South African, a Trinidadian and an English woman, were invited by New Africa
Theatre Trust to run a Carnival Project in Cape Town. The participants were
community arts workers and teachers in training, mainly in their twenties and
In pre-democracy South Africa, the government-prescribed apartheid cur-
riculum did not provide opportunity for instruction in the creative arts. That creative
activity that is at the heart of exploring and expressing one's humanity was
intentionally excluded. Initiatives from within township communities, sometimes
working with organizations like New Africa Theatre Trust, were providing essential
arts activity with young people and community groups through after school and
weekend classes. This is the situation, in which carnival began to take root.
The carnival project we undertook aimed:
* to introduce participants to the nature and concept of carnival (Caribbean
* to provide opportunities for the acquisition of skills e.g. mask-making, stilt-
* to provide inspiration, starting points and working methods which could be
used in conjunction with participants' own skills, ideas, traditions and art
* to use carnival as a means to self-exploration and empowerment.
For two weeks, intensively, 28 participants worked mainly, though not
exclusively in practical ways, on movements, mask-making, stilt-walking, devising
stories, sharing the history of carnival in Trinidad, with its colonial context, at many
points finding South African parallels. This culminated in a non-processional per-
formance in week 3.
Subsequently I returned in 1993 and 1995, to work on other similar short
projects, alongside teachers and community workers who had been participants on
the first project, and I'm drawing from those experiences also in what I say here.
I would like to illustrate to you the nature of these projects and of how
South Africans make carnival their own. At the same time I shall attempt to identify
the key issues arising in connection with this work.
Carnival as a catalyst to existing SA arts and as a vehicle for self-expression
A key learning point for me was to observe and experience how carnival
acts as a catalyst and trigger to people's own creativity, how it provides stimulus
and forms for their own stories and arts, out.of which something new develops. On
a literal level this could be seen in the improvisation of characters, music develop-
ment, approaches to the use of materials and so on. In their devised pieces, for
example, participants readily drew on South African parallels to the Caribbean
masquerades and folk characters we had introduced in the movement and mas
workshops. The 'spook' of a South African folk tale echoed the Soucayant, the
apparently legendary drinking habits of the cape sailors picked upon the Drunken
Sailor mas; stick-fighting traditions already belong in the Cape; the long-existing
marimba, at once tonal and percussive like the pan, is made locally and to a variety
of requirements to form marimba bands in a further parallel with steel band.
This ready adoption and finding of parallels, was nowhere more evident
than in mask-making. This activity, more than any other absorbed every partici-
pant. The concentration and keenness to continue late and come in early could not
be attributed only to the pleasure.of making. Each person developed a relationship
with their mask, and the lengthy and exacting process involved in constructing with
chicken wire, layering with paper mache, painting and repainting, provided a
process through which each maker identified with his/her mask and invested
personally in it. Each participant devised what their mask spoke and in these
speeches carnival as resistance art found its South African way of working.
The production itself evolved organically out of the workshop activity. It
included zum dance, limbo and masquerade, found object music and traditional
drumming and, at the centre, were the speaking masks. The women made easy
and inventive use of cloth strips, cut from a pile of free factory off-cuts, and created
skirts, anklets, armlets and head-pieces that spun and flared with their movement.
On the day of the first performance, Xhosa men in the project arrived with necklets
shoulder cloths and arm bands and wooden sceptres, of ceremonial value to
themselves, and incorporated these in their existing costuming. In its content and
in its presentation the production demonstrates a cultural mixing which results in
something new and South African.
South Africans learnt how Caribbean carnival could be a model, not
prescriptive nor a strict template, but a trigger and catalyst to people's own ideas
and creativity; what emerged was the importance of letting participants work
through parallels in their own culture, which, given that space, they did spontane-
ously. For the carnival production to have value and meaning it had to take its own
forms and narratives, and in doing so, grew wings and soared.
Carnival's developing role within the communities
As a vehicle for community celebration and statement carnival is without
equal. A whole range of carnival projects have developed in South Africa, in the
1990s, those in the Cape, to which I am referring, together with others on a larger
scale in Johannesburg, Durban and Grahamstown. Kamal Elaoui, a Morrocan,
trained in carnival in the mas camps of Notting Hill, London, has been undertaking
carnival projects in South Africa since 1994. He has organized street carnivals on
a significant scale in South African cities. These are mainly celebratory events,
marking special days and anniversaries and they engage wide grassroots commu-
nity involvement. Carnival is now seen at government and local levels as of
paramount value in the new South Africa.
Why do communities embrace carnival so significantly? For one thing
carnival is interactional and in South Africa an urgent priority is to find ways of
bringing different peoples together who were previously kept apart. Kamal has
described to me, for example, in Grahamstown, the carnival procession that his
project organized, included groups from different communities who came together
in procession and were welcomed into each other's area for the first time. For
many whites it was the first time they had been into a black township just a mile
outside of Grahamstown.
Carnival activity provides for everyone in a community to be involved and
to feel proud and express themselves where previously communal activity and
creativity have been discouraged, controlled and held in suspicion even prohibited.
It actively facilitates incorporation of existing ways of celebrating and creating, it is
infinitely open to renegotiation. Traditional art in Africa is communal and carnival
picks up on that tradition. Carnival is inclusive and including, in ways that South
Africa's new constitution seeks most specifically to foster.
Carnival is economically feasible where financial resources are minimal.
In the nitty gritty of costume-making, it is possible to use what is to hand. The
offcuts from the cloth factory, the cardboard boxes from the supermarket, fallen
leaves or the seeds from a fruit or vegetable, school paint, old bottle tops, you
name it, the ingeniousness of SouthAfrican and especially South African children
will imagine and fashion it to a new purpose. In a land where the redistribution of
resources is going to be too slow for satisfaction, carnival has much potential for
becoming a people's art.
Let me illustrate this with reference to a one-off one day workshop in a rural
location. In Eastern Cape, at considerable distance from the nearest town of Alice,
you can find a large collection of homes which form the village and community of
Ntzelimanzi. This village has a highly active cultural organization and I had the
good chance to see an excellent devised production by their theatre group on
Easter Sunday in '95. In return I offered the cast a carnival workshop.
On the Monday a group of us drove to Alice to collect cardboard boxes
from the back of the one supermarket there. We gathered various pieces of wire,
string and tape. We were lucky to be given use of some powder paints. On the
Tuesday, first thing, we gathered in a wood and cut several long flexible hazel
switches, up to seven foot in length. After a brief physical warmup and an
introduction to what we would be doing and its context, participants set about
constructing backpacks from the hazel switches, fashioning cardboard into shapes
and characters that grew into huge masquerade puppets. My faint remonstrations
about the problems of large areas of cardboard in a high wind went fortunately
unheeded. The creatures and personages that emerged, as mid-day tipped into
afternoon, in many-splendoured mixtures of colours, shapes and surface pattern-
ings, took lives of their own. Each was entirely different. As the sun set, the mas
players disappeared behind a clump of trees and bushes and reappeared in
procession, dancing and singing, their own faces hidden by.flowers and leaves, the
pink sun lighting up the lofty masquerades above them.
The elders from the village and the leaders of the cultural organization had
come to witness this remarkable sunset mas. This was an entirely new experience
for everyone involved, and also entirely their own. Introducing the group to the
simple construction of the backpack and making available some basic materials
facilitated their own creativity, and their skill and imagination produced masquerade
puppets I could not even have dreamed of, leave alone given direction for.
In the community which does not yet have the benefits of on line electricity
and where the nearest water source is a substantial walk, carnival has blossomed
like a promise. Two men in particular from that workshop, Kuyani Booi and Sandile
Mali, are developing the carnival work and are winning financial support and
interest from the local government and networking with places where carnival is
developing. Carnival offers so much here. One sees how just the techniques the
backpack, ways of extending and enlarging etc. trigger indigenous creativity. So
its cardboard and poster paint and leaves? What no aluminium rods? No, but what
use of cardboard, school paint and leaves. This is transformation.
Carnival's introduction into the curriculum
The South Africa government is at present instigating state-wide school
curriculum guidelines. Photographs of the carnival structures from Ntzelimanzi
were displayed in an exhibition in Johannesburg. The Minister chanced to see
these; he also saw the press and media coverage of the Johannesburg carnival;
in 1995 which Kamal was instrumental in organizing; he followed up to check out
what kind of activity lay behind carnival work he was seeing. As a result, right
now, Annette Loubser, art teacher, lecturer and artist, is engaged in writing up a
carnival syllabus for inclusion in the South African state primary school curricu-
That the carnival influence is from outside of South Africa is, curiously an
advantage. It does not belong to one group or another in South Africa, it is, as it
were, impartial, neutral, yet clearly it so readily becomes indigenous to all.
Issues of cultural mixing
Where the arts of different cultures meet and mix there is usually an issue
of power and of perspective of which is dominant and of whose perspective
prevails. Most publications in the 1990s Qn multiculturalism analyse situations
where Western culture is 'borrowing' from what are seen as minority cultures and
where there is a 'pecking order' or hierarchy in the cultural line-up.
Cultural regeneration is a crucial concern in the present South Africa and
culture turns out to be both significant and appropriate to that regeneration. The
carnival work there is a cultural negotiation between equals, a Caribbean culture
and a burgeoning South African one. It is neither the adoption, simply, nor the
imposition of a form or model, it is a negotiation, and carnival is, of its very nature,
infinitely renegotiable. It is essentially multi-cultural in origin and development and
therefore open to new cultural mixing. The absence of hierarchy in this cultural
mixing connects to what Shohat and Stam refer to as 'polycentric multiculturism'.
In the business of creating a new nation, cultural issues are widely and
openly debated. Carnival has caught fire in South Africa. Not least amongst the
many possible reasons for that is its potential for indigenization, its very non-
europeanness. The holistic nature of carnival, its integration of art forms, its
potential for celebration alongside exploration of the dark and dirty sides of life and
its combination of ritual, decoration, disguise and statement connect to African
sensibilities and contemporary need. There is a cultural sympathy that facilitates
this cultural transfer.
In his Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture, Patrice Pavis suggests that
cultural mixing can lead to 'a general acculturation or mutual destruction, or rather
to an amorous encounter'. In the cultural mixing ihat occurs when South African
communities are introduced to Caribbean Carnival neither culture loses by the
experience. Pavis' 'general acculturation' might best describe the development of
carnival activity in South Africa. But also, the introduction of Caribbean carnival
into South Africa has been 'an amorous encounter'. I do not suggest that trivially.
Who has not felt the increase in energy and optimism that can come from
an amorous encounter, the impetus it can give creativity, the way in which even
flirtation can increase a person's sense of confidence, pleasure in being greater
ease in stepping out. In love, we dream dreams and from the energy and inspira-
tion of dreams comes creativity, production, self-expression. When Caribbean
Carnival and South Africans meet, it is 'an amorous encounter'.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Africus 95: Johannesburg Biennale Catalogue (Johannesburg Metropolitan Centre 1995).
Goldberg, David Theo (ed.) Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (Basil Blackwell, 1994).
Pavis, Patrice Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture (Rouledge, 1992).
Shohat, Ella & Starn, Robert Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (Rout-
What in the World is Culture booklet 651's World Series, 1995.
SHORT PANTS (LLEWELLYN M. MAC INTOSH)
Prejudice, recalcitrance and habit, perhaps more than ignorance, are the
factors which must have delayed, for so long, any serious investment in the very
rich oral traditions that exist in the Caribbean, especially for the purposes of
education. Very few today will question the fact that the first language is the one
that best facilitates learning. A 1953 UNESCO document affirms that
It is axiomatic that the best medium for teaching
children is their mother tongue. Psychologically it
is the system of meaningful signs that in their
mind works automatically for expression and un-
derstanding. Sociologically it is a means of iden-
tification among members of the community to
which they belong. Educationally, they learn
more quickly through it than through an unfamiliar
Still, educators in the Caribbean have been slow to adopt some non-
standard forms of the language as ready-made tools of instruction and, public
reaction, which quite often shapes government policy, has regularly been hostile to
any perceived shift away from what is recognized as the standard.
Twenty (20) years ago the publication, by the Ministry of Education, of the
language Arts Syllabus provoked national debate in the "Opinion" columns of the
Daily Newspapers. The syllabus had recognized that,
The teacher must always be aware that the pri-
mary aim of the language arts is to teach English
He must maintain a consistent standard of
good English in speaking to his class but this
must be related to the ability of the class..... The
teacher must make himself understood and if the
use of English at all times is an obstacle to com-
munication, then he must use the language his
class understands, that is, he must limit his lan-
guage to those structures and vocabulary items
that are within the passive control of his class... 2
Many wanted to know whether the Ministry was about to allow "bad
English" to be taught to the students. Since then a gradual acceptance has
evolved on many fronts. Anancy stories are widely used in the classrooms, the
CXC will accept dialect if presented in dialogue and one might even find the poetry
of Paul Keens Douglas being read by teacher or student.
Any deduction though, which suggests that the examples cited are indica-
tive of growth, development or acceptance needs to be carefully examined. Such
perceived notions of acceptance upon closer examination may turn out to be
superficial or temporary.
Both Carrington (1979)3 and Joseph (1978)4 noted how deeply ingrained-
societal attitudes had made any attempt to switch to creole particularly difficult.
In discussing the same issue Narinesingh, in a recent lecture to Caribbean
principals, presented the view that students' sensitivity and attitude needed to be
taken into account. Narinesingh warns of the reaction of students if they realize
that the code-switching of the teacher was done in a hostile manner. The teachers
might not be convinced that they ought to switch. Furthermore, there could be dire
consequences if the switching is perceived as mere patronage.
The relevance of the preceding arguments is underscored by the fact that
as recently as December 1996 there was public outcry when the Minister with
responsibility for Culture suggested to a group of Calypsonians that the calypso
might be used in schools to promote unity.5 It ought not to be too difficult to
speculate upon the coup d'etat that would certainly have followed had the Minister
suggested that Kaiso be used for the teaching of English.
Calypsonians themselves, save for the very few, seem not to recognize
the quality of their work and its potential for exploitation in the classroom. The
richness of its imagery, the subtlety of its innuendoes, the poignancy of its meta-
phor and its unique symbolism must all be lost on a President of the Calypsonians'
organization whose only comment about the Minister's proposal that calypso be
introduced as a teaching tool was negative, "The Americans don't teach Rock and
Roll in their schools......," 6 he is reported to have told the news reporter who
There are as well, growing concerns about declining literacy levels in the
country.7 Why is it that, despite the existence of several different types of schools,
basic literacy problems still need to ha addressed. Enough has not been done to
formally dismiss any assertion that within the theoretical positions outlined earlier,
lies the root of these deficiencies.
The nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Hilaire Belloc and
Thomas Peacock have appeared in English anthologies as "poetry". Much of this
we have inherited and still use. American folk songs and British ballads appear
today in textbooks in our own classrooms.8 Kaiso remains stigmatized.
(It might be useful to note also that neither Shakespeare nor Dickens,
Hemmingway nor Walcott wrote expressly for the classroom). Their writings how-
ever, over time, have become features (and fixtures) of our education system.
Since 1977 Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdirt) lamented,
Our music festivals, imagine
Is still piano and violin
Teachers still teaching Shakespeare
Why not poems of Lord Kitchener. 9
Folking English, or to put it another way, the use of the folk material the
complete package might very well be the key to several issues literacy, disinter-
est, relevance, values and cultural re-enforcement.
An attempt was made to improve the performance level of students doing
English Language by teaching them using materials from the Folk Tradition.
Figurative language was taught using calypsoes, as well as jokes, riddles and
Over a two-month period, a class of thirty-two (32) second-year boys in a
prestigious, high achieving secondary school in Port of Spain were taught irony,
and to recognize, compose and use the pun, metaphor, personification, hyperbole,
onomatopoeia in their everyday speech and writing.
It was necessary to establish that the majority of these students were those
for whom the standard was not the first language'. Naturally, in a school of this
type, the standard was the traditional language of instruction. An analysis of the
students' reports and discussions with their teachers suggested that the class -
Form 2S comprised average or below average performers. The researcher hy-
pothesized that, instruction, using materials that were more linguistically familiar,
ought to produce comparatively better performances, as Narinesingh, and others
have contended :
Caribbean communities with the historical legacy
of colonialism bidialectical speech communities
(where) the standard language co-exists with a
creole ... the creole shares that large vocabulary
but is sufficiently phonologically and syntactically
different from it to pose grave problems for the
student acquiring standard English.10
Assuming therefore, that folk expressions like those common to the ca-
lypso and the proverb, were structurally similar to the first language of the creole
speaking students, it was reasoned that these familiar modes when utilized as
teaching material would facilitate quicker (easier?) understanding and conse-
quently produce better results.
Two control groups were used. Since streaming was the normal school
policy, it was easy to identify Form 2A as an above average group and Form 2C as
a group whose ability was average and similar to that of Form 2S.
These two classes retained their usual English teachers who promised,
over the same period, to teach the Figures of Speech identified, in the traditional
manner of giving notes, definitions and examples to the students to commit to
Form 2S was given a different teacher the researcher for the duration of
the experiment. The figures of speech were presented in non-traditional ways, viz.,
there were handouts, the teacher sang calypsoes, the tape recorder was played,
discussion and group work was encouraged and the use of "bad English" was not
There were a few drawbacks. The study was done as part of the require-
ment for the In-service Diploma in Education. Constraints of time therefore limited
the scope to just one area of the syllabus and restricted the study to only ten
For the purposes of analysis at the end it was not possible to use both
control groups. The teacher of Form 2C did not teach the lessons as agreed.
When the post-test was presented to this class, there was an outcry. It was futile
to test something that had not been taught. Form 2S's performances could
therefore only be measured against Form 2A's performances and against their own
performances during the previous End of Term Examination. The Year End
Examinations became a useful measure especially since the lessons taught were
valid parts of the syllabus the students were expected to cover. The post test was
therefore presented as one section of the End of Term Examinations.
The post-test required that students compose figures of speech likely to be
used in specific situations. Students were also asked to identify the figures of
speech used in given situations. Additionally, they were asked to recognize the
figurative language used in both traditional literature and written expressions of oral
folk literature. Finally, they were to demonstrate the ability to recognize definitions
of figurative language.
It was found that, based on the results of the post-test, both the Target
Group (2S) and the Control Group (2A) performed at almost their normal perform-
ance levels. It was reasonable to conclude therefore that the use of the folk
material did not give an advantage over the traditional methods and materials.
It was useful to observe, however, that the use of folk material did a lot for
class control. A class which had been described by teachers as restless and
disinterested was found to he focused and interested. Discipline was not a prob-
lem during the ten sessions. The use of the folk is -,trongly advocated therefore, as
a means of stimulating class interest. This stimulation has the capacity to possibly
curb many of the distractions that could create indiscipline.
Furthermore, careful selection of the material by the teacher could be a
means of teaching/enforcing acceptable values and of promoting national and
cultural consciousness, through the hidden curriculum.
Additionally, the preparation for some classes was modified with the use of
Two (2) classic illustrations, of hyperbole and simile ought to emphasize
I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up my sum. 11
Day after day, day after day
We stuck, nor breath nor motion
As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.12
In both of the preceding examples of the use of figurative language, the
teacher would have had to ensure comprehension, by detailing some aspect of the
life of Hamlet or the life of the Ancient Mariner in order to ensure the students'
appreciation of the examples.
Compare, Alan Fortune's (Mudada) No Use, for hyperbole,
Yuh look 'round for employment
Private sector or government
Yuh now in distress
Ah go gi' yuh ah tip on de whole process
What dey want is ten application
Fifty 'O' Level
Yuh got to show dem yuh really capable.13