Carib Plus Lit (Mid February 2020)

brooklyn book fest 2020

Caribbean Reads – sponsor of the 2020 Wadadli Pen Challenge Schools Prize – at the Brooklyn Book Fair in 2019. The sub-regional independent publisher will be giving EC$600 worth of books to the winning school in this year’s Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge, some from its own booklist. Which may include pictured books like Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure by yours truly.

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On the subject of Wadadli Pen, I wanted to share that I am thrilled that this project has survived since 2004 – it’s always touch and go. Also, though it mostly manifests as a competition, it’s not about winning prizes. It’s about encouraging creativity and all of the reflection, imagination, and expression that comes with that.

In one of the targeted direct mailers I sent out, I noted that participation “can be purely fun and about self-discovery; it can also open a portal to expressing and coping with challenging feelings and experiences. Encouraging youth creativity also promotes mental growth, potentially improving academic performance and emotional maturity. Encouraging youth creativity gives young people an opportunity to try new things, new ways of seeing, new ways of thinking, and new ways of problem solving. The ‘Imagine a Future’ special prize in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge, for instance, will create an opportunity to explore the potentials of action or inaction on climate change – the existential challenge of our day – do we survive and how. This may emerge as a dystopian shadowland or a bright sci fi future. Who knows? As small islands, we are on the front lines of climate change; it’s an opportunity for young people to think through what will be the first major battle of their life time, for bad or good. If you are a youth in Barbuda, you have been in the headlines at least since 2017 and hurricane Irma, the trauma of which you may not have fully explored even as you grapple with historical and political realities beyond your understanding, where is your voice in this, what’s your story? ‘The Wa’omani Prize’ is an opportunity to remember that there are no small stories, that every experience matters – from fishing with your dad to being in the path of a storm to end all storms. The Wadadli Pen Challenge is not fixed on a theme – tell any story you want, about anything you want, however you want – but it is Caribbean, simply because we must centre our own imagination in our own stories. Storytelling is an opportunity to explore us. At the same time, it is an opportunity to experience our reality from a different perspective – where did the frigates go when they flew away …from the perspective of a frigate. For people working with young people it’s an opportunity to ask what if… allowing the imagination to zig from reality to fantasy and back again. The 3-strip comic panel is a challenge for those better at expressing themselves using visuals than words because visuals too can tell a full story filled with drama, humor, warmth, etc. Writers and artists can even collaborate for full expression of an idea. The thing to remember is that there  is no wrong or right, only the urge to write, to draw, to create, and the freedom to be on the page.” Time will tell if this and the other media (thanks to Observer Media Group, Antiguanice.com, 268 Antigua, ABS TV, Crusader Radio, and others for helping us get the word out) and social media, and direct pushes we made to encourage young people in Antigua and Barbuda to submit by February 16th 2020 moved the needle at all.

For full guidelines and submission form, visit https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/wadadli-pen-2020 Shout out to our patrons Juneth Webson, Frank B. Armstrong, Lawrence Jardine, Brenda Lee Browne, D. Gisele Isaac, Caribbean Reads Publishing, Hermitage Bay Antigua, Adventure Antigua, Cindy’s Book Store, Floree Williams Whyte, Paradise Vision Centre, Jane Seagull, and others.

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You’ll notice that the art category is back for Wadadli Pen but framed this time as a comic strip challenge. Here’s hoping we’ll see lots of entries from the winners of this other art prize, the Halo Christmas card competition, which has been one of the more enduring art initiatives – albeit under different headings, Halo in recent years – in Antigua and Barbuda. Shout out to my alma mater Christ the King High School from which winner Tiffany Dunnah hails. Here’s the report via 268.

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We join the Caribbean and the rest of the literary world in bidding well done and farewell to the late Barbadian scribe Kamau Brathwaite who died on February 4th 2020 (at age 89). He’s been covered a time or two here on the blog but the various tributes should provide a sense of the scope of his work and influence. Also, the Bocas Lit Fest reported “Just days before he died, Brathwaite agreed to accept the 2020 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, presented annually by Trinidad and Tobago’s Bocas Lit Fest. The award pays tribute to Brathwaite’s landmark work as a critic — the author of many seminal essays on Caribbean literature and culture — literary activist, and editor, and was also intended to honour him in the year of what would have been his ninetieth birthday.” The award will now be presented to a member of Brathwaite’s family on March 5th 2020 at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill in Barbados during the annual KamauBrathwaite Lecture.

Peepal Tree publisher Jeremy Poynting said in his tribute (among the various tributes linked above): “Maybe there’s a room somewhere where Kamau, Derek and Wilson are talking together. Now wouldn’t that be some conversation to hear?” He is, of course, referencing Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and acclaimed Guyanese writer Wilson Harris, the statement an indicator of the company in which Brathwaite sits.

In his influence on and shaping of Caribbean poetry, West Indian Literature, Nation Language (a term he coined as a descriptor of Caribbean ‘dialect’), Africa-infused experimental linguistics in his creative expressions,the work of the UWI, the writers he’s mentored or influenced, the many he’s educated, Brathwaite is remembered as a literary lion and his legacy will surely endure.

For more on Brathwaite, read this editorial in Barbados Today

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Also via a Bocas mailing, the second year of the Johnson and Amoy Achong long list has been posted. It is, per usual, dominated by Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana (after being won last year by a Jamaica born, Barbados based writer). The developmental prize for emerging writers (this year focused on non-fiction) will go to either Amanda Choo Quan (T&T), Melissa Doughty (T&T), Ruel Johnson (Guyana), Otancia Noel (T&T), Kim Robinson-Walcott (Jamaica), and Amílcar Sanatan (T&T). Congrats to them.

Speaking of Bocas, check out some of the activity forthcoming at Writers Centre, described as an arts friendly, collaborative, enterprising space.

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New Books –

British Virgin Islands author Eugenia O’Neal’s latest book is March 2020 release Obeah, Race and Racism: Caribbean Witchcraft in the English Imagine (via University Press of the West Indies) which sounds very interesting (wonder if I can get a review copy). Here’s a partial synopsis from its Amazon page:

“In Obeah, Race and Racism, Eugenia O’Neal vividly discusses the tradition of African magic and witchcraft, traces its voyage across the Atlantic and its subsequent evolution on the plantations of the New World, and provides a detailed map of how English writers, poets and dramatists interpreted it for English audiences. …O’Neal examines what British writers knew or thought they knew about Obeah and discusses how their perceptions of black people were shaped by their perceptions of Obeah. …The English reading public became generally convinced that Obeah was evil and that blacks were, at worst, devil worshippers or, at best, extremely stupid and credulous. And because books and stories on Obeah continued to promulgate either of the two prevailing perspectives, and sometimes both together until at least the 1950s, theories of black inferiority continue to hold sway in Great Britain today.” Interesting, right?

Also coming soon is Trini-Bajan Ingrid Persaud’s Love after Love which landed with Faber and Faber after a bidding war because she’s dope like that. It’s due in April but this interview she did with Audible about her BBC and Commonwealth award winning short story The Sweet Sop and her writing journey to date is up now.

Excerpt: “Plot. You know how many times I wake up all two in the morning wondering if I will ever find a plausible plot? Or sometimes I have a plot, and I dream of all the black holes readers are going to find. One day I hope to create a story with a plot so exquisitely crafted that the reader is barely aware of being led through it.”

Finally, in new books, this one is already out I believe, Dominica’s Celia Sorhaindo writes I believe the first post-Irma book of its kind, Guabancex: “On 18 September 2017, a category 5 hurricane, the worst in recorded history, hit the Caribbean island of Dominica. Hurricane Maria destroyed lives and land. Nothing would be the same again. Guabancex explores the complex mix of experiences and emotions, both during and after the event. The collection is named in recognition of the ancient indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. One of these groups, the Taino, called the supreme female spiritual entity associated with all natural destructive forces, Guabancex.”

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Here in Antigua and Barbuda, we can also report that the Cultural Development Division has announced plans for a National Music Awards. It is not, as touted the country’s inaugural music awards (we’ve had the National Vibes Star Project Awards, which was a private/community-driven Grammy-style venture which actually had an even broader range of categories) but it is good to see an initiative to boost one aspect of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Lit arts still out here waving its hands but we’re not going to begrudge another category of artists getting a deserved boost. The NMA, per a release, is meant “to highlight and motivate practitioners in the field of music, in Antigua and Barbuda.” The person behind the initiative seems to be new deputy director of Culture, also a very talented, award winning musician and composer, Khan Cordice. As we’ve always said here on the blog (see reference to Barbara Mason) artistic disciplines benefit from having advocates who are passionate about the particular disciplines being in a position backed by the resources of state (limited though they may be) to move the needle. The announced awards categories, each with its various sub-categories, are Vocal, Instrumental, Steelpan, Recording Artiste, DJ, and Special awards. See breakdown.The announced NMA date is April 16th 2020.

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Culture has also unveiled the team behind Antigua and Barbuda’s staging of CARIFESTA. via Antiguanice.com “Leading the charge as Chairman of the Board of Directors will be the Honourable Daryll Matthew, and Senator Shenella Govia as Deputy Chairman. The other members of the board will include Dr. Hazra Medica as Executive Secretary to the Board, the Director of CARIFESTA, and representatives from the following entities, namely the Ministry of Tourism; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Finance; National Festivals Office; Ministry of Health, Cultural Development Division; Environment Division; Immigration Department; Security Forces, and the Legal Department.” The announcement coincided with the launch of the new CARIFESTA logo selected from a competition in which Gamal Goodwin emerged victorious. You know what I’ve written about literary Antigua-Barbuda being written out of past CARIFESTAs but I think all of us in the arts community (including writers) still look forward to what may come.

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Another local government agency announcing an awards programme is Gender Affairs. Women of Wadadli is a people’s choice awards recognizing the contribution of “extraordinary work” by “ordinary women” in Antigua and Barbuda. 

(they’re out of order but I’m tired).

Here’s the link.

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Via the Daily Observer, we’ve learned of a film production webinar series, in progress, thanks to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ Business Development Unit. Facilitators so far, according to the report, have included St. Lucia’s Davina Lee and Antigua and Barbuda’s Howard and Mitzi Allen of HaMA Films. The series is reportedly aimed at “sensitizing filmmakers in the region to modern (and best) practices in film production.” FYI, Mitzi Allen is also one of the advisors, along with Shakirah Bourne of Barbados, Juliette McCawley of  Trinidad, and Kareem Mortimer of The Bahamas on the Commonwealth Writers Caribbean Voices project targeting filmmakers (writers, directors, producers) from the region. Apply by February 24th to participate in the May workshop and be in the running for funding for your film project. Details here just in case I don’t get time to add it to the Opportunities Too page in time.

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We’ve covered Dadli Hack before though it deals with tech, not arts, because it seemed a creative enterprise in the way it challenged participants to use technology to troubleshoot and innovate around the issues of our day. This year’s winner is also no stranger to the blog – Team Antigua Island Girls. Remember them? The first all Black all female team to row across the Atlantic. Per the Observer, Dadli Hack 3.0 is part of the United Nations Office of Project Services Global Innovation Challenge. Team Island Girls have won, from among a field of 10 from various Caribbean islands, US$5,000 towards the development of their project to improve eco-tourism via their youth ocean rowing project. The Hackathon includes a week of training and then the ideas pitch. It was held at Antigua and Barbuda’s Science and Innovation Park.

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U.S. based Haitian author Edwidge Dandicat is one of three finalists for the Story Prize for book length short story collections published in 2019 from among 94 submissions. The other two finalists are Zadie Smith and Kali Fajardo-Anstine. If she wins for her book Everything Inside, Dandicat will win US$20,000 and if she doesn’t, she’ll win ‘just’ US$5,000. The winner will be announced on February 26th 2020 at the New School (co-sponsor of the prize) in NYC.

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Have you read Jamaican Marlon James’ A Brief of Seven Killings. Much of the world has and as such Entertainment Weekly, as reported by Jamaicans.com, has dubbed it one of the best books of the last decade. The multi-award, including Booker Prize, winning was an obvious choice for this list and it’s cool to see the Caribbean represented.

Another writer who would make any one’s best of list is Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie who, per AllAfrica, was named ThisDay’s Woman of the Decade. I know she’s not Caribbean but she’s still amazing so we won’t hold that against her.

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Also from the Observer…

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The NAACP Image Awards nominees have been announced and while attention has been on the film and TV categories and Bajan daughter Rihanna being tapped for the President’s award (go, Bad Gyal Ri-Ri!), I have been particularly interested in the book nominations. I am delighted to reveal that New Daughters of Africa which includes some 200 writers, yours truly repping Antigua and Barbuda among them, is a fiction nominee. The anthology is edited by UK-based Margaret Busby (pictured left below with two of the book’s contributors ahead of a panel at the Sharjah International Book Fair in November 2019) who has African and Caribbean roots.

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“Trinida­di­an born po­et and au­thor, Ian Williams has won Cana­da’s rich­est lit­er­ary award for fic­tion, for his nov­el Re­pro­duc­tion. Williams was named as the 2019 Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize…beat­ing out five oth­er au­thors for the prize. The first time nov­el­ist, who is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of po­et­ry in the Cre­ative Writ­ing pro­gramme at the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Co­lum­bia, said he was shocked to earn the prize. ‘It’s a to­tal sur­prise, I mean there’s no prepar­ing for it. Even in your wildest fan­ta­sy like you imag­ine it and there’s noth­ing like it. Maybe it’s what pro ath­letes feel like or when ten­nis play­ers win Wim­ble­don or the US Open. Like we don’t write books for this mo­ment and then it hap­pens and you’re to­tal­ly off guard as a hu­man,’ he told the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. He said the win made him re­flect on his past, in­clud­ing his time be­ing raised in Trinidad and To­ba­go be­fore his fam­i­ly mi­grat­ed to Cana­da.” Read more.

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Another award winner, this one with Antiguan roots is lauded children’s book writer and illustrator Ashley Bryan who picked up another Coretta Scott King award for Infinite Hope: a Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace. Released last October, it is described as “a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.” The story offers a reminder that though some have dubbed the WWII generation the greatest generation, it really depends on who’s telling the story. And here Bryan finally tells his own: “In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness–including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought.” Read more about the book and the other nominees, at AALBC.

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Another Caribbean writer, another accolade. ‘Toronto writer M. NourbeSe Philip has been announced as the 2020 recipient of the PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature. The $50,000 U.S. ($66,445 Cdn) award honours a writer whose body of work shows “enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship.”‘ Philip is from Tobago. Read about her at CBC.

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There’s more; I’m always gathering stuff to share. But I have to stop for now. So, til next time.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which has a Spanish language edition). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2020, Wadadli Pen News

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