Exploring our LittScapes

This is a re-post. The less said about where and when it was originally posted, the better; suffice it to say that in the freelancing life, sometimes things go sour (leaving a bitterness in your stomach), sometimes you get short changed but hopefully you live and learn and don’t get burnt again. Anyway, nothing stopping me from sharing it here with you. I did it after a very interesting presentation by visiting author Kris Rampersad about exploring our literary landscapes.

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

If we were to replicate Kris Rampersad’s LiTTscapes concept here, where would it take us? Of Laventille, in her home country Trinidad and Tobago, she writes in her book LiTTscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago, “Earl Lovelace’s evocation of the unglamorous nature, yet unconquerable spirit of the Hill in The Dragon Can’t Dance is virtually incomparable…” And she gives an excerpt from that work of fiction: “This is the Hill, Calvary Hill, where the sun set on starvation and rise on potholed roads thrones for stray dogs that you could play on banjos on their rib bones…” That is evocative, you have to agree. And Rampersad just by producing this makes a compelling case for replicating such a project in other parts of the region. It’s the kind of project frankly, that if I could access grant funding to do it, I would be happy to take on because it’s about mapping the physical and emotional spaces of our landscape in a way that reveals the textures beneath the blanket, touristy taglines …sun, sea, sand.  We live full lives and the best of our creative arts reflect that, the ins and outs of our world coming alive on their pages, their canvases, their screens. A project like this captures that, its primary audience being to reference a Short Shirt calypso line “we, the people, ourselves”. As Rampersad said Saturday night at the Museum as she presented excerpts and talked about the genesis of the project, it’s about “retelling these stories in a way that they can grow into a consciousness of themselves.” She’s talking primarily about the children. But, interestingly enough, since we seem to have a default button that’s always looking for the what’s in it for tourism angle, it could potentially add dimension to this ‘product’ we’re selling, i.e. “we, the people, ourselves.”

I think of a book like Althea Prince’s How the East Pond Got Its Flowers, or the iconic cemetery at Big Church as reflected in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, the cultural activities celebrated in Selvyn Walter’s Bank Alley Tales, or the slave dungeon at Orange Valley fictionalized in my own Oh Gad! and I imagine what it would be like to introduce our children and re-introduce ourselves to these spaces on the page and beyond, and through a publication like this introduce our visitors as well to a deeper sense of us. We always talk about how they’re looking for a fuller experience, right?

Why is funding a factor?

Well projects like this take time, lots and lots of time; and exploration and rediscovery.

It was no doubt a laborious project for Rampersad, though her enthusiasm for it was clear. The exercise, she noted, can bring into sharper focus what we have and deepen our appreciation for it. But at the same time, it can help us make connections, this Caribbean Sea being not the thing that divides us but the thing that unites us.

An example of this was the very discussion taking place in the Museum’s upstairs gallery, a discussion of the literary landscapes we’ve read about and their real life inspirations, a discussion of ourselves within our own spaces with the world invited to take a peak as they do through our creative arts.

Note: Subsequent to writing this, when I did the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project and we visited places in the city, I tried to use the literary arts as a lens; sharing pieces set in the places we were visiting. It enriched the experience, providing a point of reflection and speculation.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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