Vol 47 No.1
Philip Sherlock:A Caribbean Giant
(including his poem Year's Ending)
Remembering Ivy Baxter: Her Life and Legacy
Alma Mock Yen
Empowerment Through Theatre
Landscape with Faces
Some Notes on Planning
and Producing a Radio
Poems by Sir Philip Sherlock
My Father Walked beside Me
A Beauty Too of Twisted Trees
Clear as the Clear Sun's Light
Trees His Testament
VOLUME 47, No. 1.
CAR IB B E AN
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission forbidden.)
Philip Sherlock:A Caribbean Giant (including Year's Ending) 1
Remembering Ivy Baxter Her Life and Legacy 7
Alma Mock Yen
Empowerment Through Theatre 30
Landscape with Faces 42
Some Notes on Planning and Producing a Radio Magazine Programme 69
Poems by Sir Philip Sherlock 80
My Father Walked beside Me
A Beauty Too of Twisted Trees
Clear as the Clear Sun's Light
Trees His Testament
Book Review 89
Books for Review 91
Notes onContributors 92
Instructions for Authors 93
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Vice Chancellor, Editor
Compton Bourne, Principal, St. Augustine Campus, UWI
Sir Keith Hunte, Principal, Cave Hill Campus, UWI
Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus,Dept. of History, Mona
Neville McMorris, Dept. of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, C.S.I., Office of Vice Chancellor, Mona (Managing Editor)
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Abstract and Index 1949-1990 and 1991-1996 Author Keyword and Subject
Index available. The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Caribbean Quarterly, Vol.47 No. 1 contains five articles, poetry and a
book review. It is fitting that this issue begins with a tribute to Sir Philip Sherlock,
founding Father of the University of the West Indies and also the Founder-editor of
Caribbean Quarterly when Director of Extra Mural Studies at the University in
1949. The University itself is a lasting monument to this great man who died in
December 2000. He will be sadly missed.
Philip Sherlock: A Caribbean Giant is a personal tribute by Jean Smith who
worked with him closely throughout his last few years. Caribbean Quarterly has
published eight of Sir Philip's poems over the years. These have also been
reproduced in this volume in his honour as most are out-of-print. His poems stand
as testament to the man himself his love of God, Nature, and his fellow Jamaicans;
his respect for the qualities of simplicity, honesty, and hard-work that he forever
saw ennobling the Jamaican peasant; his ability to juxtapose harshness with
beauty and humour with pathos, and his fluidity of thought ideas running seam-
lessly one into another.
The second essay, Remembering Ivy Baxter: Her Life and Her Legacy,
by Alma Mock Yen is also an article reminiscing on another Jamaican icon Ivy
Baxter who can be regarded as the pioneer and mother of the creative dance
movement in Jamaica. Ivy Baxter, like Sir Philip whom she emulated, had an
all-consuming passion for her cause. As Alma Mock Yen states: "her life and
legacy are so closely intertwined that one might well assert that the life was the
legacy and the legacy her life" Both Baxter and Sherlock came from the so called
privileged middle class, yet both found a resonance amongst the grass-roots
peasantry and meaning for their life's work.
Jean Small's essay, Empowerment Through Theatre, traces the origins
of theatre from European imitations, through Marcus Garvey's use of theatre for
consciousness raising, to the dawning of a Caribbean Theatre in the establishment
by the Little Theatre Movement of the School of Drama which was later incorpo-
rated into the Cultural Training Centre (later the Edna Manley College for the Visual
and Performing Arts) and finally explores the experiences of students doing theatre
in a foreign language. Small concludes that the students experienced both theatre
(communication with differing audiences) and drama (their own individual and
communal experiences) simultaneously, and they learnt in the process to be able
to look objectively at themselves and be better able to define their own Caribbean
The classic essay, Landscape with Faces by the late John Hearne is a
study in the making of a people. Hearne paints a vivid landscape of the characters
that through history have inhabited this special place and space called Jamaica.
The literary brushes of his pen, now caustic, now humorous, sometimes horren-
dous but soul-searching and always brutally honest. This essay appeared in Ian
Fleming's Jamaica, which is now out-of-print. This is another tribute to a highly
acclaimed Caribbean writer, who is also bound umbilically to Sir Philip Sherlock
having served as Staff Tutor/Secretary at the then Creative Arts Centre, UWI
under Sir Philip's governance.
It is appropriate that the last article Some Notes on Planning and
Producing a Radio Magazine Programe deals with some very practical as-
pects of radio production. Pamela Barbour's notes can be of assistance to
anyone thinking of using radio for educational and instructional purposes as
despite the invasion by foreign cable the radio is still the most listened channel of
communication in the Caribbean region, for we are still an oral/aural people. The
Radio Eduation Unit, now under Ms. Barbour's direction, was one of Sir Philip's
many innovations in his push for UWI outreach work throughout the Common-
An engaging book review that discusses ground-breaking women's
slave narratives in the context of Christian social ethics completes this single
Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 47 No 1 consta de cinco articulos,
poesia y una reseia de libro. Es apropiado que este numero empiece con un
homenaje a Sir Philip Sherlock, Padre fundador de la Universidad de las
Antillas y tambien el Editor-Fundador del Caribbean Quarterly, siendo Direc-
tor de los Estudios de Extensi6n de la Universidad en 1949. La Universidad
por si es un monument perdurable a este gran hombre que se murio en
diciembre de 2000. Se le va a extrafnar muchisimo. Philip Sherlock: Gi-
gante del Caribe, es un homenaje personal de Jean smith, quien trabaj6 muy
estrechamente con 61 durante sus Oltimos afios. Caribbean Quarterly ha
publicado ocho de los poemas de Sir Philip a traves de los anos. Estos han
sido reproducidos en este volume en su honor ya que la mayoria estan
agotados. Sus poemas son un testimonio al propio hombre- su amor a Dios,
a la Naturaleza y a sus compatriotas los jamaicanos. Su respeto por las
calidades de simplicidad, honestidad y el trabajo duro que para 61el siempre
ennoblecia al campesino mexicano, la habilidad que tenia de contrarrestar la
dureza con la belleza el humor con pathos y la fluidez de pensamiento e
ideas que se complementaban de forma ininterrumpida.
El segundo ensayo, Remembering Ivy Baxter: Her life and Her
Legacy ( Recordandole a Ivy Baxter, su vida y su legado) por Alma Mock Yen
es tambien un articulo que recuerda a otra gran persona jamaicana- Ivy
Baxter que puede considerarse pionera y madre del movimiento de baile
creative en Jamaica. Ivy Baxter, igual que Philip Sherlock, a quien emulaba,
compartia una pasi6n consumidora por su causa. Alma Mock-Yen lo ates-
tigua: su vida y legado estan tan intimamente entrelazados que bien se podria
declarar que la vida fue el legado y el legado su vida. Tanto Baxter como Sherlock
pertenece a la denominada clase media privilegiadade color claro sin embargo,
ambos se toparon con el apoyo de la clase baja y significado para el labor de su
El ensayo de Jean Small Apoderamiento por medio del Teatro traza las
oriigenes del teatro desde las imitaciones europeas, pasando por el uso que dio
Garvey al teatro con el proposito de sensibilizarles a los pueblos hasta Ilegar al
amanecer del Teatro CaribefIo con el establecimiento del Little Theatre Move-
ment(Pequefo Movimiento Teatral) de la Escuela de Drama que fue incorporada
al Centro de Formacion Cultural ( posteriormente Ilamado el Colegio Edna Manley
para las Artes Visuales y de Actuaci6n. Termina por explorer las experiencias de
los estudiantes que hacen teatro en el idioma extranjero. Small concluye que los
estudiantes experimentaron tanto teatro ( comunicacion con publicos distintos) y
drama (sus propias experiencias individuals y comunes) simultaneamente y
aprenden en camino a contemplarse con objetividad y definir mejor su propia
El ensayo clasico, Landscape with faces ( Paisaje con caras) por el
difunto John Hearne es un studio de la creacion de un pueblo. Hearne dibuja un
paisaje vibrant de los personajes que a traves de la historic han inhabitado este
lugar y espacio especial Ilamado Jamaica. El cepillo literario de su pluma ,ahora
caustico, ahora comico, algunas veces horrendo pero a la vez y siempre extre-
madamente honest. Este ensayo apareci6 en Jamaica de lan Fleming que en
estos moments esta agotado. Este es otro tributo a un escritor caribeno muy
reconocido, quien tambien esta atado por el cordon umbilico a Sir Philip Sherlock
despues de haber trabajado de Secretario/ Profesor del Creative Arts Centre de la
UWI (Centro Creativo de las Artes) de aquel entonces,dirigido por Sir Philip.
Tambien es apropiado que el ultimo 6rticulo Some Notes on Planning
and Producing a Radio Magazine Programme ( Notas sobre la Planificaci6n y
Produccian de un Programa de radio) trata algunos aspects muy practices de la
production de radio. La s notas de Pamela Barbour pueden servir a quien
contemple el uso de radio con propositos educativos e instructivos ya que ,a pesar
de la invasion de programaci6n de cable del exterior, la radio es abn el canal mas
escuchado de comunicaci6n en la region del Caribe.que mayormente es una
sociedad oral/aural, segun se dice.
Para terminar este numero, tenemos la reseia de un libro donde se
discuten las narrativas revolucionarias de las esclavas, dentro del context de la
etica del cristianismo social.
Cette livraison de Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1 rassemble cinq
articles, divers poemes et un compte-rendu de lecture. II etait approprie que ce
numero commence par un hommage a Sir Philip Sherlock, un des peres fon-
dateurs de I'Universite des West Indies et redacteur-en-chef et fondateur de
Caribbean Quarterly, alors qu'il etait directeur de la formation continue de
I'universite en 1949. Luniversite est elle-meme un monument durable a ce grand
homme qui est mort e'n decembre 2000 et que nous regretterons toujours. Philip
Sherlock : A Caribbean Giant (Philip Sherlock, genie Carafbeen) est un hom-
mage personnel offert par Jean Smith qui avait ete sa proche collaboratrice au
course des dernieres annees de son existence.
Caribbean Quarterly a public huit poemes de Sir Philip au fil des ans.
Is ont ete repris dans ce volume public en son honneur puisque leurs editions
sont pour la plupart epuisees. Ses poemes constituent en quelque sorte son
testament son amour de Dieu, de la nature, de ses compatriotes jamafquains ;
son respect de qualities comme la simplicity, I'honnetete et le labeur qu'il con-
siderait toujours comme ce qui anoblit le paysan jamafquain ; sa capacity b
juxtaposer durete et beauty, humour et pathetique, ainsi que la fluidity de sa
pensee ses idees se succedant les unes aux autres sans accroc.
Le deuxieme essai, Remembering Ivy Baxter Her Life and Her
Legacy (Souvenir d'lvy Baxter sa vie et son heritage), par Alma Mock Yen est
un article qui evoque avec nostalgia une autre JamaYquaine de valeur Ivy
Baxter, que I'on peut considerer comme une pionniere et la mere du movement
de creation choregraphique en Jamafque. Ivy Baxter et Sir Philip d'ont elle etait
lemule, ont en commun d'avoir eu tous deux une passion entire et devorante
pour leur cause. Comme en atteste Alma Mock-Yen sa vie et son heritage
sont si etroitement entremelees qu'on pourrait aussi bien dire que sa vie fut son
heritage et que son heritage fut sa vie. Baxter et Sherlock appartenaient tous
deux a la bourgeoisie dite (( privilegiee )) des mulatres- pourtant touts deux ont
trouve au sein de la paysannerie de base une resonance ainsi que le sens du
travail de leur vie.
L'article de Jean Small, Empowerment Through Theatre, (La re-
sponsabilisation grace au theatre) retrace les origins du theatre, partant des
imitations europeennes en passant par lutilisation du theatre par Marcus Garvey
pour eveiller les consciences, pour arriver a I'emergence dun theatre carafbeen
grace a la creation du Conservatoire dart dramatique par le movement Little
Theatre . Ce conservatoire fut ensuite incorpore au Centre de formation cul-
turel (devenu par la suite College Edna Manley pour les arts plastiques et
dramatiques) et finalement explore I'experience des etudiants faisant du theatre
en langue etrangere. Small conclut que ces etudiants ont fait a la fois simul-
tanement une experience theatrale (communication avec des publics different)
et un drame (leur experience personnelle individuelle et communautaire). Ils ont
appris au course de ce processus a porter un regard objectif sur eux-memes et ,
mieux definir leur culture cara'fbeenne personelle.
'essai classique Landscape with Faces (Paysage et visages), de feu
John Hearne, est une etude sur la constitution d'un people. Hearne peint un
paysage vivant avec les personnages qui au course de I'histoire ont habit ce lieu
et c'et space particulier appeal Jamaique. Ses coups de pinceau litteraire vien-
nent d'une plume tantot caustique, tant6t pleine d'humour, parfois redoutable mais
introspective et toujours d'une honn6tete brutale. Cet essai avait paru dans le livre
de lan Fleming, Jamaica, aujourdhui epuise en librairie. C'est un autre hommage
a un celebre ecrivain carafbeen, egalement rattache a Sir Philip Sherlock par un
cordon ombilical puisquil a ete Tuteur et Secretaire au Centre darts plastiques de
U.W.I. sous la direction de Sir Philip.
II est approprie que le dernier article, Some Notes on Planning and
Producing a Radio Magazine Programme (Notes de travail sur la planification et
la production du programme dun magazine radiophonique) traite de quelques
aspects pratiques de production radiophonique. Les notes de Pamela Barbour
seront utiles a quiconque pense a utiliser la radio a des fins pedagogiques et
formatives, car malgre linvasion des chaTnes cablees etrangeres, la radio est
encore le moyen de communication le plus ecoute dans la region des Carafbes,
une society que Ion dit audio-orale.
Enfin, nous terminons ce numero par un compte-rendu de lecture qui
discute, dans le cadre de la morale social chretienne, de recits revolutionnaires
desclaves recueillis parmi les femmes.
November 7-9, 2001
CALL FOR PAPERS
Jorge Roman -Lagunas, Co-Director
Purdue University Calumet
Dept. of Foreign Languages & Literatures
Hammond, IN 46323
Fax: (219) 989-2165
E mail: email@example.com
Melvin Rahming, Co-Director
Department of English & Linguistics
830 Westview Drive, S.W
Atlanta, GA 30314-3773
Telephone:(404) 6891-2800, ext. 2512
Fax.- (404) 614-8545
You are invited to submit a one-page abstract on any topic relevant to any
area of Caribbean Literature. Papers may be presented in English, French or
Spanish. Deadline (or abstracts is June 30, 200 1. Send abstracts of papers which
are to be delivered in French or Spanish to Jorge Roman-Lagunas and send
abstracts of papers which are to be delivered in English to Melvin Rahming.
Information concerning registration, accommodations and travel will be supplied
no later than June 30, 2001. If you need information prior to this date, please
contact Dr. Roman-Lagunas or Dr. Rahming.
Philip Sherlock A Caribbean Giant
There are certain men and women whose very existence has been
instrumental in moulding the society in which we live. They lay out the markers that
help people measure themselves, to see how far away they are from their goal,
where they have fallen short, and how much more they need to stretch the
boundaries, and arrive at a point where they can feel that they have led lives that
will make a difference to the world in which they have spent their allotted time.
Jamaica has been blessed with some of these remarkable people, but perhaps no
one had a stronger claim to changing a society than Philip Sherlock. In every
position that he held since leaving Calabar High School, with wisdom, a
commitment to service, and an unshakeable faith in the Jamaican people, he made
changes changes that opened doors for the vast majority whose lives would have
been the poorer if he had not put his hand to the plough first as teacher, then as
innovative thinker in the co-creation of Jamaica Welfare, through his work at the
Institute of Jamaica, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, as one of the
founders of the University of the West Indies which provided a way into tertiary
education and thus a brighter future for thousands of Caribbean people.
In January 1961, John F. Kennedy, speaking to the Massachusetts State
When at some future date the high court of
history sits in judgement on each of us.....our
success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will
be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage.....Secondly,
were we truly men of Judgement.....Third, were
we truly men of integrity.....Finally, were we truly
men of dedication.
The life of Philip Manderson Sherlock which has spanned the entire 20th
century, is a shining affirmation of all the questions asked on that winter's morning
in Boston. It has been said that education is what survives when what has been
learnt has been forgotten. Sir Philip's life has been the most precious gift to the
people of the Caribbean. It was a life spent entirely in the service to education in a
region to which he was totally committed.
One of his early heroes, Sir Isaiah Berlin, the British philosopher, whom he
heard speak, and who, in his own words, changed his life forever, once said:" The
goal of philosophy is always the same.....to assist men to understand themselves
and thus operate in the open and not wildly in the dark" Sir Philip spent his 98
years helping people to understand themselves. A man with a sense of history, his
life's work was the empowerment of the Caribbean people. The son of a Methodist
Minister, born in the Portland hills in 1902, his life was a monument to the power of
process. He loved to tell of evenings he spent with Cookie, the family retainer who
told stories by the light of the 'peeniewallies' at Grateful Hill, and the loving
relationships that he and his siblings enjoyed with all the country folk who were
part of the Sherlock family. It was this strong foundation where, as a child, he
learnt respect for every human being, that moulded his unshakeable faith in the
Jamaican people, and gave him "a sense of West Indianness, over-riding political
boundaries, and a vision of Caribbeanness extending outside language barriers,
and above all an artist's eye for perspective and an acute sympathy with people of
all ranks, their deprivation, and their rich inheritance," to quote from the Citation
on the occasion of the conferment of his Honorary degree from the University of the
West Indies (UWI) at St. Augustine in 1972. And destiny, recognizing the passion
with which he made this his life's work, stepped in and touched him, bringing him,
in 1943, into the process by appointing him a member of the Irvine Commission
which was to examine the possibility of a University for the region. The University
College was established in 1948, Philip Sherlock joined the staff as Director for the
Extra Mural Department, and the rest is history. He rose through the ranks to the
post of Vice Chancellor in 1963, and under his leadership, the University saw the
opening of the Campus at Cave Hill in Barbados, affiliation with the United
Theological College, and a major expansion of post-graduate programmes,
especially in the Social Sciences, with a doubling in student enrolment. In his own
words, he always viewed the University at one and the same time a symbol of
national unity and a sign of national independence and of human interdependence.
These are the facts of his outstanding career as an educator. But his
description of himself as a commercial traveler in education, if not carefully
analyzed, could leave one with the impression that his main claim to fame was that
he succeeded in raising a considerable sum of money for the early University
College. He was far more than this. His success as a fund-raiser lay in the fact
that he was selling ideas, and inspiration, and a belief in the enormous possibilities
that lay in the Caribbean people his people. The citation for the Pelican Award
which he received in 1991, said it well:
In the compilation of this inventory and the
peddling of those wares, he has travelled far, in
time and in space and in imagination, backwards
into the earliest history of our region and forward
to visions of a worthy future for our people. His
life has traversed an unparalleled century, from
its first decade to its last, with the trajectory of a
meteor, a tracer light and shining example.
The great challenges of our time are the challenges of ideas, such as
Justice, Poverty, Patriotism, Brotherhood. What makes Sir Philip qualify for
consideration as the Caribbean man who has arguably made the most significant
contribution to the region in the 20th century was his profound understanding of
this concept, and his appreciation for the importance of education to the individual,
and of the need he would say the duty of all of us to help every man and woman
to be the best that they can be. It is this passion almost a religious belief that was
the driving force in every challenge that he accepted, and it is this that has made
him succeed in what he saw as his mission in life, because his faith in the
righteousness of his cause was the fuel on the fire that moved tertiary education
over the last 50 years, through the UWI, to the front burner of all the governments
in the region, and provided training for most of the doctors, lawyers, teachers,
Prime Ministers and business leaders of the Caribbean. Sir Philip was disturbed by
the injustice of a situation where University education had been limited to the
privileged few. It was this passion for justice that prompted the Barbados Advocate
in 1952 on the occasion of his appointment to Jamaica's Legislative Council, to
There are things in life greater than political
honours or royal awards, and these Philip
Manderson Sherlock will attain. The greatness of
the man is indicated by his simplicity, and his
sincerity. His appointment can add no lustre to
an already brilliant career, but it gives him an
opportunity for further service to his fellow men,
and this to him is as incense to his soul. A man of
infectious charm and high intellectual
attainments, he is well suited to direct the spread
of education and to co-ordinate the energies of
thousands aiming at laying the foundation of a
true West Indian Culture .... His enlightening
influence will be of considerable worth to the
people of the area .... The West Indies need more
men like Hon. Philip Sherlock. The future
progress of the area depends upon the
harnessing of the energies of those to whose lot it
has fallen to bear the responsibility for affairs of
His recent book The Story of the Jamaican People which he co-authored,
along with Dr. Hazel Bennett, at the age of 96 only reinforced the public perception
of the towering contribution which this Caribbean giant made over the 20th century
to helping the people of region understand themselves. The Jamaican artist, Judy
McMillan, one of a large number of people a half a century younger who were
honoured to consider themselves his friend, on reading the book was moved to
write to him:
You are a cantadora one who heals with a song.
I keep seeing the healing possibilities of your
book for our people who have seen themselves
as inadequate and inferior for far too long, with
tragic consequences for our country. A thousand
lights switch on in my brain as I read, and you
illuminate so much for me in the huge puzzle, as
we try to understand ourselves .... Thank you for
this revisioning of our history and for the example
that your whole life is. I cannot think of another
society that could have produced anyone who
more precisely embodies what Jamaica has to
offer the world, and I feel blessed to have such an
example in my life.
And from his dear friend, Ted Chamberlin, an English Professor at the
University of Toronto, in a personal note after a visit:
It was such a pleasure to see you again, and to
talk and to listen though there's your magic at
work there, for you make the rest of us make
sense by the quality of your attention, and your
own words are like no-one else's .....wise, and
true, and tough-minded and tender-hearted.
At a quiet private ceremony which formed part of the 50th Anniversary
Celebrations of the University of the West Indies, Sir Philip was given the first ever
Chancellor's Medal which will be awarded sparingly and periodically.., to signify
service to the University of the West Indies of an extraordinary and superlative
nature. Sir Shridath Ramphal, in making the presentation, described Sir Philip as
the Founding Father of the University and stressed that it was the unanimous wish
of the University that this first medal should be awarded to him as a small token of
the regard, esteem and affection in which he is held and in which his wife, the
gracious Lady Grace, shares. And earlier in 1998, CARICOM presented him with
the Order of the Caribbean Community for his outstanding contribution to the
development of the Caribbean region.
On both occasions Sir Philip in his reply, thanked God and all those who
had helped him along the journey which had brought him to this moment in time. A
lover of words, and himself a wordsmith extraordinaire, he was always moved by
these lines of Goethe:
Who strives always to do the utmost
For him there is salvation.
No Caribbean man or woman has done more than Sir Philip himself during
this remarkable life. Rex Nettleford, one of his earliest proteges, who started his
working life under Sir Philip and, in a distinguished career, has risen to the post
once held by his mentor, in 1993 wrote:
Sir Philip is 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 belongs to the
chosen few we were lucky to have had at the
helm of our 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. Undiminished to the very
end, with a life that has inspired and brought hope
when hope seems to be disappearing in the
hearts of many, his influence on Caribbean
Society has been monumental.
Many decades ago, in the last week of the year, Sir Philip, the poet wrote
YEAR ENDING as he looked towards the future. In this new millennium, it is fitting
that we listen to the words which were penned probably half a century ago at the
close of an Old Year:
No sunset sequence here
With dawn to come
The glory and the fullness of the day
Time's child in me
Tomorrow lives with yesterday
Into my rented house I take
Deed and desire;
In me, Time's child and creature frail,
Fulfilment and prophetic fire.
A bondsman and his tenant I
Follow the strict progression laid
By Time upon the patient earth,
The springing seed that flowers and fades;
Show in myself his changeless will
What time he subtly steals
My round cheeked innocence
And in ts place reveals
The grinning eyeless bone.
The Great House one, Time rides the field
Wide as the world, far as forever.
His Great House roof the heavens blue
With walls that touch eternity
Bound to his will my body yields
I from my tenant's cot
My small and rented lot
Observe his timeless vast demesne
His changeless bright today.
I in my changing self
His nature comprehend
And circumscribe his power,
Hold fast and bind within my mind
That which is gone and is to come,
The sunset and the dawn, the deed and the desire.
Time's child, in me
Tomorrow lives with yesterday.
The Caribbean has been blessed with this extraordinary man, and we are the richer
for having had him in our midst.
Remembering Ivy Baxter: Her Life and Her Legacy
ALMA MOCK YEN
To pay tribute is not merely the sentimental expression of 'arty folks' We
should pay tribute to Ivy Baxter because she was a quiet advocate of identification
and integration, who ended up as the acknowledged pioneer and mother of the
creative dance movement in Jamaica.
As one of those active in creative dancing under Baxter's leadership,
permit me to sketch briefly, with pertinent personal references, not only Ivy's life but
also aspects of the legacy she left to Jamaican history, Jamaican society and
specifically to Jamaican dancers. Indeed, her life and legacy are so closely
intertwined that one might well assert that the life was the legacy and the legacy her
I met Ivy Baxter at Wolmer's Girls School where we were at the same time
students. She was soon to graduate. I was a third-former just getting my feet wet
in the culture of a new school environment. Details of our dramatic first encounter
Let us go back in time to the 1940s to a cloudy afternoon on the school
campus with its green puff-balls of Lignum Vitae trees. Picture me, an adventur-
ous, irrepressible 12-year-old, full of tricks. Then picture Ivy, a tall, elegant 17-
year-old, in long white stockings (the standard wear for Prefects and sixth former
of the era).
Now picture a confrontation. The 12-year-old, who could not ride, had
taken the bicycle of the elegant sixth former from its groove in the bicycle shed, and
proceeded to 'ride' it literally into the ground, the expected trajectory of a total
Finally, picture the 12-year-old quaking before the elegant, sixth former in
the long white stockings, who was the owner of the instrument.
There was I, caught red-handed. A couple of twisted spokes on the wheel
of the shining bicycle said it all.
Thus did I meet Ivy. Obviously angry, she took one look at the damage
and then, in a calm manner indicative of her upbringing, she addressed me coldly,
"Just what do you think you are doing?" I stood tongue-tied, stupidly silent, gawking
With impressive restraint she calmly took her 'bike' with its twisted spokes
and walked it away. Would she report me to the teachers? Would they take my
scholarship away as a result, even expel me? If that happened, my parents would
crucify me.I raised rny eyes to Heaven and prayed, "Please don't let her report me"
She did not.
I was relieved, grateful but puzzled. The context of that encounter needs
to be explained. There were factors at work, which I have heard the eminent
scholar, Professor Rex Nettleford refer to as "epidermal considerations"
Ivy, you see, was what we would describe in the parlance of today's
Jamaica as "a browning" meaning, light skinned the apricot type. I was definitely
cinnamon and was made to understand at the time that this was not the most
popular shade at the then ultra-elite Wolmer's Girls School under a South African
Whether or not there was shade discrimination at Wolmer's then is not the
issue. What is important is that, in a flash, Ivy Baxter's inherent compassion
'kicked in' as we say. She recognized my panic and responded in a humanitarian
way. She understood, and it would seem, forgave me. In the half-century during
which Ivy and I interacted inside and outside the bounds of the theatre, she never
once mentioned the matter, even in jest. I wish she had, for I carried the guilt with
me for a long time and yes my gratitude too.
With that incident in mind I never had the slightest difficulty understanding
why the tall, elegant girl in the long white stockings did many things the way she did
and forgave many things in the way she was able to.
Ivy Baxter was one of six daughters. She was born March 3, 1923 to
Edward Baxter, a Civil Servant who worked with the Jamaican Railway, and his
wife Arabel. Of the children, Arabel junior, Edith, Joyce, Olive, and Daisy, Ivy was
the youngest. The girls lost their mother when they were very young. An aunt
became their second mother and obviously did an excellent job because the
children in her care became outstanding scholars and well-integrated personalities.
Three of the Baxter girls won the coveted and prestigious Jamaica schol-
arship. Undoubtedly, Ivy had the intellectual capacity to have become a Jamaica
scholar also, but in her time, the performing arts had not yet been legitimized as
That came later, when persons such as Ivy herself broke new ground,
demonstrating that the dance is a cultural artefact that can stand on its own,
lending itself to research, analysis and academic documentation.
Ivy Baxter, M.A., M.B.E., C.D., (among other titles and honours), was
educated first at the Morris Knibb Preparatory School and then at Wolmer's. In
later years she engaged in postgraduate studies at Colombia University Teachers
According to Carmen Lusan, with whom Ivy was associated at the YWCA
in the 1940s:
Ivy's talent in 'physical jerks' -- as it was then
popularly called became obvious to Marjorie
Stewart, the then General Secretary, YWCA, and
to Phyllis Stappells, the Canadian Physical Edu-
cation teacher lent to the YWCA by its Canadian
counterpart. Daily Gleaner, Jan.20, 1993, p.7
Phyllis Stapells taught Physical Ed. at Wolmer's also. I remember how
smitten we pupils of the Lower school were by her blonde barbie-doll 'beauty',
which fitted perfectly the images young Jamaican girls of all shades and classes
were taught to prefer.
It was quite a departure from the prevailing trends when the decision was
taken that Ivy Baxter, a Jamaican, should be trained in physical education to
replace her. However, Ivy, being a near-white Jamaican, as mentioned earlier, the
transition would not to be too severe. So off she went to Toronto University,
According to Lusan:
Baxter, Dame Nita Barrow, and Dame Eugenia
Charles are still known as the three outstanding
women who 'brightened up' that university at that
time. Daily Gleaner, Jan.20, 1993, p.7
Ivy Baxter wrote about those experiences, stating how she learned about
the Caribbean at first hand through her contact with Mary Eugenia Charles of
Dominica, a Law student, and Ruth Nita Barrow, a Barbadian student of Nursing
Eugenia Charles became in later years the first West Indian Woman Prime
Minister and also the longest serving Caribbean woman Head of State. Dame Nita
Barrow became the first Post Graduate Nursing Professor in the West Indies, the
First West Indian to hold the office of World President of the YWCA, and the first
woman Governor General of Barbados.
Ivy's first, as some will know, was that she brought Jamaica's indigenous
dances into focus, and refined them aesthetically for presentation to a larger
universe of onlookers.
But in Toronto Ivy Baxter had learned something else. By way of her
Canadian sojourn she understood at first hand what it feels like to be perceived as
a black woman from the Caribbean not apricot not cinnamon but Black; and not
from Jamaica, Dominica, Barbados, but from the Caribbean. She was now open to
issues of identity for native Jamaicans, and integration in terms of the Caribbean.
It is my view that it was at this point in her life that Ivy Baxter formulated
ideas on cultural independence unfettered by the hegemony of the metropole,
coupled with dynamic regional interaction. These ideas she used to advantage on
her return to Colonial Jamaica after completing her studies at Toronto University.
Back in the island, she taught Physical Education at the YWCA, and in
1950 established her own school, THE IVY BAXTER MODERN CREATIVE
DANCE GROUP (called simply the IBDG).
Her dance studies, which is our focus here, began in Jamaica at the Hazel
Johnston Dance Studio where Classical Ballet was taught. All dance schools in
Jamaica in the 1930s and 1940s offered training in the European Classical form.
There was some Character dancing and Tap dancing as well. English Country
Dancing was taught in the better High Schools.
In her book 'The Arts of an Island' Ivy Baxter gives the genealogy of dance
schools and teachers in Jamaica, from Mesdames Alexander, McCulloch, Swaby,
and Verley to Margaret Squire, to Herma Dias ( a perky Geminian with a flair for
Spanish dancing who was a journalist as well), to Fay Simpson who began her
school in the 1940s. The development is well described in Chapter 20 of the book.
Ivy Baxter's early local training in dance was followed by overseas studies
at the Sigurd Leeder School of Modern Dance in London, which included classes
in Laban notation. Laban notation, designed by a German, was a method of writing
the ephemeral art of the dance so that future generations would have a floorplan
with which to reconstruct the choreography.
As we know, that novelty was overtaken by the video recording. Regretta-
bly, Baxter's works predated video recording, so hardly anything remains as we
say in the terminology of the computer age, "in hard copy" Fortunately, however,
Baxter herself described some of her major works in her seminal publication "The
Arts Of An Island'
I was reminded by Cynthia Wilmot Jamaican Film-maker and a former
IBDG 'Baxterite', that of the Renaissance team of nationalists of which Ivy was an
important part, only Ivy had to "go it alone" Edna Manley at the vanguard of the
movement, had the support of her internationally famous husband, the Statesman
Norman Manley, himself a stalwart of the new cultural movement in Jamaica.
Baxter had no such support.
Another pioneer, Louise Bennett, doyen of performance poetry in the
majority Jamaican language, was assisted by her friend, Eric Coverly, a profes-
sional promoter whom she later married. Ivy, on the other hand, faced alone the
angry outbursts of cultural opposition every pioneer faces.
Her conservative family was, in the beginning, not enthusiastic about the
approach she was taking. The 'late great' Jamaican comedian Ranny Williams,
would relate, as a joke, the story of how Ivy used a ruse to advance her cultural
know-how. She pretended to be asleep and then climbed through a window to
accompany him to a Pocomania meeting she very much wanted to see, because
her family would not have permitted it. It is nevertheless true that in later years
their attitude softened when she was successful.
What Ranny's story highlights is Baxter's determination to see for herself
and to fully understand the cultural forms of the Jamaican grassroots. It was a part
of her search for identity, an effort that took all the strength she could muster
working entirely on her own.
Her family members, well-intentioned though they were, and others too,
were asking: "Why should she reject the status and security of blocked shoes to
feel instead her toes in the dirt (even if that meant only the dust on a studio floor?"
I submit that part of the answer to the question resided as much in Miss
Baxter's stars as well as in herself. March born, ruled under Pisces, the zodiacal
sign said to govern the feet; and indeed she made her feet support her creative
imagination as she moulded manifold experiences into new unities from the conti-
nuities and challenges of culture emerging generally and engaging her particularly.
And Ivy never lost her generosity of spirit. The quality of consideration she
showed me in our first unhappy encounter characteristically led her to think of the
who would never have got into the balletic
stream either because they were over the ac-
cepted age for training or did not conform to the
appearance norms of the European-influenced
ballet in Jamaica at the time.1
The other factor was an extension of the stimulating interaction she had enjoyed
with those two outstanding Caribbean women, Barrow and Charles. She was to
meet a third influential, this one a dancer also. Her name Beryl McBurnie 'La
Belle Rosette'of Broadway who hailed from Woodbrook, Trinidad. McBurnie and
an American anthropologist, Andrew Pearse, had spent a great deal of time re-
searching the ethnic dances of Trinidad and Tobago.
By the time Ivy met her, Beryl McBurnie had already established in Trini-
dad the LITTLE CARIB THEATRE, where the great baritone, Paul Robeson, had
been the guest performer at its official opening in 1948.
Baxter described McBurnie as:
a tremendous person who kept her ideals of full
ethnic and creative dance. In addition, she was
responsible for the projection of Geoffrey and Bo-
scoe Holder... and many dancers in other parts
of the world.2
In her book Ivy Baxter explains also what triggered her interest in the local
The visits paid to the country-side of Jamaica in
company with the early Social Welfare Officers to
see and judge folkdances of Jamaica which were
being resusitated and encouraged contributed to
my attempts to portray the spirit of Jamaica in
That 'spirit', Baxter felt, required freedom from ballet shoes so that her feet
could make contact with Mother Earth. Unlike her critics, she did not necessarily
equate sophistication with culture. She argued that although she lived in an age of
technological advances when the wonders wrought by science seemed more
astounding than anything her country and the world had so far known, it was her
belief with Sapir that:
it did not necessarily follow that we are in like
degree attaining a profounder harmony of life,
(and) a deeper and more satisfying culture. 4
In any event, it is unlikely that Ivy Baxter would have been successful as a
classical ballerina. Her physique was against that. Her height gave her an impres-
sive stage presence, and she was graceful with fluent arms, also she valued the
classical ballet as a process for muscle building, and for mental and physical
discipline, but she had never contemplated working in the genre professionally
There was more. She had been socialized in a large, disciplined family by
a surrogate mother. As an adult she wished to be the locum tenens to her own
extended family of the children of her island, motivating Jamaicans to enjoy and to
respect the dances of their non-industrial society, still bound elementally to the
land, where, as one writer put it:
Dance is both catalyst and agent particularly
of the African aspect of our heritage, which con-
stitutes the major part of our birthright. As cata-
lyst it generates and continues to give meaning to
(basic) activities like the preparation of food of
African origin, and as agent it remains the single
most important vehicle through which to recall the
past and reveal the essence of Jamaican cul-
In Ivy Baxter's time such agents attracted little respect and this applied not
just to dance. Musicians faced discord when they switched to local rhythms, and
singers were muted when they tried to sing their earthy folk songs, as a newspaper
After entertaining the audience attending an An-
glican Youth Rally at the St. Luke's Church Hall in
Cross Roads, St. Andrew, with a selection of Ne-
gro Spirituals, the Frats Quintet shocks some
members when they begin to swing and sway and
wheel and turn, to the rhythm and tunes of Jamai-
can Folk songs. At first the murmurs are quiet,
but when the group of men sing "Fan Me Soldier
Man, Fan Me" there was a chorus of "NO, NO.
Anglican Bishop of Jamaica the Rt. Rev. Perci-
val Gibson tip toes to Winston White, the leader of
the Frats and asks him "to abstain from singing
such suggestive songs" Gleaner, December 7,
Focussing on the dance, however, Baxter in another extract from her book
When I began, I asked of many people and was
told that there were no Jamaican dances, NO
NOT ONE, just a little "shay-shay" and "BRAM"
on a Saturday night. At that time, in the mid-
1940s, I had not seen POCOMANIA, which is
now the most viewed of all the branches of relig-
ious dance. I had seen QUADRILLE once or
twice. How well do I remember coming upon the
Kumina music, for the first time. Moore was do-
ing research on African survivals in the parish of
St. Thomas, and as he and his colleague and I
listened to the playback of tapes. I could not
believe that this was Jamaican music. I was sure
that he was playing material gathered in Africa.
I could not catch the words the dialect was too
rapid, I could not sort out the drum beat, it was too
complicated, the tunes were entirely unfamiliar.
When I was actually taken to watch the Kumina
memorial ceremony from eight o'clock one night
to six the next morning then my real Jamaican
eyes were opened.
During the evening the drums became deeper
and deeper and more intense as the more excit-
ing part of the ritual took place about midnight... I
removed myself for a while to sit in the car and
relax before going back to watch.6
And then she sums it up:
Psychological distances were great, not only be-
tween country and town, but in their traditions.
MIDDLE-CLASS Jamaica and the functional folk-
oriented systems of Afro-Jamaica were far apart.
The conscious understanding of both systems
and of the creative art inspiration to be derived
from them has been part of my work in the field of
Ivy Baxter explained that unlike McBurnie who researched first then de-
signed her repertoire of Southern Caribbean folk dances afterwards, she felt that
she was in a race against time. As a result of this, for Ivy, creation and analysis
often progressed in tandem in the thrust to cultivate both AUDIENCE and APPE-
TITE for contemporary dance based on indigenous themes.
In a scenario where immediate survival needs understandably take prece-
dence over all else, Ivy set out to demonstrate that in the final analysis there is no
real opposition between the concept of the individual culture (I), and the concept of
the culture of any particular society(S). The two being interdependent, they need
only the appropriate organization(O) to knit "S" and '"T' together (thus 1-0-S).
Ivy Baxter provided such an organization th,'ough her group, the IBDG.
Through it she aimed to empower those individuals, largely marginalized from the
acknowledged or potential power sources in society, by the creative use of their
Baxter described the IBDG's 'moment of truth' when audience (repre-
senting the "S") and dancers (representing the "I") first faced off in the arena of the
theatre (representing the "0").
It was not the rural folk who saw my compositions
in creative dance first, but town-oriented audi-
ences and middle class town-people, who had
forgotten or had never known or had refused to
look upon the folklore of rural Jamaica, except in
ridicule,distaste and sometimes fear.9
The IBDG was initially received as "The barefoot dancers" Those who
applied the label were obviously not aware of the degree to which they "praised"
what they set out to "damn" because the 'barefoot folk' are an adaptable and
steadfast breed. Wedged into the base of the society, they tend to resist change
longer and more compulsively than their sophisticated counterparts. This is per-
ceived as a weakness, but the hard knocks of their existence endow them with the
ability to endure more and to be accordingly far more enduring than other social
Ivy wished the "barefoot dancers" of her IBDG to possess the discipline of
the peasantry emulating their hallmark 'to bear' FOOT is the root of the human
frame on which the corpus relies to stand tall and to maintain balance.
Naturally there were those who persistently reacted to her efforts with a
quizzical, "Just what do YOU think you are doing Ivy Baxter ?" to which she
replied with "The Arts Of An Island"- currently out of print.
In its Foreword Sir Philip Sherlock said:
This book is more than a study, more than the
product of years of research. It is a record of a life
of looking, feeling, understanding of the search
for meaning, of looking for the links between man
and all God's creation... it has enlarged my own
understanding and I am happy to commend it to
Ivy Baxter's 'The Arts Of An Island' is a must-read for students of dance or
anyone interested in the Arts in Jamaica or doing research on the development of
local music, theatre, and dance. Re-publishing the work would make very good
sense. It marked a critical period of Miss Baxter's life, gives a measure of longevity
to the IBDG, and is a faithful chronicle of the artistic efforts and developments in
one island of the Caribbean.
During the IBDG years Ivy Baxter on several occasions used her personal
resources to help finance Summer Schools, to motivate and to further enrich
dancers from around the Caribbean. This she did gladly as her contribution to and
in the cause of integration, while making her mark on the local scene.
She was an integral part of the awakening of
national consciousness and self-confidence
which marked the era prior to Independence.
She bequeathed to us the appreciation of the
dignity, the beauty and the authenticity of our
Jamaican spirit and culture through the dance.
Daily Gleaner Jan. 11, 1993 p. 3
Ivy Baxter's life, as should be expected, was not always a bed of roses.
She was challenged by a fair number of irritants in the process of culturing the pearl
of her existence.
The celebrated scholar and dancer, Professor the Honourable Rex Nettle-
ford has said of her that:
She came to know the contrariness of her society
through experience and grappled with the contra-
dictory omens Like many of her generation she
was not always at ease with the febrile energy of
much of the post-independence period in its gal-
loping race for change. But as a reflective intellec-
tual she understood the regulative principles that
underly such change.
It was this conviction that informed her work in
both education and the dance giving to the latter
the legacy among its practitioners of dedica-
tion, sustained application, self-discipline, and ar-
tistic integrity without which no creative artistic
enterprise can expect to survive. Modern Ja-
maica remains in her debt.Sunday Gleaner
Jan.17, 1993 p.lc
When the IBDG closed down Ivy Baxter undertook additional teaching at
educational institutions, principally at the EXED Education Centre and Excelsior
High School. Wesley Powell, the founder of those institutions paid tribute to her
when he wrote:
On the eve of her departure to the USA in 1969, I
persuaded Ivy to cancel her plans, stay in Ja-
maica and devote her energies to EXED. She
was given the job of organizing and coordinating
the many committees that were formed the
main committee with a total of thirty subcommit-
tees. This was an enormous task which made
great demands on her time and ability. Gleaner,
She served EXCELSIOR faithfully. Its extensive membership has acknow-
ledged her participation as a point of pride, value and growth.
She was eventually appointed head of the Com-
munity College (Evening Division) a post which
she held with distinction until her final appoint-
ment as Acting Director of the Excelsior Educa-
tion Centre. She retired from that post in August
1982. The Excelsior Community College (Eve-
ning) formed the genesis of the Community Col-
lege Movement in Jamaica. Miss Baxter's
contribution was invaluable and EXED will forever
be indebted to her. Gleaner, Jan. 21,1993.
Education-wise, Ivy Baxter was a firm believer in the use of dance as a
teaching tool. She was convinced that the children in our schools can be brought
to new values and attitudes by the vehicle of drumming and dancing. She was
persuaded that, through the dance and the drums, our youth can be afforded
lessons in alertness, in being businesslike and confident, and in understanding the
nature of, and need for, harmony. She was convinced that by the dance and the
drums our children could be given a sense of self-worth and lessons of collabora-
tion, good timing, and commitment.
Baxter's attitude to dancing as therapy for both young and old is well
known. She was a foundation member of Help Age Jamaica. According to its
Executive Director Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer:
Miss Baxter had had long experience in working
wiih the elderly. At EXED she had started a geri-
atric training programme as early as 1971, and
had attended several seminars including one in
Kiev the capital of the Ukraine in 1979.
She contributed significantly to create a new
mood of optimism among the elderly. She was
always willing to give advice on educational pro-
grammes and never thought participation to be
She was active in the National Council for the
Aged and other programmes covering many
spheres including children and the Library Serv-
ice. Gleaner, Jan. 11, 1993, p. 31
Ivy Baxter served on the Council of the Institute of Jamaica, and as Chair
of its youth branch 'The Junior Centre' She was a resource person for both the
Jamaica School of Music and the Jamaica School of Dance, although one may well
wonder why she was not more fully involved as a tutor with the School of Dance.
In her sunset years, Miss Baxter was diagnosed with diabetes. Sixty
percent of the 6 million people of the Anglophone Caribbean are afflicted with the
ailment. I was at the time producing radio programmes for the University Diabetes
Outreach project (UDOP), which aimed to teach the general public how to recog-
nize and to combat the symptoms of this disease for which a cure has not yet been
found. The programmes included testimonials by acknowledged VIPs of the Re-
gion who were in excellent control of their diabetes, and thus able to sustain their
records as high-achievers, while enjoying their lives to the fullest. They included a
university Vice-Chancellor, the CEO of one of the island's largest manufacturing
companies, a popular lecturer and lay-preacher, a world-class athlete on the
international circuit, and the winner of a prestigious international beauty contest.
So I asked Ivy to join the programme to be interviewed.
Her response was a rapid fire, "No! No! No!" delivered with a glance that
seemed to ask me once again "What on earth do you think you are doing ?"
This time I was able to answer her unvoiced question at least inside my
own head. "I should have known better than intrude on this lonely, brave, private
person. She had shared her creative life with the entire Caribbean but her personal
tribulations would remain her own."
As things turned out, diabetes caused the elegant girl in the long white
stockings who had grown into the elegant First Lady of Dance in Jamaica, to lose
a toe. And later, perhaps because it was not as strictly controlled as it should have
been, diabetic neuropathy or kidney failure led to her death in 1993, just two
months short of her 70th birthday.
The facts of who she was, and what she did, do not die. Ivy Baxter's
gemeinschaft or primary social unit endowed her with qualities of dignity, cerebra-
tion and compassion. Her gesseischaft or secondary groups were the Caribbean
region where she worked for its integration; the Folk of her island from whom she
drew her inspiration; and the IBDG to which she gave birth and nurtured as her gift
to a nation.
That was her life. What was her LEGACY ?
In a nutshell, her legacy, in my view, is her undaunted recognition of
possibilities. Ivy Baxter broke the headwater of established dance forms so that
new terpsichorean ideas might be born ideas which could find expression
through the bodies of young and old from all walks of Jamaican life. It had never
been like that before. The dance in Jamaica had never been like that before.
Ivy Baxter was the first person to superimpose a distinctive STYLE on the
indigenous movement patterns of the country without attempting to rearrange it too
In texture Baxter's legacy was undeniably a feminine, even matriarchal
response to the cultural identification needs of the time. One of her group mem-
bers, her friend, Enid Douglas, a nurse and teacher turned creative dancer, said:
"She made people look inside themselves and through the dance confront their
It is entirely appropriate that her efforts should have come before any
other, including the robust aggregation of Rex Nettleford's NATIONAL DANCE
THEATRE COMPANY (NDTC), which had its roots in Ivy's work.
Nettleford correctly contends:
We have the advantage of being able to refer to
the vocabulary of many different techniques with
a view to developing a style of our own. For
whether we like it or not we are an amalgam of
different cultural strains which are yet to find co-
herence and distinctiveness that can be ex-
pressed in any precise terms.10
Granted that Ivy was prior to Nettleford, as I see it the Baxter/Nettleford
nexus is not continuum but counterpoise a cultural Yin/Yang seeking stabiliza-
tion. Propitiously, although the vocabularies differ, the objectives of IDENTIFICA-
TION and INTEGRATION still inform the exercises.
On comparative reflection, since there was overlap historically and artisti-
cally, the NDTC projects patriarchal, somewhat detached, less emotive ap-
proaches as it advances cultural originality and experiment.
Both Founder-choreographers of IBDG and NDTC began by polishing
style rather than creating definitive technique. But after three decades of dance in
Jamaica, the NDTC, and at least one of the 'newer' dance groups (L'ACADCO),
have developed specific techniques of their own.
The NDTC fuses the body language and gestures of the Jamaican streets,
with African usage of the mid-torso and hips, with European classical ballet
retentions. L'ACADCO synthesizes modern Jamaican dance-hall and traditional
Caribbean folk on a European classical ballet base.
The blends are exciting. It is obvious that the dance in Jamaica has
matured to the point of near-certainty of "coherence and distinctiveness" It was
illuminating to have examined comparative material from other cultures in order to
get a wide perspective on our own special accretions. But now, we are moving
towards a splendid reconciliation of drums with 'wind and strings', of past with
present, of sound with silence, of mastery with moulding, of repose with high
energy, of business with art. It has taken time, patience, and resources, the last of
which is difficult for local dance groups to access.
What is important is that the inheritors do not forget that it was Baxter's
visionary 'hand' that guided them to the starters blocks and her pioneering 'finger'
that popped the gun to get them off their mark into the race for global recognition.
Baxter's instrumentality and inspiration are sources for our modern reali-
ties. In assessing the legacy of her work and worth, I borrow from the field of
Journalism, sometimes referred to as "Literature in a hurry" I say of Baxter's
ballets that they were cameos of history brought to life,
Each of her major choreographic works, mainly narrative in construct,
encapsulated a tidbit of Jamaican history in an audio-visual, tactile, and highly
palatable artistic format. I shall mention four of them.
First PASSING PARADE. It was a full-length ballet that locked in activi-
ties that were fixtures at the city centre called 'Parade' on King Street, opposite the
century old Kingston Parish Church. At Parade one could always observe a vibrant
slice of city life with its collage of shoppers, peddlers, benign idlers, touts, and
tourists. The Candy-Sellers, about whom the well-known folkpoet Louise Bennett
penned amusing verses, was sketched by Baxter on a palette of dance-theatre with
brush strokes of human bodies in "Passing Parade'
Ivy's dance began as a reflection of a day in the life of a Policeman whose
duty was to direct the stream of heavy traffic at Parade. This he did with aplomb
and patience. When night came, however, in his dream, 'Corpie's' confused
memories assaulted his sub-conscious as he slumbered fretfully against a stream
of traffic he was unable to control.
RAT PASSAGE is among Ivy Baxter's more popular ballets. It is said to be
the first full-length ballet in Jamaica on a national theme. It dealt with the perennial
issue of migration by disenchanted or frustrated islanders for whom the call to
continents and elsewhere, promises better times and greener pastures. Such
migrations date back to the 1930s and are continuing.
Baxter's "Rat Passage", choreographed in 1954, was set in an era when
the banana was the 'green gold' of Caribbean economy, and when it was trans-
ported in large 'banana' boats. A 'rat passenger' was a stowaway on a banana
boat, to England or 'forrin' (i.e foreign ).
The ballet tells a stowaway's story; his arrival in England, how he wanders
accidentally into an international cocktail party, and how he falls in love with a white
English girl, the daughter of the owner of a fish-n-chips shop. It tells the darker tale
of his liaison with a cinnamon-hued, dusky-eyed keeper of a dive in Soho; of his
death in a fall while hallucinating on substances sneaked to him in the dive; and
then, in a hint of cultural diffusion, how an innocent English child is bestowed the
heritage of the stowaway's skill with a ball.
VILLAGE SCENE is the third ballet that stands out in my memory. It
interwove typical scenes of a local village with the Anancy story, and traditional
"Village Scene" was an enactment of how the folk laboured, loved and
passed their leisure. Ivy herself danced the poignant role of a Mother near
breaking point, burdened by child bearing and rearing within parameters of depri-
vation. It was essentially the mother's story, whose only support system, the
extended family of village women, understood, without and beyond words, the
bitter-sweet relationships that tied them in affection to their partners, even as it tied
them down in a smothering embrace. Ivy's dance made a statement on gender
issues long before gender studies were seriously undertaken.
Finally, there was POCOMANIA, a ritualistic religious state of becoming a
'little mad' We laughed at the idea of spirit possession until we who had mastered
Leeder and other recognized dance techniques, succumbed to the hypnotic rhythm
of the Frats Quintet singing and chanting from deep in their souls to the accompa-
niment and ancestral hegemony of the drums.
If today's generations of dancers tend to hold back so as to distance
themselves from the primeaval summons of true Pocomania, those of us who
danced it a la Baxter really do understand their need for reticence.
I venture to say that in all the tributes paid to Ivy Baxter, the one she would
no doubt have appreciated most has never been offered. I refer to the restaging of
even one of her 'flag-ship' ballets possibly "Rat Passage" which remains a page
in the history of our migrations to Panama, Canada, England, the USA, and further
afield. The pattern of literal/figurative, physical/mental going or stowing away has
remained constant; only the modes of transportation have changed.
We who were trained by Ivy Baxter and who performed with her should put
our heads and resources together to revive, if only for video taping, at least one of
the dances she devised so successfully for Caribbean feet and bodies, way back in
Where is our sense of tradition? Why are we bending the shining spokes
of Baxter's invaluable contribution to the dance in Jamaica, and remaining tongue-
tied about it when she cannot ask: "Just what do you think you are doing?"
Let me quote a Canadian journalist with Jamaican roots who danced for a
while with the IBDG:
Jamaica has been less than kind to Ivy, despite
the awards she received. She worked largely
with little prominence, and certainly far less than
she would have liked. The pain and frustration of
being passed by many have been a product of
her unwillingness to thrust herself forward.
I invited her to do an extended television series
for the Jamaica Information Service on the growth
and development of Jamaican dance. Although
interested, she seemed unable to generate the
enthusiasm necessary to make it possible. It is
Jamaica's loss that she did not. Gleaner, Jan.
31,1993, p. 16a
It is not too late to make amends in some measure perhaps. Now is the
time perhaps for the revival of even one Baxter work. Now is the time perhaps, for
at least CHAPTER 20 of her book to be reprinted, this time richly illustrated with
hosts of photographs, which I am sure are available, so that she and her dancers
may enjoy a touch of 'Kodak' immortality (to live and never die in the photographs).
Let us now consider the key IMAGES and SYMBOLS that punctuated
There was CIRCLE and there was LINE.
CIRCLE, represented predominantly by the SCARF in numerous uses,
was the pliable FEMALE symbol in Ivy's choreography.
Ivy used scarves a great deal, whether hanging around the men's necks,
wiping their brows, curled and crumpled to ward off friction on the women's
loadcarrying heads, tied at the waists or elsewhere as adornment in flirtatious
mood, or otherwise protecting, restraining, holding together, sheltering or receiving
The scarf as HEAD-TIE has its own distinctive vocabulary in Caribbean
culture, depending on how and where knots are placed in it.
Ivy used folded scarves to signify babies or stretched them taut in a mystic
circle (as she did to depict the new nation of a Caribbean Federation, which
unfortunately aborted). The scarves dried tears or were waved in exhultation.
LINE, represented mainly by the MACHETE or cutlass11, depicted the
male; horizontal when used for chopping, but signifying also continuity, intractabil-
ity, horizons old and new or when carried vertically like the mace of some
imaginary 'macho' parliament, symbolizing poignancy, pointer, phallus, loss of
innocence or upheaval.
The simplicity of the symbols did not worry her, although some seemed to
have considered them too obvious, too rustic, not cerebral. As far as Ivy Baxter
was concerned they were true to the simplicity of the folk, the bedrock of Jamaican
society. They were unpretentious symbols that grabbed her attention when she
was excavating the lost kingdom of the music, movement and rhythms of old
She communicated the use of the LINE as symbol for passage and
contiguity, and of the CIRCLE for fraternity and perpetuity.
To conclude, let me rely mostly on Ivy Baxter's own words12
To conclude, let me rely mostly on Ivy Baxter's own words
I invite you to inhale, metaphorically, the (thoughts) words of the mystic
and muse of Jamaican dance as she set them down in 1970.
She speaks first about the IBDG's membership.
Members of the Ivy Baxter Dance Group were
drawn from people who had danced in various
shows in which I had worked The LTM Panto-
mime, Nugent Monck's production of "The Mer-
chant of Venice", members of the YWCA classes
in creative dance, from pupils of Excelsior School,
from people who had learned some ballet, as well
as from expatriate enthusiasts. Some members
entered the group by way of the drama course
organized by the Extra Mural Department of the
UWI in 1949, under the direction of Gloria Cum-
The first dance recital was held at Anderson
House on Brentford Road, the centre used by the
Extra-Mural Department for its classes in
And then she speaks about IBDG's first overseas tour that was a defining
moment in the group's existence.
The Caribbean Festival of Dance and Folklore in
San Juan, 1952, marked the initiation of this Ja-
maican Dance Group into the Caribbean concept.
The organizer, a fiery American Lisa Lekis was
employed to the Tourist Board of Puerto Rico.
Meetings were arranged with Philip Sherlock of
the UWI, and she was entertained at a reception
on the lawns of the Carter residence on Hagley
Park Road, the scene of many group social occa-
sions, and the home of Louise Carter, the inde-
fatigable Dance Group Secretary for many years.
For the Caribbean Festival of Arts, Fred Wilmot,
Robert Verity, and Mapletoft Poulle, the leader of
the orchestra, were some of the persons who
gave enthusiastic support to this fledgeling group.
Forty people -dancers, singers and orchestra,
as well as an art exhibit were taken in a spe-
cially chartered plane to the Festival for a period
of ten days.
The Government of Jamaica, under the leader-
ship of Sir Alexander Bustamante, voted approxi-
mately 2,000 for the venture.
On the night of our arrival, our hearts sank at the
sight of the polished rehearsal of Geoffrey Holder
in not one, but two full shows of creative and
Trinidadian folk dance in the theatre on the Rio
Piedras Campus. The knowledge that the Little
Carib group from Trinidad, directed by Beryl
McBumie was also present and ready with an-
other show just as long and as colorful did nothing
to lift our spirits.
The Jamaican show consisted of the dances -
Manuel Road, Pocomania, Passing Parade, and
Village Scene...interspersed with Jamaican folk
songs by the Frats Quintet, a group of five male
singers for whom this was the first theatrical per-
The Jamaica show was appreciated, esp.;ciaily
by the Puerto Ricans. The racial variety within
the Caribbean came home to the Jamaicans in a
way that could not have been achieved by just
hearing or reading about the countries. Indeed,
for Jamaicans, mentally and physically isolated
from surrounding small countries, the Caribbean
Folk Festival was an education.
To see people looking like ourselves, some of
whom spoke French, Spanish, Papiemento, pat-
ois and different inflexions of English, was in itself
a revelation of the history of the Caribbean, which
was not known by Jamaicans at that time.
Two groups came from Haiti and they were par-
ticularly striking. They re-enacted the ceremo-
nies of Damballa, the Snake God, complete with
candles, fire, and smoke to the stimulation of the
terrific drumming of Tiroro, Haiti's virtuoso drum-
Tiroro became a particular friend of the Jamai-
cans, and it is from him that the art of drum-mak-
ing revived in Jamaica. He exchanged (one of)
his drums for a watch belonging to the drummer
of the Jamaican dance group, who took the in-
strument apart, and learned how it was made.
Through this contact made at the festival in
Puerto Rico, Tiroro was invited to Jamaica on the
occasion of the Jamaica Three Hundred Celebra-
tion. He took part in the Bandwagon show which
toured the island.14
Slowly but surely Miss Baxter's objective of INTEGRATION was being
realized. The importance of the drum in making us feel a genuine part of the spirit
as well as the geography of the Caribbean was not missed. I well remember the
occasion on which the IBDG gave Edna Manley, one of its patrons, a drum as a
birthday gift. The inscription on it read
"The drum is the heart of our dance. We give you our heart"
Moving on through Baxter's book, she describes how her company's
repertoire was growing as her dancers began to spread their choreographic wings
and generate their own dance concepts. But here again, Ivy provided the vehicle
for the experimentation and growth.
STUDIO CONCERTS gave members an opportunity for their own dance
composition and production.
In 1957 Eddy Thomas made his BASKET
DANCE and TRIANGLE using Vilma Cupidon
and Enid Douglas as his lead dancers. LONG
MOUNTAIN, based on a poem by Philip Sher-
lock, was composed by Ursula Raymond, a Trini-
dadian and a former librarian at the Institute of
Jamaica West India Reference Library, who also
maintained the press and other records of the
At the studio concert in 1958, Clive Thompson15
created THE LETTER to Grofe's "Grand Canyon
Suite" using two talented dancers Vilma Cupidon
and Monica McGowan. There were also dances
by Cynthia Lee, Joyce Campbell, and Alma Hyl-
ton who composed the ballet AIRPORT 16
'Airport' won a government incentive award, and showcased the talent of
Sheila Barnett, Barbara Requa, Shirley Tavares, Buddy Pouyatt, the brother and
sister team of Norma and Clive Thompson, and others.
Among the new male dancers were Eddy Thomas, pianist and fine arts
exponent; Rex Nettleford, the 1957 Rhodes and Issa scholar recently returned
from Oxford University, England; Mickey Gallimore and Audley Butler, who later
migrated to the USA ; Kenneth MockYen, now a Monseigneur of the Roman
Catholic Church; Cardiff Williams, a technologist in nuclear medicine, now de-
ceased; and Garth Fagan, currently a famous choreographer and leader of his own
renowned Company of dancers in the USA. His choreography for the 'Lion King'
has received prestigious awards.
Ivy mentions the contribution of Eryick Darby and others and relates how a
flourishing IBDG celebrated its tenth anniversary.
The Tenth Anniversary Show of the group repre-
sented a high point in one phase of group effort.
In the musical, Once Upon A Seaweed, pre-
sented in 1960, the main emphasis was not the
work of one choreographer. Book and lyrics were
by Alma Hylton, music by Eddy Thomas, and
choreography was by Hylton and Baxter Rex Net-
tleford assisted Noel Vaz, who directed the pro-
duction of "Once Upon A Seaweed The story
centered on a little shoe shine boy searching for
his lost brother. The subject of the ballet as well
as its execution appealed to Jamaican audi-
"Seaweed" as we called it, was said to be Jamaica's first integrated
musical. It interwove singing and dancing with acting. There were comic moments
a id dramatic ones, in its mix of fantasy with reality, overland settings with under-
water scenes, altogether an entertaining melange. That was in 1960.
Two years later the IBDG was split. There is no doubt that the fracturing
weakened the group and affected the morale of its leader who, nonetheless, tried
to carry on.
These are her comments:
In any country, all facets of dance cannot ever be
developed at one time, in a single person or in
one group. By the end of 1963 there were three
other groups in the modem creative field besides
the Ivy Baxter Dance Group, depleted by the loss
of ten advanced members and with a comple-
ment of younger students.
There was the Alma MockYen Company of danc-
ers in Harbour View, the Eddy Thomas Dance
Workshop which seemed to become the training
ground for the National Dance Theatre Company
(NDTC). I have seen the formation, growth, and
the development of financial and institutional sup-
port of the NDTC. It has had remarkable success
and publicity as a Limited Liability Company.
One result of this is that the matrix for dance on a
national level has been made. (Ed. note: The
other group mentioned was the 'JAYTEENS').18
The IBDG closed gradually, like Sinatra's song 'SOFTLY'
I will leave you softly, for my heart would break if you
should wake and see me go
By 1967 the IBDG officially closed.
Still, for all that, the joy was in the journey. For the dancers and audiences
of the IBDG, Ivy Baxter's idea that the journey was both necessary and possible,
provided the tickets and the means of moving. She pioneered a movement that
remarkably retains its energy in the currently competitive arena that the local dance
scene has become. Jamaican poet Roger Mais made it plain, "Men of ideas outlive
their time" Ivy's ideas outlive her, gathering momentum as unobtrusively as was
her quiet but unwavering cultural revolution.
Today, anybody who wants to can, and does dance from Festival to
fashionable studios, discrimination based on skin shade is a repressed malady.
And it was Ivy Baxter who freed up the structure. Whether in 'Madras' or 'Lycra',
whether male or female, the bodies are free to have their say, freely, at last.
Of course, human nature being what it is, there are those who now want 'a
little more' Sheila Barnett, a former IBDG 'Baxterite', addresses that dimension:
Today's dancer is technically proficient. Dance
has become more than a hobby at which one is
competent; young Jamaicans are expecting the
dance to provide a livelihood.19
One indeed hopes that dancers in 21st century Jamaica will be able to
earn their living from their work in the kinetic arts. This would not, however, negate
the IBDG's objective of dance as an instrument of self-expression whereby we can
recompense ourselves spiritually for any loss of mastery we may experience in the
realms of immediate survival cycles where we are exposed to becoming mere cogs
in the massive engine of a society's economic growth.
Happily, the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and some of our
young, courageous, contemporary dancers are proving this to be true. To parody
Freud, "They have kissed their dreams there is no need for anxiety."
The traditional societies of which I spoke earlier are convinced that mem-
ory lies deep in the belly. I take their view and ask you now to place a hand on your
belly in Ivy's memory. I can almost hear her saying 'Alma, what on earth do you
think you are doing?" But I repeat. In a moment of silence, take a deep breath,
hand on belly for one of the principal architects of our highly textured cultural
To Ivy Baxter, PIONEER, whose eyes, carried mostly at half-mast, a habit
she had of looking at us through a characteristic squint, extracted the essence of
life in our small corner of the globe for -
a particular audience capable of being moved as
it recognized its own turmoils and troubles, and
able to weep for and laugh at itself... For the
universality of (dance) is not to be found in the
place in which it is created but in its humanity, in
the relevance of its statements and in the beauty
of its structure. (adapted from Michel Tremblay's
International Message for World Theatre Day,
It is fitting that we pay tribute to the past without which the future is a plane
circling with nowhere to land. In Ivy Baxter we have a past well grounded in her life
and legacy. We have an ancestor with long, fluent, encircling arms, which signal
us to challenge space with our spirit, to not allow the mundane to smother us, but
to take hold of our aesthetic wings, find safe landings and, secure in knowing who
we are, take off again into wholesomeness and wonderment.
NOTES and REFERENCES
Baxter, Ivy. The Arts of an Island, 1970 (out of print) p.296
2 Geoffrey Holder carved a niche internationally when, following his mentor's trail, he starred as 'The
Wiz' on Broadway. He made as well, a number of acting vignettes in Hollywood feature films in-
cluding the 1973 James Bond movie 'Live and Let Die', which was filmed in Jamaica Baxter
op.cit. p. 297
3. op.cit p.297
4. Selected Writings of Edward Sapir ed David Mandelbaum, pp. 314-331]
5 'Heritage in Dance' by Cheryl Ryman, Jamaica Journal No. 44, p.3
6. Baxter op.cit. pp.297-298
7 Baxter, op.cit. p.298
8. The concept of the I-O-S is a triadic approach originating, I believe, in Management Studies but use-
ful in Cultural Studies where analysis of the intercepts of the grid may be enlightening.
9. Baxter, op.cit. p. 298
10. Nettleford, Rex. 'The Dance As An Art Form Its Place In the West Indies' Caribbean Quarterly,
Vol.14 Nos. 1&2
11. It should be noted that in the Jamaican dialect there are some 16 or more words for cutlass or ma-
chete, which is not strange given the role of the Sugar Plantation in our history, and the function
of the 'LASS' in that role.
12. The concept of words as that part of the soul which survives death reappears in the few societies
which remain relatively untouched by what we call civilization. Certain tribes in such places as
New Guinea and remote parts of Africa are convinced that power resides inside the human
body, escaping only through the VOICE. So when an elder or mystic, the accepted centre of
knowledge in the tribe is dying, his son or successor places his mouth over the mouth of the dy-
ing one to inhale the departing soul.
13. Baxter, op.cit. p.298
14. Baxter, op. cit. p.303
15. Clive Thompson went from the IBDG to dance with Martha Graham in New York. He eventually
made a big name for himself on the international circuit. He had been, in fact, one of a second
wave of male dancers who strengthened the corps de ballet The first set had been led by Ro-
nan Critchlow undoubtedly a strong and sensitive lead. (Baxter, op.cit. p. 308)
16. Baxter, op. cit. p.307
17 Baxter, op.cit., p. 311.
18. Baxter op.cit, p.32.
19. Bamrnett, Sheila. 'Notes on Contemporary Dance-Theatre in Jamaica 1930-1982', Jamaica Journal
No.46, 1982, p 98.
Empowerment through the Theatre
.......dramatic presentation is the quickest and
surest method of appeal, because it is the only
way with which memory plays no tricks. If a thing
has appeared before us in a vital form, nothing
can really destroy it; it is because things are often
given in a blurred, faint light that they gradually
fade out of our memory.... The Art of The Story
Teller (Page 99), Marie L. Shedlock
Theatre in Jamaica in the year 2000 has come a long way since the
colonial regime when English companies toured the island and performed Shake-
speare and other classical European works. The slaves created their own brand of
theatre in which the style was that of mimicry and exaggeration, lampooning their
masters in song and dance. Much of the indigenous African use of body language
and musical structures were maintained through the celebrations conducted in the
dead of night on the plot. A syncretism of European and African forms, a melding
of the rhythm of Africa and the melody of Europe1 form the basis of art-forms that
are typically Caribbean. Marcus Garvey played a very important role in shaping a
black consciousness in creative expression. In 1913, performing in an elocution
contest, he was one of the early tenants of the Ward Theatre in Kingston which
had opened the year before. The tremendous work that he did at Eidelweiss Park
between the years 1927 and 1928 in elocution, literary expression, musical con-
certs and his monumental theatrical productions is not an insignificant testimony to
a very early understanding in the history of our education of the place of the arts in
shaping a people.
Undoubtedly Garvey's work must have influenced the formation of thea-
tre groups in the second decade of the twentieth century and the rise of the first
great Jamaican man of theatre E.M. Cupidon. His work was mainly in the genre of
comedy, but in the 1930s with the growing national feeling Jamaica saw the rise of
its first generation of serious writers such as Una Marson, Roger Mais, Frank Hill
and W.G. Ogilvie. Marson's POCOMANIA is now considered a Jamaican classic
and as the name illustrates it was embedded in the culture of the folk. The 1940s
saw the encouragement given to promoting the talent of the less privileged sector
of the society and now one can hardly talk about the beginnings of theatre in
Jamaica without mentioning Bim and Barn and Slim and Slam. It was Orford St.
John who encouraged writers like Sam Hillary and he directed Ranny Williams in
TWELFTH NIGHT and Louise Bennett in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. In
1955 Wycliffe Bennett founded the Jamaica Drama League which mounted an
Annual Drama Festival between 1955 and 1962. This was the golden age of
theatre in Jamaica when such actors as Reggie Carter, Mona Chin, Louise Ben-
nett, Lois Kelly Miller, Charles Hyatt, Ranny Williams and Easton Lee were seen on
stage. At the University of the West Indies Errol Hill, Derek Walcott, Ronnie Llanos,
Slade Hopkinson, Ada Thompson, Archie Hudson-Phillips, Ancille Gloudon, Cyn-
thia Alleyne, Noel Vaz, Louis Blazer and Derek Broughton were making their mark
on the theatrical landscape.
Up to this time all the significant theatrical works were staged in the
conventional theatre buildings until, in 1965 the opening of The Barn, marked the
entry of the small theatre building into existence. Directors such as Trevor Rhone,
Louis Mariott, Ed Wallace, Reggie Carter, Claude Clarke, i'ony Gambrill made
intimate theatre and revues popular with actors such as Fae Ellington, Grace
McGhie, Munair Zacca, Oliver Samuels, Barbara McCalla, Christine Bell, Alwyn
Scott, Dorothy Cunningham, Leonie Forbes. In 1970s Ralph Holness introduced a
new genre in theatre which earned the title of Roots Theatre. Referred to as
grassroots theatre the content of this new genre dealt with the issues of life of
grassroots people and used the language of the people as the medium of expres-
sion. A popular money-earner for both director and grassroots actor, the genre
spread and was played in small spaces all over the island and eventually exported
to Miami, London, New York and Toronto. This was the beginning of a vigorous
export business of theatre
A Caribbean theatre has gradually taken shape and the founding of the
Jamaica School of Drama within the complex of the Cultural Training Centre now
renamed as The Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts helped to
forge a Caribbean Theatre aesthetic. Hertencer Lindsay, Honor Ford Smith, Den-
nis Scott, Henry Muttoo, Earl Warner, Jean Small, Professor Rex Nettleford laid the
foundation work of creating a Caribbean theatre form. At the School, students were
trained in the theatre arts to become teacher/actors, teacher/directors/
teacher/technical directors. The problem was if there was no curriculum in theatre
in the schools what was the teacher to do with the training? They generally went
into teaching and used drama whenever or wherever they could, found parts in
plays or acted in the Jamaican Pantomime. The Jamaican Pantomime is proud to
have withstood the ravages of time and economic pressures and to have presented
its fifty-ninth production this year.
But what of educational theatre? Theatre, unfortunately, like all of the
other creative arts has been engaged in as an extra-curricular subject usually as an
activity of the schools Drama Club. In 1950 the Secondary Schools Drama Festival
was introduced by the Little Theatre Movement and the British Council. The
opening of some of the principal Secondary Schools in Jamaica at this time
Wolmers Boys and Girls Schools, Munro College, Hampton High School, Ruseas
High School, Mannings High School and Jamaica College created greater opportu-
nities for performance. Drama activity remained and has remained largely at the
Festival level and because it was not integrated into the curriculum, drama was
neither taught as a discipline nor used as a teaching tool. The same is true of the
Spanish Festival organised by the Spanish Teachers Association and the French
Festival organised by the Jamaica Association of French teachers (JAFT) in
conjunction with the Alliance Frangaise and the French Embassy. The Science
Learning Centre is promoting the use of theatre in teaching Science, but Science
Teachers seem to be the most difficult cadre to get to think how to use creativity to
teach Science. This programme also operates at the level of a festival with strong
intentions of influencing the day-to-day teaching of the subject. These Festivals
include dance, drama, poetry and song and always demonstrate the amazing
creative skills of our children. At the Tertiary Level, the Philip Sherlock Centre For
The Creative Arts (PSCCA) at the University of the West Indies organises TAL-
LAWAH an Annual Drama Competition among the Halls of Residence of the
University and the Drama Societies in Tertiary Institutions. This has grown in
popularity in recent years by leaps and bounds and is influencing the development
of the craft in those institutions. In the area of popular education a few companies
are doing concentrated work in using drama for consciousness-raising amongst
youth, rural and inner city people. The Sistren Theatre Collective which started in
1977 with a group of grassroots women was a feminist activist theatre collective
that championed the cause of working class women. Sistren was a very vibrant
group in its early days, mounting a major production each year and continual
workshops for female workers. Sistren still exists but presently lacks leadership
which has reduced the dynamism and effectiveness of its work. The Ashe Ensem-
ble and Academy was founded in 1993 with 70 talented young people. The
ensemble enhances learning and self-worth while at the same time entertaining
and educating. The ensemble leads the way in AIDS and Sexually Transmitted
Diseases (STDs) education for young people. The most recently formed group that
uses theatre for educating inner city youth is the Area Youth Foundation which
was formed in 1997 at the time when The Company Ltd. was staging Wole
Soyinka's THE BEATIFICATION OF THE AREA BOY The Company embarked on
a programme to involve the youth in the area surrounding the Ward Theatre where
the play was to be staged. Some of the youth were to be part of the production.
However they were so enthused by the experience that at the end of the production
they wanted to continue with the work. An important aspect of the work through
theatre is getting rival communities to connect across borders. The results of The
BORDER CONNECTIONS have been very successful and the Foundation is now
embarking on creating a network of Area Youth across the island.
Generally speaking, the theatre today is market driven. In order to make a
profit or even break even, companies are giving audiences what they want, which
is a good belly laugh with some sex thrown in for good measure. There is a type of
theatre which I call middle class roots theatre which is becoming more and more
popular. The most frequented theatre spaces are The Barn, Centrestage and The
Little Little Theatre Theatre companies have decided that serious plays are not
financially profitable and so they go for the money and, they have to, because
doing theatre today is expensive. In the present environment of theatre that is
rollicking good fun, educational theatre happens behind closed doors unless it is
connected with a play that is being studied for a Caribbean-wide Examination. The
PSCCA, UWI the Jamaica School of Drama and the Cultural Arts Studio have
successfully tied their dramatic work to the Examination Syllabus ensuring an
audience in this way. But though the wheels turn very slowly, there is hope. The
Ministry of Education introduced the R.O.S.E Programme which includes Drama
for Grade 7 to 9 in the Secondary School since 1995 and last year the Primary
Education Improvement Programme was launched with Drama in Grades 4 to 6
and Integrated Drama in Grades 1 to 3. The Caribbean Examination Council is
presently developing a syllabus for the Theatre Arts which will be piloted in 2001.
This paper is about the experience of doing theatre in a foreign language
at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, while learning the language
and the literature in which that language is embedded. What is the value of theatre
for the learner? What can the process bring to enhance the learning of both
language and literature? This paper will refer mainly to the recent production of
DEUX CONTES AFRICAINS an adaptation of two of Birago Diop's folktales,
which I directed for the Modern Languages Department of the U.W.I., Mona
Campus in March 2000, and the experience derived from the exercise for both
teacher as director and the students as cast.
A former lecturer in French Language and Literature, I was invited to direct
a play in French with the students for an inter-campus French Theatre Festival at
the Cave Hill campus in Barbados. I was asked mainly because in 1983, when I
was a lecturer in the Modern Languages Department, I had actually initiated a
programme which I called, the visualisation of literature and the objective of the
programme was to visualise on stage literary works that the students were en-
gaged in studying in order for them to have a more immediate experience and
understanding of the text, and the focus was on French African or French Carib-
bean Literature. We must, first of all understand the difference between the two
activities theatre and drama. Brian Way (1967) states that theatre is largely
communication between actor and audience, whereas drama is concerned with
the experience that the actors have irrespective of any communication with an
audience. He exemplifies this difference by answering the question: What is a
blind person? One can either give a straight definition which is similar to communi-
cating information as in theatre or else one can be asked to close one's eyes and
walk around the room and try to find a way out. The latter is similar to drama
because of the act of knowing through personal experience.
Since at the time that the request was made to me I was not teaching the
students it was very clear in the beginning that the activity was really going to be
theatre as we were simply going to do a play for the purpose of the French Theatre
Festival. I was asked to direct two of Birago Diop's folktales LES MAMELLES and
LE SALAIRE. The author of the folktales believed that the oral literature of Africa
was in danger of being lost forever in the face of modern education. He felt that
there was an urgency to disseminate information to the rest of the world on the
traditional philosophy of his people. This opinion was shared by many other
African writers at the time, most vocal among them was Bernard Dadie2 who
maintained that the conte must not be regarded as mere old wives' tales to be told
to put children to sleep, but rather must be considered as family jewels to be
communicated to the rest of the world. It is crucial that the director should embrace
the intention of the artistic work for the sake of the passion and intensity of the
commitment that is needed in directing a play and as director, I was pleased with
this choice of material because I was already involved in working with the folktale
and the art of the storyteller. Every director seeks an encounter that suits his
nature.3 The task involved scripting the conte for the stage and it entailed capturing
qualities such as the tone of voice, gesture, mime etc. as well as creating the music
that would evoke a Senegalese environment.
A call was sent out for students who would like to participate in the
production. About nine students turned up. I didn't know these students. I didn't
know what the quality of their French was like. I didn't know what year they were
in. I had not seen them before. All I knew was that they were students of French
and that they were interested in acting in a French play. That is all I ask at the
beginning of doing theatre with anyone: that they want to do it. After a brief
introduction on the structure and intention of folktales, I made them read the text
and do a little bit of singing (as I intended to use song in the production) to help me
decide on the cast.
What did I want them to experience? I wanted them to understand the
African ontology, the African theatre aesthetic, the significance of the didactic
nature of the folk-tale in an oral culture, I wanted them to understand the elo-
quence of silence and the fantastic and lyrical aspects of storytelling. I believe that
our theatre mode in the Caribbean is storytelling which has its source in our
traditional African heritage. I wanted them to know intimately through the use of
their body language and their voices the power of the role of the storyteller. This
was not very easy, at first, because the text I created seemed to be uncomplicated
even simple. This was because I knew in my head where the silences were, or
where symbolic forms of expression alternative to the word would be used. I
feared at first that they might think the play was not for their age group and so I
placed a lot of emphasis on perfection of the spoken word i.e. correct pronunciation
and intonation pattern of the language. A great deal of time was spent in the first
rehearsals giving the cast an opportunity to listen to the correct rendering of the
text, to hours of repetition and memorization before they even stood on the stage,
and so as soon as they were gaining some competence in mastering the language
and control of the text, I engaged the multifaceted musician, Mbala 4, to join the
group so that they could appreciate the discourse and the text of the drum very
much in the way that Niangoran Bouah5 conceived of la drummologie6 In this case
the actors would voice the text and the drums and other musical instruments would
engage in a discourse with the spoken word. There were times when the drum
would have to speak in the place of the actor. They soon saw that the text created
was not so simple or uncomplicated.
The tales are set in a tropical environment reminding us that our ancestors
came from West Africa which is an agricultural environment. The animal tales are
set mainly in the forest inhabited by animals which are strangely similar to human
types with which we are very familiar. Messages are communicated through a
system of symbology7 which were both verbal and non verbal. There were symbols
in the set, in the colour of the costumes, in gestures that were drawn from the
cultural genre. Central in the set was a tamarind tree. As the griot said, L'arbre ne
s'dleve qu'en enforNant ses ravines dans la terre nourriciere8, and this tree symbol-
izes that rootedness in culture. The tamarind tree like the Cotton Tree in the
Caribbean is the abode of the kouss 9 or spirits which if we could see them are
reminiscent of the first inhabitants of Africa, the Pygmies. It is therefore a sacred
tree. One to be respected. The presence of la brousse 10 on all sides indicates the
closeness of man to nature. It was unfortunate that this performance could not
have been performed in a natural environment for spatial organisation is one of the
most essential elements in the African theatrical aesthetic. The placement of the
audience in the round, the ability to move in and out of the performance is
impossible with the proscenium arch theatre. This aspect of African theatre the
students did not experience because the stage was at a higher level and far
removed from the audience. In traditional African theatre the subject of discussion
in the play is a subject that concerns the entire community and so, of necessity,
members of the audience ought to be able to get up and participate in the
performance, for the catharsis must be communal and the restoration of order
from the disorder must be a salutory experience of the entire community.
A griot11 was created to be the link between the tales for it is one thing to
read a folk tale, but another to act it out on stage. Though this character was not in
the original text it was felt that Birago Diop would not object to this insertion since
he offers extensive description of the place and function of the griot in French West
African culture and in the telling of tales. There is a wide vocabulary that has
developed around la griotique 12 in which the griot, who in French West Africa is
the repository of the wisdom and history of the clan, holds a central position. So in
this attempt at griotisation,13 I as griotiseur created a griot to be something of a
narrator/director, giving explanations where they were required and commenting
on the action of the tales. The centrality of the griot was shown symbolically in his
central position at the opening of the play. He is dressed respendently in white
which is a colour that is symbolic of his stature, his wisdom and his successful
status. He is seated, in silence, while the drums, the flutes, the shak-shaks, the
mbira, the tambourine tell the entire story of the two tales in the form of an overture,
a composition of all the accompanying music used throughout the entire production
of the two tales. These would be easily recognized later during the production. The
griot composes what may be called grio-poems15 speaking and chanting ritualisti-
cally, appeasing the Gods so that all should go well, calling for Verite, for the truth
to be told, assuring the Gods that this beautiful race of black people would not bring
shame to them. La griotique is the epitome of African theatre as it presents a
dramatic expression in which word and chant, music and dance, mime and gesture
harmonise to express the philosophy of African life for the purposes of education
and guidance. At one time the musical rhythms accompany the poetic lines of the
griot, at another they are interspersed with his spoken words. He dances gently.
One gets the feeling of the call and response between his voice and the music,
between his rhythmical body movements and the music that is so characteristic of
African theatre. The griot lumbers off stage heavy with the weight of his wisdom, as
the tale unfolds in action..
The first tale is an explanatory story of a physical phenomenon in Senegal
i.e. the existence of the mountains LES MAMELLES which are given that name
because they look like two breasts. How did they get that shape and why are they
jutting so ominously out of the sea? This tale helps the actors to understand many
aspects of the African world view. They learnt about polygamy. What causes a man
in that culture to take a second wife, what, therefore, a man values in a wife. What
is the nature of the ensuing relationship between the two wives. It is generally
believed that co-wives live happily together sharing the one husband. This tale
shows that it is not always so and that envy and jealousy may arise and these traits
are not pleasing to the Gods. The co-incidence in this story is that both wives are
hunchbacked, the second one's hump being even bigger than that of the first wife,
but the first wife is very unhappy about her physical condition unlike the second
who sees it as a gift from God. The presence and the influence of the supernatural
is powerful for they are ever-present and omniscient. Man, Gods, spirits and nature
are closely bound and one has to heed the voice of all that is present in the
universe. There is an explanation on another level that physical attributes are less
valued than a kind, loving and caring nature. An envious, self-critical and unpleas-
ant nature vexes the Gods. Good is rewarded and bad is punished. The Gods
show the second wife how to be rid of her hump, but the second wife having
attracted to her the hump of the second wife, drowns herself in the sea, but as
even the sea refused to engulf her entirely, the two humps remain only half-cov-
ered by the water and have become LES MAMELLES. There is a lesson there to
be learnt. Tales are essentially educational.
The second tale is an animal tale with the animals taking on the charac-
teristics of types of human beings with particular experiences of life. The King's
daughter was lost in the swamp and so an order was given to have all the swamps
drained and all the crocodiles killed. The daughter was found at the bottom of the
hole of the oldest crocodile, but the Crocodile, guardian of the fountains, has been
displaced. He is now wandering about in the bushes, lost. The question is, when
you do a good turn what do you get in return, another good turn or some misdeed?
Diassigue, the crocodile, begs the boy, Gone, to help him back to the river, and
after getting there he turns around to eat the boy because he is dying of hunger.
The boy begs for his life and tries to get support from the cow, the horse and the
hare. Both the cow and the horse do not have very good experiences in life to tell.
They have both given good service, but in their old age they are totally neglected.
The hare resolves the problem by tricking the crocodile into being eaten by the boy
and his family instead of the other way around. Apart from this very philosophical
discussion, the student who played the role of Diassigue, the crocodile, experi-
enced the state of displacement which is a common theme in Caribbean Literature,
because loss has been one of the traumatic experiences in the history of our
people in the diaspora. Diassigue, used to being in water now finds himself in the
bush, he cannot find his way. He is alienated. He wants to go back to where he
belongs, very much like the repatriation movement to Africa. This is such a real
way of explaining topics such as loss, displacement and repatriation. Hare, plays a
trick on the crocodile after establishing that the crocodile is not the totem of the
boys clan. The students got an opportunity here to understand the importance of
totems in the African family structure. Had they not understood this they could not
play out the ridicule that the crocodile suffered. The trickster Hare makes a parallel
with our Anancy and punishment is meted out to the dishonest and ungrateful, to
the amusement of Hare. Participating in the performance of a play such as this
allows the actor to experience a situation that is similar to real life: displacement,
migration, repatriation, exploitation of the other, interdependence of man and
animal, justice and injustice. This was truly an experience of cathartic cleansing.
It was when the actors put on their costumes that they began to really
become their characters. The costumes had the magical effect of donning the
mask in performance. The griot felt the grandeur of his role and his gait immedi-
ately changed. The brilliance and expanse of his white boubou, the necklaces
which seemed to embody special powers gave the lines that he uttered and the
chant that he sang new significance. He became griot! Choice of colours also for
the wives, dark blue for the unhappy, miserable first wife who felt abandoned by the
Gods, contrasted with the sun-filled yellow of the second happy wife and so
emphasized the opposition between the two wives. Colours have a deep and
powerful effect on the psyche at a subliminal level, so the colour becomes cos-
tume, language and therapy. White is worn, in this case, by the one who estab-
lishes truth, yellow is the warm colour of the sun and a dark blue to depict the dark
mood of the first wife. The masks for the animals were not realistic in design, but
they had a magical effect on the body-language as well as the voice of the actors.
It became quite believable to them that man and animal can consort and commu-
nicate in this world of the fabulous.
The actors learnt to work in harmony with the music and the music to
complement the performance of the actor, like at the opening performance when
an actor had a nervous trou de memoire16 and the drums spontaneously came in,
filled the gap and helped her to regain composure. That was perhaps the best
example of co-operation between voice and musical instrument. Sound and music
was a key language in the play and they learnt to combine them for wordless
expression. The musician created sounds to accompany the moods and the body
movements of the characters: sounds that described tiredness at the end of the
day, anger, jealousy, busy activity, wading through water, the moo of a cow, the
neigh of a horse, the slow rhythmical movement of the female carrying a heavy
load on her head and best of all a man attracted to a woman and deciding to take
her as his wife and the wife lovingly caring for her husband. This was an introduc-
tion to total theatre where the elements of the spoken word, dance, music, poetry
and prose come together in harmony for communication.
All of the above testify to the ability of the folk-tale to discuss literary
themes, to teach the moral code of a culture and to integrate the word, music,
dance and gesture in total theatre. There was communication through the lan-
guage of gesture in the use of the hands of the dancing second wife which meant,
I wrap him around and tie him up to indicate to the audience that she had captured
the heart of the husband. There was loud breathing, puffing and panting and
wide-staring eye to express anger, jealousy and envy and there was also the act of
touching the soil three times to display appreciation to the audience instead of
Most of all here were personal discoveries. We found in the process, as we
got to know each other better, that there were no third year students in the cast and
that three of the seven were, in fact, students who had started French at the
University in the Beginners French Course. Yet they were complimented for their
clear articulation and good pronunciation. Those who had some problems with
some of the words and expressions had an opportunity by force of the "rep6titions"
in the text of certain lines and the rehearsals had an excellent opportunity to work
hard at the text for perfection. Once they knew that they had mastered the correct
pronunciation, this gave them a tremendous sense of confidence which carried
over into their course work. In all the theatre work that I have done with French
students, a marked improvement has always been seen in their oral proficiency
and level of self-confidence after the theatrical experience. One student said she
now feels French. This came from knowing that her French was understood by
members of the audience, by a native Frenchman and native Senegalese. It takes
a great deal of courage to make that leap into the foreign language and even more
so to stand on a stage under the lights to perform in a foreign language.
Another positive effect on the lingustic side is the number of new words
they learnt such as vrit6, mamelles, bosse, bossu(e), tam tam, mrpris, canaris,
nanas, toter, fille-g6nie, calebasse, marigot, c~iman, rm6chancetM, natte,
ficelle/ficeler, bont6, paffrenier, barbotage, auge, bride, cordonnier, croupe, en-
trave, brousse, bambin, forgeron, and expressions such as "avoir le coeur noir
comme du carbonn, "etre aigri comme du lait quun genie a enjambe', "a la voix
aigre etacide comme dujus du tamariri', "en pleinjout', "je t'en sais dignd',"le point
culminant', "puiser de 1'eau', "recurer les calebasses', "ltche-mol' As the stu-
dents said, they will never forget these words and expressions because they
discovered the meanings within a practical context. The structure of the folktale
which is one of repetition based on the numbers 3 and 7 allows for pleasant and
entertaining reinforcement of language and song.
Most of all they made new friends because they didn't all know each other
that well before. They learnt to be respectful of each other's time by simply arriving
on time for rehearsals and to apologize to everyone if they were late because all
rehearsals had to take place in their free periods. As soon as the free period was
up they rushed back to class. This meant that the director also had to be respectful
of their time and to schedule the work to be covered in each rehearsal carefully so
that the play would be ready at the appointed time. They learnt to work together, to
co-operate, to be tolerant of each other's weaknesses and therefore to help each
other improve. They learnt to pick up the slack when it was necessary to do so, they
learnt to share ideas and the director learnt to respect and accept their ideas in
turn. This cast did not have a stage manager, nor a costume mistress, nor
someone in charge of props. We all had to do everything ourselves and so we cut
branches for the bush, fetched stones, ironed our costumes, fetched drums and
other musical instruments back and forth and conscientiously 'struck the set'
immediately after each performance. No-one, at any time, waited for the other to do
the work that had to be done.
To have travelled with the play outside of Jamaica to another Caribbean
island was a major experience in the lives of some. So not only did they get
exposure to a French-African culture, but they had an opportunity to interact with
other Caribbean people and in the process to look objectively at themselves and be
able to better define their own culture. To have heard other Caribbean lecturers
speaking French fluently made a deep impression on all and to have made friends
with students from another island was a widening experience. This indicates that
not only should there be more events such as this among the campuses of the
University but also inter-island cultural exchanges should be organised to foster
closer ties among our people in the shaping of a Caribbean identity.
Most remarkably, all the students who participated in the production had
very good results in their oral examination and the weakest student moved dramati-
cally from the lowest position to the highest.
I must return to Brian Way's definitions of theatre and drama and conclude
that it is possible to do theatre and drama simultaneously because these students
communicated to three different audiences and at the same time they themselves
had an experience individually and communally that has had a fundamental influ-
ence on them as individuals, as students of French and as a group. From this small
experience, this group of seven has built up a camaraderie and a solidarity and
there is such a feeling of success and recognition of the value of learning through
theatre that they have expressed the desire to remain together as a French Theatre
Troupe and those who are studying Spanish would now also like to experience the
human relationships and language in that culture on stage.
1 A definition offered by Professor Rex Nettleford.
2. A writer from the Ivory Coast.
3. A concept expressed by Grotwosky.
4. Mbala is a multitalented Jamaican poet and innovative musician, playing several instruments includ-
ing the flute, congo drums, the mbira and several pots and pans.
5. The work of Professor Niangoran Bouah proposed a new science in the use of the drum to the peo-
ple of the Ivory Coast.
6. La Drummologie comes from the English drum and the Greek logos (discourse).
7 Symbology is the study or the interpretation of symbols.
8. A tree only stands tall by burying its roots deeply into the nourishing (mother) soil (authors transla-
9. genies or spirits
10. the bush
11. A griot is both a troubadour and a chronicler. Among some of them the art is handed down from fa-
ther to son. Some are attached to a prince or some noble or wealthy family. Others belong to a
griot clan, so the artform is hereditary. The griot is a historian, storyteller, actor, director, dancer..
A griot may be a storyteller but a storyteller is not necessarily a griot.
12. The major African theatre form.
13. The staging of a tale.
14. The director of the staging of a tale.
15 A poem or a chant performed by a griot.
16 Loss of memory.
Diop, Birago, Contes Cholsis, Ed. by Joyce H. Hutchinson,
Cambridge University Press 1967
Grotowsky, Jerzy. Towards a Poor Theatre, Methuen and Co.Ltd. 1969
Hourantier, Marie-Jose. Du Rituel au Theatre-Rltuel, Editions L'Harmattan, 1984
Kelsall, Malcolm. Studying Drama. An Introduction Edward Arnold, A division of Hodder
and Stoughton 1989
Kestelfoot, Lilyan. Les ecrlvalns noirs de langue Frangalse: nalssance dune literature,
Editions de L'lnstitut de Sociologie, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
Plummer, Maxine. The History of Us, Actor Boy Awards 2000, Jamaica, WI
Shedlock, Marie L. The Art of the Story Teller, Dover Publications Inc. 1951
Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre, PAJ Publications 1982
Way, Brian. Development Through Drama, Longman Group Ltd. 1967
Landscape With Faces
There are, in fiction, a few 'complete' characters: people about whom a
writer tells you all you need to know. There are, equally, in painting, a few faces in
which the whole record of a life's passion and experience is not only caught but
prophesied. But a country, any good country, remains essentially undiscovered for
all time. It replenishes and recreates itself from all human endeavour even from
the endeavour of those who try to define it. We can seek only for a sort of truth,
insufficient but valid like our declarations of love, rather than a precise catalogue of
qualities. Always, we are defeated, in the quest for any final response by the
ceaseless and creative dialogues between our memory and the land 'itself on
which we are only guests. Anyone who sets out to commit his country to print must
work within the limits defined by Virginia's Captain John Smith. "As geography
without history", he wrote, more than three centuries ago, "seemeth a carkasse
without motion, so history without geography wandreth as a vagrant without certain
If you wish to understand us in Jamaica, you must also understand that
most Jamaicans would accept John Smith's definition of the meaning of a place.
Perhaps all of us in the New World are informed by this common humility: that we
all belong to the new found land we seized and exploited with such desperate
temerity. Certainly, most people between Alaska and Argentina who have known
something like a history seem to endure this half-ecstatic ecstasy of wanting to
grasp and realise the whole earth; seem to move towards a fulfilment that the
peoples of Europe and Asia or Africa have achieved these many thousand years.
I don't know why this should be so, and the fulfilment spoken of is not only
political: it contains also, a confidence, as yet lacking, of possession by the whole
man. Speaking to his own parish of the Americas, Stephen Vincent Benet said:
They tried to fit you with an English song
And clip your speech into the English tale
But even from the first the words went wrong
The catbird pecked away the nightingale......
They planted England with a stubborn trust
But the cleft dust was never English dust.
For England read any of the great countries or cultures from three conti-
nents whose unreturned prodigals we are. And Jamaica, although itself, is only an
island, 'a part of the maine': a small vivid piece of the great American experience
that began one October morning over five hundred and fifty years ago. There is
less time between Columbus' first landfall and now, than between the collapse of
Rome's Western Empire and the crowning of the first French King.
All the same, five hundred and fifty years is a respectable continuity, and
Jamaica, which Columbus discovered less than two years after the Santa Maria
hove to off Watling Island in the Bahamas, has had Western civic government
without a break since 1509.
That is, our first township, with all the administrative and ecclesiastical and
commercial institutions that go to make a European town, was built in the same
year Henry VIII came to the English throne, a century before Pocohontas saved
Captain John Smith from execution, over three generations before the first Found-
ing Father stepped from a longboat on to Plymouth Rock.
But this continuity of ordered, familiar, European civilization was first built
on a base of genocide without any parallel in the records of man. Since prehistory,
when Cro-Magnon clashed with Neanderthal, there has been nothing with which
we can compare the destruction of the aboriginal, Arawak Indians of the major
Caribbean islands Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba and Jamaica by the Spaniards.
A demon so horrible, so inexplicable, so inaccessible to any forms of inquiry we
now have seems to have entered quite ordinary fathers and descent sons of
Castille, Andalusia, Aragon and soft Valencia, so that even now in the West Indies
we try to pretend that the representatives of fifteen hundred years of Christ found
an unpeopled garden. We dare not face any other alternative.
About three million people inhabited the four big Caribbean islands in
1492. By 1600 they had disappeared forever. Today there is not a West Indian
between the isle of Pines in Cuba or Fjardo in Puerto Rico who could lay claim to a
trace of Arawak blood.
Our evidence for what happened comes from a Spanish priest of the
period who accompanied Columbus on his third voyage of exploration in 1502 and
did not return to Spain until 1547 His Brevisma de la Destruycion de las Indias
occidentales makes more disquieting reading, in a sense, than the court records of
the Nuremberg Eichmann trials. For what he describes we are not the actions of a
corps d'elite of carefully selected, deeply endoctrinated specialist butchers carrying
out official policy, but a compulsive sadism that seemed to infect an entire group
like some new and monstrous plague. In his account, this priest, Bartolome de las
Casas, tells us how:
"the Spaniards, with their horses, their spears
and lances entered into townes, borowes and
villages, sparing neither children nor old men,
neither women with child neither them that lay in,
but that they ripped their bellies, and cut them in
pieces They laid wagers (as to which) with one
stroke of the sword could paunch or bowell a man
in the middest.. They took the little ones by the
heels and crushed their heads against the cliffs
They made certain Gibbets........ everyone
enough for thirteen, in honour and worship of our
Saviour and his twelve Apostles and setting to fire
burned them all quick that were fastened. They
murdered commonly the Lords and Nobility on
this fashion (by making) certain grates.... laid on
pitchforks, and made a little fire underneath....
One time I saw four or five of the principal Lords
roasted and broyled upon these gredirons. Also
(there) were two or three of these gredirons, gar-
nished with the like furniture, and for that they
cried out pitously, which thing troubled the Cap-
taine that he could not then sleep, he com-
manded to strangle them. (But) the Sergeant....
would not have them strangled, but himself put-
ting bullets in their mouths, to the end that they
would not cry, put to the fire, until they we re softly
roasted after his desire"
"In Cuba one time the Indians came to meet us,
and to receive us with victuals, and delicate
cheere, and with all entertainment. See inconti-
nent the Devil, which put himself into the Span-
iards, to put them all to the edge of the sword in
my presence, without any cause whatsoever,
more than three thousand soules... men, women
"An officer of the Kings, to whom they gave for his
share three hundred Indians, of whom at the end
of three months there died by him in the travail of
the Mines two hundred and sixty.... in three or
four months..... there died more than six thousand
children, by reason that they had plucked away
from them their mothers and fathers, which they
sent into the Mines"
And so on. Nothing like it, perhaps, exists in any other literature. Its very
monotony has a certain hideous power. And even Las Casas, who as a fifteenth-
century Spaniard could have been no stranger to the sight of slow death, confesses
to a sort of paralyzed incomprehension.
So must we. For these Arawak Indians whom the Spaniards exterminated
within forty odd years of the first landing seem to have been the gentlest, least
aggressive, most benign peoples who have ever lived. Trying to recapture their
existence now, one has to force the imagination not into the rigo!.rs of history but
into the golden, static sweetness of myth. They lived not in Arcadia but in Eden.
Generation succeeded generation, each stupefied by a harmony of abundant food,
placental climate and an instinct of benevolence so pervasive, so complete, that
even their occasional tribal conflicts were more like rough games than war.
The above is not a creative exaggeration. Every account we have from the
brief period between their discovery and their disappearance agrees on their
almost legendary gentleness and innocence. Few people, apparently, have ever
designed a culture so dedicated to the untrammelled enjoyment of the senses and
of each other. Few people, certainly, have ever designed a culture so ill-equipped
to withstand intrusions. Historically speaking, they had no warrant for survival.
Almost in the same decade that the Spaniards entered their idyllic lives, the Caribs
- a tribe in the small islands six hundred miles to the east had begun to make their
first raids on Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba and Jamaica, and had broken the
centuries of tranquility we have been describing.
Like the Arawaks, these Caribs have the quality of creations in a fable.
Their ferocity, their devotion to war as the only way of life, has about it something
archetypal. Other men existed simply to be slaughtered in battle and eaten. Unlike
most other cannibals they really enjoyed the taste of human flesh and ate it in
preference to the brute protein turtle and a staggering variety of delicious fish -
that teemed in the shallows around every island. Although they inhabited those
islands that average only a couple of hundred square miles in area, islands, one
would have thought, particularly vulnerable to European military techniques, they
were able to prevent the Spaniards from establishing permanent colonies. They
were never, by the way, so much conquered by Europeans as systematically
reduced over three centuries. Their last major engagement with white troops did
not take place until the very end of the eighteenth century. There we may leave
them. Their influence on the Jamaican scene was limited to the habits of self-de-
fence rather than warfare that the Arawaks had just begun to learn when Columbus
landed. And our interest in them as faces in our landscape is hypothetical. That is,
had the Spaniards come fifty years later, they would have found, probably, a war
culture of Caribs and half-Caribs bred out of Arawak concubines, settled in an
island too large to conquer cheaply. We would have been now describing a rather
different landscape, and drawing very different faces.
Sailing south by east from Cuba, Columbus raised Jamaica on The third
May, 1494, on his second voyage, less than two years after the first formal
establishment of a European town in the New World. Because of its length, about
a hundred and fifty miles, and the height of the mountains (Blue Mountain Peak
rises 7,402 feet above sea-level), and because he was still convinced that Asia lay
just over the horizon, Columbus at first believed Jamaica to be the old continent of
his inspiration, surprised, at last, on its eastern flank by Europe. He was soon to be
disappointed. It was an island, like Hispanolia and Cuba, inhabited by the same
neolithic, copper-skinned, bookless innocents, whose only use for gold was orna-
ment not exchange.
They met him at first, those stone-age innocents, in long canoes fashioned
out of cotton trees and the almost vanished Jamaican cedar. They were warlike at
first. Or rather they showed the desperate and appealing hostility of badly fright-
ened children backed into a corner by a strange adult. Carib raids, and rumours
brought by canoe from Hispanolia and Cuba of cruelties their imagination could
hardly encompass, had shaken them from their several centuries of affectionate
curiosity. The Spaniards, who had been attempting to sound the approach to what
is now Port Maria, stood oif and sailed west to Oracabessa. Here they were met
with more embarrassed demonstrations and answered, suddenly, with a broadside
of cannon. The Arawaks immediately offered conciliation, accepted presents and
became subjects of- the Spanish crown, although they were not to know this last
part of the exchange for another eight years.
The Indian population of Jamaica was probably close on to one hundred
thousand. They were probably the best nourished primitive community of earth
and obtained their staples with less labour than any people before or since. The
only crime was occasional theft, and punishment ior that, impaling alive, was such
an extreme sanction in their almost completely permissive society as to make it
almost non-existent. Their chiefs, called caciques, would appear to have ruled by
a process of willingly conceded despotism. But since they had few laws, fewer
wars (and those nearly bloodless), and no ambition, tl ere was little occasion for the
exercise of authority.
They believed in a pantheon of tutelary gods, zemis, but had no formal
meeting place for public worship: each household had a collection of idols before
which, on occasion, they beat a sort of tambourine and deliberately vomited to
purify themselves. Their priests, or bohitos, were respected, especially those with
powers of healing, but in an environment where nothing challenged and everything
supported, their function was limited. Both priests and laymen used tobacco
smoke, inhaled through both nostrils at once, to induce hallucinogenic trances.
The Arawaks fished a great deal, planted enough maize and cassava to
supplement their inexhaustible supplies of oysters, fish and turtle, and hunted if
following small dogs through a cool mountain forest without poisonous snakes or
anything carnivorous, in pursuit of a large, shy rodent, the coney, can be called
Replenishing the food supply was not, however, more than a recreation.
Even today, in some of the uncultivated northeastern valleys of the Blue Moun-
tains, or on reclaimed swamp lands of the western savannahs, an experimental
plot will give some idea of what must have been Jamaica's quite fantastic ferility -
before overcropping exhausted the soil and deforestation lowered the rainfall. And
always there was the sea: they must have eaten hugely to judge from the size of
the oyster-shell middens that have been uncovered on the slopes above the hot
Their principal activities appear to have been long bouts of dancing, a
competitive game, called the batos, played with a light, vegetable ball, and making
love. Their sole contributions to art were their representative idols figurines that
are childlike and hasty rather than crude or symbolically distorted and the weaving
of cotton hammocks which they dyed brilliantly. Happy, humane, dim and libidi-
nous, they seemed to have outragellsome conviction of life's purpose in the minds
of those who first took possession of them. Either that, or they evoked some
ancestral nostalgia for a lost garden of the senses. Only in this way, one feels, can
we explain the unforgiving fury with which their long halcyon sleepwalk of a life was
We may, also, qualify our pity for the horrors of their exterminati onby
remembering the revenge they took on the world that tortured them to death.
Syphilis, with them epidemic and hardly more serious than influenza to us, was
their most significant contribution to the culture of Western man. With the humble
spirochete they added a squalid terror to the act of sex.
The Spaniards returned to Jamaica in 1503. Columbus, by this time an
ageing disappointed man in poor health, was on his back to Hispanolia from an
expedition to the mainland which had been haunted by failure at every stage.
South of Cuba, a storm strained his two ships almost beyond repair. They barely
made it into what is now St. Ann's Bay, which Columbus called Santa Gloria, and
ran their vessels on to the beach. To sail them the hundred miles to Hispanolia
was out of the question. Columbus had them lashed together under an awning,
bought a canoe from the Indians who had come down from the hills with gifts of
food, and sent two volunteers to seek help from Ovando, the Governor of Hispano-
lia. He was to wait a long time.
On May 20, 1504, the first armed engagement between Europeans in the
New World occurred near an Indian settlement called Mayma, on the heights
overlooking Santa Gloria. The encounter was between fifty men led by
Batholomew Columbus and a party of mutineers under one Porras, of whom we
know little except that he was unpleasant and had a sister who was mistress to an
influential grandee. Six men died under fire that day, and to Columbus, bedridden
with gout, abandoned by those who hated him in Hispanolia, shipwrecked, out of
favour with his King, those deaths must have marked the final tarnishing of a bright
vision. Two years later he was dead himself, at Valledolid, in Spain.
Jamaica now came into the personal fief of Diego Columbus, the new
Admiral of the Indies. In 1510, quietly manoeuvering through the intrigues of his
rivals in Hispanolia, he sent his own man, Juan d'Esquibel, to take possession of
his estate. Landing at Santa Gloria, d'Esquibel led his men up the slopes and
beside a small river, on a site just below Mayma, he formally founded the first
Jamaican township of New Seville. Not long afterwards, Ferdinand Columbus
came over from Hispanolia and founded the first monastery.
The island that the new colonists now began to exploit was unusually fertile
even in a sea of fertile lands. It was, is, a long jagged backbone of mountains set
in a ring of gently sloping plain which varies in depth, from a ribbon under sheer,
forested walls on the north-east to wide, dry savannahs on the south and west.
The Blue Mountains of the east are high, peaks of five to six thousand feet jumbled
around the seven thousand four hundred and two foot of the Peak. All this packed
into a box only twenty crow miles from the north to south coasts and about forty
miles from the eastern sea to the valley of the Hope River. It is a terrain of sleep
misty valleys tunnelling up to the peaks, long ridges, narrow as a mule's spine with
cool, tart air blowing up the flanks under the rain clouds. To reach a point you can
almost shout to across a valley sometimes means a day's walk down and up. Over
in the John Crow Mountains there are areas known in any one generation by
perhaps half a dozen men. Formed of limestone, there is more water under the
surface than above it, and in some parts a man could fall a long way down the
sinkholes. If you want to move a yard off the paths, you need a machete, and trying
to push your way through a tangle of fairy bamboo makes as much sense as
running into a barbed wire fence.
For those who like to name trees, there are as many as anyone could wish
for juniper, cedar, ferns, yacca, soapwood. There are birds doves, woodpeck-
ers, elaenia, hawk and the call of the solitaire plaintive, thin and lost, has a way of
adhering to the heart's memory like the sound of a shepherd boy's pipe.
Going west, the mountains are lower, although still high enough and
tumbled enough to dictate where the roads must go. In the far west there is the
Cockpit Country: an extraordinary agglomeration of densely bushed limestone pits
connected by paths hardly broader than your foot. A nightmare campaign ground
for a company of regular soldiers, but a great country for guerrillas as the runaway
Maroons found in the early eighteenth century.
On the north the plain strip and the lower slopes are green, luxuriant and
moist with the rain brought by the trades. In the south as you go west, the
landscape takes on that austere, functional handsomeness of the real savannah
country, with the tree tops spread flat to hold the water and always the memory of
dry and brown under the grass. In some years down on the Pedro Plains, it is as if
a hug, glowing flat-iron had been passed over the land, the crops wither into brittle,
scrawny parodies and the earth seems to set like concrete.
But if the mountains give Jamaica its shape, it is the savannahs that give it
colour. It is on the savannahs and in the lower valleys that the great flowering trees
and shrubs produce colours so brilliant and so clamorous that coming back to them
after a time in a more subtle, temperate zone can be nearly painful. They seem to
bruise the eyes and to stretch one's capacity for appreciation like an unexercised
muscle. A flame of the forest, for example, come upon unexpectedly around abend
in the road startles like a shout; against the Wedgewood glaze of a March sky the
blossoms seem, literally, radiant with the heat of fire.
For those who like broad, placid reaches of silvered water, Jamaica cannot
offer anything comparable to the Thames or the Loire. There are about one
hundred and twenty rivers, but in the north they tend to be short, pell-mell,
greeny-blue affairs, while in the south they are either dried beds for half the year or
dun, practical-looking streams looped across the savannah. Each river has its
beautiful moments of pool or falls, but fresh water in Jamaica is a grace note in the
And so to the sea that is kinder to us than it is to so many other islanders.
At least, we do not have in our lore many of those stark and ritual themes of tragic
drama in which the sea becomes a living antagonist. Perhaps it is because our
relationship to the sea is severely practical: it adds to our diet, it is a place of
recreation, and it has thoughtfully chewed out a surprising number of large, calm
harbours. We do have our accidents, of course; for as long as men go out to fish,
men will drown. But it has never offered the savage and noble challenge of other
seas as the land has never demanded more than a prosaic and considerable
Between the founding of New Seville and the British conquest one hundred
and forty-five years later, Jamaica seemed to impose its own honeyed torpor on the
Spaniards. This insiduous, and unquenchable, quietude is the constant factor at
every stage of the Jamaican equation. How much of this is due to climate alone,
how much due to climate plus a landscape which seems to indulge the senses like
the palm of a gigantic maternal hand, how much due to the climate and landscape
plus historical circumstance, nobody could assess properly.
It exists, and the energetic or ardent soul can no more dismiss its influence
than a man who wants to keep awake can deny the power of those languid, golden
arcs traced by a hypnotist's watch. One can be as ambitious, creative, and
purposeful by any demands of climate or geography but one has to achieve these
states by a special effort of will.
Certainly the Spanish settlers never seemed to have made this over-
reaching gesture. At a time when their compatriots were establishing miracles of
empire on the mainland, when Hispanolia was enjoying the reach-me-down glitter
of a Viceregal court, when Cuba, only ninety miles north, was awarding quite
respectable degrees in law and theology, the Jamaican Spaniard reverted to a
level of rustic simplicity scarcely distinguishable from simple-mindedness.
Generation succeeded generation, fathers became grandfathers, then
great-grandfathers and then mouldering ancestors, and apart from the basic mate-
rial amenities of urbanised Latin culture nothing can be said to have happened in
Jamaica. A mellow, selfish obscurity conceals rather than darkens Jamaican
history during the Spanish period. Even the occasional bursts of enterprise like
gold mining and viticulture in the early years, or cacao and sugar experimentation
later have an unmistakable quality of dotty inconclusiveness. In 1655, a century
and a half after the original seventy pioneers had landed under Juan d' Esquibel,
the population had risen to only about four thousand, including Negro slaves; the
only coin in general circulation was a copper piece equivalent to a farthing; and the
destiny of the northern forests had actually increased so much that an English
expeditionary force of 1658 found it logistically more feasible to attack the Spanish
resistance fighters from the sea rather than overland. The modern historian, with
the best will in the world, can add little more to Spanish achievement in Jamaica
than what was said by the English adventurer, apostate and confidence man,
Gage, in the first decades of the seventeenth century said:
'Nothing has been written of these parts for these
hundred years past...... even since the first con-
quest of the Spaniards, who are contented to lose
the honour of that wealth and felicity they have
purchased by their great endeavours, so long as
they may enjoy the safety of retaining what they
have gotten in peace and security'
All the same, on an individual or domestic level, Spanish Jamaica must
have been a consoling bed in which to dream. Even for the Negro slaves.
After the initial, serious enterprise of its first governor, d'Esquibel, who
founded a capital harbours, ship yards, vineyards, sugar plantations, a theatre the
lot and the rapacious unsuccessful search for precious minerals by his successor,
de Garay, the island gradually acquired the pattern of exploitation it was to present
to the English invaders in 1655.
Around 1538, New Seville was abandoned and a square was pegged out
above the Rio Cobre river on the southern savannahs. They called it Villa de la
Vega the English later mistakenly called it St. Jago de la Vega and it is the oldest
area of continuous urban settlement in Jamaica; only a generation or so short of
being one of the oldest in the New World. Nowadays, in what has become Spanish
Town, when one walks past the weathered, shabby, elegant Georgian facades of
the British administrative structures, one is still following the boundaries laid down
by d'Esquibel, and the Anglican cathedral still has a useable tunnel between it and
the ground where the monastery dormitories once stood.
Estate land consisted of eight or nine hatos, enormous tracts of the
southern savannahs and the lower valley floors, between Puerto Negrillo and
Morante. On these hatos, owned by about twelve hidalgos, thousands of beef
cattle and horses roamed at free range or went feral. So many, indeed, that the
English invading army of 1655 shot twenty thousand beef animals in four months
and considered the horses as vermin. On the unused uplands and mountains
behind the hatos, even greater number of hogs descendants of a domestic breed
run wild were the source of what appears to have been the only considerable
export. The creatures were hunted for their lard which was then shipped out from
Montego Bay to Havana. A few crops were grown, of course; tobacco, vegetables,
sugar cane and the like, but hardly more than would feed the population and
provision ships. It was, essentially, a barter economy in an age when the first
intoxicating juices of capitalism were turning life into a big brawling party else-
where. Almost comic are the expressions of outraged disappointment from the
occasional French and English freebooters who went to the trouble of raiding the
island. The Spanish Jamaicans, they seem to have left, were hardly playing the
game in being so under-stocked with portable wealth.
The course of Spanish Empire and the accident of geographical position
had combined to make Jamaica redundant. By and large, the Jamaicans of the
day, both Spanish masters and Negro slaves, seemed quite happy with this
arrangement. They lived lives as static, third-rate and nearly contented as those of
their Arawak predecessors. They have left us almost nothing to regret or admire.
Their only legacy: a few place names (Rio Cobre, Savanna-la-Mar, Ariguanaboa,
Ocho Rios, etc) a few names for plants, animals or fruit (docey, gaulin), the rubble
of even fewer ruins, and the site of the oldest township in the island.
On paper Cromwell's Western Design was one of the most daring and
ambitious projects in England's imperial history. In fact it remains one of the most
dismal failures in British military annals. It called for a series of swift and terrible
attacks all along the lightly guarded but crucial flank of the Spanish Empire: the
investment and seizure of the key points of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba,
Cartagena, Porto Bello and Panama. In the end, without any glory whatsoever to
the invaders, it occupied Jamaica.
The most romantic Jamaican historian could find very little in the British
conquest to stir the imagination of a schoolboy. No desperate sorties, no storm-
ings of the breach, nothing serene, chivalrous or heroic marks the episode. All that
saves it from our utter contempt is the nearly inspired element of farce that
informed every moment of it. The expedition consisted of over 9,000 soldiers and
sailors. They were commanded by two generals, Penn in charge of the fleet, and
Venables, the commander on land. There were also two political commissioners.
From their arrival in the Caribbean, this considerable force had done little
to enhance the prestige of the England that had produced Cromwell and the New
Model Army. On the Franco-British island of St. Kitts, one of the Commissioners,
while trying to recruit fresh troops, falls off his horse vomiting drunk. In Hispanolia,
which Drake had captured and held to ransom with only a thousand Elizabethians,
an engaging local Irishman, instead of leading them to water, brings them under
the guns of a Spanish fort. Attacked by a detachment of Spanish lancers, General
Venables hides behind a tree, emerging after the fight to accuse his troops of
cowardice. Between soldiers and sailors there is such suspicion that the army
always insists on embarking first in case their naval comrades up anchor and
depart while the military is still ashore. The troops, lacking the hard-learned
disciplines of tropical hygiene, begin to decimate themselves with every sort of flux,
rheum and intestinal complaint. Venables has brought his lady along, and enjoys
her moodily at nights, aboard ship, while his men lie ashore in the rain.
Finally, with the Western Design now only an interesting document, Penn,
Venables and the Commissioners decided that Jamaica was the best prize they
could nope for. On May 10, 1655 the expedition landed at Passage Fort in
Kingston Harbour, about six miles across the savannah from Villa de la Vega.
From here on farce becomes black comedy. The Spaniards capitulated, after
waiting one week for the attack they had anticipated any army of 9,000 would
mount on an unfortified town of 2,000, and which never came. The week's respite
gave them a chance to hide their valuables, free their Negros who took to the
mountains, and to form a small maquis type band of whites under one of the
hidalgos, Don Chrustoval Arnaldo de Ysassi, the only character in this feeble,
untidy drama who emerges with something like a capacity for heroic gesture.
By the terms of capitulation, every Spanish man, woman and child had to
leave the island with only what they could carry; the only exception to this being a
few families of Sephardic Jews, Portugese in origin, who had found a haven of
sorts in the tolerant sloth of Spanish Jamaica. The Spaniards departed over the
passes of Monte Diablo and Manesca (Moneague) to the north coast and Cuba.
They went, from all contemporary accounts, weeping: for Jamaica had, over five
generations, enmeshed them with that extraordinary, inexplicable sense of rela-
tionship, certainly feminine, almost martial, which is the genius of the place.
Nobody, as far as I know, has ever explained the passion of hapless attachment
that seems to invest those who inherit this island, after two or three generations of
continuous settlement. No other island in the Caribbean imposes quite this same
implacable and exclusive claim not so much of society as of place. All Jamaicans
over the last five centuries have acknowledged this, one way or another, and most
acute visitors have recognized it. Certainly, the Hispanic Jamaicans of 1655
confirm this irrational and untranslateable act of possession. For centuries after
the diaspora of the original Spanish families, their descendants solemnly renewed,
in Havana; the title deeds to ancestral Jamaican land.
Within four weeks of their victory, the English had slaughtered every edible
creature not only cows but horses and donkeys on the plains around Spanish
Town. For twelve miles in any direction, animals shot for their tongues, livers or
choice cuts festered under the dry-season sun. Within four or five months, the
army was eating its own dogs and dying at the rate of a hundred and forty a week.
Between them the freed Negroes and Ysassi's resistance had killed 1,000 strag-
glers; carrying the fight into Spanish Town itself, where they shot the English in
their beds. One letter from a soldier of the occupation about sums up the first fruits
of the English conquest: "All (our) imaginary mountains of gold are turned into
dross...... and graves all over the town that is a very Golgotha"
Use of the island, rather than occupation, begins just after Charles II
comes to the throne. Two factors induced this: the buccaneers and the European
demand for sugar. The buccaneers, for all the two-pence coloured film-flam written
about them were essentially hard-faced men who did well out of an undeclared
war. Entrepreneurs within the limits of a ferocious understanding, they raked the
Spanish possessions around Jamaica for every coin they could carry. Any realistic
description of their methods and morals is not quite believable. Port Royal, their
headquarters, was not so much a town as a gaudy brothel under Royal authority.
They provided the basis of a necessary capital accumulation, and as soon as they
had served their purpose they were repudiated.
The sugar cane, however, was a very different matter. Jamaican society
was created for sugar; Jamaican customs and culture were fashioned by sugar;
sugar, for two hundred years, was the only reason behind Jamaica' s existence as
a centre of human habitation.
The society created by sugar was rigid, base and greedy. It consumed life,
energy, thought and manured the industrial revolution of England with the profits
from its labour. Few communities in history have ever been so unanimously
dedicated to the mere production of goods at a profit; fewer yet have ever contrib-
uted less to the art, science or government of mankind. No patrician class has ever
been more loutist than the Jamaican plantocracy before Emancipation; no servile
class has ever had fewer examples of humane or noble principle to which they
might aspire than the Jamaican slaves of the seventeenth, eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries. The present miracle of the Jamaican people is that we
managed to preserve (or assemble intuitively) the decencies of human intercourse
which are now established. No Patrick Henry's, no Washington's, no Jefferson's
and no Bolivar's inspire our scene. Gross, scruffy and limited men step into each
other's shoes for no other purpose but to make fast money for other, subtle, elegant
men to invest elsewhere. Somehow the land and its people survives this, even
fashions its peculiar validity from all this. None of us, now, in Jamaica, can explain
exactly how we have managed to rough together the beginnings of a gentle and
sophisticated community from such material.
At the top of the early British Jamaican landscape were the landed proprie-
tors, owner of anything from several hundred to several thousand acres. These
began to appear a few years a.ter, for want of a more appropriate word, we must
call the conquest, settling first on the dry southern savannahs where sugar cane
could be best grown and more easily hauled.
From 1660 to 1830, the purchase, exploitation and sale of land was the
major creative activity on the Jamaican scene, even after settlement moved to the
north and to the west. There are very few Jamaican families today who have held
title deeds to landed property for more than a hundred years continuously. Get rich
and get quit was a way of life.
Next in rank were the attorneys and lawyers who supervised the conduct
of the sugar estates and who conducted the endless litigation over land. It is
estimated that, by 1800, the attorneys of Jamaica were earning some 500,000
annually: a sum equivalent to the island's budget.
Slightly below this attorney class was a middle echelon of retail merchants,
tradesmen and estate overseers. One descended then through the white crafts-
men and skilled artisans to the sweated labour of the estate book-keepers, men
whose duty it was to supervise the slave' s labour, who were wretchedly paid,
housed worse, worked to a point of stupefaction and who were sustained only by
the hope of eventual promotion to overseer rank.
It must be stressed, however, that these distinctions among the whites
were based almost entirely on wealth. Good fortune, or the fatal illness of another,
could move a man easily up the scale of social regard: and the humblest, most
overworked, most under-nourished book-keeper, dreaming his dreams of landed
proprietorship on a greasy pallet, had legal rights and social privileges denied to
the most pampered house slave or to the wealthiest free man of colour.
This free coloured class will be described a little later in the chapter. They
are an interesting and important group, and in no other Caribbean sugar island did
the mixture of Europeans and Negro evolve quite the same pattern of relationships
to their society.
The base of this monolithic social structure were the slaves. They far
outnumbered all other classes combined and the proportion of slave to free grew
larger in every decade. Just prior to the Restoration there were 4,500 whites
including hundreds of small farmers to 1,400 Negroes. By 1734, the Negro
population had risen to 87,000, while the whites had not quite doubled their
numbers. The small farmers had long been swallowed up by the advance of the
Just before daybreak, on any morning during the period introduced above,
the sound of a conch shell woke the plantation. The field slaves were assembled
in gangs under white book-keepers and black drivers and deployed into the wide
acres of green that surrounded the great house. First the cutters, men, followed by
the younger women who gathered the cut cane into bundles, then pregnant or older
women as trash gatherers and weeders, finally even the younger children under an
older woman with a switch, who acted as extra weeders and tidiers. In addition,
there were supplementary gangs of loaders, haulers, trench repairers, etc. Sugar
cane was a simple crop, remarkably resistant to disease, easily grown, but it
required unremitting labour. During the cutting and crushing season, when raw
cane was processed into sugar, the place became feverish. The factory was an
ordered chaos of roaring crushers, undying fires and bodies that streamed sweat.
An indescribable, cloying sweet stink filled the air for miles around. Nobody except
those in the great house escaped the pressure. The slaves worked until they
staggered, but the book-keepers slept where they dropped and ate where they
During the growing season, work was considered eased; yet even then the
maintenance and preparation of ground made for long and monotonous labour.
Life on the cattle-pens was, of course, far more leisurely and humane, but the
sugar plantation was the heart of the Jamaican body, its source of life and wealth.
Such wealth, too, although little enough remained in Jamaica. In Bath one
morning, King George 1111 Day was spoiled because the carriage and four of a West
Indian visitor so outshone the royal equipage. Lady Holland s Jamaican fortune
added splendour to Whig assemblies and contributed heavily to Charles James
Fox's campaign chest. Beckford of Fonthill, the author of Vathek, supported his
lonely, tormented aesthete's life on the labour of over two thousand slaves and the
product of twenty thousand Jamaican acres. In 1802, old Simon Taylor told a
Governor's wife that his ambition was to make his nephew the wealthiest com-
moner in Europe. Each year the value of the sugar islands increased. France
considered she had made a smart deal when she persuaded Britian to let her keep
Grenada in exchange for Canada. By the mid-eighteenth Century, the Caribbean
territories represented some of the highest-priced real estate in the world; the
centre of strategy in major wars; cocooned with the flower of two navies; the chief
source of that capital appreciation with which England financed her industrial
In England the returned West Indian was often a figure of fun. His mind
lacked style; his speech was scarcely to be distinguished from that of his
blackamoor valet; his pretensions were frequently ludicrous. But he or she
brought a regal offering to any marriage settlement, and for this everything was
forgiven. He infused, too, an element of coloured blood that did nobody any harm.
For despite the meticulous definitions of colour on the statute books of every West
Indian colony, it was biologically impossible for a race outnumbered by more than
ten to one to keep itself pure. Thackeray's Miss Schwartz is aptly and consciously
named, and not a few of the great English landed families carried, in Victoria's
reign, the still discernible traces of African genes.
Around the rhythms of plantation labour, a social life of a sort evolved. In
retrospect, it seems a stagnant, brutal and materialistic existence, but occasionally
some attractive aspects emerge to lighten the gross monotony of the general
pattern. What must be kept in mind, though, about Jamaican-West Indian society
is that it was servile. The only completely slave culture in history.
Slavery, of course, is as old as organised man. There was nothing in West
Indian plantation slavery, granted the fortuitous differences of colour, to distinguish
it, say, from the pitiless exploitation of slaves in the Athenian silver mines or on the
Roman estates. Except for one factor: its total nature. Society in the ancient world,
as in the American South, was always at least half free. There were always
enough free citizens to think the thoughts, establish the customs, generate the
moral climate that only flourish in liberty. Slavery, inevitably, more or less corrupts
any community that tolerates it. A community that is nine-tenths slave is corrupted
beyond edemption. The free in such a community are only technically different
from tt a bond: otherwise they are possessed, without realising it, by slavish
perceptions, slavish attitudes, slavish morality. And the great hollow place at the
centre of such a common unity is the ignorance of the meaning of responsible
conduct. Personal advantage, without any real concept of the public good, is the
essence of all slave relationships: it must be if the slave is to survive. It would be
fairly true to say, also, that for two centuries Jamaica accommodated few other
relationships between man and man, or man and his society at large. We are just
beginning to unlearn the bitter, sterile lessons of those first two hundred years.
It was this extremely low level of public life that seems to have made the
deepest impression on all the more acute visitors to Jamaica in the Age of Sugar.
General Nugent who was Governor between 1801 and 1806, has left, in his private
papers, indictments that are all the more crushing for their lack of heat. He writes:
(As for) the Clergy, they are generally unedu-
cated for the Profession and have in many in-
stances procured their livings by Purchase or for
want of more respectable candidates...... (the
lawyers) seldom rise above Mediocrity. They are
in general without any qualification for the Bar...
The inhabitants of the island were mostly of 'low
origin, (paying) very little attention to religion.
Another writer, about a generation before Nugent, gives in considered
terms his opinion that:
a great number, even among the most opulent of
this country, consider a book that is not an ac-
count book as a useless superfluous thing, and
view all arts and information as useless and con-
temptible that do not contribute to the production
of cent per cent... The teachers in general are
little better than half-educated adventurers.......
they have neither the courage, the talents, nor the
inclination to command respect.
The few free schools established in the island, General Nugent notes later,
'are chiefly used for the education of Children of Jews and Free People of Colour'
This general coarseness and mediocrity of Jamaican public life was further
confirmed by the consistent absenteeism of those like Beckford or 'Monk' Lewis
who might have given a civilised resonance to the island. The great magnates who
remained, like old Simon Taylor, might have been shrewd enough in 'the produc-
tion of cent per cent', might even have been admirably conscientious in their
discharge of public duties, but they lacked tone. They could copy only the simpler
aspects of the rich and complex English culture; their appreciations were vulgar,
and they were easily bored by subtle challenges to the intellect. For two centuries,
as leaders of society, they set a prime example of self-satisfied philistinism, and the
cordial respect paid to the aggressively philistine is still one of the most tiresome
aspects of the Jamaica scene.
A large part of this last mentioned characteristic is, however, due not only
to the lack of education and the dedicated money-making of early Jamaica, but is
a direct result of the extreme shortage of refined and educated women in that
society. Diaries such as those kept by Lady Nugent ( wife of the General men-
tioned above) letters, and travellers' accounts, all underline, if only by implication,
what must have been an inconsolable and irreplaceable loss for representatives of
a Western culture. Dinner after dinner, soiree after soiree, gathering after gather-
ing, is an excessively male affair. Women there are, but not enough. The intricate,
sometimes painful, always exhilarating tournament of equals which has been,
whatever its faults, Europe's unique contribution to sexual relationships was sadly
missing in Jamaica. The white Jamaican man had women enough to use, as we
shall see, but he lacked the essential irritation of an opposing female world. It was
a male society, a bachelor society, but it was not really a masculine one. There
were no dangers for a man to endure as there were, say, on the equally
underfeminised frontier and there were not enough women of equal status to
reflect a man's masculinity.
This disparity between the sexes among the masters is one, but only one,
of the factors that have contributed to the extreme femininity of the Jamaican male
today. He is not effeminate, but he is often, and quite confusingly, a womanly
creature. Patterns of compensation on his part for a feminine lack still persist, and
nobody but a fool or a propagandist could deny the destructive, because unac-
knowledged, current of homosexual impulse that runs beneath the surface of male
sexual expression in Jamaica. There are, as has been suggested, other, perhaps
more important, factors arising from the relationships between the masters and the
other classes, bequeathed by the sexual frames of reference in which the other
classes operated. The masters have been considered first because they, to a
large extent, acted out roles and behaviour patterns which were imitated con-
sciously or unconsciously by the Negro slaves and the Free Coloured.
By sheer genetic weight, the African slave gave the main definition to the
face of Jamaica. He made it a black country, whoever governs now, and in another
three generations the elaborate racial distinctions we draw in our census figures
will be, largely, meaningless. By sheer obstinate individualism the Negro slave
made possible our present society. His transference, from a system of values by
which he was owned and stabled like a draught animal to another, under which he
had to assume the obligations of freedom, is a political marvel. This can be stated
without sentimentality. There is very little in history comparable to the scrupulous
and peaceful dignity with which a nation of slaves, utterly untrained for citizenship,
took up the burdens of freedom. One localised rural rebellion and one serious
urban riot were the total of violent physical protest in one hundred and twenty-eight
years between Emancipation and full Independence with a two-party Parliament
and a bipartisan constitution.
It is not easy for us to imagine now the cultural shocks that the West Indian
slaves were expected to endure. On the African coast they were shaved, branded
and, literally, stripped naked of every possession or artifact that might remind them
of their homelands. They were transported four thousand miles, packed in the
foetid womb of a ships' hold, and reborn on a new shore. Once landed, individuals
were, whenever possible, sold away from such of their families or fellow tribesmen
who might have made the journey with them. This, in order to lessen the risks of
communication, plot and revolt. Sold, they were forced to learn a new language
quickly and then put to a routine of work that left them little time for anything else
but eating, sleeping and the cultivation of their own food plots. They could estab-
lish family life or some kind if they were lucky, but it must be remembered that there
was a serious shortage of African women, also, and that the masters tended to
discourage stable sexual partnerships, believing, wrongly, that these lowered the
birth rate. Any education outside of simple instruction in the language and mores
of the masters was barely tolerated. Indeed, it was not until the nineteenth century
that the majority of the owning class grudgingly accepted the idea of the slaves
learning a Christian catechism. And even this concession was made only because
it had proved nearly impossible to prevent the slaves gathering for worship.
Missionary activity of any sort was viewed with the deepest distaste right down to
Emancipation, and the Established Church did very little to offend the planters in
this respect. Such conversion as took place was the work of the Nonconformist
clergy, and they operated under difficulties and at a considerable personal risk.
And yet, despite this succession of psychic injuries, the slaves stubbornly
fashioned a way of life tough enough, flexible enough, wide enough in scope to
survive decently the tremendous shock of freedom.
The way of life evolved was based largely on the European model as
established by their masters. And this need not surprise us. The Africans were, for
the most part, representatives from highly sophisticated societies with elaborate
political and cultural institutions. It was their very sophistication that made them
enslaveable. Only a civilised people would have assimilated such brutal and
exhausting changes without being destroyed. Cut off from their own roots, the
Africans in Jamaica used whatever came to hand to reestablish the securities of
shared experience. The instinctive pragmatism, the boredom or impatience with
theory or ideology that characterises so much of Jamaican thinking today is a result
The rapid mastery of European crafts by the African slaves is an example
of this capacity for practical assimilation. Jamaica as a whole, and the plantation
economy in particular, was very much dependent on skilled craftsmen resident in
the island: freight charges would have made life too expensive otherwise. As the
colony grew older, these craftsmen came increasingly from the ranks of the slaves.
Wheelwrights, ironworkers, coopers, cabinetmakers, masons, all did work as good
as anything Europe produced at the time. Some of it still survives, invested with
that handsomeness and dignity peculiar to the old and lovingly handwrought.
Indeed, Jamaica became so self-sufficient with respect to its everyday amenities
that certain planters came to rely almost entirely on what was made on their own
estates. And in a few years a wealthy woman in St. Ann had an entire great house
- which included such features as a perfectly proportioned, sixty-foot dining room,
spiral and fantailing staircases built without reference to an architect's plan, by
labourers from her property.
Quick and efficient adaptation to the master' s way of doing things was, of
course, the road to promotion, to privilege, above all to security of tenure, since a
master was reluctant to part with the slave who made his furniture or kept wheels
on the great cane carts. It also meant, in many cases, manumission, Jamaica
having a better record for the liberality with which this was granted than most other
This class of integrated slaves craftsmen, artisans, drivers and personal
attendants soon began to form an 'elite' The colony was not very old before very
definite caste distinctions began to be drawn, by the slaves themselves, within their
own ranks. The 'Creole', or Jamaican-born slave, treated the 'salt-water Creole'
those born aboard ship as an equal but cadet branch of the upper group. Both
looked down, with an odd mixture of fear and distaste, on the 'Guineaman' or
African-born, regarding him as a savage, unpredictable creature. 'Monk' Lewis,
the liberal and indulgent absentee, relates a revealing incident that took place
during one of his two visits to his estate. In the course of a fight between two young
women slaves, one girl seized the other's thumb and nearly severed it with her
teeth. 'I asked her Mother', Lewis writes, 'how she came to have so bad a daughter
when all her sons were so mild and good' 'Oh, massa', she answered, 'the girls'
father was a Guineaman' Another proprietor, Long, writing earlier, says that the
island-born slaves 'hold the Africans in utmost contempt, calling them....... Guinea
birds'. And as late as 1868 (thirty years after Emancipation), the amateur philogist,
Russell, describes how careful the ultra-respectable small settlers of the mountain
districts were in avoiding the usage of such African words as babwa that may have
carried over into English dialect.
These observers write from a European bias, and certainly much of their
information would have pandered to that bias. But there yet seems to be a great
deal of evidence to support the appraisal that the native Jamaican slave who
having decided to make, force de mieux, an identification with his master's culture,
looked down on the Guineaman or African proper who, spewed out of the slave
ships in a state of truculent apathy, had to be moulded into the patterns of a crass,
nebulous but 'only possible' society. The Guineaman was 'rude' the medevial
English adjective is quoted direct from the eighteenth century slave speech and
'asociwtal' the twentieth century documentary jargon is used deliberately and this
is why he was suspect.
The irony of the masters' situation was that they never properly realized
how totally a conservative, how deeply a disciplined, how traditionally a creative
group of people it was with which they had to deal. Had they done so, and had they
'used' this sense of 'degree, priority and place', for the retention of local wealth, the
expansion of sustenance and the development of tribal glory, they would have
fashioned a new Greece in the Caribbean. To this day, a few Jamaicans whose
features are predominantly European will look at each other over their drinks and
wryly acknowledge the central place on History's stage from which their island was
pushed by the greed and sheer lack of imagination of their eighteenth century
More than status, perhaps, over and above the possibilities of promotion,
the cardinal influence of the slave period was proximity. Jamaica, in those days,
was an intensely parochial, indeed domestic, society. Estates were isolated, towns
were few only administrative, export-import and military centres. The island was
just large enough to make frequent, easy intercourse between groups of the ruling
class difficult. The architecture of the period, with its wide, open doorways,
encircling verandahs and intrusive corridors, made real privacy difficult. Social
position was strictly defined. There was no question of the slave, even if freed,
ever achieving anything like equal status with his master, or his master's white
servants. Fearing no challenge to his assured superiority, the master could afford
to live a life open to inspection by the slave. The white man and woman ate, con
versed, fell sick, dressed, courted, bathed, made love, bore children, were born
and died before a large fascinated audience. Visitors to the island bear vivid
testimony to the strolling players' role demanded of them. More, they reveal with
astonishment and chagrin the frankness with which slaves discussed the most
intimate and obscene details of their masters' lives, and the accepted familiarity
with which they participated, as spectators, in any domestic event. The press of
slave viewers was so thick when Lady Nugent gave a dinner party, that dishes
arrived cold at the table. 'Monk' Lewis, trying to write, was disturbed, as a matter
of course, by wives bringing their unfaithful husbands for European judgement,
'picanninies' trampling mud into the parquet to see a captive crocodile, a passing
housecleaner commenting on the size and health of his virile member as he
cowered in his hip-bath. 'At noon', writes the priggish, outraged Englishman, Long,
speaking of a lily-skinned, Great House daughter, 'we find her employed in gob-
bling pepper pot, seated on the floor with her sable handmaids around her...... or,
'Pray, Miss Louisa', says a young Englishman to his Jamaican-born partner at
dinner, 'Pray Miss Louisa, will you permit me to help you to a bit of turkey?'- Tank
you, sah, says the descendent of Cromwell's russet-coated squires, 'Wid all my
haut'. (And) Pray Miss, what part do you like the best?' 'Sir, Ise don't love turkey
rump Ise love turkey bubby.
The master's economic, political and prominently displayed military power,
is social status, the language, law and customs by which he commanded those
heights of power, all declared an ideal to which any ambitious slave should aspire.
But, for all that, the slave, his presence as nine-tenths of a community, affected the
development of the Jamaican scene in ways that the master could not halt. First,
in language and manners, as the examples quoted above bear witness.
'A cool, refreshing breeze for this time of the year', says Lady Nugent to
her sole woman companion at a dinner, as they stand by a window while the mean
drink more port than the human constitution can stand in a tropical climate.
'Ya-i-ss, ma'am', replies this first generation Creole lady, 'Him railly too fraish"
Second, in terms of unmitigated biological possession. He is there, and
not even a system of exploitation by which he is worked to death every seven
years, and replaced by a fresh involuntary African immigrant, can stay his breeding
power or his capture of a society in which he is the overwhelming racial element.
In this unsystematic, completely unconscious, even now believed process
of possession, his womenfolk play an indispensable role. The black as well as the
white Jamaican male underwent a reality of experience with his women that had
little to do with Hevraic, patriarchal ideals which were false even in the European
For one thing, it was the woman who kept the slave family together.
Women slaves were less readily disposed of to other owners than men. They
were a source of babies and a natural inhibitory influence against insurrection. A
slave cabin, even if it was a little better than a kennel, became, for them, a home.
Their care of children and grandchildren on any well run plantation was seen early
as a major stabilising influence. From the beginnings of sugar slavery, the African
women were the chief adopters of the recently imported African coast males. So
much so, that the words for mother and 'father' became blurred. In this process,
the woman was supported by the matrifocal or matrilineal descent patterns of the
West African tribes from which she had been taken. But what must be remem-
bered, here, is that the feminine role remained valid while the masculine province
of warrior, food-gatherer, generator of name, was suddenly, made anti-social. The
last thing that a selective -breeder slave -owner wanted was a progeny who gave
their emotional allegiance to an acknowledged pater families.
Under such circumstance, and backed by the remembered traditions of
Africa, the relatively stable woman in the cabin became the main authoritarian
figure in the domestic sphere, She was often, because of this authority and
because of her rarity value, the selector of a lover rather than the pursued. Her
functional capacity as a breeder acquired an exaggerated social value. She
maintained, whatever the changes and chances of men bought or men sold, the
food plot on the fringes of the plantation. By the closing decades of the eighteenth
century, the sale of surplus vegetables and ground provisions at the Sunday
markets had diverted three quarters of the island's silver coin into the slaves'
possession, and principally into the voluminous apron pockets of the women.
The dominant, almost dominating, position achieved by women during the
slave period persists today in more ways than the modern Jamaican male would
care to admit. Operating, for the most part, outside the contexts of politics and
commerce almost indifferent, it sometimes seems, to the power rewards these
fields can give the women of Jamaica yet constitute an emotional ruling class.
Like all successful ruling classes they are unsentimental and acutely conscious of
their power; like all successful ruling classes they enjoy using that power. This,
perhaps, is the great difference between them and the women of North America,
with whom they are sometimes, wrongly, compared. The women of Jamaica
deploy their sexuality with a relish that is none the less real for being somewhat
cynical like most successful ruling classes, they cannot escape a certain con-
tempt for those whom they manipulate. In love, they tend to be authoritarian rather
than aggressive, but authoritarian within a very liberal frame of reference.
By and large, Jamaican men are permitted a degree of self-indulgence
without domestic penalty, are physically pampered, get a thoroughness of attention
without parallel in any other Western culture, even the Latin-American. What they
do not get, however, is much sense of responsibility. The Jamaican woman who,
unlike so many others, has never had to win her right to participation in public life -
who, indeed, has had that participation thrust anxiously on her has never, in
return, allowed her man the sexual vote. She is endlessly and cleverly affection-
ate, conscientious as a geisha in consoling his physical needs and his ego, but she
does not treat seriously his claim that he understands the consequences of love.
The West Indian novelist George Lamming's great sentence about 'my mother who
fathered me...... my father who had fathered only the idea about me' contains
nearly all that can be said on the reality of sexual relationships which have evolved
in Jamaica despite our verbal subscriptions to the conventional Western attitude of
male pre-eminence. Pressured by historical necessity, Jamaican women had to
assume the command of certain parental, societal and, at the domestic level,
economic positions. That most Jamaican women came from African cultures
where such provinces of control were traditionally feminine only made their act of
assumption in Jamaica more decisive. For at that point, dumped without any rights
of formal expression in a society that pretended to a different ideal, without the
support of established custom, it was the person who had to define relationships
valid to the new situation. And such a situation, we must remember was one in
which nothing but your labour was significant; one in which your history was not
only held in suspicion but obliterated; one in which there was absolutely none of
those shared reference points, however mean or primitive, created by any folk who
have lived continuously, according to their own lights, on one spot of earth for
generations. It must be remembered, too, that for all practical purposes this was
the totality of Jamaica's culture. The managing class, the free class, of those days
was little more than an understaffed 'cadre' of prison warders, employed by Britain
to terrorise maximum productivity out of those whose labour made the island
significant. If the slave adopted the dress, language, statutes, political structure,
attitudes and often prejudices of the master, the master was, equally, assimilated
by the slave. And nowhere was the assimilation, the psychic influence from below,
more profound than in this ambiguous area we have called sexual, and which, of
course, takes in far more than the frequency or methods of a physical act, but
incorporates subtleties of response between husband and wife, wife's woman
friend and husband, husband and male visitor to the house, husband's male friends
and wife. (which shades into exchange between husband's male friends and the
female peer group of which the wife is a member), father and male child (compli-
cated territory, this, which is going to demand quite a big, clever book one day),
employer and the employees (at all levels, from he who eats the dinner and cook,
to managing director and fervently unionised senior mechanic in a highly sophisti-
cated industry employing several hundred workers); above all, between mother
and child (either sex), and, frequently, between a singular fusion of mother-grand-
mother and child.
All societies have to accommodate these largely unacknowledged, emo-
tional lenses through which other, more objective issues are focused. In no other
Western society, however, is the harmonious conduct of everyday life more de-
pendent on an acceptance of the woman's emphatic and exclusive imposition of
her sex's value judgements. She has deeply, and in part destructively, feminised
Jamaica's culture and the Jamaican male. There is more in common, for example,
between the sexual and social assumptions of an island-born, white Jamaican
male and his casual labourer of African descent, than between the white Jamaican
and his cousin by blood from England, or between the black labourer and a Negro
from Chicago's South Side.
Both Jamaicans tend to grow sullen and deliberately inefficient under the
impersonal rigidities of a masculine code of discipline; but both are extraordinarily
responsive to flattery and to appeal based on personal need. Both have an intense
appreciation of domestic gossip, but are easily bored by detached exploration of
motive. Both will forgive abuse far more readily than they will indifference, however
polite. Both are extremely susceptible to physical attractiveness, but an intellectual
challenge tends to intimidate them into withdrawal, rather than stimulate them into
hostility or real dialogue.
This analysis of the Jamaican female and her sexual subordinate is ap-
proximate and summary.. Jamaican society did not grow in isolation. Its ideal
concept of relationships is much the same as prevails anywhere in the West. The
lack of correspondence between what is acknowledged theoretically and actual
conduct creates a number of really distressing conflicts. There is a core of
melancholy dissatisfaction in the Jamaican woman that has grown around the
exhausting double role she has been forced to assume. And the Jamaican male,
for all his promiscuity, despite the sultan's perquisites he enjoys, profoundly re-
sents his broken lines of definition. A few Jamaican women of experience and
fewer yet of our psychologists who can be coaxed into telling the truth will testify to
the frequency with which the male lover withdraws into impotence as the means of
creating the only situation in which the female may suffer a real defeat.
A society like Jamaica in which economic patterns and, based on these,
social patterns were relatively stagnant for so long tends to perpetuate conserva-
tive attitudes which everybody repudiates, but from which everybody, more or less,
haplessly acts. This is true in Jamaica with regard to colour. As the Victorian
middle-class did with sex, we banish it and discipline it, but, like sex in Victorian
England, or too many radishes on an empty stomach, it keeps coming back. It is a
cultural No-Man's-Land, going a long way back, over which an ideal issue is fought
to a conclusion. Like No-Man's-Land, it has no objective value in itself: but the
victories, defeats, agonies and ecstasies undergone there are real; coincidentally,
they mean something in much larger struggle.
To illustrate by hypothetical example. There was no law, no respectable
sanction that could be applied, no resource of physical violence, from Emancipa-
tion in 1838 to the 1920's, by which black Jamaicans of wealth or enterprise or
determination could have been kept from commanding the heights of their society.
That they didn't was as much a matter of accepted attitudes and pervasive
snobberies, common to every Jamaican, as it was to any political power structure
imposed from without. A ramshackle, faintly ridiculous social hierarchy was main-
tained, by a sort of sad, masochistic agreement, until the strong winds of economic
crisis blew it down a few years ago. The dust is still settling, and there are quite a
few Jamaicans black, brown, white who still grub among the ruins of pathetic little
mementos, who still pine for the securities of that grotesque structure.
For the factor in our development that partly explains this we must go back
to the slave period, and to a class mentioned, up to now, only in passing: the Free
Any system of master and the slave is bound to produce a large number of
bastards. In seventeenth and eighteenth century Jamaica, the production of bas-
tards was a serious activity. Very few white bachelors and it will be remembered,
there were far, far too many bachelors lived celibate lives. A regular mistress, or
immediate gratification of lust, was a casual necessity that came with the climate
like a broad-brimmed hat. For a white man to keep a concubine was so common-
place that only visitors thought it worth comment. And indeed the death rate
among white males was so appalling that it is open to serious question whether
they could have survived as a functional group without this feminine constant in
From the congress of owner, overseer and book-keeper with the black
slave came the coloured an influential caste rather than a political estate. Unlike
their cousins in the North American colonies, the Jamaican masters made it almost
policy to free their clearly traceable coloured offspring. A society which was, really,
only a succession of intimately connected households could not have borne the
enormous strain on conscience that the daily sight of servile blood-kin would have
evoked. By 1800, the free coloured not only outnumbered the whites but enjoyed
a legal right unique to their kind in the whole Caribbean: by written statue, the child
of a mustefino (one sixteenth black) and a white was automatically free, with the full
privileges of a white, whatever the mother's condition. Mark Twain's Pudd'n'head
Wilson, in which the white-skinned slave-child, substituted for the young master in
the cradle, is discovered and relegated back to slavery, while the rightful master is
rescued from illegal bondage, would never have happened in quite that way in
Jamaica. Both would have been free here; the dispute would have been a straight
case of who was the legitimate heir. In actual practice, as we have seen when
discussing rich young Jamaicans on the English marriage market, there must have
been many a common agreement to turn the blind eye. 'Monk' Lewis, for example,
was almost certainly coloured within the legal degree, yet nobody questioned his
ancestry when he came out to visit his estates.
For all this, the position of the free coloured was ambivalent and uneasy.
They were denied political rights and, until the early nineteenth century, limited by
law as to the landed property they could own. Many of the males were schooled in
England or given a handsome start in life by their white fathers. On the other hand,
large numbers of their women were the most desired and most constant mistresses
of the lonely white men. They held dances to which no black women or brown men
were admitted, only women of colour and their white admirers. Marriage within the
coloured community often came only after the woman had come to the end of her
affair with a white lover.
Although many of them declared a fierce pride in the fact of colour, as a
group they were always conscious that they could attain for their children a Holy
Grail of whiteness by selective breeding. Some of Jamaica's most accomplished
and influential men such as Richard Hill, Edward Jordan, George William Gordon
- and our most remarkable woman Mary Seacole, the nurse who saved nearly as
many lives during the Crimean War as Florence Nightingale came from this class.
But from their beginnings too much of their energy and preoccupation were wasted
on intricate, sterile definitions of precedence by shade. During slavery they were,
in fact, progressively granted privilege according to the lightness of their skins. A
mulatto (half-Negro, half-white) was very often no more regarded than a full
African, particularly if he looked African. Conversely, a near white, like Richard Hill,
could be treated with much the same respect accorded a cultivated Jew in England
before the abolition of the Test Acts: he was denied political participation, but he
could be a man of substance whose acquaintance and opinions were sought.
Between these two extremes of nearly assured position (if we exclude the legally
white mustefino white mixture) lay the real area of unpredictable status. By and
large it would be true to say that from quadroon (one-quarter black) up through
octoroon (one-eighth black) and beyond, they became more and more closely
identified with the white, European values of Jamaica. After Emancipation as the
social and economic powers of the white landowners declined, while theirs, corre-
spondingly rose they applied these explicit rankings by colour to a class structure
wholly flattering to white prejudices. Voluntarily they created a ritual pecking order
of Byzantine intricacy; humbly they surrendered their great potential standards of
taste and value which were pious colonial imitations of Clapham.
As a creative factor in the development of modern Jamaican, they are
important because of their toughness and their adaptability. In the eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries they were probably the healthiest group in the society:
the mixed strain was a biological advantage, they were not worked to death on
inadequate nourishment like the slaves, they tended to live more moderate and
sensible lives than many whites. They survived, and like most surviving species
they acquired characteristics that made them viable and efficient in their terrain.
Then, too, because they embraced such a wide scope of colour and occupation,
they tended to exert a deep influence on the black majority. As they aspired and
continued to aspire to an ideal of white status, so the more ambitious and
aggressive blacks after slavery aspired to incorporation by marriage into their
ranks. Whether from instinct or design, they permitted this although the initiation
tests for black men trying to marry into the tribe were extremely severe. They were,
in fact, biological middlemen in a traffic open at both ends. Their sometimes
mindless worship of England, and of England as represented in Jamaica by
expatriate administrators of homegrown whites, seduced the whites into granting
them greater and greater parity of esteem. Their systematic and insiduous educa-
tion of the blacks, their head start in the economic race and their indiscriminating
recruitment of black marriage partners hypnotised the African mass into giving
them a nearly feudal respect for over a century. Their success maybe measured
by the fact that, five generations after Emancipation, they number about twenty-
four per cent of the population and have conceded only a very few of the island's
key legislative, executive or administrative positions. A few seismic rumbles have
recently shaken their selfsatisfaction, their sense of appointment, but they have
already begun to make adjustments that might contain these warnings. As a class,
they have always been blessed, in each generation, with a number of highly
articulate and radical members who assume the leadership of popular expression.
In a sense, despite their faculties of precedence and status, they are a democratic
class their catch-as-catch-can, illegitimate origins still determine this. They tend,
also, to have an almost Oriental sense of practical continuity. It is doubtful whether
they would ever sacrifice an intelligent compromise for the sake of an indefensible
The old Jamaica plantocrat Jamaica, that is really ended on December
3, 1865, although signs of its passing had been evident for some time. On that
day, the House of Assembly, a legislative body nearly two centuries old, voluntarily
surrendered Jamaica's ancient liberties to a direct, parental Crown Colony Govern-
ment. For nearly a hundred years after that date, no Jamaican, however exalted or
wealthy, could aspire to do more than advise an English civil servant appointed as
his Governor and hope that his advice might be taken. Such laws as he was
allowed to make were little more than parochial regulations, and even these were
subject to veto.
The events leading up to this destruction of a Parliament older than most
in the English speaking world were mainly economic but with economic causes we
must also bracket some inevitable attendant social attitudes.
After Emancipation, the great sugar estates, and the class they had
supported, declined. They would have declined anyway because England' s in-
dustrial revolution no longer relied on wealth from sugar but Emancipation acceler-
ated the process. With easily accessible, fertile land available in the hills behind
the sugar lands, the ex-slaves left the plantations in their tens of thousands to
establish that deeply conservative, provokingly enigmatic small settler class whose
votes are still the artillery in any battle for parliamentary power. Even those
ex-slaves who had no land to occupy, refused to work the territory of the old
cruelties, or worked it reluctantly. In every district, dozens of estates went fallow or
into ruin. Hundreds of white landowners left the island, either having sold out at
bankruptcy rates or closed down.
Any country in such a situation was, in any realistic terms, obviously
ripening for trouble. In October, 1865, a combination of a long drought, the
American Civil War which had raised the price of imported food from the States -
and the unwitting callousness of the English Government to whom appeal after
appeal had been addressed, finally fired an explosion. A peasant, Paul Bogle, led
an insurrectionary band from his own district on the town of Morant Bay. The court
house was burnt to the ground, several prominent gentlemen were killed including
the Custos of the parish and some properties in the district were looted for what
they could yield.
As rebellions go it was localised and, really, a-political. It was an act born
of empty stomachs in a parish traditionally insubordinate. Some idea of the
essential respectability of the 'rebels' may be gathered when we consider how they
lost initiative during the most crucial stages of their battle for the town: they ran out
of gunpowder, could not bring themselves to commit the immorality of requisi-
tioning it, and wasted nearly an hour in scraping together the cash demanded by a
However, blood had been shed, property damaged, authority challenged.
A strange and neurotic man, Edward Eyre, the Governor one of those tormented
Victorians who are still beyond any reduction by psychoanalysis declared martial
law and suppressed the uprising by means so brutal and so excessive that, even
now, most Jamaicans agree to forget the truth. The most prominent and most
truculent coloured member of the House of Assembly, George William Gordon,
was hanged, after a drum-head trial, for being the proximate cause' of the rebel-
lion. Detailed research, since, has been unable to establish the smallest connec-
tion between the insurrection and his advice.
The Morant Bay Rebellion, and its satisfying, sadistic aftermath, confirmed
the terrors of Negro assertion which had obsessed the House of Assembly since
the emancipation of the slaves. As a legislature, it represented some 1,800 electors
in a population of about 450,000. Most of its members, whether old white ruling
class or emerging brown middle class, surrendered their integrity to Crown Colony
tutelage in order to lay the fantasy of Negro violence which they were sure
Emancipation had conjured up. For the next eighty years, this fantasy, our rescue
from it, and what the Governor had had for breakfast were to be the chief topics of
polite Jamaican conversation, the major exercises of polite Jamaican thought. At
the very crisis of possible change, a whole society had been, apparently, frozen to
comfort the fossilised, the timid, the willingly servile. And yet, in its own singular
fashion, the new system Jamaica had adopted was to release indigestible ele-
ments of change. Crown Colony government was not to be a final refuge for the
old ruling class and their new allies; it was merely a resting place for other forces to
gather strength and wits.
Some Notes on Planning and Producing a Radio Magazine
J. PAMELA BARBOUR
A magazine programme is a mixture of items, topics, contributors and
formats or techniques. However, while it implies a mixture, this mixture is not
always necessarily a variety of topics. It can be focused on a special topic or area,
for example, politics, women, economics, football, etc and the mixture will be items
related to the same topic.
Where do we Start?
The task of producing a good magazine programme takes a lot of time and
involves much research.
Programme Ideas: There are various sources from which a producer can
draw ideas in the development of a programme. One of the main resource centres
for ideas is the producer's notebook. This notebook serves not only as an address
book for contacts, but is carried everywhere by the producer. It is used to write or
record his/her own ideas; ideas from other people; discussions with other people;
ideas from listening to people's concerns and problems; paying attention to what
affects people and in what way; written magazines; newspapers; newsletters,
releases from organizations and from press briefings. The aim of constantly writing
almost everything is to crystallize ideas into a programme or part of a programme.
Therefore, this notebook becomes a pool of creative ideas from which the producer
constantly draws. As a producer, one can also encourage contributions, by being
available and open, people will come to you with ideas.
The good ideas are honed, polished and made better by the process of
In planning a magazine programme one of the first issues the producer
has to address is what the magazine hopes to achieve. It is from this point that all
efforts are put into gear. Having established its objective (purpose), a programme
brief is developed. This brief includes, if possible a detailed description of the
objective, the audience, content, format, duration, number of items to be included
in the package, broadcast time and day, among other things. A closer look at the
brief is needed in order to ensure understanding. Let us examine some of the
S The audience are the people you are targeting, who are likely to listen to the
programme. For example in the case of a football magazine, the certain tar-
gets will be football fans, they, first and foremost are most certain to listen,
followed by others who may not necessarily tune to the station for that pur-
pose. That is why a programme must be designed with a specific audience in
* Objective means whether the programme seeks to educate, inform, or enter-
* Content is the (material) message or information to be aired. This can vary,
but must be consistent with the objective of the programme. Emphasis must
be placed on the gathering of good material for the programme.
* Format means it must have a definite shape/structure. The arrangement of
the components and the method used in packaging the message/information
are extremely important. A good programme has a recognizable and tight
structure with the emphasis on content. The sequence of the programme,
once established should be maintained. The format, which also includes pres-
entation style, must be consistent.
* Duration refers to the length of the programme, whether you are producing
for fifteen minutes, half an hour, one hour, and so on. The duration of each
item and the number of items in the programme are also determined by the
overall duration of the programme.
* Broadcast time and day refer to the time and the day when the station will
transmit the programme.
* A producer must also address how frequently the programme will be aired
Will it be daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly? Will it be ongoing or a series?
Will it be repeated, if so when?
In preparing a magazine programme the producer has to think about the
resources available to complete and broadcast the programme. One of the first
things he/she has to do is to draw up a detailed budget and obtain authorization for
any resources needed. The next step is to secure the broadcast slot that is most
suitable for the target audience. It is no use broadcasting a programme when the
target audience is not available. Once the day and time of broadcast and the
start-up date, etc are established the producer now knows the duration of time to
be filled, the type of programme (pre-recorded or live) and where the programme is
positioned on the schedule. Having settled the issues relating to the broadcast,
attention is now focused on the time available for the production of the magazine,
in relation to when the broadcasts will begin. The producer selects the presenter
and contributors and contacts them. When the contributors and presenter are
contacted the producer should give each contributor detailed information about
their input into the programme. These should include the format to be used;
whether the contribution will be carried live, recorded outside or inside of a studio;
also the time, date and place, along with any other details that may be necessary.
Any research about the topics to be covered is also carried out as part of the
preparatory process. In the case of a recorded programme, a booking must be
made for the studio; all the recordings must be completed and the music, effects
and all that is necessary for the final production selected. The producer begins to
shape the content and write or select a writer for the script.
A magazine programme can consist of items such as interviews, news,
discussion, PSA, vox pop, tips, a feature, a voice piece (talk, live report, etc), sound
effects, music, electronic effects, and drama. All of these elements can be used
effectively in a magazine. The duration of the magazine dictates the number of
items included as well as the length of each item.
Interviews that are most appropriate for a Radio Magazine are those that
are challenging, discover facts or explore emotions. One can also use a question
and answer type of conversation that is becoming very popular in news and current
affairs programmes with specialist reporters/correspondents.
Vox Pop is the short for the Latin words vox populi (the voice of the
people). This is an unofficial survey of public opinion on an issue of public impor-
tance. It is often referred to as the man on the street opinion interview. The
interviewer, using a portable tape recorder, seeks a sample response from the
public to a single question on a matter of public interest. The same question is put
to each individual; there must not be any variation. The question must be exactly
the same for all persons. This sample is not reliable as in a survey that measures
public opinion, but merely represents a reflection of the opinion of the public. The
members of the public are selected by chance. An effort is always made, while on
the street, to get a balance of opinion in terms of male/female and negative/positive
responses. The responses are then taken back to the studio and edited, to
crystallize them into a whole. An introduction and a close are then put in place. A
vox pop, as part of a programme should not be more than one minute thirty
Discussion within a magazine programme will generally consist of two
people with opposing views exploring a topic. A discussion with many sides, aimed
at presenting a range of views, in a magazine programme often lead to a superficial
and unsatisfactory result.
A Feature is a programme devoted to a particular topic aimed at convinc-
ing the listener of what it is saying. The feature deals mainly with events. The
general form is either person centered; topics centered, or place centered. Here,
the producer can make full use of the three legs of radio (speech, music, and
effects). In this highly creative form, all the elements of good radio meet, creating
one of the exciting sides of radio. The strength of a feature lies in the art of telling a
story and its impact on the imagination. The writing of the script for the feature is
therefore extremely important. It must have a strong story line and compelling
images that register drama in the unfolding of the sequence of events. Such a
programme can be a highly creative form, aimed at entertaining, informing or even
inspiring the listener.
A feature can be based on either fact or fiction or both. However, the use
of both fact and fiction in the same programme can be a dangerous combination, if
their boundaries are not clear to the listener. Efforts should be made by the
producer to establish what is true and what is not.
A Voice Piece is a single voice giving information such as a news bulletin,
a talk, situation report or events diary. This form can also be used to provide
eyewitness commentary or to tell a story. It must however have colour and vitality.
There must be a reason for broadcasting such an item- some special relevance.
A news peg on which to hang a voice piece can be its relevance to a particular
interest group, or its immediacy to current events (its topicality).
The use of Drama may need separate production efforts, unless it is
restricted to dramatized reading as in the case of a book, poem or historical
document. Drama can also be used to make a specific point. This can be quite
effective especially if using humour and credible characters, for example to explain
new regulations or to highlight a social situation.
Music is an important ingredient in radio. It is often referred to as one of
the three legs of radio. It performs many roles: these include establishing mood;
introducing related items in a more pleasing and attractive way; or as a signpost,
by a short burst of music, (sting) to indicate the change of pace and subject or the
end of an item. Music enhances speech-based programmes and is often used in a
magazine programme to achieve variety. This is used as a positive asset to the
programme, not merely to fill time between items, therefore, real care must be
taken in its selection. All producers must however be aware of these issues which
impinge on use:
(1) There are various agreements relating to copyright and the payment of
royalties between artistes and a number of organizations which can affect
the use of an artiste's music;
(2) Music must be well-chosen and used appropriately to be effective;
(3) The use of music with vocals over voice diminishes the message and is
very confusing to the listener.
(4) Music must fade naturally; it should not be faded in the middle of a bar,
but on a cadence (the close of a musical phrase).
Sound Effects like music is another of the legs of radio. It is sometimes
referred to as actuality noises. There must however be a clear association between
the situation one is trying to present and the sound. For example, a producer can
use the crashing of waves to indicate closeness to the sea; the ticking of a clock to
indicate a passage in time; the use of footsteps to indicate human movement; the
closing of a door to signal departure from a room etc. In a magazine, these can
improve greatly the dynamics of the programme of what might otherwise be a
succession of speech items.
Electronic Effects are manufactured in the studio, created as special/
digital effects. Most of these are fantasy sounds.
Having decided to include an item on a particular subject, the producer has
several options on the treatment. The use of creativity will prevent the programme
from sounding dull. Whatever treatment is used each part must fit into the overall
programme, reflecting harmony.
Before a producer begins the recording of a magazine there are certain
things that must be in place. A Radio magazine needs the following elements:
A good narrator/presenter is perhaps the most important single factor in
creating a consistent style in a magazine programme. The presenter regu-
lates the tone of the programme. The person can be knowledgeable, informal
or formal, intimate or impersonal, friendly or serious, quietly companionable
or distant. In selecting a presenter for a magazine, the producer often
chooses a good broadcaster, however in a special programme an expert on
the subject, who has clarity of tone, good projection and pace can present
the programme. The idea is to find the ideal person whose presentation can
suit the content of the programme and its audience.
A good Title. This is very important as it provides a clue to the content for
persons unfamiliar with the magazine. The title must be simple, attractive
and easy to remember and stem directly from the aims of the magazine and
connected to its contents.
A Signature Tune serves as an initial signal for the programme. This distin-
guishes it from other programmes. It should also convey some clue of the
style and content of the programme. Its aim is to attract an audience. The mu-
sic selected must fit naturally with the other elements so that it can bring
unity to the whole programme.
Linking style. The links in the programme are the parts that are written for
the presenter to introduce and close each item. It must have its own consis-
tent style, but must not be too predictable. How each item is introduced and
the level at which the entire programme is pitched must remain constant.
The linking script must be typed on strong A4 (bond) paper, (ordinary letter
size). Efforts should be made not to use longer paper, to avoid shuffling
sounds (noise) being picked up by the microphone. The script must be writ-
ten in such a way that it separates each item while at the same time it cre-
ates a cohesive sense of style. In a magazine, continuity is obtained by
linking items, using the content of one to lead into another, referring back to
earlier items. Without these links, it is a series of separate bits, lacking cohe-
siveness. The script knits the items together and the listeners, interest of hav-
ing a mixed bag of items loosely strung together, are rewarded with the
tapestry of a magazine. Each programme has its own style of presentation;
therefore, the links must suit the style of the programme throughout. The pre-
senter must also be comfortable with the script. For some programmes it is
best for the presenter to write the script. The linking script can strengthen or
weaken a programme. The script should contain the links as well as all the in-
formation regarding the cue in and cue out and duration of each item. All of
these elements must remain constant in order to maintain the focus and qual-
ity of the programme. It should also have all the other instructions that are
necessary (such as where sound effects will be placed and their duration;
where music will be used as well as the duration of the music) so that the
technical team will experience no hitches or difficulty in putting the pro-
gramme together. All persons involved in the production must have a copy of
the final script for easy reference. Sufficient information should be give in
each item to make it easy to understand and for the audience to enjoy.
The whole process of preparation is to ensure that the programme suits
the audience in terms of style, tone and vocabulary. Efforts must be made to relate
to the knowledge, experience and education of the audience.
Writing the Script (Specification)
The scriptwriter must always aim for a script that can be easily read, and it
must be prepared in a professional manner (hand-written scripts are unaccept-
able). The script must be clearly set out and exact, having all the necessary details.
It should be written in such a way that the presenter (narrator) and the technical
operator should not have to search for the cues of the items to be included, or ask
the meaning of anything. The instructions for the technical operator are extremely
important. If the technical operator is unclear about parts of the script, then the
recording is delayed until they can be clarified. This can result in a lot of wasted
hours in the studio. And studio time is costly.
If the magazine is to be recorded, before the scriptwriter begins to write
he/she must listen to all of the pieces to be included in the programme and along
with the producer, select the parts that will be used. They should, at the same time,
mark the areas on the tape where the item begins and ends. If it will be a live
programme with recorded segments, the same applies. This is to ensure that the
links will not kill the pieces by saying what they will say and also to ensure a
seamless link to the pieces.
The script must be typed with double space between each line and it must
have at least an inch and a half as the left and right margins in order to allow the
presenter to write notes. There must also be enough space from the top of the
page and also from the bottom, the scriptwriter may wish to have a two-inch border
from all four sides. The introductions ana the lead-outs of the links for each item
should be varied. Music, as stated earlier, is used to illustrate mood, which can
relate to a person or place; sound effects and other effects are used as teasers to
attract the listener. Once the listener finds the programme attractive and relevant,
their attention is likely.
No sentence in the script must begin on one page and continue on another
page. If this is likely to happen, begin the sentence on a new page. All spoken
words should be in lower case and all instructions for the technical operator in
capitals (CAPS), placed in brackets and underlined. These include the signature
tune (theme music) other music to be used, effects, etc. The cue details for the
pieces (items) must be in capitals, but not necessarily in brackets. The instructions
must be specific and enough to avoid confusion. All items to be included must be
identified and timed before going to the recording or live studio. In relation to an
item, the CUE IN and CUE OUT must be clear and have enough information so that
the items are not mixed up or mis-cued because another section in the same piece
has the exact same opening words. The material to be used must be easy to find.
There are not very strict rules regarding the contributors in relation to the use of
their names and official titles, however some producers in the interest of time opt to
use the contributors name only.
The scriptwriter, the presenter and producer should be in constant contact
about the script. A page of a typical script is included in Appendix 1.
The presenter must be able to read the script comfortably. Efforts should
be made by the scriptwriter to discuss difficult words with the presenter and if
necessary include the pronunciation for these words.
Treatment and Programme Structure
Opening and Close
All magazines should have an introduction or opening. This introduces the
title of the programme, greets the listener and gives the listener an idea about what
is coming in the programme. This does not mean that one lists all of the items but
rather highlight a few of the best items as bait to grab the listener's attention. The
close is as important as the opening. The presenter again identifies the pro-
gramme, highlights some of the major items that were in it and extends an invitation
to listen to the next programme. Some presenters also include what is called
credits, that is all the persons who have contributed to the programme. The
opening and close are normally done as voice over signature tune.
In gathering the items for the programme the presenter chooses the
technique best suited to present the topic. S/he then decides on the order of the
items; sets the overall style and decides on the treatment of each individual item.
In selecting the items to be used, first, consider what is of interest and relevance to
the audience. The selected pieces should be timed and properly labelled. The
types of useful information will depend on the particular needs of the audience.
Seek for a variety in the information. Every effort should be made for
variety and overall creative effect using different voices, actuality, and music. As a
producer care should be taken in positioning the items. The use of contrast and
other techniques in the ordering of the items and overall presentation is likely to
attract greater interest in the programme. However, items with a common theme or
a good link, are likely to flow naturally from one to the other. The short and the long
items should be mixed. It is good to have a long item, giving one of two choices;
divide it, or use it at the end.
The opening item should be short but at the same time it must be strong
enough to hold the listeners' attention. The general rule is to use the best item first.
In radio, the audience needs a strong item to be attracted to the programme. After
this, a number of devices can be used to hold the listeners' interest to the end. The
final item must also be a strong one, so that the listener can feel rewarded. Always
aim for a strong opening item and a strong end. The aim is to grab the listeners'
attention and hold it to the end. Creative possibilities abound for the imaginative
producer who takes care in the sequencing of the items.
The shape of the programme must remain reasonably constant. The
proportion of music to speech must be roughly the same in each programme. A
standard structure should be established and maintained. For example, if the
content in a half an hour programme normally comprises items of from three to five
minutes duration ending with humour of five minutes, this structure should become
the established pattern.
Anything that is of poor technical quality, long-winded; and remote from the
experience of the audience should be discarded.
Radio is at its best when it has a vitality and vividness that can only arise
from careful packaging. Whatever the purpose of a magazine, it should be pre-
sented in a lively and entertaining way.
Preparation for Recording and Transmission
A number of things must be in place before the programme can be
recorded. The producer must book the studio, and secure all music and effects
selected prior to the recording. The presenter must be briefed on the time of the
recording so that they can arrive at the studio on time. If the programme is to be
carried live, the producer has to ensure that all that is necessary are in place, no
less than an hour before the programme is to be on air. All persons involved in the
broadcast must be briefed. Efforts must be made to ensure that all the necessary
arrangements have been finalized and the needs of all persons involved in the
recording or live production, are met. Some of the simple things we take for
granted and fail to act upon must be addressed. These include ensuring that there
are enough scripts for all involved and that the sheets of the script for the pre-
senter(s) are not stapled together. Briefing the technical operator and the pre-
senter(s), also having enough chairs for the team in the studio; have a clean tape
for the recording; and even a supply of water for the presenters, etc. The producer
also makes arrangements for any rehearsals (dry-run) before the real recording. It
is the producer's duty to also welcome guests for a live programme and try to help
them to relax until they go on air. The producer must also familiarize the members
of the team with studio ethics such as:
* the proper way of testing a microphone;
* the signals to be used to communicate in the studio;
* unacceptable behaviour in a live studio, for example swearing,
personal conversations on the telephone, loud laughter and chatter;
* how to handle and not shuffle the script or any other paper when the
microphone is On;
* the importance of not hitting the table or stamping feet while speaking;
* to avoid swirling or wheeling a chair;
* to avoid eating and drinking (except water) in studio;
* not to enter a live studio.
The recording or live broadcast is guided by the producer, who works
closely with the technical team. A live programme is promoted before it is aired.
The producer packages the promo, which consists of a catchy snippet about the
programme, including the title, the day it will be aired and the time. In a live
programme the producer must be consciously aware that precise timing is ex-
tremely important. Each segment must end within precise seconds. The producer
guides the presenter in timing. For the recorded programme, once the recording is
completed, the tape must be properly labelled and secured by the producer. It is
also the responsibility of the producer to work with the technical team in editing the
tape, if this is necessary, and to write or produce a promo to advertise the
After the programme is aired an evaluation should be done by the produc-
tion team to assess the impact. The aim is to make an impact with each pro-
gramme, therefore, there must be some method by which this impact can be
Baird, Lois, ed. Guide to Radio Production, Australian Film, Television and Radio School, 1994.
BBC. Guide and Style Book, BBC World Service, 1993.
Kaye, Michael. and Popperwell, Andrew., Making Radio: A guide to basic Radio
Techniques, Broadside Books Limited, 1992
APPENDIX 1. A Typical Page of Script.
OPERATOR: THEME (HOLD FOR TEN SECONDS THEN FADE
UNDER PRESENTER'S VOICE) SIGNATURE TUNE
PRESENTER: The presenter welcomes listeners and introduces the title
Of the programme
OPERATOR: UNDERLINE INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPERATOR
(E.G.: FADE UP AND FADE OUT).
PRESENTER: The presenter outlines as a teaser some of the items to be in the
programme. Efforts must be made not to give away too much of the programme,
but at the same time to give enough information to grab the listeners attention.
(Too much time should not be spent on this area.)
OPERATOR: Sound Effects (SFX) (PLAY FOR FIVE SECONDS THEN FADE
PRESENTER: The presenter introduces the first item in the programme.
CUE IN: THE CUE IN FOR THE FIRST ITEM IS PLACED HERE.
THE CUE IS NOT NECESSARILY A SENTENCE BUT A PIECE OF A SEN-
TENCE THAT WILL MAKE SENSE.
CUE OUT: THE CLOSING CUE MUST ALSO MAKE SENSE.
DURATION: 5 MINS 45 SECS. (ALWAYS OUTLINE DURATION)
PRESENTER: Back announces the first item and move on to the next.
Poems by Sir Philip Sherlock
(reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly)
My Father Walked Beside Me
My father walked beside me
Through the fields where grasses green
Softly sang and flowers sprang
From the dust beneath our feet.
My father's father too was there
And all around the eyes of those
Who shuttered clay had cast aside
While trees in robes of living light
Sang hallelujah ceaselessly.
See singing in that shining band
Brave Tacky claps his hands for joy
See Cudjoe dance before the Lamb
His blessed wounds now golden mouths
For Hallelujah's evermore;
See Bogle shepherding his flock
The hangman's rope a garland gay
And Gordon wave his lifted arms
And sound his passionate amen.
The Great House owners, slaves no more,
With naked feet approach the throne,
They join with ecstasy the throng
And freedom find in brotherhood.
The dancing feet no imprint make,
But beauty flows upon the land
On flowers and fields and singing trees
Roots moving gently through the silent ones.
A Beauty Too of Twisted Trees
A Beauty too of twisted trees
The harsh insistence of the wind
Writes lines of loveliness within
The being of this tortured trunk
I know that some there are that spring
In effortless perfection still
No beauty there of twisted trees,
Of broken branch and tortured trunk
And knotted root that thrusts its way
Impatient of the clinging clay
John who leapt in the womb has fled
Into the desert to waken the dead
His naked body broken and torn
Knows nothing now of Bethlehem's peace,
And wild of mood and fierce of face
He strives alone in that lonely place.
Ezekiel too saw the dry bones live,
The flames and smoke and conflict give
A lightning flash to the dead man's sight
And Moses smote a rock, no rock
In a weary cactus-land to mock
Hollow men stuffed with straw, but a rock
That freely pours from its stricken side
Water for those who else had died
And hangs on a twisted tree
A broken body for those who see,
All the world, for those who see,
Hangs its hope on a twisted tree.
And the broken branch and the tortured trunk
Are the stubborn evidence of growth
And record proud of strife, of life
A Beauty too of twisted trees.
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Vol 5, no3, 1958
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
Africa among the trees,
Asia with her mysteries.
Weaving white in flowing gown
Black Long Mountain looking down
Sees the shepherd and his flock
Dance and sing and wisdom mock.
Dance and sing and falls away
All the civilised today.
Dance and sing and fears let loose.
Here the ancient gods that choose
Man for victim, man for hate,
Man for sacrifice to fate.
Hate and fear and madness black
Dance before the altar white.
Comes the circle closer still,
Shepherd weave your pattern old.
Africa among the trees
Asia with her mysteries.
Black of night and white of gown,
White of altar, black of trees,
Swing de circle wide again,
Fall an cry, me sister, now.
Let de spirit come again,
Fling away de flesh an bone,
Let de spirit have a home.
Grunting low and in the dark
White of gown and circling dance,
Gone today and all 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.
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Vol 5, no3, 1958
Across the sand I saw a black man stride
To fetch his fishing gear and broken things,
And silently that splendid body cried
Its proud descent from ancient chiefs and kings.
Across the sand I saw him naked stride;
Sang his black body in the sun's white light
The velvet coolness of dark forest's wide,
The blackness of the jungle's starless night.
He stood beside the old canoe which lay
Upon the beach; swept up within his arms
The broken nets and careless lounged away
Towards his wretched hut
Nor knew how fiercely spoke his body then
Of ancient wealth and savage regal men.
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Vol 5, no3, 1958
Clear as the Clear Sun's Light
Clear as the clear sun's light
So clear is the water's flight
From the black rocks down
To the waiting sand eager and brown,
Near Gordon Town.
And clear through the broad green leaves
And the shining spears of the water reeds
Through the tangled web of vine and root
Of tangled roots black and wet
With the shining water drops
As swift in its crystal flight the river
Leaves the rock for the sand and pebbles.
The rock and the light and the weaving stream,
Fluid and fixed and fervent.
Trumpets blow and the dead arise
Clanking bones and dead men's cries.
Shiver the mountains huddled close
Beneath their shivering coats of green
Fluid now where once was rock
Melting now where once was stable
Liquid flows volcanic rock
And the brazen sky is mad with sound
And the sun and the moon and the stars appear
And the blazing sky and the melting hills
Buried beneath the crust of clay.
Fire leaps headlong from the sky
And the rock and the light and the weaving stream
Join in the flaming dance that thrills
Through the earth and the firmament
For that which was fixed is fluid now
And the shaken are the shrivelled skies
Ablaze with the thousand lunatic eyes.
The black rocks twist and writhe and run
Red with the blood red light of the sun
The fire has claimed its ancient place
The fire which slept within the rock
The fire which slept within the earth
The fire which slept within the trees
The fire which slept within the clouds
The fire which slept within the skies
The fire that slept has come to birth
And seals with flame the shaking earth,
And leaps with quivering flanks of name
Through the Woods and through the rocks
And leaps from cloud to crested cloud
Arid flames across the shrivelled sky. Fire that flamed where
A sword of flame.
Eden stands by Gordon Town
Cool with the green of leaves and cool
With gleaming water and dripping rock
And cool with the tangled black of roots
Where the river leaps from the tangled rocks to the sand and
Green and black and flash of silver.
And around and beneath and about the place
The flash of a flaming sword
The fire holds still its ancient place.
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Vol 5, no3, 1958
Trees His Testament
A GOOD BYE FOR DALEY
Daley's dead; dust now, gone for good
Far over Jordon side
Left his body this side
Of the cold river.
Dead now, gone for good
Nobody see him till kingdom come
And the trumpet call beyond the river
And the roll call,
Gone for good,
Lips greedy once for a woman's breast
Still now and silent
Pasture for the worm
Daley was a plumber,
Served his time to Hard Up,
Hungry Belly walked beside him
Never left him quiet
Through the slum he had for home
From door to door he asked
If they wanted toilets fixed
And they laughed for the toilet wasn't theirs anyway.
Walked and tramped from door to door
Raising cash for peace of mind,
Pocket full is belly full
Belly full is peace of mind.
Hungry Belly never left him,
Grinned and gnawed and never left him
Who would mend what wasn't his anyway?
Plumber's dead now, gone for good,
Hungry Belly restless talked
When he saw his Daley buy
Paint and canvas for a picture
For a picture when a plumber had to live,
But the painter was a-seeking
For the something that he couldn't tell about
That he knew inside himself he must search and search and
Knock and knock until he find
Past the questions and divisions
Past the doubtings and the troubles
Past the doors and rows of doors
Till at last he saw it all in the trees;
They were quiet and at peace in the pastures
And beside the waters, still
And upon the mountain side
Where the drought would patch the roots
And the hurricane would walk in the Summer,
Trunks and roots were hard and torn
Branches broken short, and twisted,
Just to keep a footing there
Just to be a living tree.
Plurrber's hand and painter's eye,
Plumber's dead and gone for good, plumber's dead
Over now the search for silver
Gone away is Hungry Belly
Off to find a fresh companion;
Dust (he feet that walked beside him,
Turned to dust the plumbers hands
But the trees still stand together
Like there shouting over Jordan,
And, look see how cedar trees
Do shade a garden in that place.
And upon that skull-shaped hill top
When the eye of day is clean
Stand two trees with bitter bearing
And between the two a tree
One between the two that lifts
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Vol 5, no3, 1958
[Lines written after se eing a drawing bv Edna Manley.]
This is the ascension
This upward moving from the encaging flesh
Freedom and winged exaltation
Of that first moment when the spirit stirs
And moves with certitude
From the fair world till then so all-engaging.
At the resurrection
There is breathing of life
Into the dead.
Earth shakes, tombs open
Coffins break asunder.
That which was lifeless comes to life,
At the word.
This is the greater wonder of the ascension
That the living, warm with home and love,
Feet firm on the solid earth
Set about not with dark and corruption
But with the light of the stars, the splendour of sun and
With the ageless beauty of sea and land
That these living ones should in a moment
From sight to perception, hearing to heeding, living to life
At the word.
Within the room there was light,
The drawing, against the books.
Outside was the day.
Who speaks the word
And whence the light?
See Lincoln at Gettysburg
Tight-fisted, hard headed
Country bred peasant's son
Light bearer, light giver
His words fall upon the men and women who crowd about the
The light shines round about them,
Hearts weary beneath the dragging burden of sorrow
Grow light at the word, crutches fall way from the maimed
Widows, mothers without sons
Men returned from the wars with bitter hopelessness
Fathers broken by nameless graves
Exultant move with calm certitude
Into this exaltation at the living word.
Perchance one man speaks the word, the word
Not fashioned in the mind, the heart of one man.
Through him, through his responsive spirit
The generations speak, through him
The timeless agonies endless crucifixions
Enduring and sorrow and all
The unseen and hidden faithfulness
Of the sons of liberty
These made the words that Lincoln spoke
The words of the ascension at Gettysburg.
Within the room there was light
The drawing against the books
Outside was the day.
Four men stripped to the waist mend the road
Black bodies gleam with sweat
Move the earth by a bank where cactus grows
And red hibiscus flames.
Dark bodies gleam in the light,
Green cactus, red hibiscus.
Their beauty needs the sun.
The sun's fierce heat first gives them birth
First stirs the seed within the earth
And drives the pulsing root to find
Food within the firm set rock,
Relentless drives the sap to flow
The tender leaf to thrust its way,
Through clod and clinging clay.
But look how through the sunny land
How down along the mountain side
Spithodia and the flamboyant
Deep red of the shoe black
And at this season the red of the poinsettia.
Red flows down the mountainside,
Through the land and through its peoples' past
Through space, through time
Sweeps away bitterness, sweeps away fear
Our fathers' blood, our land.
Turn again to the room.
Outside it is day
Within the splendour needs no sun
Those bodies do not bend but move upward with calm certi-
Here is the upward looking the upward moving
Of the ascension.
Reproduced from Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 2, No. 2 1951
More than Chains and toil. A Christian Work Ethic of Enslaved Women by
Joan M. Martin Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 2000.190 PP
Work is intrinsic to any society, but in the nascent American republic
African American bodies and work were owned by white people.
Although there are a number of texts which deal with women's work during
slavery never before has it been analyzed within the framework of Christian social
ethics. It is this task that the Rev. Dr. Joan Martin, Associate Professor of Christian
Social Ethics at Episcopal Divinity School Cambridge, Massachusetts in More
than Chains and toil. A Christian Work Ethic of Enslaved Women sets out to
accomplish in by relating] the experiential realities in lives of enslaved women and
their social world in the ante-bellum concerning the relationship between moral
agency, work, and human meaning (Martin 4).
More than Chains and Toil, is divided into five chapters that intersect the
disciplines of history, sociology, African American studies, Christian ethics, theol-
ogy and even semiotics. The first chapter presents an overview of slave narratives
during chattel slavery, during Reconstruction, and those resulting from the work of
the WPA Project.
Martin discusses the multifarious deployment of slave narratives, claiming
these texts were a means of writing African women into history, as well as a means
of articulating a strategy of resistance within chattel slavery. According to Martin,
slave narratives should
be seen as sacred texts, that is, texts that enable one to see the processes
whereby religious faith becomes a source of Power for African-Americans as an
Oppressed people (Martin 22).
Chapter Two lays the theoretical foundation for Martin's project the
womanist intellectual tradition, supplemented by Pierre Bourdieu's, logic of prac-
tice" with its concept of social space as multidimensional, relational and interactive.
In addition to Bourdieu's work, Martin also utilizes Jame's C. Scott's theory of
'hidden transcripts because "Bourdieu inadequately addresses the power of subor-
dinated groups to resist and subvert the dominant objective structures even if they
must do so in ways that appear passive, ineffective, and short term" (Martin 69).
The importance of Scott for Martin's reading Of women's slave narratives is the
currency his theory gives the often neglected social spaces and actions wherein
the Oppressed experience relative autonomy within their structured livelihood.
An outline and detailed analysis of the four constitutive elements for
constructing a work ethic based on the slave narratives are the focus of chapter
Three. These elements are:
* Blackwomen's theological and ethical understanding of the relation of God to
* Womanish moral authority, instruction and action as an inter-generational dy-
namic for communal maintenance, empowerment, and solidarity in the con-
text of Oppression;
* Black-women's struggles for self-determination in the use of one's own sex-
ual and reproduction labour, and
* Blackwomen's work-related attitudes of self-reliance, and confidence in one's
own learned craft and skill.(Martin 80)
Martin engages in meticulous discussion of these four elements in the
slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Kleckley, and Sojourner Truth (among
others) and highlights their articulation of the four theses listed above. By the end
of the chapter, the reader recognizes that indeed there is a fundamentally dynamic
attitude towards work in the narratives of enslaved black women; work as exploita-
tion is considered evil, but work that functions as resistance strategy engenders
In chapter Four of More Than Chains and Toil, Martin analyzes and
critiques the notions of work as "calling" and as "vocation" in the theologies of
Martin Luther and John Calvin, respectively. Her engagement with these theologi-
ans is necessary because Protestant notions are tremendously influenced by these
two theologians, especially the notion of a Protestant work ethic, which has deep
affiliations with Calvin's Geneva and engendered modern capitalism as per Max
Weber. Because none of these theologies takes the idea of exploitative work into
consideration in the construction of its theology, Martin attempts to open the
discourse to include both a critique of exploitative work and a redefinition of work.
More Than Chains and Toil ends with a discussion of contemporary
discourse on work. Notable facts are the decline in unionized work, federal
government workfare programmes, the flight of work to Third world countries, and
the more problematic issues of work administered through the prison labour
system, where unprecedented numbers of incarcerated African -American males
(over 800,000) perform work unrewarded by the multinationals who contract prison
workers. The multidisciplinary method which More than Chains and Toil employs,
its dialogue with and critique of modem Protestant theology and ethics, deserves
distinction in the field of womanist theo-ethics. But what sets Dr. Martins work
apart from other studies of women work during slavery is her groundbreaking
discussion of slave narratives within the framework of Christian social ethics. The
texts focus on the relationship between moral agency, work, and human meaning"
opens slave narratives to new ways of reading that enable contemporary readers
to discover their value as both sacred and literary testimonies of endurance and
(Reviews of these books are invited. Interested persons should write to the
editor quoting the titles) of the books) concerned, prior to reviewing them.)
How Sweet the Sound: The Spirit of African American History. Edited by
Nancy-Elizabeth Fi. Edited by Doris Y. Kadish, University Of Georgia Press,
2000. 247 pages
Francophone Writers of Africa and the Caribbean. By Rende Larrier, University
Press of Florida, 2000. 157 pages
Arms Akimbo African Women in Contemporary Literature. Edited by Janice
Liddell and Yakini Belinda Kemp. University of Florida, 1999. 268 pages.
Routes of the Roots. Geography and Literature in the English-Speaking Coun-
tries, edited by Isabella Maria Zoppi. Bulzoni Editre, 1998. 781 pages.
The Poetics of Empire. A Study of James Grainger's The Sugar Cane (1764)
by John Gilmore. The Athlone Press, 2000. 342 pages.
Charcoal and Cinnamon. The Politics of Color in Spanish Caribbean Literature
by Claudette M. Williams. University Press of Florida, 2000. 174 pages.
The Cuban Democratic Experience. The Autentico Years, 1944-1952 by
Charles D. Ameringer. University Press of Florida, 2000. 229 pages.
High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy: Women and Pink-Collar
Identities in the Caribbean by Carla Freeman. Duke University Press 2000.
Bahamian Memories Island Voices of the Twentieth Century by Olga Culmer
Jenkins.University Press of Florida, 2000. 279 pages.
Spanish Colonial Gold Coins in the Florida Collection by Alan K. Craig.Univer-
sity Press of Florida, 2000. 94 pages.
US Protestants Missions in Cuba. From Independence to Castro by Jason M.
Yaremko.University Press of Florida, 2000. 200 pages.
Democracy After Slavery. Black Politics and Peasant Radicalism in Haiti and
Jamaica by Mimi Sheller. University Press of Florida, 2000. 246 pages.
Mother Imagery in the novels of Afro-Caribbean Women by Simone A. James
Alexander. University of Missouri Press, 2001. 196 pages.