Tag Archives: Ashley Bryan

A & B Artistes Discussing Art

Primarily, in this space, I’ll be sharing discussions, in Question and Answer format, of craft, and insights to not only the author/artist’s journey but the story of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. This is a Work in Progress. The main criteria, so far, for inclusion, apart from the Q & A structure and the arts/art history focus, is that these are interviews not conducted by someone who is part of the artistes’ publishing and/or promotional team, and are interviews that are in the public sphere on a platform independent of the artistes and/or their publishing and promotional team. Beyond that, it’s what I come across and you can also link me interviews that fit the very broad stated criteria by emailing wadadipen at gmail dot com

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Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE (2021)

“One of the early writings I did was a play called Dreams…Faces…Reality…and that play was actually performed over 25 times in Antigua and Barbuda… it was used as a tool to help students in the schools understand everything concerning HIV/AIDS.” – Barbara Arrindell with ABS TV (2020)

“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?” – Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Dorbrene O’Marde, Heather Doram, and Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

“I don’t really have a routine, I just take advantage of times when I don’t have anything to distract me, when I can get stuck into writing for as long as I want. I like to write with my feet cocked up on a comfortable sofa, and a good view in front of me. We have a small apartment in the old walled city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, which looks out onto a plaza with trees, a few birds singing, passing salsa music, and sounds of people chatting and relaxing. That’s my spot. When I am researching, of course, it’s different: if I’m not working online on the above-mentioned sofa, I’m usually sitting at a table in a research library somewhere in the Caribbean, or in Cornwall.” –  Sue Appleby, author of The Cornish in the Caribbean (2019) 

“If I was to specify what path I’m on and what matters to me the most I think it would be inspiring people…I have a reservoir of information that I could then pass on.”

Sonalli Andrews, graphic designer in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for her column CREATIVE SPACE (2020)

“At the time we did not know we were doing pioneering work in film. There was no pressure to get everything right. It was only after we began doing the film festival circuit did we learned it was not only the first indigenous feature film for Antigua and Barbuda but in fact the Eastern Caribbean. Some intellectuals thought our first film should have had more ‘grit’ dealing with social issues.” – Mitzi Allen in discussion with Karukerament about The Sweetest Mango, written by D. Gisele Isaac, directed by Howard Allen, with Allen as producer and Joanne C. Hillhouse as associate producer. The Sweetest Mango was Antigua and Barbuda’s first feature length film. 2020.

‘I was literally born into the theatre. My parents met each other through the Antiguan drama company “Harambee Open Air Theatre”… and since then they have both always nurtured the love and appreciation for the arts, exposing me to varying types of performances, including visiting ensembles to the island, and performances whenever I traveled. I remember my father taking me to see Cats on Broadway at a young age…it was exciting, and just cemented the fact that that was what I wanted to do with my life … perform and create productions that would make people feel the way I felt as a child sitting in that theatre. My mom then enrolled me in a drama programme called Child’s Play, under renowned Jamaican dramatist and storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks.’ – Zahra Airall talking to The Uncaged Phoenix (2018)

Glenroy Aaron participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Mark Brown, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “To be honest, I have learned a lot more about the Antiguan aesthetic from this conversation than from my years of observing art in Antigua. I say this because there is so little indigenous Antiguan art to observe, and historic recording of it is also quiet faint. My art is basically an attempt to capture the beauty around me and the moments in which they occur. My techniques and methods continue to evolve as exploring New continues to excite. Forays outside my comfort zone to explore deeper emotions have produced interesting results; with some apprehension as to the commercial viability of such ventures. The balance between creativity and viability is tricky but can be done, as others have found ways to make it work. Themes and scenes indigenous to an artist’s place of birth will ultimately make its way onto an artist’s canvas but considering the fusion of influences and cultures that have existed on the islands for some time now, an Antiguan aesthetic may be a bit difficult to define. Further, holding that many view art as a visual expression of the artist’s thoughts and emotions, we can appreciate that some of these ideas and emotions may not be “local” in scope.” Read in full.

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“When I climbed down into the landing craft, my sketchbook was out, I was sketching men climbing down the ladder. And when we were on the beach I was drawing the men in the foxholes.” – Ashley Bryan talking about being an artist while doing active duty during World War II on The Story on American Public Media. 2013.

“When I was growing up there was the WPA…a programme the government set up for free schools in art and music for all the communities throughout the United States and my parents with six children…sent us all out to the free classes, so we were all painting and drawing and playing the piano… I was not able to get a scholarship (to art school) because they said it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a black person.” – Ashley Bryan talking to BBC Sounds about his early development as an artist.

Tammi Browne Bannister talking to David DaCosta (December 28th 2016):
“When I was little, I loved reading Aesop’s Fables and was attracted to the humor, the lessons, and the tragedies and of course the way these tales made me think about the characters long after reading. I’ve written a few.” Full interview.

“It took coming here to see that my voice was a voice that needed to be heard.” – Brenda Lee Browne, Real Talk with Janice Sutherland at Phenomenal Woman. 2018.

Mark Brown participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “I view art making as a human activity which cannot be defined as mine or yours, and this is based on the type of work which I engage in. My work, in my mind, is about responding to stimuli, that act of engaging with my feelings about my environment, religion, identity, sexuality, all of which most, if not every human being faces at some point in life. As a result, for me Antiguan Art, like Art elsewhere, is individual voices singing their own tune. Of course we may use objects specific to our culture [that have] distinct meaning but many times these same objects may have a different name in another culture and [be] used in different contexts, but then it is also specific then to that locale. How else do we explain lending your voice in paint or any other medium to a specific issue in a way that you deem visceral and then later on somewhere else, Google for instance, you discover another artist on the opposite side of the globe exploring the very same idea in very similar ways. To me it is just the act of discovering, in visual format, that which is buried deep within with the ultimate aim of finding out the real reason for my being “here” and at this time.” Read the full discussion here.

Mark Brown (2015) on Popreel, Swedish TV: “The main aim of the Angel in Crisis series was to bring a sort of humanness to people like her (the nun), priests, people who have to bear that burden of conforming to what society expects of them.” Interview begins at 7:35.

Jazzie B. talking with Chris Williams for Wax Poetics (May 14th 2014): “’Keep On Movin’ actually came about lyrically because we were at the Africa Center in Covent Gardens, and we were being put under a lot of pressure by the police. It was due to the fact that other clubs in the area were empty and ours kept being full. Every so often, we would get the squeeze put on us. At one particular moment, they threatened to close us down. The whole concept of this song came from there.” Full interview.

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A CREATIVE SPACE discussion on the domestic book market looks at which books are selling well and why.

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“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)

Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.

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“Art is not just a commercial transaction. When an artist shows you their work, they’re showing you their soul, their heart, and what’s important to them.” – Debbie Eckert on Sweden’s Popreel (2018) – beginning roughly at 4:30

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Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”

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“It’s always a burning passion but it’s not a fruitful burning passion. You do the arts cause you love it and you have something you want to say.” – Gayle Gonsalves (2020) on ABS TV

“I’m a Caribbean poet foremost, I was not born in the BVI. I was born in Trinidad to a BVIslander father and a Trinidadian mother. His mother is Antiguan, her mother is Grenadian. He grew up in Guyana, and I grew up in the BVI. Because of that chain of connections, I think that the vibrations that drive my work are deep in the currents of this sea, those currents that touch each island – I would invoke that famous image of Brathwaite’s from ‘Calypso’, ‘the stone had skidded arc’d and bloomed into islands’.” – Richard Georges in Pree. 2018.

“As far as my poetic horizons go, I try to let the tides tug me along, and trust that they will take me where I’m meant to go. I thought I’d write a book of poems and then move on to spend some time experimenting with fiction, but poems seem to keep coming. I think I have to trust that.” – Richard Georges in Caribbean Beat. 2017.

Linisa George reads and talks about ‘In the Closet’, which was the Antigua and Barbuda Poetry Postcard  for the UK series featuring works from the Commonwealth in time for the 2012 Commonwealth Games. “I’ve always been a poet…” she says, then explains the journey toward stepping in to that power. Link.

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“One of the things that you grow up hearing in the Caribbean is girls shouldn’t climb trees because they going blight the tree, meaning that the tree not goin’ grow or not goin’ bear, so I wanted to put a girl in a tree; we need to break those sort of stereotypes. One of the magical things about children’s picture books is that they are what begins that process of socializing children in to who they are and who other people are.” – presentation at Write the Vision’s Aspiring Authors and Writers Virtual Literary Event

(October 2021)

“Even the idea of taking on an internship as a writer, because he’s an aspiring writer, is a luxury…you have to be able to support yourself in order to do an internship that can help you figure out this writing thing sometimes; so all of the things you need to feed the life that will allow you to do the creative thing is sometimes the biggest challenge.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse on taking on her first personal intern; just one of the things discussed in this conversation with Diaspora Kids Lit

(2021)

Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Haitian-American writer M J Fievre for her Badass Black Girl vlog: “I do write from a specific place…it doesn’t matter if I’m writing speculatively or not, there is something that grounds me… my writing is grounded very much in real life Antigua, even when I’m writing fantasy.”

(2021)

Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Andy Caul of ACalabash: “To write those kids in Musical Youth, I reached back to my own teen-hood when I had my group of friends and I used to play the guitar. I used to go to guitar lessons, to play guitar in the choir. We went to fetes, Carnival, talent shows, walk-a-thons, the beach, we walked from school together. We had our clique. We had shared experiences. And I know in the reviews, they particularly commented on the Black joy in Musical Youth. And I appreciated that because that, in a way, was a joyful existence. The thing that people misunderstand about Caribbean life and Caribbean people is that while it can be very hard, marked by poverty and other things, it’s not just that. It is just life. It is love and laughter and we have some of the most inappropriate sense of humor when it comes to some of the darkness and the things that we joke about and the things that we find funny. So, yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there is political victimization. Yes, there is all the narratives but there’s also friendship, laughter, fun, music and all that stuff. I did not feel like I was writing against anything. It felt like I was just writing what was true.” (2021)

“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat (2021) that involved audience questions.

“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021

“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books

“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.”  –  Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)

“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)

Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.

“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.

Joanne Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio 

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to Commonwealthwriters.org (2014): “I use a lot of detail, a lot of specificity in rendering the world, and I write from a very character-driven place – Who are they? What do they want? What is their truth (don’t compromise on telling their truth)? Why should we care?” Full interview.

Joanne C. Hillhouse is interviewed by Jamaican publisher-writer for Susumba (2013): “Honestly, I think it comes down to the material. I see publishing as the end game not the first step. Develop your craft, read a lot, experience life, write; these are more important. And when you’re ready do your research… take your shot, and don’t give up.” Full interview.

Emile Hill participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Mark Brown, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): ‘Ok so I’m a bit of a texter (cell phone, social media etc.) and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations, all completely different subject matter and all requiring a different “Emile” to deal with each of them. And I think, in this day and age, this happens to most persons at some point in time. The series I’m working on presently deals with the “multi-sidedness” of human interaction and relationships. It’s caused me to ask myself some questions, looking at whether this is a means of masking the true self and why? Is Survival a reason? What makes us accommodate each other so, switching faces? Is the face we see real, fake (and sometimes, does it even matter)? With regards to the Antiguan and Barbudan aesthetic, I think that every artist’s contribution is one that continues to make up the grand tapestry of who we are and so I think it fits simply as a local artist’s perspective on things… another thread in the tapestry.’ Read in Full.

73297806_1482817935189902_5047018221308215296_n“I wanted to bring the element of sound to my piece. If you saw my design in a room (by itself), I wanted you to hear the waves crashing on the shores…that’s why I did the ruffles on the bottom (and the peplum at the waist).” – Nicoya Henry, winner of the 2019 A & B Independence fashion competition, interviewed for CREATIVE SPACE

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‘Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to tell other types of stories. For HaMa Films I wrote “No Seed”, which is a political drama (set on the fictional island of St. Mark) that mirrors the political reality of Antigua & Barbuda. It shows the dark side of “paradise,” where money, greed, manipulation, self- interest, and even murder are played out. I have also written “Considering Venus”, the story of a relationship between two women – one gay, the other straight – that is set in New York and Antigua. It acknowledges what was taboo (in 1998): not only same-sex love but same-sex love among Caribbean people. It speaks to how the relationship affects the families of each woman and what people are prepared to sacrifice – or embrace – to find emotional fulfillment. It is my absolute best work!’ – D. Gisele Isaac being interviewed by the Karukerament website about writing The Sweetest Mango, one of two films produced by HaMa Films Antigua, which she wrote, the other being No Seed – Antigua and Barbuda’s first and second feature length films. 2020.

“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.

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Foster Joseph, jazz vocalist and musician, in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE

Clifton Joseph talking with Andy Williams: ‘…the first person to really encourage me into the writing/performing arts was an older man in my village of New Winthropes in Antigua, Mr. Murray, probably, visually, the most black, blackest person in “Blizzard” as we called our home on the northern coast of the island. I think I was around ten years old and in addition to singing the Antiguan calypso songs we heard on the radio, Mr. Murray would actually pay me a penny, or sometimes two-pence (we were still using the British colonial currency at the time) to make up my own “calypso” verses. The only snippet I remember from then are three lines: “in January they called me clinky, then in February they start to call me sebassie, and in June they start to call my cousin boone”…I have to give Mr. Murray maximum props for sparking that early interest in writing and performing.’ Full interview.

Clifton Joseph talking with Ian Ferrier (2007): “Hip Hop, Dub Poetry, Dancehall, Reggae all sort of come out of the same African inspired, Caribbean, American, emphasis on words, rhythm, repetition; all of those things pull from the same pool of stylistic influences.”

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Tameka Jarvis-George interviewed about her comic series August by Jump magazine: “I wrote to escape everything I didn’t like and anything that made me uncomfortable. I love my fictitious world.” Full interview. 2018.

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Shabier Kirchner’s Love Letter to Antigua, an interview with Penelope Bartlett on Criterion Collection: “We are very proud people and yet we are so underrepresented on-screen by ourselves. I think Ousmane Sembène said it best: If we continue consuming images solely from abroad, and telling the stories of other people or absorbing others’ perspective of us, we will eventually lose our identity—and I truly believe that. The Caribbean is my home. Our people are the most interesting to me, and I just want to share the truth of who we are through local eyes.” Full interview. 2020.

Shabier Kirchner talking to Caribbean Beat magazine about his film Dadli: “While I was shooting this test footage, there was no agenda. I wasn’t looking for a main character. We weren’t recording sound, so there weren’t any interviews. I was just walking around shooting things that were interesting. It wasn’t until many months later that we realised there was this boy who kept appearing in the footage. So Tiquan became the force behind the narrative. After we had an idea of what we wanted the film to be, we tracked him down and interviewed him.” Full interview. 2019.

(Shabier) Kirchner: That’s Antigua’s old sugar factory. It’s been abandoned for many years; I used to go there as a kid. It was like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. You could completely lose yourself there, let the imagination would run wild. I always loved that place. Visually, I’ve been shooting it for years, and I knew I had to shoot it on 16. It’s a coincidence that Tiquan was talking about running away from home and finding a place where he could just let loose. It wasn’t that specific place for him, but I’m assuming it was similar. What he described was what the sugar factory was for me.” Full interview. 2018.

JamaicaJamaica Kincaid talking with the BBC (in an interview which also included Jacob Ross and Claire Adam, 2018): “I didn’t know I wanted to tell stories. I knew I wanted to write and I thought I wanted to write about my mother and me, and a lot of my writing is about mother and daughter. But really I could early on see before any critic, I may have pointed it out to critics, that I was really writing about imbalance of power. And the mother country and the domestic mother is quite intertwined. If you really give a cursory and then thoroughly investigation into colonialism, you will see how much the colonial world has to do with the domestic and the domestic is almost always the female domain.” Full programme.

Jamaica Kincaid talking with Mother Jones (January/February 2013): ‘I think I was trying to understand how, short of an accident—you know, you pick up the phone, he says, “Your mother is dead. Her car. The Earth fell”—I never expected the everyday to suddenly become an accident. Suddenly you go downstairs and the pine floor is a gravel pit. I was trying to understand how the everyday suddenly becomes the unexpected.’ Full interview.

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Natasha Lightfoot talking with Renee Goldthree for Black Perspectives (April 4th 2016): “In the UWI archives, there was an almanac for the West Indies in the nineteenth century, and it contained an entry in the year 1858 for Antigua. The entry mentioned that there had been a riot and that the island’s jails were completely full, but it also claimed that the riot was nothing of any political significance. The entry suggested that the rioters were basically rabble in the streets causing trouble—and not at all political. That entry raised my antenna so to speak. I thought that the way the entry was written was a sign that whatever had occurred was very political: there had been a riot in the streets for several days and the jails were full of rioters. I wanted to figure out what happened and why.” Full interview.

JoyLapps1Joy Lapps talking with Joanne C. Hillhouse (December 2nd 2012): “I think that my strengths lie in composition and writing lyrics for music composed by others and by myself. My inspiration comes from my lived experience and some things I read about or see on the news, my spirituality and love of God, falling in love with my husband, the everyday challenges of life…etc.” Full interview.

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Jelani ‘J-Wyze’ Nias, author of Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly, talking about following his path to publication: “The biggest wall I encountered, not that there weren’t others, but the biggest was my own fear. And once you get through that fear/feeling of will people understand this, will people accept this, are people gonna see my vision, once you go through that then everything else tends to be a lot more easy to deal with.”  – Watch the video.

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Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s Big Issues (2017): “We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hector …in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.

Dorbrene O’Marde talking with Judd Batchelor at Batchelor of Arts Theatre Online (2016): “And one of the comments I made -which seemed to rattle some of the young writers, was the total absence of socio political concerns in this region, at this particular point in time when there is so much need for concern and there is so much need for understanding the post-colonial independence bind that we find ourselves in, that our leaders find themselves in that we as persons trying to inform leadership have not really clarified for ourselves. And my view of the role of the artist is to help in that clarification.” Full interview.

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Rupert Littleman Pelle, final interview, with the Cultural Development Division Research Department (2021): “I never believe I write a good song until I hear somebody criticize it. If I write a song and we can’t sit down in a group and discuss the song, and add and subtract, something wrong with the song, something definitely have to wrong with the song. And you can’t just change a line in a song like that. You write a song and somebody take it and they change a line can destroy the whole song. Because you na know what is leading up to the second verse or the third verse that have to do with the line in the first verse that you interfere with.”

Althea Prince talks about her research and her writing with A Different Booklist bookstore in Canada: “We need to hear from women about their experiences, their creative journeys, so The Black Notes brought together older and younger women. The contributors include some young girls who are just reaching the age of maturity. The book seeks to bring together the two generations. We have then the viewpoint – not a complete cross-section of those, but as far as I was able – of those women and girls from the African-Canadian community. So the same objectives: the same business of giving equity, giving voice, allowing space for these voices to express their creativity. Some of it is non-fiction, some of it is fiction and some of it is poetry.”

Rowan Ricardo Philips talking with Deadspin about his tennis themed book The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey: “Carribeans love racket sports. My dad played a lot, so I started out going to his matches and serving as a terrible ballboy. The only thing we watched as a family on television was tennis, Breakfast at Wimbledon was big in my house. I had forgotten about those days, but I am fond of them. I never would’ve written the book without it. Here’s a good example: My dad rarely calls with breaking news, but one day he rang me up and said, ‘Turn on the TV, there’s a tennis poem being read on the air.’ It was Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated encapsulating his time at one of the big tournaments. Dad wanted to make sure I saw my personal Venn Diagram becoming one circle.” 2019.

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Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)

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“…my little house is my own piece of paradise and it’s very conducive to creativity because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady are set on the island, and I’ve also developed a writing career over there. I wrote a TV series called Paradise View, which was shown on Antigua TV. When I last left the island, the people at the check-in desk were asking when they would get to see more. I’m now working on another show called Maisie and Em, which I describe as Golden Girls set in the Caribbean.” – UK writer Elaine Spires who made Antigua a home away from home speaking to Write’s Editing Services on the impact of island living on her writing

“They were great times – with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.” – Elaine Spires speaking with The Publish Hub

“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.

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“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021

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Amber Williams-King talking to the Toronto Arts Foundation: “The reality is that the voices, experiences and identities of those who are not a part of the dominant culture are often erased and disappeared away. As a Black femme who grapples with suicidal ideation, disability and the medical industrial complex, imagining myself in the future has, at times, been almost impossible. Art offered me the space to name these parts of myself, connect with others, and help build a world that does not thrive on the absolute destruction of me and my people.”

PHOTO credits: Pictures of Joanne C. Hillhouse and Joy Lapps are from the 2011 event Telling our Stories at the University of Toronto – event photo; of Tameka Jarvis George is from the 2006 Wadadli Pen/Museum literary showcase Word Up! – event photo/Laura Hall; of Jamaica Kincaid is from the 2014 University of the Virgin Islands literary festival – event photo; of Jelani Nias is a screen grab from a televised interview.

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, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). 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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Summer Reading List – Wadadli Edition

I’ve been stumbling over summer reading lists like…like…potholes in Antigua. And I thought, well, if everybody’s doing it!

But first, I wondered, what makes a good summer read. I mean, we have summer pretty much year round in Antigua but I imagine the summer read means something different to people from other places, the ones we see lying out on our beaches during their summer. What are they reading? Is it what’s hot, what’s new, what’s easy …the kind of book you read and discard? My parents worked in hotels when I was growing up, I got some of those left-behind books …but for the life of me I can’t remember a single one. Is that a criterion that it entertain but then go away…like a clown? No that couldn’t be it. I turned to the book blogs for a definition and found one that I decided to let guide me in creating my own Summer Reading List of Antiguan and Barbudan books. This blog broke it down to books that are escapist, interesting, fun to read – not haha fun necessarily but it should have some popular appeal and not be so ponderous it feels like a chore to read. It’s summer time after all and the reading should be easy – but hopefully NOT disposable.

Other things to keep in mind before you curse me about why your favourites – or your book – isn’t on the list: I have to have read the book and I have to be able to back up my pick with one other recommendation (which will err on the side of reader recs because it’s that kind of list); if there is more than one author, the primary author/s must be from Wadadli and/or Wa’omani; Availability – so available you can walk in to a book store or order it online without having to special order it and cross your fingers hoping it’s not out of print; I know e-readers are the lick but my picks must not only be a physical copy but one that can travel easily in your beach bag, in keeping with the whole summer reads theme; quality can be subjective but I’m not reccing anything that feels slapped together and unedited; finally, I’m a novelist – I have books too and I’m going to mention the ones I think fit the criteria (yes, it’s a conflict of interest, but this is a fun summer reading list nothing here is binding and you are free to leave your own picks and recs in the comments).

Here now are my picks for your Summer Reading List – Wadadli Edition

1. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid – Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest.
LucyWhy I picked it: Of all Jamaica’s books, the ones I’ve read, this is the best fit for this particular list – though you are encouraged to check out her extensive and extensively important, acclaimed, and awarded catalogue. Jamaica Kincaid is a bona fide literary star – her words have both heft and poetry – but in Lucy, a girl (not unlike characters in shows like Girls) is a young woman trying to figure her life out in New York City (after relocating there from a small island).  If another Kincaid favourite, Annie John is about growing up, Lucy is about finding yourself and coming out of your girlhood into your young-woman-hood. I read it for the first time over a few days during a summer in the city, and not only did the poetic flow of her prose seduce me, because of that time, reading it in the park, on the train, in an apartment in Harlem, I will always identify it with summer in the city…and clearly it travels well.

Back-up rec:  “This is a very simple story which starts off with several conventional plot twists but ends on a poignant, and somewhat surprising, note.” – reader review Amazon

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2. Dancing Nude in the Moonlight by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Young Dominican single mother Selena Cruz is trying to make a new life for herself in Antigua, dealing with prejudice, poverty, and her interfering sister. When she meets handsome cricket coach Michael Lindo, her world is turned upside down. The course of true love is never smooth, and Michael and Selena’s story is no exception as they try to bridge the gap between their two cultures and their personal expectations of love. Romantic and delightful, this novella by Joanne C. Hillhouse looks at immigration and cross-cultural relationships in a warm and very human way. This anniversary edition includes a part two filled with selected poems, stories, and fan fiction.

Dancing

Why I picked it: One word: romance. It was, also, the Best of Books’ summer read pick of 2008, six years before this 10th anniversary edition was published.

Back-up rec: “Engaging account of the complications of Caribbean life and a cross-cultural, inter-racial romance.” – Fiona Raye Clarke, critic, writing in Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and independent arts

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3. Considering Venus by D. Gisele Isaac  – Lesley, an African-American, is straight, recently widowed with three children, and looking for a friend, while Cass is Antiguan, gay and looking for love. They meet again 25 years after high school. What happens when girlfriends becomes more than friends?

ConsideringWhy I picked it: Released back in 1998 it was ahead of its time in its exploration of love between two women – one of whom happens to be Caribbean. What’s boundary pushing is not so much the idea and reality of lesbian love but the now topical fluid love – that sexuality is not fixed, but more about person to person connection. That this book is also about grown woman love not young love is also still sadly boundary pushing.

Back-up rec: “Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.” – at Sistahs on the Shelf blog where it’s tagged “mature lesbians” and “romance” and given a 4-star review

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4. Time to Talk by Curtly Ambrose with Richard Sydenham – Sir Curtly Ambrose is one of the most famous cricket players of all time. He is also notorious for his silence. Now, for the first time, he tells his story. From his colourful upbringing in Antigua, through to the turbulent politics of both nation and dressing room, the book takes the reader behind the scenes to give a fascinating insight into the career of an iconic sportsman, and his take on the extreme highs and debilitating lows of international cricket.

Time to TalkWhy I picked it: I’ve only just started reading it but I’m liking it, as sport biographies go. I think actual cricket fans will too. I was walking with the book in my hand the other day when a man asked me about it, said he didn’t realize such a book existed AND asked me where he could get it. And that right there tells me it needs to be on this list.

Back-up rec: “a series of insightful opinions” – ESPN cric info

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5. Through the Window by Floree Williams – Anya is a 23 year old, complex and often complicated, woman who has to navigate through a maze of friendships, love, a dysfunctional family and finding love for herself.

Window

Why I picked it: Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses is still my favourite Floree Williams book but this one, all about young love and the drama it brings, is made for easy beach reading.

Back-up rec: “I found this to be a very thoughtfully written book, a very enjoyable read.” – Amazon reader review

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6. Ladies of the Night and Other Stories by Althea Prince – Women’s loves and lives are the focus of these stories, filled with dramatic twists and turns: some humorous, others shocking and disturbing, all leaving a haunting melody behind. The Toronto stories capture the issues women face as they walk the ground of intimate and family relationships in that city. The Antiguan setting of some of the stories are reflective of Prince’s insight into relationships, captured in her novel and essays. The characters reveal their different ways of managing a range of struggle, pain, rage, love and pure unadulterated joy. The humour of some stories complement the plaintive sadness and emotionality of the strings some other stories pluck.

Ladies

Why I picked it: These women’s stories may make you sad, though if you keep digging you’ll see they are fighters, survivors not victims for the most part. Because of the (heavy) subject matter I considered holding this one back but that (matter of fact with a side serving of humor) tone tipped the scale.

Back-up rec: “Enjoyed the prose and dialogue. The story itself though made me sad.” – reader review on goodreads

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7. Gilly Gobinet’s Cool Caribbean series – Books in the series includes the Cookery Book, the Cocktail book, the 20 Place in Antigua book, the book of hot spices-luscious fruit-and-herb all illustrated  in full colour by the artist, using her classic watercolour technique as well a her humorous cartoons. Each is less than 50 pages – making for a quick read that you’ll come back to again and again as you explore the flavours of the Caribbean.

top20Why I picked it: These are actually handy to carry around and beautifully illustrated (in fact one of the books won the Gourmand award for best illustrations) – there’s one for your cocktails, one for your meals, one for your fruit and spices, one for all the places (well 20 of them anyway) you’ll want to see while in Antigua.

Back-up rec: “… classic watercolours interspersed with humorous cartoons… small but functional” – Search Antigua

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8. Unburnable by Marie Elena John – Lillian Baptiste fled Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival—songs about a village on a mountaintop littered with secrets, masquerades that supposedly fly and wreak havoc, and a man who suddenly and mysteriously dropped dead. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to her native island to face the demons of her past—and with the help of Teddy, a man who has loved her for many years, she may yet find a way to heal. Set in both contemporary Washington, D.C., and post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.

unburnable

Why I picked it: I’m of two minds about this one. It’s a really good read and there’s no way I could leave it off any list of essential Antiguan and Barbudan reading (though it is set largely in Dominica) – but that’s not what this list is – so the other mind is reminding me that it’s a thick book that deals with weighty issues – there are traumatic scenes and shifting timelines – a lot to keep track of, a lot to absorb – but a good, page turner of a read; so it will stay.

Back-up rec: “Strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end” – Publisher’s Weekly

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9. To Shoot Hard Labour: the Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan Workingman, 1877 – 1982 by Keithlyn and Fernando Smith – Sections cover THE FAMILY: Planting Sucker Follow the Root;  ESTATE LIFE: Planter Kill King and Rule Country; VILLAGE LIFE: It Wasn t Just the Doctoring We Have To Do for Ourself; THE POWERFUL: Massa Was King and King Do No Wrong; LIFE S UPS AND DOWNS : God Was With Me All the Way; HARD TIMES: Nega Even Though Them Right, Them Wrong; FIELD AND FACTORY: It Was Work Like a Bull
ShootWhy I picked it: Well, if we’re going to wade in to heavier territory no reason not to include this (oral/folk) history which really ought to be required reading if you want to understand the nature of the Antiguan and Barbudan. It set the template for folk histories locally, reversing the trend of all histories being written by people elsewhere in a way that held us as objects (acted upon) not subjects in our lives. Coming in its wake have been the writings of by Joy Lawrence and Monica Matthew, notably. And let me just say that though the terrain is pre and post emanciption, a dark time for black/island people…when is it not, right?… but you won’t regret giving up some of your sunshine to this. You’ll feel like you’re talking to Papa Sammy Smith, a man who lived long and told us a lot about ourselves.

Back-up rec: “What a rich read, nicely written with well assisted footnotes.” – Amazon reader review

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10. The Road to Wadi Halfa by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis – In 1998 London born Roosevelt Mohammed Lion is chairman of a property empire in the UK. While overseeing a hotel project in his father’s native island in the Caribbean, he is kidnapped by Islamic extremists. He learns that Brayton- Harper, a former Cabinet minister in the British Government is using his ordeal to further his own ends in Africa. Roosevelt struggles to survive life in a training camp and to understand the philosophy of his colleagues in the Sudan. He must be seen to cooperate or risk the life of his precious wife Venus, and his devoted twin brother, Washington, both left in London, to mourn his loss. Washington’s marriage is on the brink of collapse, but it is Roosevelt who meets the Sudanese beauty, Allaya, on the road to Wadi Halfa. Will he learn to trust her or is she plotting her own agenda? Will Al Qaada succeed in their mission to avenge western missile attacks by bombing foreigners in Khartoum? Will Roosevelt be in a position to prevent such an atrocity? Lennox Lion sets out to find his father, but will he rot in jail? The Road to Wadi Halfa is the sequel to Tides That Bind and continues the lives of the Lion brothers and their families.

Wadi Halfa

Why I picked it: Another summer staple is the action-spy-thriller, i.e. international intrigue; am I right? You can have a go at the whole Lion series if you wish but this one makes for a good standalone read for the kind of reader who enjoys a cross-continental (spy-ish) drama wrapped in political intrigue.

Back-up rec: “The story draws you into the world of the ‘Lion’ family and examines class, culture and gender while creating romance, suspense and mystery.” – reader review on Amazon

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But what about the children, you say…?

Age 3+ (younger if adults make it for bedtime reading)

Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan – Long ago, Blackbird was voted the most beautiful bird in the forest. The other birds, who were colored red, yellow, blue, and green, were so envious that they begged Blackbird to paint their feathers with a touch of black so they could be beautiful too. Although Black-bird warns them that true beauty comes from within, the other birds persist and soon each is given a ring of black around their neck or a dot of black on their wings — markings that detail birds to this very day. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Ashley Bryan’s adaptation of a tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia resonates both with rhythm and the tale’s universal meanings — appreciating one’s heritage and discovering the beauty within. His cut-paper artwork is a joy.

Blackbird

Why I picked it: Good for readalong with little kids and if you can’t read along because you’re deep in your own summer read, there are lots of pretty pictures to keep them distracted…I mean stimulated. The Sun is so Quiet and the Dancing Granny (for slightly older kids) are also great Ashley picks.

Back-up rec: “Bryan’s lilting and magical language is infectious.” – Publisher’s Weekly

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7-ish+

How the East Pond got its Flowers by Althea Trotman – A young girl Tulah, born with a caul, is thought to be destined for great things and learns important lessons from Mother Sillah.

Pond

Why I picked it: A read for the mid-to-upper primary schooler in your life – a young female protagonist, historical without being dated.

Back-up rec: “literature that represent(s) the range of cultural experiences and histories that make up the national and international communities that touch all of us.” – from Frontiers of Language and Teaching (recommending How the East Pond got its Flowers as an example of this type of literature)

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Age 11-ish+

The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories by Barbara Arrindell – a glimpse of Antiguan history through three engaging stories set in three distinct periods of time. See the Kalinago through the eyes of Antigua’s first Governor’s wife. Meet a priest who was almost defrocked after allowing two former enslaved Africans to get married in an Anglican church. Meet the boy who would become a legendary doctor in St. Kitts.

Bat

Why I picked it: History made accessible. Adults will enjoy it too  as they do her colouring and activity book Antigua My Antigua, which also will keep your child engaged and informed. My book, The Boy from Willow Bend is a good fit for this age range as well but I don’t have it listed as a summer pick given that some of them are already reading it in school – for those who aren’t though, have at it. For this age group you might also want to check out S E James’ adventure books especially Tragedy on Emerald Island and Forest Fever – I had a time finding links to them online but I believe there are still physical copies in local bookstores.

Back-up rec: “I love it! Wish the stories were a bit longer though” – reader on Smashwords

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Age 13+

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew. When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the Crew gets much more than they bargained for when they uncover a dark secret linking Shaka and Zahara’s families and they’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about class, colour, and relationships on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Musical Youth placed second in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

Musical Youth

Why I picked it: My teen pick is one of mine – there are not a lot of teen-specific books in the Antiguan and Barbudan bibliography – or Caribbean for that matter – one reason why the Burt Award giving it a push by encouraging and rewarding books in this genre is a good thing. Musical Youth was first runner up for the Burt Award in its first year 2014. It’ll appeal to all teens and young adults but especially those with a love affair with music and love.

Back-up rec: “The story is modern; the teens are technology savvy.” – Amazon reader review

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What? No Poetry?

I don’t know…does poetry make for good beach/summer reading? (Don’t all come for me at once…pace yourselves)

If so, of the ones I’ve read, my top (5) picks would probably be Motion in Poetry by Motion, I am that I am by Tameka Jarvis-George, then Tameka’s Thoughts from the Pharcyde and Motion’s 40 Dayz, then She Wanted a Love Poem by Kimolisa Mings – probably in that order, too.

motion-40-dayz-cover poem

I can’t speak to their availability but I will say that I had difficulty even sourcing pictures for some of them. But, true confessions, it’s late, I’m tired, I’ve been at this way too long, and I’m posting.

You’ve read the list and my reasons…you’re up.

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, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on  WordPress and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen, my books and writing, and/or my writing-and-editing services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

 

 

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A & B Arts Roundup (February 3rd 2016 – )

Chrys-Ann Ambrose – book launch – Operation Game Plan: How to Overcome Habits that Hinder us from Succeeding in Life – Saturday 27th February – 7 p.m. – Jolly Beach Resort.

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Wadadli Pen Open Mic returns Saturday 13th September 2016 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Best of Books Bookstore on St. Mary’s Street.

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Talented Antiguan, Asher Otto…

According to her fb page, you can catch her at these upcoming dates and times:
Sun 7th Feb. Jumby Bay
Mon 8th Feb. Al Porto
Wed 10th Feb. Curtain Bluff
Fri 12th Feb. Carlisle Bay
Sun 14th Feb. Valentines Regatta, Jolly Harbor.

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“At every moment I strive for connection. If you are in the moment, you are stretching out to reach that which you recognize in others. That’s my secret,” [Ashley]Bryan said. Bryan is a New York writer and illustrator with Antiguan roots – this is news of his new poster commissioned by the NYC transit system. Read more.
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wine and poetry

Don’t normally share purely commercial activities here (this is an unfunded arts blog, after all) but given that it’s a showcase for spoken word artists, I figured I’d make an exception. It’s monthly by the way.

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Just a reminder: The Cushion Club Reading Club for children (in Antigua and Barbuda) meets Saturdays between 10:30 a.m. and noon at the UWI Open Campus during the regular school year. There are no sessions during regular school holidays. All young readers and adult volunteers are welcomed. No registration is necessary for children, and volunteers do not have to be available every Saturday. Contact cushionclub@yahoo.com or 772-7719.

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Random Picture Post (and no, you’re not seeing double)

This is me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) when I was rocking my cornrowed’fro-hawk. I’m reading from Ashley Bryan’s Dancing Granny under the Western Union children’s tent at the 2010 Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival.  As I’m not myself a writer of children’s books but often get asked to read to children (perhaps because of my work with the Cushion Club and Wadadli Pen, and the fact that my first book is entitled The Boy from Willow Bend, who knows?). It’s a privilege and I embrace it when I can. But it means that I often have to draw on the writings of actual children’s writers…sometimes past Wadadli Pen stories…sometimes the writings of talents like Philip Sherlock and Ashley Bryan, since they’re both good for an anansi tale or two. When I’m reading, I lose myself in the story (and I have to credit the time reading to kids at the Cushion Club for making me comfortable with looking and acting like a fool in service to the story) and so I rapped the rapping parts while they kept the beat. It was a fun day.

It’s not clear if there will be an ABILF 2012 but I hope there is, even a children’s literary fair if not a full on festival as a reminder to the kids that reading is not only fundamental, it’s also fun.

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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Meeting Ashley Bryan

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

Ashley Bryan, third from left, with, left to right, Edward Albee, Nora Ephron, and Salman Rushdie - co-honourees at a New York Public Library event

Meeting award winning artist and children’s author Ashley Bryan was a trip. Not literally. His directions to his hilltop view of the waterfront at Olive Mt. in Donovan’s (Antigua) were quite clear. Nor was it a literary disciple’s delight at meeting one whose celebrity in the world of children’s writing preceded him, and whose connection to Antigua, though little known, was solid and true.

No, it was the man himself; a lively man who didn’t seem a day past middle age even as he spoke of sketching the scenes around him during his tour of duty on the battlefront of the Second World War. Though several sources put his birth year at 1923, the question still nagged, just how old was he? This question was put to him another way; how do you stay so young? His answer: “I think it’s just the excitement of each day.”

In a promotional video found online, Bryan declares, “I try to be like a child in what I do.” Truer words were never said. Kids, for the most part, throw themselves into life, embracing it with an enthusiasm that life has not yet taught them to mistrust. Bryan is not a child. The greys brought on by experience –and the startling and funky white of his ‘fro – are there, certainly. But they add texture to the images and words that flow from him, they do not overwhelm them. At least, that was this writer’s sense of him after that single meeting. But then, he seems to have that effect on people. Lonnae O’Neal Parker wrote, in a 1998 article found at the Washington Post website, “…Bryan doesn’t talk, he spins stories. And recites poems. He doesn’t just recite them, he performs with deep rumbles, grand trills and a ba-doom-boom, scatman’s rhythm.”

Bryan’s grizzled youthfulness makes one think, well, I could welcome old age, if it would be so welcoming.

Speaking of welcome, when cultural activist Conrad Luke met Bryan during the latest of his annual visits to the island, he decided that it was time for Antigua to do just that for this grandson of the soil. Luke took on the role of press officer, making bookings and ferrying Bryan to media house after media house.

So, Antigua, meet Ashley Bryan.

He’s one of six children born to Ernest and Olive Bryan, who migrated to the U.S. sometime after Ernest’s time in North Africa during the First World War. His dad was from Cedar Grove, his mom from Gray’s Farm; the family made their life in Bronx, New York. Dad was a printer (and musician) and mom “made the house beautiful”. In his mind, they were artists. Certainly, they fostered an appreciation for art in their children. While they didn’t have the means to pay for music lessons and trips to the museum, coming of age in the 1930s, the era of the well known Great Depression, Bryan benefited from the Works Programme Administration, which funded, among other things, arts programmes.

It fostered in Bryan an endearing appreciation for art. “Art is a part of being a whole being,” he said. “If you cut out the art, you don’t have a whole human.” Moreover, he added that “the aesthetic is in everybody”, that just as you need people to create art, you need people to appreciate it.

Scour the pages for his books on Amazon – from West Indian folk tale The Cat’s Purr to Let it shine: three favourite spirituals to his latest, the autobiography Words to My Life’s Song released January 2009, and the appreciation for his work is largely evident. Part of what feeds Bryan’s work, meanwhile, is his own appreciation for the art of others. In a single conversation, he moves from the folk tales of Africa to the spirituals born on the plantation to the poetry of the likes of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes to the music of (Antiguan soca diva) Claudette Peters – overheard as he rode the bus to the beach where he floats on his back taking in the natural art all around. These influences feed naturally into his work, giving it a certain agelessness, or so he sees it, describing his books not as children’s books per se but as books for all ages. “Good stories are for everybody,” Bryan said.

How does an artist become a writer?

Well, for Bryan, it began in childhood, as shown, and continued at the Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, which is where he began illustrating African tales. Tuition was free, but getting in wasn’t easy; he even remembers being told that though he had the best portfolio, it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a “coloured” person. He did get in though, only to be drafted into WWII in his third year. His sketchpad was a constant companion; he drew, he said, “everything about the life” and when he returned home in 1946, he continued his studies. Of war, he said, “many people can’t readjust; those who do have some way (of coping), my way was to start over again, to find answers. I thought if I studied philosophy, I would get some insight into how the mind works.” The art continued to tug at him, though. He remembers summers on the Cranberry Isles, off Maine, where he now resides full time; and remembers using his GI Bill to go to France to paint.

The conundrum, one common to artists, was how to live by this art. For Bryan, teaching at the university level has been one answer; all through the years putting food on the table, until leaving Dartmouth as professor emeritus. In fact, he was into his 40s by the time he started doing books. He referenced Nancy Larrick and her groundbreaking article ‘The All White World of Children’s Books’ which helped jump start the publishing of books for that demographic, and initiatives like the Coretta Scott King Award instituted to encourage and reward outstanding African American children’s literature and illustrations. Bryan has won that award a few times – for books like All Night, All Day: A Child’s First Book of African-American Spirituals, Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry, Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum, Beautiful Blackbird, Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and other African Folk Poems, and What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals.

This chapter of his life began when editor Jean Karl, after visiting his studio in the Bronx, sent him a contract to begin work as an illustrator with Atheneum Publishers. It was Karl who urged him to write. Bryan turned to the great African American poets for inspiration; and in fact, to this day, when he does readings, he normally begins with selections from these poets before plunging into his own work – the thread of connection being made clear to his listeners. In fact, connections to the things that inspire – visual and literal – are there throughout Bryan’s work. Take Antigua, for instance, which he visited for the first time in his 20s; while his artistic style varies with subject, he notes one feature: “how very colourful my work is, that’s because of that inspiration (Antigua); your roots are always with you.”

Originally published in the Daily Observer, Antigua, 28th May 2009 under the headline ‘Ashley Bryan, Welcome Home’. My Blogger on Books section also contains mini-reviews of two Bryan books: The Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird.  See the Children’s lit section for more of Bryan’s books.

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