Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00077
 Material Information
Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: June-October 2005
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090030
Volume ID: VID00077
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124

Table of Contents
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    Back Cover
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Full Text

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Gangsta Poetics:
Femininity in Tanya Stephens's Gangsta Blues

Cell Phone Come Like a Blessing:
Religion and the Cell Phone in a
Rural Jamaican Town

Philosophy in Jamaican Proverbs

"To Be Hanged by the Neck Until He Be Dead":
The King Against Samuel Sharpe, April 1832


Art and Inclusion at Jamaica's National Gallery:
The 2004 National Biennial

Making Cassava Bammy from Scratch:
An Interview with Olive Senior

Carl Abrahams In Tribute


Lead Poisoning in Jamaican Children

Sponges of the Port Royal Mangroves and
Factors That Affect Their Distribution


!I Ii


For Nothing at All (excerpt)


Busha's Mistress:
Lest We Forget

Mouth Open, Story Jump Out:
A Survey of Jamaican Children's Books

Book Reviews

Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah,
by Lorna Goodison

Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large,
by Carolyn Cooper

Flowers of Jamaica, by Monica F. Warner
Manual of Dendrology, Jamaica, by Tracey Parker

Jamaica Journ
June October 20

lal Vol. 29 Nos. 1-2

Kim Robinson-Walcott
Assistant Editor
Shivaun Heame
Editorial Committee
Petrine Archer-Straw
Rupert Lewis
Wayne McLaughlin
Verene Shepherd
Design and Production
Image Factory Limited
Faith Myers
Advertising and Sales
Colin Neita
Phoenix Printery Limited
Jamaica Journal is published by
the Institute of Jamaica
All correspondence and subscription requests
should be addressed to:
Institute of Jamaica
10-16 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 922-0620-6
Fax: (876) 922-1147
Email: ioj.jam@mail.infochan.com
Website: www.instituteofamaica.org.jm
Back issues
Most back issues are available. List sent on
request. Entire series available on microfilm from:
ProQuest Information and Learning
Periodicals Acquisitions
P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346
Telephone: (734) 761-4700
Individual copies J$600/US$10; a subscription
for three issues is available from the Institute of
Jamaica for J$1,800/US$32 including shipping
and handling. Cheque or international money
order payable to the Institute of Jamaica.
Articles appearing in Jamaica Journal are
abstracted and indexed in Historical Abstracts and
America: History and Life.
Vol. 29 Nos. 1-2
Copyright 2005 by the Institute of Jamaica
ISSN 0021-4124
Cover or contents may not be reproduced in
whole or in part without the written permission
of the Institute of Jamaica.
Cover: Ti.. ,, .I I4. t. p""- t.. Carl Abrahams
(1977). Private collection.

Gangsta Poetics




Dancehall music has often been vilified as a 'thing' pregnant
with the double unwanted bastards, misogyny and violence.
Whether in the gyrations that take place on the dance floor
or in the lyrics that often explore all crevices of a woman's
body, the music, the culture and the space that houses them
have been defined as the enemy of woman, revelling in her
objectification as she is reduced to mere body parts without
thought or reason. On the other hand, defenders of the genre
have argued that rather than degrade, dancehall celebrates
woman as a full sexual being.
Thus, the position of woman in dancehall is constantly
in contention, especially if she is viewed as merely that
writhing, silent being a fan rather than the one controlling
the microphone and setting the tone for the party. The space
behind the microphone is dominated by men, so whether she
is glorified or condemned, in the role of 'fan' the woman is a
receptacle of the deejay's lyrics, not the conveyer. As a result,
though the female body is often discussed and dissected, it
is rarely done from a female perspective. On issues such as
pregnancy, love and even sex, the male dominance in the
genre means that the female half of the story is rarely told,
because in dancehall women lack an amplified voice. This
relative silence (relative because the deejay depends heavily
on her screams, so she is not actually quiet) problematises the
issue of representation, of which voice is such a pivotal aspect.
Into this landscape struts Tanya Stephens, armed with
her latest album Gangsta Blues. Gangsta Blues presents an
invaluable addition to the dancehall landscape, as the lyrics
ascribe a feminist sensibility to dancehall that celebrates
woman as lover, mother and rebel. The female deejay is an
integral figure in any exploration of the nature, role and
position of women in dancehall music, and by extension dancehall
culture, as she provides woman with representation without
placing her in the position of Other. In Stealing the Language: The
Emergence of Women's Poetry in America, Alicia Suskin Ostriker cites
Audre Lorde: "If we do not define ourselves we are nothing. If
the world defines you it will define you to your disadvantage."'
The female deejay thus allows women to define themselves in the
dancehall space. Through Gangsta Blues, the feminine can be read
as a combination of the revolutionary and the subversive, with
sensitivity and sensuality. Stephens makes it clear that the woman's
space is both in the bedroom and the battlefield as she moves easily
from domestic issues to political ones.
Though dancehall remains male-dominated, in recent years
the female deejay has gained visibility and volubility. So Stephens

is by no means alone in representing woman in the dancehall.
However, her work, and in particular Gangsta Blues, is important
because of the wide cross-section of themes it features. On the
album, Stephens embraces the tradition of the shrew and the scold,
the woman with the uncontrollable tongue, and gives amplified
voice to the nature and concerns of women. Gangsta Blues also has
great artistic merit and separates Stephens from the average deejay,
male or female, in its display of her versatility, lyrical dexterity
and keen intelligence one that is able to acutely treat social and
sexual politics. The album creates a uniquely broad representation
of woman, which helps to shatter, or at least loosen the grip of, the
patriarchal notions that are generally thought to govern dancehall.
Gangsta Blues presents an amalgam of dancehall, reggae,
rhythm and blues, fairytales, and even narrative poetry in which

Stephens sings and deejays of love, sex
and struggle with equal ease. In Gangsta
Blues she assumes the deejay's roles as
revolutionary and rudie, where 'gangsta' is
the contemporary version of the rudie. The
Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage gives a
lengthy definition of 'rude' which includes
"making a display of rough, disorderly
or sexy behaviour".2 The dictionary
also includes the idea of resistance in its
definition of 'rude': "In Jamaicanese, the
word 'rude' often refers to anyone openly
defiant of constituted authority," it states,
citing Rex Nettleford's Mirror Mirror. By
interrogating sex, sexuality and the society,
Stephens displays both sides of the rude
gyal persona.
Stephens engages her audience from
a very female position. In many ways she
is what Carolyn Cooper describes as the
"cunny Jamma oman" in her critical work
Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the
'Vulgar' Body of Jamaican Popular Culture.3
According to Cooper, who uncovers this
female sensibility from Louise Bennett's
poetry, the "cunny Jamma oman" uses
Anansi-like cunning, and often engages
in "self-protective verbal abuse" through
the art of tracing.4 Stephens's lyrics reveal
continuations of this "cunny Jamma
oman" as her words become defensive and
offensive weapons.
As a deejay, Stephens is steeped in
the verbal arts. The "Intro" to the album
acts as a challenge to other deejays and
to the establishment. Stephens details
her position as a talented lyricist who
has paid her dues, and as a woman.
Simultaneously, she declares a sense of
individuality and refuses Otherness by
rejecting a definition of herself based
solely on her position as female. An
integral part of this is the struggle for
recognition that the female deejay faces.
Where female writers may be getting a
room of their own, the average female
deejay is a far way off from a studio of
her own and she has to battle hard to gain
and retain command of the phallocentric
microphone. Thus in the "Intro" Stephens
scoffs that she has worked ten times
harder than a man yet all she gets is "half-
hearted regard".
This stance is again taken up with
"We a Lead", which allows her to strike a
riposte and lay down a challenge with her
pen as she calls:

Pass di paper, gi mi a pen
an mek mi slap some lyrics inna some
fool face again.
Run di riddim, Andrew gimme di
An when mi spit dis mi wan' see dem
fin' a come back

With these introductory lines (reminiscent
of Bennett's cantankerous personas)
Stephens exudes the traditional bravado
of the deejay in a landscape where self-
praise is the ultimate recommendation.
She declares herself as unstoppable once
she has pen and paper in hand, and dares
anyone to contest her claim. This dare
is particularly intriguing because the
dancehall genre is so dominated by men.
Stephens is attempting to write herself
into a history in which women are more
than marginalised. A look at the indexes of
Cooper's Sound Clash, Chris Salewicz and
Adrian Boot's Reggae Explosion: The Story
of Jamaican Music, and Norman Stolzoff's
Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall
Culture in Jamaica (all significant texts in
the recording of dancehall's history and
culture) shows very few women's names,
highlighting the dearth of female deejays.5
Nonetheless, the number of women
attempting to make their mark in the
industry is growing, with Ce'cile and
Macka Diamond, along with stalwarts
Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens, leading
the pack. Several female deejays have
adopted either the descriptive 'Lady' or
'Sister' as a part of their stage name. Thus
Macka Diamond was once
Lady Mackerel, Patra was
once Lady Patra; there
are also Lady G, Sister
Nancy and others. The
descriptive monikers
'Lady' and 'Sister' suggest
the antithesis of the loose
woman, giving the
illusion of decorum.
The patriarchal
slant of the society
dictates that
women should be
bearers of decorum.
Ostriker describes this situaon .
as it relates to poets in the
nineteenth century:

[W]hat the genteel
tradition demanded of

the ladies was that they bare their
hearts, gracefully and without making
an unseemly spectacle of themselves.
They were not to reveal that they had
heads, let alone loins. They were not
to demonstrate ambition. They were
not to lecture on public issues or to
speculate on philosophical or religious

That dancehall may expect this same
gentility from females is evident in the
traditional naming of female deejays
which illuminates the paradox of female
positioning in dancehall culture. It is
safe to argue that dancehall is no place
for gentility. Yet, it can be seen that a
modicum, or illusion, of decency is
expected of women. Cooper asserts,
"Women are supposed to be the perennial
guardians of private and public morality;
men are allowed to extemporize."7
In that vein, contextualising the
use of the term 'lady', a moniker which
has been used many times in dancehall
history, is significant to understanding the
paradox of woman in dancehall culture.
Cooper argues in Soundclash that much
role play and masking are a part of the
deejay persona.8 The deejay's name is
the first indicator of this construct. The
tradition began long before dancehall
and it reflects the continuities that exist
among the genres of Jamaican popular
music. While some monikers are left over
from childhood, others are deliberate
descriptions of how the deejay wants
to be perceived. So it is that 'Banton',
whether 'Burru', 'Buju' or 'Mega', refers
to the deejay's ability with words.

N numerous deejays who
i adpt either 'Rankin', 'Ranks'
r an actual rank in the
armed forces put themselves
forward as men of stature.
i Some deejays have turned
S to the cinema for their
- it monikers, often pulling
S from romanticised
notions of the hero
which, as Cooper

Lady Saw



ad' i3atts, have greal\l mtluenitdi thl
rude bi\,',t persona. Naimenr-. ~Li .i Nin]i
\lan and Silver Fox' arc manirker.. it tht
iducntlt nature of th nmr.iral .rt- tiln-
,-hileotherssuch as lo,-iL\ tialIs mirk
th_ inipac. of the Welstrn. L.adi, ,rki
in much the same wa\ Fir-l iI allok >'or
the cre nation of an illusion ot rank S:-coind,
it bruin- I th it the illusion oI thi: gnteel,
lu- t -i Ninl brings cloak ot dJadL.,

'int n ordtr tosurin '. mran\ ttn le
dJ.la ha~e h.id to adopt lackneu~-
and break li',oe from what CLoopr icali
ar\ -.tar\ lIdae.o-Christian d.l initioiri
.il .ippripriat temale beha\ iour
Hit'ri~all\ it seefnms that female dfla'.\
have found it easier to break into the
deejay ranks by touting sexuality. Lady
Saw has staunchly argued that she
embraced explicit lyrics in an attempt
to cut through the barriers that female
deejays confront. In an interview in Reggae
Explosion she said, "The first records
I made were good, but nobody paid
attention to me. I saw guys doing X-rated
stuff and getting away with it. So I thought
I'd try it too. And it worked. I have no
S regrets." Though initially faced with much
criticism for her raunchy lyrics, Lady
S Saw's open sexuality seems to have been
too much for her detractors to suppress;
dancehall revels in heterosexual freedom.

Stephens's embracing of slackness
attaches her to the line of deejays, both
male and female, such as Shabba Ranks
and Lady Saw, who revel in female
sexuality. Stephens is able to let loose with
the best of them and like Lady Saw she
embraces her sexuality as an important
part of her identity. The two diverge,
however, with Stephens's insistence that
sex is about her own pleasure. In the 1994
documentary The Darker Side of Black, Lady
Saw admits that much of her talk about
sex is aimed at making men feel good
about themselves. There is no such hint
fiom Stephtn- aj the i, oman', plt.-siure
i- on.rantl\Ii oriIgroundtd. IindCd trhi
is i\ hert Strephlkn- dJi. rges from much it
mainstream slackni;. in danceh.all Ihle
dancehall spact ackn.li.. ldgis and anl n
celebratf- woman .rta .n \ua I- l b. III' \ it
it a pyrrhic recognie n IThe '.i.man
s' ual. prowess or power i n u'uallI\
iirut her owin pleasure. Otten it i; a
COrillin'dlt\ in the sexualeconomin a
i-pit, rmlr.,d 11 Slhabba Ranks's "Gon.
Lip I[h . i,ira i,-. l_, Itt en the space,
uiled toi pr. i. th. Ii p>.r-hitverosexuality
o. t th man makinme th,. %'mnan.p pleasure
:t.urin da ir\ his i manhole :d Thei i.ll:nt
imagery evoked by "stabbing", "digging"
and so on further erodes the sense that
giving pleasure is the man's goal.
With Stephens, however, the woman's
sexual pleasure is always paramount in
a sexual encounter. It is a part of her
definition of self, and of her insistence
on the validity of woman as a sexual
being. Sexuality is an important part of
Stephens's definition of femininity. Much
of the discourse which argues against
slackness purports that it makes woman a
sex object. With Stephens, she is always the
subject. In "Boom Wuk", the most explicit
of the songs on Gangsta Blues, she declares:
It's not the way you walk
And it's not the way you talk
It's not your beat-up car
You definitely ain't no movie star
And it's not the clothes you wear
And it ain't your nappy hair
It ain't your gangsta flex
Baby it's all about the sex
Mi jus love off yuh boom wuk

While one can argue that one woman's
"boom wuk" is another man's "digging",

the words themselves make a difference.
While "boom" (bomb) suggests explosive,
it has none of the pain potential found
in "digging" or "stabbing" but instead
connotes waves of pleasure. "Boom
Wuk" turns the sexual value system on
its head as Stephens dismisses many of
the reasons to value a man in dancehall
culture, negating his looks, his position as
a gangsta and his money. She sings that
she is simply in the relationship for the
pleasure he provides her. "Mi nuh even
understand a why yuh wife a bruk war /
yuh might love me but to me you's just
a wuk star," she chants. Furthermore, the
man in question is not simply celebrated
for having a big penis. His value lies in
his ability to use it, not to shake up her
"strukcha" as male deejays traditionally
boast, but to please her. The man even
finds himself in the traditional position
of the woman, complaining that their
relationship goes no further than sex, and
Stephens is callously dismissive of his
concerns. She sings:

Lately, yuh get a vibe seh yuh no tink
wi a go make it
Seh mi only gi yuh ratings when you
Here's a good way fi make it work
When yuh see mi, lose di pants an di

Stephens takes her pleasure very seriously
and "Damn" presents an unequivocal
refusal to submit her sexual pleasure to
intellectualism. The mock-narrative poem
details an almost successful date with a
man who is able to satisfy her mind and
treat her opinions with respect while
showing gallantry. Unfortunately, when
the truth is laid bare, his performance
falls well below par and he is unable to
satisfy her sexually. The track highlights
that though Stephens, or the persona
in the poem, takes pleasure in mental
stimulation, her sexuality and sexual
pleasure are important parts of her identity
and not to be compromised. She discards
the sentimental notion of a man who only
respects her mind. Her body also needs
attention. Her demands keep her from
ever being a sexual object, as her selfhood
is never displaced. She claims her right to
pleasure on and off the bed.
It should also be noted that when
Stephens embraces slackness and explicit

lyrics, she does so deliberately. "It's a
Pity", a song which deals with the fate of
two lovers who are already engaged in
committed relationships with other people,
highlights that her talent allows her to be
sexy without being explicit. Her slackness
then acts as what Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
in Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths
and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype,
dubs the obscene or dirty goddess, who
celebrates a woman's "heat" as well as
providing rude jokes that only women get
and that allow them to deal with the trials
of life. Estes argues, "A woman's heat is
not a state of sexual arousal but a state of
intense sensory awareness that includes,
but is not limited to, her sexuality."10
Stephens embodies this heat, which blazes
from her lyrics.
Furthermore, Stephens subverts the
notion that a woman who celebrates her
sexuality cannot also be a strong woman.
This is particularly distinctive in the re-
versioning of "I Am Woman", which is
one of the most poignant pieces on the
album. The blues effect of the a cappella
song helps to firmly seat Stephens in the
tradition of strong women who celebrate
womanhood and mourn the trials of the
sex. Stephens juxtaposes strength and
sexuality when she declares: "The feet
that fit so comfortably on your shoulders
/ are the same ones that's gonna stand
my ground" highlighting that she can
be sexual and strong at the same time.
Interestingly, it is with this line that
Stephens departs from the original song,
declaring her brand of femininity while
adding her voice to the feminist tradition
with this re-versioning. In much the
same way, Stephens insists that the man's
physical strength be correlated with his
strength of character, declaring, "With all
the muscle that yuh building / Yuh must
be strong enough to lift your standards
make me wanna hang around." In this
piece, Stephens declares that her aim is
simply to gain respect and not be judged
by her sexuality. "I don't wanna be no guy
/ Just wanna be respected by the I," she
sings. Simultaneously her repertoire sends
weapons of mass insurrection throughout
the stereotypical descriptions of femininity
as she fights against the notion that a
woman wearing a short skirt should not be
taken seriously, arguing that the dress code
neither marks nor diminishes her potential.

"Thong-thong-thong, don't mean a lack of
common sense," she declares.
The dearth of female deejays in
dancehall has meant that many issues
are either not dealt with, or are only dealt
with from a male perspective. Stephens
presents new ground from which to
interrogate some of these issues. One of
these is the story of the 'matey' or other
woman. The other woman, viewed as a
thief, who is often unable to gain a man of
her own, is an often vilified and satirised
figure in dancehall. While there are a few
songs giving another perspective, such as
Mad Cobra's "Tek Him" which advises,
"A gyal man a run yuh dung gyal a nuh fi
yuh fault / tek him, tek him gyal a nuh fi
yuh fault", most of the songs in the genre
decry the matey. As in "Matey a No Good
Suppen" by Beenie Man, the matey figure
is often seen as a blight upon humanity, as
she lacks the qualities that would make her
a good wife.
Stephens presents another side to the
picture with "Tek Him Back". This song is
delivered from the perspective of a matey
who refuses to put up with her newly
acquired lover. She is therefore attempting
to return the defective man to his original
partner. Rather than putting up with the
man, she puts his clothes on her lawn
and even threatens the 'wife' figure. She
gives up the man, not because of society's
conventions about the other woman or
any sense of morality, but because he does
not live up to her expectations of what a
good man should be. The song
makes it clear that when a woman
is financially independent, she
does not have to be subjected to an
unsatisfactory man.
Stephens also represents the
female side on the issue of the
philandering man and a woman
who falsely attributes paternity
to her lover. The idea of 'getting
jacket', having a child that is
not your own being attributed
to you, is often decried by men
in dancehall, and the women
who perpetrate these wrongs are
spurned. With "Little White Lie",
Stephens presents a sensitive
take on the issue, detailing the
woman's reasons for crafting a

Tanya Stephens

jacket. By couching the story in a fairy
tale, she makes it even more effective by
suggesting that "happy ever after" is mere
illusion. Though she does not suggest that
the act is right, she offers an explanation
for how such a situation can occur.
The philanderer is severely trounced in
"What's Your Story", which engages Beres
Hammond's "Robin Hood". Stephens
presents the position of the woman waiting
at home for the man's late-night arrival.
However, her wait is not Penelope-like, as
her thoughts swing from thinking her man
thoughtless to believing him killed. Once
again, the song highlights an independent
spirit which refuses substandard treatment.
When Stephens declares,
You could deal
mi a go disturb the peace
Talk up What's your story?
Somebody please
run go call the police
Talk up What's your story?
her threat sounds like a physical one,
rather than simply a threat of noise.
Sound Clash illustrates the
revolutionary nature of dancehall if it
is read via the right lens or at least with
the blinders and prejudices removed.
In the chapter "'More Fire': Chanting
Down Babylon from Bob Marley to
Capleton", Cooper explores the line of
fire that connects Capleton and other
fire-brandishing deejays to Bob Marley."
Noting that their fire is often mistakenly

read literally, Cooper suggests that deejays
like Sizzla, Capleton and Anthony B are
simply continuing to interrogate the socio-
political structure as they chant against the
ills of society. She argues:
But, surely, without detracting from
the distinctiveness of Bob Marley's
sensibility and the profundity of his
contribution to Jamaican and world
culture, it must be appropriate to
acknowledge the social, political,
economic, and other conditions in
Jamaica that combined to create his
not-so-unique circumstances, against
which he rebelled with such passion.
These dehumanizing conditions
remain potent social forces shaping the
consciousness of a new generation of
artists and constitute for them sources
of inspiration, creativity, as well as
On the other hand, longevity and
stardom have largely eluded women who
tout 'culture', that is, consciously uplifting
and socially reflective music. In a recent
Sunday Gleaner article, journalist Germaine
Smith argues that female deejays who
sing 'conscious' or revolutionary music
struggle against the gatekeepers and often
fail to headline shows the way their male
counterparts do.13 In support of Smith's

observation, few female deejays, with the
exception of Stephens, explore 'culture' but
tend more toward variations of slackness.
Though Stephens is not among those
known for brandishing fire, she is clearly
among what Cooper dubs Marley's
"ideological heirs"," securely placed there
by songs such as "What a Day", "Sound of
My Tears" and "The Other Cheek". Indeed,
Stephens is more than linked in spirit: in
"What a Day" she calls on the cleansing
power of fire, hoping for that day when,
after one has "bun down everything the
society can "start clean".
Stephens's social commentary is
often haunting and goes well beyond
pointing fingers across the class divide.
In "What a Day", which echoes Marley's
"One Love" and "Redemption Song" and
John Lennon's "Imagine", she looks at
the ills of society on all levels. The song
rests social decay at the feet of corrupt
politicians, religious 'freaks', corrupt
preachers, and the 'baby mother' and 'baby
father' phenomenon that has replaced
real parenting. "What a Day" is easily the
most poetic piece on the album, containing
intense metaphoric language wrapped
tightly around the rhythm. The deejay lists
the numerous things of which she is tired,
and she is particularly dismissive of the
church as she laments:

Tired a leaving church feeling like a just
been robbed
Two hours of ramblin not much
mention of God
The richest man's the only one who
does not have a job
A bunch of righteous freaks extorting
worse than a mob

She then promotes the 'vision' of the
world she would like to see, one where
spirituality, as opposed to religious
fanaticism, can flourish:
I got a vision of a whole other plane
Where the spiritual can flourish again
I'm just waiting for the fire to rain
Bun dung everything an start clean

Even so, she is cognisant that this utopian
ideal may never become a reality, and so
the song ends with the notion that this
long-visualised peace may be nothing
more than wishful dreaming:

Maybe hoping for a change is a dream
Maybe life ain't as bad as it seems
But if dreaming is the best I can do
Then I'll be dreaming my whole life

In this utopian vision, society's
problems are labelled, and the politics of
economics skinned out for scrutiny in the
line "when life is finally worth its cost".
The statement plays with the idea of the
cost of living, making it the cost of life
itself and indicating the role that poverty
has to play in violence among the have
nots. Like the revolutionary Rastaman, she
sees herself as a voice of the people. The
introduction to "The Other Cheek" states:
The people say dem a talk
and nobady naw listen dem all along
so dem want mi to put it in the form
of a song
Cause is like seh oonu betray wi trus'
so here's to all of you from all of us.

Once again she uses explicit lyrics to break
loose, but this time for another kind of
rebellion. The line "What the f_ you really
think a go happen" in "The Other Cheek"
is deliberately disturbing, especially in a
song which contains no other obscenities.
The name of the song itself calls on the
power of religious sensibilities that inform
so much of the culture and simultaneously
overturns them as she suggests that simply
turning the other cheek is unacceptable

nv - -

and implausible in Jamaica's socio-
economic climate. Her statement "Wid
all di highway you a build an go through
/ You neva build a likkle avenue / fi
di yout' dem earn a buck" sheds harsh
light on the difference in opportunities
between the rich and the poor while
simultaneously casting doubt on projects
such as the government's Highway 2000 as
representative of progress.
In Cooper's interrogation of the
nature of violence in dancehall lyrics, in
the chapter "'Lyrical Gun': Metaphor
and Role-Play in Dancehall Culture",
she ascribes a revolutionary impetus to
the violent lyrics of deejays who'chuck
badness', as they continue in the tradition
of the rudie.15 Rather than merely being a
gun-toting criminal, being a 'gangsta' also
imbues ideas of rebellion carried from the
tradition of the rude bwoi, who is 'rude',
that is, opposed to law and order, because
he finds it impossible to survive within
the constraints of law and order. It is this
identity which allows Bounti Killer to
simultaneously sing about bloody brutality
while declaring himself "The Poor People
Governor". In the dancehall culture great
'badness' comes with great responsibility,
which seems to reflect the real-life
situation wherein area dons double as area
Stephens's lyrics grant her kinship
with these deejays. This aspect of her
work can be found throughout the album.
Whether she sings of being broken-hearted
or being in love, there is often a line which
declares her role as warrior or 'gangsta'
as she taunts with the threat to "pop off"
(shoot) or "step in the neck of" anyone
who dares to challenge her. She most
clearly articulates this tradition through
"Gangsta Gyal", a duet with Spragga Benz.

The gangsta gyal not only defends her
man inside and outside of the courtroom
but also carries his weapon (a subterfuge
necessary to evade the police), and will use
it if she has to. To the urgings of Spragga
Benz, Stephens sings:

Mi a bag up di chronic
Till mi finga dem stuck togedda wid
all a di gum
Mi a wipe down di clip an a load di
While you a gwine ile up di gun

In Spragga Benz's segment, the deejay is
equivocal about his commitment, making
sure to mention that he has other women.
However, he highlights that his gangsta
gyal is special: with this woman, "if it
come down to it / she wi buss di tek
(gun)" though he does not illustrate
what it may come down to, whether it is a
battle between his gangsta gyal and other
women or a shootout with the police.
Though gangsta references are found
throughout the album, suggesting that the
gangsta nature is pivotal to her definition
of femininity, there is no attempt to
eradicate sensitivity. Several songs reveal
vulnerable moments, of crying and of
being heartbroken. In "Can't Breathe",
Stephens displays the classic bitterness
attributed to the woman scorned. This
song makes it clear that being a gangsta
does not mean she cannot cry as she
admits that she wants to hurt her ex-lover
and make him "suffer" and "cry like
[she] did". Indeed, Stephens defines this
"badness" as a part of what makes her a
desirable woman. When comparing herself
to the new woman she deejays:

She cyan cook like me
Cyan jook like me

No, nuh know yuh in and out like a
book like me
She nuh full a style like mi
Cyan mek yuh smile like mi
An she cyan never give yuh a
beautiful chile like mi
She nuh tight like mi
Cyan fling it up right like mi
An if mi buck ar one a way, she cyan
fight like mi

Thus she seems to perpetuate the
stereotype that the ideal woman has the
right domestic skills and so can "cook"
and is also sensitive and fertile. Yet any
stereotypical notions are quickly shaken
loose as she also validates the ideal
woman's sexuality she must be able to
"cook" and "jook" with equal skill. The
crowning moment comes, however, in the
final line when the gangsta in her pops out
and she threatens violence.
So Stephens stands in a class all her
own. She is separated not only by her
skills as a lyricist or the wide range of
issues with which she deals, but also by
the variety of styles she uses. Gangsta Blues
combines poetry, fairy tales, hip-hop and
dancehall to create the musical version of
a woman who refuses to be defined by any
single thing. She presents a revolutionary
take on the feminine, blending the violence
of the gangsta in a refusal to simply accept
any hand she is dealt, with a willingness
to cry, and with the duty to speak for
those who cannot speak for themselves.
In her disruption of the patriarchal social
order, Stephens asserts that women are
not merely voiceless beings victimised
by patriarchal dancehall. Her lyrics
declare her a gangsta and a lover, and
unmistakably a woman who is able to
wine and rhyme with the best of them. 8

1. Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Stealing the Lan-
guage: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in
America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 59.
2. Richard Allsopp, ed., Dictionary of Carib-
bean English Usage (Kingston: University of
the West Indies Press, 2003).
3. Carolyn Cooper, Noises in the Blood: Oral-
ity, Gender and the 'Vulgar' Body of Jamaican
Popular Culture (London: Macmillan, 1993),
4. Ibid., 61
5. Carolyn Cooper, Sound Clash: Jamaican

Dancehall Culture at Large (New York: Pal-
grave Macmillan, 2004); Chris Salewicz and
Adrian Boot, Reggae Explosion: The Story of
Jamaican Music (Kingston: Ian Randle Pub-
lishers, 2001); Norman C. Stolzoff, Wake the
Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in
Jamaica (Durham, N.C.: Duke University
Press, 2000).
Ostriker, Stealing the Language, 31.
Cooper, Sound Clash, 3.
Ibid., 145-78.
Ibid., 99.

10. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run
With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the
Wild Woman Archetype (New York: Ballan-
tine Books, 1992), 383.
11. Cooper, Sound Clash, 179-206.
12. Ibid., 181-82.
13. Germaine Smith, "Culture Women Over-
looked", Sunday Gleaner, 6 March 2005, El.
14. Cooper, Sound Clash, 182.
15. Ibid., 145-178.

Cell Phone Come

Like a Blessing



"God come firs'an'cell phone afta"
Sixty-year-old man
living in a district outside 'Orange Valley'

It would be difficult to ignore the degree
to which the cell phone has transformed
daily life throughout Jamaica. As many
readers are aware, land lines are a
relatively recent acquisition, particularly
in many rural areas, and cell phone

towers have more effectively provided
phone service to individuals living in
the hilly interior of the island. In many
respects, then, a study of the impact of
the cell phone is a study of the effects of
having any kind of telephone system.

It is therefore not surprising that
rural Jamaicans have expressed great
enthusiasm for the cell phone.
As anthropologists working through
ethnography, we lived in Jamaica
for one year in order to gain a better





understanding of how things have
changed as a result of this innovation.'
Research was conducted in two sites:
'Orange Valley' (a pseudonym), a
town located in rural Clarendon, and
'Marshfield' (again a pseudonym), a
housing scheme in Portmore.2 Because the
project was funded by an international
aid agency and tried to assess the real and
potential impact of new communication
technologies for development in rural
and urban Jamaica, the emphasis in our
two research sites was working with
low-income households. Although our
full ethnography, The Cell Phone: An
Anthropology of Communication, analyses
both research sites, this article focuses on
our findings in Orange Valley. Almost all
the households in the distant districts of
Orange Valley possessed at least one cell
One difference between
anthropological and other research
methodologies is that we do not restrict
ourselves to changes that might be
regarded as specifically of economic
concern. Rather, we try to understand
all elements of people's lives that we
encounter during such a study. The point
of such research is that often the impact is
not at all what might have been predicted
and varies from country to country,4 or
from area to area. For example, in Orange
Valley we found that the telephone was
important as an aid to dealing with
medical problems primarily because the
cell phone links in with the taxi system
as a way of enabling people to get to a
clinic quickly during an emergency. In
other countries the cell phone has become
a kind of single-person office that turns
many individuals into a new kind of
entrepreneur. However, we found that
such entrepreneurial activities were
much less common among low-income
On the other hand, usage of the cell
phone in Orange Valley underscored
the fact that for many Jamaicans, one
of the most important, if not the most
important, part of their lives is their
devotion to God.5 However, as we shall
try to demonstrate in this article, people's
lives cannot be compartmentalised into
separate categories such as economic,
social, religious and cultural. From the
point of view of an individual, all these

elements come together because they are
all part of the same person's experience
and concerns.
It would be tempting to see religious-
related usage of the phone as something
that connects to a quite separate
dimension of spiritual life rather than
concerns with economic survival. In
practice, however, the church provides
a key link between our main topics of
enquiry: poverty and communication.
It also helps shed light on the larger
issues raised by the prevalent attitudes to

sickness, and the failure to take medical
advice. The key to these linkages lies in
the specific form of Christianity that now
overwhelmingly dominates the area:
evangelical Pentecostalism.6 Even for
those individuals who do not belong to
formal Pentecostal churches (such as the
Church of God), other churches such as
the Methodist, Baptist, Anglican and even
Catholic denominations have adopted
some of the more Pentecostal worship
styles and perspectives.

One effect of this dominance lies in
the prevailing attitude to money and
economic well-being. In some of the
older churches which were influenced
by Catholic and Anglican rites, the use
of scriptural material represented a form
of reassurance regarding poverty; most
specifically, that lack of money did not
signify lack of moral values. Indeed, there
are many scriptural references (such as
the Sermon on the Mount) that appear
to imply an almost moral superiority to
the condition of poverty, and much of the
focus is on compassion and concern for
the state of poverty. It is relatively rare
in such churches to be confronted with
preaching in which the prevalent message
is that Christian activity is in and of itself
a way to gain wealth.
By contrast, in the many evangelical
messages that permeate contemporary
Jamaican life through television, radio,
billboards and conversation, the constant
message is that devotion to the church
and giving directly to the church have the
potential to pay 'interest', in that, of the
various blessings that may accrue, there is
certainly the possibility of wealth. There
are countless stories of people finding not
just Jesus but also good fortune. Whereas
once the quintessential example of good
fortune might have been the blind person
who is now able to see, today it seems to
be the poor suddenly finding they have
means. The image of gaining interest is
quite an explicit one, since so much of the
service is punctuated by direct appeals for
money to be given to the church followed
by promises that such devotion will not
go 'unrewarded' by God, as witnessed
by many examples of people in poverty
who did not know how they were
going to cope suddenly obtaining some
miraculous good fortune.
In return, many strong Pentecostals
believe in these benefits with fervency.
Winsome, a member of the Church of
God, is certain that her money is coming,
but she does not know when and in what
form. For Winsome, there are no doubts
entertained that she will receive her
blessings. Indeed, in her case this leads
to a complex quandary over whether she
is allowed to accept money directly from
the church. Winsome is not working and
her main sources of money come from
her estranged husband and boyfriend,

both of whom "luv fi lick". Struggling to
come out of her abusive relationships and
make a life for herself and children on her
own, Winsome would be an ideal case for
poverty relief from the church or a formal
organisation because she is perpetually
struggling to make ends meet and, to do
so, often finds herself in compromising
situations. However, Winsome remains
uncertain about how to respond to any
possible philanthropy. She is reluctant
to ask for money from the church,
because this does not 'fit' her sense of
the miraculous and unexpected fortune
that is her due. She ultimately resolves
her dilemma through her belief that her
pastor receives messages directly from
God concerning who should or should
not be helped by the church. In fact, she
regularly relays the story of the day

pastor for assistance for herseltc
and children. As soon a, he ,
turned down the aisle to a alk
to him, he yelled out, "Ntop' .
Do not come any further.
Wait and you shall rece i. e
His blessings." One
week later, Winsome's
sister came by and
gave her money "
and food. More
recently Winsome
was desperately
searching for
money for her
daughter's school fees. 'She had enough
faith to send her daughter to school
without the fees, but without a certificate
showing the fees have been paid, she
could not obtain a bank voucher which
would allow for the collection of her
daughter's school books. Just as she was
starting to fret, a voucher mysteriously
arrived in the mail from the bank.
Winsome's daughter wondered whether
or not she should return it, since its arrival
was clearly a mistake. However, Winsome
replied instantly, "Shut your mouth,
collect your books and give thanks to
God." God has shown Winsome time and
again that her struggles are simply the
evolution of God's plan and she should
hold fast and wait for her true blessings.
The issue for Jamaicans living in
poverty is that money is not generally
something that derives from consistent

work, since work is often very difficult to
obtain. Money and good fortune are much
more likely to be a result of a windfall
or the munificence of others, either as
remittances from relations living abroad
or a local patron. As a result, it is easy to
see the receipt of money as the primary
evidence of blessing. In theological terms
this is in many ways 'vulgar' in the sense
of the more immediate example of the
larger Protestant tradition of wealth as
the evidence that one is indeed saved.7
There are many stories of how someone
was down to their last hundred dollars
and really did not know what they were
gning to do next Then
j- the tc, there
-, Ilk ing dim n
Lhe-trcnt their A .

nephew called them on their cell
phone from New York and said, "Write
down this number." After picking up
their money, the individual tells all who
will listen that "God must have been with
me that day since I remembered I had
my documents with me and I was able
to walk straight into Western Union and
there it was, my money."
Such stories reinforce the strong belief
that service to the church and devotion to
prayer are the best means of ensuring that
money will somehow come your way,
probably through an unexpected source.
One of the main ways in which people
demonstrate their service to the church is
through regular donations, which may be
equivalent to the biblical tithes but most
often are simply a contribution as befits
the means of the person on a regular

basis. Typically, tithes or donations range
from thirty to fifty dollars among low-
income Jamaicans, but many congregants
who attend church two or more times per
month also note their regular contribution
to church rallies, harvests, concerts and
other services. If one then examines the
subsequent financial relationship between
individual and church, we find a system
by which a small but regular amount is
spent on the church by the individual. But
that individual believes that occasional
windfalls are coming to them as a direct
result of that regular commitment of
income, support and involvement in the
This may in part
explain why in a
place such as Orange
uValley, with one of the
strongest associations
with the Pentecostal
church of any part of
Jamaica, the single
," most important
'''- leisure activity is
Lotto or Cashpot.
Here the structure
of the financial
relationship between
the individual and
S the institution is
Very similar to that
person's relationship
with the church. A
Person commits a small
but regular income to
gambling of this kind,
ranging anywhere from twenty dollars
for the occasional gambler to up to a
hundred dollars for those who have a
strong feeling about a particular number.
In return, they expect an occasional
but larger sum to come their way that
would not be likely without this regular
commitment of money. In the lottery and
the church the belief is that the money
that comes to the individual is much
greater than the money that is spent.
In both cases a sceptical outsider might
suggest that the truth is exactly the
opposite. That is, the money invested is
much greater than monies that can be
attributed to this source. In a sense this
is obvious: the churches must receive
a considerable income simply in order
to exist and pay their expenses (pastors

and electricity, for example). Likewise,
the Lotto is also ultimately a way of
raising money. The link is furthered
by the connection with the spiritual or
magical world. Almost all expenditure
on Lotto and Cashpot is based upon
forms of gambling derived from the
original Chinese numbers game in which
different symbols represent particular
numbers.8 The best predictor of the Lotto
or Cashpot numbers is thought to be
dreams and, more specifically, the correct
interpretation of dreams. In effect, and
as in the case of the church, there is seen
to be a kind of spiritual or transcendent
dimension to luck which in turn is closely
connected with the idea of blessing.
Both of these activities have an
impact upon the use of the phone. When
we looked closely at the budgets and
expenditure of many individuals in
Orange Valley, we found that two of their
main forms of expenditure were Lotto
or Cashpot, on the one hand, and phone
calls on the other. On enquiring further
into the cell phone conversations, we
discovered that one of the main topics of
conversation was the dreams that people
have, discussion as to what numbers to
bet on, and how a person had read the
patterns of winning numbers. In turn, bets
were often placed collectively, phoned
in by a central figure who would then
send money down to a vendor through a
trusted route taxi driver.
While investment may be one form
of receiving blessings, equally powerful
was the belief that while God has a plan
and blessings will be coming to you, God
also helps those who help themselves. In
these instances, the cell phone was seen
as a tool to achieve this end. In the first
instance, the cell phone can help small
shopowners to save a bit of money by
enabling them to phone to check if the
main supplier of bread can send up ten
loaves with a local route taxi, arranging
to pay the vendor a few days later when
they have to conduct their other business
(effectively saving an extra fifty dollars
for the taxi fare). The cell phone can
also be used to call people in the event
of an emergency. Equipped with a cell
phone, Jamaicans are no longer reliant
upon collect phone calls and expensive
calling cards to initiate the connections
with their friends and relatives living

abroad and therefore keep in contact
more frequently. Not surprisingly, the
regular contact also alters the volume
and frequency of remittances received.
As Tyrone, a thirty-eight-year-old man,
says, "Yuh just can pick up your phone
an' seh, 'Wa gwaan ray ray, yuh see me
inna likl position out yah, right now. Wa
yuh can do fi help me? Ru ru' ... 'Bwoy,
mi can send a thirty dollah fi yuh or a
forty dollah.' Certainly in Orange Valley
remittances have made a substantial
impact: the owner of the local cambio
and Western Union office estimated that
ten thousand pounds circulate through
Orange Valley on an average day, a figure
dwarfed by the sums transferred and
exchanged during Christmas and the
beginning of the school year.
Using the cell phone to extend one's
networks to phone a relative in'foreign'
or some other possible source of support
makes sense. One of the characteristics
of Jamaican usage of the cell phone that
differs from most other countries is that
many Jamaicans have very extensive
networks of numbers that they store in
the phones themselves, either in the SIM
card or in the phone.9 These consist of
relatives, friends and acquaintances with
whom they keep in touch through the
occasional and usually quite short call
that simply confirms that each has not
forgotten the other. These connections
may remain dormant for long periods
of time other than this occasional phone
call, until one or other has reason to make
more of this linkage, for example because
their child is going to take a course near
where this other friend happens to live
and they need a place to stay. This pattern
of extensive, rather than intensive, use of
friends and relations is reflected in what
we term 'link-up', a pattern of social
networking through the phone. This is
an important way in which people help
themselves by keeping alive the social
connections that may become vital at
some future time when they need a
particular kind of help.
Organising church functions and
betting on the lottery are probably the
two major genres of cell phone use by
adults after basic social intercourse and
gossip in Orange Valley. The fact that the
cell phone is central to these connections
is also in part explained by the sense of

respectability in these Pentecostal areas.10
Many of those talking on the phone are
neighbours or near neighbours, but they
talk by phone rather than going 'on the
road' to visit. Within the house, women
can walk around happily in nightwear or
even undergarments, but if they leave the
house they are expected to be properly
dressed and 'put together' in a manner
that represents a considerable amount
of time and effort. Moreover, for those
women at home looking after young
children, the cell phone allows them to
keep an eye on the children, keep up
the house and prepare dinner, but also
to communicate with their partners and
family. As a result, the phone, where
people can afford this, is much preferred
as a means of communication even
amongst those who live close by each
Given the increasingly strong
connection between the cell phone and
the church, on the one hand, and the
lottery on the other, it is not surprising
that the cell phone itself is commonly
looked upon as a form of blessing. For
people in Orange Valley who are so
far removed from the levers of power,
whether of government or companies,
there is no obvious way to explain why
things do or do not come their way. It
would seem rational to them that since
Cable and Wireless makes money from
phone calls, they would in the past have
supplied landlines to those who needed
them. But in many districts surrounding
Orange Valley this did not happen, and
indeed getting hold of a landline often
took extraordinary efforts. By contrast,
the sudden arrival of Digicel and the
apparent ease with which everyone
could now be supplied with a phone
that could receive a clear signal even in
such a remote area, was itself seen as a
blessing in which the company was the
intermediary to a higher source. There
was no way of knowing why a particular
company suddenly made it very difficult
or very easy to obtain access to a phone.
In any case, most individuals felt that the
cell phone was a blessing from God.
The eschatology of the Pentecostal
church lends itself to a theology that sees
things in terms of the work of Jesus or
the work of Satan and, to a degree, the
rival companies have also been located

within this structure of belief. Many
people in both field sites talked about
Digicel in remarkably benign terms, as
the source of blessings. It was not just
the advent of the phone itself, but the
various high-profile gestures of support
that Digicel made through some brilliant
marketing that suggested that as well
as the phone, almost every good thing
and every event that was itself to be seen
as a contemporary blessing originated
with this benign company. We are not
suggesting that there was any actual
sense of temporal power ascribed to
the company. Rather, the ways in which
people tended to see good and
evil effectively structured the way
they passed judgements on secular
The other evidence for this
structure came in the manner in
which people referred to Cable and
Wireless not just as a company they
disliked but sometimes with visceral
disgust that suggested almost
Satanic tendencies. It was common
to place Cable and Wireless within
a general set of oppressive forces
that could include colonialism,
slavery, Babylon and ultimately the
devil's purposes. One reason for this
was that Cable and Wireless was
primarily associated in the rural area
with monthly landline bills. Since
it was hard to know which part of
the bill had been incurred by which
member of the household, it was
often easier to blame the company
for inflating what was seen as the
true bill. These sentiments did not
necessarily impinge upon an individual's
decision to purchase phones with a
particular company, driven as they were
by economic and convenience factors.
In addition, these attitudes were not
so entrenched as to drive Cable and
Wireless into the ground. For example,
the destruction of Digicel towers after
hurricane Ivan suggested that fate was
not always on the side of Digicel, and
Cable and Wireless, helped by a two-for-
one campaign, gained back some if its
respect and appeared to have at least a
small reversal of fortune.
For those who were deeply involved
in the church there could be a more
careful argument about the theological

pros and cons of the phone in and of
itself. For example, a young Pentecostal
who hoped later to find a career in the
church went through several changes
during the course of the year as to how he
should assess the overall cost and benefit
of the cell phone in spiritual terms. At
first he expounded on the basic idea of a
blessing. As Damian described it, "The
word of God says, 'Be not confounded
to this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind.' I think
personally that many souls are going to
be saved, and the phone is a medium in
which we can help persons who don't


know Jesus Christ, to help them find Jesus
Christ by this partnership of prayer and
encouragement and counselling. I think
the phone is a blessing from God since
this is the medium through which I can
help many persons." Damian had many
stories within which the phone took on a
role in the overall trajectory that led to an
individual being saved.
On the other hand, Damian saw a
darker side to this technology, which
included the way it could disturb a
church service, the conflicts that arose
through gossip and temptations that came
to one through the phone. More directly,
there is a common fear that the spread
of communication relates to the spread
of information about the individual,

which forms part of the Prophecy of the
Mark of the Beast whereby Satan uses his
knowledge of individuals to prevent them
from being saved. As Damian speculated,
"I heard there is a chip called a Digi-
angel that can pick up two thousand
informations on one person in about
one second." As the year progressed,
Damian became clear that the phone is
not in and of itself either an instrument
of good or evil. It depends entirely upon
the state and motivation of the user.
The phone even started to come into his
preaching. He preached, "Before you run
to the phone, run to the throne. When
something happens to some people
they will call their friends and say
some bad thing happened at church.
They call and create mischief. But
they should first run to God and
talk to him first before they talk to
anyone else."
Damian does not worry that
his phone will be stolen since he
has "covered it under the blood".
That is, he has prayed to God to
protect his phone under the blood
of Jesus against the deeds of Satan.
This is why he does not feel the
need to back up the numbers in
the phone. In any case, he notes, he
could easily get back most of these
numbers because he is involved
with most of these people directly,
not just by phone. But covering
the phone in blood is not the only
way a phone can be Christianised.
Other Jamaicans may attach their
cell phone to a string carried around
their neck, and some of the more
elaborate strings continually repeat the
words "I V Jesus", which act as both a
literal and a figurative form of protection.
Ring tones are also a way to Christianise
the cell phone. At first Damian was
tolerant of secular ring tones, but as time
went on he increasingly saw these as an
abomination not surprisingly, given the
racy titles and lyrics of popular Jamaican
dancehall tunes that are favourites as local
ring tones. Fortunately there are Christian
alternatives. He has several on his phone,
which also has the facility to record music
directly and turn it into a ring tone. These
ring tones include "No matter what they
say I made up my mind, I am a fool for
Christ", "My God is an awesome God, he

reigns for evermore" and (without irony)
"Oh God, you are the only one, that's why
I am holding on so long".
The phone also has a more mundane
relationship to church business. Members
of the church choir used the cell phone
to coordinate travel to
and from church and
called each other to
make sure that they
knew what to bring
for special events.
A number of the
women from whom
we collected phone
address books had
contact numbers for
friends and church sisters to v. h.1 .n thi,_
talked when they were worri..1 .r.,_..
a twenty-five-year-old young .*'n.ni,
saved 154 numbers in her phoci,- ... .k
Although many of the individuals in her
phone book were high school friends and
co-workers, Grace had developed a series
of friends with whom she talked about
her struggles. Given the many blessings
she had received from the companionship
and counselling made possible through
the phone, Grace occasionally sent out
'positivity' text messages, including
scriptures. Charmaine kept only twelve
numbers in her short phone book, half
of which consisted of persons whom
she called for spiritual guidance. Many

of these individuals "encouraged her",
to pray about her spiritual situation, to
marry her long-term boyfriend and baby
father of her four children and, most
importantly, to get more involved in
church. Another woman, Michelle, also
used her phone during a spiritual
crisis, calling
she knew
of varying
persuasions to
solicit advice

about whether she should take the leap
and become a member of the Church
of God church she had been attending
regularly for the past few years. Born and
raised a Methodist, Michelle felt this was
a very large commitment and one which
her family might have strong feelings
about. She herself had some reservations
about the dangers of speaking in tongues

and receiving the spirit, but she enjoyed
the support from the church and felt
that the services really ministered to her.
However, she did not feel right about
letting herself go after spending her life
in the relatively conservative Methodist
environment. In the end, Michelle did
not convert, but continued to attend the
Pentecostal church regularly, a practice
she felt more comfortable with after
all the counselling she had received by
What these encounters tell us is that
there is no aspect of phone use that could
or should be considered exclusively
'religious' and thereby isolated from
other aspects of people's lives. Religious
use of the phone is an integral part of
people's social networks, their use of
leisure, the deep sense of companionship
as against loneliness." It is also an aspect
of their economic life, not just because
of obvious links, such as the cost of the
phone calls made to organise church
activities, but more so at a deeper level.
It helps consolidate the way people
view economic life as something not
simply tied to work and exchange, but
equally part of their relationship to
luck and to blessing; since ultimately
everything about their fate, from periods
of desperation to instances of unexpected
good fortune, is understood as a sign of
their true relationship to the divine. o

1. Research for this project was conducted
under the auspices of the Department for
International Development, a department
of British overseas development, and
constitutes one quarter of a larger project
examining the appropriation of information
and communication t.,:l',,.1.-i.. i TT i in
four countries: Jamaica, India, Ghana and
South Africa. Other researchers included
Jo Tacchi and Tripta Chandola i,, 1 ,
Don Slater and Janet Kwami (Ghana), and
Andrew Skuse and Thomas Cousins (South
2. As with most anthropological fieldwork,
pseudonyms have been used to protect
the anonymity of those individuals who
graciously provided us with their time,
energy and provocative thoughts.
3. We conducted a household survey of
one hundred households and found only
three households without a cell phone.
In each instance, the house was inhabited
by an elderly man and/or woman in the

poorest of economic circumstances. In two
of the households, the elderly members
were ,l,,,- l, il, .. -arthritis and other
4. For examples of the differences, see Daniel
Miller and Don Slater, The Internet: An
r. .: ... ; Approach (Oxford: r.. r l :n'
for a discussion of the internet in Trinidad,
and Raul Pertierra, Eduardo F. Ugarte,
Alicia Pingol, Joel Hernandez and Nikos
Lexis Dacanay, TXT-ING SELVES: Cellphones
and Philippine Modernity (Manila: De La Salle
University Press, 2002).
5. As a recent article in the Economist
,;i.',l;1,i .. Jamaica is one of many countries
that makes extensive use of their cell phones
for religious purposes. See "A Spiritual
Connection", Econotiist, 10 March 2005.
6. Diane J. Austin-Broos, Jamaica Genesis:
S, .., I the Politics ofMoral Orders
Ci,;. ...... University of Chicago Press,
7. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit

of Capitalism L.....I I..,. li1-ji 1992).
8. See Barry Chevannes, "Drop Pan and Folk
Consciousness", Jamaica Journal 22, no. 2
9. See Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, "From
Kinship to Link Up: Social Networking
in Jamaica", Current. I., -.r. ; .' I
I ,, ii,,,,,-,,. December 2005).
10. For a discussion of respectability in
Jamaica see Jean Besson, "Reputation
and Respectability Reconsidered: A New
Perspective on Afro-Caribbean Peasant
Women", in Woinen and Ci ..'.. the
Caribbean: A Pan-Cariibbean Perspective, edited
by Janet H. Momsen (London: James Currey,
1993) 15-37, as well as Jean Besson, Martha
Brae's Two Histories: European Expansion and
Caribbean C.: .. .. I .1.1. ii. Jamaica (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
2002), 12-16.
11. See Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, The
Cell Phone: An ..,i '.. ,. ..Conmmunication
(Oxford: Berg, f. ll,.:.,.i.rn, i

Art and Inclusion at Jamaica's

National Gallery



Christopher Irons, Weapons "Hamas" Destruction, 2004

The gold-stamped lettering in one of artist and chief curator
David Boxer's vitrines at Jamaica's second National Biennial 2004
argued that "artists lose everything when they get into bed with
marketing people". This has an irony that will not be lost on those
who remember how Boxer's concept of untrained, (in)genius
Jamaican 'Intuitives' in the late 1970s launched at least a decade
of US sales. But what opened on 12 December 2004 (and ran until
29 March 2005) at the National Gallery in Kingston was not so
much based on artists making a stand against the ravages of the
art market, as it was about shaping a critically, massively eclectic
show that did what exhibitions of art from a single nation do not
normally achieve. It made a forceful artistic statement that got
louder with every piece, and was not crowded or drowned out by
its own noise. Given the efforts and gigantic will of artists, in and
out of Jamaica, to get themselves seen, this was the proudest, most
vibrant art show of winter 2004-5 in the anglophone Caribbean.

But biennials are unsteady, contested spaces with a future we
ought to watch. This is especially the case when, as in Jamaica,
they are wedded to the idea of the national, where the question
of national identity, long asked in the post-colonial Caribbean,
returns again to the surface. There were 161 pieces in the
biennial more than half by invited artists, the rest chosen by
jury pieces that included painting, drawing, printing, collage,
sculpture, assemblage, installation, ceramics, fibre arts, animation
and photography. There was no easy, single character to grasp,
despite what you might assume about a show promising a
'national' composition. Biennials and art fairs worldwide (the
ones that are suddenly materialising and were unthinkable only
three or four years ago) are attracting the criticism that their
artists are parachuted in from afar, and so every event starts
looking alike, regardless of place. But oddly enough, in this case,
when the conditions were reversed, the results were in fact not

L il


Petrona Morrison, Reality: Representation, 2004

homogeneous at all. That might be because the selection was not
confined to artists with Jamaican citizenship, residency or roots,
so that in a sense 'Jamaican' is so broadly encompassing that it
oversteps any easy topology. The remote affinities between what
was on show had a team of curators and jurors working hard to
give it concrete, visual sense: Gilou Bauer, David Boxer, Natalie
Butler, Norma Rodney-Harrack, Kay Sullivan and Joan Tucker.
The biennial spread out over two storeys, along the corridors
that overlook the ground floor of the gallery, and into a handful
of sizeable ante-rooms. I can see why people complain that the
building is not ideal, with low ceilings and an imposing central
staircase due to its original design as a department store (it
became 'temporary' home to the gallery in 1982, on its move from
Kingston's Devon House). But because the ceilings are low enough
to support shelves you could shop from, they are actually ideal for
looking at the small, two-dimensional work that makes up most of

the collection. A show on a large scale it may have been, but rarely
much higher than eye level. It was not cramped, but poetically
hung. Brush the complaints aside about the space itself; the works
fitted very well they even seemed to belong.
With this home for the works, the biennial staged some
domestic conversations on the theme of couplings, compliments
and contrasts. They were impossible to miss. The cut and paste
of Petrona Morrison's careful visual archaeology of biological
and photographic traces refused to be the fantastical scrapbook
that Loui Davis proposed in the related technique of digital
collage. The metal and copper geometries of sculptor Fitz Harrack
formulated austere human bodies, in a language comparable to
that used by Christopher Irons (Mulendwe) whose figures, from
found objects, fibreglass and wood, mounted a direct attack on the
military aggression of the United States and its willing accomplice,
the United Kingdom. Uhuru's heavy surface detail and modelling



Lwi --

PS -



-u I


- -



Hope Brooks, -..i:,.: i .r Adrian -The Last Letter, 2004

could not have been more remote from the deliberate accidents
of fellow ceramicist David Pinto. Where Anna Ruth Henriques
offered a sincere conservation essay, Pishon Series, that preserved
actual fish in their thousands, David Marchand got flippantly
Dada over dolphin deaths as the fallout from marine industry.
And if the letters from abroad, captured as transfer prints in
Hope Brooks's archival diptych, did some idiosyncratic work of
commemoration, then Colin Garland made memory itself public
property: he stored childhood memories in apothecary bottles
and the heads of blinded dolls, and marked out time by painting

The Aaron Matalon Award (a purchase award for biennial
pieces to go into the National Gallery's permanent collection),
went this time to two artists who were pushed into taking part
at the eleventh hour: Omari Ra and Khalfani Ra. This probably
explains why Omari's portraiture series was displayed in
fragments on the ground floor. His huge black-painted heads
of the Haitian revolutionaries Dessalines and Christophe, are
self-portraits by way of political allusion, and divined by loas,
the enigmatic sacred diagrams of vaudou. Omari's works were
split from one another, with the effect of commingling him with
Khalfani, to convey a sense that these two Rastafarians (note

K. Khaliani Ra, Altar for (R)evolution, 2004

,. a




' ,',


I .~~ s

IP ~

their Ra suffix) arrive as a common unit. But even if those two
have shared a history of showing together (such as at "African
Vanguard", Mutual Gallery, 2000) and deal variously with an
'African voice' in its diaspora, they really ought to be set apart
from each other.
Khalfani's contribution offered much more food for thought
than Omari's, and his voice is eminently distinct. If Omari
campaigns, poster-like, Khalfani hides his signifiers and plays.
Altar for (R)evolution has steel nails that protrude (rather than
intrude, as with a sub-Saharan fetish), to turn Ogun power back
toward the viewer. If his aim is to make ourselves into power

Omari Ra, Bois Caiman's Foreign Policy Retro: Restruction Globe Shrugged, 2004 (detail)

objects, he also puts us on the optical receiving end of hundreds of
nails which impale the gaze. And the blood red used throughout,
as always, has its own syntax. Khalfani's best pieces offered colour
indexing and zoomorphs: the red, black and green colours of
Garveyism along with Legba as a surefooted goat. He tugs with
pincers at unstretched cotton to tear patches in uniform rows that
configure a palimpsest. His white fabric composition with beasts
and Romulus and Remus require ed meditation for the Roman
insignia to emerge as a codified Blair and Bush.
The same strategy of commingling had further implications for
art on view in the gallery's upper floor. Here was a very deliberate

.I. I w, vn, Canoe Boat, 2004

I Sandra Brown, Psalm 19 -The Heavens Declare, 2004


David Boxer, St George and the Dragon Revisited, 2004 (detail)

annexation: the 'untrained', 'self-taught' or (implied) 'Intuitives'
room. I found the most involving painting and sculpture were
from Gaston Tabois, Lenworth Mesquita, and children of the late
artist and visionary Everald Brown. Tabois's oxen in the cane
fields and his boyhood school opened onto the social remembering
connoted in Mesquita's Cricket, with a delicately rendered upper
tier of architectural detail. The Browns Ruth, Sandra, Joseph,
Clinton and Rebecca certainly deserved a common space, but
the last two stood truly apart: Clinton's reverse objectification
enacted in Visiting Tourists and Meat for Tomorrow, and Rebecca's
Rock Valley. Kingsley Thomas's choice of a rough, dark, incised
wood frame successfully enshrined his work and resonated his

theme. These fruitful fertilisations amongst the pieces came with
an impressive outer-national reference, in Michael Parchment's
lollystick figures, to the Guyanese master Philip Moore.
This 'self-taught' room set the Jamaica biennial apart from
most other shows, but not entirely for the best reasons. Something
stood in the way of my enjoying the pieces more fully, and it had
nothing to do with their artists. It was probably the absence of
any effort to deal with the old dilemma about whether routinely
sorting some artists into 'modem primitives' and others into
'authentic modems' ought to go on. The reason, perhaps,
for straying away from the question of "What to do with the
Intuitives?" is that it is a false dilemma anyway. It is worth

David Boxer, St George and the Dragon Revisited (detail)

Laura Facey, Awakening, 2004

recalling that the concept was the creation not of the so-called
Intuitives, so much as of their curators. While the dissolution of
the grouping through integration into the main displays might
seem to promise an end to their cultural Bantustan, it also carries
the embarrassing truth of what is being gained by the old division
of moderity-versus-tradition. This thorny issue over how to
achieve a satisfactory inclusiveness became more pressing as I
spent time with the fascinating, intricate work in this problematic
room. But I felt alone in my search for a resolution, finding no
evidence that its aesthetic typology is being exposed to brave,
curatorial self-reflection.

Talking to people inside and outside the biennial, I realized
that far larger issues of inclusivity are being debated in relation
to the National Gallery's future. The first mainly has to do with
artists: every spark of the curators' energies is given to allowing
artists, as if from a great Jamaican family tree, to come together
under one roof. They range from those born, based or settled on
the island, to Jamaicans mainly or solely resident abroad (New
York City-based Anna Henriques and Peter Wayne Lewis), to
ones such as the English expatriate Rex Dixon, who lived in
Jamaica for many years but has since resettled in Trinidad. The
second conception of inclusivity is largely about audiences: the

Laura Face Awakening (detail)

~;?;li; "~ci;'~E~a~k

administrative drive toward a radically more appealing and
inclusive gallery that can draw in the typical Jamaican, the kind
who passes perhaps daily by the door, but seldom, if ever, finds it
appropriate to enter.
Individual pieces of art by curator, collector and artist David
Boxer seem to offer the key to understanding how the first
conception of inclusivity shakes down in the art on display. With
found objects and in painting, his main strengths, he splices and
appropriates, plays with visual pastiche, zoological artefacts
(notably a stuffed, decrepit caiman), manufactured curios,
snapshots, wunderkammer, and latter-day cabinets of curiosity. His
St George and the Dragon Revisited included repositioned images of
the Mona Lisa with mutant faces: Princess Diana, farmyard animals
and pets, Nancy Reagan amongst cover designs from the Royal
Academy "Sensation" show of 1991. In uppercase lettering he
swiped at "MARKETING PEOPLE", with a coy comment that "The
Mona Lisa is not smiling", intending an apocalyptic feel by adding
prints of children's corpses and generic stills from an Iraq hostage
video. It is ambiguous whether Boxer was seriously drawing a
parallel between the ostensible ravages on art by its market and
these more grave associations. The same uncertainty goes for
another of his parallels in St George: a self-portrait in his studio,
similar to shots of Francis Bacon at his atelier. Three imposing,
square paintings of tilted human heads, The Mahler Trilogy (in
memory ofM.M.), a tacit tribute perhaps to Michael Manley, formed
a central panel, of similar size to his entry in the foundational
installation show of 1985 (6 Options: Gallery Spaces Transformed,
since kept on permanent display). Boxer bookended this large,
crescent-shaped display with an eye to controversies around art
in the metro-North, presenting another mixed-media assemblage
grotesquely rehashing, with reference to the family portraiture of
Diane Arbus, snaps of nude, masked children.
If Boxer has a talent for conjuring with meaning, his wizardry
depends on exploiting eclecticism as a governing poetics. As such,
his art is prismatic of a career spent curating the diverse fragments
of contemporary art in Jamaica, and the repository for his curatorial
blueprints. It is replete with the same mini-carousel of intentions:
from the pedagogical, informative and historiographic, to
persuasions of art historical authority, and with a frequent taste for
the illicit. You might say that he treated the biennial like one of his
installations, so that peering into his austere vitrines is uncannily
like looking at the gallery as a whole. Even the most disruptive and
stand-alone entries in the biennial were incorporated into a broad
fold. There were valuable disparities among artworks and artists in
terms of their training, experience, elements of risk, diverse sizes,
ephemerality, theatrical staginess, market value and so on. But they
were all somehow emptied of their divergences and hierarchies,
neutralised and made to cohere. This is the Boxer effect, an
astonishing creative vision that forges inclusion by imagining
artistic community.
As for the second conception (of administrative inclusiveness),
I saw some real innovations afoot on the day of the biennial
opening, marshalled by newly appointed head, Dr Jonathan
Greenland, a British art historian, formerly in education at
the Brooklyn Museum. Fringe and 'family interest' activities
welcomed and enervated the building against a hum of folk
beats, as costumed live performers, the award-winning St Ann
Senior Citizens Cultural Group, performed Revival songs and
Christmas carols "in celebration of our great cultural past and the

awakening of the new generation". Their presence annotated and
animated Laura Facey's academic figure drawings on three panels,
Awakening, and smoothed, flotsam-like sculptures, carved in
polystyrene but with a remarkable stone finish. With these opening
events Greenland signalled in a fleeting instant how to make

academicism more relevant, how to make it work harder for its
place in the world, and how to learn from the furore over Facey's
public Emancipation monument which had seemed to condemn
any easy relevance forever. Somewhere in the programme there
were artists' talks in situ, billed to pose the questions, "What are
biennials? Why do we have them?" Even if the featured speakers
Henriques and Lewis did not actually fit the bill (Lewis waffled
and flapped, and Henriques riffed on The Environment), their
presence broke the rarefied silence of the spoken-for, Absent Artist.
What I witnessed on the biennial's opening day were the
beginnings of a Brooklynisation of the gallery, firmly prioritising
outreach and widening participation: initiatives that local
commentator Annie Paul has called for, against the grain, for some
time. But more vitally, these were the outlines of how Jamaican
art history often dubbed elitist and obsolete by local detractors
- can register on an enlarged, if not yet popular scale, in new
conversations with wider audiences.
It is seriously up for debate, though, whether these two
paths for inclusiveness arrive at the same destination. Or to put
it differently, it is worth asking whether the biennial's curatorial
poetics were fully wedded to its administrative, democratic
politics. If indeed they were, then this exhibition configured a
shared aesthetic message, a forceful but welcoming statement of
national, artistic consensus on critical art practice in contemporary
Jamaica. But if the two were separate, then claiming to reflect
artistic consensus whilst actually forcing it was to the detriment
of a more self-reflexive understanding of Jamaica's take on
the contemporary. There is a generic tendency to script closely
the historical development of art throughout the post-colonial
Caribbean. This has massively disenfranchised those artists and
viewers who actually depend on and relish crucial discontinuities,
complexities and departures from any sanctioned national art-
story. Without a serious amount of self-awareness there is a danger
that the same tendency could take hold somewhere like Jamaica's
national biennials.
A Jamaica serious about luring a wider audience to its biennials
would anticipate and consult with the savvy crowd comprising its
current and would-be visitors. It would also continue to combat
how narratives about art in the Caribbean can too easily become
ensnared rather than enabled by the idea of the national. National
art spaces, by their nature, exclude; in Jamaica there is a challenge
between one kind of incorporating vision and another at the site of
the nation. A successful national biennial depends on grasping the
vital compulsion to involve us all by losing that authoritarian feel
and confronting some old categories. We will wait another couple
of years for the results. *o

I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust and the University of Sussex
for the Early Career Fellowship that made possible my research in the
Caribbean from January 2004 to August 2005.

All photos provided courtesy of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

,.. ,-;

-:- n U

I was privileged, in February 2004, to sit and chat with Olive
Senior, celebrated fiction writer, poet and researcher on Jamaican
culture, during one of her many trips back to "the rock". The
interview took place at a time when the writer had recently
been honoured, at the national level, for her exceptional
accomplishments: she was the recipient of the 2004 Norman
Manley Award for Excellence (and later that year would be
awarded the Gold Musgrave Medal of the Institute of Jamaica
"for distinguished eminence in the field of documenting the
Jamaican heritage". Author of several collections of short stories
(the first of which, Summer L;lii'il,;. won the Commonwealth
Writers' Prize in 1987) as well as of three volumes of poetry (Over
the Roofs of the World [Insomniac Press, 2005] is the most recent),
Olive Senior speaks eloquently and honestly in her work of
Jamaica's complexity and of the rich heritage which has shaped
her identity. In a wide-ranging interview, the writer displayed a
characteristic modesty and gentle humour, as well as the passion
of one who is both firmly rooted and fiercely independent. We
discussed, among other things, her enduring connection to


Cassava Bammy

from Scratch



'home' despite the years of travel (not 'exile'), the role of Creole
in her fiction, the importance she attaches to giving voice to
"ordinary people", attitudes to literature in the Caribbean, and
the "labour of love" that resulted in the monumental Encyclopedia
of Jamaican Heritage (Twin Guinep, 2004).
More recently, in May 2005, Ms Senior was gracious
enough to respond to a few additional questions focusing on
her most recent work. In a discussion of Over the Roofs of the
World, I commented on what I saw as her sadness at a dilution
of the Jamaican heritage, and asked whether she remained
fundamentally hopeful, about our people and our future. Her
answer suggested a fruitful coexistence of confidence and
concern: "I would say I have become an optimist because I think
that is the only stance that is possible in today's world. For me,
anyway. Holding on to the threads of all the good things that
are also happening in our society and trying to weave meaning
from them is a way of coping." This response encapsulates the
unwavering commitment to country and to craft which, I believe,
emerges from the interview as a whole.

_ _L I _I _

Anthea Morrison: First of all, thanks so
much for agreeing to talk to me and
please forgive me if this first question
seems banal. I've been thinking a lot about
home and homecoming, in part because of
my own experience of spending seventeen
years in Barbados... When I speak of
home, what comes to your mind, is it
the Jamaica of your childhood and do
you have any problems of feeling less
connected when you come back to Jamaica
on one of your frequent trips?
Olive Senior: I don't feel less connected,
because I maintain my contacts and come
frequently. I suppose I feel the same as
Jamaicans who live here, sort of disturbed
by some of the changes that are taking
place, heartened by others, but I certainly
don't feel disconnected. Home for me
is Jamaica and always will be; but I live
inside my head, in a way, and so that is
also my home in a wider sense. Somebody
said "The writer's home is writing", it's
a bad paraphrase, but that has a lot of
resonance for me. So I'm not into all these
issues about where you live and what is
home in relation to where you live ... I
carry around that psychological home in
my head, although I know my place is

AM: Your stories are set firmly in Jamaica
... Your ideal location in Jamaica remains
the rural environment?
OS: I don't know if I would say ideal, and
people have said I tend to idealise it. But
I grew up in rural Jamaica and I still feel
there's something very special ... that
it's the heartland of Jamaica and that the
substance of the country resides in that
heartland. But I think I tend to write about
it because it's what I know best. I didn't
grow up in Kingston, although I've spent
more of my life in Kingston than in rural
Jamaica, but I'm not an urban person
in the sense of, say, going to a Kingston
school, having memories of a Kingston
childhood. My memories are all of a rural
childhood. And so my writing is just an
outgrowth of who I am. The stories in
my new collection that hasn't yet been
published are more urban in setting, I
seem to be moving away from that mainly
rural psychology, some of the stories are
dealing with the urban nouveaux riches
and more contemporary Jamaica.

AM: I wanted to ask you if you have ever
attempted to write of a totally different
location, say of West Indians in exile, or is
the site of the stories always Jamaica?
OS: It's always been Jamaica because
the stories choose me, it's not that I say
that I'm going to write about Jamaica,
but when my imaginative self takes over
somehow this is the location. So I can't
say what I will never write about, because
who knows where my imagination will
take me.

AM: Coming back to the subject of
travelling, how many years have you lived
in Canada?
OS: I left Jamaica in '89, and then I lived in
Europe for about four years, then I moved
to Canada, but although I'm based in
Toronto I've lived all over the place, and so
in a way I haven't felt that I'm located in
any one space since I left. Plus, I've hardly
participated in any of those events that help
to locate the immigrant I've never had a
regular job, I don't have children in school,
I don't go to church or join organizations.
So I don't have the experiences of the
typical immigrant, which is why I say my
location is in my head.

AM: I find that very interesting. I
remember a provocative question once
asked by the Guadeloupean novelist
Maryse Cond6: "Does a writer have to
have a native land?" Of course she's very
.iht.t r nr ir. .ni you, she's lived away from
home for a much longer period, and I
think there is a defiance in that question, a
refusal to be pinned down. Conde admits
that she didn't grow up speaking Creole,
and she feels free to use it in her writing or
not, as she wishes.

OS: So do I, though my background is
very different. I grew up speaking both
Creole (or 'patwa') and English and use
both in my writing. I consider myself
bilingual. I use Creole as a way to affirm
my own culture and language but it's not
part of any political agenda. I use Creole
to be true to my characters and the place
I come from; I don't use it gratuitously, to
make some sort of point. It has to come
naturally and feel right within the context.
Like Conde, I don't want to be pinned
down, I will use whatever language I feel
is appropriate.

AM: It seems to me that you use more
standard English in Discerner of Hearts
OS: Yes, there are three stories there where
the narrative voices are Creole, though in
all the stories there are characters speaking
in Creole and I employ the vernacular
in many ways. What is important is the
totality of the cultural elements embodied
in the work, not just the language usage.
My language choices depend on the
context, the characters and the subject
matter. My first stories were very much
rural based ... and so I was employing
the language of those people represented
- poor, rural folk for the most part. My
fourth collection the one that hasn't
come out yet is more about urban
middle-class people, so I am representing
those voices. For the writer, these choices
are, or should be, determined from within,
not by some outside agency.

AM: I remember that when I lived abroad,
I was often hearing from mutual friends
that "Olive is here"; I have the impression
that when you're going through a major
creative period, you're often in Jamaica.
For example, did you write part of the
Encyclopedia here?
OS: Bits of it, I was finishing it up right

AM: That fabulous text is itself an
indication of your Jamaicanness ...
OS: Yes. But at the same time I don't want
other people to dictate to me what my
Jamaicanness should be constituted of.

AM: In other words, you don't have
to speak patois every moment to be
OS: Exactly.

AM: Are you very much appreciated
there, in Toronto?
OS: It's hard to say... appreciated, I don't
know what that means.

AM: We sometimes accuse Caribbean
audiences of not being able to create the
right environment for an artist to thrive

OS: It does help to live in a country
where the craft, the profession of writer
is regarded as legitimate... It does
make a difference to have a large reading
public, it makes a difference to have
audiences. I don't think we in Jamaica
have really appreciated the role that
an indigenous literature can play in
fostering national development. Canada
has come to this recognition, providing
infrastructure and funding to develop
an indigenous literature and other arts
as part of national policy. Obviously
we do not have the financial resources
to emulate a country like Canada, but
what we really lack is the collective will.
All the players are present in Jamaica.
But to foster an appreciation for reading
there needs to be a collaboration among
all the entities involved the writers,
publishers, booksellers, libraries, teachers,
parents, the media and so on. In Jamaica
there is a small group of people who are
appreciative, and events like the Calabash
International Literary Festival, book
launches and readings are helping that
audience to grow, as is the development
of local publishing. The new Caribbean
curricula (CXC and CAPE) are helping to
develop an interest in Caribbean writing.
But the question is, how to maintain it?
Too many people never read anything
once they leave school. The point is too
that writers need to be fed, spiritually, by
the place from which they come.

AM: This might sound like a cliche, but
isn't it because of our history, because
of recent social mobility? It's natural to
want the car and the house... and people
might want to spend money on these
things but mightn't feel able to spend
four thousand [Jamaican] dollars on your
OS: Of course, but that's also relevant
to what I've just said, about fostering
an appreciation of reading and cultural
activity in general. In many other poor

countries, the book is valued, and I think
it has to do with our past, our history,
where reading as a pleasurable activity
has never been promoted, or indeed for
many people even been possible. What
is valued here is education as something
that gives you access to a better world, to
the rungs on the ladder of upward social
mobility. It's not just a question of buying
books. It's a question of being taught to
value literature, all the arts, as something
that contributes to the total human being.

AM: On another point, I wanted to ask
you about the question of influences.
Kwame Dawes, for example, has
suggested in his preface to Talk Yuh Talk'
that "most Caribbean authors writing
in English today have been influenced
by other Caribbean writers to the same
extent they have been influenced by the
work of the colonising powers". I suppose
we're now in a period of greater maturity,
moving away from the time when
everybody had only studied Shakespeare
and Wordsworth. Were you yourself
influenced by Caribbean writers?
OS: It's a generational thing. Kwame is
much younger than I am; and I never
learnt a single Caribbean author in school,
at least you did A House for Mr Biswoas,
but that was after my time. I came to
reading Caribbean literature on my own
very late. I think the first thing I read was
Walcott's In a Green Night... I'm resistant
to the whole notion of influence. People
are always asking me about influences
on my writing, my answer is that it is for
the critic to discern. People see influences
in my work of people I've never read!
Not just Caribbean. My attitude is, I'm

a voracious reader, or I was from early
childhood I read everything, up to a
certain point in time. So how am I to know
what the influences are? And I think I'm
as much influenced by the oral culture
as the written. So to try and distinguish
influences or distinguish the influence of

one author or another on me, I don't know.
I'll leave that up to the people who are
interested in pursuing this kind of thing.

AM: On another subject, when I read a
story like "Discerner of Hearts", I am
amazed at all the things I don't know
about, that you seem to be explaining
(I'm somewhat of a 'townie'!). I'm not
sure if you are setting out to explain or to
memorialise ... for example, through the
questioning about "what's a balmyard?",
and often through children's curiosity. Do
you have a sense that you are deliberately
trying to capture something that is
perhaps dying?
OS: To some extent I think a lot of
it is dying but it's not that I set out
deliberately to capture it in the fiction. I
think I automatically capture it because
of who my characters are and where they
are located in time and space. So if I'm
writing a story where in my imagination
the character is ten years old and it is 1960
- let us say then I'm going back to that
time, and I'm talking about the things
of that period. So in the process I am
capturing but the capturing is not the
main objective.

AM: You write because you feel to
write ...
OS: I write about characters, people,
but the point is all my people are
contextualised and they're living out
of that context. My fiction so far covers a
wide historical period, from the nineteenth
century to the present, and I try to be very
accurate, in terms of what I'm recording
- I do my research. So in reading my work
you should get a sense of the different
time periods and the styles and artefacts
appropriate to each. Because in a way,
yes, I'm writing Jamaica, the subtext is the
country, is the place. But the main text is
always the fictional narrative.

AM: There's clearly a love of Jamaica ...
OS: Well, yes, I'm writing out of that place
that I know very well.

AM: A slight digression I was thinking
of the character in "Swimming in the
Ba'ma Grass" who yearns for the sea, for
Treasure Beach, and wondered what sort
of Jamaican landscape appeals to you, is
the sea very important to you?
OS: No, I'm from Trelawny bush! ... I
just happen to like Treasure Beach. I was
born in the mountains I love to see the
sea, but I think what's ingrained in my
consciousness is the mountains.

AM: You had first written the A-Z of
Jamaican Heritage. What prompted you to
write the Encyclopedia?
OS: The Encyclopedia started out simply as
a revision of the A-Z, because that went
out of print very early. When I finished
the A-Z, I didn't cease from collecting
information ... and the material just grew
and grew and grew like Topsy. And then at
a certain point I realized that it had taken
on a different character and that I wanted
to distinguish it from the A-Z, I wanted to
make it clear that it's a new book. In the
twenty years [between writing the two
books], it's astonishing how much more
we know about Jamaican culture, because
that was the period of intense research
at all levels, in religion and dance and
so on. So this book reflects, I think, a lot
of the changes. But also, it got to a point
where I thought it was finished, then I
realized that I was talking about a lot of
concepts like, say, slavery or religion. I was
referring to these big topics throughout,
but I had no entries on them .. and that
took me another two years: to put in what
I call 'generic' topics like literature, or
sports or theatre. None of that was in the
A-Z. My publishers decided to call it an
encyclopedia, to reflect the larger scope.
You know, I only persisted with it because
I'm so pissed off at how little people know
about their own country, about how little
others know about us and how so much
of that is stereotyped. I really did it for the
children of Jamaica. I never had one cent of
funding from anywhere. It's been a labour
of love.

AM: It's an enormous effort, and must
have consumed a lot of the time that you
would have spent otherwise. Did you ever
feel frustrated because you wanted to do
your creative work?
OS: Absolutely, especially towards the end

... I would say in the final three years,
because up to that point I was working on
the Encyclopedia in between doing other
things that had a higher priority. But it
did get to a point where I had to finish
it, or I'd go crazy. And to finish it was
the hardest part for that is when I saw
all that was missing, that's when I had to
deal with the fact checking, I had to find
pictures, and of course being in Canada
and travelling up and down was not the
best way of accomplishing this. But it did
mean that for those years I didn't have
much of a creative or social life. All was
focused on finishing the book and doing

those things I need to do to earn a living,
of course. But I was very lucky with my
publishers, Dennis and Jackie Ranston
of Twin Guinep. I couldn't have done
it without them and I think they have
produced a book that is extraordinary in
the quality of production it can stand
proudly with any book in the world. Nor
would the Encyclopedia have had any kind
of authority without the generosity of the
experts in the various fields who read
and commented on the entries. Although
I am the author, and pulled it together,
I am very conscious that it is in a sense
a collaborative effort of all the scholars,
researchers and writers who care about

AM: I can't help but think of Richard
Allsopp's Dictionary of Caribbean
English Usage, which was also a long
project. I know he too is somewhat of a
perfectionist; there is a sort of connection,
isn't there, with his work?

OS: Well of course he is an expert in his
field and his work is extraordinary, one
that I found very helpful, as I did Cassidy
and Le Page's Dictionary of Jamaican
English. I think we in the Caribbean are
fortunate nowadays to have access to such
groundbreaking linguistic work.

AM: There's also some overlap between
the Encyclopedia and some of your creative
OS: Oh yes, people ask me how long
the Encyclopedia took, and I say, "All my
life." Because a great deal of what is in
there is based on my personal fieldwork
- only I don't call it fieldwork because
it was not being done in a formal way. I
mean I would watch old people, go and
sit at their feet virtually, to find out things
like, "How do you make chocolate from
scratch?" that is from the time you reap
the cocoa pod. "How do you make cassava
bammy from scratch, how do you identify
the cassava, the bitter from the sweet, how
do you plant it?" Since childhood I have
been watching and doing, and where I
didn't know, I would go and find someone
who did, to show me how. Even when I
was living in Kingston, I'd go down to
the country to talk to people, so I have a
lot of personal knowledge, about plants,
bush, folk medicine, that sort of thing. But
what I wanted to do was to find written
verification of everything that I knew
either intuitively or that I had researched.
So it's not that I just started doing the
A-Z or the Encyclopedia from scratch, I
had masses of material. Of course all the
research I was doing over the years was
feeding my creative work. And I think
my creative work in turn informed my
approach to writing the entries I didn't
want the book to be just a dry container
of facts, I wanted people to enjoy the
experience of reading it.

AM: All these children you have in your
stories, children seeking knowledge and
"fassing", wanting to know "big people
stories", is that you, in a way, were you
that kind of child?
OS: Yes, I've always had a natural
curiosity, about the world not so much
fassing into people's business or so I
would like to think, though the evidence
in the stories perhaps proves otherwise!
I'm the kind of person that if I look outside

and see that tree, I want to know the
name of the tree. I don't take anything for
granted, and so I grew up wanting to know,
wanting to understand the world around
me. So I knew the people that had the
balmyard, I knew who the obeahman was.
I was very aware of the world around me; I
still am. I walk into a room, and I'm taking
in everything. If I don't know something,
I'll look it up ... I ask questions, and of
course I was trained as a journalist so
that's part of that process of wanting to
get to the bottom of things. It's a natural
outgrowth of my life ... it came naturally.

AM: I think everybody who has read your
work would believe that. It's such a cliche,
but the characters do become like old
friends you want to know more about
them. For example, there's that woman
who is "mad"; I can see a particular woman
on the street who might have inspired that
story, "You Think I Mad, Miss?"
OS: Whenever I read that story here,
people will come up to me afterwards
and say: "You've written about my

AM:... which is a sad reflection on our
OS: Yet that story is entirely made up. I'm
imagining a life. I see people living on
the streets and I ask myself who are these
people, where do they come from, why are

they here? And in this story I focused on
this one woman. That's one of the easiest
stories that I ever wrote, it just came: all
this business of her going to Shortwood
and wearing two slips under her skirt, the
question of the baby ... I didn't even think
about it, it was all just there in my head.
AM: Does that happen often?
OS: No, that was extraordinary. The
characters will come, but the fact that she
came so fully developed ... it's as if she
wrote herself into being. I like to allow
my characters to speak directly, give them
voice, and if the character is like that
woman, she is forcing that voice on you,
she doesn't give a damn! And to me, this
is what being poor is about. I mean this
is the only place where a beggar man has
approached me with language, "if me no
wan tek him home"!... I don't see people
who are down and out as just sitting there
accepting their fate, which is how poor
people are sometimes portrayed, or even
so-called mad people. To me a marker
of the Jamaican sensibility is people's
continuous resistance [to] their fate, and I
suppose this is what I want to capture.

AM: Another story I found extremely
poignant is the one about the uncle who
came back from England with the case
against the queen.., there's a phrase in
that story, "is foreign mad him", that I find
absolutely compelling.

OS: People used to say that, it's part of our
mythology that "if you go to England you
bound to go mad". You know I wrote that
story because I used to live in Barbican
and there was a man who was dressed the
way Uncle is described he had his three-
piece heavy woollen suit and hat, and he
had his cane, and he went for walks past
my house regular as clockwork. I knew
nothing about him, but I was fascinated
by the sight. That was in the seventies. I
wrote the story in the early 1990s and in
the interim I wasn't conscious of thinking
about this man at all. But obviously his
image had lodged in my unconscious
like the madwoman on the street. And
it is from such images lodged in the
unconscious that narratives work their
way on to the paper and back into the
wider world.

AM: I particularly like the final image of
all the letters scattered around, giving him
presence, because he had been a nonentity,
OS: Yes, and 'presents' too, don't forget.
This is also a story about migration, the
business of the migrant not sending
anything back and so 'shaming' the ones
left behind; this business about people
boasting and showing off their goods
received from 'farrin'. It goes back a long
way. I did a lot of research in Panama
among people who had gone to work on


NliL C i

the Canal. What struck me about
many of the people I interviewed
was that they were just stuck
there. Marooned. Many said I
they never went back to Jamaica
because they were too ashamed
that they never had anything
to carry, to show for their time
in a foreign land, and so they
remained stuck for the rest of
their lives, totally cut off from the
place they came from. All of these
things are part of our culture in its
multiple dimensions, and that is
what I'm interested in exploring
- in multiple ways.

Thefollowing two questions were asked in
May 2005.

AM: When you visited the Mona campus
of the University of the West Indies in
March this year, those who attended your
public reading were privileged to hear
extracts from a narrative which I believe
is the first full-length novel by Olive
Senior. Would you tell me what it was like,
shifting from the short story format for
which you are so well-known?
OS: I do like the short forms short story
and poem and I have resisted the novel.
But this character just decided she needed
space to tell her story so she took over
and went on for several hundred pages.
I had no idea what I had done until I
reached the end and was able to stand
back and consider it. Fortunately I like
this character, but now I need to spend
an awful lot of time knocking the whole
thing into shape. I am used to spending
time on all my work, but the demands
here are rather different, events are being
played out on a much wider field and it's
stretching me in all kinds of directions. But
I keep in mind at all times the idea that
what I do is storytelling and I consider
each event, each scene, each character,
in terms of story and hope all the stories
will come together in a coherent way. The
problem now is that I am aware of a lot of
other characters and stories in my head
that are crying out for the space the novel
affords. So at the moment I'm standing at
a threshold, really.

AM: I have just finished a first reading
of your third collection of poetry (Over
the Roofs of the World). There are so many

poems that compel attention, but I really
wanted to focus on the "Ode to Pablo
Neruda".2 If I may be forgiven for quoting
her work to the poet (as if she didn't know
it already!), there's one section of that
poem that I found particularly moving:

But look at this:

In the sky
a kite
still aloft
and the one
the thread is me.

Maybe I'll accept after all my
commission as apprentice Spider
who spins from her gut the threads for
for tying up words that spilled,
hanging out tales long
unspoken, reeling in songs, casting off
And perhaps for binding up wounds?

You seem to speak here, as you have
elsewhere, cautiously, and with self-
deprecation, about your craft and vocation
as poet; the image of the bird, which
dominates in various other poems of this
latest volume, appears to me to evoke
not only freedom and possibility, but also
the limitations of all those who do not
have "the wings of the dove", who are
constrained for different reasons, but who
nevertheless hold on to kites in the sky?
Would you comment on that?
OS: The entire poem which is a very
long one is about the craft of poetry
and the requirements and demands of
the craft. I'm using thread as a metaphor
because the poem is built around the
admonishment of Pablo Neruda to young
poets who say they have nothing to write

about to use as poetic raw material any
and every thing, even thread hence his
"Ode to Thread". Neruda who is one of
my literary heroes didn't see poetry as
simply an act of self-expression but as the
performance of a duty to society which
makes it a much more terrifying process
than simply expressing personal angst.
But it is also going back to the roots of
poetic utterance. So the kite represents the
responsibility handed on by a poet of one
generation to the next. Obviously there is
resistance at first because the young poet
doesn't feel up to the great responsibility,

and the "Ode" is a working through of
that journey to acceptance. Thread (and
its many uses) runs through the entire
poem, indeed the entire book, as does the
other central metaphor of birds, including
flying, shamanic flight, and so on, because
these are all related to the development of
the psyche. The birds do indeed signify
the winged flight of the spirit and the
need for the creative person to transcend
the mundane in order to create and bring
back gifts to offer the world. But what is
significant is that in order to create, the
poet first has to go through the painful
process of recreating oneself. So "The
thread of poetry to safely travel, the knot
of yourself / you first must unravel".
I think this poem could usefully be
read in conjunction with an earlier poem
in the book called "With My Little Eye...
which describes the eye of the child where:

All passed through my mind then
like thread through the needle's eye
for nothing was I ready to see.

The "Ode to Pablo Neruda" pulls
together all the elements relating to
the acquisition of vision or sight and
acceptance of one's avocation and all that
goes with one's craft, including the hard
road to be travelled. And let me hasten to
say this isn't just my road, it's the one that
all creative people, of whatever discipline,
have to travel. o-

1. Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with
Anglophone Caribbean Poets
(Charlottesville and London:
University Press of Virginia, 2001), ix.
2. Olive Senior, Over the Roofs of the World
(Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2005), 101-2.

Carl Abrahams



With the death of Carl Abrahams on 10
April 2005, Jamaica lost one of the true
pillars of twentieth-century Jamaican art.
Born in Kingston on 14 May 1911,
Carl Myrie Abrahams began his artistic
life as a gifted and prolific draughtsman
while still at school. He taught himself
the rudiments of composition, colour,
line and form through the careful perusal
of books on the art of the Old Masters.
Frans Hals and Sir Frederick Leighton, the
Victorian master, were special influences.

On leaving school in 1928 he began
to make a living as a commercial artist
and, under the tutelage of Cliff Tyrell, as a
cartoonist making his mark in the latter
area where wit and irony must coincide
with a fluent line and a good sense of
characterisation. The pages of the Jamaica
Times and Wisco Magazine attest to his
early brilliance as a cartoonist.
In 1937, Abrahams met the renowned
British painter Augustus John who was
then painting in the island. John urged
him to paint professionally and this Carl
Abrahams began to do, rather tentatively
before the war, but with added impetus

after his return from service in the Royal
Air Force in England, in 1944.
Like John Dunkley, the Jamaican
master whom he most admired and who
was an early influence, Abrahams was an
individualist who avoided the structures
established by the Institute of Jamaica
for the training of artists and essentially
taught himself to paint with the assistance
of correspondence courses from England.
A tentative oeuvre based on topical
subjects followed. It was not until the
mid-1950s, however, that he would begin
to find his true mode of expression: ironic
transformations of the great mythological
and religious themes of the past and
intensely personal fantasies, surreal
records of contemporary events.
In the mid-seventies he responded
enthusiastically to the National Gallery
curator's overtures for him to heighten
his investigation of religious art and to
expand his series on the final days of
Christ's ministry. Out of this collaboration
was born the gallery's pivotal exhibition

"The Passion of Christ" which showed
some twenty works by Abrahams. The
wit and sheer inventiveness of the series,
coupled with the devout sentiment of
a true believer, marked Abrahams as
the Caribbean's finest religious painter.
The exhibition, and the accompanying
film utilising his paintings, played an
important role in consolidating his
reputation, and his popularity soared in
their wake.
He was also a master of what have
been called 'surreal fantasies', and in
works like his Beheading ofMaggydon (1974)
and Judgement Day (1975) he submerged
his resentment of the politics of the
1970s in dense allegories of "destruction
by divine intervention" that seemingly
parodied the revelatory pronouncements
of St John. His most profound fantasy
on the theme of what he perceived as
divisive politics is his painting The Angels
Are Weeping (1977). Originally planned
as a work depicting angels weeping over
the dead Christ, the painting evolved,

by emblematically presenting the angels
as representatives of the racial groups of
"Out of Many One People" Jamaica, as a
threnody for the lost paradise.
It is these works and others which
have generously flowed from his brush
for the past half century, works like his
many versions of The Last Supper, The
Unveiling of the Statue of Simon Bolivar,
his Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, his
Adam and Waltz of the Horses, that have
invested Jamaican art with a rare poetic
iconography of startling richness, full of
humour and irony but also profoundly
moving and at times ecstatic.
His final decades saw few new
developments in his work and he
replicated many of his earlier paintings in
copies and variations.
Carl Abrahams was the recipient
of various national honours including
the Order of Distinction and the Gold
Musgrave Medal. He was also honoured
by the National Gallery when he
became the first artist to receive a full





retrospective at the gallery. This was held
thirty years ago, in 1975. In recent years,
his masterwork, Woman, I Must be About
My Father's Business, was loaned to the
City of Edinburgh's "Light of the World"
exhibition commemorating the 2000t
anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ,
while two of his religious works were
featured on Jamaican stamps marking the
advent of the third millennium.
Abrahams served his muse well, and
the many masterworks which he has left
us will be admired for generations to
come as key monuments of the formative
years of our art movement.

Director Emeritus/Chief Curator
National Gallery of Jamaica
(adapted from a press release appearing
in the Gleaner, 18 April 2005: C10)

... Abrahams often proclaimed himself "the father of Jamaican
art", insisting that he was the first Jamaican-born artist
working independently to document Jamaica's environs in
the 1930s. There is some evidence to support his boasts. As
early as 1937, the British artist Augustus John, on a brief trip to
Jamaica, reported that Carl Abrahams had a talent that should
be nurtured, and in 1938, following the publication of some
of his watercolours in the West Indian Review, editor Esther
Chapman wrote:

The works on the following pages are ... by Carl
Abrahams, a young Jamaican. Mr Abrahams has been
doing newspaper cartoons of some merit for several
years, but was unaware that the drawings illustrated
here were far more interesting to critics. So far, Jamaica
has depended for her art upon such... artists as Edna
Manley and Koren [der Harootian]. Mr Abrahams,
apparently uninfluenced by either, shows a striking
originality and great promise in his works.

(excerpt from the archive entry on Carl Abrahams,
Edna Manley College of the Visual and
Performing Arts)

... The Institute of Jamaica is grateful for
his seminal contribution to the national
art movement, and generations to come
Sill. continue to stand before his works
displayed in the National Gallery and
wonder at the power of this major
Jamaican artist.

(excerpt from a tribute in the Gleaner,
18 April 2005: C10)

PAGE 32: Five Nudes, c. 1955 (Collection: Shalimar Trust)
PAcE 33: Blood and Fire, 1974 (';, I ,
PacE 34: (rTP) Elijah, Chariot of Fire, 1980 (The Pigeon
Valley Collection)
i, ..... I W.. Weeping 1977 (Private
P rE 35: (TOP) The Last Supper, c. 1960 (A.D. Scott
Collection, National Gallery of amaica)
(Borroas Old Tree, c. 1960 (Private collection)
PA 36: Waltz of the Horses, c. 1960 (A.D. Scott
Collection, National Gallery of Jamaica)
3 iCE 37: Agony in the Garden, 1977 (Private collection)

S Allphotos provided courtesy of the National Gallery of

... I don't know what your idea is of a
genius but for me Carl was a genius. I
don't think he knew what he was doing.
He would turn out these incredible works
of art and if you asked him what was
going on in them he would tell you a load
of rubbish. He would have these flashes
of knowledge ... that he largely read of
in catalogues. He was not what I would
call a well-read man. In fact, I never saw
Carl read a book. He would take bits
of information and build them in his
imagination. He would create great works
of art that even he didn't understand

(excerpt from an interview with
Jonathan Greenland, Executive Director,
National Gallery of Jamaica,
Sunday Gleaner, 22 May 2005: F6)

... Abrahams in his totality is a complex
and I am sure for many, a baffling
artist. He once was for me, but I got to
understand him and to understand the
point/counterpoint of his artistic makeup,
and the essence of a kaleidoscopic artistic
vision reflecting his own desires and
frustrations, achievements and, yes,
failures, in myriad forms and styles.
Yes, he has bequeathed to us a
lifetime of fantasy, of faith, of meditations
on our foibles and on the successes and
failures of our personal, artistic, our
political and religious lives. In the end
it is we who have to turn the barrel of
the kaleidoscope, to construct a reality
that works for us out of the surreality
that worked for him. We have to be the
synthesisers of each and every disparate
For every major Carl Abrahams
painting is its own world: its own laws,
sometimes unique to itself, govern each
particular and discrete masterwork ...

(excerpt from his personal tribute
delivered at the funeral of Carl Abrahams,
19 April 2005)


Lead Poisoning in

Jamaican Children


Lead was discovered around 6500 BC in
Turkey, and by about 2500 BC it was in
production on a significant scale. Its acute
toxicity has been known for at least three
thousand years, and as early as 100 BC
Greek physicians had provided a detailed
clinical picture of its effects. It soon became
obvious that lead miners were not likely to
have much of a future.
Between 500 BC and AD 300 the Romans
mined and used lead extensively for
aqueducts, cookware, cups, plates and
other utensils. Worse, they prepared lead
acetate, 'sugar of lead', by boiling grape
pulp in lead vessels, for use as a sweetener
for foods and for the improvement of wines
that were not of high quality. Their per
capital consumption, as reflected in mining
and usage figures and in the lead content
of their bones, was so high that it has been
S argued that lead poisoning contributed to
the fall of the Roman Empire.'
Although the use of lead diminished
for some centuries after the fall of Rome,
it remained a most useful metal; and there

continued to be reports of occupational
illnesses and among alcohol drinkers.
In 1724, the young Benjamin Franklin,
then a printer's apprentice, correlated
a lifelong paralysis of the wrist, called
'dangles', with the process of heating the
lead type while cleaning off the ink. In
1745, he traced the 'dry gripes' or stomach
cramps then an epidemic in America to
the drinking of rum distilled in vessels
with lead coils. In 1767, in England, the
physician George Baker showed that the
'Devonshire colic' was caused by lead
in the Devonshire apple cider made by
using presses with lead liners. His fellow
doctors, the clergy and the mill owners
condemned him thoroughly for interfering
with a valued local product.
In the early decades after the Second
World War, attempts by Clair Patterson
to measure the age of the Earth by use of
uranium/lead isotope ratios convinced
him that lead had become a global
pollutant, and that the use of tetraethyl
lead as the anti-knock in gasoline,
starting in the early 1920s, was a major

contributor to this. He showed that even
the then accepted background levels of
lead in the environment were indicators
of anthropogenic pollution.2 His work,
and the increasing realisation that chronic
lead ingestion, even at very low levels,
presented hazards for humans, became
the basis of the effort, particularly in the
United States and by the World Bank, to
restrict population exposure to lead and
especially to the removal of lead from
gasoline. This effort was not entirely
altruistic; the fact that lead tetraethyl was
poisoning the new automobile exhaust
catalytic converters was an important
factor in the decision.
Children are at greatest risk from lead
exposure because they
* play more in soil and are closer to
and spend more time on the ground,
where they may come into contact
with lead- contaminated soil and dust;
* are more likely to eat soil (pica) a
risk compounded by the fact that in
relation to body weight they ingest
more food and water than adults; and

* absorb lead about ten times more
efficiently than adults lead interferes
with the developing brain and organ
As the dangers of chronic lead
poisoning became more apparent, the
accepted intervention blood lead value in
children was reduced, as shown in Table
1. In 1979, it was 60 millionths of a gram
per decilitre (/gg/dL); today 70 gg/dL,
still often found in Jamaica, is considered
a medical emergency. The lowered
intervention level, now 10 yg/dL, is
considered to be probably still too high.

Year 11960 11970 1975 1985 1 1991
Level 60 40 35 25 10

The risk of lead poisoning can begin
in the foetus, as lead in the mother's
blood readily crosses the placenta, and
the developing foetus has no blood-brain
barrier. The mother's previous exposure
carries risk, as lead may be stored in
her bones and released during periods
of calcium stress, such as pregnancy
and lactation. Lead poisoning in young
children can result in permanent
neurobehavioural disorders and has
been correlated with numerous defects,
including intelligence quotient (IQ) loss,
violent behaviour, increased crime rates
and many maladies.3

Lead occurs in Jamaican soils but the
natural levels except where there is
mineralisation, such as in the region
around the old Hope Mine in the hills
above the Hope River are relatively
low. The lead poisoning that has been
observed in Jamaica has always been due
to contamination by humans. As long
ago as 1786, 'dry belly gripes' among
the English garrison here was caused
by drinking rum that had been stored
in leaden casks.4 Since 1956, there have
been numerous cases of lead poisoning in
children reported in the literature, with
major events in St Catherine5 and Kintyre.6
Investigative work is still in progress.
Our interest in lead as a potential
neurotoxin for children began with the
observation made during our original
geochemical mapping programme7

that there was a lead hot spot
near to the Mona campus of the
University of the West Indies. This
existed because ore from a lead
mine, which had been abandoned
in the late nineteenth century, was
transported there and eventually
contaminated areas in Kintyre.
Starting in the 1950s, a residential
community grew gradually and
the old mine processing plant
became the Kintyre Basic School.
For a number of years, many
children there lived and played
on mine waste and were exposed
to large quantities of lead over
extended periods of time. In
retrospect, lead poisoning was

At the time of the first tests, all
sixty-one children at the Kintyre
Basic School were lead-poisoned
and the average blood lead level
was a very high 38 pg/dL. This
was treated as an emergency: the
school was thoroughly cleaned
and repainted; hand-washing
facilities were put in place; and
marl was laid as an alkaline
barrier over the schoolyard and
then cemented over. Any high
lead outcrops that were found in
the immediate neighbourhood
were trt j..- in'iilarl% and food
supplements rich in iron and
calcium were provided, as these
reduce the absorption of lead.
This mitigation worked
reasonably well, and eleven
months later, twenty-five children
who were available and willing,
were re-tested. They showed
great but still not satisfactory
improvement as only one value
fell within the no-intervention
level. This indicated the presence
of some further exposure sources
which were identified and
isolated, as shown in the before
and after examples (see p. 40).
The subsequent reduction of
blood lead levels as a result of
this mitigation in Kintyre is now
satisfactory; but problems in other
locations were soon observed.

-~ -

-~~ -".-' ,.r
f;e: : ',-
"*1.'~ *" : 1

S 2"N TEST: 11 DECEMBER 1996
20- MEW
*.* -4.. **,-
I. 1 1a" I

5 o1

(OPPOSITE PACE) Children from Frazier Content Early Childhood
Institution, St Catherine, await blood lead testing.
(TOP) Children playing in lead waste in Kintyre.
(CENTRE) Lead concentration in Kintyre.
(BorTOM) Child number in increasing order of Ph blood levels.

1 252 310


Studies in Kingston and Clarendon, in collaboration with the
Ministry of Health, revealed lower but surprisingly high blood
lead levels in a number of children with no obvious exposure
to lead contamination.8 Consequently, an islandwide survey of
blood lead in children was started to assess the situation, and to
identify and provide assistance to children with high blood lead
contents. A technique known as anodic stripping voltametry was
used for measuring the blood lead concentrations. This allowed
rapid analysis of fingerprick samples taken from carefully cleaned
hands. Up to mid-May 2005, results have been obtained on over
one thousand children from twenty-five basic schools. We found
that eighteen per cent of these children were lead-poisoned to
some extent and required some level of intervention.

Several severely lead-poisoned children have been found.
Recently, one child had a blood lead level as high as 200
gg/ dL, fifty units above the level which requires emergency
treatment and at which death is likely. All emergency cases have
received chelation therapy to lower their blood lead levels and
environmental mitigations to isolate the lead have been carried
out. But, because lead is stored in the soft tissues and particularly
in bone, follow-up work at a later date is probably necessary.

The emergency cases indicate very high levels of exposure
to bioavailable lead and the children are, in effect, excellent
bioindicators for lead. So, when a high blood lead level is found,
the source of lead is sought and removed. Well recognized
possible sources include food contaminated during production,
processing and packaging; drinking water from lead-containing
pipes, faucets and brass fixtures; some ceramic tableware; solder;
lead crystal glassware and lead-glazed pottery; certain 'natural'
calcium supplements and folk remedies; hair colourants and other
cosmetics; paints, waste sites, industrial sources; and lead-recycling
operations. Despite this variety, except for the minewaste source
in Kintyre, to date every single high blood lead case identified
has been the result of lead-acid battery recycling. This highlights
the very high risk of backyard lead smelting, and one can only
wonder what dire consequences such exposure has produced in
terms of reduced IQ damaged brains, poor school performance,
unemployment, and crime and violence. The Used Lead Acid
Battery Project of the Ministry of Land and the Environment is an
important step towards reducing lead exposure in Jamaica.

The International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences
at the University of the West Indies, Mona, has developed


educational tools in collaboration with the
Environmental Foundation of Jamaica to
support childhood lead-safe education.
These tools outline matters such as lead
exposure and its effects, lead safety rules,
and the importance of good personal
hygiene. They have been circulated free to
teachers and caregivers, and discussed in
parent-teacher meetings and on lead-safe
days in participating communities. More
general coverage has been carried out
by information bulletins in the national
print, radio and television media. The
International Centre for Environmental
and Nuclear Sciences has also been
assisting these efforts by providing
expertise and advice, and, as circumstances
permit, will continue to provide blood
lead tests in situations that appear to be
The response and cooperation of the
parents and teachers has been excellent.

1. J.O. Nriagu, "Did Lead Poisoning
Contribute to the Decline of the Roman
Empire?", Medical Post 19, no. 16 (1983):
2. C.I. Davidson, ed., Clean Hands: Clair
Patterson's Crusade Against Environmental
Lead Contamination (Commack, NY: Nova
Science Publishers, 1999).
3. R. Nevin, "How Lead Exposure Related
to Temporal Changes in IQ Violent Crime
and Unwed Pregnancy", Environmental
Research A 83 (2000): 1-22.
4. A. Campbell, "Sweet and Deadly",
Ci,. .., -, ., Britain (1993): 618.
5. T.D. Matte, J.P. Figueroa, G. Burr, J.P.
Flesh, R. Keenlyside and E.L. Baker, "Lead
Exposure Among Lead-Acid Battery

More surprising, perhaps, has been that of
the children. Some children are, of course,
quite anxious about the blood sampling,
but their willingness to participate is
enhanced by a healthy curiosity; they
are relieved that testing is so speedy and
relatively painless and proud of their
bravery after it is all over. One little boy
asked whether, if he gave a second blood
sample, he would receive a second sweet
- he was given a few. Their willingness
to be tested is obvious and their interest
and overall behaviour have been most
encouraging to our field teams. The parents
and teachers have been appreciative and
cooperative, and it has been a pleasure to
work with them.

There is no question about the dangers
that lead presents to children. Lead is
considered one of the most hazardous of
the heavy metals in the environment, and
the list of possible ailments from exposure
reads like a roster of disasters. Acute lead
poisoning presents with several symptoms
and can usually be recognized, but at lower
exposure levels it can be asymptomatic and
therefore not recognized except by blood
tests for lead. Yet the personal and national
consequences can be so significant that in
the United States, for example, blood lead
testing for children is carried out routinely.
The main hazard at low concentrations
is the effect on the child's developing
nervous system, one aspect of which is a
reduced IQ. In an increasingly competitive
world, even a slight dimming of the bright

Workers in Jamaica", American Journal of
Industrial Medicine 16, no. 167 (1989): 177;
T.D. Matte, J.P. Figueroa, S. Ostrowski,
G. Burr, L. Jackson-Hunte, R. Keenlyside
and E.L. Baker, "Lead Poisoning among
Household Members Exposed to Lead-Acid
Battery Repair Shops in Kingston, Jamaica",
International Journal of Epidemiology 18 no. 4
(1989): 874-81.
6. B. Anglin-Brown, A. Armour-Brown and
G.C. Lalor, "Heavy Metal Pollution in
Jamaica 1: Survey of Cadmium, Lead
and Zinc Concentrations in the Kintyre
and Hope Flat Districts", Environmental
Geochemistry and Health 17, no. 2 (1995): 51-
56; B. Anglin-Brown, A. Armour-Brown,
G.C. Lalor, J. Preston and M. Vutchkov,

tail of the population distribution can
mean significant costs, and many countries
are trying to limit childhood exposure
to the lowest possible levels. However,
lead poisoning is readily preventable by
limiting contact with sources, the main one
at present in Jamaica being used lead-acid
Goya's painting of the God of Lead,
Saturn Devouring His Son, sums up the
modem view on the dangers of this
element. Fortunately, childhood lead
poisoning is completely avoidable and this
must be worth the necessary efforts. o.

The initial programme on soils was funded by
the Inter-American Development Bank. The
present work was encouraged and funded by
the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica. The
contributions of the staff of the International
Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences,
the Ministries of Education and Health, the
Department of Paediatrics at the University
Hospital of the West Indies, and the Bustamante
Hospital for Children are also gratefully
acknowledged. The work would have been
impossible without the cooperation of teachers
and parents and the children themselves.

(OPPOSITE PACE LEFT) In front of Kintyre Basic School,
before (roP) and after (forrOM) mitigation.
(OPPOSITE E E RIGHT) Mine waste in a yard in
Kintyre, before (Tro) and after (BorrOM) mitigation.
(THIS PAGE) Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son.
All photos provided courtesy of the International
Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences.

"Lead in a Residential Environment in
Jamaica", Environmental Geochemistny
and Health 18 (1995): 129-33; G. Lalor, R.
Rattray, M. Vutchkov, B. Campbell and K.
Lewis-Bell, "Blood Lead Levels in Jamaican
School Children", Science of the Total
Environment 269, nos. 1-3 (2001): 171-81; S.
Bryan, G. Lalor and M. Vutchkov, "Blood
Lead Levels in Children in Jamaican Basic
Schools", West Indian Medical Journal 53, no.
2(2004): 71-75.
7. G.C. Lalor, A Geochemical Atlas of Jamaica
(Kingston: Canoe Press, University of the
West Indies, 1995).
8. Lalor et al., "Blood Lead Levels".

Sponges of

the Port Royal Mangroves

and Factors That Affect Their



4, J --

If one goes boating through the Port Royal mangrove lagoons one
will observe a number of colourful creatures which form part of the
submerged mangrove community on the edge of the forest. Many
of these are animals called sponges. Some of us are familiar with
the natural bath sponge which along with its primary role is now
used in decorative finishing of walls. There is also on television the
cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants which is popular among the young.
The main purpose of this article is to describe some of the unique
characteristics of these animals called sponges as well as examine
environmental factors which determine where they grow.

Mangrove communities exist throughout the world's tropical
and subtropical coasts. They are characterized by organisms that
can survive salinity fluctuations, exposure to air, temperature
fluctuations, and other features of the coastal zone. Mangroves
house a unique assemblage of fauna and flora which besides
showing tremendous biodiversity also have commercial value.

The area supports several valuable fishery resources, and
mangrove root fauna have been found to be sources of bioactive
materials with potential for use in the medical industry.
Port Royal, also well known for its notorious pirates in the
mid- to late-seventeenth century, has mangrove lagoons that have
been extensively studied for their biodiversity, with research
dating back to the eighteenth century.' The mangroves are located
near the end of the 12-kilometre-long (7.5 miles) Palisadoes
tombolo on the side facing Kingston Harbour (Figure 1). A range
of habitats exists throughout the mangrove area, each with its
own peculiar assemblage of organisms. These habitats include the
lagoon waters, the lagoon floor and the actual mangrove forest
made up of different tree types. One such tree, the red mangrove
(Rhizophora mangle), grows at the forest-lagoon interface and its
adventitious roots, which may grow from the trunk or branches

FIGURE 1. Map of Kingston Harbour and Palisadoes Tombolo.
FIGURE 2. The adventitous roots of the red mangrove tree (prop roots) which hang
into the adjacent lagoon.

of the tree, drop down into the lagoon waters, providing substrate
on which sessile marine organisms grow. These adventitious roots
which hang into the lagoon waters from the adjacent forest are
referred to as 'prop roots' (Figure 2).
The microhabitat which develops on these prop roots
supports a large number of marine organisms (Figure 3),
including sponges, cnidarians, polychaete worms, bivalve
molluscs ('oysters'), crustaceans (for example, shrimp and
crab) and ascidians (sea squirts). Many of the prop root fauna
are conspicuously brightly coloured. The sponges in particular
exist as shades of red, yellow, orange, green and purple due to
pigments in the dermal cells.
Although sponges have colonised all aquatic habitats, some
are restricted by factors that limit skeletal secretion to a relatively
shallow zone from the intertidal (sea shore) to 100 metres (328 feet).
Others, for example Hexactinellida, prefer to inhabit deep water.
Demospongiae, the largest group of sponges, can be found in any
area from the upper intertidal to abyssal depths down to 8,000
metres (26,247 feet), in fresh and brackish water, in caves as well
as in full illumination. They can grow on rock, unstable shell, sand
and mud, and in some cases they burrow into calcareous material.
Nearly all the sponges encountered on coral reefs and certainly in
the mangroves are members of this class Demospongiae.

Sponges are the most primitive of multicellular animals and
belong to the phylum Porifera (pore bearer). Three classes of
recent Porifera are:2 Calcarea, with spicules composed of calcium

carbonate; Hexactinellida, the glass sponges with siliceous
spicules; and Demospongiae, which account for about 95 per
cent of recent species, and have siliceous spicules and/or
proteinaceous fibres. The commercial bath sponges belong to this
latter group.
Sponges are at the cellular level of construction and have no
true tissues or organs. However, they have many different types
of cells specialised to carry out various functions. Furthermore,
some cells, called archaeocytes, are totipotent, having the ability to
change functions as required by the sponge. Sponge architecture is
unique as the cellular layers of the body are constructed around a
system of water canals. The body surface is perforated with many
small openings (pores) which are formed by cells called porocytes.
These open into the inner body cavity or atrium and allow water
to enter the sponge. The middle layer of the sponge body wall (the
mesohyl) is variable, but always includes motile cells and may
contain skeletal structures called spicules. These are composed of
calcium carbonate or silicon. Some sponges may have collagen
fibres in this middle layer instead of, or along with, the spicules.
Simple sponges have a tubular shape with a relatively large
opening called the osculum at the top (Figure 4). Water enters the
body of the sponge via the porocytes, flows into the atrium and
out through the osculum. This flow of water brings in oxygen and
food (sponges are filter feeders) and removes waste. The animal
actively pumps water through its body using unique flagellated
cells called choanocytes, which line the inner cavity or atrium.
Within an hour sponges are able to pump the equivalent of up to
ten times their body volume of water.3

Apart from their aesthetic value and
Sthe beautiful colours they provide in
3 the mangrove lagoons, within recent
times sponges and other sessile marine
invertebrates have generated increased
interest as potential genetic and chemical
resources. It has therefore become a
matter of priority to study the biological
diversity as well as the ecology of
S these animals. This is important so that
conservation and management can be
implemented, as many of these marine
species are rapidly disappearing because
they live in habitats that are prone to
pollution and destruction.
Sessile marine invertebrates have
"the most active biochemicals potentially
useful for mankind in the pharmaceutical
industry".4 There is urgency in seeking
out new species, as such discoveries
may equate to new types of chemicals
which may be useful against human
pathogens and ailments. The number of
sponges with medical properties has been
growing. The most celebrated example
is the Mediterranean species Dysidea
avara which has produced anti-AIDS
a molecules.'


Sa Atrium Sponges come in many sizes, colours
and shapes. They range from a few
SI millimetres to the great barrel or basket
Osculu spongfifteen thousand living species worldwi(6.6
o -Spicules feet) or more in diameter and capable of
accommodating a scuba diver! However,
Porocyte while it may be easy to recognize sponges
as a group, the individual species are very
Choanocytes difficult to identify. This may be partially
(Collar Cells) due to the fact that same species may

grow in different shapes and patterns or
S- -have different colours according to the
age of the animal, water depth, currents,
.Ostia (Pores) light conditions and water chemistry.7

FIcURE 3. Red mangrove prop roots showing diversity
of marine organisms, including brightly coloured
sponges, bivalve molluscs and ascidians.
FiGcuRE 4. Basic structure of a sponge.
(Redrawn from Concepts in Zoology by Leon Harris)

Sponge identification usually requires .'.....
a preliminary examination of the external C
features followed by more detailed
examination of the internal architecture.

External characteristics include: '.
Some groups of sponges are typically
brightly coloured while others are r
characteristically drab. There is a wide
range of sponge pigments varying ;, .-
from black, beige or white, to very ~
bright reds, greens, yellows and blues.
Generally, these colours can be useful
for field identification of particular
groups. However, care must be taken
as individuals and populations
may vary based on environmental
conditions (see Figure 10 which shows
colour variation in the sponge Terpios

There is a wide range of possible
shapes seen in sponges extending
from thin encrusting to thicker volcano .
shapes, vasiform (vase-like) and
tubular, finger-like and so on. This .
character, if used with a certain degree "
of caution, may be informative for ;L
particular species.

This refers to the consistency or feel of
the sponge, that is, whether it is fragile '
and easily torn, crumbly, brittle, tough,
rubbery, compressible or elastic, hard
but breakable or stony. Sponge texture
provides clues to an experienced field
biologist as to the nature of the skeleton
and the water canal system inside.

Surface Features
These include the arrangement and .
location of surface pores (oscula and
ostia), ridges, protruding spicules .
and other processes. They are
characteristics which can be useful
in recognizing particular groups

FIGURE 5. SEM photo of 4 types of spicules: tylotes,
styles, sigma, isochela of Lissodendendorynx
isodictyalis: Scale bar + 100 pm)
FicURES 6A AND 6B. Sections showing skeletal
arrangement of spicules in two different sponges.
FIGURE 7. Section of sponge showing both spongin
fibres and spicules of N iphates amorpha. -


Gallows Point ,s '

f?.. %, .

/ illy'- ..^ '^ '.

E Li

The most common type of internal skeleton is the spicule
skeleton, which traditionally is the most important feature used
in identifying sponges. Spicules are classified based on certain
criteria which include chemical composition and the shape and
size of spicules. Larger spicules are called megascleres, which
determine the primary skeletal framework, while smaller ones
called microscleres are packed between tracts of megascleres.
Megascleres are called styles, tylostyles, strongyles, oxeas and
tylotes, each having distinctive shapes (Figure 5). Microscleres,
however, cover a much wider range of types and shapes with the
most common being sigmas and chelas (Figure 5).
The arrangement of the spicules inside the sponge is
usually specific for a particular group and so important in their
identification (Figure 6).
The organic skeleton is composed of spongin and collagen
fibres. The latter occur as fibrils, generally visible at high
magnifications. Spongin fibres are responsible for the primary,
secondary and tertiary networks in sponge (Figure 7). The
construction of the fibres, the patterns they form and the material
contained within the fibres are important characters used in
identifying and classifying sponges. Some species of sponge have

both an organic and mineral skeleton of spicules. Others, however,
have only spongin fibre skeletons and these are the types used as
bath sponges; the presence of spicules would cause abrasion.
Additional features that can be used to give significant
information on the classification, especially at the species level,
are larvae and reproductive strategy, biochemistry, cytology and
ecological studies.

In a study carried out on sponges growing on prop roots of the
red mangrove in the Port Royal lagoons,8 thirty species of sponges
were identified from a range of stations (Figure 8 and Table 1). The
greatest number of sponge species was found in a narrow tidally
flushed channel between mangrove islands called Goodbody's
Channel. By contrast, the lowest number of species was found at
the Buccaneer's Swamp (1) near the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club, at
Plumb Point Lagoon (2), near the airport runway and at Rose's
Hole (4), located near Refuge Cay. The most common sponges
were \ l. il, r1,,,lw i -',il. --a (Figure 9) and Terpios zeteki (Figure 10).
Also of significance is the fact that the group was dominated by
genus Haliclona, one example of which is shown in Figure 11.

1 = Royal Jamaica Yacht Club;
2 = Plumb Point Lagoon, north; 3 Plumb Point Lagoon, south;
4 = Rose's Hole; 5 = Fort Rocky Lagoon, north;
6 = Fort Rocky Lagoon, east; 7 = Fort Rocky Lagoon, south;
8= Goodbody's Channel, south and 9 = Goodbody's Channel, north



h rF I ,., I

Rocky Ai ",i

Port Royal

iLOdi uiard

Gun Cay

>. '


., Buccaneer Beach


" 4.

Plumb Point

In this study, it was found that the environmental factors
of light availability, total suspended solids (TSS) and depth of
water significantly affected the sponge species composition
and distribution within the lagoons. It has been shown that
increased numbers of sponge species correlated positively
with depth at each site, while total suspended solids showed a

FIGURE 9. Mycale microsigmatosa: a) preserved specimen; b) section showing
skeletal structure; c) SEM photo of spicules (substylostyles, sigmas and
anisochelae. (Scale bar = 10pm)

I 2 3 a i b II II ii -



negative correlation with number of sponge species.9 The total
suspended solids (TSS), which may include particles of organic
as well as inorganic (sediment) matter, was the factor of greatest
importance. It was found that an area with high suspended solids
had few sponge species. Other researchers"' have stated that for
sponges to thrive, low sediment exposure is needed to avoid
clogging of the pores (ostia). It is critical that sponges grow at a
depth that ensures that they are constantly submerged. Depth
at a site may also be related to the effect of fresh water, as large
influxes of fresh water during rainy months will penetrate easily
to the depth at which sponges grow at shallow sites. It was
observed during the course of this study that such large influx of
fresh water resulted in the death of sponges and many of the soft-
bodied sessile invertebrates on the mangrove roots. Shallow areas
are also prone to re-suspension of sediments from the muddy
lagoon floor and so will support only few or no species.

The prop roots of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle, support a
diverse population of colourful and fairly large sponge specimens
in the Port Royal lagoons. The identification and classification
of sponges can, however, be tedious and challenging. The
criteria of gross morphology, colour of the living animal, type of
spicules and their respective sizes are not adequate and have to

be complemented with preparation and examination of sections
to show the internal structure. Even doing all the above did not
guarantee the identification of the specimens beyond reasonable
doubt, and in some cases the difficulty experienced was due
to the fact that the sponge was a new species and therefore not
previously described." Additional analyses involving cytology
and biochemistry may be needed along with careful observation
of some of these specimens in their natural environment.
The species composition of sponges varied in the different
mangrove lagoons and this was found to be related to
environmental factors. These observations support the idea
that sponges can be used as indicators of water quality in those
areas. Environmental conditions of the mangrove lagoons at Port
Royal are affected by their proximity to the polluted Kingston
Harbour and other land-based activities on the southern shore of
the harbour. These factors in turn can adversely affect the healthy
growth of animals, including sponges in the Port Royal lagoons. *

FIGURE 10. Terpios zeteki: a) various colours of live specimens; b) section
showing skeletal structure; c) SEM photo of spicules (tylostyles).
(Scale bar = 100pm;
FIGURE 11. Haliclona curacaoensis: a) Preserved specimen; b) section showing
skeletal arrangement of spicules; c) SEM photos of spicules (oxeas).
(Scale bar = 100pm)

Table 1: Spatial Distribution of the Different Species of Sponge Identified at the Different Stations in the Port Royal Lagoons



3 PPS 4 RH


Orde *'POSLRD 'I*

1. M. Greenfield, Marine Biology .- i ..". ", '
Jamaica 1700-1984 (Mona, Jamaica:
Department of Zoology, University of the
West Indies, 1984).
2. R.C. Brusca and G.J. Brusca, Invertebrates
(Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates, 1990).
3. J.N. Hooper, "Guide to Sponge Collection
and Identification", http:/ /www.
qmuseum.qld.gov.au / organization
section/ marineinvertebrates / (accessed 9
February 2004).

4. "Marine Sponges", http:/ /www.pirweb.
5. "Common Marine Sponges", http:/ /www.
jadeaupearl.com/batt sponges.shtml.
6. C.P. Jackson, "The Community of Sponges
(Porifera) on Prop Roots of Rlizophora
mangle in the Port Royal Mangrove
Lagoons" (MPhil thesis, University of the
West Indies, 2003).
7. P. Human, Reef Creature Identification:

Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas (Jacksonville,
Fla.: New World Publications, 1992).
8. Jackson, "The Community of Sponges".
9. Ibid.
10. K. Rutzler, M. Diaz, R. Van Soest, S. Zea, K.
Smith, B. Alvarez and J. Wulff, "Diversity of
Sponge Fauna in Mangrove Ponds, Pelican
Cays, Belize", Atoll Research Bulletin, no. 476
(2000): 230-48.
11. Jackson, "The Community of Sponges".


Philosophy in

Jamaican Proverbs


Proverbs are usually thought of as the
expression of the folk wisdom of a society.
If philosophy is 'the love of wisdom' and
this is the literal meaning of the Greek
word 'philosophia' from which the word
'philosophy' comes then the love of
folk wisdom should fall naturally within
its purview. Thinkers who prefer more
rarefied abstraction may be inclined to
be contemptuous of 'folk philosophy' or
'ethnophilosophy'. But proverbs may well
express what Bacon called the "genius,
wit and spirit of a nation".' They may also
be what Aristotle called remnants "from
old philosophy" preserved because of
their "brevity and fitness for use".2 An
interest in both philosophy and folklore
led me to the question: Is there anything
of philosophical interest in Jamaican
proverbs? In this article I attempt to give
an affirmative answer to this question.

My strategy will be to try and show
that there are Jamaican proverbs which
are interesting from the point of view
of at least four areas of philosophy:
metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and
aesthetics. It is not my contention that
these areas exhaust all the possibilities. It
is also possible, of course, that there are
many philosophically interesting proverbs
which I do not know about. I regard this as
very much a pioneering effort.
By calling them 'Jamaican proverbs'
I do not mean that they are found only in
this country, or that they originated here. I
mean only that collectors have found them
here. Some may well have originated in the
ancestral (African and European) cultures.
Some have been creolised, like much else
in this culture.
Most of the proverbs to be discussed
are from a variety of sources, and so they

Weh fi yu cyan be unfiyu

differ in their renderings of the Jamaican
language. The interpretations are those
of the collectors or my own. It is to be
expected that interpretations of them will
sometimes vary from person to person.

This is the branch of philosophy which is
probably the most difficult to define, partly
because the word 'metaphysics' refers
to a variety of philosophical activities. I
shall restrict my use of it to mean attempts
at making general statements about
the nature of existence or reality. Thus
conceived, metaphysical inquiry aims at
fundamental truths about the nature of
I shall now examine some of the
proverbs which seem to me to be
metaphysically interesting.
There is an element of fatalism in
the proverb "Weh fi yu cyan be unfiyu.
What is yours cannot be otherwise but
yours". Fatalism is the doctrine that what
will happen is unavoidable. In this case
there is also the notion of deserts; it is
unavoidable that one will get what one
deserves or merits. The proverb is a source
of consolation, for it offers the view that
justice and fairness must prevail in the
world. If one makes oneself worthy of
what is good, then one is bound to reap the
rewards of one's efforts eventually.
A good deal of philosophical reflection
has been done on the nature of time. One
characteristic of time that has received
the attention of both philosophers and
scientists is its apparent irreversibility.
This idea is graphically captured in
the proverb "Plantain ripe, can't green
again".3 Here we have an observation
on the one-way flow of time, events and
history. The ripeness of the plantain, like
all the ripeness of life, may be yearned for
and welcomed, but with ripeness comes
the irrevocable loss of the antecedent


greenness. It is the loss of youth and the
beginning of death. And this movement of
time is a fundamental characteristic of all
perceived reality.
The search for a rational basis
for belief in the existence of God has
been one of the preoccupations of
metaphysics. Conceptions of God are
obviously an important part of this
process. God is frequently referred to
as "Big Massa" or "Massa God". This
is obviously anthropomorphism based
on the plantation experience. God is
like the master in the master/slave or
master/ servant relationship. The view
that God cares for the disadvantaged is
expressed in the proverb "W'en cow tail
cut off, God-a-mighty brush fly. When
the cow's tail has been cut off, God
Almighty brushes away the flies".4 God
is on the side of goodness, and the good
eventually triumphs: "Ev'ry day debl help
tief; wan day God wi' help watchman.
Every day the devil helps the thief; one
day God will help the watchman."5 The
problem of evil is one of the arguments
against the existence of an all-powerful,
all-benevolent God, and some of the
proverbs wrestle with this problem. There
is a proverb which attributes evil to the
realm of God's unique knowledge; God
uses evil to humble the arrogant: "God-
a-mighty know why 'im bruk fowl wing.
God Almighty knows why he broke the
fowl's wing."' But heaven, the dwelling
place of God, is seen as a source of both
good and evil: "Not everything come
from heaven a blessing." It is said that
Olodumare, the God of the Yoruba of West
Africa, is capable of both good and evil.7
One wonders if this proverb is an African
survival in the Jamaican worldview. But,
according to another proverb, one's vision
of the good can persist in spite of evil. This
optimistic philosophy of hope is expressed
in the proverb "God-a-mighty mek yu see
star, no matter which way wind blow. God
Almighty makes you see stars, no matter
which way the wind blows".

Epistemology is concerned with issues like
the nature of knowledge, how knowledge
is derived, the scope of knowledge and the
reliability of our claims to knowledge. It is
closely related to metaphysics, for while
metaphysics is concerned with the nature

God-a-mighty know why 'im bruk fowl wing

of reality, epistemology investigates how
we come to have knowledge of reality.
Few things are more fundamental to our
lives than our claim to knowledge. It is
hardly surprising, therefore, that there
are epistemological views expressed in
some of our proverbs. The importance of
knowledge in human affairs is succinctly
expressed in the proverb "Sabby-so mek
makso 'tan so. On the understanding of a
thing depends how it is accomplished".9
There is a strong streak of empiricism
in several Jamaican proverbs. Empiricism

is the thesis that all knowledge at least
knowledge of matters of fact is derived
from experience. This view is expressed
in the following proverb: "Pig ax 'im
mumma: 'Wha' mek yu mout' so long?'
Pig mumma ansa: 'Yu a grow yu wi' larn.'
(Also expressed as'Yu mout' a grow, yu
wi' larn.') Pig asked his mother: 'What
makes your mouth so long?' Pig's mother
answered 'You are growing, you will
learn.'""' A similar empiricism is expressed
in the proverb "If yuh nebba ben put on
new ledda yuh wooden know how boots
pinch. If you never had put on new leather
you wouldn't know how boots pinch"."
And the greater the experience the greater
the knowledge: "Wha' a man doan no
olda dan 'im. What a man doesn't know
is older than him."" The necessity of prior
experience for knowledge is summarised
in the saying: 'Me know i' nebber go
befo'. 'I knew it' never goes before.""

Plantain ripe, can't green again

back, and she will let you taste her
pepper pot."23
The spirit of altruism, perhaps
echoing Dostoevsky, is expressed in the
proverb "De bes' passion is compassion.
Compassion is the best passion".24 The
following two proverbs express the moral
responsibility of those who are better
off for the disadvantaged: "Strong man
buil' pass, mek weak man waak. A strong
man builds a road for a weak one to walk
on." And: "De man dat 'av' on boot mus
go befo' fe mash macca. The man who
has on boots must go in front to step on
/ the thorns."2 Even animals appear to
be altruistic: "Blackbud lef' fe 'im ticks
fe pick, and pick fe cow own. Blackbird
S leaves his ticks to pick, and picks cows'
S own."2' Self-interested vanity is seen as a
hindrance to virtue: "Virtue no go far if
vanity bear i' company. Virtue does not go
far if vanity bears it company."27

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, in
postulating that all things are in a state
of flux, observed that "You could not
step twice into the same rivers; for other
waters are ever flowing on to you"." Also
using the imagery of river-crossing, there
is a proverb which observes that each
experience yields new knowledge: "A no
ev'ry riva yu cross yu lan' 'pon de same
foot. You do not land on the same foot
after crossing every river."1i
It is widely believed in philosophical
circles, that part of what is meant by
claiming that one knows a proposition
is that that proposition is true. There is a
proverb which says: "De truth a de gate.
The truth is the gate."" And another
declares that "Lie wuss dan sore. Lies are
worse than sores"." This concern with
truth may be seen as an insistence on one
of the conditions of knowledge.

I turn now to ethics. Most proverbs,
it seems, offer advice on the means of
prudent self-interest. And there is a
philosophical view of morality (egoism)
which holds that morality can be
explained in terms of enlightened self-
interest. The opposing view (altruism)
holds that the ability to take an interest

in other people for their own sake is
necessary for morality. I have found that
both egoism and altruism are expressed in
Jamaican proverbs.
Perhaps the most thorough-going
egoism of all is expressed in the proverb
"Dawg drink water, 'Fe yu, fe yu.' A dog,
while drinking water, makes the sound,
'For you, for you.' "'" The dog advises
everyone to pursue his or her own self-
interest. Another version of the proverb
contrasts the dog's selfishness with God
being for us all.
Having a clear conscience is
seen as being in one's self-interest
because it allows one to sleep: "Clear
conscience sleep a thunder. One with a
clear conscience sleeps even during a
Doing good is like an investment
because good will come back to you: "Do
good an' good will follow you."2 Two
proverbs which draw from Jamaica's
cooperative traditions also express this
view: "Who no put no get, who no ree
no rah. Who does not put (help) will not
get."21 And: "Wan han' wash de other.
One hand is used to wash the other."22 A
similar view is expressed in the proverb
"Rub ole woman back, 'im mek yu tase
'im pepper pot. Rub an old woman's

While it is now primarily concerned
with the philosophical study of art,
aesthetics has, in the course of its history,
also focused on the study of beauty
in both nature and art. A number of
proverbs I have seen refer to beauty as
a characteristic of human beings (which
could be seen as part of beauty in nature).
Most of these proverbs express a deep
distrust of beauty. It is seen as inferior to
moral value, as incomplete, as a source
of bad luck, as a dangerous attribute, and
as a sign of incompetence. These beliefs
are expressed in the following examples:
"Beauty is a pretty bird, but conduct
beat 'im. Beauty is pleasant (to the eyes)
but (good) conduct is more desirable."'2
"Beauty without grace like rose without
smell."29 "Han'some face an' good luck
no trable together. A handsome face
and good luck do not travel together."
"Han'some face need caution an' good
haat. A handsome face needs caution and
good heart."3" "De bud wha' sing de bes'
no mek de bes' nest. The bird that sings
the best does not make the best nest."3
At the same time beauty is given
a religious value. It is said to be loved
by God. As one of the proverbs puts it:
"Godamighty no lub ugly. God does
not love ugliness."32 If ugliness is being
equated with evil, which is a possibility,
then we have a fusion of the aesthetic

with the ethical. The relationship between
these two domains is of considerable
interest to students of axiology which is
the study of value generally.
There may well be other philosophical
ideas in proverbs not considered here.
But I think that these examples indicate
that Jamaican proverbs are indeed of
philosophical interest. The study of
proverbs can reveal aspects of our world-

view and give insights into the structure
of the Jamaican mind.
The concept of worldview,
understood as the philosophy of life to
be found in a community with a shared
culture, is of considerable interest to
sociologists. Philosophical beliefs,
assumptions and presuppositions form
part of a worldview. They may be seen
as important aspects of the theoretical

foundations of a culture. These
foundations include its conceptions of
reality (its metaphysics); its beliefs about
the nature, scope and limits of knowledge
(its epistemology); and its beliefs about
what kinds of conduct and objects are
good and worthwhile (its ethics and
aesthetics). The philosophical study of
proverbs, I believe, can contribute to this
process of cultural self-knowledge. +

Han'some face need caution an' good haat


All illustrations Clovis Brown

1. G. Llewellyn Watson, Jamaican Sayiings
(Tallahassee: Florida A&M University
Press, 1991), epigraph.
2. C.S. Momoh, "Philosophy in African
Proverbs", in C.S. Momoh, ed., The
Substance of African Philosophy (Auchi:
African Philosophy Projects Publications,
1989), 232.
3. Martha Warren Beckwith, Jamaica Proverbs
(New York: Negro Universities Press,
1970), 96.
4. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 43.
5. Ibid., 115.
6. Ibid., 79.
7. J.A.I. Bewaji, "Olodumare: God in
Yoruba Belief and the Problem of Evil"

(typescript, 1992).
8. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 247.
9. Izett Anderson and Frank Cundall, Jamaica
Negro Proverbs and Sayings (London: The
West India Committee for the Institute of
Jamaica, 1927), 75.
10. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 95.
11. Al Cleary, Jamaican Proverbs (Kingston:
Brainbuster Publications, 1971), 38.
12. Ibid., 39.
13. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 208.
14. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations (Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1980), 70.
15. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 144.
16. Ibid., 276.
17. Ibid., 258.
18. Ibid., 67.

19. Ibid., 192.
20. Beckwith, Jamaica Proverbs, 42.
21. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 121.
22. Ibid., 121.
23. Ibid., 151.
24. Beckwith, Jamaica Proverbs, 36.
25. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 136.
26. Al Cleary, Jamaican Proverbs (Kingston:
Brainbuster Publications, 1971), 23.
27. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 276.
28. Ibid., 179.
29. Anderson and Cundall, Jamaica Negro
Proverbs, 16.
30. Watson, Jamaican Sayings, 245.
31. Anderson and Cundall, Jamaica Negro
Proverbs, 19.
32. Beckwith, Jamaica Proverbs, 53.

"To Be Hanged by the Neck

Until He Be Dead"




Over the past two issues,
the Jamaica Journal has been
S featuring a selection of trial
testimonies and confessions
of enslaved men and women
implicated in the 1831-32
S emancipation war in Jamaica, as
well as of those whose evidence
was used against others.' As
is already well known, the
W enslaved could not testify in
court against free persons
S directly; but there was no
Legal restriction against
enslaved people giving
evidence against each other,
especially where injury was
deemed to have been done
against Europeans. In this
penultimate article and in a
year that marks the 173rd anniversary of
the trial, conviction and death of Samuel
Sharpe, the acknowledged leader of what
turned out to be the final emancipation
war in the history of the British-colonised
Caribbean the voices of those who
were called upon to give evidence at his
trial are featured. As has been stressed
in previous articles, these voices have
been filtered through the medium of
third parties; therefore some scholars
may argue that they do not qualify as
authentic 'slave narratives'. Nevertheless,
they do fall within that genre of narratives
classified by Ashraf Rushdie as 'neo-slave
narratives', narratives that function at
some level as 'slave speech', and which
are vital for the recuperation of the history
of the black experience.'
Nine testimonies are presented here,
eight by enslaved men and one by an
enslaved woman who does not appear to
have been subjected to the same level of

interrogation as the men. However, Eliza
Thomas's one-liner was not necessarily
typical. There were women in other trials
who were cross-examined and whose
testimonies were more extensive. For
example, Eliza McGregor, when testifying
at Allick's trial, had quite a bit to say:

Eliza McGregor: I went into the office
and Allick was setting down on the steps.
After he saw I was in the office he called
to me not to disturb anything, as nobody
could put the house on fire. Then I tell
him again to let me take out some of the
papers and he said no. Nobody dared to
pass him to burn the house. I asked him
if he did not see the overseer's house was
burning, he better come and let us take
out some of the papers; he said must let
the papers remain, let every thing stay,
nobody would trouble anything. It did
not go half a minute, when the yard was
full of people. Directly Allick got up and
put on Master's hat and sent into the
stable and saddled a beast, rode it on
the hill. He would not allow anything to
be taken away until the fire came and
nothing could be saved again -

Question by Court to witness Eliza
McGregor: Was he [Allick] not present
when they set fire to the house?
Answer: He was.

Q: Did he use any means to prevent it?
A: No I did not hear him, the fire was in
the office when he took the house.

Q: You distinctly said he was in the fire.
A: Yes -

Q: Had he a cutlass when you saw him -
A: Yes, he had a cutlass and a lance in his
hand -

Q: Did you see him try to stop them from
setting fire?
A: Did not see him -

Q: Did you consider that man
encouraging them to put the fire?
A: Did not hear him -

The men and woman who testified
at Sharpe's trial were enslaved by urban
and rural enslavers and lived on several
different properties, reinforcing the
geographically widespread nature of the
struggle. Their evidence is presented in
the order in which it was given in court,
and largely in the unedited form in which
it appears in the Colonial Office Records.
These nine are the last of the hundreds
of confessions, testimonies and court
depositions recorded between January
and May 1832; and like the others, they
make it clear that despite the importance
of the other major leader, George Taylor,
it was Samuel Sharpe (1801-32), enslaved
by Samuel Sharpe Esq. of Cooper's
Hill in Montego Bay (after whom he
was named), who was the principal
conceptualiser of the labour strike turned
emancipation war which erupted with
signal fires on 27 December 1831.
Personal details about Sharpe are
sketchy in Caribbean historiography;
and the witnesses shed even less light
on the man himself, beyond Martin's
reference to the fact that he had a wife
on Content estate. He was not unique
among those rebels who though enslaved
were married: James Guy of Bellfield
in St James was married; so was Billy
Lawrence of Kirkpatrick Hall estate in the
same parish; and like Sharpe, Lawrence's
wife lived apart from him in Montego
Bay. Other sources suggest that Sharpe's
parents may have arrived in Jamaica

from Africa between 1787 and 1801. 8
Sharpe himself was a Creole (that is, born
in Jamaica). He had a brother, William
(who was with him when he surrendered
in 1832) and a nephew employed at
a printer's shop in Montego Bay. His
mother survived him, but his father had
died years earlier. His father-in-law is said
to have been among the planners of the
1831-32 rebellion. Sharpe is also said to
have had a daughter who in 1896 would" Ii ,1 .IL
be identified as a Mrs Gaynor, living with fil
her daughter, Mrs Scott, in Montego Bay. ,h I h
Sharpe was among that group of
enslaved that historians characterise i I'
as the 'slave elite', meaning those who I
were artisans, domestics or supervisors. .4 .
Converted to Christianity, he became I J,,
a deacon in the First Baptist Church in
Montego Bay, now the Burchell Memorial
Baptist Church. He is said to have
possessed great oratorical skills and had
the ability to inspire his listeners. He
also obviously had the capacity to lead
the enslaved into armed action, based ,.
on the evidence presented by these nine
enslaved men and woman. His central
role in the war as revealed in these
testimonies is widely acknowledged in .
published accounts. C.S. Reid has pointed -
out that the newspaper advertisement
announcing a reward for the capture
of Sharpe, along with Dove, Gardner,
and Robert Johnson, described Sharpe
as "General Ruler Samuel Sharpe ...
alias Daddie Ruler Sharp ... director of
the whole and styled also, Preacher to
the rebels".4 This reference to Sharpe's
principal role is corroborated by Bernard
Senior, military officer at the time of the ,,.
rebellion, who recorded: "The one who ,,
took the lead and was thence forward '
nominated chief was a negro named
Samuel Sharpe ... He was designated ,
in the following style Daddy, Ruler, "i ...
General Samuel Sharpe." It is further /
corroborated by 'lieutenant colonel' Dove, ., .
who reported that "Samuel Sharpe was ".
leader of the whole of the Negroes at the ;', .
commencement of the rebellion, and the '
only instigator as far as he knows".5 6,
Apparently convinced, some
historical accounts claim, that British
military might would prevail, and to
prevent further bloodshed, he gave
himself up. Such voluntary action did not -
preclude him from the brutal punishment P .n

~jj~ E ~ ~ jF


meted out to rebels. At the end of his trial
in April, he was sentenced to be hanged,
a sentence that came into effect over a
month later. His was among the last of
the acts of execution; for by the end of
May 1832, from the accounts of Kamau
Brathwaite, Michael Craton, the Reverend
Sam Reid and Mary Turner,6 over three
hundred people had been executed
for their roles or alleged roles in the
rebellion. Countless others were whipped
(with lashes ranging from twelve to five
hundred), imprisoned or deported.7 Prior
to this, close to one thousand enslaved
rebels and their free supporters had been
killed in rebellion.

The revelations made at "The King
Against Samuel Sharpe" on 19 April
1832 are similar to those exposed at
the trials of other enslaved people in
previous months. For example, it is clear
that Sharpe initially envisioned a labour
strike, grounded in the belief that free
wage labour was more morally correct
than forced labour through enslavement.

However, it is equally clear that Sharpe
was not averse to making the transition
from peaceful sit-down strike to armed
revolt, agonising as that decision may
have been; and he himself was armed
when the moment came. He mobilised
supporters on several properties and
used the Bible to swear his followers to
action. The violent nature of the struggle,
with casualties on both sides, is revealed
clearly. Above all, we learn from witnesses
Edward Barrett, James Clarke, John Davis,
Edward Hilton, Joseph Martin, George
Reid, Robert Rose, James Stirling and Ann
Thomas, the names of many captains,
colonels, and rank and file who helped
Sharpe in this major armed struggle that
eventually ended centuries of British
slavery in the Caribbean.

1: Joseph Martin, mulatto: enslaved by Philip
Anglin Scarlett, Esq.
Knows prisoner saw him at Retrieve.
Saw him there Friday week before Xmas,
this was the only time ... saw him there
- It was at a meeting there and I saw him
swear the people, it was at night and

Charles Square, Montego Bay, 1924. To the right is
the courthouse where Sam Sharpe was tried.

they were all slaves the meeting was at
Tucker's House.
There was a great many people
there Prisoner swore me amongst the
rest; he said we were to be free and after
Xmas we were not to go to work; he said
nothing else he/ Prisoner swore the rest
of the people Saw Sharpe afterwards
at Cambridge; he came there often saw
him there Tuesday in Xmas he went to
George Bird's house saw him also at the
meeting house at Cambridge did not
see him swear the people there he had
prayers only saw Prisoner with a party
on Thursday after Xmas about twenty
men more than half of them had guns.
Some had machetes and some lances and
swords Prisoner had a little machete.
The party always followed him, and he
gave orders to them the party met on
the Cross Road by Hazelymph they
then went on towards Ginger Hill. I went
with them; when we were on the road
Sharpe told me they had sent to call him
at Ginger Hill that they wanted help

. L I

- when we got to Ginger Hill Sharpe told
me we were to go on to Ipswich we
were going on and when we got part of
the way, it began to rain and we turned
back. Sharpe went to Content where
he has a wife and I went to Master's
Mountain. The day after, Sharpe came
to Cambridge by himself about two
days after this Sharpe went with a party
to Cow Park six or seven men walked
with him from Cambridge a large party
met at Cow Park. Gardner came there
also with his party they slep'd there that
night next day Sharpe went with his
party to Struie when we got there they
said a party of the militia were coming to
burn down the negroes.
Gardner's party had gone on to Struie
the night before ... Sharpe's party
and the others fired at the militia.
Saw one of the men chop a white
man and kill him and I heard that
another one was shot Sharpe
commanded the party he went th
with to Struie he had only the th
machete Gardner commanded te
his own party. Sharpe returned to Shi
Cambridge the same day with his daa
party where they separated and "0
Sharpe went home. Sharpe had a pro
fowling piece at Cambridge. car
Cross-examined by Mr Grignon: day
The first place I saw Sharpe was
at Retrieve did not see any
other person swear the people C
but Sharpe -he had the Book,
read it and gave it to them he
gave them the Book and said they must
take their oath not to work after Xmas
unless they know what they are to work
for never heard Sharpe called Captain -
has heard Gardner called Colonel when
we returned from Struie we came round
by Hazelymph.

2: James Clarke: enslaved by Philip Anglin
Scarlett, Esq.

Says he knows Prisoner saw him
coming through an interval of a cane
piece at Cambridge about a week after
Xmas and he went towards Ducketts he
told me he was going to war and going
to fight and he asked me to go with him
and I said I can't go; he said he was going
up Whittingham's way to Struie to fight
white man he had a short pistol and

walked before and the party followed
him half of the party had guns and the
others had lances and machetes the next
day in the afternoon they returned by
Hazelymph way to Cambridge. He said
he went to Struie and had had a battle
there they had fired at a white man there
and the white man ran and they ran after
him and chopped him and killed him.
The next morning the party eat breakfast
at George Reid's at Cambridge and after
breakfast Sharpe called all his men and
said freedom was due to them a long time
and they must now seek and fight for
it, and the one that fell back when they
went to battle, the others must shoot
him some of the people called him Mr
Sharpe and others Sam Sharpe -

take it and I said yes he said we must
all agree to sit down after Xmas I said
yes and so did everybody in the house
say yes he said we must sit down, we
must not trouble anybody, and raise no
rebellion we must sit quite peaceable I
took the oath and everybody in the house
did the same after Xmas I did sit down
- We did not swear to burn anywhere or
to fight I set down all Wednesday and
all Thursday after Xmas. I saw Sharpe at
Cambridge Xmas night, he eat supper at
George Reid's next day he went away
to Content and George Reid and myself
went with him. We came back the same
evening to Cambridge I saw him again
on Thursday he was walking with a
crowd of people half had guns and

MY DEAR SIR, 27th December, 1831.
Lieutenant Colonel Small has delivered me yor letter.
should S tany emerged in the -e art of the yrish require
ur nssistnce Iwill gladly avail myself of it;e at prsnt, a-
osuh, except three o panics, all the regiment are on dutv,
ose three will be so this evening. I do not wish to call your at-
ntion from your own district, where I ear you wll require the
Idest front to keep every thing quiet. The negro, Samuel
arpe, is at Croydon, and, as he was at asthnms on Satur.
' week, without having called on his master in his way either
n6 or coming, I think it would be advisable to send Mr.
aries Shape to Croydon, on pretence of getting a supply of
vision, which, the negro, with other, may be directed to
ry, and, if he reffies to do so, or attempts to escape, Mr.
arpe may compel him, or prevent his doing any mischief in a
amary way, by securing him. To-morrot is the important
', according to some information, and Monday next, according
others. I hol, therefore, that we shall not be found napping.
eeve me, my dear Sir,
Yours, sincerely,

olonel Grignon.


Cross-examined by Mr Grignon:

He called me the day he was going to
Struie to go with him, and I said I cut my
foot and my pickaninny deh with me and
I can't go is sure he saw Sharpe with a

3: Robert Rose: enslaved by Philip Anglin
Scarlett, Esq.

Knows prisoner. Recollects seeing him
at Retrieve before Xmas met him there
many times at prayers. First night at
Johnson's house and the next night at
Tucker's house which is a larger one than
Johnson's; there was a large party at both
meetings after prayers I took the oath at
the two houses Samuel Sharpe put the
Book on the table and asked me if I will

half had machetes
and lances. Sharpe
had a cutlass Sharpe
went with the party
to Ginger Hill they
said I must go with
them that the people
there sent to call them
we went to Ginger
Hill and when we got
there the people there
said the white people
were coming to murder
and they had sent for
Sharpe and his party to
help them move away
the things we met a
party at Ginger Hill and
they wanted me to go to
a neighboring estate,

Ipswich we did not go but returned
to Content that evening and slep'd
there. Next morning I went to Master's
Mountain and left Sharpe at Content
- two or three days after Sharpe came
to Cambridge by himself saw him
another day come through Cambridge
with some people near 26 some had
firearms and some machetes and lances
- can't say if Sharpe had a gun that day
- saw him one day with a gun he did
not ask me to go with him that day. I
went with him another day with a party
to Cow Park all armed as before we
slep'd at Cow Park that night next day
we went to Struie and had to fight there

Extract from "Vindication of the Conduct of Col.

with the white people and killed a white
man they were riding the party then
came away down to Hazelymph and
came home to Cambridge. Sharpe came
with me saw Gardner at Struie Sharpe
directed the party I was with Sharpe
had a fowling piece at Struie Sharpe
was with the party I met at Retrieve
- Thursday after Xmas I went to Retrieve
and met a party there at the negro houses,
middle of the day they were all armed
and Sharpe with them The party
marched down towards Hazelymph and
Sharpe marched with them. He catch at
Cambridge and he and I went through
Cambridge. I stopped at Endeavour to
put out a fire at the overseer's kitchen
- Sharpe went on and I followed him and
met him coming back with half of the
party these were the same party I went
with to Ginger Hill.

Cross-examined by Mr Grignon:

Did not see any white people at
Ginger Hill Sharpe and Gardner each
commanded their own party at Struie
- Edward Barrett was not at Retrieve the

day we were sworn Sharpe swore the
whole -
4: James Stirling, a mulatto: enslaved by
Philip Anglin Scarlett, Esq.

Knows prisoner saw him at Retrieve
- he gave me an Oath not to work after
Xmas other persons were in the house
before I went saw Sharpe at Cambridge
on the day of the fight at Montpelier
- I went with him to Ginger Hill that
evening he said they sent to call him up
there next day were going to Ipswich
and the rain came and we returned back.
I went afterwards with Sharpe to Struie -
he had a battle there and said they killed
two white men. Sharpe commanded the
party he went with Sharpe had a gun
but did not see him fire it saw Sharpe at
Cambridge at a meeting it was a prayer

5: Edward Barrett, enslaved on Seven Rivers

Knows Sam Sharpe the prisoner met
him at Hazelymph went there one night
- a week before Xmas to get some cane

liquor I went to Zinck's house and saw
four men come in besides Sharpe one
was Robert Rose, and one Joe Martin
- Sharpe said we must sit down, we free
and we must not work again unless we
get half pay -he brought a Bible with
him he took it out and swear us all that
we won't work again till we get half pay.

Cross-examined by Mr Grignon:

Quite sure Sharpe was the man he had
the Bible in his hand and make us kiss
it all round he said we must set down
and do nothing at all.

6: Edward Hilton, enslaved on Mountain
Spring Estate

Remember seeing Sharpe at Cow Park;
he came there with a party all armed.
Sharpe had a short gun saw him come
up he put all the others before and he
was behind he commanded them and
they did as he told them they called him
Sharpe / Schoolmaster the party went
to Struie next morning before day to fight
the soldiers coming from Westmoreland,
and they laid in ambush for the company.
Sharpe told we all we going to get free.
He sent Edward Ramsay to Thomas
Reid at Mahoney to swear all the
people they killed a cow and a sheep
for Sharpe's party at Cow Park.


I was with no party Gardner came to
Cow Park he came there about three
times it was after the rebellion began
after Xmas I was not with the party that
killed the white man.

7: John Davis: enslaved by Doctor Edward I.

Sharpe placed all his men in ambush at
Struie and he gave them orders when
he saw the company was coming from
Welchpool Sharpe commanded the
party and was head man his party
killed the white man -

8: George Reid, enslaved by Phillip A. Scarlett,

Went to Ginger Hill with Sam Sharpe
- did not see Crawford there does
not know him was at the meeting at

Retrieve does not recollect ever having
seen Edward Barrett there never saw
him administer any oaths.

9: Ann Thomas, enslaved on Ginger Hill Estate

Know Sam Sharpe was at Ginger Hill
when he came up there with his party.

At the end of these testimonies, the
following sentence, signed by John
Coates, Robert Thomas Downer and H.A.
Plummer, was handed down:

... Tried and found guilty the 19th
day of April 1832. Sentence: That the
said Negro man slave named Samuel
Sharpe be taken from hence to the
place from whence he came and
from thence to the place of Execution
at such time and place as shall be
appointed by His Excellency the
Governor and there to be hanged by
the neck until he be dead Valued by

the jury at the sum of sixteen pounds
ten shillings current money of Jamaica.

Samuel Sharpe was hanged in the
Montego Bay town square by order of
the colonial government in Jamaica on 23
May 1832 at the age of thirty-one. Several
people witnessed Sharpe's execution and
left written accounts. According to these
accounts, Sharpe, dressed in a new white
suit, walked in a dignified manner to the
gallows. After a short speech, he knelt and
prayed. Before he was hanged he ended
with the words, "I now bid you farewell!
That is all I have to say."" He was buried
in the First Baptist Church but his bones
were later removed, it is unclear why, and
to where.
In the next issue of Jamaica Journal,
in an article to be entitled "From
Redemption Song to War Memorials",
I will suggest a way in which Sharpe
and other anti-slavery rebels can be
memorialised individually as war

heroes and heroines, treated as Jamaica's
Glorious Dead, and remembered each
Emancipation Day in a meaningful
ritual of public memory that will form
part of a larger project of iconographic
decolonisation. For, in the process of
mapping and remapping the postcolonial
landscape, erecting commemorative
and symbolic monuments such as
Redemption Song, and singling out
individual heroes and heroines for
honour, Jamaica has disregarded the
thousands of ordinary men and women
who were a fundamental part of the
struggle for liberation and who paid the
ultimate price for participating in the
struggle: their lives. For resistance was
criminalised and punished brutally. We
have their names and their respective
punishments; and these should be
inscribed on war memorials in freedom
parks around the island, starting
with Montego Bay and Kingston's
Emancipation Park.9 +

All illustrations provided courtesy of the National
Library of Jamaica.
1. See Jamaica Journal 27, nos. 2-3 (2004),
and 28, nos. 2-3 (2004).
2. Ashraf Rushdie, Neo-Slave Narratives:
Studies in the Social Logic of a Literary
Form (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
3. CO 137/185, Public Record Office,
4. Quoted in C.S. Reid, Samuel Sharpe:
From Slave to National Hero (Kingston:
Bustamante Institute for Public and
International Affairs, 1988). See also
Henry Bleby, Death Struggles of Slavery
(London: Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1835).

5. Bernard Senior, Jamaica As It Is, As It
Was and As It May Be (London: T. Hurst,
6. Kamau Brathwaite, Wars of Respect:
Nanny, Sam Sharpe and the Struggle for
People's Liberation (Kingston: Agency
for Public Information, 1977) and
"Caliban, Ariel and Unprospero in the
Conflict of Creolization: A Study of
the Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1831-32",
in Comparative Perspectives on Slavery
in New World Plantation Societies, ed.
Vera Rubin and A. Tuden (New York:
New York Academy of Sciences, 1977);
Michael Craton, Testing the Chains
(Ithaca: Comell University Press, 1982);
Reid, Samuel Sharpe; and Mary Turner,

Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration
of Jamaican Slave Society (1982; repr.,
Kingston: University of the West Indies
Press, 1998).
7. See the Punishment Lists enclosed in CO
8. Reid, Samuel Sharpe; Bleby, Death Struggles.
9. For a preview of this line of argument,
see Verene A. Shepherd, "War
Memorials and Black Liberation:
Groundings with Walter Rodney on
History, Heritage and Activism" (Walter
Rodney Memorial Lecture, 6 November
2004, Emancipation Park, Kingston,

For Nothing at All



Around two a.m., I left Colin for home and
was about to enter my house, when I heard
Skin whisper my name from the dense
edge of croton that fenced my mother's
little garden. He was lying flat along the
roots in the shadow that was cast from the
light of the half of a moon. He lay in a pool
of blood that merged with the darkness of
the shadow on the ground.
I was instantly afraid. Not just for him
but for my family and for myself. I was
afraid that the war would follow him into
my yard. The images of the gunshot marks
on his house, the shattered glass of his
windows and the dead cows at the back
of the yard came forcefully to me. I could
hardly breathe.
I fell to the ground beside him.
"What happen to you, man?"
"Me get shot." He was very calm,
though his hands trembled slightly and his
foot was hanging off to one side.
"Two shot me get," he whispered.
"One in me foot and one inna me belly."
"Lord Jesus, Skin."
"Beg you something fi tie up me side,"
he said. "Me side a bleed 'nuff."
I did not know what to do. For a
minute I just knelt there beside him,
terrified. My eyes open wide. A thousand
questions flew through my mind. What
must I do with him? Where would he sleep
tonight? What would happen if they were
still chasing him? What would happen when
daylight came? Suppose he died right there
under the croton!
"Me a bleed Wesley, me a bleed."
And then I moved. I raced to the back
of the yard where my mother still had
clothing from the day's washing on the
line. I dragged a large towel without first
removing the clothes pins. They snapped
and flew into the air with a sound so loud
I could swear the whole housing scheme
heard me.
I tore it in half, rolled a section into
a ball and stuffed it inside his shirt. He
screamed. I pulled it back, but he held my
hand in place and shrieked for me to take

my time. I realized then that he could not
stay there. I did not know what to do with
him. But I was sure he could not stay there.
He was too close to the fence, and too close
to the street. The pain was too much and
he screamed too easily from it. Any sudden
movement from anywhere would cause
him to give himself away. Yet, I dared not
let my parents know he was there, they
wouldn't understand, they would want to
call the police. And that would be the end
of Skin.
But what could I do? Where could I put
"How you feel?" I asked.
"It a hurt me bad. Me belly feel
"You can't stay here so," I told him.
"What you going do, Skin? Where you
going? You have to go to hospital."
"You have fi go call Patrick," he said.
"Just call him for me." He winced and
tried to straighten his leg. "Them have
doctor up there. Them have people fi take
out shot. You have fi go call him."
"Then him won' kill you, Skin? You
get him gun?"
Skin paused for a while, and took long
breaths. For a moment, I thought he was
going to die. For I had heard that people
take deep breaths before they die.
"Just tell him say the man them shoot
me up an' thief the gun," he said finally,
through laboured breaths. "Tell him say
the man them come a me yard, shoot it up
and thief the gun."
"Tell him that?"
"And start a war, Skin."
"Just tell him. You no see the war start
I knelt in the cold night, trembling, as I
contemplated what Skin was asking me to
do. He wanted me to steal away from my
house at two in the morning, run across the
no-man's-land of a highway, into the heart
of Sufferers Heights to find the baddest
man in Central Village and bring him back

to him. And not only that, he wanted me to
tell him a story that everybody on the lane
would know to be untrue.
For want of something to say, I asked
him again where he would stay, and how
could he expect me to leave him like this
lying under the croton.
He groaned again, and his chest
heaved. That convinced me that I would
have to go and find Patrick immediately.
So he asked me if I had somewhere I
could hide him. Under the fowl coop was
the first thing that came to me.
He agreed.
So I raised him onto his good foot as
he hunched and buckled from the pain in
his belly, and half dragged him to the back
of the house to the fowl coop. Once there,
he had to lie on his back and reverse under
the coop till he disappeared from view.
I whispered to him to make sure he was
all right and as soon as I heard him groan
to me, I jumped the back fence and raced
down the street as if a horde of gunmen
were after me.
I did not expect to have much of a
problem finding Patrick. News of the
shooting must have got to him by then.
And Sufferers Heights was not strange
to me. I had travelled and played there
while I attended White Marl School.
Many people there knew me and were
my friends. But politics had come. The
highway had become the dividing line.
And my friends on one side were killing
my friends on the other.
But they knew me.
They knew I attended high school,
they knew my family and they knew I was
not involved in politics or the war. But that
was only good in some ways, as people felt

I was a show-off, that I acted as if I were
different, as if the war did not involve me.
For how could I just go to school and want
to be something better, while the war was
on the ground and my friends were dying?
Why did I not choose which friend would
remain and which friend I should kill?
Why should I sit on a fence? What good
would the fence do for me when they came
for me like they came for Skin? When I ran
to them as I was now running for Skin,
would they come to my aid? Would they
come for Skin? And even if they came for
Skin, would they have come for me?
The first place I stopped was the house
of old Mr Johnson, the fisherman. For he
had been forced to move when the war
started and had found a piece of land on
the hill that they captured and made a little
house. The yard was still strewn with nets
and filled with the stale smell of fish when
I got there. Mr Johnson had refused to give
up his fishing, and I guessed they tolerated
him and allowed him to cross the road to
the river.
They had no fence and the
house was pressed against the
rocky backbone of Sufferers
Heights. I crossed a large smooth
rock that formed half the front
of the house and whispered as
loudly as I could, "Andrew!"
There was no answer. All the
time I was aware that someone
might sneak up on me from
behind that some strange man 4
who had come from Kingston
since I left primary school, who
had never seen me before, would
sneak up on me and demand to r
know what I was doing there.
It would not be hard for me to
die right there in front of Mr
Johnson's house if I gave the
wrong answer.
"Andrew!" I yelled louder.
It had been over two years
since I saw him and before that
maybe another year, because I
had left him at White Marl School
after Common Entrance. We were
never close enough to keep in
touch. But word spread among us 5
and everyone knew that he was
a senior man on this side of the
village, and that he was called the
Specialist because of the size of
the gun he carried. I had not seen

him in two years, had not spoken to him in
four, but I needed him now.
I heard a window creak and Mr
Johnson's coarse voice came from inside.
"Is who that?"
And by the time I could raise my
head to the direction of the sound, I heard
a coarse voice, on the back of a huge
breath of burning weed, ask with quiet
consternation, what I was doing up there.
Andrew came from a hidden space
between the house and the rock on which
it leaned. He was barefooted, in shorts
with a large red undershirt hanging almost
to his knees. A massive spliff was in his
mouth and locks fell around his face and
shoulders like wiss down a laden ficus
He had a gun in his hand.
I would not have recognized him at a
glance, but he had no problem recognizing
me. For I don't think I had changed over
the years. I had the same hairstyle, I wore
the same kind of clothes; I had grown

a little bigger, but I was the same. He,
however, was a different person, a different
"Me a try find Patrick," I blurted in
a hoarse whisper. "Me a try find Patrick.
Skin a dead. Skin a dead."
"Skin a dead? Or Skin dead?" He
spoke normally, stuffed the gun into the
waist of his football shorts and leaned
against the stone. "How me hear say Skin
dead already?"
I looked up to see if Mr Johnson was
hearing, but he had already gone back to
sleep or at least was not interested in what
was happening.
"Him don' dead," I blurted again,
"him under me fowl coop. Him get shot
inna him belly. Him no dead, him say me
mus' come call Patrick."
"So wha' you come call Patrick for?"
"Skin say me mus' come call him.
Where Patrick deh?"
He leaned against the rock, pulled one
foot up against it, took the spliff from his

,t Se,,ecfr

mouth after a long pull, and smiled at me
through the smoke.
"You no easy, you know what time
now? Is nearly three o'clock now. You no
"Where Patrick?" I asked again.
He smiled again and indicated behind
me with his head.
I turned, and there behind me were
at least six people standing around with
guns. And Patrick, short and lean, was
standing with them. I was so frightened I
stumbled and fell onto the smooth rock of
the yard.
The group broke into laughter.
"Patrick! Jesus!"
"Then you think you could run cross
the road an' through the village and
come up the hill and nobody no see you,"
Andrew mocked as he raised me from the
ground. "How you so fool, Wesley?"
"So what you say happen to Skin,
now?" Patrick was serious and old as he
sat on a stone off to the side.
"Him say, I should come and call you,"
I said.
"Them shoot him up. Him say them
take 'way the thing and shoot him up."
"Which thing that?"
I looked around me, as if afraid to say
the word out loud and incriminate myself.
"The gun," I whispered. "Him say them
take it."
"So where Skin?"
"Under me fowl coop."
The group laughed again.
"So what you want me fi do now,
Wesley?" He did not hold my stare, but
played his on the ground, at his feet.
"What him want man to do now?"
"Me no know, Patrick. Him just say me
mus' come call you."
Andrew walked over to join them.
They began to talk among themselves and
to look at me. I did not hear all they said.
But I distinctly heard the words of a large
dark one, whom I did not recognize. He
stared at me and spoke viciously. "Better
we just kill him now and done. You no see
a trick the bwai come fi trick you?"
It was then I understood the real
difference between talking about the war
i and being in it for real. And I understood,
too, what true loneliness and isolation
were. For I was all alone on the hill on a
stone with men around me who, I was
sure, wanted to kill me now. And not

just because they felt I was trying to trick
Patrick. But I came from the other side,
that night, with a stupid story. The only
one I knew as a friend was Patrick, but I
had not seen him for longer than I could
This was not the same Patrick. This
was not the same time. They were all
strangers to me and I was a stranger to
them ... not a friend. And in a war, I could
only be one other thing. I sat down and
waited while they conferred. And as I sat, I
realized that there was very little chance of
me leaving that hill alive that night.
And then Patrick got up and walked
away from me without meeting my eyes.
And Andrew walked over to me and
rested his hand on my shoulders. "Bwai
Wesley, you better leave now, you know.
You better go on home."
And I sat there, and I did not want to
go, I did not want to move. For the space
before me seemed a strange empty place
that I had never been to before. I felt that
the safest place was the spot I was on. For
I had been there for ten minutes, I had
tested it and it was safe. I did not want to
I shrugged him off. "Why me must
"Go home!" he said. "Leave!"
"Why me must move?"
"Leave now!"
And then I started to cry. For I knew
they had decided to kill me. And as I cried,
all I could say was, "Why me must move,
Andrew? Why me mus' move? Is Skin tell
me to come." I sat there, on the ground,
crying and shaking.
"Is just Skin send me."
And then I heard the door creak, and
Mr Johnson eased himself out. "All right,
onoo go on home."
I sensed the danger move. And in that
I realized for the first time, and this I never
knew, that on the hill, Mr Johnson was
more than just a fisherman.
"Onoo leave him alone!" he bellowed.
And then he looked at me. "But don't
come back up here. Stay down there in you
scheme. Don't come back up here." And
then he motioned to Andrew. "Follow him
halfway, Andrew." Then he pulled inside
and slammed the door.
"Any side you sleep 'pon last night,"
Andrew said as he raised me by the hand,
"any side you sleep 'pon last night, make
sure you sleep on it again tonight."

All I could do, was sniffle and hold my
head down as I walked from the yard.
I walked slowly down the hill. The
gunman behind me was not the boy who
was my friend or a man I could ever know.
But in a strange way it was as if I was
retracing my life for a final time. The half
of a moon had slipped way over Kingston.
Off to my left and up the hill was White
Marl School where Mrs Campbell would
stand like a sentinel, and the white
unpaved road of marl stretched up to it
like a silver path up to the sky. And the
dust that stung my legs was the same dust
in which I had played chevy chase and
marbles with my friends. And the corner
I passed was the same place I had dusted
Red Head in Mr Allen's yard that day
when we all sculled school together.
But the place I walked was a strange
land, for the walls and the fences that once
gleamed with paint and whitewash were
now covered with slogans and the faces
of politicians made blurry by the shifting
light of the moon. And the words on the
walls meant nothing to me. And the trees
and the poles we had used as bases when
we played chevy chase, and where we
would sit to tell stories in the light that
shone from the bulbs on them, these poles
were now covered with paintings and tags
and threats of a new and ugly time.
And my eyes were moist, and the
images were strange around me and
the memories flooded on and they did
not match. Those memories of those
times of made-up stories and mischief,
of wandering the bushes in search of
cows, days of chevy chase, hopscotch and
marbles, did not match the place where we
now were, nor the feelings that assailed
me. For this was another time. Life had
changed to war and friends had grown to
And I did not know how things could
have changed so quickly or what could
have remade us in such a short time...
nor why and how it could have been so
easy for them to kill me ... how it could
have been so easy to die, for nothing ... for
nothing at all. 0

This excerpt from the novel For Nothing
at All, published by Macmillan in October
2005, has been reproduced with the author's




On the second, deceptive day of Spring,
when, unseasonably cold, but bright,
the forecast, thanks to America-on-Line,
reads, in red, quote, FREEZE
WARNING TONIGHT, my poet-friend,
silver-haired, capricious, sends me
from home a new poem. It recalls
a day when, he too far from home,
some other Spring bounded clear
of Winter, bang on time. The old
angora, testosterone thudding in his balls,
configures young girls at skip-rope,
an older one bellying with hope
and promise -'jig, jiggle, jerk
and jolt,' perennial procreation,
'fish, flesh and fowl,' the lot.
At which he sighs, 'I am afflicted by the sickness
of the country. I have caught the sadness of the land.'
Then springs to mind a song my mother
taught me, about a songbird that sings
at my window; and so, still hearkening,
I click 'Reply,' then type 'Rejoice!'

for Ralph Thompson



When Mister Robert Scarlett, master
of Cambridge and Druckett plantations, stood
for his portrait, the good man made a point
of having his personal slave-boy, Oliver,
beside him, waist high, holding his game bag,
with which he'd ride to hunt wild hog
and occasional runaways. At his other side
his favourite dog. How well the boy's
dark visage serves design,
matching the dark of the trees to cast
in relief the pale, proprietorial white.

Those were the good days; they didn't last.
After the slave revolts of 1831
great houses, factories, everything was gone;
only the family tomb remained.
And what of Oliver? History has left
no afterword; a boy in a picture,
a period-piece, on which poets may stretch out a fiction.

she moved
from church to church
in search of God.

God grant
she's found him now, where
she lies
beneath the sod.

Busha's Mistress

Lest We Forget

4~~1 4~;l~ 4sog/;/ ~C5j(

-L~. hCJ.. h,r '0


The past is not done and it is not over, it's still
in process, which is another way of saying
that when it's critiqued, analyzed, it yields
new information about itself. The past is
already changing as it is being re-examined,
as it is being listened to for deeper resonances.
Actually it can be more liberating than any
imagined future if you v ,ill ;I to identify
its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are
willing to unleash its secrets.
Commencement address to the
Wellesley College Class of 2004

History is what hurts.
The Political Unconscious

We stand in an uneasy relationship
to our past. And avert our eyes from
a confrontation. Jamaican history, we
feel, is a subject to be taught in high
school; or to be reserved like a sacred
cow on academic grass ... There is,
on the whole, little 'popular' history.
History does not move in us, nor help
to consciously determine our being.
We choose to remain deliberately
unaware of the historical process
that has made us what we are. Our
choice is tacit, our conspiracy of
silence, instinctive. And not without
its arguable reason. To rake up the
past, we feel, is to exacerbate old
sores. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Yet, it is through our ignorance of the
past that we are, to quote Santayana,
condemned to repeat it.'
In the pages of this publication almost
four decades ago, Sylvia Wynter's brilliant
and detailed exegesis of Lady Nugent's
Journal showed how consistently and with
S what tragic effect we, as Jamaicans, choose
not to be aware, and how dangerous it
is that we insist on forgetting. Part of
that tragedy and danger derives from
the fact that the lives we live now are

shaped far more by the things we do
not acknowledge or try to forget than by
the things we choose to acknowledge,
celebrate, or mythologise.
My purpose is to discuss Cyrus
Francis Perkins's Busha's Mistress or
Catherine the Fugitive: A Stirring Romance
of the Days of Slavery in Jamaica, recently
re-discovered and ably edited by historians
Paul E. Lovejoy, Verene A. Shepherd and
David V. Trotman.2 I begin, however,
with a brief excursion into Lady Nugent's
Journal through Wynter's reading for
the following reason:3 One of the major
preoccupations of Lady Nugent's Journal
- the fraught entanglements of questions of
race, gender, sex and morality forms the
very premise of Busha's Mistress. Despite
my given rationale, this juxtaposition may
still appear arbitrary. Why these two texts?
Written several decades apart, in terms of
purpose and motivation, they could hardly
be more different. Lady Nugent, writing
in the period 1801-05, supports slavery
and defends it. A'romance' written after
slavery has ended, in 1854/55, Busha's
Mistress condemns a system that (at least,
in name) is no more. Structurally and
ideologically, it self-consciously evokes
the anti-slavery literature, which emerged
in the late eighteenth century, and against
which Nugent was writing. As I hope
to show, it is because of this deliberately
anachronistic status of Busha's Mistress as
well as its premonitory echoes that the
juxtaposition is worthwhile. This recently
re-discovered novel raises old questions
that are new questions. Reading one work
through our awareness of the other teaches
valuable lessons about what they, and
others like them, mean to and for us today.
Analysing Busha's Mistress in terms of
the ongoing struggles about the meaning
of the past for the present is crucial to
my purpose. I also take my cue from its
editors. Although the historians are at
pains to recognize the various meanings,
literary and social, of the term 'romance',

A Stirring Romance of the Days of Slavery
in Jamaica
By Cyrus Francis Perkins
Edited and introduced by Paul E. Lovejoy,
Verene A. Shepherd and David Trotman
Kingston: lan Randle Publishers, 2003
Reprinted with minor revisions 2005
ISBN: 976-637-044-3 (paper); x, 181 pp;

they are clearly, and rightly, troubled by its
connection to the subject matter: "How,"
they wonder, "could an anti-slavery
activist find, even through the medium
of fiction, a 'stirring romance' in a system
that sanctioned white men's appropriation
of the bodies of enslaved women?"4
Their question begs other questions and
raises further concerns about time, genre,
motivations, and audience. The author
articulates the engendering impulse of his
novel in the following manner:

[M]y position was one which enabled
me to obtain ample and practical
knowledge of the circumstances
portrayed in the following pages.
Although dressed in the garments
of romance, the events themselves
are all frigid truths... [T]he features
of slavery, under whatever form
of government it may exist, are
essentially the same: repulsive,
degrading, and brutalizing, to the
human mind.'

Was Perkins an anti-slavery activist? If so,
why and for whom did he write an anti-
slavery narrative after slavery itself had
already ended? And, what exactly is this
work we are reading, written in the period
after emancipation with the historical grit
of slavery?
What, we must also ask, is its deepest
value in terms of West Indian literary
history?6 To re-enter into the configuration
of the past, as Perkins does, is a significant
element of the Jamaican literary critical
tradition. During the anti-colonial
struggles of the early twentieth century,
for example, the nineteenth-century
post-slavery upheavals provided fertile
ground for the ideological and political
contestations about the kind of society
to be imagined and brought into being.
Among the most well-known efforts are
literary representations of the Morant Bay
Rebellion by such figures as Roger Mais
and Vic Reid, as well as an earlier work by
H.G. de Lisser.7 When the historical past
is mined from various and contending
perspectives in order to understand and
articulate contemporary problems, what is
revealed is the persistence of past people
and things, how the past is so much like
the present. My own indebtedness to this
intellectual tradition is signalled by my
title, which pays homage to Roger Mais's
lead article in Public Opinion."
Clearly, Lady Nugent's Journal and
Busha's Mistress are two very different
kinds of texts, written in different epochs
of Jamaican history. The one, a journal
ostensibly meant for private consumption;
the other, a serialised novel. But both
were written in the crucible of some of the
most decisive events in Jamaican history
- the abolition of the slave trade and the
abolition of slavery. Lady Maria Nugent's
personal journal derives its historical
value from the quickening force of the
political: the Haitian Revolution (1804)
and the abolition of the slave trade (1807)
were tearing at the very fabric, meaning,
and logic of the slave system itself.9
These momentous events, harbingers
of slavery's eventual demise, helped to
create the world into which Perkins was
born in 1813. They also carried within
themselves the seeds of that which, with
admirable acuity and subtlety, Thomas
Holt has identified as "the problem of
freedom".1 If the concerns that animated
Nugent's work foreshadowed the ending

of slavery and the post-slavery problem
of freedom, which Perkins treats, they
also laid bare the deadly contradictions
that structured racial slavery in the West
Indies. These contradictions, though they
change their political form or social dress,
remain unresolved in Perkins's time, and
in our own.
With the Haitian Revolution and the
abolition of the slave trade as twin vectors,
Nugent's journal reveals, simultaneously,
the dread of the enslaved and the desire
for the enslaved. The movement to end
the slave trade stimulated the desire to
produce, through sexual congress, more
black bodies to maintain the system.
She is "amused" by the evidence of

Cyrus Francis Perkins
O(URCE: Lily Perkins Collection, Jamaica Archives
(reproduced from Busha's Mistress)

the petitioners for the abolition of the
slave trade, which provides accounts of
the brutal and inhumane treatment of
blacks. If she is amused by narratives of
brutality toward blacks, Nugent registers
sharp moral repugnance toward white
men consorting with black women as
she worries about the threat that such
behaviour poses to the social order:

[I]t appears to me there would be
certainly no necessity for the Slave
Trade, if religion, decency, and good
order, were established among the
negroes; if they could be prevailed
upon to marry; and if our white men
would but set them a little better
example ... [B]ut white men of
all descriptions, married or single,
live in a state of licentiousness with
their female slaves; and until a great
reformation takes place on their part,

neither religion, decency nor morality,
can be established among the negroes
.... The overseers... are in general
needy adventurers, without either
principle, religion, or morality."

These concurrent and incompatible
conceptions of morality and of humanity
and the chaos of their interacting
connections are elucidated in Sylvia
Wynter's analysis of Lady Nugent's Journal:

[Mrs. Nugent] accepts the fact that
the planters had harems, and for
"political" reasons as well as from her
own curiosity and kindness, receives
the "wives" unofficially in her room
whenever she is a guest at any of the
estates. Only on very rare occasions
does she meet any "Creole ladies"
in the drawing rooms. White wives
are scarce. Where the "Creole ladies"
are present, Mrs. Nugent meets with
their resentment when she insists on
giving private audience to their black
and brown rivals ... Mrs. Nugent
disapproves strongly of this type of
menage. She is too fervent a Christian
not to, too secure in her integrated
pattern of social behaviour not to be
shocked at the kind of liaison that
threatened Christian marriage ...
[S]he consistently advocates Christian
baptism and marriage for the
slaves. Her dislike of miscegenation,
although perhaps based on some
racial ground, is most concerned with
it being a "social mistake". In 1804 she
enters: "In my drive this morning I
met several of the half-black progeny
of some of our staff; all in fine muslin,
lace, etc. with wreaths of flowers
in their hats. What ruin for these
worse than thoughtless young men."
She remonstrates with the young
officers attached to King's House,
"her family", "upon the improper
lives they lead" and the "horrid
connections they have formed".
She listens to their histories, to their
troubles in which "the brown ladies as
usual are concerned". But seeing that
her efforts are useless she concludes:
"This is indeed a sad immoral country,
but it is no use worrying myself...2

The nexus of race, slavery, gender and
sex is the connective tissue, the umbilical
cord that joined the world that Nugent's

journal recreated to that of Perkins's time
and place post-slavery Jamaica.
Most specifically, Busha's Mistress
echoes the construction of the brown
ladies encountered in Lady Nugent's
Journal. Catherine Brown is pointedly and
deliberately named. Yet her identity is
protean; in the truest meaning, fugitive.
Prior to her introduction, the narrator
observes that the overseer "Jackson .
.. gave a shrill whistle, whereon four
dogs, three mulatta girls, two black boys,
and an old man simultaneously made
their appearance. The canine favourites
looked up and opened their mouths, a
liberty which the slaves seemed afraid to
take." This heavy-handed didacticism,
meant to be an indictment of slavery, is
countered by the apparent slipperiness
that characterises the presentation of
Catherine Brown. She is many things
at once, or in quick succession, despite
the incommensurability of some of
these identities. The overseer's "reputed
wife ... Miss Brown was a quadroon of
prepossessing appearance. There was
dignity in her demeanour which formed
a striking contrast with the servile spirit
of her fellow slaves and at once convinced
the beholder that she maintained a
very different position in the overseer's
household." This "dignity" with which
she is endowed is quickly made into
servility as she is "ordered" by the
overseer to do his bidding. Servility is also
seen in her response to the Englishman,
Vernon: "Miss Brown... looked full at
him with her round black eyes, and the
next instant cast their glance on the floor."
She also recognizes herself as a Negro, and
her child by Jackson, as property.13
The irreconcilable and mutually
antagonistic claims of a system built on
racial slavery and white supremacy are
embodied made flesh in the category
of the brown woman. What most fully
defines the character is the mutability
of her identity. Before the novel ends,
Catherine the Fugitive will have been
variously (sometimes implicitly) labelled
as the whore, the bitch, the nigger, the
mulatto, the Negro, the honorary white,
the slave, the free, the sexual aggressor,
the victim, the saviour, the servant, the
mistress, and the voyager to England
where she is redeemed and transmuted.
It is this voyage of enlightenment into the

heart of whiteness that effects her own
transformation and allows her to become
the feminine principle that will, in turn,
lead the way in saving the white overseer
when he falls.
Lucille Mathurin Mair (1974) clarifies
how and why the category of the brown
woman demonstrates this seeming
mobility. A highly wrought social artefact
produced by and enmeshed within the
historical forces of racial slavery, the
shifting identity of the brown woman
is enabled by an intransigent allegiance
to human bondage and economic
exploitation. Mathurin Mair argues that
the brown or mulatto "could be bleached
into a condition of usefulness to the white


^- *--- -,- -


establishment" through a "strategy of
selected [cooptation]". At the same time,
"whatever was conceded with one hand
was almost instantly snatched away with
the other". The Acts of Privilege, "with
their hand-picked privileges [citizenship,
property, Christianity, education, and a
white mate] conferred on hand-picked
individuals", made it clear that the brown
puppets should be in no doubt as to who
pulled the strings: "The Creole policy
of elevating the coloured within limits
- went hand in hand with their policy of
downgrading him/her- within limits
... No member of the mulatto group
was more subject to the paradoxes and
tensions of these circumstances than the
woman was."14

Brown women as puppets
(marionettes) defines precisely the role
assigned to this category of beings in
Busha's Mistress. The instrumentalisation
of the brown woman is not only sustained
by Catherine but also, at a lower
frequency, by Mary Ann. The latter is
sometimes the doppelganger, sometimes
the co-conspirator, and sometimes the
rival or enemy of Catherine Brown.
This is most clearly dramatised in
Jackson's attempts to use both women
as his sexual partners during the same
period of time. At specific moments of
struggle social, ideological or moral
- both women become consubstantial
one with the other. The first moment is
when the two (then) rivals join forces
with Vernon to save Mary Ann's brothers
from the dungeon into which Jackson had
consigned them as a way of punishing her
for refusing sexual interaction with him.
The dungeon is represented as the tomb
of the living guarded by the diabolical
and depraved African, Quamin. The
second moment is Mary Ann's anguished
efforts at saving the white busha Waldy
and the Wales plantation from a planned
Maroon assault, in which Quamin is also
implicated. In the third and final moment,
both women go down into the Hades of
drunkenness and debauchery to search
for and rescue Jackson to restore the
overseer to his "proper" place." This last
enactment simultaneously contradicts and
complements their earlier actions. Their
descent into the circle of hell mirrors and
perhaps corrects the women's efforts to
save Mary Ann's (black) brothers even
as it repeats Mary Ann's determination
to protect (white) Waldy from black
savagery. Their final act together shows
the brown women as twin angels of
mercy, instrumental in redeeming the
white overseer from the "black slavery"
of immorality, corruption and guilt. At
the novel's end, the two brown women
"marry" their white men whom they have
Meanwhile, what of the noble
Englishman, Vernon, whose entrance is the
novel's true beginning and whose actions
drive its narrative energies? It is he, not
Catherine, who is the real hero of the romance.
He marries Celeste, another mulatto, who
herself is barely tainted by the tarbrush,
and who also turns out to be his first

cousin. The incestuous family romance
resolves the narrative into a moral and
sentimental lesson of cross-racial alliance
and redemption. Or, so it seems. Such a
resolution is in fact based on concepts
of race that remain both intransigent
and illusory, intractable and mobile in
a world from which black people have
been erased, or rendered invisible. This
dispossession of the black majority is
a key part of the novel's ideological
function. The ultimate meaning of
Perkins's "anti-slavery romance", written
in the post-slavery period, is that the co-
optation of brown women is the means by
which white men remain the rulers of the
society in equivocal marriages designed,
if contradictorily and imperfectly, to
preserve a racial hierarchy. "[L]ifted out of
the pages of history", as Mathurin Mair's
devastating conclusion puts it, the mulatto
woman in the post-slavery era "could
guarantee the society its status quo"."
Perkins's fugitive figure of the brown
woman allows both the evasion and the
perpetuation of the slave past.
That we are meant to understand
the Englishman as, in their most precise
meanings, protagonist and hero of
Busha's Mistress may be inferred from the
presentation of Vernon as the embodiment
of the Enlightenment principles of
individualism, empiricism and rationality,
tied to the moral claims of Protestantism.
Written in the post-emancipation era,

the novel shares ideological affinity and
thematic concerns with the anti-slavery
literature produced by whites in the
period between the 1760s and the 1830s,
a literary subgenre mainly comprised of
poems and songs. Didactic in their aim,
the oft-stated purpose of these literary
forms was to arouse public feeling during
the various stages of the campaigns for
amelioration, the abolition of the slave
trade, and the abolition of slavery itself
- deemed incompatible with enlightened
principles. The anti-slavery thrust did
not, however, question the ideology
of white supremacy on which Atlantic
slavery was based. Indeed, the pro-
slavery literature that challenged the
various abolitionist projects shared the
same well-known cast of characters: the
dissolute lower-caste whites, often defined
as needy adventurers; and blacks and
mulattoes represented, through caricature,
minstrelsy, ventriloquism or alienating
speech, as barbarous, superstitious,
sexually promiscuous and dehumanised
beings. All these texts, pro- and anti-
slavery, celebrated the superiority of the
English over the white West Indian, as
well as English idealism, English love of
freedom, and English revulsion toward
slavery (particularly in England). In the
anti-slavery Busha's Mistress, the West
Indian setting for the morality play about
the injustices of slavery takes place in the
overseer's house that was "exquisitely

A View of Falmouth (from the Church Tower) by
Adolph Duperly, c. 1844
SOURCE: University of the West Indies Library
(reproduced from Busha's Mistress)

clean", with "highly polished" floors,
in which there were "several prints
representing the battle of Trafalgar".7
It may be possible to interpret the
mimicry of the precursory texts as part
of Perkins's criticism of imperial hubris,
tied to slavery's grotesque sadism and its
legalised barbarities, of which the novel
gives account. There are several moments
and scenes that suggest a full mocking
awareness of the hypocrisies that attended
the system of slavery. There is no mockery
or irony, however, in the novel's insistence
on the nobility of the Englishman, who,
it is well to remember, was only disguised
as a bookkeeper. His true identity is that
of an absentee planter and a gentleman.
Unlike some other absentee planters, who
expressed moral revulsion toward aspects
of slavery while remaining blind to their
own complicity, Vernon, in stentorian
prose, assails the iniquities of the
institution and takes full responsibility:

The blush of shame reddens my cheek
when I reflect that slavery is linked
to the British Throne, but my heart
bleeds at every pore when I have
in mind that it is linked also to my
father's house. For generations past
my ancestors have revelled in wealth
that has been "the price of blood".

__ v- -

11 Ae -


::::' .

~i ~1

I dreamt not of half the horrors of
slavery until observation spread them
before my eyes, for I am now fully
convinced that nothing but ocular
demonstration would have convinced
me that scenes so repugnant to the
feelings of our common humanity
were enacted in a country professedly
Christian, and one forming an integral
part of a nation standing in the
foremost ranks of civilisation, whose
march in science, whose staunch
Protestantism, has exalted her to such
a status that she stands forth a model
to the surrounding nations.18

If there is no intended irony in this
portrayal of a plantation owner in a
work designed to attack the institution of
slavery, there is, nevertheless, a profound
situational irony in the novel's historical
and geographical connection (and its
ideological counterpoint) to another
post-slavery, anti-slavery narrative of the
same period: that is, Elizabeth Barrett
Browning's exquisitely rendered though
wrenching poem, "Runaway Slave at
Pilgrim's Point" (1849). The plantation
that forms the historical background of
Perkins's book, as the editors of Busha's
Mistress note, was located near the
well-known Barrett property in western
Jamaica. Although "Runaway Slave" was
written specifically for the anti-slavery
movement in the United States, there are
echoes of the Caribbean in the poem's
allusions and imagery: "sunny ground
between the canes", "the shingle roof rang
sharp with the rains", "the cocoanut", and
"the roar of hurricanes".1 A juxtaposition
of these contemporaneous literary works,
which have their deepest roots in the
same soil of slavery, can further illuminate
aspects of Busha's Mistress.
Translucent and revelatory, Barrett
Browning's words impugn the sexual
and moral depravities of plantation
slavery and challenge the myth of Negro
promiscuity with a tale of monstrous
cruelty: the deliberate and methodical
rape of an enslaved black woman and the
murder of the black man she loved for the
unforgivable crime of the romance they
shared: "We were black, we were black, /
We had no claim to love and bliss."20 With
merciless description, the tale unfolds with
the woman killing the mulatto child, the

product of that rape. The persona, facing
her executioners, declares: "I am not mad,
I am black." A slave society built on race
punishes her most severely for the crime
of being human. It then deems the woman
criminally insane for reacting against its
irrational terror toward black people who
dare to love each other. Where, then, does
the madness lie? The poem, avoiding the
dehumanising literary techniques that
ventriloquise black speech, ends with the
woman's own death close at hand even
as she pours scorn on those who enslave,
rape, punish, and eventually kill her:

I am floated along, as if I should die
Of Liberty's exquisite pain!
In the name of the white child waiting
for me
The deep black death where our kisses
White men, I leave you all curse-free
In my broken heart's disdain21

In the world that Perkins recreates in order
to articulate his anti-slavery sentiments,
"romance" between a black man and a
black woman remains not merely verboten,
but literally unimaginable. Whereas
his work maintains the status quo, by
defining and holding an ideological
ground that endorses the basic parameters
of the sexual and racial hierarchies formed
during slavery, Barrett Browning's poem
pushes back these frontiers to reveal a
different meaning of interracial sex rooted
in violence that is both systemic and
intimate. "Runaway Slave" acknowledges
the horrific effects of this social order by
placing "a stirring romance of the days of
slavery" in a different and impossible
What, then, is the consolation that the
romance between (and the romance of)
brown women and white men offers to the
white male Jamaican writer in the post-
slavery era? Perkins's work is a narrative
of rumination and moral outrage against
the institution of slavery. Throughout
the novel the signs of authorial ambition,
arrangement and intrusion are many;
he pursues theme, coincidence and
characterisation with frankness. But it
is precisely in these efforts that the term
'romance' (in the collision and collusion
of its literary and social definitions)
acquires its most insidious meanings and
disturbing implications. Busha's Mistress

is caught in a warped kind of nostalgia.
By genre, selection, and motivation, it is
subversively reactionary. The ostensible
purpose of Busha's Mistress is to attack
the system of slavery but its main effect
is to reinforce and make present, in the
post-slavery era, the ideologies that
sustained that very institution. The novel
participates in a system of ideas that recur
and reconstitute themselves even as they
mortgage the present and the future to the
ever dying, never dead past. The historical
and political contexts in which the work
was written (1854/55) and published
(1911) were marked by fierce ideological
struggles. The meanings of freedom
and its opposite, the fall of the planter
class, the push/pull of plantation labour,
migration, rebellions, riots, uprisings,
and struggles for education, civil rights,
and land-all these and more have been
explored within a rich body of research
and writing by historians of the period.22
From them I have learned that these
struggles were shaped by, or attempted
to address, in its most fundamental sense,
this question: Whose (or what) ideas were
to be the true governors of the Jamaican
and West Indian reality? Perhaps it was
easier then for Perkins to condemn slavery
as a monster and a curse than to confront
the "problem of freedom", that is to say,
the question of what true freedom the
necessary transformation of the slave
society would actually mean for black
and, especially, for white West Indians.
As reader and critic, I, too, am a child
of my times times shaped by this living
past that Busha's Mistress so hauntingly
evokes. In these days of browning,
slackness, and concerns about the size of
the sexual organs of the black likenesses
in Emancipation Park, I read, from some
distance, these debates, quarrels, and
performances (whose connective tissue
is still made of race, gender, colour, sex,
and power) in dialectical relation with
Busha's Mistress." The term 'browning' of
popular parlance and desires calls to mind
the process of making more delicious or
appealing, or giving a 'better' colour to
flesh. In so doing it also evokes another
term -'seasoning', both in the culinary
meaning, to marinate, and in the savage
meaning that slavery gave to it, and to
us. In Practical Rules for the Management
and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves in the

Sugar Colonies, by a Professional Planter,
the writer elaborately details the most
effective methods for the "seasoning of
negroes" the process by which black
people are turned into slaves. But what
he considers the finest achievement,
far beyond the acquisition of economic
wealth and social ascendancy that his
book celebrates, is the seductive, godlike
power to fully make human beings into
slaves through the education of sensibility
and desire. Imagining the outcome of
this mental seasoning, he concludes with
chilling satisfaction: "Contemplate a
creation on which your cares have been
so instrumental. Does opulence possess
any delight comparable to it?"24 Both
inextricably linked terms, 'seasoning'
and 'browning', when applied to human
beings, evoke a violent and dehumanising
history that was designed, in Bob Marley's
wailing lamentation, to brutalisee [our]
very soul[s]". They remain embedded still
within our most intimate and cherished

desires and are branded, in colour, on our
very bodies.
The contradictory meanings of the
'brown woman' and the monstrously cruel
purposes that sponsored these meanings
hardly seem to have changed at all since
Nugent's time, passing through Perkins's,
to our own. With Sylvia Wynter, I believe
that if

Mrs. Nugent [and Perkins] were
to return to Jamaica today [they]
could still see recognisable traces.
The plantation system, although less
profitable and less dominant has not
been displaced ... A society, reluctant
to examine its premises, evasive of its
past, uncertain of its identity, afraid
of its own promise, worshipping its
white heritage, despising its black, or
at best settling for the current view
of being a multi-racial, multi-cultural
"Out of Many One People", is in
danger of creating the spiritual inferno

that Mrs Nugent pictured so vividly..
For it is a society where the majority
are still exiles in their own country.

And, inescapably, exiles from ourselves.
We must, therefore, deeply thank the
editors of Busha's Mistress for retrieving
from the lost-and-found bin of our
history the story of the fugitive Catherine
Brown, who incarnates a paradox of
reproach and challenge both lived and
conceptual. Beyond the novel's themes
and form, it yields insights into ways
of thinking, structures of feeling, and
frames of references that provide the
deeper resonances of our forever present,
if elusive, past. Busha's Mistress starkly
reveals to us the ideological framework
out of which our present is formed and the
stock of ideas from which our identities
take their shape. When we meditate on
its meanings, the trauma of history is
exposed as the veil of time is pierced. Lest
we forget. -*

1. Sylvia Wynter, "Lady Nugent's Journal",
Jamaica Journal 1 (1967): 23-34.
2. Cyrus Francis Perkins, Busha's Mistress or
Catherine the Fugitive: A Stirring Romance
from the Days of Slaveni (1854/55; Kingston:
Ian Randle Publishers, 2003). According
to the editors, the book was written "in
Canada in 1854-55 and first published in
Jamaica in twenty installments in the Daily
T7. I, i, 4.ii Jamaica Guardian ... in 1911"
(9)... "The version ... presented here is a
combination of the original manuscript, ...
the newspaper version ... and three copies
of a typescript [from] the author's great-
granddaughter" (11).
3. Lady Nugent's Journal: Jamaica One Hundred
Years Ago. Reprinted from, a Journal Kept iby
Maria, Lady Nugent, front 1801 to 1805, Issued
for Private Circulation in 1839, ed. Frank
Cundall (London: Adam and Charles Black,
1907). See also the recently re-published
Lady Nugent's Journal of Her Residence in
Jamaica from 1801 to 1805, ed. Philip Wright,
with a foreword by Verene A. Shepherd
(Kingston: University of the West Indies
Press, 2002).
4. Perkins, Busia's Mistress, 33.
5. Perkins, preface to Busha's Mistress, 7.
6. Busha's Mistress belongs to a body of work
by white West Indians. It is, in very obvious
ways, a precursor to H.G. de Lisser's well-
known White Witch ofRosehall (1929; repr.
London: E. Benn, 1952). See also the editors'
discussion in the introduction to Bushas
Mistress. 9-12.

7. H.G. de Lisser, Rc:'a.v A Tale of Old Jamaica
(Kingston: Gleaner Publishing Company,
1919); V.S. Reid, New Day (New York:
Knopf, 1944); VS. Reid, Sixty-Five (Port
of Spain: Longman's, 1971); Roger Mais,
"George William Gordon: A Historical
Play in Fourteen Scenes", in A Time and a
Season: Eight Caribbean Plays (Port of Spain:
University of the West Indies Extra-Mural
Department, 1976), 1-92.
8. Roger Mais, "Lest We Forget", Public
Opinion, 9 September 1939, 1.
9. For analyses of the effects of the Haitian
Revolution on Nugent's governorship and
on the Jamaica of the period, see Wynter,
"Lady Nugent's Journal"; and Shepherd,
foreword, Lady Nugents Journal.
10. Thomas C. Holt, The Problem of Freedonm:
Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain,
1832-1938 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1992).
11. Lady Nugent's Journal, 117-18.
12. Wynter, "Lady Nugent's Journal", 28.
13. Perkins, Busha's Mistress, 44-47.
14. Lucille Mathurin Mair, "A Historical Study
of Women in Jamaica from 1655-1844"
(PhD thesis, University of the West Indies,
1974), 138-47. For another reading of
Mathurin Mair's analysis, see Patricia
Mohammed, "'But Most of All Mi Love Me
Browning': The Emergence in Eighteenth-
and Nineteenth-Century Jamaica of the
Mulatto Woman as the Desired", Feminist
Review 65 (Summer 2000): 2248.
15. Perkins. Busha's Mistress, 64, 117, 143.

16. Mathurin Mair, "A Historical Study", 473.
17. Ibid., 47.
18. Ibid., 77.
19. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Poetical Works
(New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,
1902), 2: 131-40. See also Jane Markus,
Dared and Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth and
Robert Browning (New York: Knopf, 1996).
20. Barrett Browning, "Runaway Slave",
Poetical Works, 2: 134.
21. Ibid., 140.
22. Some key texts include Philip Curtin,
Two Jamaicas: The Role of Ideas in a Tropical
Colony, 1830-1865 (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1975); Douglas Hall,
Free Jamaica, 1838-1865: An Economic
History (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1959); Woodville Marshall, "'We Be
Wise to Many More Tings': Blacks' Hopes
and Expectations of Emancipation", in
Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society
from Emancipation to the Present, ed. Hilary
Beckles and Verene Shepherd (Kingston:
Ian Randle Publishers, 1993), 12-20.
23. For an account of the various perspectives
in the imbroglio that surrounds the statues
at Emancipation Park, see "Discussion
Forum", in Small Axe, no. 16 (September
2004): 125-98.
24. A Professional Planter, Practical Rules for the
Management and Medical Treatment of Negro
Slaves in the Sugar Colonies (London: Vernor,
Hood, and Sharp, in the Poultry; and
Hatchard, Piccadilly, 1811; repr. 1971), 150.
25. Wynter, "Lady Nugent's Journal", 34.

Mouth Open, Story Jump Out



It is not easy to break into the lucrative
world of publishing for children. Jamaican
publishers, and indeed Caribbean
publishers in general, often find it difficult
to produce children's books due, in the
case of picture books, to the expense of
full-colour pages. In addition, many local
and international publishers continue to
query the size of the market for Caribbean
children's literature. Notwithstanding
these challenges, the stories of the
Caribbean are strong and ready to be told
- and there are readers waiting for them.
Slowly but surely, the Caribbean is making
its presence known on the international
children's book scene -Jamaican writers
long having been at the forefront. Yet, the
genre of Jamaican children's literature itself
is still relatively young, having emerged
in the 1950s, with the output of writers
such as Philip Sherlock and, later, Carmen
Children's literature, in essence, is
about stories simple stories that spark
imagination and awaken curiosity.
The mark of a good children's book is
how memorable the story is. It may be
memorable for its rhyming text that can
make the book fun to read aloud, or for
its colourful illustrations that cause you
to pick the book up over and over again
and marvel at what you see. It may also
be memorable for the essence of the story
itself, which often stirs the imagination
and leads children to suggest their own
meanings and possibilities. Whatever the
reason, there must be a sense of warmth in
the telling of the tale, a sense of empathy
with a child's sensibilities so that he or she
can relate to the characters and the story,
understand what is happening in the book.
Children's literature also goes beyond
helping to shape imagination and pique
curiosity. It can be the first way children
experience people and places both similar
to and different from themselves and learn
valuable life lessons. It explores possibility
while providing adventure, excitement
and sometimes struggle. In other words,
good children's literature provides
entertainment and education education
not just in terms of learning how to read

and write. As children see how others have
lived, they can gain an increased sense
of self-awareness and develop a better
understanding of themselves and where
they live. Good children's literature teaches
lessons in -, ii creativity and critical
thinking. It helps to shape the way children
see the world and it affirms their place in
it. Our children need to be able to see more
of a world that validates their experiences.
For us in the Caribbean, our history, our
culture, our traditional stories are under
threat from the forces of globalisation that
beam American values, ideas and tales to
us. The tales constitute an ever-diminishing
part of the pool of inspiration from which
our own children draw. The need for more
Caribbean children's stories is strong, even
though writers from the region (and some
from elsewhere) have been steadily sharing
its rich history and folklore as they attempt
to carve out a niche among the larger body
of multicultural children's literature.

Jamaica has played a leading role in the
development of the genre of Caribbean
children's literature. Philip Sherlock
was at the helm with his collections of
Anansi folktales in the 1950s and 1960s.
Bredda Anansi is certainly Jamaica's
most popular fantasy character a
quintessential Jamaican who has become
permanently linked (for better or worse) to
the national psyche. The didactic Anansi
folktales remain Jamaican favourites.
Sherlock's Anansi the Spider Man (London:
Macmillan, 1956) is still available in local
bookstores, as is his Illustrated Anansi_
(London: Macmillan, 1995). Another
popular collection, Anansesnm, edited by
Velma Pollard (Kingston: Longman, 1985),
contains folktales, legends and poems.
One of the first lavishly illustrated
books to appear was Jamaican Karl Jerry
Craig's Emanuel Goes to Market (London:
Oxford University Press, 1971). A gifted
artist, Craig creates vibrant, dramatic
illustrations to help tell his story of a boy
who encounters adventure after adventure
when he takes his parrot to market. Craig's
fictional tale reflects everyday life as well

as fantasy two popular features of many
Caribbean children's stories.
In addition to mixing everyday life
with fantasy, some children's books,
like my own Nancyi and Grandy Nanin y
(Kingston: Stationery and School Supplies,
2001), infuse history. Others, such as Kellie
Magnus's Little Lion Goes to School (New
York: Media Magic, 2003), Diane Browne's
Cordelia Finds Fame land Fortune (Kingston:
Heinemann Caribbean, 1990) and Kim
Robinson's Dale's Mango Tree (Kingston:
Kingston Publishers, 1992), teach the
importance of having strong self-esteem
and of sharing. Still others, like Linda
Gambrill's Croaking Jolnny and Dizzy Lizzy
(Kingston: Heinemann Caribbean, 1990),
stress the importance of friendship, or, like
Isabel Marvin's Saving Joe Louis (Kingston:
Kingston Publishers, 1992), of family.
Jamaican stories play out in different
but familiar locations the market, the
school, the street, the home, the beach, the
yard. All come to life in fantasy stories
such as Jasmine N'toutoume's Lucille
Travels at Christmas (Kingston: Kingston
Publishers, 2000), adventure series such
as Melisande Potter-Hall's Ptolemy Turtle
books (Kingston: Kingston Publishers,
1992, 1997), or memoirs of childhood such
as C. Everard Palmer's popular Kendal
stories including Baba and Mr Big (London:
Macmillan, 1992) and A Cow Called Boy
(London: Andrd Deutsch, 1993).
In the small global village in which we
now live, teaching children to appreciate
their cultural heritage and exposing them
to different cultural ideas is important.
So, too, is awakening a love of literature.
Children's literature presents one way to
achieve these goals. Jamaican children, like
all children, need stories about themselves;
and Jamaican children's book writers,
like all Caribbean writers, need support
and encouragement For that, those few
Jamaican publishers who have persevered
with publishing children's books deserve
commendation. They have discovered a
sweet secret: in a region known for drama
and delight there is no shortage of tales
waiting to be told.

Reviewed by Rebecca Tortello

are real, down-to-earth and easy to relate
to. Right from the start, the reader likes
Jojo and is eager for him to succeed.
Robinson touches on many emotions
- self-esteem, courage, a son's desire for
his father's love and respect, friendship
and playfulness while crafting a story
with a positive moral. Kojovi Dawes's
illustrations strongly capture the spirit of
the writing. All in all, Jojo's Treasure Hunt
is refreshing.

Stewart must face the choice of winning
the science fair with his beautiful
peppermint plant or using it to help
others feel better, and Louisa Jane must
face up to the fact that she may lose their
fine old house to developers. Browne's
text, stimulating in its life lessons, is easy
to read, and punctuated generously with


A Gwip"shu Aonou SUs#W
*- oiwhr 6i$nkWhiU

By Cherrell Shelley-Robinson
Kingston: Carlong Publishers, 2003
ISBN 976-638-064-3 (paper); 145 pp: J$513

Part of Carlong Publishers' recently
launched Sand Pebbles Series for
readers aged 8-12, this endearing tale
by Jamaican writer Cherrell Shelley-
Robinson introduces us to young Joseph
Josiah (Jojo) Johnson. Twelve-year-old
Jojo lives in Santa Maria and loves his
rural Jamaican life. His days are filled
with going to school, taking care of
his playful donkey, Brushy, helping
his parents to grow and sell fruits and
vegetables, swimming in the river with
his friend Bigger, and listening to Maas
Pablo tell stories. But Jojo also has to take
care of his younger brothers, Boysie and
Sammy, which he hates because somehow
those are the times he always gets into
Jojo's family is in the middle of a
crisis. Their landlord is pressuring them
to pay off their lease or lose their land
- the only home Jojo has ever known, and
a home he loves. Jojo's Treasure Hunt tells
of Jojo's determination to help his parents
find the money they need. This takes him
on an adventure involving Spanish jars,
duppies, cotton trees, donkeys and gold
A trained librarian, Robinson writes
in a crisp and clever style. Her characters



Dial Bro% ne.

fielkh hwRie-hMd

By Diane Browne
Kingston: Carlong Publishers, 2003
ISBN 976-638-055-4 (paper); 88 pp; J$396

In this engaging collection of tales,
recommended for readers aged 8-10,
well-known, award-winning Jamaican
children's author Diane Browne creates
characters who are not afraid to face the
challenges in their young lives. Part of
Carlong Publishers' Sand Pebbles Series,
Browne's tales feature a set of engaging
young male and female protagonists.
Delroy must face his disappointment
at not winning a much-coveted cricket
bat, Safiya must face criticism for
choreographing and performing her
Independence Day school dance the
way she wants to, Jenny must face up
to teasing about her great-grandmother,

By Beulah Richmond
Kingston: LMH Publishing, 2004
ISBN 976-8184-485 (paper); 52 pp; J$595

This collection of eight Anancy tales is
filled with interesting characters and
playful escapades. Richmond, Jamaican
born and now residing in the Bahamas
(where this book was twice selected
Book of the Month by the Ministry
of Education) continues the Anancy
storytelling tradition, deftly drawing us
into Anancy's machinations and trickery.
She also introduces some new characters
such as Anancy's friend Mia. Enhanced
by Clovis Brown's fanciful drawings,
the tales are lively and quick. Strongest
as a read-aloud, this book will delight
audiences of all ages. o*

Book Reviews

By Lorna Goodison
Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2005
ISBN: 976-637-203-9 (cloth), 976-637-
195-4 (paper);181 pp; J$1,150 (cloth)

Reviewed by Edward Baugh
The first thing that will intrigue us about
this book is, of course, the title. Goodison
is good at titles. Her previous short story
collection, published all of twenty-five
years ago, was the almost as intriguingly
titled Baby Mother and the King of Swords.
Well, the contents of Fool-Fool Rose Is
Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah are
more than worthy of the title. For one
thing, we will be engaged by the lively
range of situations and characters, by the
imagination, the linguistic dexterity, the
wit, the humour, the pathos, the pain.
As for the characters, there are so
many unforgettable ones, even ones very
briefly sketched. For example, there is
the rhetorically elaborate pickpocket
and cat burglar, Mr Harold Harrington,
"Talola's Husband". There is Miss Henny,
of the story named after her, fallen on
hard times, but with her self-esteem not
a bit reduced, wise and with a sense of
gratitude to life, generous in sharing
the wisdom of her experience with the
innocent but inquiring young girl who
befriends her. But also, in the same story,
there is the equally unforgettable Mr

Ryan, the watchman of Chetolah Park
School, where Miss Henny lives in a
room behind the teacher's cottage Mr
Ryan, amusingly officious with his petty
authority, but also a model of self-esteem,
a Garveyite, from whom the young girl
learns much about her own identity.
One of the pleasures of the book is
that of savouring the skill in storytelling,
the way the stories are put together; and
here too there is an engaging variety.
Part of the pleasure is in the fact that the
art can sometimes seem artless, as if the
story is unfolding spontaneously (and in
this respect they also capture the feel of
a kind of oral storytelling situation); but
by the time you get to the end, and when
you reflect on the process you have been
taken through, you realise how neatly and
how nicely everything has come together.
Sometimes the pleasure is in appreciating
the way in which more than one story
have been woven together into one story,
with other stories embryonically present.
It is particularly instructive to trace
how "Temple Service" negotiates the
challenge of narrative. This story is
virtually a novella, taking up more than a
third of the space of the entire collection.
As it unfolds, it may seem in danger
of losing its way, seeming first to be
intending to be the story of Cindy, then
the story of Aaron, until it settles down
to being the story of Adina. Ultimately,
though, all the seemingly loose ends are
tied up, and we appreciate how Cindy
and Aaron, subjects of their own stories,
function to flesh out a little world, Adina's
world, and even to become a support
system for her in her distress.
The title story begins as the story
of Rose, a mentally retarded girl, who
is nicknamed Fool-Fool Rose and
routinely teased by the other children
in the neighbourhood, in that innocent
cruelty and insensitivity so characteristic
of childhood. Rose, in her "dumb"
innocence, allows herself to be humiliated
and made a fool of. The anecdote is
focused by the point of view of another

girl, the narrator, who does not "see what
kind of fun the others get out of teasing
Rose". She refuses to join in and is beaten
up by Bev, the girl who is the ringleader.
Then we jump to a time decades
later. The narrator is now a middle-aged
woman who, twenty-seven years earlier,
had come to live in her sister's house,
to help her sister, "who was a famous
person", "to look after her children". The
sister is now deceased and the master
and mistress of the house are the sister's
son and his wife. The nephew's wife
is, to put it mildly, a "bitch". She has a
female friend whom she is always putting
down, to her face and behind her back.
The friend, a meek, unassertive person,
has a husband who treats her badly,
but does not physically abuse her. The
nephew's wife is determined to believe,
and to spread gossip to the effect that the
woman, her pretended friend, is beaten
by her husband. Although we have left
the story of Fool-Fool Rose, we have not
really. The victimised wife is a variant on
Rose, as is the nephew's objectionable
wife a variant on the brutal Bev. What
is more, though, the narrator of the two
stories is one and the same person and
explicitly suggests the analogy between
the two stories, when, in the process of
telling the story of the victimised wife,
she remembers "poor Rose" and how she
would "strip ... herself naked before Bev
and company" whenever they chanted
their mocking verse at her.
In the third and final section, we
go back in time to the story of Rose. We
learn how, thanks indirectly to an English
woman for whom "Rose's mother went to
work as a domestic helper", Rose attained
a kind of social status and a kind of self-
respect, so much so that Rose no longer
lifts her dress and strips herself naked to
the other children's degrading rhyme. In
parallel, we then return, forward in time,
to the story of the victimised 'friend' of
the nephew's wife. She comes to visit one
day, but the nephew's wife is out, buying
"more things for [her ostentatious] white

house" in which even her husband's
grandmother's mahogany furniture has
been sprayed white.
While the friend waits,
masochistically, "just... staring out
through the big plate glass window in
the white kitchen", the narrator decides
to tell her the story of Rose (storytelling
within story), which she ends by pointing
a positive lesson from it. Just then the
nephew's wife returns. But, wonderful to
relate, just as the nephew's wife enters,
already putting down the doubly abused
woman, the latter takes up her car keys
and says she is leaving because she is late
for a doctor's appointment. The narrator
ends the story like this: "I don't know
if she is telling the truth or not, but as
I watch her get into her car and drive
off, I hope and pray that fool-fool Rose
is leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah." It
is a prayer for all the too long-suffering
and, to talk Jamaican, all the 'advantaged'
women of the world.
But the story does not end there.
When we reflect on it, we see that it has
also been the story of the narrator. She too
is, at a different level, a variant on Rose
and the victimised young wife, a woman
who never asserted herself as much as
she might have done. But although as
a child she could not fight, which is to
say she could not bring herself to fight,
even in self-defence, and although she
regrets that she did not go to live with
her friend Edith in Calgary when Edith
suggested it long ago, but made out
that she could not leave because her
sister needed her, nevertheless she has
in her way been a force and an example
for good. As a child she refused to join
in teasing Rose. As a woman, she it is
through whose sensibility we feel for the
hapless'friend' of her nephew's wife. In
the end, she takes positive action in telling
her nephew's wife the story of Rose. In
this way the story enacts the efficacy of
One relishes too the changes of tone
and voice appropriate to character and
situation, from story to story and within
stories. The quiet, reflective, even-paced
optimism with which the story of Fool-
Fool Rose ends is significantly different
from the tone of the ending of, say, either
"Alice and the Dancing Angel" or "Mi
Amiga Gran". The latter tells, in the first

person, the story of a teenage schoolgirl,
Anna, whose mother has "gone to New
York after her boyfriend Max who style
himself as an 'entertainer'". Anna's
grandmother, her best friend, "Mi Amiga
Gran", with whom she had grown,
has died, so Anna is boarded with a
stranger, found in answer to a newspaper
advertisement. The goodwill of this
stranger, another "bitch", towards Anna,
if goodwill it can be called, depends
entirely on the arrival of the monthly
remittance of US dollars from New York.
The story builds to a crisis when the
remittance is overdue for nearly a month.
The woman throws more and more
scathing words at Anna and does not call
her for Sunday dinner. At the eleventh
hour, so to speak, two months' money
arrives, sent by Anna's mother with
one of her irresponsible male playboy
acquaintances. He had arrived in Jamaica
nearly a month earlier, but had headed
"straight to Negril, for sin, sun, and fun",
and is delivering the mother's letter and
parcel only when he is about to return to
New York.
Having settled her account with her
grasping landlady, and having previously
contemplated the worst-case scenario, the
irrepressible Anna tells us, "I'm a different
Anna now that I have my spending
money." With curt politeness, she refuses
the landlady's offer of supper, repays a
kind loan from her friend Johnny, and
goes out to splurge. She ends her story
like this (and here we must remember
that Gran had lived in Panama and Cuba):

Then I say to him [Johnny], Mi amigo,
how aboutta you and me (holding
up two fingers) catcha African Taxi
up to Sovereign Plaza an go eatta
lotta junk food. My treat (holding up
three fingers) with Marcia [her girl
friend] who say she will meeta us at
the food court? And because Johnny,

or "Juanny" as I call him sometimes,
knows all about Gran, my guardian
angel, he says, "Si, Chica, si."

In a markedly different voice is "For
My Comrades Wearing Three-Piece
Suits", the visceral inward howl of the
young man, a 1970s university student
turned revolutionary, who is serving a
fifteen-year sentence on some charge
(not identified in the story) related to his

involvement in the political upheaval of
that period. The sharp irony of the title
underscores the disillusionment of the
protagonist/narrator. Much of the story's
strength lies in its avoidance of easy or
explicit moralising and judgement on
the politics of the time, while subtly
suggesting how easily society has
recourse to just such moralising and
A reviewer may summarise these
stories, and even reveal endings, but
the reader has to experience for herself
the texture of the stories and all sorts of
delicious or poignant details. Sometimes,
for instance, a single, brilliantly chosen
word can give a passage a wickedly
satirical edge. In "Alice and the Dancing
Angel", Alice, a go-go dancer who lives
a tough life, faints just as she is about to
go on stage to do her act one night, at the
Front and Centre Club on Red Hills Road.
She faints because an angel has appeared
to her, in the form of a black man, "that is
if an angel can be called a man".
The act on stage at the time when
Alice screamed then collapsed was the
suggestively named Kitty and Katty, "two
half-Syrian girls, [who] were the latest,
hottest act at the club". Then, "Kitty
and Katty left the stage and undulated
into the steamy crowd to execute some
lucrative lap dancing while the emcee
rubbed down Alice with some white
rum till she rallied." We may comment
appreciatively on "undulated" and
"steamy" and "lucrative" and even
"rallied", all appropriately descriptive.
But it is the judicious and seemingly
gratuitous introduction of "execute", that
is the high point of verbal artistry. Kitty
and Katty went down into the crowd to
"do" some lucrative lap dancing. That
is what they did in objective fact. But
think about the difference that "execute"
makes, how it does not just state an action
but also comments on it, how it sets up a
distance between the narrating voice and
Kitty and Katty, and focuses our feeling
for Alice.
Or there is the introduction of some
anecdotal detail not essential to the plot
but adding so much, so memorably to the
overall effect. In the same story, after Alice
"rallies" she is sent home by the owner of
the club, Mrs Cameron, another "bitch",
"who always insisted on being called Mrs

Cameron, and was forever reminding
people, 'I'm a big married woman.'" Mrs
Cameron had concluded, like everyone
else, that Alice's "head had taken her
or that she had taken some bad drugs".
Mrs Cameron sends home Alice with the
threatening suggestion that she should
"consider leaving the club altogether".
When Alice gets on to the bus, she looks
behind her and "the angel was right
there". Imagine that you are Alice. Well,
The bus moved off, and after a while
everybody on the bus began to talk
softer. Even a drunken man who was
telling everybody about how the
Prime Minister used to come to him
to write his speeches.
"And that is the reason why the
Prime Minister's speeches sounding
so sheg-up these days, because he
and I had a falling out over certain
matters, which I can't talk about on
this bus, but suffice it to say, these
matters involve a woman."

The stories are also enlivened by
the details of Jamaican social history
and culture that are worked easily into
them and thus kept memorably alive.
For example, there is the trivial gem of
information that "Chetolah Park School
was called shit-in-the-park school by
the good children of All Saints School",
a good example of schoolyard wit and
humour. Or there is the menu of the

"hard food" lunch that Lila would take
for Alphanso when he was building stalls
for the Denbigh Show: "Thick slices of
boiled yam and green bananas, broad,
elastic flour dumplings and some kind
of fish or meat, washed down with her
special lemonade made from wet sugar
and seville oranges." Or the gone-forever
Copacabana nights, when

It is one o'clock in the morning and
the music from the disco is getting
mellow now. These are the hours of
rent-a-tile. Just the love songs now,
lifting up and out over the St Thomas
beach with the big silver moon
shimmying in the water, buffing the
black sand.

The story of Miss Henny is valuable for,
among other things, its record of little but
profound ways in which Garvey impacted
on the minds of the so-called common
people, as well as for showing some ways
in which knowledge of Africa also came
to our people, as in Miss Henny's stories
from her late husband, who had served
with the West India Regiment.
In this collection we also continue
to be beneficiaries of Goodison's
distinguished representations of the
female sensibility, whether in the
heartache of Adina ("Temple Service"),
or in the trials of Anna or Alice, or in the
account of Lila's wedding outfit as she
daydreams about it, or in the portrayal

of grasping, selfish, pretentious, bad-
minded women, the "bitches", such as
those previously mentioned, or Mrs
Whittaker in "Temple Service". Women
too have been overseers on the patriarchal
The collection shows Goodison's
characteristic empathy with the deprived,
the oppressed, the lonely, the socially
disadvantaged. She challenges us to look
into our own consciences, into our own
smugness and self-righteousness, and to
see with new eyes those on the precarious
edge of society, whom we take for granted
as we drive by. Read the sad story of
"Henry", the boy who sells roses at the
traffic light intersection. She challenges
us to feel and respect what another wise
woman, the novelist George Eliot, called
"the centre of self" self, not selfishness
- which we so easily ignore in others, in a
Henry, and even in a Fool-Fool Rose.
The book is well produced,
attractively designed, as easy on the
eyes as it is pleasing to the mind and the
heart. The few typographical errors may
be forgiven. One must congratulate Ian
Randle Publishers, on their developing
foray into publishing creative writing,
fiction and poetry. 4*

This review is adapted from a speech given by
Edward Baugh at the launch of the book on 26
February 2005.

By Carolyn Cooper
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
ISBN: 1-4039-6425-4 (cloth), 1-4039-6424-6
(paper); x, 348 pp; J$840 (paper)

Reviewed by Edward Seaga
I am happy to see that we are, finally,
reaching the stage where we have grown
sufficiently in pride and courage to face
the challenge of recording the cultural
history of our own popular music. Pride
is the main basis on which a society is able
to believe in itself, and it is through this
pride that we develop the courage to tell

our story to the rest of the world without
being concerned about how others might
receive it.
The story of our music, and of
the culture which has nourished and
embellished it, has become a topic of
great interest to many writers over the
past two decades. The storytelling has
been of less concern than the storytellers,
who are mainly foreigners with a liking
to our music and the culture. Among
these have been the Californian David
Katz who claims the distinction of being
"one of the foremost reggae writers of
this generation", on the basis of his books,
Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae

5 ckL". 'klZkn ik i

(Bloomsbury, 2003) and People Funny Boy:
The Geniius of Lee Scratch Perry (Payback
Press, 2001); Norman C. Stolzoff, whose
anthropological dissertation on the way
scholars and the foreign press interpreted
the Jamaican music culture led to his book
Wake the Town and Tell the People (Duke
University Press, 2000), which has earned
the respect of a wide audience, including
many of our own scholars and journalists;
and Miami News pop music critic Chris
Potash whose Reggae, Rasta, Revolution
(Schrimer Books, 1997) was a more
commercial attempt to explain the music
and culture from genesis to acceptance.
There have been a number of other
literary attempts to explain this transition,
including the very informative Reggae: the
Rough Reggae Guide (Rough Guides, 2004)
by Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton. And
it is important to recognize Barrow's very
early association with the music, through
Island Records and Chris Blackwell.
However, I must give credit to
the Jamaicans Kevin O'Brien Chang
and Wayne Chen for leading the way,
literally, in looking at the issue from a
totally Jamaican perspective in their
P. ....,' Routes: The Story of Jamiaican
Music (Ian Randle Publishers, 1998).
Their claim to writing "the authentic
story of Jamaican popular music" was
primarily based on the fact that this was
the first book about the music written by
Jamaicans. My own recorded work on
CD, The Origins of Jamaican Music (2002),
chronologically marked and explained
the sequel of the transition of Jamaican
rhythms ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub,
deejay and dancehall identifying and
playing short passages of the recordings
which are identified with the transitions.
With Sound Clash, we have gone a step
further, in fact much further. In this book
Carolyn Cooper not only seeks to address
the social, economic and political issues of
the currently popular aspect of dancehall
music and culture, but she also looks at
it in a global context and in terms of its
embodiment in a network of transnational
discourses which, she suggests, and many
of us do agree, "appear to privilege the
cosmopolitan and devalue the currency of
the local" (p. 1). Who would have thought,
fifty or so years ago when the genesis of
this music began, that it would eventually
be seen in the context of the problems

created for people who constitute "the
ever-marginalized consumers of the waste
products of metropolitan societies" (p. 2)!
However, it is evident that her
introduction to the subject, through
an exploratory essay titled "Slackness
Hiding from Culture: Erotic Play in the
Dancehall", published in Jamaica Journal
22, no. 4 (1989), created an interest in
the subject which has led to a seminal
exploration of its social and political
context, presented in this collection of
essays which were "leisurely written
over the last decade or so" (p. 2). This
is certainly a profound and important
development in terms of scholarly
evaluation of our societal norms, and a
valuable contribution to our literature.
As someone who was intimately
involved in the birth of the music, as well
as the culture, I have reason to recall the
contemptuous response of some social
classes to its appearance. It was as if
these classes felt that the people who had
created this music were overly intoxicated
with ambition, outrageously believing
that they could create music which would
be good enough to be played on local
radio, much less to compete with foreign
productions and eventually be accepted
globally. I have often repeated that it
was the success abroad of our artistes,
including Bob Marley, Desmond Decker
and Jimmy Cliff, that finally led our
society to conclude that Jamaicans could
actually produce music that was globally
But there was a positive side to that
standoff. Because Jamaican entertainers
had pride in what they had created, and
their fans so fancied them, they gained the
courage to fight for acceptance and they
never gave up. In fact, in the interim, they
decided that if their music could not be
woven into the mainstream cultural fabric,
then they would create a subculture based
on the music, which eventually became
the dancehall culture.
I can see that, even today, many
of those contradictions still survive.
Professor Cooper confirmed that she
encountered what she describes as a
"minefield of university politics" (p.
v) which she had to traverse with the
support of the able Hubert Devonish,
professor of Caribbean linguistics at the
University of the West Indies, Mona. It

is not hard to imagine what obstacles she
encountered on campus trying to explain
the provocative issue of female sexuality
in the dancehall as the emancipatory body
politics and an "acknowledgement of the
survival and adaptation of African female
fertility rituals in the diaspora" (p. v).
The titles of the various chapters are
extremely provocative, and I am sure that
anyone who is interested in our culture
will be encouraged to read it thoroughly
and, at least, form an opinion which could
lead to informed debate on the issues
which are raised. Professor Cooper has
evidently done a great deal of research
into the various subjects that she has
raised, though, I am sure, she will not
pretend to be the authority on all these
issues. In fact, in putting together this
book the author has acquired the support
of a number of other scholars including
Cecil Gutzmore, lecturer in Caribbean
studies, who co-authored chapter one,
"Border Clash", in which they identified
and explored a wide range of conflicts
including language, religion, gender and
Very importantly, chapter two,
"Slackness Personified", looks at the
universal issue of 'conscious music' versus
contemporary dancehall by using two
very important exponents, Bob Marley
and Shabba Ranks, respectively. I was very
interested in the author's suggestion, in
relation to this chapter, that we ought to
"rehumanize Bob Marley by taking him
off the pedestal on which he has been
firmly fixed and thus made inaccessible
to the present generation of ghetto youth
at ground level" (p. 19). This is a most
important observation and one, I would
urge, that we look at more intimately in
order to see whether or not in our efforts
to honour Marley we have made him
inaccessible to the current generation,
or whether those who elevate him are
not missing the point that Bob, Yellow
Man and others who broke new ground
by promoting themes such as human
rights, sex and so on, were not just
simply putting to music the everyday
obsessions and concerns of inner-city life
which are fully understandable by all.
When Christopher Gonzalez produced
his sculpted interpretation of Bob Marley
with symbolic treatment, I arrived at the
unveiling of the statue just in time to

rescue the cowering sculptor huddled
in the back seat of a car surrounded by
angry Marley fans who wanted a realistic
portrayal of the Bob they knew, not the
elevated artistic version. The problem
is not the people who need to see Bob
Marley removed from a pedestal. It is
those who have dehumanised him by
putting him there.
No one will be surprised if I take
offence at the statement in the chapter
"Border Clash" that "as is well known,
in the early 1980s it became mortally
dangerous in Jamaica to resist/oppose the
system and to chant'truths and rights' "
(p. 56). The suggestion here is that there
was suppression of truths and rights
leading to popular music being published
in another direction, and that this gave
rise to dancehall celebrating "the carnal,
the violent and the slack" (p. 56). On
the contrary, I think that this was one of
the most liberal periods of our history
compared to the fearful rhetoric of the
preceding period. A more objective look
would have shown that while the intense
cold war politics of the 1970s triggered
unusually strong political responses in
terms of lyrics, the decrease in the political
tension in the 1980s, and eventually the
end of the cold war, reduced the focus on
the political issues and offered a period of
comparative relaxation which was easily
exploited by those more concerned about

the profits than the music or the politics as
a vehicle for transformation.
After the death of Bob Marley,
there was a vacuum. Yellow Man, who
moved to fill the gap, was not exactly the
personification of a matinee idol. He had
to find a theme that would arouse his
audience to overcome his shortcomings.
Sex was the answer. To quote the great
deejay: "A sex the people want and
is sex I a give dem." This became an
overpowering theme in a new direction of
the development of the music, having far
more to do with social mores than political
practice. It was even more predominant
in Yellow Man's environment where sex,
unlike a lot of pleasurable commodities, is
not scarce.
Not surprisingly, my favourite
chapter is "The Dancehall Transition".
Those unfamiliar with the chapter
would understand my preference when
I explain that it is the revised version
of Professor Cooper's joint paper with
Hubert Devonish titled "A Tale of Two
States: Language, Lit/orature and the
Two Jamaicas". The chapter reminds me
very much of a speech I made some forty-
five years ago that I revived in my final
address when I resigned from Parliament
in early 2005. It mirrors my own writings
on dancehall as a subculture of those who
are socially disregarded by those who are
regarded. The disregarded have turned

the tables now by creating a new cultural
order that is internationally regarded,
compared to the achievements of their
critics who are culturally disregarded.
It clearly shows that not only are we
separated on economic terms but also in
cultural terms.
We may never be able to break down
the barriers that separate downtown from
uptown, but we are certainly breaking
down the cultural barriers that separate
dancehall from other forms of popular
Jamaican music.
There are those who perceive
dancehall as the social force behind certain
types of anti-social conduct which are
prevailing in the society. Others see it the
other way round, as a product of social
disorientation in the society. It is most
likely both. But unquestionably it is a
cultural expression of huge dimensions
and deserves to be recognized as such.
We all should be grateful to the author
for taking this initiative, which, I believe,
will generate much discussion and debate
on these issues and will certainly help us
to reach a better understanding of where
we have been, where we are, and where
we ought to be heading. *:

This review is adapted from a speech given by
Edward Seaga at the launch of the book on 19 April

By Monica F. Warner
Macmillan Caribbean, 2004
ISBN 0333-97523-5; viii, 144 pp; J$780

By Tracey Parker
Forestry Department, Ministry of
Agriculture, 2004
ISBN 976-610-504-9; ix, 494 pp; J$1,800

Reviewed by Barbara Nelson
Monica Warner's book Flowers of Jamaica
overflows with beauty. She has taken the
flowers of some of the common plants we
see in our environment, brought them "up

close and personal", and magnified the
loveliness in each one.
Flowers of Jamaica is an attractive
publication. The delicate beauty of the
Bell Flower (Portlandia latifolia) adorns
the cover of this quick pocket guide to
some 115 common flowering plants and
two species of orchids. These plants
were chosen by Warner out of the
approximately 3,000 species of flowering
plants found in the wild in Jamaica. The
selection includes endemic, native and
introduced plants.
Monica Warner is a graduate (in
chemistry and zoology) of the University
of the West Indies, Mona. She spent much
of her working life teaching science in

of Jamaica

Monica F Warner

England and has now started to satisfy
her lifelong interest in the flora of Jamaica,
an interest formed, perhaps, in her youth
spent in the cool environs of Comfort
Hall, Manchester. She has excluded, with
one exception, the complex family of the
exotic orchids from the book "because of
the relative scarcity of most native species"
and because "several publications are
devoted solely to the identification of
She, however, takes several of our
common garden plants, a number of
magnificent trees, some fruit trees, shrubs
and plants that we often refer to as 'bush',
presents them by family, and gives us
their scientific and common names,
botanical relationships, places of origin,
descriptions, types and habitats as well as
other points of interest.
The reader will be captivated and
delighted by the photographs of the
plants, all taken by Warner and her
husband. Among the most outstanding
I found the Red Ginger, White Ginger
Lily, Canna Lily, Anthurium, Spider Lily,
Wild Scallion, Cereus Cactus, Poor Man's
Orchid, Candlestick Cassia, Golden
Shower Tree, Yellow Flame Tree, Mimosa,
Crown of Thorns, Lantana, and Queen's
However it is not just the beautiful
photographs that make the book
worthwhile and absorbing. The
introduction to Flowers of Jamaica is simply
and clearly written and very useful
for those readers who are interested
in taxonomy, common features of
typical regular and irregular flowers,
and the different types of plants. In the
introduction we are given a mini-lesson
on the fact that "the spread of habitat
provides room for many different kinds
of plants" in Jamaica. Thus our small
Caribbean island is home to a wide variety
of plants. Here cactus and milkweed,
typical desert plants, grow on the dry
sandy areas while wild ginger and ferns
thrive in the wet, forested areas. Up in the
higher, cooler regions we find agapanthus
lilies, azaleas, hydrangea shrubs and peach
trees plants that we normally associate
with temperate countries.
On the opening page of the book an
arresting and breathtaking photograph
of the exotic Strelitzia reginae has pride of
place. This plant is also called the Bird
of Paradise, Crane Flower and Queen's

Flower. The plants are originally from
South Africa and are closely related to the
Banana family. Directly opposite to that
beauty is the amazing crimson and gold
inflorescence of the Heliconia rostrata or
Wild Banana, a plant native to Central and
South America and the West Indies.
Included in the publication are several
of the plants that we often refer to as
'bush', such as the dainty Shame-o-lady
(Mimosa pudica) that furls its foliage at the
slightest touch, the Yellow Elder (Tecoma
stars) which, incidentally, is the national
flower of the Bahamas and the US Virgin
Islands, the Kingston Buttercup or Police
Macca, the Orange Sage or Lantana
(Lantana camara), the yellow-flowered
Cerasee, Red Salvia and Duppy Cho-Cho
(Calotropis procera).
And speaking of the Duppy Cho-
Cho, the author adds a touch of whimsy
and folklore by including seven names
of 'Duppy' plants and photographs
of them in the book. Duppy Basket,
also called the Duppy Flytrap, is a
climbing Brazilian plant and a member
of the Aristolochiaceae: Dutchman's
pipe family. Duppy Cherry or White
Cordia is an attractive shrub with lace-
like inflorescences and belongs to the
Boraginaceae family. Duppy Cho-Cho and
Duppy Cotton are one and the same plant,
and there is an interesting bit of folklore
attached that readers will enjoy. Duppy
Gun (Ruellia tuberosa) plants "seems to
spring up everywhere after rain", the
author notes, adding that the "pretty pint-
sized plants bear ... remarkably large,
bell-shaped blooms". The Duppy Machete
(p. 50) is a member of the Fabaceae family
that includes West Indian Ebony, Gungo
Peas, Donkey Fee-Fee and Blue Peas.
The Duppy Machete is also known as
Spanish Machete and Cutlass Bush and in
Jamaican folklore the tiny floral machetes
are suitable for use in the spirit world.
There are snippets of useful
information on many garden plants that
will interest the serious gardener: for
example, Okra and Sorrel are members of
the Hibiscus family. Pomegranate, a hardy
shrub that grows to a height of between
two and three meters in Jamaica, has
been "known since antiquity in southern
I liked especially the description
and information provided by the author
on some of our common garden plants,

such as the old-fashioned Coffee Rose,
"a very decorative, popular plant that
bears fragrant, double-flowered blooms"
having a marked resemblance to Gardenia
plants; the pink fragrant Oleander that
came all the way from the Mediterranean
and today grows all across the island; and
the bright, beautiful easily recognisable
golden yellow Allamanda (Allamanda
cathartica) which is a native of Brazil.
Then there is the hardy blue
Plumbago, a native of South Africa;
the elegant creeping Rangoon creeper
(commonly called Rice and Peas); the
ornamental Crape Myrtle or June Rose
that originated in south-east Asia and
northern Australia; the widely grown
Bougainvillea; the sturdy Ixora from
tropical Asia whose colours range from
pink to red to orange and white; and the
several varieties of Hibiscus that are native
to Asia.
Flowers of Jamaica also includes the
blooms of fruit trees and shrubs. Sorrel,
Lime, Pomegranate and Gungo Pea are
among these. And there are full-shot
photos of some of our magnificent trees in
flower like the Guango Tree, also called
the Rain Tree, the Woman's Tongue Tree,
the Poinciana, the Pink Poui (Tabebuia
rose) native to Mexico and northern
South America, the Yellow Poui (Tabebuia
i 1,, it,,itl, and the stately African Tulip
Tree with its unusual "platter-shaped
At the end of the book there is a
glossary, bibliography, index of common
names and index of botanical names.
Flowers of Jamaica is a beautiful, worthwhile
and welcome addition to the information
we are building about the diversity in our
island home. It is a real treasure for plant

The photograph of trees in soothing
shades of green on the cover of this
attractive book tells the reader what it is
all about. Dendrology means the study
of trees and this volume provides an
absorbing, accessible guide to native
trees of Jamaica. The photographs
inside the book, all taken by the author
between April 2000 and June 2002, are
breathtaking the bright yellow petals of
the Mountain Sour Sop; the dense, velvety

orange yellow racemes of the Mountain
Immortelle; the large, woody reddish-
chestnut fruit of the Stinking Toe; and the
unusual red flowers of the Sandbox Tree
all show the wonderful variety of trees
that grow in Jamaica.
We live in an environment in Jamaica
where the beautiful trees are just a glance
away trees like the Woman's Tongue
Tree (Albizia lebbeck) found mainly in
St Andrew, Manchester and Trelawny;
Pimento or Allspice (Pimento dioica)
common on wooded hillsides and upland
pastures in Clarendon, Manchester,
Trelawny; Naseberry (Manilkara zapota)
found in nearly all parishes; and the
gnarled Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum officinale)
with its crown of leathery leaflets and
purple-blue flowers that is the national
flower of Jamaica. Anyone who has given
more than a passing look at any of our
trees will enjoy and benefit from the
information presented in the Manual of
The purpose of the manual, author
Tracey Parker says in the introduction, is
to provide an easy-to-use guide to native
trees of Jamaica. Foresters in inventories
and fieldwork, ecologists in vegetation
and habitat studies, naturalists, and
visitors as they travel throughout the
island should benefit from it.
Dendrology includes the classification,
naming and identification of woody
plants, including trees, shrubs and
sometimes vines, and is usually a
preliminary part of forestry training. It

will include identification, characteristics,
habitat and uses of trees. In the Manual of
Dendrology a tree is defined as a woody
plant that normally reaches over two
metres in height. One hundred and fifty
species of trees, the vast majority native,
are included in the manual, along with
several non-native trees that are common,
widespread and naturalised.
It is interesting to learn that several
familiar trees in our environment are not
native to the island. These include the
Hog Plum (Spondias mombin), a member
of the Mango family, whose bright yellow
fruit often litter our country roadsides; the
Common Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris); the
Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum),
valued as a dye-wood; Woman's Tongue
Tree (Albizia lebbeck); Privet (Pithecellobium
dulce), commonly used in making hedges;
the beautiful shade tree called the Guango
(Samanea saman) whose pods provide good
feed for livestock; Mountain Immortelle
(Erythrina poeppigiana), also called the
Never Die Tree; and the Hog Apple
(Morinda citrifolia), also known as Duppy
Sour Sop and Noni whose fruit produces
the tonic called Noni juice.
The book has two main parts. In
the first part are descriptions of each
tree species, organised alphabetically by
family, genus and species. A key to the
trees included in this book is found before
the tree description section. The second
part of the book is a section on terms
and definitions including illustrations
of characteristics used to discuss and
describe various parts of a tree. Each
family included in the manual has a page
summarising its characteristics.
For each family a general description
is given, focusing on characteristics that
will separate one family from others, and
including global distribution and the
number of genera and species worldwide.
Let us look, for example, at the Sour Sop
family Annonaceae (pp. 39-47). We are
told that it is "a family of many highly
esteemed fruits" (p. 39). The global range
of the species follows in this case we are
told that "worldwide there are 112 genera
with 2,150 species, mostly tropical".
Next we read that "within Jamaica,
there are four genera listed in Flowering
Plants of Jamaica (Adams 1972), with 13
species, all trees". A quick summary of
characteristics of leaves, inflorescence

and fruit is next listed. At the bottom
of the page is a list of trees found in
Jamaica. In this family the Sour Sop
family there are thirteen trees found
in Jamaica, including the Cherimoya,
Alligator Apple, Mountain Sour Sop, Sour
Sop, Wild Sour Sop, Custard Apple, Sweet
Sop and Lancewood. Of the thirteen, four
including the Sour Sop, Custard Apple
and Cherimoya are introduced trees.
Succeeding pages feature some of
these family members. For example,
we are informed that Annona montana
Macf. (p. 43) is commonly known as the
Mountain Sour Sop. This is followed by
a brief description of the size and form of
the tree: "A tree about 5 metres tall, with a
dense, dark green irregular crown."
The global range of the species follows
- Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela and the
Guianas to Brazil and Peru, and the West
Indies. Habitat information, presented
next, is basic and comes mainly from
Adams. We are told that the Mountain
Sour Sop is found "on wooded hillsides
and in pasture margins, not common;
150-520 metres". The remainder of the
page is devoted to descriptions of the bark
(from descriptions written in the field);
information on the leaves, flowers, and
fruit; wood descriptions; and information
on uses.
There are high-quality multiple
photographs of each entry. Thus on page
42 there are seven photos that show the
flowers, ovoid fruit, orange-brown seeds,
the glabrous oblong leaves, and the bark
of the Mountain Sour Sop tree. This
presentation allows the reader to fully
appreciate the details of each tree in the
Tree descriptions begin with the
Anacardiaceae (Mango family) and end
with the Zygophyllaceae (Lignum Vitae
family). These descriptions are preceded
by a useful key for identification of trees
described. Other useful features in this
book include a terminology for the
vegetative parts of a tree, a terminology
for leaves, floral parts and fruit, and an
index of plant names.
This Manual of Dendrology is a
comprehensive and invaluable reference
tool, and a significant addition to the
information we continue to document
about our precious and beautiful
environment. *


TANYA BATSON-SAVAGE is a freelance writer with
the Gleaner. In her function as a cultural critic,
she has earned a reputation for fierce, honest,
insightful critiques of literature, theatre, music,
and film. Her writing has also appeared in Air
Jamaica's in-flight magazine Skywritings, the
Youth Express, and the coffee-table book Moods
of amaica.

EDWARD BAUGH is Emeritus Professor of English
at the University of the West Indies, Mona. His
second collection of poems, It Was the Singing,
was published by Sandberry Press in 2000. He
edited Critics on Caribbean Literature (Allen &
Unwin, 1978), and, with Colbert Nepaulsingh,
Derek Walcott's Another Life "fully annotated"
(Lynne Rienner, 2004).

GARFIELD ELLIS'S first collection of stories,
Flaming Hearts (Carlong and the National
Book Development Council, 1997), and a later
manuscript, Till I'm Laid to Rest (unpublished),
both won the Una Marson Award for adult
literature in 1993 and 1999 respectively. His
second collection, Wake Rasta, was published by
Tallawah (2001), and his novels Such As I Have
(2002) and For Nothing at All (2005) have been
published by Macmillan.

VERONICA MARIE GREGG teaches at Hunter
College, City of New York. She is the author of
Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination (University of
North Carolina Press, 1995) and the forthcoming
Caribbean Women: An Anthology of Non-Fiction
Writing (University of Notre Dame Press). She
has also written several articles on West Indian

HEATHER A. HORST is a postdoctoral research
associate in the Department of Anthropology,
University College London. Her research
interests include migration and return
migration, the material culture of the house and
the role of new communication technologies in
transnational social space.

CELA JACKSON taught biology and chemistry
for several years at the secondary school level
and until recently was a member of staff and
a graduate student in the Department of Life
Sciences, University of the West Indies, Mona.
She has a passion for the natural beauty of fauna
and flora in all types of environments.

GERALD LALOR, OJ, is Director-General of the
International Centre for Environment and
Nuclear Sciences, University of the West Indies,
Mona. He is a former pro-vice-chancellor, and
was principal of the Mona campus from 1990
to 1996. His honours include the Norman
Manley Award for Excellence and the Institute
of Jamaica's Gold Musgrave Medal. He is also a
Fellow of the Third World Academy of Science,
the Caribbean Academy of Sciences, and the
Institute of Jamaica.

EARL MCKENZIE is a lecturer in philosophy at
the University of the West Indies, Mona. His

research interests include ethics, aesthetics and
Caribbean philosophy. He is also a poet, short
story writer and artist.

DANIEL MILLER is Professor of Material Culture
at the Department of Anthropology, University
College London. His research interests include
material culture, consumption, and political
economy. His current research is on loss and
separation, the experience of au pairs, and a
theory of value.

ANTHEA MORRIsON is a senior lecturer in
comparative Caribbean literature in the
Department of Literatures in English, University
of the West Indies, Mona. She has published
mainly on post-Negritude French Caribbean
poetry and Caribbean women's writing,
and is currently working on a study of the
Guadeloupean novelist Maryse Conde.

BARBARA NELSON is a freelance journalist
who has contributed to the Gleaner and other
Jamaican publications, including Air Jamaica's
in-flight magazine Skywritings, for many years.
She has written many articles on a variety of
subjects, from horticulture to the arts.

JOHN PRESTON is the senior engineer at the
International Centre for Environment and
Nuclear Sciences (ICENS), University of
the West Indies, Mona. He has worked for
the past fourteen years on developing the
ICENS spatial information database and
geographic information system. He currently
serves on the Land Information Council of
Jamaica, and the Telecommunications Appeals

EDWARD SEAGA, ON, is a Distinguished Fellow of
the University of the West Indies, Mona. He is a
former prime minister of Jamaica (1980-89), and
the longest serving member in the history of the
Jamaican Parliament. His publications include
articles on revival spirit cults and the emergence
of Jamaican popular music.

VERENE SHEPHERD is Professor of Social History
in the Department of History, University of the
West Indies, Mona. She is a vice-president of the
Jamaica Historical Society and a board member
of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

REBECCA TORTELLO is currently lecturing in
the Department of Education Studies at the
University of the West Indies, Mona and
consulting on various educational projects. She
is a former classroom teacher, and her children's
book, Nancy and Grandy Nanny (Stationery and
School Supplies, 2001), was recommended by
the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture.

MmKO VTrcHKOV is a senior research fellow and
head of the Nuclear Analytical Laboratory at
the International Centre for Environmental and
Nuclear Sciences, University of the West Indies,
Mona. His principal research interests are the
application of the nuclear analytical methods in

environmental biogeochemistry, agriculture and
health with specific emphasis on lead poisoning
of Jamaican children. He was the recipient of
the 2002 Gleaner Honour Award in the category
Science and Technology for his achievement in
mitigating childhood lead poisoning in Jamaica.

LEON WAINWRIGHT is a lecturer in the history
of art and design at Manchester Metropolitan
University. He was recently awarded a
Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and
conducted research into art and visual and
material culture in Trinidad and Guyana. He
has written for Wadabagei, the Journal of Visual
Culture in Britain, A Companion to Black British
Culture, the Trinidad and Tobago Review, and
Caribbean Beat.

MONA WEBBER is a senior lecturer in the
Department of Life Sciences, University
of the West Indies, Mona. She is a marine
biologist, and has authored and co-authored
several papers on the water quality and
biodiversity of the Port Royal mangroves. She
is currently completing a project funded by the
Environmental Foundation of Jamaica on the
mangrove ecosystem as a biodiversity 'hot spot'.

Kim Robinson-Walcott is editor of books and
monographs at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute
of Social and Economic Studies, University of
the West Indies, Mona. Her book Out of Order!
Anthony Winkler and White West Indian Writing
is a forthcoming publication of the University
of the West Indies Press. Her other publications
include the children's book Dale's Mango Tree
(Kingston Publishers, 1992), which she also

From the foreword to
Jamaica Journal 1, no. 1
(December 1967)

The Jamaica Journal sets out to act as a
magnet as well as a directional device. It
sets out to provide a 'home' in its pages to
all Jamaicans (and some non-Jamaicans)
who create whether in literature, art,
literary criticism or historical and scientific
thought. Merit, in the areas where such
merit is relevant to our Jamaican scene, is
the basic criterion for inclusion.
The Journal will address itself primarily
to Jamaicans.... And we hope that while,
on the one hand, our readers] shall not
feel that [they] are being fed esoteric and
incomprehensible stuff, [they] should not,
on the other, feel able to dismiss us for not
having aimed high enough.
Yet we must make clear that this
journal will not set out to 'impose high
standards' borrowed from other peoples'
achievements. Instead, we hope to explore
new directions of our own, new lines of
thought, to help in the essential task of
groping towards the creation of 'standards'
valid to our own experience.
Last, but by no means least, the
Journal sets out to publicise the work
of the Institute, and through articles,
reproductions and photographs to make
widely available to the Jamaican people
one of the few valuable legacies from our
past the wealth of historical and scientific
material collected and preserved at the
Institute of Jamaica.
In a lighter vein, the Journal promises
never to take itself too seriously. Human
values are important but not immovable.
We hope that all those who feel excluded
will realise that exclusion is part of the
editor's unfortunate task, that his [or her]
judgement is fallible but all that he [or she]
has to go by, that the rejected manuscript
or drawing forms as much a part of the
process of creation as the accepted one, and
that it is the process of creation as much as
the achieved result that this journal sets out
to encourage.
Finally, we set out to achieve
simplicity, vigour, clarity, relevance,
whether through words or pictures. No
one can give the absolute answer to these
demands, but we hope that all those who
contribute and all those who read will use
these criteria as a rough rule of thumb in
accepting or rejecting what we have to
-Alex Gradussov, editor, 1967

INSTITUTION was founded in 1879. Its
main function is to foster and encourage the
development of literature, science and art, in
the national interest.
It operates as a statutory body under the
Institute of Jamaica Act 1978 and falls under
the portfolio of the Ministry of Education,

Professor Alston "Barry" Chevannes

Executive Director
Vivian Crawford

Central Administration
10-16 East Street, Kingston
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Fax: (876)922-1147
Email: ioj.jam@mail.infochan.com
or info@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Junior Centre
19 East St, Kingston
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: jcentre@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Museums of History & Ethnography
Head Office: 10 East Street
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: mus.ioj@n5.com.jm or

* Fort Charles Museum, Port Royal
Tel: (876) 967-8438

* Forces Military Museum
(temporarily closed)
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6

* People's Museum of Craft &
Technology, Spanish Town
Tel: (876) 907-9322

* Museum of St James, Montego Bay
Tel: (876) 971-9417

Youth and Culture. The Institute's central
decision-making body is the Council which is
appointed by the Minister.
The Institute of Jamaica consists of a
central administration and a number of
divisions and associate bodies operating with
varying degrees of autonomy.

Natural History Museum
10-16 East Street
Field stations: Mason River Reserve &
Green Hills
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: nhd.ioj@cwjamaica.com
or nhd@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Jamaica Clearing Mechanism
Biodiversity Website
Email: chm.nhd@cwjamaica.com

African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/
Jamaica Memory Bank
12 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston Mall
Tel: (876) 922-7415/4793
Fax: (876) 924-9361
Email: acij@angel.com.jm
or acij@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

National Gallery of Jamaica
Roy West Building
12 Ocean Boulevard
Tel: (876) 922-1561/ 8540
Fax: (876) 922-8544
Email: ngalleryja@cwjamaica.com

National Library of Jamaica
12 East Street
P.O. Box 823
Tel: (876) 967-1526/2516/2494
Fax: (876) 922-5567
Email: nlj@infochan.com
Website: www.nlj.org.jm

The Institute of Jamaica

111 :1

...~...... ___


PortlawdtyroctoriF, v
i aJ endea

This shiEt
5 centimetres 1
elevations i

P"d to deep crLimn n lou tr,
e Rubiaceae or Cottee taniil\.
tCfle and Lnlh\ ound in

3ws up t
z. It is er

aves that groin up to
uid us l

i if it is constantly

tura circle,

I egenu*3


Ciil and thtlural Historu of Iainluau. 1756) who dedicated its name to the
contemporary Duchess of Portland Portlandia proctoni named in honour
,t the botanist Dr George Proctor, haSt ll lest flowers in the genus
and it is be .ted by the Red-balled
Streamertail H 1 gbird Trochilu45 p6lytus polytomus.
SIn a rer tsion of Portlandr and related genera, the botanist Anr-tte
Aiello lin a 1'-7' article recognisedtwoVarieties in'~LE landra coccinea 'w.
These varieties, Portlandia coccineatM. Iftandia coccinea V
pr'ictoti were based on leatl hape distnbution.''
Furtherstudie- b,, Piero Delprete e 3)revealid'
that P. Liocciea \'ar. priLct'rri Alello should b -esas
it has corollas shorter and of a difere i N ea.





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