So I realized today (the day before the Day) that in identifying city-stops for the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project walkabouts, I had omitted to include anything at the centre of the African experience which is backwards but not wholly surprising given that so much of what remains (as far as historical-scapes go) has to do with European impact – the Georgian style buildings, the Anglican church with the eagle-eye view etc. I found myself returning to a spot I’d dropped because it was too far outside of the city for our daily walkabout I told myself. But, in this 11th hour, I found myself, ashamed of my omission, squeezing it back into the schedule. That spot is the Prince Klaas/King Court monument designed and built by Sir Reginald Samuel. It was an inexcusable omission as one of the few sites of public art/sculpture crafted by a native son and as an example of interpretation of moments; how do you capture all a person was and all they are meant to represent in a single moment; the sculpture must hint at character but also give a sense of the larger-than-life-ness that the person is representative of/symbolizes. But it was also true that King Court/Prince Klaas, though an African freedom fighter in the Caribbean, was not separate from that tale of European impact, after all it was them he was martyred for rising up against (or plotting to anyway) in 1736. Besides wasn’t it too late to include this, too late to find some way to make his story relatable to a group of young Antiguans and pull from his story something that could be made into a literary activity appropriate to their age group? Maybe. But I couldn’t let it go. Then I remembered reading something about the Akan Shield Dance in which the revolutionaries engaged on the eve of their revolt. I put my Google-fu to work and found these excerpts from David Barry Gaspar’s Bondmen and Rebels (full disclosure: a book that’s been on my to-read list for entirely too long):
(sorry folks that’s where the available excerpt ends…guess like me you’ll have to read the book). Apart from being struck by the desire to see a re-enactment of the dance live, maybe during Independence or Carnival (hint hint Culture Department or Antigua Dance Academy), I liked that it had movement, action, a distinctly African link…and from all that I got an idea for how to use it in a literary activity. See, part of what I’m trying to do in the JSYWP is re-enforce that there is rich fodder for inspiration and our imaginations in our own history, lives, world. And that is the tentative link (apart from having the same leader and investment in the youth and the literary arts) between that project and Wadadli Pen because Wadadli Pen’s core is all about Caribbean-centric stories. What I hope to show is that these don’t have to be clichéd stories, that’s where your imagination comes in. So I’m hoping I can use this bit of their history to fire up their imagination and I’m really glad I revisited the idea of involving Klaas/Court in some way…even if his monument is some distance away from the city proper, writers need to get out and stretch their legs to stretch their imaginations sometimes.
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