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Caribbean Quarterly
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Full Text


ISSN 0008-6495
Caribbean Quarterly
Vol.46. Nos. 3&4
Sept.-Dec. 2000

VOLUME 46, Nos. 3&4


(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission forbidden.)

Perspectives in Caribbean Theatre: Ritual, Festival and Drama 1
Errol Hill
New Gods of the Middle Passage 12
Kamau Brathwaite
The Mother Poets of My Art 59
Paule Marshall
A Song Searching Interrogation with Self 72
Barry Chevannes
The Caribbean Artist's Presence and Education for the Third Millenium 82
Rex Nettleford
Made in Trinidad 95
Peter Minshall
Myths Are Us Too 118
Erna Brodber
Philip Sherlock Collection -Library of the Spoken Word 133
Alma Mock Yen
Books Received 138
Notes on Contributors 140
Instructions to Authors 141
Translation of foreword in Spanish and French 142




Editorial Committee
The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Vice Chancellor, Editor
Compton 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)

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The Editor, Caribbean Quarterly, Cultural Studies Initiative, Office of Vice Chancellor
University of the West Indies,PO Box 1, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
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Visit Caribbean Quarterly on UWI, Mona Website :www.uwi.mona.edu.jm

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would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of relevance
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Almost anything that I say about Sir Philip Sherlock would be to gild the anthurium
- the anthurium being the gift of a life of hope and fulfillment creatively crafted and
deftly lived as part of a process of transformation, growth and development of an
entire society in quest of itself, of its reason for being, for over half a century

Philip Manderson Sherlock had been at the beginning, since the late Thirties, of all
the great challenges facing the people of our groping West Indies whether it be
the call for self-government followed by the birth-pangs of a society in protracted
labour or the halting courtship leading to an attempt at union, or the bringing forth,
complete with primal screams, of so many Independent nations starting with his
own native Jamaica and her sister twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago in

A persistent advocate of West Indian integration even in the face of the ill-fated
Federation of 1958-61, Sir Philip has lived to see the light rekindled and the hope
restored in the hearts of a new generation which remains the legatee of the vision
he had for our Caribbean people in the surge towards a definitive civilisation. For
him, as for other founding fathers, the twilight of colonialism was to herald a light
rising from the West. "Oriens ex Occidente Lux" Everywhere else it rises from the
East. Trust us in our determination to be different, special and unique!

Lord Milverton who, as Sir Arthur Richards the British Governor who detained trade
unionist Alexander Bustamante and other radicals in 1939/1940. told me while I
was researching the early self-goverment movement in Jamaica, that on being
instructed "by savingram" from the British Colonial Office to proceed to Jamaica
and "restore Order" he arrived in the island with characteristic gubernatorial ardour
intent on teaching the troublemakers a lesson. To his amazement he found
alongside the fiery and remarkable Bustamante and a few "egg-heads" like Dick
Hart and Frank Hill, a highly sophisticated society with people like the renowned
lawyer N.W. Manley and bright young community leaders. Among these he singled
out a "bright young man named Phillip Manderson Sherlock" That bright young
man had progressed to being the Vice Chancellor of the independent University of
the West Indies at the time Lord Milverton was relating this story

None of this should be surprising, for Sir Philip was a great spirit, the avatar of all
that gives force, purpose, life, hope and meaning to the turbulence, contradictions
and chaos of our multi-sourced existence. He belonged to the chosen few the
West Indies was lucky to have had at the helm of its social revolution the chosen
few who believed that the intractable problems of underdevelopment and the

attendant immiseration of the mass of the population had to be met by the
empowerment of our people through the exercise of their intellect and their
creative imagination. So he himself has been poet as well as historian, policy-de-
terminer as well as classroom teacher, social worker and philosopher as well as
administrator and man of public affairs.

It is this call for texture rooted in a deep understanding of the need to inform
intellectual pursuits with the arts of the imagination, which enriched the operation
of the University of the West Indies from its fledgeling years. As a founding
father, he actually helped to establish and administer the institution as its first
Vice Principal and Director of Extra Mural Studies. By the time he became Vice
Chancellor, after tending the establishment of the St. Augustine branch of the
UWI, the Sherlock vision of the creative arts and the humanities acting as
catalyst for intellectual pursuits and remaining handmaiden to the science and
technology branches of knowledge, was well established.

He institutionalized the vision partly through the introduction of a creative arts
plank in the outreach work of his Extra Mural Department with the appointment of
Staff Tutors in Drama along with counterparts in Social Work, Trade Union
Education and Radio Education laying the foundations for degree programmes in
Sociology and Social work, in Industrial Relations and related Social Science
studies and in Mass Communications. And he eventually established the Crea-
tive Arts Centre on the Mona Campus (another has since been established at St.
Augustine) to enrich the quality of life and to engage the aesthetic sensibility of
members of the University and the wider community. The rest is history.

The rest is history indeed! Only 3 years ago he co-authored with Dr. Hazel
Bennett The Story of the Jamaican People published by lan Randle Publish-
ers. At the ripe age of 95, Sir Phillip re-affirmed his long-held belief that until the
centrality of the African Presence in the Caribbean ethos is recognized and
accepted, there can be no sense of self or purpose among the majority of people
who tenant his Jamaica and the rest of the insular Caribbean. It did not rrean for
him the laying of exaggerated claims by one set of West Indians over all others.
Judging from his life-long work in education, community development, Caribbean
regionalism and Caribbean culture, his appreciation and respect for the common
struggles shared by the early Sephardic arrivants as well as later arrivants "from
India, China, and Lebanon and others after them in defining self and society, is
clearly evident and beyond question. But he saw the need to find urgent
resolution for the original battle for space between Africa and Europe as the
dominant mode of "becoming in the region, if the creative potential of the West
Indian people are to be unleashed in the service of their own development.

A history of the Jamaican people "from an African-Jamaican [rather than from] a
European point of view" he therefore saw as necessary to advance the discourse
or at least to get the story of scattering, exile, and survival into perspective. Phillip
Sherlock gave some commentators anxious moments. His advocacy of the cele-
bration of the African Presence had even earned him at his great age the descrip-
tion of "irresponsible revolutionary"

Knowing him, he would be delighted by such a put-down from detractors for he was
convinced that it was "the African- Caribbean people [who] laid the foundation for a
rich culture by retaining their sense of spiritual values, by creating a vivid creole
language, preserving their natural love for drama, music, song, drumming, for
laughter sympathy and wit. They created religious cults and modes of self-expres-
sion and developed an internal marketing system based, in the early years, on
provision grounds on marginal land, and on a network of Sunday markets and

Sir Phillip belonged to that generation of West Indians who believed that any
change from colonial life to self-reliant nationhood had to be done via "change from
within" the designation he gave to a project he master-minded among inner-city
schools in urban Jamaica in the Nineties. He acknowledged the pivotal role of
those who exercise imagination and intellect in the shaping of a modem society
insisting that his latest book was, in his own words, merely a contribution to work
already "begun by our artists, poets, writers, carvers, athletes, reggae musicians,
the dub poets, rastafarians, the scholars, members of the public and private sectors
and political parties who are dedicated to building a better society

The implications for the wider Caribbean are self-evident: A better Caribbean will
indeed come if West Indian people begin to treasure their story. This fits into his
early vision of the mandatory development of indigenous institutions like the
ill-fated Federation which lasted a mere three years, the Caribbean Community
(Caricom) which has provided one viable alternative to the region's failed attempts
to unite politically, the Caribbean Association of Universities and Research Insti-
tutes (UNICA) which sought to mobilise the intellect of the region into collaborative
action, and his beloved University of the West Indies which not only predated the
Federation but survived it and has maintained its pledge to invest intellectual
pursuits with an aesthetic sensibility rooted in the arts of the imagination forged in
the crucible of Caribbean experience and lived reality

Whether we have done justice to this particular dream of Sir Philip we must leave
to history to judge. But while we continue in our efforts to attain cultural certitude
and intellectual independence, we dare not forget the faith in self and society that

his iconic presence provided succeeding generations of the likes of theatre artist
Errol Hill and, poet-historian Kamau Brathwaite (both contributors to this special
issue of Caribbean Quarterly) and Noel Vaz the first tutor in Drama at the then
Creative Arts Centre, Mona, Louise Bennett the folklorist, anthropologist M.G.
Smith, novelist George Lamming and the Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, the
talents of all of whom he was among the first to recognize, to acknowledge, and
to facilitate on their way to full flowering.

What was once said of Walcott can be said of Sir Philip, for they are kindred
spirits. "For Walcott's 'Adamic' man the past of motive and event is not as
crucial, not as creative a force, as his renewed vision and elation in the New
World. Rather than a creature riveted to his past, he is a man capable of
inhabiting any historical moment unencumbered by time, and because he is
absolved from the of the old worlds, he is able to recreate the entire order from
religion to the simplest domestic rituals. This was the transforming and creative
process by which the New World slave has yielded his own past, invested the
acquired Christian tradition with a new feeling and faith and began the new
naming of things in the New World. For Sir Philip, as for Derek Walcott, "this
effort of creation, with its force of revelation and its particular sensibility, is the
essence of history in the West Indies" The work in the Centre for the Creative
Arts named after him on the Mona Campus is intended to catch, energise and
celebrate that essence.

We give thanks for the life of this great prophet, patriot, scholar, cultural icon and
humanist. We shall miss him more than memory, and dedicate Caribbean
Quarterly, Special Issue The Philip Sherlock Lectures to his memory


(for a translation of the foreword in French and Spanish see page 141 of this

Sir Philip Manderson Sherlock was a visionary. He was a visionary of the
Caribbean region. As a humanist he has touched the lives of many people and as
the Founding Father of the University of the West Indies he has contributed to the
shaping of education in the Caribbean. It was Sir Philip's idea that the University
should have a Creative Arts Centre where the creative imagination of a people
could be fostered and it was for that reason that in 1993 the Creative Arts Centre
was renamed The Philip Sherlock Centre For The Creative Arts to honour, as
Professor Nettleford so correctly states, his vision, his foresight, his ingenuity, his
tremendous capacity for making bricks out of straw
In 1994 it was the consensus of the Staff of the Centre together with the
Director, Professor Rex Nettleford that a distinguished annual lecture in the
Creative Arts should be inaugurated as a tribute to Sir Philip. This lecture is held
every year on Sir Philip's birthday, February 25. And as February is also the
anniversary month of the Centre which was built in February 1968, there could be
no better time for this celebration.
It was considered most appropriate to invite Professor Errol Hill to return to
the University to deliver the Inaugural Lecture. In his paper titled PERSPECTIVES
OF CARIBBEAN THEATRE:ritual,festival and drama he gives an overview of
his early days when under the invitation of Sir Philip to be Extra-Mural Drama Tutor
across the Caribbean he fulfilled part of Sir Philip's vision and call for the aesthetic
strengthening and intellectual depth in the University and the wider Caribbean
which Sir Philip believed must underpin a cultural union of the region. From his own
personal experience Professor Hill demonstrates how exposure and cultural
cross-fertilization shapes the Caribbean man and he places the role of the drama
and theatre at the centre of this process.
Professor Kamau Brathwaite who had already broken tradition by discuss-
ing historical events through poetry delivered the second Philip Sherlock Lecture
THE GODS OF THE MIDDLE PASSAGE in poetry. The significance of Brath-
waite's choice of topic is not just the traditional painful Middle Passage from Africa
to the New World but also the passage that we are experiencing back across the
Atlantic. This second Middle Passage is symbolic of the tides of the ocean that
come in and flow out again. This process of viewing experience in two ways, this
acceptance of the breathing of the ocean, Brathwaite terms 'tidealectics' The
present reality of the second Middle Passage is haunted by the memory of the first
Middle Passage. Brathwaite elaborates his thesis through the icons drawn from the
experiences of Haiti and Rwanda and so, the poem becomes the prose and the
prose, the poem.
Professor Paule Marshall gave what she called an African praise song to
Sir Philip as the Third Philip Sherlock Lecture which she titled THE MOTHER
POETS OF MY ART. In this brilliant and engaging presentation she gave pride of

place to her mother and her mother's Bajan relatives and friends who met regularly
in their kitchen to 'ole talk' She shows how language was for them a weapon and
a refuge among migrated peoples in a strange and unfriendly environment. This
was the language that she heard from the time when she was a child that
influenced her own lyrical expression in her creative writing.
In order to maintain the unconventional approach to these distinguished
lectures in the Creative Arts, Professor Barry Chevannes, known as an academic
and for his musical creations as well, was invited to deliver the Fourth lecture in
song. Subsequent to the performance his presentation was titled A SONG-
SEARCHING INTERROGATION WITH SELF. Emerging from a collection of
songs which span a period of over three decades is the discovery of self. The
search is a journey through nationalist fervour, the zeal for building a culture, his
early years in liturgical renewal as a Jesuit, his concern over the alienation of the
Catholic church from the culture of the people and finally the calm of self-discovery
through creativity. His songs are a gift to Sir Philip which unfortunately could not be
included in this collection but are available in a CD format.
TION FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM Professor Rex Nettleford lauds the fact
that the output of popular artists and others of world renown is finally being taken
seriously It is the artist in our society who, under trying circumstances, has delved
into the depths of ourselves and demonstrated our own possibilities. This demands
an inner strength which has enabled the artist to sensitize civil society to the
process of becoming. The historical experience of the Caribbean has resulted in
textured lives which are exemplified by the best of our artists who find themselves
at the crossroads of cultures and disciplines and have therefore led in the crafting
of a new sensibility and the celebration of self This crossroads nature learnt from
their historical experience informs the reality of the third millennium.
MADE IN TRINIDAD, pinpoints the substance of Dr Peter Minshall's
lecture. The concept of island, the smallness of which allows for the close existence
of a multiplicity of colours, shapes, religions, languages and cultures presents for
Minshall a blessing to the creative imagination. The island is a microcosm of the
world and the masquerade coming out of the small island of Trinidad is symbolic of
the potency for creative expression. Minshall's lecture/performance gave an insight
into the theory behind the practice and the audience was treated to a rare insight
into the intelligence behind a work of genius, in his particular case, the place of the
bat in the gradual process of his creative imagination. The relentless search for
truth is the wonder of the artis's existence which is also paradoxically his frightening
responsibility to his society Driven by guiding poetic lines from Garcia Lorca,
Minshall maintains that the work of the artist does not exist until it is handed back
to the tribe who then imbues it with an energy that surprises even the artist.
Minshall, the consummate artist and creator of the dancing mobile finds an ecstasy

in the release of energy not on the stage, but in the streets among the ordinary
and the everyday
Dr Erna Brodber, inspired by the shaping of ideas offered by Sir Philip
Sherlock, titled her lecture MYTHS ARE US TOO. Sir Philip's projection of how
knowledge affects the human mind, led Dr Brodber to research certain Jamaican
myths. Theories about the meaning of myths abounded from as early as the sixth
century B.C. Myths concern us all and it is essential to have a clear idea of what
myths are and what they are not and, so far as possible, of the ways in which they
are likely to operate. Myths, for Brodber, can give entry into the past. She dissects
two myths with which she grew up as a child in Woodside, Jamaica, showing how
the scribal and the oral meet for interpretation. With the limited number of records
that exist, analysis of the myths offers data towards a reconstruction of a history
of the mythmakers and the mythkeepers. Woodside was a slave estate owned by
a haughty mistress and the analysis of the myths provide a case history of the
relation between the enslaved and the slave master, the plot and the plantation,
the big and the little traditions.
The collection of these first seven distinguished lectures by members of
the University family serve to pay homage to Sir Philip's ability to get under the skin
of the people as Dr Brodber so aptly puts it. His first love being History, he
understood how the knowing of the past affects the minds the future development
and the doing of a people. Influenced by his personal experience of the Garvey
movement Sir Philip grasped from a very early age the merit there is in blackness
and this understanding fired his life's work of contributing to the fullness of the
potential of his Jamaican people.
Guest Editor & Tutor/Co-ordinator, P.S.C.C.A

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Sir Philip Sherlock
25 February 1902 4 December 2000

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Perspectives in Caribbean Theatre: Ritual, Festival, and Drama



I am truly conscious of the honour conferred on me this afternoon by the
invitation to deliver the inaugural Sir Philip Sherlock lecture in the Creative Arts. I
hope you will permit me to make a few personal remarks before addressing my
main topic.
If he won't mind my saying it, Sir Philip and I go back a long way: almost
forty-one years to the day, for it was in February 1953 that he graciously invited me
to join the extra-mural department of the then University College of the West Indies
as a member of his staff "with special oversight in drama" That was, I recall, the
way in which my letter of appointment was phrased so as to circumvent questions
over the new college making a tutorial appointment in a suspect field such as
drama and theatre.
In any event, the offer seemed to me 'manna from heaven' and I accepted
with alacrity. What alternative was there? The previous year I had concluded a
British Council scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and
had no idea where I would go from there. I had no desire to enter the professional
theatre in England, even if that were possible; and I wished to return to the
Caribbean. But in 1952 return to what? Then came an invitation from Stanley
Best, at the time British Council Representative in Jamaica, to come back and help
run the first ever drama summer school on the Mona campus. It was an
exhilarating experience. But when it was over I faced the same spectre of
joblessness. Stanley Best took me into his home as a non-paying guest for several
weeks while I began training sessions with the Caribbean Thespians group in
Kingston. Then Cedric and Gladys Lindo became my host family for some months,
again without charge. I can never repay such generosity.
This was my situation when I received the call from Sir Philip. As I
understood my new responsibilities, I was to help the extra-mural tutors scattered
through the West Indies, from Belize to Guyana, by offering to conduct drama
workshops and summer schools or in judging festivals, etc. I was to do the same
in Jamaica where there were already two or three groups in the country clamouring
for help. Of course, we could not ignore the fledgling University Dramatic Society
on campus that would have a special call on my services. And since much of the
drama work in Jamaica would take place on afternoons and evenings, I would be
needed at the office during the day to help prepare and produce radio scripts and

other duties. Beyond that, I would be free to plan my time as best suited me. Part
of that planning involved collecting, editing, and printing the first-ever series of
Caribbean plays.
The opportunities provided by those early years in the extra-mural field
were incalculable. On campus the University Dramatic Society comprised a group
of young women and men who for intelligence, passion and talent have not, I
believe, been equalled. Our Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott was only one of a
group that included the late Slade Hopkinson, James Lee Wah, Mavis Arscott,
Archie Hudson-Phillips, Ancile Gloudon, Ronnie Llanos, and several others. It was
a great privilege to work with these brilliant young adults. Thank you, Sir Philip.
My travels around the Caribbean had the effect of transforming me from a
somewhat insular and proud Trinidadian into a no less proud but passionate West
Indian what Black Stalin, the calypsonian, would call "a Caribbean Man." For this
too I am grateful to Sir Philip. It is as a Caribbean man that I address you this
afternoon on the topic: "The Caribbean Theatre: Ritual, Festival, and Drama"
Few events can be more engrossing than a people's conscious effort to
determine and define their identity. The anglophone Caribbean, for centuries
culturally dominated by Europe, began its quest for identity in the 1930s when the
whole region experienced marked social upheaval. Hard hit by the Great Depres-
sion, the export economies of the territories shrivelled as sugar prices fell and
wages plummeted. The traditional escape valve of northern migration was shut
tight by stringent immigration laws. These conditions prompted the calypsonian,
Growling Tiger, to compose his "Workers' Appeal" calypso which he sang in the
carnival season of 1936:
We are not asking for equality
To rank with the rich in society
To visit their homes in their motorcars
Or to go to their clubs and smoke their cigars
We are asking for a living wage
To exist now and provide for old age
Our kindhearted employers, I appeal now to you
Give us some work to do.
Many a day persons haven't a meal
They too decent to beg, too honest to steal
They went looking for work mostly everywhere
But saw signboard marked "No hands wanted here"
The Government should work the wastelands and hills
Build houses, factories and mills
Reduce taxation and then we would be
Really emancipated from slavery.

Between 1935 and 1938 the Caribbean suffered severe labour unrest:
strikes and rioting by sugar workers in St. Kitts and British Guiana, charcoal
burners in St. Lucia, oilfield workers in Trinidad, dock workers in Barbados and
Jamaica. At one level these disturbances were a spontaneous outburst of the
labouring class for fair wages and improved working conditions. But at a deeper
level the riots represented the first concentrated attack upon colonialism, the first
stirring of a people to assert their readiness for self-determination and nationhood.
By 1958 the British Government was ready to relinquish control of its
Caribbean possessions, once considered the jewels in the English crown. Now,
after centuries of economic exploitation, they had become a drain on the British
treasury. In the year 1958, the short-lived experiment in West Indian Federation
came into being. It was destined to last only four years. The event was marked by
the writing and staging of a commissioned drama by the region's premier poet and
playwright, Derek Walcott. His epic drama, titled "Drums and Colours," attempted
to trace the history of the Caribbean lands as pawns in the power struggle between
western imperialist nations, until finally the old sugar colonies emerged into some
form of nationhood. But what kind of nation? How to define the identity of
Caribbean peoples? That is a quest that has been going on with increasing
urgency and passion. It is a search in which the arts the finest expression of a
people's aspirations and sense of belonging become embroiled and are subject
to intense scrutiny and debate. And theatre, the most public and lively of the arts,
finds itself at the centre of attention whenever these issues are disputed.
In its checkered history the Caribbean has been inhabited by many
different races and cultures. First were the aboriginal Amerindians, now practically
extinct. Then there were the voluntary immigrants from Europe and America, the
Far East and Near East. Some came for profit or pleasure, others to work as
replacements for slave labour, but all had the option of returning to their home
countries when their work or play had ended. Finally, there were those whose
arrival, historically, was not voluntary. They came in chains and had to abandon
thoughts of returning to an ancestral home across the sea for there was no fixed
period to their labour. These were the people of Africa, known first as slaves, then
Blacks, then Afro- or African Caribbeans. They formed the base of society in the
region as a whole. For centuries they constituted that section of the population for
whom the Caribbean was the only home they knew, that other home from which
their ancestors were torn long ago survived only in racial memory.
Without denying the contribution made by other immigrants, especially the
numerically strong Indo-Caribbeans in countries like Trinidad and Guyana, I would
submit that there exists today a significant body of Afro-Caribbean traditions that
can be utilized by native dramatists, choreographers, music-makers, and theatre
practitioners if the theatre is truly to represent the needs and aspirations of
Caribbean people. As the Jamaican scholar and cultural leader Rex Nettleford has
written: "The African Presence must be given its proper place of centrality in that

dynamic process of adjustment, rejection, renewal and innovation. For the
products of this cultural process are what constitute the mandates for a national
cultural expression."
It is generally accepted that theatre came from ritual whose function was to
reach an accommodation with powerful forces or gods without whose aid life would
be intolerable. As settled communities developed, three principal means were
adopted to achieve this basic aim. They are:
(1) petitioning the gods to grant some communal need: be it a bountiful
harvest or protection from a threatening disaster;
(2) placating the gods against the evil in society that offends them, seeking
their aid in purging the evil and asking forgiveness for wrongdoing as well
as for reinstatement in the gods' favour;
(3) thanking the gods for their gifts and protection: for example for a year
that is free of disease, plague, famine or wasteful war.
Although I am here referring to ritual drama, it is possible to argue that all
good theatre through the ages retains these fundamental aims. Possibly some of
us no longer believe in the power of gods to affect our daily lives. We may scoff at
the notion of participating in rituals that seek the active involvement of supernatural
beings in human affairs. For such sceptics, one may rephrase the function of
theatre in secular terms that are no less essential to our well-being. Suppose, for
instance, we were to substitute:
(1) for petitioning the gods the coercive power of the theatre;
(2) for placating the gods the corrective power of the theatre;
(3) for thanking the gods the celebrative power of the theatre;

we would retain the theatre's ancient purpose to secure communal well-being
without mention of the supernatural.
The fact is that a large majority of Afro-Caribbean people are not religious
sceptics. Religion continues to hold a significant place in their daily lives. Most
importantly, the practice of their religion binds them, consciously or unconsciously,
to their African past. The poet/historian Edward Kamau Brathwaite has written
pertinently on this topic. He reminds us of the well-documented fact that "African
culture survived in the Caribbean through religion" and that "African culture is
based upon religion" He argues:
There is no separation between religion and
philosophy, religion and society, religion and art.
Religion is the form and kernel or core of the
culture ... What we should alert ourselves to is the

possibility, whenever 'religion' is mentioned, that
a whole cultural complex is present.
One of the major differences between ritual and theatre is that in ritual one
communicates with the gods, whereas in theatre communication is established
with a human audience. In the former case, participation of the audience, often
comprising the whole community, could be taken for granted since everyone knew
that the enactment was on their behalf and, if properly performed, would achieve
the desired result. Members of this audience would be aware of what had to be
done and how it should be done. They were vitally concerned it should be done
right, and the actors who performed the ritual were expected to live up to their
audience's expectations. The dynamics of this situation explain the quality of
excellence in ritual performance. Here the celebrant-performers sought perfection,
not to please their audience, or to boost their egos, but because the success of the
enactment depended on it. The gods are jealous and will be satisfied only with the
best. In a very real sense, the audience were participators in the action. Often
they became, or were represented by, a chorus that was involved in the perform-
ance through singing, chanting, clapping or other forms of group response. And
there would be music too, of course, and dancing. Audience recognition and
participation were essential features that contributed to the efficacy of the ritual
The Nigerian scholar Joel Adedeji has explained the process by which
ritual theatre becomes festival theatre, and festival theatre fragments into profes-
sional and amateur productions of secular theatre. Over time the religious purpose
may diminish but the seasonal enactment would continue because people have
become accustomed to it as a traditional event. Thus we have conditions for
festival theatre. Examples of this are the multi-faceted types of carnival that are
held regularly in the Caribbean. The carnival festival may have been transplanted
to the region by European settlers, but once adopted by the Afro-Caribbeans, it
was transformed into an expression of surviving African traditions, coloured by
local experience. Other festivals associated with the vegetation cycle, such as
Crop-over in Barbados, or with the liturgical calendar such as the Christmas
Jonkonnu in Jamaica, the La Rose Flower Festival in St. Lucia, or the Tramp in
Guyana, all contain strong traditional expressions drawn from Afro-Caribbean life.
Religious and festival performances by no means exhaust the sources of
African continuity that provide ingredients for a Caribbean theatre. To give another
example, there is the area of storytelling that involves idiomatic speech and
idiosyncratic pantomime, when the teller of tales assumes the characteristics of all
the active participants in his or her story, whether they be human, animal, bird or
plant, objects animate or inanimate.
After ritual and festival enactments, the next logical phase in the emer-
gence of an indigenous Caribbean theatre should have occurred when gifted
individuals began to perform in and out of season for the edification and entertain-

performances, these individuals would normally have built their theatre on the
traditions of the past. They would have incorporated the meanings and methods,
signs and symbols associated with the religions, rites, festivals, myths, storytelling
and other forms of enactment belonging to their culture. Had this development
occurred, the present quest to identify and establish an indigenous Caribbean
theatre would probably be unnecessary.
It did not happen that way, of course, for reasons that are now understood.
The formal theatre adopted in the Caribbean came neither from Africa nor from
Afro-Caribbean experience, but from Europe. It came as a ready-made package,
wrapped in the glory of its acknowledged achievement. It was peddled by touring
professionals from abroad and ardently imitated by local amateurs, many claiming
links to whatever little European ancestry they could trace. It was admired by the
learned, and taught in the schools. It became the model on which the Caribbean
theatre was to be fashioned.
This theatre was art. It enjoyed the status of the imported over the
homegrown product, which, when not totally banned, was disparaged and
relegated to inferior status. Often the Afro-Caribbean theatre had no buildings
other than a backyard shed or a village pasture to house it, no playwrights other
than the old storyteller or calypsonian, no professional actors, singers, dancers,
musicians, or technicians trained in the academies abroad. What the native
theatre produced was deemed to be at the level of quaint folkways, stuff for
anthropologists. The art theatre was something quite different. It was assumed to
be the product of a people of greater sophistication belonging to a superior culture.
That this allegation is not mere rhetoric can be instanced by developments
that arose in Afro-Caribbean festivities following the end of slavery. Ironically,
among those who worked hardest for slave liberation were people prominent in
demanding the suppression of the so-called slave culture. Reasons given for
suppressing the Christmas-time Jonkonnu masquerades in Jamaica in 1842, for
example, were that they obstructed the progress of civilization and were derogatory
to the dignity of free-men. At the other end of the Caribbean, similar attitudes
prevailed regarding the Trinidad carnival. Once it was taken over and transformed
by the black freedmen, the leading newspaper castigated the festival in the
severest terms throughout the Nineteenth Century and urged its abolition. These
attacks served only to alienate the revellers and to stiffen resistance to any form of
control. The results unsurprisingly were more riots and a widening gulf between
Government and the people.
In most communities one finds historically two streams of theatre, just as
there are two streams of most cultural expressions. These two streams are
characterized as the informal and the formal, the subconscious and the conscious,
the folk and the art. Informal theatre embraces all types of traditional enactments
deriving from ritual, festival, and other inherited theatre forms that spring from

group consciousness. This type of theatre is rooted in customs that manifest a
community's ethos.
Formal theatre, on the other hand, represents a conscious attempt to
create theatre as an art form. In one sense it is a way of conserving, enhancing,
and disseminating the products of folk theatre. In another sense, it represents an
attempt by a single individual, the playwright, scenarist, choreographer or musical
composer, assisted by interpreters, to communicate through the medium of the
stage, some personal vision, insight, or understanding of the life experience as he
or she has perceived it, hoping it will be of value to audiences. Since artists are
creating, in the first instance, for society, the experiences they seek to interpret and
those of their audience will coincide. Since artists wish to communicate
effectively, they will use the means of communication indigenous to that society -
language, movement and gesture, song and dance, patterns and rhythms, images
and icons, that belong to, and have meaning for, their people.
We call this kind of theatre 'art theatre' for a special reason. In the realm
of art, creators and interpreters are not content simply to represent faithfully the folk
forms of expression, but will consciously strive to reconstruct and reinterpret them
in a particular style most fitting to the personal vision of the artist involved, and most
resonant of the life being presented on stage. The folk theatre enriches the art
theatre, gives it validity and meaning, while the art theatre seeks to interpret folk
performance, to give what is a communal, traditional form an individual and
personal voice and vision.
In truth and in qualitative terms, the distinction between folk and art is often
blurred. Many folk artists achieve a high degree of individuality in their
performances which can rise to the level of true art. On the other hand, there are
professional artists whose work is of little consequence and soon forgotten. But
whether we speak of informal or formal theatre, folk or art, the fundamental
purpose of both should be the same, namely, to preserve, nurture, and uplift the
community to which it belongs and from which it draws its sustenance.
The art theatre of Europe had helped to inculcate a love of stage plays in
Caribbean audiences. Dominant in Caribbean playhouses for centuries, it could
not, however, fulfil the theatre's essential function as we have defined it. Although
its repertoire included some plays that dealt with universal human problems, such
plays did nothing to solve the problem of cultural identity. This theatre was alien to
its environment and spoke only to a small segment of the population. The vast
majority were ignored. It said nothing of their gods or their religion; it did nothing to
enhance, to amend, or to celebrate their lives. It was exclusive, not unifying. It
separated the privileged from the underprivileged, the well-educated from the
partly or non-educated; the townie from the country-bookie; the Creole from the

The European and Euro-American theatre had for centuries used black
characters in subordinate positions. They were the fetchers and carriers, often the
villains; only occasionally would one appear as a romanticized noble savage.
Thus, the first step on the road to a truly indigenous drama was for Caribbean
dramatists to write and perform plays about black people as central rather than
peripheral figures in the stage action. The dramatic pageants of Marcus Garvey,
staged at Edelweiss Park in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1930, and the drama of
Toussaint L'Ouverture, the slave who led the Haitian revolution, written by the
Trinidad historian C.L.R. James and performed in London in 1936 are among the
earliest examples of this development in the anglophone Caribbean theatre.
A prevailing view in the imported Western theatre was that the concerns of
black folk were most suited to comedic interpretation. Thus, a further step for
Caribbean playwrights was to choose issues that were part of the common
experience of the folk and, not to remove all comedy, but to give these concerns
the serious consideration they deserved. The 1938 drama Pocomania by Una
Marson, showing the impact of a Jamaican religious cult on a staid middle-class
family, is an early witness of this development.
A third step in the effort to bring home the art theatre was the initial
experiment with language. At the beginning this took the form of a journalistic
recapitulation of vernacular expression, too often employed as a way to ridicule
peasant or working-class characters who could not use what passed for standard
English speech. This attitude contributed further to a widening of the cultural gap
between the educated upper layer and the broad base of Caribbean society.
Occasionally, however, an author would capture the rhythm and emotive power of
folk language in a way that raised the speaker to tragic grandeur.
The late Jamaican playwright Archie Lindo, in his 1945 dramatization of
Herbert De Lisser's novel, The White Witch of Rosehall, achieved this level of folk
speech in a crucial scene of the play. Takoo the obeahman, and a group of
rebellious slaves capture the witch, Annie, who has been accused of killing several
of their people. Her white book-keeper, cognizant of her evil deeds, threatens the
slaves with hanging if they should harm her Takoo replies in his proud,
authoritative dialect:
Who deserve hanging more, she or me? She kill
Millicent. I pass sentence on her tonight over the
grave of me dead grand-daughter. I sentence her
to dead. You talk about me hang, Mr. Burbridge.
It is white man who got to look out for themself
now for we is free tonight. Every slave in Jamaica
is free and we is tekking to the mountains to fight.
I expec' to die one day but me spirit will live
forever. An' before I die, this dam' woman mus'

dead no power from heaven or hell can save
Advocating that young people should write and perform plays in local
dialect was certain to provoke an outcry from teachers of English who spent their
lives trying to get students to use standard southern English in order to pass
school-leaving examinations that were prepared and marked by examining boards
in England. The vehemence of their anger can be gauged by a letter to the Press
in which one teacher urged "all people, from the artisans up, found speaking
broken English would be thrown into jail, and anyone found daring to introduce it
into the higher literary forms like the drama would be hanged." I hasten to assure
you that the threat was not taken seriously and is not responsible for at least one
dialect advocate leaving the sunny Caribbean for cold New Hampshire.
A fourth innovation in the drive to establish an indigenous theatre is the
conscious effort to synthesize dramatic dialogue, music, song, and dance in a
single expressive theatrical mode, thus challenging the conventional separation of
these allied performing skills into specialized types of production. The most
notable instance of Caribbean integrated theatre is the Jamaica Pantomime, first
introduced by the Little Theatre Movement in 1941 in imitation of the English
version. Eight years later, under the inspired direction of Noel Vaz and folklorist
Louise Bennett, the Pantomime produced Bluebeard and Brer Anancv. The
experiment of moving to the popular folk character Anancy the spider who lives by
his wits was so successful that he reappeared in successive productions. In the
process the annual Pantomime has evolved to become identifiably Jamaican in its
use of indigenous material including song, drama, improvisation, dance, and pithy
commentary on the contemporary social and political scene. It plays to audiences
in the tens of thousands over several months.
The Trinidad Carnival has produced a number of traditional masquerades,
each with characteristic oration, gesture, mime and dance. In her 1948 show Bele,
the choreographer Beryl McBurnie was the first to create novel and arresting stage
dances based on the movements and gestures of the different masquerades.
Miss McBurnie, the acknowledged pioneer in Caribbean dance forms has
influenced the work of successive generations of dancers and choreographers
throughout the region. In productions of the Jamaica National Dance Theatre
Company, which observes the principle of integration of theatrical elements vocal,
choral, musical, visual and kinetic indigenous dance arguably has reached its
highest level of achievement.
Carnival is also responsible for retaining the primacy of the mask, an
ancient theatrical device that has largely disappeared from the modern theatre. On
stage it remains a symbol of tremendous power, more so for audiences that
harbour a belief in the efficacy of gods and spirits. Several plays have been written
within recent times using the carnival experience as a focal point. In Devil Mas', for

instance, written in 1971, the playwright Lennox Brown has his hero assume the
Devil masquerade in defiance of church caveat. Descending into hell, he brings
back the bodied souls of ancestral freedom fighters to indict the established religion
that continues to enslave the minds of his people.
In the matter of spirit possession, it is readily seen how this most significant
transformation of an individual's appearance and conduct can be reinterpreted in
drama and dance. Summoning the presence of supernatural beings through the
trance state speaks to the traditional belief in ancestral spirits who protect the
community and in guardian spirits of all living things who demand to be recognized
and reverenced by human beings. Spirit possession places man in his proper
context in the natural universe, not as super-creature who abuses nature out of
indifference or greed, but as part of the balance of nature, paying his dues and
respecting the rights of other natural things to their way of existence.
In his play An Echo in the Bone (1974), the late Jamaican playwright
Dennis Scott finds an ingenious use for the phenomenon of the trance state. An
estate owner has been killed by a peasant gardener who then commits suicide.
The celebrants in a dead-wake ceremony want to know why this tragedy occurred.
They become possessed by the spirit of the gardener and reveal unknown parts of
his story. Unconsciously they assume the personas of different people and re-en-
act conflicts and antagonisms that have existed between the races in times past.
The moments of possession become climactic episodes. They provide historical
perspective and serve as transition points from one scene to another. Time and
place are fused and compressed with the present by the force of spirit possession.
No truly indigenous theatre can afford to ignore the role of the audience or,
rather, the relationship between audience and performer. We have seen that in
ritual drama, audience members are participants in the unfolding action, primarily
because they have an interest in the outcome of the performance. How may one
translate that interest into a communal theatrical experience? One area of great
relevance to this question is the physical arrangement of the place of performance.
It is hardly necessary to state that the old-fashioned proscenium or picture-frame
stage with darkened auditorium, inherited from Europe in the last century, is the
least suitable arrangement for involving shifting roles, acted out the event that
inspired its composition. When the calypso was eventually sung, members of the
audience, many of whom recalled the lyrics, spontaneously joined in singing the
chorus, as they might have done in an old calypso tent or on the streets at carnival
time. Although the format made for an episodic script, the underlying theme of the
calypsonians' personal and professional lives and their defiance of official
censorship gave the performance a drive and unity of its own.
Two final components of a theatre rooted in the Caribbean experience are
the salutation and closure. Traditional societies are aware of the importance of
greeting and of showing hospitality. In West Africa when travelling players
approach a town, they sing praises to the townspeople and to the town itself in

expectation of a warm welcome. The traditional storyteller invariably prefaces his
tale by greeting his audience. What form shall the salutation take in Caribbean
theatre? Since the play about to be acted is for the audience should not the
performers begin by recognizing its presence? Perhaps the production might be
dedicated to some worthy representative of the community if there is an overture
of words or music, the piece might be chosen as much for audience recognition as
for relevance to the play being presented.
Applause at the final curtain is a conventional way of bringing a
performance to a close. But a joyous ending could be marked by a festive dance
on stage to which audience members would be conducted by the actors. This used
to be standard practice in dance performances at the Little Carib Theatre in
Trinidad, and it never failed to have an electrifying and bonding effect on the
community. The reverse is possible, the audience might join in a choral chant of
sorrow when the play ends in tragedy.
Although I have emphasized the importance of indigenous forms in the
making of Caribbean theatre, I do not suggest that Caribbean theatre artists should
become cultural chauvinists and isolate themselves from the rest of world theatre.
They need to be versatile, not only in technical skills but also in their ability to
understand and appreciate other cultures. World literature contains great works of
theatre that should be regularly rediscovered and reinterpreted in the Caribbean as
elsewhere, and theatre artists must be accomplished in their craft in order to stage
such works with intelligence and sensitivity. In any event, the western stage
tradition remains strong in the region, for it too is part of Caribbean history
Yet the words of Norman Manley, Jamaican statesman and national hero,
written in 1939 and still cautionary today, apply not only to British but to all foreign
influences. He wrote:
We can take everything that English education
has to offer us, but ultimately we must reject the
domination of her influence because we are not
English nor should we ever want to be. Instead
we must dig deep into our own consciousness
and accept and reject only those things of which
we, from our superior knowledge of our own
cultural needs, must be the best judge.
The Caribbean theatre needs the assurance of its own idioms; it needs to
speak with its own authentic voices, to move to its own rhythms, to shape its own
images, to captivate its own audiences. To reach these goals it must be grounded
in its own traditions. That is the challenge facing contemporary Caribbean
dramatists, choreographers, composers, and theatre practitioners as they look
towards the Twenty-first Century.

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who nvr got to visit us hero in the Caribbean this first time


Part One


Let me begin saying thank you Rex for the flowers, the words
thank you Jean Small for the poem & for getting me here. Is a
very important moment for me to return to this campus. .that
I nvr really leave. IKB has suddenly resign fiveyears ago in 1990 after 30 years te-
aching at Monal But of all the things that I have done this will be or
shd be one of the most important because. it's a return in sp
ace & time at the beginning for me, I feel, of a new continuum
- which of course is a contradiction since there's no such thing
as a 'new continuum' but I think you know what I mean a ne
(w) loop in the time-war(p) etc Or how at least it feels. And I
have to confess I have a great deal to say things wonderfully
sometimes painfully, inxplicably happening all the time, xplo-
ding. and I want to share some of this w/you

I mean. .this not really going to be a lecture as such not even
a 'talk' but I hope you'll be able to sit normally & breathe sw-
eetly, because it's a poem that is growing here. making & re-
making itself here even as we come together gather in this
room. This presentation in its various fracts (& its full readings) is
this. Or shd be. And I feel is more important to attempt this <
report it true to you than speak in any kind of 'standard' pro-
se, altho you might think that what this is/is prose. Which is ju-
st the point. And that the poem becomes the prose & the prose
the proem

it is not

it is not
it is not
it is not
it is not enough

it is not enough to be free
of the red of the red of the red white & blue
of the drag of the dragon

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
of the whips, principalities & powers
where is your kingdom of the Word?

it is not

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
of malarial fevers fear of the hurricane
fear of invasions crops' drought fire's blisters upon the cane

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough
to tinkle to work on a bicycle bell

when hell
crackles & burns
in the fourteen-inch scream of the Jap
of the Jap of the Japanese-constructed
United-Fruit Company-imported
hard-sell tell-tale tele-
vision set. rhinocerously knobbed cancerously tubed

Tribute to Sir Philip
Sir Philip Anderson Sherlock of Long Mountain Rise, whose <
name & honour this space [the Sir Philip Sherlkck Centre for the Creative Arts -
Formerly the Creative Arts Centre [CAC] of historic memory) see K .C.-II has its pla-
ce in our time, will be 93 years young tomorrow [KB is speaking in <<
1995 five years ago already so that by the time this appears, Sir Philip will be 99] & Rex ha
(s) already paid tribute to this. He himself Sir Philip & his <<
wife Grace will not be w/us in some of the senses this afternoon
(n) but in the important numen of the spirits, he sits here to in
spire as he has done from the beginning & will continue to do<
for countless psyches to come. So welcome Sir Philip and good
ness gracious glorious Grace. Thanks congratulations we salu-
te you we love you we who walk in yr footsteps we who follow
in the sure life of yr example. Walk good, walk tall, live long,
live the long length of the road you make, montero, montaftero

Tribute to Sir Philip (continues)

Bright and early this morning Jean Small take me meet the <
maestro [at his office on campus]. As soon as he hear our voice
(s), out him shuffle from him unshatter sunday oumf6, Papa <
Elegbwa himself greeting us

my uncle make chairs, Tables, balance doors on, dug out
coffins, smoothing the while wood out

w/ plane and quick sandpaper until
Tif hine like his short-sighted glasses

The knuckles of his hands are sil
-ver knobs of nails hit, hurt and flatf

-en out wl blast of heavy hammer. He is knock-knee'd, flat
-footed and his clip clop sandals slap across the concrete

flooring of his little shop where canefield mulemen and a fleet
of Oedford lorry drivers drop in to scratch themselves and talk

here is no shock of wood, no beam
of light mahogany his saw Teeth couldn't handle

When shaping squares for locks, a key hole
care top rat fat tat upon the handle

of his humpback chisel. Cold
world of wood catch fire as he whittle: rectangle

window frames, the intersecting x of fold
-ing chairs, triangle

trellises, the donkey
box-cort in its squeaking square

Buf he was poor and most days he was hungry
Imported cabinets wl mirrors, formica table

tops, spine-curving chairs made up of tubes, ul hollow
steel-like bird bones that ?si on rubber ploughs

Thin beds, stretch not on boards, but blue high-fension cables
was what the world preferred

And yet he had a block of wood that would have' baffle them
With knife and gimlet care he work away af this on Sundays

explore its knotted hurts, cuttffing his way
along its yellow whorls until his hands cd feel

how if had swelled and shivered, breathing air
its weathered green burning to rings of time

its contoured grain still tune to roots and water
And as he cut, he hear the creak of forests

green lizard faces gulped, grey memories wl moth
eyes watch him from their shadows, soft

liquid tendrils leak among the flowers
and a black rigid thunder he had never heard Lijn his hammer

come stomping up the trunks. Rnd as he work w/in this shattered
$undoay hop, the wood take shape: dry shuttered

eyes, slack anciently everted lips, flat
ruin face, eaten by pox, ravage by rat

and woodworm, dry cistern mouth, crack
gullet crying for the desert, the heavy black

enduring jow. Jlos pain. Jost iron
emerging woodwLorK image of his anger
KB. 'Ogou( Uslands (1!Si( & or II ralli, copl.c

( continuing Sir Philip)
So repeat I now this galleon carefully

How many mighty magi, magistrates or magnates, half his age, wd have <
greeted us like this, w/such soft, w/such charm, such gentility, w/such a <
contagious sense of humanity How many of our mighty men of letters or
affairs, the socioculture Establishment guardians, the cultural censors of
Don Gorgonate achievement or acclaim, cd have express so easily such nat
ural & native humility & respect for us for us and for the sunlight, and
to the others working in his house

The norm has been: a visitor arrive, you bizzy-bizzy-bizzy-bizzy. The visit-
or must be announce by an attendent-tiptoe-cautious secret/ery Low wor
ds in underthrown, legs eventually uncrossed like swords, usher you into
the pretense presence on the swivel throne. The monarch eyes still down
into the busy crossroads, crosswords, crossswords. You waiting at the aucti-
on block until he or she looks up from her desk/- more often from his/but the 'her'
will well do too his desk and greets you like a blow

Not so Sir Philip. He come to meet us, greet us, warm and stea
dy, the old familiar voice of mandolins, placing us into the seat
(s) of honour at our ease; and when you think is gossip like <
what's the latest scandal on the campus, who climbing up or <
down the wrong wounds of the social/academic ladder he's al-
ready into chapter 3 of the latest book he's writing. As if you <
knew as if you always knew, altho it's wonderful and new

And what's the book, the project of age 93? its txture filled w/<
references, ancient & very modern: Zik, Jimmy Cliff, Errol Mi-
ller, Rex Nettleford, the Manleys, Einstein, Plato, The ~ell eu
rve, OJ Simpson, Martin Luther, Martin Carter, Martin Luther
King. I -,I wantt laughter]

This is the project a revolutionary education project being done at Waltham Par
(k), at Charlie Smith encouraging the teachers to embrace the chil-
dren instead of beating them. That beating that they know on
ly too well already everyday. And do you know what this man
say, when he cd be playing it cool, playing it safe, when at his <
sage he cd begin to be 'conservative'? Fuh ico. born on b-c.ed ni9r
ere an well know u ho Io1 plaontion mean o who shd be in place & tulch ploce & where Yet this
is what he say even before the clock strike nine

Im say the eddica-
tion system a-we System destroy the self-esteem a-we young-
people, put fear & hate & dis & frown inside-a-dem when th-
ey shd be sun & fun of life, discovery

But then the System challenge dem into 'A' stream & 'B' strea-
(m) & 'C' stream until the children future scream. Where there
is no pride, he say, no place for creativity, the people pickney
perish. Just listen to this potential Quarry-Merlene-MikeySmi
th-child: 'What do you aim for': 'Nothing' And why you think
that, dallin? 'Because I is in the dunce-class please sar.

So that's why connections are magicallessential, im say, and I'm gl
ad you come to give this talk this afternoon, because it's time we rec-
ognize that in this hemisphere, is Africa bring freedom to this world
& yr work say it so, im say

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
to be able to fly to Miami
structure skyscrapers xcavate the moon-
scape seashore sands to build hotels casinos sepulchres

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
to bulldoze god's squatters from their tunes from their relics
from their tombs of drums

it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to pray to NCB or Barclays
black brown or beige slick supertanker bankers on the tele-
phone to Jesus Christ by short wave radio
to the United States marines by rattling your hip-

must be given words to shape my name
to the syllables of trees

must be given words to refashion futures
like a healer's hand

must be given words so that the bees
in my blood's buzzing brain of memory
will make flowers will make flocks of birds

will make sky will make heaven
the heaven open to the thunder-stone & the volcano & the un-
folding land

it is not

it is not
it is not
it is not enough

to be pause to be hole
to be void to be silent
to be semicolon to be semicolony

fling me the stone
that will confound the void
find me the rage

and I will raze the colony
fill me with words
and I will blind your God


Attibon Legba
Attibon Legba
Ouvri bayi pou' moi
Ouvri bayi pou' moi .. IK eg ']

The MiddlePassage of the Sound & Second
an antiseptic critic in london who love Derek Wal-
cott & why not and the restrained poems of Ian
McDonald on the great Essequibo River

says of my work poor lute, poor flute, poor ragget five strong fingers
of my star guitar that I celebrate sad thing apparently bad thing
what he calls

'the seemingly endless

purgatorial experience

of black people'

Ninety-five per cent of my people poor
nincty-five per cent of my people black
ninety-five per cent of my people dead
you have heard it all before 0 Leviticus 0 Jeremiah 0 Crispus Attatack
0 Jean-Paul Sartre
and now I see that these modern palaces have grown
out of the soil. out of the bad habits of their crippled owners
the Chrysler stirs but does not produce cotton
the Jupiter purrs but does not produce bread
out of the living stone. out of the living bone
of coral, these dead
towers. out of the coney islands of our mind-
less architects. this death

of sons. of songs. of sunshine
out of this dearth of coo-ru-cu coos. home-
less pigeons. this perturbation that does not signal health

In Havana that morning. as every morning
the police tour the gambling houses
wearing their dark glasses and collected tribute
salute blackjack. salute backgammon salute the one-arm bandit
Vieux Fort and Andros Island. the Isle of Pines

the morals squadron fleece the whores
Mary and Mary Magdalene
newspapers speak of Wall Street and the social set

who was with who, what metals did the Consulate's
Assistant wear. The sky is cloudy, a strong breeze
maximum temperature eighty-two degrees

It is December second, nineteen fifty-six
It is the first of August eighteen thirty-eight
It is the twelfth October fourteen ninety-two

How many bangs How many revolutions?

like to play
at the Car
-cing up to the lim
-bo silence

so the god won't drown
to the i
-lann town

and the dark
-ness fall
-in eyes
shut tight
and the whip light
-in round the ship
where his free
-dom drown
to the i
-lann town

like to play
at the Car
ing down

and the black
gods call
-in, back
he falls
thru the water's

where the music hides
where the si
-lence lies

And limbo stick is the silence in front of me

limbo like me

long dark night is the silence in front of me

limbo like me

stick hit sound
and the ship like it ready

stick hit sound
and the dark still steady

limbo like me

long dark deck and the water surrounding me
long dark deck and the silence is over me

limbo like me

stick is the whip
and the dark deck is slavery

stick is the whip
and the dark deck is slavery

limbo like me

drum stick knock
and the darkness is over me

knees spread wide
and the water is hiding me

limbo like me

knees spread wide
and the dark ground is under me


and the drummer is calling me

limbo like me

sun coming up
and the drummers are praising me

out of the dark
and the dumb gods are raising me


and the music is saving me


on the burning ground

limbo like me
limbo like me

limbo limbo limbo
like me
limbo like me
'C.TabhtnLaia r r 191 195


and when I look up again from this crowded boat
filled w/ my brothers
& the single star of my sister
the US Coast Guard cutter scowling above us
the scull in front of us capsizes
screams hollas cries
the green tide ruining us all the way back
to distant Dakar to the dungeons of the Cyclops
Goree Goree Gor6e Gor6e Gorse
the salt in my eyes of rainbows
my hope fading faster than my heartbeat
the water like silkworms now
in the channels of my mind
in the cracked ghastly tunnels of my lungs


there is a huge globe around me
like the moon there is a dead sun breathing
somewhere in the crack glass of this
endless morning


The Barbados Advocate 4 Sept 2000, p14

15 Haitians end up in Florida

Riviera Beach, Florida Fifteen Haitians were pulled from the surf and
another may have died in a probable migrant smuggling venture, US
authorities said yesterday.
The Haitians told authorities they were smuggled to Florida on a boat that
took eight days to make the 600-mile journey from their Caribbean
homeland to Florida. But it was more likely that they were brought to
Florida from the nearby Bahamas, less than 100 miles away, the US Border
Patrol said.

Prosperity search

Haitians frequently set sail in small boats from their impoverished home
the poorest country in the western hemisphere to attempt to reach
prosperity in the United States. Often they end up in the Bahamas, a chain
of more than 700 islands stretching from just north of Haiti to Florida.
The Haitians were found in the water just off Riviera Beach, about 75
miles north of Miami, late Saturday.

"From initial reports, the smuggler stopped some distance from shore, and
ar to some reports, physically threw some people off the boat," Irememberthe
zon g?1 Border Patrol spokesman Joel Mellia said.
The surviving Haitians told authorities that a woman who had been with
them was last seen "floundering in the water" and did not reach shore..'

yo" uwd# Kow ie ul.w4dci4g o CNN
(o4jt e 40 t&,oe4e H'4tnc &o4t reoyde
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c4e t&e &s44, He 4eAe4 44 4 c4" o
Dvic of 4 o t cekov4 4(Kto f C4


and then this boy. this likkle boy. in my hand
like a dolphin but dead. drownnn
you have seen him on tv
just that glimpse just that shot dripping w/history
- clear out of the water for all our howls to see -
his hands folded politely before him. his soft sea
body hanging heavy, swinging quietly
from like the old clothes-hanger hunger of my

the green shirt that his dripping mother dress him
in. his eyes closed)
his mouth as if it nvr know drowning
as if he wd open his eyes
out here on Bahamas water
as if he wd smile
as if the Atlantic wd shine
from his mouth like the new morning he dream
of his father the carpenter of his mother the owl


and all the world waits the world watches as i drop
him back down w/ the splash
let me say it
that he never deserved
back into the water that he nvr deserve
that he nvr nvr deserve
that he never deserve


and you chide me for
chanting like this? for
lament/ing this seeming
perpetual pogrom
& programme?
this season on season

of persistuant anomie? for
trying to ghost words
to holler this tale?

that he will swim back
to Africa now he is
that the shadow of this
Coast Guard gutter
of blockade has nothing
to do w/ his coconut head
and the cost of his arms
folded. sleeping in salt?


Helpless like this
less like this,
we met you: lover,
warrior, hater,
coming thru the files
of the forest
soft foot
to soft soil
of silence:
we met in the soiled
tunnel of leaves

Click lock
your fire-
lock fore-
arm fire-
arm lash
fire and our firm
flesh, flame
warm, fly
bitten warriors

Hlow long
how long
O Iord
o Devil
0 fire
0 fame
have we walked
have we journeyed
to this place
to this meeting
this shock
and shame
in the soiled


How long have we
travel down
valleys down
slopes, silica
glinted, stones
dry as water,
to this flash
of flame in the forest.
O who now will help
us, help-
less, horse-
less, leader-
less, no
hope, no
Hawkins, no
Cortez to come.
Prempeh imprisoned,
Tawiah dead,
Asantewa bridled
and hung.
0 who now can help
us: Geronimo, Tacky,
Montezuma to come

And the fire, our
fire, fashioning locks,
rocks darker than iron;
fire betrayed us once
in our village, now
in the forest, fire falls
us like birds, hot pods
in our belly. Fire
falls walls, fashions
these fire-
locks darker than iron,
and we file down the path
linked in a new clinked silence of iron

It will be a long long time before we see
this land again, these trees

again, drifting inland with the sound
of surf, smoke rising

It will be a long long time before we see
these farms again, soft wet slow green
again: Aburi, Akwamu
mist rising

Watch now these hard men, cold
clear eye'd like the water we ride
skilful with sail and the rope and the tackle

Watch now these cold men, bold
as the water banging the bow in a sudden wild tide
indifferent, it seems, to the battle

of wind in the water
for our blood, mix
soon with their passion in sport

in indifference, in anger
will create new soils, new souls, new
ancestors; will flow like this tide fix

to the star by which this ship floats
to new worlds, new waters, new
harbours, the pride of our ancestors mixed

with the wind and the water
the flesh and the flies, the whips and the fixed
fear of pain in this chained and welcoming port

The islands roared into green plantations
ruled by silver sugar cane

sweat and profit
cutlass profit
islands ruled by sugar cane

And of course it was a wonderful time
a profitable hospitable well-worth-your-time
when captains carried receipts for rices

letters spices wigs
opera glasses swaggering asses
debtors vices pigs

O it was a wonderful time
an elegant benevolent redolent time
and young Mrs. P's quick irrelevant crime

at four o'clock in the morning.

But what of black Sam
with the big splayed toes
and the shoe black shiney skin?

He carries bucketfulls of water
'cause his Ma's just had another daughter.

And what of John with the European name
who went to school and dreamt of fame
his boss one day call him a fool
and the boss hadn't even been to school.

Steel drum steel drum
hit the hot calypso dancin
hot rum hot rum
who goin' stop this bacchanalling?

For we glance the banjo
dance the limbo
grow our crops by maljo

have loose morals
gather corals
father our neighbour's quarrels


perhaps when they come
with their cameras and straw
hats: sacred pink tourists from the frozen Nawth

we should get down to those
white beaches
where if we doan wear breeches

it becomes an island dance

Some people doin well
while others are catching hell

o the boss give our Johnny the sack
tho we beg him please please
please to tek im back

so the boy now nigratin overseas.

So you have seen them
with their cardboard grips
felt hats, rain
-cloaks, the women

with their plain
or purple-tinted
coats hiding their fatten

These are The Emigrants
On sea-port quays
at air-ports
anywhere where there is ship

or train, swift
motor car, or Jet
to travel faster than the breeze
you see them gathered

passports stamped
Ihcir travel papers wrap
in old disuse news
-papers: lining their patient queue.

Where to?
They do not know
anada, the Panama
Canal, the \Miss

-issippi painfields, Florida?
Or on to dock
at hissing smoke locked

Why do they go?
They do not know
Seeking a job
they settle lor the very best

the agent has to offer
jabbing a neighbour
out of work for four bob
less a week

What do they hope for
what find there
these New World mariners
Columbus coursing kaffirs

What Cathay shore.
Ior them are gleaming golden
what magic keys they carry to unlock
what gold endragon doors'?

Columbus from his alter-
deck watch stars, absorbed in water,
melt in liquid amber drifting

through my summer air
Now with morning, shadows lifting,
beaches stretch before him cold & clear

Birds circle flapping Ilag and mizzcn
mast. birds harshly hawking, without fear
Discovery he sailed for was so near

Columbus from his after-
deck watched heights he hoped for,
rocks he dreamed, rise solid from my simple water

Parrots screamed. Soon he wd touch
our land, his charted mind's desire
The blue skA blessed the morning with its fire

But did his vision
fashion, as he watch the shore
the slaughter that his soldiers

furthered here' Pike
point and musket butt,
hot splintered courage, bone.

crack with bullet shot,
tipped black boot in my belly,
the %whip's uncurled desire?

Columbus from his after-
deck saw bearded fig trees, ycllow pouis
blazed like pollen, and thin

waterfalls suspended in the green
as his eyes climb towards the highest ridges
where our farms are hidden

Now he was sure
he hear soft voices mocking in the leaves
What did this journey mean, this

new world mean: dis-
covery? Or a return to terrors
he had sailed from, known before?
I watch him pause

Then he was splashing silence
Crabs snapp their claws
and scatter as he walk towards our shore

But now the claws are iron: mouldy
dredges do not care what we discover here
the Mississippi mud is sticky

men die there
and bouquets of stench lie
all night long along the river bank

In London, Undergrounds are cold
The train rolls in from darkness
with our fears

and leaves a lonely soft metallic clanking
in our ears
In New York

nights are hot
in Harlem, Brooklyn
along Long Island Sound

This city is so vast
its ears have ceased to know
a simple human sound

Police cars wail
like babies
an ambulance erupts

like breaking glass
an elevator sighs
like Jews in liurope's gasses

then slides us swiftly
down the ropes to hell
Where is the bell

that use to warn us
plain cricket on the beach
that it is mid-day sun too hot

for heads. And evening's
angelus of fish soup
prayers, bed?

My new boss
has no head
for (finle)figumes

my lover
has no teeth
does not chew

chicken bones
Her mother wears
a curly headed wig
(KB 'N, Woald comn' R / Irl t. pp9 11I

In other words the 'old' middlepassage is being over-layered by
a second 'postmodern' middlepassage and we are living in the
interweave & haunting of these two & twin experiences. And
we've tried to break out of it thru synthesis when we shd be <

breaking out of it thru acceptance, thru what Keats celebrated
as negative capability, Gandhi as satya & ahimsa, Christ as lo-
ve, spiritual subsistence & community; all breathing into & w/
this movement of the ocean.

So Michael Dash on my remembering (Black) Ancestors & my endlessly recycling my
poems So always that receptive critic in London on my 'seemingly endless
purgatorial' masks. The 'black people' & my poems being seemingly & endlessly the
same & the same the same

'Edward Kamau Brathwaite [sic] is always with us in print. Long poems shape themselves
into trilogies; critical reviews and essays become prizewinning prose (Roots, 1986) and >
in between all this, shorter fragments and reprints provide a seemingly inexhaustible
stream of publications. [?] The bilingual French publication of The Visibility Trigger >
(Ie d6tonateur de visibility [irans chnstine Ragnoulel) and Jah Music, both appearing in 1986,
fall into the category of the works published elsewhere which are republished in a new
combination. For instance, "Negus" makes a reappearance dedicated to the dead IRasta
fari] drummer Count Ossie. In a way both collections are about death or rather martyr->
dom. In celebrating the dead poet or musician, Brathwaite enters into his own debate >
with oblivion. [!!!] For two short collections, he desperately clings to the word in order >
not to surrender to silence.

'In both collections, the poems are dedicated to assassinated revolutionaries, martyred musi
cians and dead poets. The atmosphere of tragic death is pervasive. Brathwaite makes no diff
erence between poet and politician. Walter Rodney and Mikey Smith, Nkrumah and Robin>
Dobru are all presented as visionaries sacrificed by the blood-stained hands of international
imperialism[??]. This is particularly true of The Visibility Trigger which can be seen as 'poem
es de circonstance' celebrating the fallen members of a spiritual avant-garde. Secular litanie
(s) contrast poetic authority with authoritarian politics...'

[Michael Dash. [WIL/lour of WI Lit [UWI/Ca Hill] 1:2 lune 1987). pp7-90l

personally I find sev things objectionable & indeed dis/asleful aboul this review, which you ohd check in full. Apart
from the mnide obou 'perasive' death & my struggle > silence, it oppeors, even if perhaps coincidenally(?) of the mo
of Zeo mTlexjcan' death. One also notes thot m0 has nur, as for as I know, made ony ottempt to reoewl com-
mcnt on ZtM ir or any of the mnoTaeoo from hil "'ime of l5of' ho reoding Th,s review, one shd be roateful he has
no tho o;,o if these ore poor tfxl, one not tryg for 'ympathy' w,, from Ooah noi nobodgelse for that
matter. But his ls on inoccurate report Of f/k, r t' ve/ of the fxts oa publish]


Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
Sall Eliot. Ltttle Cfiddin rour Quartets ow)

8 So you begin see what happening to this talk: the
repetition the overlapping of experiences the concept at last of
what I call tidalectics

9 Tidalectics
Just want to say a word about tidalectics because it plays an
increasingly important part in how I perceive of my metaphors

I OThere're two ways of perceiving of experience in wester
(n) philosophy. One is the one that we have been grown up on
= dialectics (Hobbes, Hegel great opp of Caliban & dialect see my review of Walter
Rodney's fHw lEurope m.drdeveloped Africa min ASAWn Bulletn No 6 Mona 1973) in which we ass-
ume there will always be a synthesis: the victorious leviathan
That there will always be a third factor of applied thought/>
action which gets us thru to success. The Bajan writer Angela<
Cole has an intriguing definitionn' of this in her
9n the Spirit of Diana
(Blown 2000):

'1. (ommon ordinary garden common-sense i.e put a fork in the garden; watch the sun mov
(e )across the horizon; to know the number of months it takes for certain fruits to mature an
(d) the conditions.
'2. Understanding i.e the same thing is happening to me that is happening to Gladstone Hol
der, the columnist, that is happening to Jeanette Layne Clarke, the writer, out in a different
'3. lialectics i.e moving from the gossip of the personal and using the information to take
>you out of understanding to see the overall picture and development. C.LR James says to
stick in understanding one might as well go back to plain ordinary garden common sense >
where at least one can be useful.'/pw4

Yet here in the Caribbean the tide comes lapping to the doe of
my room and then it goes back again & over time this happens
over & over, sometimes at the door, as i say, at the time of my
mother's childhood & before that too, in her memory of before
as now in mine, there was a tree & a well where the pilot's >>
boat, when I'm growing up, lay with its shadow under 12 to 15
feet of water what Wilson Harris calls 'swimming on dry land'

and to-day, on Browns Beach, opp my house, as the sea keeps
going back out, we might well see that well again 'soon'

and we are rowing out to sea where the woman
live with her pipe and her smoke

and her tea in the tea
tankard of hopes
izwe lawo

and we are rowing out to sea
where there are farms

and our farmers laid waste the land
to make honey, we are the bells of the land
[fro, KB. SoCwto (1979)

So that we contain w/in ourselves, and i speaking of the Carib
bean, the vision/xperience of Sisyphus rather than the xperien
ce, certainly, of the conquistador. Over & over again we disco
ver that when we achieve something like cricket, World Cup dances,
Federation that that something is slowly sometimes almost immediately -
once again being eroded//but that our responsibility is not to la
ment it but to start again. To pick up that burden of Sisyphus
& try again & again. Like in James Baldwin's Tiell me how lo-
ng the train's been gone ~,s,

It was as though, after indes-
cribable, nearly mortal effort
after grim years of fasting an
(d) prayer, after the loss of <

The very structure of the Blues is base on this harsh fracture
of our life & living like in the Doctor's Waiting Room, like at
the Casualty Dept, like the poor-person family building again
their house or hearse on optimistic mortgage sand. The ebb &
flow of epic/natural man we find in Lear, in the circulation of <
our blood, the contractions of the womb towards our birth, the
tides of our death & resurrection come whispering like this.

And so it seems to me that as long as we continue to harbour
the tripartite shall I add EuroAmerican? notion of thesis antithesis
* success [(he doubly trpcarprie blues (verse lines & fropes) don' or seldom end in epiphonicl/miJsl e
but S a resotlion Toa like all oxu oTher xompkrp here, is grounded) we'll nVr be getting close
enough to a close analysis of our own reality to make good sen
se of it; we'll always be into imitation alienation/alien nation >
chimera, false hope, some. body else's success model. We'll <<
nvr be beginning to hear the sound of the sea w/in our psyche
like Philip Sherlock hears the mountains in 'Long Mountain ri-
se' which rise, like a wave or Pyramid(s), to be grounded again,
as I say, in the ground

all he had, and after having
been promised by the Almi->
ghty that he had paid the pri
cc and no more would be de-
manded of his soul, which w-
as harbored now; it was as th
ough in the midst of his joy-
ful feasting and dancing, cr->
owned and robed, a messeng-
er arrived to tell him that a >
great error had been made, an
(d) that it was all to be done

Long Mountain, rise
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon
Black the stars, hide the skies
Long Mountain, rise, lift you' shoulder high

Black of skin and white of gown
Black of night and candle light
White against the black of trees
And altar white against the gloom

Black of mountain high up there
Long Mountain, rise
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon
Black the stars, black the sky

[. Long Mountain rise. .]

Black of night and white of gown
White of altar, black of trees
"Swing de circle wide again

Fall and cry me sister now
Let de spirit come again
Fling away de flesh an' bone

Let de spirit have a home."

[Trumpin] low and in the dark
White of gown and circling dance
Gone to-day and all control

Now the dead are in control
Power of the past returns
Africa among the trees
Asia with her mysteries

Black the stars, hide the sky
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon
Long Mountain rise.
[Philip Sherlock, 'Pocomania' Icl953); Kyk-over-al22 Anthology ed AJ Seymour version (1957,pp70-71)]


And as w/Sir Philip w/Long Mountain, I find that as I write the-
se poems the sound of the sea w/in my own psyche is very str-
ong indeed. And all these poems as I see them, as I hear them,
I can test the reality the authenticity of the experience by <
the movement of what I call the tide w/in myself

That's why these poems to the children of Haiti, to the boat pe-
ople who are murdered some wd say who murder themselves on this bl
ue water of the Caribbean become so important

But there are also other things: the whole nation of middle
passage which this presentation is 'about'. Already you will
notice from the way I'm using passages i.e xcerpts & quotations that <
the concept & poetry of passage is not only the traditional <<
one(s) of the human cargoes of Europeans & Africans into the
Caribbean in the 16th century, 17th century & 18th century; >
but there is a passage back across the Atlantic in the other dir-
ection. Most of them physical, and all tidalectic. So that if there
is the savage, we must remember & look for also the special &
the sacred; i.e the metaphysical middlepassages which we all <
constantly undergo and undergrow.

And then there're concepts like mkissi (spiritual gifts) & timehri -
that poetry begins even before the advent of vegetable fire w/
the imprint (timehri) of the mind on the wall of the imagination
of the small i.e close (not closed) community (see Aubrey Williams, see KB,
'Timehri' (1970, see our Maroon communities who must have given us great passionate lyrical epics

which we can no ?longer see or hear, and the attempt, then, to capture elec-
tricity (eUegua-ogou-xang6) out of the inscription (nommo) of this very <<
lembe mind which imprints itself upon the nanse memory, an-
(d) that these then mkissi create konnu, okra, icons which be-
come that little boy w/the coconut head floating in the oppositet
(e)' or untowardsAmerica direction tidalectically towards Gui
nnin. and it begins then to give us a second icon Iwa, now, really
which I movin towards & into as this presentation becomes <

the image again some of you may have seen it on TV of and homage (?womage)
to this woman I call her Oya and I call her Oya because she's
not only woman ancient & ageless but re-incarnation; becomes
icon & then Iwa & then reflection of the lake of self/ reflection
from the lake of self (re)'born' out of the legba/limbo stick sh
(e)'s carrying/walking towards yr camera from the long jour->
ney of dying of hunger of destitution & the mass murders that
are symbolically her body & her native land/ our native land &
so much else & elsewhere in the world/ dying of the lack of ho
me & salt & love & comfort the lake gone all the water gone and
so far from Oshum her heart almost now hopeless but still hope-
full that's the point still movingly tidalectic even as she reach
es the eye of the desert of yr camera, her violated body to be
shown to imperial millions all over CNN & the internet like
garbage but still also coming back travelling towards & into th
(e) green Lake Chad of our spirit/our spirits, the oshun waters
of her birth & our be. ginning

and w/this little all this she leave to share with us this living
stick in her dying hand she has become the cornhusk out of
which the very Rwanda landscape comes/ and before our eyes/
even as she begins to wither in the camera & begins to fall
towards the earth/ this very slowly camera of eternity now the
poem begins the capture of the scenery towards the earth she
falls she falls like rainbow now/ the colours of her earth & rai-
(n) & sunshine life and death until all that is left for us is her
stick & the memory of the rainbow fall & falling/possession no
(t) bereavement in our secular sense/whole ark not the corn<
dry husk/which is why she/us/it & whatever happening in this <
moment/limbo limbo limbo like me/limbo limbo like me /'happ
en'/if you must have xplanation/'because' that stick that displace &
display her ash & her ashd; that stick of the dance of the limb-
(o); of the cruelty of the limbo crossing; is also the lembe or ve-
ssel not vassal of memory; it is the middlepassage of another x-
perience, of our second millennium into these transactions. It
is the connection between this stark woman's life & all the sta-
rks dark stare/darkened stars that have been hurt & suffered and
survive prevail in the way that Nettleford himself konnu <
has celebrated in The Crossing all these moments of our cho-
reohistory (timehrn 2s) that need to be taken from their demoraliz
ation into memorialization & atonement; that we need to conn-
ect w/ & connect to/deep w/in our psyches & well w/in not only
the decoration (dancehall) but the very decorum of our silver sel
ves <
I-elcome to Na.urlMystelsm& SNo -eL ntheBlood welcome vodoun & the aI st tanternlatiosl Memorial of the Mi
die P.s.s.. the Carlb & Garfllun Atonement Ceremonies Our CaLbeml

for N stlMh A ko uola.u&oLberAp.iW.Lh. ra & bimbooks&diadminc & my irLmn le. mn I othen DIm j~ (198 ) JJjm
1986.CFAJ 36 (1990). C4 3 ( 997)

house on the water
I salute you

I am a bale of straw
swish of your cask's laughter
darkest cling of the gudgeon

there are shadows about me
eyes like mine
pores sweating fears like mine
souring wine

wind carves the shape of the journey
sculpture of sails is softer than a stone
along the dolphin's trail of cloud there is no native land


there is no grey on the sea
with wind
there is no grey in the sky
with rain

there is no sky to fall down on
no hill to run up to
and no night with its swimmers of whiteness

it was all so sudden
it was all so very sudden
when your spirit said
I am going away

I am gone

may your journey now be straight going
may your road be a peaceful one

and on arnval
if someone should ask you how you left us
we on these islands with their lockets of grief


that you left us
eyes still closed
fists still curled bones still lapped with milk

you know the rock's teeth
you know the pathways leaking up from the beaches
you know the wall with its cracks

frangipani blossoms
grave of the soldiers
tales of the sandbox tree

may your journey now be straight going
may your road be a peaceful one
and on arrival

tell our never-returning ancestors of old
that now they have left us
the land is unbearably dry

let there be rain

tell our never-returning grandfathers of old
that the houses are damp, the verandahs are cold
with the wind weeping in from the sea
that the hedges are dusty, that the tubes of the cane are dry

let there be rain

Go, be a beneficent spirit
and return to us in the morning
let the cock know when you are around
crow loudly, royal-headed bugle of the corn

let your wings embarrass the shadows lengthening for us
may your journey now be straight going
may your road be a peaceful one

and on the ninth night
staring out of the moon's wrath of flies
wounds uncovered, toothless gaps gaping to mouth
the drilled flesh will begin to speak

out of the dark I will call you
my warned dead
Igbo cane-cutter
priest of my silent bread

bless me with shadows
white calico of mutters
mother me with words, gems
spoken talismans of your broken tongue

1 am your squat young confidence again
though the air breathes nettles
sing, cutlass edge of rain
kill, destroy, restore me

the mud of dark breeds lilies
crabs' eyes rise over the cisterns of ruins
voices take on flesh
and the flesh

stripped by the sun's rod
by the slaver's rod
by the gumboots of conquerors
hardens to spirits that will not be revealed

So amen then to the world of eyes

I say

to blue skies
the skin stained with wet colour
the sheen of the waves breaking in her flesh

Amen to the world of eyes

hard edges
to what your hands must hold

Welcome the land of the blind
I say
the land of the deaf of the dumb

Welcome the closed eye
broken eardrum
the dreamer

Amen to the world of lips

I say
teeth touching ye.
cheeks smiling

Welcome this touch that will not reach you
words that will teach you nothing

Welcome the Word

For the Word is love
and has been absent from our butterflies

For the Word is peace
and is absent from our streets

Where is the love when you build the thunder's mansions?
Where is the peace when you are never alone?



stone stripped from stone

empty shells
chapels of broken windows

no one calls here on the Sunday sand

For the Word has been destroyed
and cannot live among us

look how your agates glitter
look what your snakes conceal

When I was hungry, you fed me books, Daniel's dungeons
now I am thirsty, you wd stone me with syllables

We seek we seek
but find no one to speak

the words to save us
there is no destination
our prayers reach

no common

no good beyond our gods of righteousness and mammon
KB, 'Wake' for Zea Mexicma, smIeedtlqw Arrwrts

This ends The reve;e & xfending part One of the oxf spoken by KO oTf he Sir phhlip CAC mno feb 1995 franscribe
OreamChadaCowpaTsor feb 1999 rev K69CP feb 2000
reform KB(Ifew yor s ept, no 2000

The Mother Poets Of My Art



Let me say how pleased and privileged I feel to have been invited to
deliver the Third Annual Philip Sherlock Lecture and on this Sir Philip's 94th
birthday When I arrived in Jamaica, glad to escape the cold and snows of New
York City, I had the singular honour of meeting Sir Philip. He and his wife, Lady
Grace, warmly received me at their home. It was an inspiring experience to be in
the man's presence. It was not only the fact of his great age, but that with all his
years he had retained total clarity of mind, a strength of intellect and spirit, and
great wit and charm. Happy Birthday Sir Philip! A West African Praise Song to
you. You are indeed an elder of the tribe who teaches and inspires us all.
As you know, Sir Philip among his many vocations and talents, is a poet
and in keeping with that fact, my lecture today will be devoted to a group of
women who were also poets and who more than anyone or anything in this life
were responsible for me becoming a writer I've spoken of these women, sung
their praises all over the world, most recently at a conference in Japan and
shortly afterwards in Barbados, just down the road from here, so to speak, from
where these women came. They were island women. I call these women Mother
Poets and with a capital M and a capital P to underscore their importance.
Now, they didn't look anything like poets, whatever that breed is sup-
posed to look like. They were just four or five ordinary-looking Bajan mothers
and wives whose circumstances had placed them among the alien corn of
Brooklyn, New York. They didn't dress in the sort of classic mode of Poets, no
French braids, no swaying capes, no outrageous sort of attention-grabbing garb.
Indeed, as if to disguise their calling as poets, they insisted on wearing (much to
my embarrassment because one of them happened to be my actual mother)
these bargain basement house-dresses and these drab winter coats and always,
a dowdy hat planted, 'hit me on' their expression, 'hit me on'
"But look at she with de hat pon she head like it say hit me on' they
would remark disparagingly about someone's hat, not realizing that they were
also taking about their own.
Nor did the Mother Poets do what poets by tradition are supposed to do,
that is, to sit in splendid isolation, splendid solitude writing their verses. These
bards never put a line of their poetry on paper There is not so much as a thin
chat book of their poems to be found in any bookstore or library on the planet.
Instead of working at their craft in the conventional manner each morning these

poets, hat and apron and a pair of house shoes and a brown paper bag, took the
train to the white sections of Brooklyn and there worked as domestics. The only
kind of work available to the vast majority of women from the islands back in the
20's to 30's which was the time they came to the States. In the late afternoon,
armed with what they contemptuously called 'the few drawn out pennies' their pay,
they returned to our part of Brooklyn and some afternoons, instead of immediately
going their separate ways, they stopped off to 'ole talk' in the kitchen of our house
while my sister and I 'danced attendance upon them' to quote Shakespeare, that
is while we waited on them, serving them tea and cocoa, or when our services
weren't needed, we sat quietly doing our homework, being 'seen but not heard'
which was the hard and fast rule back then. During all this, my mother and her
poetry circle would sit around the large oil cloth covered table in the middle of the
kitchen, and talk endlessly, passionately, brilliantly
I couldn't understand it at the time, but the talk was highly functional. It was
their way, first of all, of recovering from the menial work they were forced to do. A
way of reaffirming themselves and their humanity It was also a form of intellectual
exercise; their way of stretching their minds because they talked about everything
under the sun, and they had an opinion about everything. Nothing, absolutely
nothing, was either beyond or above the jurisdiction of their talents and the talk was
entertainment because in those days there were no TV's, no CD's, no VCR'S, no
video games, no stereo Sony Walkman's. no Oprah! People actually talked to
each other Talked as an affirmation of the sheer pleasure of being alive.
As I said, no subject was beyond them. The first topic that usually came
up for discussion was the people they worked for, those white housewives whom
they called their madams. Some of the madams, especially those who overworked
them, or underfed them, giving them for lunch only a single hardboiled egg and a
tablespoon of tasteless cottage cheese, or worse, those madams who underpaid
them at the end of the day they came in for a scathing attack at the kitchen table.
"But if yuh only seen she wid a face like a downfall" or "a face dat de cow step in"
or "a face like an accident before it happen" or "a face not even a mother could
love" The Mother Poets were savage to the madams poetically when they had
been wronged and they were shrewd students of psychology when among their
friends, although they had never taken a course in the subject. They had studied
and analysed those women and knew them far better than the madams would ever
know them.
Another regular topic of conversation was the state of the economy and
how best they and their husbands might, "cut and contrive" that is, save what
money they could in order to a buy a house, because that was their life's goal, their
all-consuming dream, their obsession "to buy house in dis man country" which is
the way they referred to America. They never once, that I can recall, said "Amer-
ica" or "the United States" or even 'the States" It was always,"dis man country" or
with a little more bite to it, "dis white man country". They understood only too well

the configuration of power in America, who possessed it and who didn't. So that
by working tirelessly to 'buy house' and to see that their children became doctors
and lawyers, nothing less would do. They nevertheless had no illusions about
their status in the society It was not and would never be their country and they
acknowledged the fact with their trenchant description of America as "dis man
country" The state of the world including "war and the rumours of war" as they
put it holding the Bible, also came up for discussion at the afternoon round-table.
The Mother Poets often reminisced about the First World War when they were
still girls, country girls, growing up in Barbados, waiting patiently for the war to
end so their families could send them to the States. More often than not when
their time came to emigrate their passage to America was paid with Panama
money, the money sent back to the islands by the thousands of islanders who
helped build the Panama Canal around the turn of the century, an important
chapter in the economic and social history of the English-speaking Caribbean.
For example, my grandmother shrewdly used the Panama money remitted by
her oldest son, my Uncle Joseph, who went to work in Panama, to accumulate
land, and later she sold small portions of it to send her other children one by one
to the States. My mother left Barbados a pampered, tearful eighteen-year old
who didn't know how to comb, 'didn't know how to braid her own hair!' It had
always been done for her "I saw New York rise shining from the sea" is the way
she used to describe her first glimpse of the city from the deck of the ship. She
and her generation represented the first great wave of immigration from the
islands. They were the precursors, the pioneers of the subsequent major migra-
tion to Canada the States and England. Emigration was another major phe-
nomenon in the economic and social history of the region.
Another war that the Mother Poets often talked about was the Italian
invasion of Ethiopia in the mid-1930's, a war seldom mentioned in History books
but which the Mother Poets made it their business to know about. That war
infuriated them. There was one of their heroes! The small exquisite kingly
Emperor Haile Selassie, the lion of Judah, forced into exile in England and his
country, Ethiopia, overrun by Mussolini and his hordes. To express their anger
they would sometimes burst into song, an old song that they had learned as girls
and which they had transformed to express their feeling about what was happen-
ing in Ethiopia. The song was called, "Come round Alice" They changed the
lyrics to go like this.
If I was a grasshopper
I would hop about in the grass
And when Mussolini pass along
I would dash a lash in his.
Come round Alice.
Politics, both national and international was also high on their list of
topics. They admired Franklin D. Roosevelt because, in their view, he had

rescued the country and the world from the economic collapse of the Great
Depression. So FDR was one of their heroes, but the man who was their political
God, their equivalent of later figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson
Mandela was Marcus Mosiah Garvey Never mind the fact that he was Jamaican.
"Rise up you mighty race, Garvey exhorted them. "Economic self-sufficiency he
preached. "We must create our own means of production, the entrepreneurs, the
businessmen and women. "Repatriation to Africa!" he proposed, "perhaps we
should emigrate wholesale to the motherland" And "Black is beautiful" he insisted
to them these women. Garvey was the first to coin the phrase that was to become
one of the principal icons of the 1960's Civil Rights and Black Power Movement in
the States. The Mother Poets loved him. They contributed to his movement out of
their meagre salaries. They joined his Nurses Brigade, although they were nurses
in name only and marched in their white uniforms and caps in the great Garvey Day
parades in Harlem And they invested and lost money on his ill-fated Black Star
Steam Ship Line that was to take them all back to Africa, It's doubtful, you know,
that the Mother Poets would have gone to Africa had Garvey realized his dream
They were too committed to "buying house in de man country" Nevertheless, their
support of that dream suggests, I believe, their strong identification with the
motherland, with the peoples of colour all over the world This was to have a
profound effect on the way I would treat the concept of community in my work later
Home. Not a day passed that the Mother Poets didn't talk about home.
Barbados, Bubados, Bimshire, Little Bimshire. They reminisced endlessly about
their childhood; the occasional trips to town on the East coast train, the fetes on the
pasture at Bellplaine in St. Andrews with Bramlee's band supplying the music.
Speech Days at the Alleyne's School. The weddings. The funerals. The christen-
ings. The canefields everywhere they looked and the tyranny of the plantation
system that was little better than slavery And the tensions, the social tensions
around colour and hair and class that pervaded the society The Mother Poets
could not romanticize their memories. They also, I remember exchanged their
favourite obeah stories My sister and I would break out in goosebumps at tales
about the Heartman who lurked in the canefields ready to pluck out the still beating
heart of any child who misbehaved Then there were the duppies who walked on
the roof at night. They told the best ghost stories ever On a more serious note
were the Tea Meetings the Mother Poets had participated in as girls. I don't know
if you have the custom here in Jamaica or had it here, but it was certainly a very
important institution in Barbados. Tea Meetings! At the Tea Meetings, these girls
were required to stand before an audience and recite from memory long passages
from the classics whether or not they understood the meaning of the text. And they
participated in debates as well. "We had, my mother used to say "we had to
explain the explanatories" so that even as girls they were already honing their
oratorical skills, already being groomed to be articulate, persuasive and self-confi-
dent public speakers. Above all, they were already learning to feel at home in

language. I should hope that the knowledge of these former customs, traditions
and institutions like The Meetings, as well as an awareness of the facts of
migration and Panama money and other important events in West Indian life of
older generations is being passed on to young people today; that this wealth of
history is being included in the curriculum. Not only are these former customs
and events part of the character and cultural memory of the English-speaking
Caribbean, they are critical elements in shaping a more complete and authentic
national identity "Dear Mother, Dear Father, Dear Aunt Vi, Dear Whomever, I
take my pen in hand hoping these few lines will find you in health as they leave
me fair for the time being." The Mother Poets wrote home frequently and they
would slip a little five dollars or ten dollars into the envelope whenever they could
Language, both the spoken and the written word was the means by which they
maintained the connection with home.
And men! Let me not forget the subject of men, a principal topic at the
round-table, Those husbands who were hard workers, sometimes holding down
two or three jobs at a time, those husbands who were as obsessed as they were
with "buying house in de man country" and who were ever saving with the women
toward that end, those husbands were given high marks, but pity those who did
not demonstrate sufficient ambition. They were subjected to a tongue lashing far
worse than anything meted out to the white madams. And their status as men
suffered accordingly From the whole man with all his parts intact they had
married he became with a loud 'suck teeth' "de piece o' man I got dere" The
personal, the political, the universal, these were the broad categories of their
wide-ranging conversations of an after dinner And it wasn't only what the
Mother Poets talked about that made for so much drama, but the way they put
things, their style, the use of the rich, raw, highly colourful Bajan vernacular they
had taken in with their mother's milk. That's what made them Poets. My mother
and her girlhood friends took the language passed on to them at birth and further
expanded its vocabulary to include the new words, the new terms, the new
expressions derived from their experience in America They raised the popular
speech that was their birthright to an even higher level of poetic expression. The
techniques they employed were essentially the same as those used by genera-
tions of ordinary folk before them Country people like themselves who had taken
the King's English taught them in school, at the Tea Meetings, wherever and had
transformed it, indeed, had reinvented it, so that it more adequately expressed
their unique character and history They brought to bear, for example, the
accents and the rhythms, the cadences of Africa and Ireland, since the Irish gift
of the gab, from the many Irish planters during slavery figured strongly in native
speech. They also imposed on Standard English their own syntax by re-arrang-
ing the placement of words in a sentence. They introduced the few African
sounds that had survived. The famous 'suck teeth' sound, a sound with enough
meanings and shades of meanings to fill a dictionary As well as the African
mannerisms: the hands to the hipside, akimbo; holding high on the chest; the

hand wipe, and the few African words that hadn't been lost, such as the word 'yam'
Not only 'yam', the root vegetable familiar to us all, but 'yam' used as the verb 'to
eat' by the Fulani people in Northern Nigeria to this day My mother, for example
was always admonishing me "not to yam up all the food on yuh plate so fast" As
the generations before them, the Mother Poets also spiced up English with a little
patois from Martinique, St. Lucia and Haiti. "Wah'lah, wah'lah" was their version of
the classic French expression, "voila"' but given a raw edge of Barbadian speech.
"Tout moun bagaille" was another one of their expressions, when broken down
translates into the French "tout le monde" meaning 'everybody, the human family,
the world' "Tout moun bagaille" the Mother Poets would say with an open-armed
gesture that took in the universe and everything contained in it. Also, they further
enriched English with a raft of colourful metaphors, proverbs, sayings, Biblical
quotes and Biblical-inspired hyperbole raised hell by heart and called every gen-
eration blessed the Mother Poets would declaim, a hand raised to heaven when
they were in the least bit upset, or "I kiss my right hand to God" they would declare,
doing just that, kissing both sides of their right hand and raising it to heaven, a
gesture designed to underscore the fact that they were in deed telling the truth, "I
kiss my right hand to God" And they would say, "The sea ain got no back door"
That was a favourite warning of theirs which meant that the sea wasn't like a house
where if there was an emergency or a fire or something you could escape through
the back door The sea offered no such escape hatch, therefore it was to be
treated with caution and respect and since there was always something deeper and
philosophical behind everything, the Mother Poets said they were implying that one
had to be cautious and respectful of all of nature, something our generation seems
to have forgotten as we go about wantonly polluting the planet. And when there
was trouble a loss of a job, a marriage gone sour, sickness or death in the family
the Mother Poets would say to the one in distress, "Scully girl, yuh got to tie up yuh
belly" alluding to the old practice of tying a belly band around the stomach of a
baby to hold in its navel, This, for them, became a metaphor for withstanding
adversity And they didn't hesitate, these women, to use their poetic gifts to
censure those who broke strict codes of the Bajan community in Brooklyn. For
example, a woman who might perhaps be a little too free with her sexual favours
was known in their lexicon as a "thoroughfare" "She's nothing but a thoroughfare,
trying to conjure up the sense of men like a steady stream of cars going up and
down a hill. Or the same mystery was also called a "free bee" which is the term I
prefer The sense of a woman, scandalous but free, flitting like a bee from one
flower to another in a garden of male beauties, sampling their nectar A dramatic,
indeed revolutionary reversal of a standard male/female role
Then there was the matter of the Mother Poets' favourite adjective, the
curious, puzzling oxymoron "beautiful ugly" They'd go shopping downtown Brook-
lyn and buy a pretty dress or coat for one of the children and say, "I just bought this
beautiful-ugly dress" or "I just saw so and so the other day with a beautiful-ugly
new car, or," I'm trying my best, soully gal, to buy this beautiful-ugly house" Why

the word 'ugly' I used to wonder to myself when the object at hand was beautiful
and that they knew it? Why the antonym, the contradiction in the linking of
opposites? It used to puzzle me greatly as a child although I would never dare
to ask them about it, being someone who was to be seen but not heard. Perhaps
their use of the term "beautiful-ugly" was simply analogous to knocking on wood,
to ensure that no harm came to their prized new possession. After all, the Mother
Poets knew only too well that the gods can be jealous, capricious. They had read
about them at those Tea Meeting passages from the Classics so they might have
been wisely setting their bets, using the word 'ugly' to hoodwink the gods into
making them think that the object was worthless so that they would escape their
perverse and jealous wrath. But I suspect there is a more scientific explanation.
There is the theory in Linguistics which posits that the beginning of a people the
way they put their personal stamp, their spin on a language, especially a lan-
guage imposed upon them, reflects not only their most fundamental view of
themselves and the world but their very conception of reality so, in using the
adjective "beautiful-ugly" to describe almost everything, my mother and her
friends were perhaps expressing their belief in a basic dualism. The idea that
everything in this life is composed of opposing, contradictory properties and that
these opposites, these contradictions, the "beautiful-ugly" if you will, are not in
conflict, which is largely the view of Western thinking, but are rather the neces-
sary parts that comprise the whole. In other words theirs was not the standard
'manichean' brand of dualism with its famous mind/body split, the mind and the
body being in constant conflict. The Mother Poets would have rejected that
notion The way they addressed each other suggests as much. "Soully gal,
they called each other "Soully gal" "Soul" meaning 'intellect" "spirit" "the mind"
"Gal" an affectionate term for the physical body flesh and the visible self And
they accorded each of these properties, the mind and the body, as much weight
and importance as the other It seems to me that theirs was a world view of
inclusion, of seeing people, nature, matter, objects, things, whatever, as com-
plex. Often contradictory home creations. And I underline the word 'home' It's
an essentially African way of defining both self and the group. The Mother Poets
even had their own distinctive way of defining God. They looked around at all the
wars, large and small, waging around the globe, at hunger and depression in the
world, at the racism and sexism they themselves were subjected to nearly every
day in this country and they said of God, "God don't love ugly and hate some that
is pretty" It's a karmic thought basically which is also expressed in Black
American English. Another rich, colourful vernacular We say What goes
around comes around" The Mother Poets, using everyday speech, the simple
commonplace words but with imagination, daring and skill, they gave voice to the
most complex ideas and concepts. They were past masters at making ordinary
language work double time, that is stretching and changing, deepening its
meanings. They were always trying to infuse new life into old old words, worn
thin by careless usage and I'm quoting here the great Nineteenth Century writer

Joseph Conrad taken from the introduction of his novel, "The Nigger of the Narcis-
sus" a brilliant book but an unfortunate title. My mother and her friends also shared
Conrad's goals as a writer and I quote him again, "To make you the reader hear, to
make you feel, but above all to make you see." This too was their guiding aesthetic.
Those bards of Brooklyn were constantly creating art with words using language as
an outlet for their tremendous creative energy These were women whose need for
self-expression was particularly strong, and since language was an artistic form
readily available to them they used it fully Moreover, it was art created right at the
kitchen table, not off in a studio or an attic somewhere. Art, in other words, that was
an integral part of their lives, an approach in keeping with the African tradition in
which art and life are seen as one. Moreover, language became a kind of home-
land for them permanently separated from home on one hand. None of the Mother
Poets ever returned to live in Barbados, yet, on the other hand, never feeling at
home in their adopted country refusing to even call it by its name, overwhelmed
indeed by America's vastness, complexity and power, they took refuge in lan-
guage. "Langauge is the only homeland, so said Czeslaw Milosz the emigre
Polish writer and Nobel Laureate who fled communist Poland to the United States
years ago. The same could be said of the Mother Poets They too found a haven,
a homeland in the poetic vernacular they brought with them from their island. They
also make use of language as a political weapon. Given American society the
Mother Poets had a number of strikes against them: they were black; they were
women; they were foreigners and they were working class. In a word, they were
essentially powerless and invisible in the colossus of America, more invisible
perhaps than The Invisibe Man of the classic Ralph Ellison novel of the same title,
but given the kind of women they were, West Indian women, they couldn't bear the
thought of being insignificant, invisible, so they fought back with the one weapon at
their disposal the spoken word.
Those round-table discussions, where so much of the talk focused on
politics, was their way of exercising some measure of control if only verbally over
their lives. For them, words possessed power They weren't familiar with the
African concept of "nommo" which means the power of the word,they nevertheless
understood it intuitively and practised it daily My first novel Brown Girl Brown
Stones was an attempt, on my part, to put these unknown, unsung, unpublished
bards of Brooklyn on the literary map. To accord them their rightful place in the
literary cannon and so, I'd like to pause here and read a brief section from the
novel, one in which I tried to convey something of the special character of these
women, their spirit, their poetry, their humour, their strength and their contentious-
ness because, although they were fast and faithful friends, they had their disagree-
ments from time to time.
On Saturday the kitchen was filled with fra-
grances, for Silla made and sold Barbadian deli-
cacies: black pudding, which is the intestines of

the pig stuffed with grated sweet potato, beets,
animal blood and spices until it is a thick sau-
sage, then tied at the ends and boiled; also
souse, which she made by pickling parts of the
pig and coconut or sweet bread, a heavy
bread with coconut running in a rich vein
through the centre.

From early one Saturday Selina and Ina had
been grating until, by noon, their fingers were
torn and their blood mixed with the shreds. The
bell rang, relieving them, and a shaft of wind
brought voices and a feel of the snow crusted
hard along the curbs.

"Dear-heart, the pudding and the souse smell
so sweet! How?" Iris Hurley entered, her wide
nostrils stiff with cold. She was tall and big-
boned like Silla, with smooth black skin, high
hard facial bones, evasive eyes.

"Iris, I still here, Silla said and turned to the
other woman. "Florrie, how?"

"Suffering, soul!" Florrie Trotman's short legs
carried her chunky body as if it was an unfair
burden. She had dull yellow skin, oblique eyes,
an innocent mouth and huge breasts that
swelled over her brassiere so that it appeared
that she had four breasts instead of two.
Sometimes Silla affectionately called her,"

"Come Soul, sit, do. She motioned her to a
chair "You's blowing like a whale.

Florrie Trotman sat heavily; her bosom heaved.
"We ain staying Silla-soul. We just stop to see
if you still living or dead. Wah'lah I din see the
children" She twisted around to them. "C'dear,
I never see girl-children so features like their
father as these two,Silla" "They's his all right -
frighten for work just like he.

Florrie struggled out of her coat and swung her
pocketbook high on her arm, "But in truth these
New York children don' like work. They soft.
Look that half a man I got there. All day his head
does be up in a radio listening to jazz like he's
some jazz fiend or the other Only yesterday I
had to up hand and give a cuff that near kill him.

"You best watch that heavy hand, Silla said,
'cause this is New York and these is New York
children and the authorities will dash you in jail for

"Never mind that. They want licks!" Florrie
shouted. "You got to wash their tail in licks. You
remember what the old people home did tell us:
hard ears you wun hear, own-ways you'll feel"

Iris Hurley spoke for the first time. "But c'dear, I
don' does have no trouble with mine. Maybe if
you two would of send the children to church.

"But Iris, who ask you?" Silla flared. "You always
bringing up the church in everything. Don' you
think I send the little beasts to Barrow's Church
and they was up there reciting the 'Little Lord
Jesus lay down his sweet head' and thing so!
You think that change them?"

"As for you! It's years since you darken the door-
mouth of a church, Iris said.

"And years to come!" Silla added, "And you know
why, Iris?" It's not that I's some heathen or the
other, but that my mind turn from the church. I
see too many hypocrites prostrating themselves
before the cross each Sunday The same ones
buying house by devious means. Lemme tell
you, Iris, you don' see God any better by being
sanctified and climbing the walls of a church and
tearing off your clothes when you's in the spirit, or
even when you's in the so-called High church,
choking on the lot of incense and bowing and

kneeling for hours and singing in various
tongues. Not everyone who cry 'Lord, Lord'
gon enter in.

"I gon' pray for you, Dear-heart.

"Don' waste breath, Iris. Each man got to see
God for himself'

Florrie Trotman sucked her teeth, annoyed.
"But why wunna two hard-back women always
arguing 'bout the church. Silla, those new

"Woman, who can be buying anything new with
all this war and foolishness going on?"

Iris Hurley sent a blast through her wide nos-
trils. "But do you read how many thousand
upon thousand they killing out each day? But
c'dear, these white people getting on too bad.
They say that Hitler put all the Jews in a gas
chamber But you know, somebody oughta
take up a gun so and shoot down that man so,
'cause he's nothing but the devil incarnate.

"In truth, Silla said with bowed head and her
face drawn with sadness. Suddenly she cried,
her voice tremulous with anger, "It's these poli-
ticians. They's the ones always starting up all
this lot of war. And what they care? It's the
poor people got to suffer and mothers with their

"Oh Jesus-Christ-God, Silla!" Florrie shud-
dered. "Don' speak do. Livingston's due to go,
y'know He ain no good but he's my only son.

"They'd never get a child of mine in no army,
Iris said. "I'd make him eat soap each day to
make the heart beat fast first. Wait, no.... She
paused. "I might if he was gon fight direct for
England and the crown.

"But Iris, you's one ignorant black woman!" Silla
said softly. "What John Bull ever did for you

that you's so grateful? You think 'cause they
does call Barbados 'Little England' that you is
somebody? What the king know 'bout you or
care? You best stop calling the man name like
you and he does speak. You think the king did
care when you was home heading canes? Or
when the drought come and not a pot stir 'pon the
stove for days ?"

"Dear-heart, Iris said placidly, "you like you come
to read the burial service over me. "You deserve
to dead, Silla cried, her face working and her
eyes boring into Iris, who remained unmoved and
unimpressed. Silla leaned across the table to
her, whispering, "Iris, you know what it is to work
hard and still never make a head-way? That's
Bimshire. One crop. People having to work for
next skin to nothing The white people treating
we like slaves still and we taking it. The rum shop
and the church join together to keep we pacify
and in ignorance. That's Barbados. It's a terrible
thing to know that you gon' be poor all yuh life, no
matter how hard you work. You does stop trying
after a time. People does see you so and call you
lazy But it ain laziness. It just that you does give
up. You does kind of die inside.

"It's the God' s truth, Florne whispered

"I ain saying that we don' catch H in this country
what with the discrimination and thing and how
hard we does have to scrub the Jew floor to make
a penny, but my Christ, at least you can make
head-way Look how Roosevelt come and give
relief and jobs. Who was one the first Bajan
bought a house? You, Iris. When they pass this
law to hire coloured in defence plants who was
the first up in the people face applying? Your
husband, Iris. Even I gon apply for one those
jobs. So, c'dear, give credit where it due, nuh,
she pleaded softly, then as Iris still ignored her,
she lashed out, "You's an ungrateful whelp.


"Dear-heart, Ins laughed, "I ain able for you to
kill me with words!"

Florrie had listened rapt, respectful to Silla, and
now she said solemnly "Talk yuh talk, Silla!
Be-Jees, in this white-man world you got to take
yuh mouth and make a gun.

A Song-Searching Interrogation with Self



Colleagues, friends, it has been a long and reluctant journey to come to
the home of the scholar/artist Sir Philip Sherlock. That journey began with Marina
Maxwell dragging me as composer/singer into the Yard Theatre Movement and it
ends now with Jean Small pushing me on the stage. But along the way have been
the Church, and The Search Movement, the blinding flash of light on the way to
August Town as Kamau Brathwaite put it and Black Power, Worker's Liberation
League, Worker's Party Power, Theatre Group For National Liberation and me.
Yes, me for included in the repertoire of over three decades of song-writing and
song-singing is the song-searching interrogation of the self. By now you know this
lecture could not have a title. I'm not sure how I would title it, but what does it
matter? You will hear the lecture and decide for yourself what the title should be,1
but there are two songs, particularly of this order of what I call the interrogation:
Man Job and My Great Provider
Man Job
I loathe this life, I'll voice complaint:
My soul is so bitter, I'm ready for hell.
But, please, Lord, just listen to me-
Just tell me why you're ready to sell me.
It don't seem too good for you to hurt your handiwork!
It don't seem too good for you to oppress me,
While evil men they prosper and glow,
And from their hillsides laugh when they arrest me!
Are your eyes blue eyes? Do you see as man sees?
And do you grow old as man's ways grow cold?
Well, why then look out for my sins.
When piercing gaze could make ice of my bones.
My days are but few my fate ain't it gloom?
And when I meet you, shall I not burn?
Well, then, LEAVE ME ALONE. for what comfort I find,
Before I leave for no return!
Your own hands made me from clay.
Don't bnng me to dust again'

It didn't matter then whether or not such songs echoed the common experiences
of all souls, though I knew they did. The main thing was that they calmed angry
or troubled waters. God who is both subject and object at one and the same time
looked at what he had created and said, so that he himself could hear himself,
Dat good man, dat good. No nerves, no self-doubt. This is the artist as his or her
own audience and thus the central concern to me is the positioning of the artist.

First in the quest for self-knowledge and understanding, the impossible
objectification and evaluation of self, for to know one's self fully is to cease all
becoming, to reach the end of the road, to die, in effect, because no man is an
island, no man can be an island. This quest for self-knowledge throws every
artist into a dialogue with the other, pronouncement on the other and, of course,
the others judgement in sentencing of him. Until the passing of this sentence, the
artist stands before his/her audience alone, prisoner of his or her own making, his
or her own creative indiscretion. So in honour of Sir Philip Sherlock, therefore, I
present this annual lecture in honour of his birthday this lecture in the form of a
selection of my songs over the last thirty years. Its the first time really, although
I have performed on numerous and countless occasions. Initially it was possible,
I thought, to sneak the country's folksongs into the repertoire. New creations and
compositions like Blak Op and two Christmas carols which you won't hear tonight
were originally meant to disappear into the cultural mosaic without identifying any
paternity Anonymous, but bound by blood ties to Linstead Market, All de Call
We da Call Dina and the rich songs we call our heritage. This was the ambition.
This was the private satisfaction, but unfortunately the world has changed since
Linstead Market. Acknowledgement of ownership not only reads right, but has
become a necessity There is, I suppose, no other way In that dialogue with
society, I have used art as weapon, instrument of criticism, warning and demoli-
tion, but also as a tradesman's tool of construction.
Blak Op
Blak op! Blak op!
Son a raiz an piipl se wi blak op!
Bot a di spirit a di Laad flai dong laka faia,
Grab wi in di spirit laka Kwaia singin Haia,
Haia! Haia! Haia!
Dem duon gan a daop a shiem!
Gyallii mandem iz aal di siem!
Dem tek dem waataz laka serasi tii!
Di uol a dem waan go JIEL!
Im bluo laka horikien,
Bluo di faia rait dong di lien

Uol Saiman Piit da kot im Latn an im Griik,
An a riil dem aaf bai di CHIEN!
Jaaman, Afrikan an Indian ries
Som mosa kom fram outa spies!
Faar dem drap dem mout an a staat fi shout,
Wat di hel a gwaan roun dis PLIES!
Nat a ting no rang wid wi, yaa sah!
So mi no nuo we dem a kyuuz wi fa!
Iz jos bikaaz di uoli spirit av Jah
Bluo di faia av love rait YA'
So ripent an get baptaiz
In di niem av Jesos Krais
Truo out unu sin, let di uoli spirit in
Mek im riez pentikaatal NAIZ!

Uu FI Run, Once a Man Twice a Child, If only We did Know and a couple others
you might hear tonight sound angry notes of criticism.
Uu fi Run
Yu neba memba wen A did ongri
An beg yu wan dala!
Yu neba memba ow yu did a triit mi
Bout mi mos go luk wok! Kaasn mi liezi
Bot yu neba did nuo ow lang mi inda waak!
Bot wen da peoples revolution come!
Lord, uu fi ron beta ron!

Yes mi piis a shot did outsaid
An mi ier neba kuom
Bot yu put yu prs pan dieda said
Az yu si mi, an kot yu yai
Laik a kraim fi smadi luk laid dem puor!
Yes dem diez wel dred, faar ebn staar
Mos faal dong fram ebn
Riez yu yai an luk pan di muum:
Faar iz blod! Blod! Rtkwiek an Faia!
Duon fuul yuself yaa bwaai, demde diez dred!
If a Aafwetrii klak yu stap
An a wiet pan di griinlait
Yu beta bluo yu aan, pres di gyas
An draiv we faas! faas! Duon iivn go uoml
Prie Gad fi a big Amerikan kyaar!

Chrii yong liedi vizit dem fren
Op a Kansans Spring
Bot wen yu stap an ier fram di shout
Iz ongl wan! Wan! Iz ongl wan dem lef
An dem tek tuu gaan laik da wind!
Once a Man, Twice a Child
Once a man and twice a child
Once a man and twice a child
Once upon a time, once yesterday
Leaders were the elders, the philosophate.
Wisdom came with age
No one heard them say If ongl wi did nuo!
Structural adjusting through the night
Open Food for Rich, Close down Food for Poor
When the gunshots start to pierce the sky
If ongl wi did nuo!
Give me Area Leaders and Don men!
I will arm my voters, yours go to hell!
But when the gangs and coke heads (s)hit the streets
If ongl wi did nuo!
Sitting here today membring the last,
Looking down the future, blinded by the past,
Shaking our grey heads,
Sighs, remorse!
If ongl wi did nuo!
Wisdom looks ahead, seldom behind!
Walk too fast, you bound to walk two time!
Look into the mirror, into yourself!
If ongl wi did nuo!
Repeat verse 1

If leadership comes under heavy fire it is because this is where in my conviction
the main responsibility lies. Songs written in the 1970s could still find resonance
in 1997 because we've hardly grown wiser and certainly grown wider apart. At
the same time, many of the songs were expressions of nationalist fervour, of
culture- building, if you will. They celebrate the place of nation language in our
identity and our bilingualism and define our sense of who we are an African
people who have created a society and a culture out of our common exile and a
'bashment' out of our banishment. My sense of nationalism though has always

been on the understanding that whatever it is that we have built, it is the African
peoples who were the architects if not the engineers and the contractors. I believe
with George Lamming, that the archaeology, the description, the critique of the
designs of that architecture remain, the foremost task of our intellectualism and that
is why I'm such an unabashed admirer of Philip Sherlock, the sage, elder in whose
honour we meet tonight. Philip is an African not because he is black, he is in fact
white, but because in using the archaeology of History to describe the central role
of the Africans in the foundations of our nationhood, he has uncovered, critiqued
and identified the central column, namely the spirituality that has kept us whole and
human for four hundred years and promises to carry us into the future.
Nationalist yearnings were very much a part of my early years in liturgical
renewal for both during as well as after my years as a Jesuit, the alienation of the
Catholic Church from the culture was a matter of fundamental concern. Some
songs have since found their way into into Christian hymnally across the region, but
one (that will not be included in tonight's offering), Jesus Tek weh all we Sin was
written to be sung at communion time to my mind, but one which has been passed
on as the very opposite, a time for taking medicine. The song thus has two strikes
against it. Its mood was too festive it seems and its lyrics too patois, too vulgar,
but as I recall Ronnie Thwaites and the youths loved it.
Jiizas Tek We aal Wi Sin
Jiizas tek we aal wi sin,
Den im gi wi bred fi iit
Den im gi wi wain fi dringk
Im badi an im blod, Itrnal laif,
Itrnal laif, Itrnal laif!
Wen wi hiit di bred, an wen wi dringk dis wain,
Iz memba wi memba im! (2)
Wen wi iit di bred an wen wi dringk dis wain,
Iz memba wi memba di det av di Laad,
Til im kom agen da King av Kings,
Da King av Kings.
Wen wi iit dis bred an wen wi dringk dis wain
Iz rezarekshan die! (2);
Wen wi iit dis bred an wen wi dringk dis wain
Iz dai wi dai di det to sin,
An iz raiz wi raiz to Itrnal Laif, Itrnal Laif!
If yu tosti breda an yu suol a paach,
Den ron kom a Jiekob wel!
An if yu tosti sista an yu haat get skaach,

Ron kom a Jiekob wel!
An if yu tosti breda an yu suol a paach,
Lef aar yu trobl an ron kom dringk
A Jiekob well da spring av laif,
Da spring av laif!
Mankain sievya, tel wi which paat yu liv,
Wi waan kom sit an taak! (2)
Mankain sievya, tel which paat yu liv,
Wi gwain fala yu uom an wi gwain kom si,
Wi gwain fain out ow di son a man liv!
Da son av man!
Many times I've been asked how do I compose. I try to satisfy the
enquirer by answering that sometimes I write the words first and the music after,
sometimes the music first and the words after and sometimes both at the same
time. The truth is I do not know Such questions imply a rational, mechanical
process in which elements are combined to produce a result. It may well be that
this is how many songs are produced, what with the new technologies, but to me
artistic productions are about gifts, about giving and being given. The first thing
about a gift is that it is free, without constraint, without compulsion. It is about
being endowed with certain talents, but it is also about giving of what one has.
Thus at one level songs were all I was able to give. The first time I made a
song-gift was as a twenty-third birthday present to a very special other, Black So
Black So Beautiful
Wans a ansom man
Tel mi wid a small
Aal diiz yierz A deya
An aal dis wail
A didn nuo, A didn nuo
Black so byuutiful!
Im tel mi se mi ipdem
Muuv an daans
Di ridim mek im stap
An faal iina traans
A didn nuo, A didn nuo
Blak so byuutiful!
Mi tel im tengki, sa! Mi tel im Tengki, sa!
Bot si mi a wan ting, Liv wid mi aneda
Faar lov pieshent, kain, uop an biliiv, an endyuur,
Aalwiez muor, aalwiez muor!

A drap mi mout an stier
Wen yu kraas di striit
Yu legdem tel bout Afrika
Yu waak iz laik a Kwiin!
A didn nuo, A didn nuo
Blak so byuutiful!
A buod di bos bisaid yu
An az a luk pan yu bobidem
A taiad fiilin kech mi
An A fiil laik res mi ed
Faar A didn nuo, A didn nuo
Blak so byuutiful!
A gwain kom liv wid yu, yu ier!
An lov yu paas di griev!
Pieshent, kain, uop an biliv!
Faar a didn nuo, A didn nuo
Blak so byutiful
Since then there have been others: Ruth and Naomi, Fling Yu Bread Upon
de Waters, Peace I Give You, Hungry for Your Love and others some of which are
not included here.
Ruut an Niuomi
Uman lib a Moab lan niem Ruut, niem Ruut
Uman lib a Moab lan niem Ruut, niem Ruut!
Ruut lov Niuomi to ar aat,
So shi fala ar bak to di Betliempaat
av Juuda lan-O
av Juuda lan!
Eniwe yu go mi hafi go,
Faar das lov!
Eniwe yu lib, mi hafi lib tu,
Faar das lov!
Faar fiyu piipl a fimi piipl
An fiyu Gad a fimi Gad!
So eniwe yu live an eniwe yu dai
Iz dier Ai laaf, iz dier Ai krai!
Niuomi! Dat iz lov!
Gwaan bak uom mi daata Ruut, Gwaan bak uom (repeat)
Gwaan bak! Yu wi fain aneda man!
Lov im laik yu lovm fimi uona son,

Swiit Antuon!
So Mis Ruut an Niuomi dem limba, limba lang! (repeat
Suun dem nich swiit Judalan
Ful a plenti kaan an a wietin an
Richman Boaz,
Richman Boaz
Priti liedi, tel mi wat yu niem, wat yu niem (repeat
Mi niem iz Ruut, a lovin grl!
Arms silk, an eyes like pearl!
Sar, my name Ruut-O
Sar, my name Ruut!
Di Laad bles Boaz an im bles, bles Miss Ruut (repeat)
Dem griet granson ton a maiti king
Dem griet-griet-griet a griet still
Jesus Krais
Jesus Krais!
Breda, Sista, Irn a lesn fram da Buk av Lov (repeat
Ruut lov Niuomi tu ar haat,
So shi fala ar bak tu di Betliempaat
Av Juudalan-O
Fling yu bred
Fling yu bread pon di waters -
You wi fin it in a year or two!
An di dough goin rise and fill every oven,
Jus wait a year or two!
Joan of Arc! Joan of Arc!
Come join the freedom ride!
But dem cook her up and nyam ar badi,
Freedom really tek a year or two!
Dadi Marcus, Pupa Gyaavi,
Come! Faar wi gwain a Africa!
Bot dem sen im gone chak a Merica
Mek im stiede fi a year ar two!
Cousin Martin, Breda Martin,
Come, march go Washington!
But dem eng im dream up in Chicago
Integration tek a year or two!

Breda Wally! Dadi Walter!
Come, chant wi story!
But dem drown im vision in the Essequibo
It wi stay de fi a year or two!
Every dog im day, every pus im four!
For the wheel still a spin!
Tide fiyu, tumara fimi,
An di prior gwain rise and tek command
Gi dem taim a year or two
For di spirit tek a year or two!
Peace I Leave You
Peace I leave with you, my friends,
Look into my eyes -
Not without, but here within
There the victory lies.
Do not let your heart know any fear,
Put your trust in God!
For I go prepare a place for you,
The best you'll ever have,
The best you'll ever have.
Do not let your foot go stumbling,
For I am the way,
And the truth and the life
0, yes, I can
Turn night into day,
Yes, turn night into day
If you love me, do me as I ask,
And III stand by you!
Yes I will, I will send my Holy Ghost,
He will see you through.
Yes I go, but Im not gone, my friends.
You know what I mean:
For my peace will take seat in your midst,
Like a child unseen,
Like a child unseen.

But at another level songs were and are expressions of being, given acts and
artifacts of the creative imagination, to borrow a favourite phrase of Rex Nettleford


of thought and fantasy sometimes serendipitously brought forth, sometimes
with anvil and hammer-like labour This is not a claim for the arts alone. I believe
the realm of this imagination, and I know Nettleford agrees, is the same whether
it be art or science for ultimately it is the discovery of self through creation. The
artist and scholar thus have this in common. When all is written, sung, danced,
said and done they stand before the other naked and unmasked.


1 The title was chosen by Jean Small, Tutor/Coordinator, The Philip Sherlock Centre for the Crea-
tive Arts for this publication. Professor Chevannes accepted the title.

The Caribbean Artist's Presence and Education for The Third



I visited Sir Philip just two days ago on his birthday It was as wonderful as
ever to meet this gentleman of "great age" but with the mind of a 28 year old very
stimulating; still addressing, not so much the problems of Jamaica as the tremen-
dous possibilities of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. It was from that spirit so
many of us gained strength as students in the early days of this University and I
remember very well how people in this University, not being able to cope or to deal
with someone as strange as Sir Philip, decided that certain things that he could not
lay claim to he just could not lay claim to. So when the Parry/ Sherlock "History of
the West Indies', came out, there were people who genuinely felt he did not write
it...he just couldn't possibly He is only an Anancy storyteller and a poet. Well, it is
amazing how this king\d of attitude has persisted in the University which itself has
been called the cradle of a great deal of what can be called the Creative Arts and
the development of it over the past 50 years. But so it is and I share with you
something in good faith. It is funny
First of all I did come from the country...no, not in a bus. That wasn't the
time I came. I came by train, but with a grip and it is very interesting because one
of our own colleagues in this University, for a very long time heard me speak on the
matter of culture and the centrality of it to intellectual life and how important it is that
the University should take it on, not as a suppressive element but as something
which is central to its work.. and my colleagues were very impressed apparently by
it. But this colleague was telling me, in all seriousness, that he went out for a coffee
break and said, "My God, but the man is an intellectual" When I shared this with
some other colleagues they laughed, just as you did, and said "But what did he
think?" I said, well, he probably heard of me as a dancer, a male dancer And of
course, Extra Mural, which is double jeopardy in a University like this.
Things, I believe have changed and it is interesting to look at where we are
now...not just we in the Caribbean but the entire world....that culture is now seen
(and by that I do not mean a little bit of dance and a little bit of poetry, but certainly
the kind of things that creative artists do) and are now regarded as very important
to development. There is a world conference coming up in Stockholm next month
(March, 1997) which will focus on culture and development.
There is a world conference coming up in Stockholm next month (March,
1997) which will focus on culture and development. Economists and other plan-

ners have been at it for three or four decades and in some ways they have barely
made a dent. But a mere dent and somehow they are going back to the
individual, to the human being and putting the human being at the centre of the
cosmos. The artist was always there and many people in the academy have
been there for quite some time, hence this edifice (the Philip Sherlock Centre for
the Creative Arts) and the work that has been going on in it for the past thirty
years even before we were able to raise funds to put this building up. And I am
happy to see my old friend Noel Vaz in the audience (a former Tutor in Drama at
the Creative Arts Centre) because he certainly was one of the great pioneers and
one of the people hand-picked by Sir Philip along with Errol Hill in the very
beginning to somehow bring that spirit into the University and to refine the
otherwise coarsened sensibilities. And we have come a long way, I do not think
we have to be subversive any longer
The three staff members at the Centre (Tutor Coordinator, Music Direc-
tor and Drama Tutor) can be regarded as pedigreed they are the people who
'run tings' and are on the academic staff of the University
Many of us have had to do things from the margin. I have never
regretted that quite frankly because it is nice to be subversive and it also gives
one a bird's eye view of things. One is able to locate oneself a little easier than if
one is immersed in the establishment. I have been kicked upstairs and been
paying madly for it. and I sometimes envy those who are able to stay on the
outside somewhat and do as they like.
Sir Philip allowed us to do as we liked and he threw us in the water and
used to say "swim" Well, if you drown, too bad, but he never wanted us to
drown and very few of us did And we certainly found our way and were able to,
through outreach, extend our activities into the wider community all over the
Caribbean and even beyond that and he must take a great deal of credit for it.
He certainly is one of our icons. At this great age, he and Dr Hazel Bennett
wrote The Story of the Jamaican People, from within. One of the things that he
takes great pride in the project he spearheaded with the help of someone like
Jean Smith and with a great worker like Paulette Chevannes and a number of
other people, bringing to education the example that all education should have -
that you go into the learning process treating the children as stake-holders in the
process and concentrating on their creative potential and most of all on their self
esteem. And this is another contribution at this great age that he is making to the
So I join with you in celebrating the spirit and the life of one of our great
West Indians who is a Founding Father of this University, which I've often
referred to as probably the greatest gift that we have given to ourselves and the
impact that it has had on the entire Caribbean in determining the quality of
intellectual life and helping to nurture the arts.

I have been told that I am a derision of Jurassic Park. I do not mind that
too much, but to be told that one is a derision of an intellectual ghetto at Mona is
something we have to think seriously about.
Sir Philip deserves better than that. He is a great contributor and has
made a seminal one to the development of this region, which in itself is a seminal
contributor to human development. And much of this has taken place though the
work of the artists. Please, those who may not regard themselves as belonging to
that category let not your heart be troubled. We are all artists and, in fact it is
creativity which underpins much of this. And, if you live in this part of the world one
have to be creative for one's survival. The creativity takes us in directions inciden-
tally which are not infrequently questionable but creative nonetheless. Some of us
are praying that that energy and that creativity were all put to constructive work but
it is not so. And, as a great friend of mine says our hearts are laced with larceny,
meaning we 'thief bad' But even in that we have tremendous abilities to figure out
how to thief, and we know traditionally that it is so. One will spend a whole night
figuring how to beat the gate at the stadium at a football match, only to discover
when one gets there that it is free. And this kind of ingenuity of course happily finds
expression in other things, things which are very positive and wherever I go and
see this, feel this, participate in this, I will remember Philip Sherlock. So I dedicate
this to him and hope that he will have a good deal of time left with us.
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 dehumanisation of the majority of its tenants starting with
chattel slavery followed by indentureship and persisting in the alienation and
marginalisation of the majority within a lopsided enterprise and outside of it in the
so-called 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 and planners 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 have 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 bu-
reaucrats and political leaders, the products from the creative imagination of our
popular artists (calypsonians and reggae composers), of our festival arts (espe-
cially Carnival, Goombay-Jonkonnu (as you find in the Bahamas), Carifesta,
Crop-over (in Barbados), Reggae Sumfest (in Jamaica), 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 lecture, hosted by the Centre for the Creative Arts 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
into that millennium.
The significance of the Presence in our midst of the Derek Walcott's, the
George Lamming's, the Earl Lovelace's, the Vidia Naipaul's, the Kamau Brath-
waite's, the Lorna Goodison's and the Martin Carter's, the Mighty Sparrow's,
Lord Kitchener's, Chalkdust's, David Rudder's, and Peter Minshall's, the Bob
Marley's, the Jimmy Cliff's, the Peter Tosh's and the myriad of dancehall lega-
tees, the Edna Manley's and the Aubrey William's. the Beryl McBurnie's and Ivy
Baxter's, the Pat Bishop's and disparagers.
The Presence of all such treasured ones amongst us rest precisely on
the seminal contribution that they have made and are making to the quest. In
the words of Sir Philip himself, "For richer forms of collective self-knowledge"
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
Like all our artists who work their soul, Walcott defines history; "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-ac-
cepting 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 21st 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
which constitutes 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
artists' 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 seminal contributions to our several pompous
acts of becoming, continues 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 and talent over origin 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 kin.
It is that Presence of the creative artist and of kindred souls who exercise
creatively their imagination and intellect that 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 mani-
festations 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, as well as the world-wide
acclaim of the region's music and music-makers may well serve as a wake-up call
to all of 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 21st 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 21st 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); secondly, particularly disturbing for people of
African ancestry whose centrality to the shaping of the Caribbean ethos is still
denied; and thirdly, it is far too Eurocentric and mono-cultural for the comfort of
persons who may be part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part-Native Ameri-
can but totally Caribbean.
The 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 modern history That this reality endows the Caribbean
person 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
self doubt
Some of these encountering cultures, one may recall, are after all rooted
in not only the old Graeco-Roman Judeic Christian origins, but also in African
so-called animist belief systems, while still others are rooted in Hind and Muslem
cosmologies with the rich methodologies of aboriginal America in place. Walcott,
Brathwaite, Selvon, Naipaul and Wilson Harris speak severally to these encoun-
ters in search of self.
It is that celebration of self that marks, as well, the significance of the
artists' Presence in this region. The celebration is by no means self-indulgent.
That abiding sense of history and an uncanny realism reflecting the innate
wisdom of the mass of the population permeates, indeed, all that emanates from
the artists' creative imagination.
The artist acknowledges the vulnerability of the 'tribe in bondage' but
recognizes that freedom lies in the knowledge of said tribe tc 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.
This 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 spile (spoil) mek style..

This dialectic of hope-in-despair runs through the popular literature and
other artistic expressions of our Caribbean people. The reggae artists from Jimmy
Cliff through Bob Marley to Buju Banton and the calypsonians from Kitchener
through Sparrow to David Rudder demonstrate this in their lyrics; and the collective
wisdom of the oral literature in our traditional proverbs and stones speaks to this
ancestral capacity for survival..... and beyond.
The artists' 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 the region's economic 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 willing-
ness 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 understood 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 civilization 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 ui
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 we tenant.
I have elsewhere spoken to the inward-stretch-and-outward-reach phe-
nomenon as a route to Caribbean wholeness. There can be no self-findulgence at

the expense of that sense of community so essential paradoxically to the realiza-
tion 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 (I wish he had been allowed that opportunity
on Broadway).
Both Lamming (the novelist) and Kamau Brathwaite (the poet) con-
sciously share with others as lecturer, in the case of Lamming, and as performing
poet, in the case of Brathwaite Choreography and pop music creation are
Public\ communal art forms like track, soccer and cricket, which I regard as the
great performance art of sports. The artist players involved here, including the
Reggae Boys know that self-absorption can be very counterproductive. The
self is multi-dimensional in our pluralist Caribbean, is multifaceted in our multi-
layered, multi-sourced society and highly complex in its location in the social
We in the Caribbean know, and the artist reminds us by his/her Pres-
ence, 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, schizophrenic and unruly world. The ordinary Caribbean man and
woman have an uncanny feel for this challenge. From among them have come
expressions from icons like Lamming and Kaman Brathwaite, from Marley, Cliff,
Tosh and Sparrow in celebration of this, after all; and the Presence of the artist
signifies the sustaining values of all this in our unending quest for self and
Walcott warned against Carifestas becoming self-indulgent happen-
stances rather than milestones on a vigorous continuing journey to self-discov-
ery, 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
life-giving despite the ecstasy of instant gratification. The need is clearly for
sustained application to this most fundamental of developmental pursuits on the
part of governments and populace alike, even where bread and circuses are
dictated by an urgent need for periodical self affirmation. It is seldom difficult for
certain governments to find money and extra budgetary funds to send a team of
minstrels off to entertain somewhere. And yet it is so difficult to put a line item for
a cultural policy
A further significance of the Caribbean artistic Presence and that of all of
like mind 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 globalisation. neoliberal market eco-

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