Tag Archives: Dorbrene O’Marde

Most Influential Antiguans and Barbudans

This list is not scientific.

But that’s not the point. The point is….there is no point just an opportunity to acknowledge some of the people who’ve helped shape life in Antigua and Barbuda over the last hundred years or so according to … a very small group of people …with internet access … and a facebook presence … who had time today (not today) … and were aware that there was a poll being run by a random person on the internet.

Like I said, it’s not scientific.

But it was fun and educational, and culturally-relevant; all reasons I thought sufficient to bring the top 10 here to the Wadadli pen blog. My primary interest was in seeing how many of our artists made the list but it’s an opportunity for us to reflect (especially as the year winds down, and as we lose more and more) on the people who have shaped life in Antigua and Barbuda.

 So, here we go.

Top 10 Most Influential (in Antigua and Barbuda) of the last 100 years … (according to some people on facebook):

10 – tied – Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King (i.e. Team Antigua Island Girls – first all Black, all female team to row the Atlantic), Baldwin Spencer (former Prime Minister and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers’ Union),

 

 

 

 

Jamaica Kincaid (celebrated international author of fictionalized memoirs like Annie John, Lucy, and See Now Then whose newest book is a children’s picture book based on one of her early short stories), Lester Bird (former PM and officially designated National Hero who published his autobiography The Comeback Kid in 2019), Prince Ramsey (Doctor/HIV-AIDS awareness activist, calypso writer and producer who died in 2019) – one social media commenter said of Dr. Ramsey “I think he’s the most inspiring of them all”

9 Short Shirt (most decorated Antiguan calypsonian; the Dorbrene O’Marde penned biography about him Nobody Go Run Me was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize)

8 –  Obstinate (undefeated calypso icon)

7 – tied –

Edris Bird (former resident tutor of the UWI Open Campus who in 2019 also became a Dame), Andy Roberts (bowler, first Antiguan and Barbudan to play for the West Indies Cricket team, knighted),

Winston Derrick (deceased host of Observer Radio’s Voice of the People and co-founder of Observer Media Group which transformed the media landscape and broadcast media especially after a legal battle for the right to broadcast that went all the way to the privy council and with its victory opened up the broadcast media door for others to enter)

6Alister Francis (late former principal of the Antigua State College, a groundbreaking tertiary institution of its time for Antigua and Barbuda and the eastern Caribbean)

5George Walter (Antigua and Barbuda’s second premier and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers Union; officially designated National Hero)

4  Nellie Robinson (late former educator, founder of the TOR Memorial school which is credited with breaking down class/social barriers in Antigua and Barbuda, and officially designated a Dame and our only female National Hero)

3 V. C. Bird (deceased; second president of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, which is credited with boosting the voice and fortunes of Black and working class people in late colonial era Antigua and Barbuda, first Chief Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister – Father of the Nation, and first officially designated National Hero)

2  Tim Hector (late pan African political activist; media pioneer – founder of the Outlet newspaper and writer of the Fan the Flame column; fighter for press freedom through his investigative reporting, and battles in and out of court including the privy council, arrests, and alleged arson; award winning journalist;  commentator on politics, culture, sports; and political candidate)

1Viv Richards (second Antiguan drafted to the West Indies cricket team, the only Windies captain never to have lost a Test, one of Wisden’s top five cricketers of the 20th century, and officially designated National Hero)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a handful of artists made the top 10 which is always good to see. But I did wonder who were the top 10 artists in the poll overall, hence this second list. According to the same poll – but in reverse order – and highlighting only the arts side of their life – these are the top 10 artists among the Most Influential in Antigua and Barbuda of the  last 100 years or so…according to the voters in this particular social media poll:

1 –  Obstinate

2 –  Short Shirt

3 – tied – Prince Ramsey, Jamaica Kincaid

4 – tied – Swallow (who with Obsinate and Short Shirt make up the Big Three of Antiguan calypso, known especially for his road march hits), D. Gisele Isaac (writer, cultural critic, author of Considering Venus, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed), Burning Flames (iconic jam band)

5Barbara Arrindell (writer)

6Reginald Samuel (sculptor, national flag designer)

7Ralph Prince (writer)

8 – tied – Oscar Mason (musician, masquerade artist), Yvonne Maginley (musician, composer, Community Players), Dorbrene O’Marde (playwright, cultural critic and activist, calypso writer, novelist), Roland Prince (musician), Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte (calypsonian), Marcus Christopher (calypso writer), Alister Thomas (mas designer and builder), Robin Margetson (pan composer, Panache founder – pan school and orchestra)

9 – tied – Stachel Edwards (musician), Rupert Blaize (singer), Wendel Richardson (musician, one of the founding members of Osibisa), John S. Laviscount (musician, founder of the island’s oldest band Laviscount Brass), Isalyn Richards (director of the combined schools choir), Winston Bailey (musician), Althea Prince (writer), Oliver Flax (writer, playwright), The Targets (music group), The National Choir, Shelly Tobitt (calypso writer known for many Antiguan and Barbudan top calypsos of the 70s and early 80s especially through his collaborations with Short Shirt e.g. classic albums Ghetto Vibes and Press On), Ivena (calypsonian, Antigua and Barbuda’s first and to date only female calypso monarch), Bertha Higgins (musician, involved with Antigua Artists Society, Hell’s Gate), Veronica Yearwood (Afro-Caribbean dancer and choreographer, founder of the Antigua Dance Academy), Zahra Airall (writer, award winning dramatist and playwright – Zee’s Youth Theatre, Honey Bee Theatre, Sugar Apple Theatre plus her work with Women of Antigua, poet, arts event producer – notably Expressions Open Mic, photographer), Hilda McDonald (writer)

10 – tied – Novelle Richards (writer), Conrad Roberts (actor)

*

Apologies if I’ve offended anyone or breached protocol by leaving off all honorifics; that was a choice I made to leave off all instead of forgetting some as I am likely to do (better to have you mad at me for something I chose to do than for something I didn’t mean to do). All honorifics are, however, of course, acknowledged. Also acknowledged is that the named people have done much more than captured in my mini-bites. Some books are pictured in this post but remember to check our listing of Antiguan and Barbudan literature for books on or by any of the named influential Antiguans and Barbudans – if you’re looking specifically for biographies/autobiographies, scroll through the non-fiction list. Also, if someone’s picture is not included it’s because they’re not in the Wadadli Pen photo archives and time constraints didn’t allow for scouring the internet. Hopefully, that covers it – this is just FYI and for fun and I would encourage you to continue the conversation by sharing your picks for most influential Antiguans and Barbudans of the last 100 years or so (the or so is really 20th century forward to this year – I think those were the parameters).

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, 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 and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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A & B Writings in Journals, Showcases, and Contests (N – Z)

This page has grown fairly quickly, so I’m breaking it up in to two pages. For A – M, go here. For books, go here. This is exclusively for creative pieces by Antiguans and Barbudans accepted to established literary journals, festivals (and other notable literary platforms), and contests (not pieces posted only to personal blogs) as I discover (and in some cases, re-discover) them. Primarily, the focus is on pieces accessible online (i.e. linkable) because those are easiest to find; but it is not limited to these. It is intended as a record of our publications and presentation of creative works beyond sole authored books. Naturally, I’ll miss some things. You can recommend (in fact, I welcome your recommendations), but, as with all areas of the site, additions/subtractions are at the discretion of the admin.

NANTON, ERROL ‘BUMPY’ – ‘Dance of the Masks’ and selections from Dynamics’ 2007 mas which revisited the best of Antigua’s Carnival over 51 years (visual art – costumes; 2001’s presentation ‘Dance of the Masks’  grew out of Nanton’s fascination with the tribal masks of Africa) – Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

NICHOLAS, NNEKANaima and Forgiveness (fiction) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

NICHOLSON, KEMAL OSMELMa Belle (fiction, 2006 Wadadli Pen short story award winner) – Anansesem (the Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

NICHOLSON, LIATekin’ Ahn Dey (fiction, 2004 Wadadli Pen short story award winner) – Anansesem (the Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

ODLUM, AUTUMNLearning and Loving Pink (non-fiction) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

O’DONOGHUE, ANGELICARoad Trip to Paradise (fiction, 2006 Wadadli Pen award winning story) – Anansesem (the Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

OLATUNJI, MALI – ‘Ghost of a Jambull’ (visual art – photography) – © 1985, this image consists of layered elements i.e. Fort James jetty looking towards St. John’s, lit by moonlight, over the image of a Bull. “The concept has to do with evanescing, and final death of one of our African inherited cultural icons, killed in the artist’s view by the embracement of modernity (outsider-ness) and the over-willing negation of our lived traditions (self-ness). The Bull is hovering over St. John’s harbour in search of his killers to BUTT them to hell.” (accompanying text) – Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

O’MARDE, DORBRENEExcerpt from Send out You Hand (a novel) (fiction) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014

PERFam Constellation – Me Kali (visual art) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

PHILLIP, ARITAMental Health and This is not Love (non-fiction) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDONight of the Election (poetry) – Poem of the Day at Poetry Book Society – January 20th 2021

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDOPandemic Files: Prelude (poetry) – The Yale Review – 2020

“In the weeks between her death and being
Laid to rest, life became COVID-19.
Both the living and the dead shared one air.
Then the service came, and I was not there.
I watched from the safe distance of an app
As my mother and uncle, masked among
The masked few in a pewless space, made peace
With the orphans who’d come to take their place.
Looking at them on screen was like looking
Out at the world through the bars of a cage.”

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDOScreens (poetry) – The Night Heron Barks – 2020

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDO – reading at Poets Out Loud – Fordham University – 2011

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDOReverse Eurydice and Apollo: Season Three (poetry) – Granta – 2010

PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDO – Closing Night’s Nocturne (poetry) – The New Republic – 2005

PICKERING, ROSIE – Damarae (poetry) – Interviewing the Caribbean (Caribbean Childhood: Traumas and Triumphs Pt. 1) edited by Opal Palmer Adisa – December 2019

PLATTS-COSTELOE, FREYAillustration for The Scary Night by Zuri Holder (art winner in the 2011 Wadadli Pen Challenge) – Anansesem (the Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

PRINCE, ALTHEA – How you Panty get wet? (fiction, from her book Ladies of the Night) – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

RICHARDS, ROSALIESmitten  – (poetry, 2012 award winning Wadadli Pen Challenge poem) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014

RICHARDS, ROSALIEThe Creation (fiction, 2006 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special edition) – 2011

RICHARDSON, BERNARD – ‘True Blue’ and ‘Colourful Smiles’ (visual art – photography) and 1996 band of the year award winning mas ‘Oh Barbuda!’ (visual art – costumes interpreting features like the frigate bird and Martello Tower) for Vitus Mas Troupe – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEATwo Poems: Crossing Frontiers and Crossing the Road – KabulPress.org – 2019

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Salacia’s Revenge (poetry) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Art and Writing by Caribbean Women Volume 9 – 2018

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Runners in the Marathon of Time  (poetry) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Art and Writing by Caribbean Women Volume 8 – 2016

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Camp (poetry) – Moko: Caribbean Arts & Letters – 2016

Excerpt: “We read menacing messages in the scowls
 of passers-by. Some circle around,
 mark the territory with treads of footprints,
 count down days to our departure.”

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEASmall Island Deprivations Unwanted Visitors (poetry) –  Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Neighbour’s in the Wood Shack, Desiree’s Revenge, Flawless, Play-Mamas, and A Kind of Refuge/Living in Limbo (poetry) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Volume 7 – 2013

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEAThe Haunt of Alma Negron (poetry) in St. Somewhere – 2013

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Burdened (poetry – which is quoted below along with six others) – Published in KRITYA Poetry Journal – 2012

Excerpt: “Everything is on her head.
She trudges forward.
A straw mat tops the aluminum basin
filled with rescued essentials.
Her face, veiled in dust,
masks the fear beating her breast.
Her feet, swollen from endless trooping,
take her where others go.
Carrying memories of death,
she follows a long trek to nowhere,
and pauses only to suckle the child
strapped to her back.”

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Love at first Sound (poetry) – Published in Off the Coast, Maine’s International Literary Journal – 2011

Excerpt: “She loved the rhythm
of their singing
and the music of letters
spun off tongues,
that whirled in her ears.”

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEALiberian Curfew (poetry) – Tongues of the Ocean – 2010

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEAThe Nation Builders  (poetry) -at Medellin Poetry Festival – 2010

Excerpt: “…condemned as job snatchers
Pounced on by immigration
They are herded into vans
Shackled like cattle…”

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEAWaking the Obeah Within Us  (poetry – part of a series including the poems Jumbi Eyes, Clippings, Turn the Broomstick Up, FRAID, Web Weaving) – Women Writers – 2008

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEARevolution and Reggae (poetry) – Calabash – 2007

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEAEaster Sunday (poetry) – The Caribbean Writer – Volume 10 1996

Excerpt: “They say if you come back they goin’ block the entrance to the church.”
“For what? What I do to them?”
“They say you make the man leave his wife of twenty years to marry you.”
“But, that’s their business?”
“They don’t see how Joseph could leave his wife to marry you. You know what they call you?”
“What?”
“Black, ugly, long mouth. . .”

ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEANager Man, Poverty, No Teeth Nana, Cha-Cha Town’s Blackbird (poetry) – published in Palaver – Downtown Poet’s Co-op, New York – 1978

Excerpt: “Bokrah man
lashing whip ‘pon bank.
Nager man
lashing whip ‘pon back
when slavery
done gone long time.”

ROSE, BLAIR A.  The Day I became a Man (fiction, 2006 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special edition) – 2011

S., CALVIN – ‘Animale’ (visual art – designer gown done in leopard print, worn by Kai Davis in 1998 when she won the Antigua Carnival Queen and 1999 when she won Ms. Caraval title in St. Vincent), ‘Le Papillon’ (visual art – designer gown worn by Jermilla Kirwan who won the best evening wear prize and the crown in the 1996 Antigua Carnival Queen competition), and ‘Rumours’ (visual art – designer gown worn in 1999 by Antigua Carnival Queen contestant Kim Phillips; Rumours was part of a theme chronicling a year of Jealousy, Rumours, Scandal, Fame, and Triumph) – Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

SIMON, DAVIDOpen Secrets (poetry) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

SIMON, MONIQUE S. Color of Love (poetry) – Calabash Volume 3 Number 2 Fall/Winter 2005

SIMON, MONIQUE S.NIGHT LIGHT (Ode to Bolans Village, Antigua –‘Home’) (poetry) – Calabash Volume 3 Number 2 – 2005

Excerpt: “It was night, so it was light
Island light
Home for the night light
Man whispering to woman light
Child teasing child ‘bout daytime, schoolyard game light
Extension chord attached to hanging bulb over old wood tables with dominoes, cards,
and checkerboards light
Bob Marley, Short Shirt, King Obstinate, Charlie Pride, old-time calypso light
Home from ‘de week doing live-in maid job light

It was night, so it was light carried like electric current throughout the night in the small
village…

Tonight, Saturday night
Bolans was dark but it was light, real light”

SIMON, MONIQUE S. – Raven in my Arms (poetry) – Calabash Volume 3 Number 2 Fall/Winter – 2005

SPENCER, CHARLENE – Stranger (poetry) – (p. 31) in The Caribbean Writer Volume 28 Volume_28__2014__5433ea290b7cf_150x225 –  2014

TAYLOR, YORIEI lied to My Therapist (fiction) – intersectantigua.com – 2020

TAYLOR, YORIEYou (poetry) – intersectantigua.com – 2020

THOMAS, DEVRAHer Missing Fingers  (fiction) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014

THOMAS, DEVRASands and Butterflies (fiction, 2011 Wadadli Pen award winning story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

TOBITT, WILLIAM ‘SHELLY’ – Look what they have done to my song (calypso) – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

WALKER-JACOBS, LATISHA – Market Day (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011

WALTER, SELVYN – (non-fiction) Excerpt from the chapter ‘Ole Time’ Christmas and Antiguan Characters in his book Bank Alley Tales – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

WILLIAMS (NOW WHYTE), FLOREEYohan! – published in Anansesem – 2010

WILLIAMS (NOW WHYTE), FLOREE – The Pulse (non-fiction) – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007

WILLIAMS, ZION EBONYThe Night I went to Cricket (fiction – 2012 finalist in the Wadadli Pen Challenge) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014

WILLIAMS-KING, AMBERLike the Sea rushing in (non-fiction) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

WILLIAMS, RHONDA (AKA INDIRA WILLS)Good Hair, The Universe in Her Eyes, Untethered (visual art) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

WILLUMIn Chrysalis (non-fiction) – in intersectantigua.com- 2020

WILLUMHe is Like Him, I am Proud, and Ouroboros (poetry) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020

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, Oh Gad!, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on author blog  and/or facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen, my books, and my freelance writing-editing-coaching-workshop services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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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

A

“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.

B

“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.

“I want to see how we can reconnect, how we can mend some of those broken bridges because I’ve seen it over the years even as an artist outside – we are disconnected – not just culture to artists but even among the artists.” – CREATIVE SPACE DO 6 news clipping pan arranger and pan soloist Khan Cordice speaking in his capacity as acting Culture Director in the CREATIVE SPACE series. 2020.

Calypso Joe (Joseph Hunte) – (2015)

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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)

“We do not think of our environment as having feelings but it too feels the suffering and weeps silently.” – Heather Doram, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.

“I think we are too repressed and I’m hoping that my art will be able to make people connect with the pieces and deal with those emotions that we have suppressed over time.” – Heather Doram, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.

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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“I didn’t set out to write a children’s book, I just set out to write a story. Then I had to think through how to adapt that story for the children’s market. That means adapting the vocabulary, adapting things like how they think, how they learn, making sure the level of the reading is appropriate to the age…I remember one of the things is capturing how the world of the underwater moves, and I remember what eventually broke through for me was one day I was sitting out on a field and I saw the grass moving, just swaying in the breeze, and that helped me to get the sense of a world in constant motion.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing the creation of her children’s picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure with illustrator (of that and of Hillhouse’s The Jungle Outside) Trinbagonian illustrator Danielle Boodoo Fortune during this World Book Day (April 23rd 2021) Live.

World Book Day

“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 for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant) answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books

“…before I started publishing I was a writer and if I never publish again I am still a writer, as long as my characters give me the time of day.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE (2020)

“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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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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Jesseca Ormond explains that “her passion for photography and her desire to spark societal conversations” spurred her summer undergraduate research project. “I always wanted to work on this, because I like photography and I like research and photography. I think a lot of people don’t see photography as a research tool and I think that’s what I want to bring to photography. I want to show people that photography isn’t just ‘oh, art.’ It’s actually showing and depicting societal concepts and I want to start a societal conversation and get people thinking about gender stereotypes.” 2018.

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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“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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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.”

“I’m writing again and I want to get back in to the studio… it’s fueled my confidence, my drive, my passion, and want to make my mark and make a difference.” – Arianne Whyte for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020

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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Reading Room and Gallery 21

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artists by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 21st one which means there are 20 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.

INTERVIEWS

Judd Batchelor: What advice would you give to young writers
Dorbrene O’Marde: Two things. Firstly, I want them to write, keep writing it will get better as you write more – read the full interview

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“I just looking to give back, I looking to show that you can be some body, especially in the arts.” – Sheena Rose

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“I didn’t set out to write a faerie story, just write myself out of the headspace I’d landed in because of this unexpected negative encounter. As I wrote, I was drawn in by the challenge of doing something I hadn’t done, I enjoy experimentation, and something about taking this negative and working through it in a genre where typically good and bad are clear, and they all lived happily ever after, appealed. Also appealing was this idea of how passion for something can help it flourish, and how good can attract good, do good and good will follow you; and then the faerie was there awakened by, responding to the goodness that this girl was sending her way. It was an interesting development, and I enjoyed exploring it – and that this became a faerie story is the thing I’m most excited about. I like when something I’m writing surprises me.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse

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“The heart wants what it wants. But I chose to, and aspire to, becoming as good a writer as possible in the circumstances, given the relatively short space of time I’ve got left.” – Andre Bagoo

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“What I am coming to realize is that long before my preoccupations and obsessions become fully known to me, they are at play in my work.”  – Jacqueline Bishop in conversation with Loretta Collins Klobah

***

“I am a writer first and foremost, but I did a lot of side jobs and odd jobs while I was writing my novel,” Islam says. “I freelanced. I wrote copy for Uniqlo. I modeled for an Al Jazeera campaign. But as I was finishing my book, it struck me. I was like, ‘What am I going to do next? I can’t sit in an office all day. I just can’t.'” She found her answer in her final revisions of Bright Lines. For starters, the patriarch of the story is an apothecary. And as she delved deeper into his persona during the decade she spent at work on the novel, Islam fell hard for fragrance. Besides, she adds, “Brooklyn is such a place to launch a brand. I was really inspired by other beauty brands that had started here. I wanted to have a part in that movement.” And, finally, Islam points to a scene at the end of the novel in which a trio of girls throws wildflower seed bombs into different areas of Brooklyn. The women want the crops to “grow up and into something.” – from Elle.com interview with Tanwi Nandini Islam

***

“Lightfoot:  Chapter Five was difficult to write, but it was also incredibly revealing. It shows that even within such a homogeneous population of working peoples there was an added set of constraints on black women. Specifically, constraints around what women’s roles were supposed to be and the dangers of masculinized black women. And, of course, there was never the sense that black women in post-emancipation Antigua should have the right to stay home and be dainty ladies. Whatever stock ideas about femininity that might have been applied in the middle of the nineteenth century to white women certainly didn’t apply to black women, ever.” – Dr. Natasha Lightfoot, a historian of Antiguan and Barbudan descent, interviewed by the African American Intellectual History Society on her book Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation

***

“The assumption was very real. And then it was actually named, ‘does Solange know who is buying her records?’ So it became a totally different conversation than what I was first approached to be a part of and then it became a conversation yet again about ownership. And here I was feeling so free, feeling so independent, feeling like I had ownership finally over my art, my voice, but I was being challenged on that yet again by being told that this audience had ownership over me. And that was kind of the turning point and the transition for me writing the album that is now A Seat at the Table.” – Solange Knowles talking to Helga on Q2 Music

***

INTERVIEWER
Do you have a reader in your mind when you write?
BALDWIN
No, you can’t have that.
-from James Baldwin, the Art of Fiction No. 78 in the Paris Review

***

“Writing a novel is like pulling a saw out of your vagina. Writing a memoir is like pulling a saw out of your vagina while others are looking on.” – 5 Questions for… Emily Raboteau

***

“It is a myth of my own invention. I am taken with the idea of creating new myths that speak to our current world in the same way that old mythology spoke to the world in its creators’ time.” – Lesley Nneka Arimah on Imagining a Universe of Handcrafted Babies  in her story Who Will Greet You at Home published in the New Yorker

***

“My mother also tells me that for Celeste different children and their various broods would be assigned various colours in her quilt-making schemata which is all quite interesting to me, one set of children being red, one being yellow etc. What I think is lost to us is the stories that my great grandmother was telling in her funky multi-coloured quilts about her family, because no one knows who was assigned which colour. I also mourn the fact that when my great grandmother died my cousin Mary told me that she was wrapped in two of her biggest and best quilts and taken to the morgue in Port Antonio Bay and no doubt those quilts were simply discarded. This is why I so appreciate your interest in this subject and you doing this interview Veerle because we might all be discarding and getting rid of quite valuable things.” – Jacqueline Bishop

***

“Is it lazy to look at the Caribbean as a unified whole rather than individual states?

I think it’s lazy to look at a country as a unified whole. But there are resonances and reasons why I think of myself as writing Caribbean literature more profoundly than Jamaican literature. The Caribbean isn’t a whole but there are aspects of unity and Jamaica isn’t a whole either, which is what this book is trying to say.” – Kei Miller

FICTION

‘But Theo never remembered that the pedal of the trashcan was broken. He would step on it without looking and drop the banana peel or the wet tuna-juicy baggie directly on top of the still-closed lid, and then walk away, leaving the garbage there for Heather to clean up, a habit that had finally caused her, just last night, to spit at him, in a voice that came straight from her spleen, “Pay attention, for Christ’s sake! Why don’t you ever, ever pay attention!”’ – Amy Hassinger’s Sympathetic Creatures

***

“I don’t know what gods watch me, or how it came to be that my fate brought me to an island in the Caribbean sea. It was miraculous, not least because, in the novel I am currently writing, there is a shipwreck in that same sea. I would not know how to write it if I had not found myself in a Jamaican fishing boat one wet and windy day in June, contemplating the whims of the sea and the alligators up the river. But it is equally miraculous to find myself in a humble neighbourhood in my own country, face to face with women who quietly go about their lives, walking between worlds, singing up salvation by connecting us with our own roots.” – ‘On All Our Different Islands’ by Tina’s Makereti, Pacific regional winner for the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

***

“It’s sick and it’s soulless but it’s one of the things I love about my job; here you can force the world to be something it’s not.” – audio reading of The November Story by Rebecca Makkai

***

“The blue plumes of the peacock’s tail were shot through with filaments of silver and, twenty years on, the ink hadn’t faded. It sat on her long slim body like a birthmark.” – from Peacock by Sharon Millar

***

“Now, listen to this next bit carefully: in the morning THE WHOLE KIPPS FAMILY have breakfast together and a conversation TOGETHER and then get into a car TOGETHER (are you taking notes?) — I know, I know — not easy to get your head around. I never met a family who wanted to spend so much time with each other.” – from Zadie Smith, On Beauty

***

“No, Pa, it really could happen that way!” – A Conversation with My Father by Grace Paley as read by Ali Smith

***

“I do not lie,” Crispín replied. “Adannaya is not only the most beautiful mulata of this hacienda and the best bomba dancer; she can also change brown sugar into white. Yes she can! And if I only had some brown sugar, I would prove it to you.” – from Adannaya’s Sugar, a fairytale by Carmen Milagros Torres

***

“We were surprised to find ourselves thinking again, it had been so long.” – from We by Mary Grimm

***

“Tantie Lucy had drunk from the cup of happy living and the shop was her world.” – Lance Dowrich’s In and Out the Dusty Window

***

“It was a joyous occasion in a young woman’s life when her mother blessed life into her child. The two girls flushed and smiled with pleasure when another woman commended their handiwork (such tight, lovely stitches) and wished them well. Ogechi wished them death by drowning, though not out loud. The congratulating woman turned to her, eager to spread her admiration, but once she had looked Ogechi over, seen the threadbare dress, the empty lap, and the entirety of her unremarkable package, she just gave an embarrassed smile and studied her fingers. Ogechi stared at her for the rest of the ride, hoping to make her uncomfortable.” – Who will greet you at home by Lesley Nneka Arima

***

“Some days I am alone, and I wonder whether I exist.” – Circus by Anushka Jasraj

***

“The three of us, smelly and itchy, clinging to each other, waiting for the gasoline and vinegar in our hair to start the killing. We had lice. Our heads were wrapped in bright turbans made from my mother’s old hippie skirts. She was reading my left palm to see if I was going to pass my math test. With one hand, my sister was holding my nose, and with the other she was drawing skulls and bones on my brother’s arm with a red pen. With his left hand he was holding her foot, and with his right, the table. We were always prepared in case somebody tried to separate us by force.” – from A Bunch of Savages by Sofi Stambo

***

“But what angered Zeke even more than the ancestors’ silence was the knowledge that he was helping Sonia to seduce a man who, sometime in the foreseeable future, would beat her for burning his dinner or create any other excuse he could think of to abandon her, as he done to all his other baby mothers after he had gotten what he wanted.” – Myal Man by Geoffrey Philp

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“I think, there’s a couple of songs.  I’m, I’m really proud of  “How far I’ll go.” I literally locked myself up in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, to write those lyrics. I wanted to get to my angstiest possible place. So I went Method on that. And really, because it’s a challenging song. It’s not ‘I hate it here, I want to be out there.’  It’s not, ‘there must be more than this provincial life.’  She loves her island, she loves her parents, she loves her people.  And there’s still this voice inside.  And I think finding that notion of listening to that little voice inside you, and, and that being who you are. Once I wrote that lyric… It then had huge story repercussions. The screenwriters took that ball and ran with it.” – Lin Manuel Miranda on writing songs for the animated film Moana

***

“…it comes down to cause and effect, but and therefore.” – Janice Hardy on plotting

***

‘So much as it is possible in a manuscript, every scene should be followed by another scene that dramatizes either a “Therefore” or a “But,” not an “And Then.” So if, in one scene, a girl has intimate eye contact with a beautiful male vampire, the next scene should either dramatize the consequences of that eye contact, which will likely raise the stakes or escalate the emotion—THEREFORE she kisses him; or introduce a complication/obstacle—BUT she remembers she hates vampires, so she drives a stake through his heart. If they continue to stare into each other’s eyes, or maybe they just get some tea, that’s an AND THEN—nothing new is happening, because it’s at the same level of emotion as the previous action, and so while movement is occurring in the plot, it isn’t necessarily dramatic action. And action is ultimately what keeps readers reading:  change, challenge, consequence, growth, for a character in whom they’re invested.’ – Trey Parker and Matt Stone

***

“Now this: mistakes are everything. Write, abandon, start again. But understand you will do this on your own, over and over.” –  Ellene Glenn Moore

***

“At one point, I got the idea to ‘set a clock’ in the Antarctica thread. Instead of making her time there quasi-borderless, I would limit her stay at the station to four or five days. This simple question about literal time led me to a host of new questions and discoveries: Instead of a scientist, she was now a civilian, which would account for why she, as a kind of interloper, would have limited access. From there, I wondered: what would a civilian want with an Antarctic research station? What is she in Antarctica to do? What will happen if she fails? Eventually I located the timeline that unfolds in the past, and explores the nature of the estrangement and how a secret shared between the narrator and her sister-in-law brought about an irrevocable fracturing. In this version, the past informed the way the narrator experienced the present; it helped the present to matter.” – from Inventing Time by Laura van den Berg

***

“3.Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” –Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing

***

“different works have different ambitions and, therefore, require different approaches” – Zehra Nabi

***

“I abandoned short stories and wrote a novel.  Maybe short stories weren’t my thing.  In a book, I had more elbow room.” – The Big Rush, or What I Learned from Sending a Story Out Too Soon by Julie Wu

***

“You have to do the work; you have to do your research. There are no short cuts.” – Justina Ireland in discussion on Writing the Other

POETRY

“Here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make” (from La-La Land. Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

***

“That is how life is.

When you are placed in hot oil

be patient

keep going

you will be ready soon.” – Browning Meat by M. A. Brown in Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters

***

“My father
would not have imagined

seeing me here,
hearing of me fleeing a war.” – Althea Romeo-Mark’s A Kind of Refugee

***

“Maybe it is best
not to know.
Maybe it is
Inevitable.” – I am Unsure by Ashley Harris

***

“That’s one thing nobody tells you. Sometimes it’s okay to give up.” – Boys Don’t Cry

“give yourself a chance Andre
be open
love someone
do not fret, fete” – A Prayer to Andre

“When the nurse takes
blood you won’t have to be afraid
of her knowing you are afraid.
And then maybe you could tackle your
your fear of white cars next.” – Incurable Fears
from Poems by Andre Bagoo in Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters

***

“as I walk

people

stare and pass by

on the far side” – Madness Disguises Sanity by Opal Palmer Adisa

***

“The mirrors of their eyes only blind me.” – from Ivy Alvarez’s What Ingrid Bergman Wanted

***

“He is a writer a sensitive man
a thundering terrible intelligence” – from Pamela Mordecai’s Great Writers and Toads

***

“The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?” – Claudia Rankine reading excerpts from her book Citizen 

***

“Another glittering day without you; take my hand
and bring me to wherever we were: the empty house
in Petit Valley or the city of Lapeyrouse
where headstones multiply like sails on a Sunday,
where a widower tacks under a pink parasol,
where people think that pain or pan is good for the soul.” – excerpt from Derek Walcott’s Lapeyrouse Umbrella published in Morning, Paramin

***

“I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to” – from God says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught

VISUAL ART

Cloudrise from Denver Jackson on Vimeo which I discovered through the Wardens Walk blog  which I discovered through the Pages Unbound blog

***

team-painting-by-rachel-bento-commissioned-by-gov-gen

Painting by Antiguan artist Rachel Bento, on commission from the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, of Team Wadadli, which took the Talisker Whisky Challenge (2015-2016) rowing approximately 3000 nautical miles across the Atlantic – from the Canary Islands to Antigua – in 52 days. They set two world records – oldest team and oldest rower – in the process. Bento’s commission commemorates their historic achievement. See more of Bento’s work here.

MISC.

Speculative fans, I thought you might find this bibliography interesting. It’s a Bibliography of Caribbean Science Fiction and Fantasy.

***

‘I have not yet had a student turn me down.  Some of the ARCs came back after a few days with a negative review, but most of the time the readers would seek me out before school in the morning to tell me they had finished the book and thought it was, “GREAT!”  The readers who brought back the “GREAT” ARCs often brought a friend with them who wanted to be the second person in the building to read the book.  And before my eyes, dormant readers woke up!’ – teacher, librarian Mary Jo Staal on the Power of the Arc in stoking her students’ interest in reading

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About Dorbrene O’Marde

“Dobrene O’Marde was born on March 24th 1950 to James and Ruth O’Marde in Antigua. He grew up in the Ovals Area and started his education at St. Michael’s Primary. From there he went to Antigua Grammar School and then to The University of the West Indies where he graduated with a BSc in Physics and Chemistry.

Dobrene known to family and close friends as “FATZ” is married to Ingrid Williams from St. Vincent and is the father of 3 adult children –Kaloma, Kayode and Khari.

To say Dobrene is a well-rounded individual – no pun intended- is simply too mild a description for such a multi-faceted person.”

This is an introduction on one of our esteemed cultural workers and icons, Dorbrene O’Marde as presented during a public speaking class facilitated by Barbara Arrindell & Associates. Follow the link to read the entire piece.

Also, FYI, I teach written communication (Writing is Your Business) as an associate of BA&A. June sessions begin this week. Are you registered?

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 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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Nobody Go Run Me as reviewed in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books 2015 edition

This review (edited) was originally published in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015.

Dobrene Omarde presents copy of book to Marcus Christopher

Dorbrene O’Marde, foreground left, pictured at the launch of his book Nobody Go Run Me. Also pictured, receiving a copy of the book, is the now departed songwriter Marcus Christopher, and behind Dorbrene in yellow, Valerie Harris-Pole, also departed, who was there in her capacity as the chair of the Short Shirt 50th anniversary committee. In the audience that night, you’ll see also pictured the then Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. The book was launched in 2013 and you could get whiplash from how much has changed since then. This picture being a visual example of that. This remains the same though, do not re-use without permission. The copyright of this image belongs to Colin Cumberbatch.

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

Short Shirt is a master of the calypso art form. His titles – among them 15 local Calypso Monarch titles – testify to that. But you know what’s the bigger testimony: throngs packed into the Antigua Recreation Grounds for a legends show, belting out “Lament oh my soul!” (Lamentations) like they were in church and being touched by the spirit; total recall, word for word, notwithstanding that the song had contested and lost its bid for the crown 30 years, give or take, earlier. This happened some years ago and is testimony to not only Short Shirt’s five decades long dominance of the art form, but the enduring power of his songs. During his 70th year and year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, 2012 to 2013, there were two notable productions: one a documentary film by Dr. James Knight, the other a biography by Dorbrene O’Marde.

Both were important cultural and artistic pieces but the focus of this article will be the O’Marde biography. While the documentary was much more specifically the story of the Making of the Monarch, it’s something of a misnomer to call O’Marde’s Short Shirt book, a biography. Though Short Shirt is the impetus for this work and its main character, the book really positions him at the centre of a tale mapping Antigua’s social, cultural, political, creative, and economic transformation.  Sounds heavy right? But, for me at least, it was a remarkably brisk read, as enjoyable as it was enlightening – its lyrical breakdown of Short Shirt’s songs comparable to what Ghanian-Jamaican-American poet Kwame Dawes does in his impressive book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius. O’Marde positions the Monarch’s songs in space and time, gives context tied in to not just the lives of Short Shirt and his writers – notably Marcus Christopher who is less than a week departed as I write this, Stanley Humphreys, and especially Shelly Tobitt, one of Antigua’s great wordsmiths – but the life, the heartbeat of the society from which they sprung. You get, through O’Marde’s exploration of the music, a sense of a society transitioning to self-ownership and all the birthing and subsequent growing pains that come with that.

The book was reader-friendly, for me, not just because I happen to be an avid Short Shirt fan, and a fan of his writers, but because O’Marde is not only in his element but clearly chest-deep in a subject he’s passionate about; calypso. That the former Calypso Talk publisher sees calypso as something much, much more than frivolity and fun is never in doubt as you read this book; but that he’s also having fun convincing his reader is also evident.  And his skills as a writer and analyst are sharp, convincingly so. So that even when you find yourself arguing with him – as I do during his dismissal of one of my favourite Short Shirt battle songs, Uneasy Head (Kong), as ungracious sportsmanship or his takedown of Lamentations, which he’s publicly stated is among his least favourite Short Shirt songs – you feel like you’re in a heated but friendly calypso parley, and you’re enjoying the cut and thrust of the debate.

O’Marde’s first book after a well-established reputation as a playwright, the fictional book Send out you Hand, was weighted and slow by comparison – exposition heavy, the characters too often coming across as mouthpieces for the writer’s intellectual concerns rather than fully drawn people.

In Nobody, O’Marde invests more successfully in the characterization and humanization of his subjects, making them (Short Shirt, Short Shirt’s writers, and, in fact, calypso, more relatable, complex, and interesting) while at the same time tying them all, Short Shirt and calypso especially, in to the larger cultural and societal shift. For instance, writing on the roots of Carnival and its subsequent shifts: “The growing sense of working class entitlement could no longer dress up and perform to the upstairs penny-throwing sugar barons and the Syrians/Lebanese merchants as it did during the traditional Christmas parades. The stage and street performances – sponsored, policed, regulated – offered a more egalitarian space to build a national culture. The enduring image of the white woman jumping in a [steel] band is but metaphor for the classless and non-racial future dancing in the imagination of middle and working class Antiguans.” (p. 34) The white woman referenced calls immediately to mind the “pretty little Yankee tourist…from Halifax” here for a taste of Antigua’s Carnival in Short Shirt’s Tourist Leggo; though here, of course, she is meant to represent something beyond herself.

The deftness with which O’Marde makes deeper connections is just one reason why Nobody Go Run Me is not only a good read but a book that matters.

For the social and cultural historian, it is a gift, covering if not the birth per se then certainly the popularization of Antiguan calypso – from the days when “seasoned Trinidadian calypsonians controlled the calypso entertainment sector” (p. 32), to the days when the Monarch took Antiguan calypso, specifically Tourist Leggo from the Ghetto Vibes album to the kaiso ‘mecca’ and but for some legal wrangling would surely have come back to Wadadli with the win – let’s call those the halcyon days, to the plateauing and declining of what was once great: Short Shirt and Calypso and Carnival; and, yes, the tome suggests indirectly Antiguan and Barbudan society.

There will be errors; nothing is perfect. But students, who these days seem to think research starts and ends with Wikepedia, could learn from this book which draws from personal papers, periodicals -including Calypso Talk, academic papers, interviews, personal reflections, and when he thought they got it right, as with the definition of picong (p. 32), Wikepedia.  As D. Gisele Isaac said in a review at the launch subsequently posted at https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com and in volume 27 of the Caribbean Writer, a journal produced by the University of the Virgin Islands, the book is “exhaustively researched” and with its extensive end notes, “so interesting and educational” in their own right, “you could easily say that this is two books in one.” (quoted from https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/d-gisele-isaac-reviews-nobody-go-run-me-by-dorbrene-omarde)

This is important, too, because, in a society in which so much is undocumented,  the facts of the matter are often dependent on who you speak to – see O’Marde’s end notes re the facts surrounding the start of Carnival (P. 42) for a striking example of this ‘it depends on who you ask’ type of record-keeping. It’s unfortunate that we live in a landscape where even with the papers of record you are forced to ask, who’s record? Assuming there’s a record at all – I remember years ago suggesting a virtual (i.e. online) Hall of Fame, if a physical one was not financially feasible, to lionize our cultural icons; as I think of the life of someone like Marcus Christopher, someone too important to the art form to have such an invisible footprint, online or otherwise, the absence of this feels huge. That’s one of the reasons this book matters.

The book is important too for marking the societal shifts in modern Antigua and to some degree the wider Caribbean. For instance the birth of black power: “By Carnival 1969, Edris Thomas [Edris Silston of Edris Clothing Store] produced a mas’ troupe ‘Back to Africa’. The Point’s troupe ‘Africans from the West’ emerged around this time and continued playing the same mas’ for years. Calypso Franco was singing ‘Negroes have the ability’. Short Shirt sang ‘Hearty Transplant’.

“Across the region, the consciousness of calypso had already absorbed and addressed the Black struggles in North America, a racial consciousness it had previously espoused in the nineteen thirties through the work of Attilah, Houdini, and others in praise of Emperor Selassie and Ethiopia and in defiance and rebuke of Mussolini and Italy.” (P. 64)

O’Marde references Short Shirt’s foray into these weighty racial issues with 1970s era tracks like Christopher’s Black Like Me – “a stirring anthem of racial affirmation”; and Afro-Antiguan of which he said, “as powerful and relevant as ‘Black Like Me’ and ‘Antigua Will Redeem are, it is the acrostic ‘Afro Antiguan that deepened Short Shirt’s appeal to the revolutionary.” (p. 65). Interesting as well, re the latter song, is O’Marde’s observation that in it “the difference between ‘race’ and ‘nationality’, a concept that even very intelligent people in Antigua today find hard to grasp, is critically analysed. Antiguan nationals – in the main – are proclaimed to be of African race and heritage. The African Caribbean movement had found its spokesman, that artiste capable of translating its social theories and polemics to the language of popular culture; youth had found a message beyond the nascent Bird/Walter politics that would plague the country for generations.

“Antigua calypso had found its voice. It had proved its ability to fulfill its traditional African functions.” (P. 66)

In this moment, he seems to be suggesting, Short Shirt was Antigua, and possibly the Eastern Caribbean’s James Brown – “say it loud!”

The book tracks other themes in Short Shirt’s calypso; for instance, its exposure of the hypocrisy and rabid greed of imperialism in songs like the Anguilla Crisis.

At the same time, it exposes the artiste’s – and perhaps his writers’ – if not hypocrisy, then blindspots, when it comes to certain other issues; women’s issues for instance. The Shelly Tobitt-penned Lamentation, one of my favourite Short Shirt songs, has a line that makes me, a feminist, smile wryly every time I sing it; O’Marde speaks to that very line in his takedown of the classic track.

“It is dismissive in its lack of appreciation of the human development necessity of equal rights for women: ‘Female liberation/ ‘even’ women want their freedom/Riot and demonstration.’” (P. 84)

Though as relates to the blatant misogyny in this and some other Short Shirt tracks, O’Marde does attempt to give some context: for instance, he quotes these lyrics – “Me man – Darling, you woman/Honey, me master and you slave/And you ain’t go tell me how and where and when/you want/for is me who supposed to take” but then reminds that “these were the dominant male attitudes of the Antigua, and dare say Caribbean society in the male-female relationship…Feminism as a political ideology was in its infancy, not yet finding root in even the progressive elements.” (p. 61) The feminist in you might want to debate this point as this was the early 1970s and second wave feminism started rippling out as early as the 1960s, that plus, frankly, misogyny remains rampant in our modern Caribbean. But let’s move on.

O’Marde brings an activist’s eyes and heart to his discussion of the treatment of many of the themes in Short Shirt’s calypsos. So that when he discusses social and political movements like the Grenada revolution, he doesn’t, as another writer might, simply recount the facts of the overthrow, he writes “On 13th March 1979, the New Jewel Movement overthrew the supposed duly elected government of Eric Gairy” (p. 139) – the use of supposed here casting the legitimacy of the Gairy government into doubt and making clear that in the writer’s view they were no such thing. His entire handling of this subject – tone to choice of references – make clear that this is not just history but history with perspective – emphasis on the perspective, albeit a well-informed one.

Musicians and students of music will appreciate that O’Marde doesn’t just break down Short Shirt’s lyrics but what it is that makes his music so compelling. For instance, while there’s no love lost between him and Lamentations, O’Marde does show appreciation for “the power of the melody, the inviting call-and-response structure and Short Shirt’s vocal wizardry.” (P. 84)

He speaks as well to the lyrical and musical innovations Short Shirt – and especially the Short Shirt/Shelly Tobitt partnership brought to the genre. In discussing Starvation, for instance, O’Marde wrote, “the guitar work is steady and compelling. The rhythm is up-tempo. ‘Starvation’ represents the initiation of one of Short Shirt’s and Antigua’s contribution to the world of calypso – the social commentary sang at dance pace. There is no other body of work in calypso where social commentaries are so executed consistently.” (P. 93 – 94) – O’Marde, and this is not just a matter of opinion, has the cred in calypso to make such an assertion.

His voice on these issues – the crafting, the content – has the ring of authority; so that when he writes, for instance, “that is his amazing vocal power, his ability to reach any note – high or low – that he or Shelly, in their melodic creativity found; and to do it with stellar clarity; while dancing in costume in competition or in live performance” (p. 94), he’s not just fanboying.

The literary nerd in me appreciates his dissection, for instance, of how Tobitt transmutated the calypso lyrical structure. “Very few lyricists would write a line this envious greedy conniving blood sucking attitude in calypso. The simplicity of ‘Starvation’ is replaced here by long complex verse and chorus. Multiple rhyming patterns are engaged and a riveting but unusual melody is forced to the fore. Few calypsonians in the business could handle the lyrical and melodic complexity – at tempo.” (p. 95) He applies his own analysis, layers on another authoritative source by direct quoting a 1975 review in the Outlet – footnoted. And then he lets the record speaks for itself: “Short Shirt sang ‘This Land’ and ‘Lucinda’ to win the 1974 crown and the Caribbean competition.” (p. 95)

On the subject of the songs, another thing to appreciate about this book is its extensive quoting of lyrics. It’s ridiculously difficult – especially in this internet age where you can google lyrics to any song plus just about any trivia you want, and some you don’t, on that song – to find information on Antigua and Barbuda’s songs, calypso or anything of that nature, really. Neither the artistes, the fans, nor our young people, notwithstanding all the tablet and laptop giveaways, have seen fit to create content that could see our culture adequately represented online, the way users in places like America and Europe do for every minutiae they find of interest; my own attempts to build an online data base of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, including songwriters, at https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com has been slow going on the songwriting end, despite the fact that I’ve reached out repeatedly to songwriters and producers for information. We’re just slow off the mark on this. Slow, slow, slow. As such, I doubly appreciate the lyric share – and crediting in Nobody Go Run Me. I would love to see some of this content shared online, and would do it myself if I had the time. As it is, I’ve been able to use the book as a go to resource when blogging on song and/or song writer related matters.

Beyond the songs, Nobody Go Run Me, albeit it’s not a straight-up biography, does zero in on the man behind the myth. And though it mostly takes an academically sound approach in terms of sourcing, unlike some academic texts it gives equal weight to the anecdotal, mostly oral, evidence in painting a complete picture – e.g. the incident in Barbados (P. 92 and 93). “Oral history in Antigua and Barbuda is laced with tales of his physical encounters with man and woman, accounts which the Christian Brother Emmanuel denies or doesn’t remember…” (P. 93) – it’s implied in the tone and in his decision to relay some of these tales that the author is giving these denials the side eye.

The tone sometimes edges up against snide – “The lows, like his failed attempts at competition during the last decade, he scrubs from his memory or dismisses as inconsequential aberration of judges. ‘True? I didn’t make finals that year? No!’” (P.218)

Still, Short Shirt is given a fair shake in this book. O’Marde is generous with respect to the artist’s talents and accomplishments but also clear on his blindspots, failures, and contradictions. The fading, retirement, conversion, and return of Short Shirt are all covered. Writing of his return from retirement, O’Marde observed, “this is the calypso protest tradition and stance that Maclean Emanuel re-joined in 2001 – one that he as Short Shirt, helped create, one that he led for three decades. But first he had to explain the apparent backslide that allowed his return to calypso and the ‘decadence of Carnival’. Brother Emanuel had to release Short Shirt.” (P. 200) Of course, fans of Brother Emanuel’s gospel could credibly argue that the message may have been re-directed but the calypsonian was never caged. But his comeback CD The Message and particularly the title track and the Handwriting song was a welcome return to form for the beloved calypso icon. That would be the post-return peak – at least so far – the offerings since being uneven at best.

The book delves into the complexity of the musical marriage and divorce of Short Shirt and Tobitt – those who’ve always wondered will appreciate the gossip-but-not-just-gossip-ness of O’Marde’s excavation of this touchy issue. It’s clear that O’Marde had deep access to both the artiste and the writer, the notoriously reclusive Tobitt speaking to issues he hasn’t spoken of since the break-up. Even so, there is still no clear resolution: “Short Shirt affirms that Shelly Tobitt is the best writer he worked with and mourns the loss. ‘I love Shelly up to now…up to now I don’t know what I did to turn him against me. It couldn’t be about one song or money.” (p. 146)

Other complicated Short Shirt relationships such as the one with “frivals” like King Obstinate are touched on. Sidebar: O’Marde’s treatment of Obsti songs like Children Melee, Fatman Dance, Elephant Walk, Coming down to talk to You, songs he describes as “vacuous” (p. 162), in fact his categorizing of the calypso of the late 1970s/early 1980s, when I would have been introduced to calypso, the calypso of Short Shirt, Latumba, Obsti, does take the shine off of some of my fondest childhood calypso memories – but never let it be said that he is a not a critic with bite, and he is right to call out the ways politics (or the appropriation of calypso by political interests) had begun to blunt “the sharp edge and excitement of the calypso in Antigua”. (p. 183)

At some point in each biography/autobiography, you grab hold of an insight beyond the individual and their story, an insight to life. It’s not always reassuring. And this quote, O’Marde extracted from Short Shirt is a sobering reality check for any artiste trying to create and make life in this small place: “I am still a struggling man…after fifty year man…everything gets ploughed back into producing my albums…feeding my family.” (p. 218) The struggle is real – even for one considered by all to be the best among us; sobering indeed.

And speak of sobering, though we perhaps no longer live in an Antigua and Barbuda where “Hotel managers and owners and their trained snarling dogs were determined to keep the beaches free of Black people.” (p. 35) or are perhaps less obvious about it, as we consider the economic paradigm in which we do live, the deals ‘we’ negotiate that maintain the hierarchical status quo, and the erosion of rights we have come to take for granted – beach access for everyone, for instance – the book, deliberately or not may inspire reflection on how much has really (not) changed.

That in mind, because this is a thought provoking book, you might find yourself reflecting, after closing off the last chapter, on the players who have attempted to step into the void, but failed not because they didn’t have a good song or even a good run; but because none since has shown the epic depth, reach, span, and consistency of the man who inspired the book Nobody go run Me. Because of Short Shirt’s impact on all these points – for all those who would, as some have, question why Short Shirt and not this or that other one – a book on the Monarch is long overdue.  And for all the reasons given in this article, Dorbrene O’Marde was just the man to do it justice.

Writer’s Note: In between the time I drafted this and came back to edit it, Dorbrene O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me became the first ever Antiguan and Barbudan book (one of only nine overall and three non-fiction in 2015) to be long listed for the OCM Bocas prize previously won by Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, Monique Roffey and Robert Antoni making him already a winner whatever the final outcome.

REVIEWER’S BIO: Joanne C. Hilhouse is the author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – and its 2014 edition Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water – a children’s picture book, and Musical Youth – a teen/young adult novel and finalist for the Burt Award. Her creative and journalistic writing has appeared in other books and periodicals, and she blogs online at http://jhohadli.wordpress.com and https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com

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Theatre Revival?

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For more of what’s happening right now in the local arts community, go here and here.

For more on the A & B theatre tradition, go here.

 

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Sips and Verses Photo Gallery

Kim

Last month, I wrote about Sips and Verses at my other blog (and about how Kimolisa Mings, pictured above, was my favourite of the night). More recently I wrote on this blog about an upcoming photography exhibition.

The thing tying these two events together is the venue and the purpose…which is related to the venue: Government House. The historical site is in need of an US$8 million (yes, million dollar) rehabilitation and a series of arts events – including a black tie dinner and art show earlier in the year – have been had (have been had?) to draw public attention and interest and raise some funds. Ramble ramble. Click the links to relive those highlights and find out how you can support. Meantime check out these great pictures by Photogenesis courtesy of the folks at the Government House. You’ll notice there are no pictures of me…I’ll try not to take it as a commentary on my photogenic…ness (?)

Enjoy…and, yes, you should feel bad that you weren’t there! You missed some good readings. Let that be a lesson to you. *smile*

Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis is holding up the Tides that Bind, but she actually read a very powerful piece from Missing. You should know that these books are international thrillers - kidnappings, family dynasties, continent hopping, big money, terror...

Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis is holding up the Tides that Bind, but she actually read a very powerful piece from Missing. You should know that these books are international thrillers – kidnappings, family dynasties, continent hopping, big money, terror…

Reading Roy Dublin's poetry. Roy Dublin is the late author of Tomorrow's Blossoms. And this is his...daughter (?)

Reading Roy Dublin’s poetry. Roy Dublin is the late author of Tomorrow’s Blossoms. And this is his…daughter (?)

Dorbrene O'Marde read a timely Carnival story.

Dorbrene O’Marde read a timely Carnival story.

Michelle Toussaint read from her book, Now Taking a Lover.

Michelle Toussaint read from her book, Now Taking a Lover.

Fashionable Joy. Joy Lawrence.

Fashionable Joy. Joy Lawrence.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

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A Little Perspective

The long list of the OCM Bocas Prize was announced this weekend and an Antiguan and Barbudan writer/book/subject is on the list! 2136dd3c-42db-4ee4-841a-70fa52ac3d4cThe writer, Dorbrene O’Marde; the book, Nobody Go Run Me; the subject, Short Shirt . Maybe it will get some press here at home – whether you believe as I do that Short Shirt is the epitome of Antiguan and Barbudan calypso artistry, he is one of our cultural and calypso icons after all – whatever he does is news (right?), and Dorbrene is a well-established arts and media personality in his own right – from his days as Head of Harambee, widely acclaimed as the best of Antiguan theatre, to his current role as head and mouthpiece of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission (his profile certainly makes him news, right?). Plus Nobody Go Run Me was part of the news story that was the year-long anniversary celebration of Short Shirt’s 50 years in Calypso – something I, as a freelance journalist, covered for local publication Daily Observer, regional publication Zing, and, with specific reference to the book, am in the process of writing about for the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books which has ties, through its editor Dr. Paget Henry, to Brown University in the USA. All of that to say, this news of O’Marde and Nobody Go Run Me making the long list of a major Caribbean prize is news and probably won’t get lost in the shuffle. Probably. But, just in case, I want to bring a little perspective.

When Antigua and Barbuda’s name is hollered for major literary prizes – PEN/Faulkner, the Guggenheim, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Book Award to name a few, it’s usually followed by Jamaica Kincaid. You won’t find her face on any of our many, many roadside billboards but she is a literary celebrity by any stretch of the imagination and, though her nom de plume references a larger island in the northern Caribbean, she is from the Ovals community right here in the 268. She has been and continues to be an inspiration for writers like me and others – from places like Ottos, Antigua and places far removed from it, where young girls dream of daring to write unconventionally, compellingly…uncomfortably, truthfully.

For many, Antiguan and Barbudan literature in as much as it even exists – and for many it doesn’t – begins and ends with Jamaica.

Because of this oversight, every pebble that ripples the water, reminding the larger Caribbean and international community that we are here (arwe yah!) matters.

When Brenda Lee Browne, in 2013, made the long list of the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize – a prize which allows an emerging Caribbean writer time and resources to advance a work in progress – to date the only Antiguan and Barbudan of 22 long listed writers between 2013 and 2014, it mattered.

When an Antiguan and Barbudan book, in 2014, made the short list and went on to place second for the first ever Burt Award for Young Adult Caribbean fiction, it mattered.

There weren’t headlines here at home for either of these breakthroughs, both administered by the team behind the BOCAS literary festival in Trinidad, and presented during the awards ceremony there, but as far as creating ripples in the water, they mattered.

Well, the OCM Bocas Prize is the biggest award presented at that festival. For Caribbean writers, with the Commonwealth Book and First Book awards now just a memory and the other major literary awards of the world not impossible to reach – as 2015 Frost medalist Kamau Brathwaite’s accomplishment recently reminded us – but a stretch (and, don’t get me wrong, stretching is good), the OCM Bocas Prize is one of the few opportunities remaining. It is specific to us, demands the best of us, rewards the best among us. Since its launch in 2011, it has been won by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (White Egrets); Earl Lovelace (Is Just a Movie) – who also took the Grand Prize from the Caribbean Congress of Writers for the same book; Monique Roffey (Archipelago) – previously shortlisted for the Orange Prize for another book, White Woman on the Green Bicycle; and former Guggenheim fellowRobert Antoni (As Flies to Whatless Boys). Its long list has been a who’s who of Caribbean literati – Edwidge Dandicat, Kendel Hippolyte, Lorna Goodison, Kei Miller… and no Antiguans and Barbudans, until now 2015 with O’Marde’s book, Nobody Go Run Me. The book is in formidable company as there are no also-rans in this line up – Miller’s the Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion is already the winner of the prestigious Forward Prize in the UK, Marlon James (did you catch him this past week on Late Night with Seth Myers on NBC?) landed on several year-end best of lists in 2014 (TIME, New York Times, Amazon etc) and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the US thanks to his Brief History of Seven Killings, Roffey’s House of Ashes was a finalist for the Costa Award, Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning has already won the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, Elizabeth Nunez’s Not for Everyday Use has been dubbed by Oprah.com as one of the Best Memoirs of the past year, the author of Dying to Better Themselves, Olive Senior, is a previous winner of the aforementioned (and no longer) Commonwealth Writers Prize, and Tanya Shirley’s The Merchant of Feathers and Vladimir Lucien’s Sounding Ground have been receiving all kinds of critical acclaim. Nobody Go Run Me (described in the Bocas release as “…a carefully researched biography of Antigua’s most celebrated calypsonian and a history of Antiguan society and culture in the crucial decades after independence.”) deservedly claims its place among these great works. I hope that isn’t overlooked, as things of this nature tend to be, here at home.

It matters.

As with all content (words, images, other) 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,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad! and Burt Award finalist Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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This World Spin One Way – My Take

I missed Dorbrene O’Marde’s Harambee days. Oh I was in the world but far yet from being of the world…so that while coming up I always had an awareness of Antigua’s theatrical heyday, it was always just a little bit in my rear view, not something I had had any practical engagement with (or memory of if I did). When those old enough to know talk about it though, you get a sense that you missed something. Last night, at the staging of Dorbrene O’Marde’s This World Spin One Way, I got a glimpse of that missing something.

This World Spin One Way, to be clear, is not one of the pieces from Haramabee and Antiguan theatre’s late 1970s prime time; no this was a 1990s production. I was working by then, and though I remember it as Dorbrene’s return to the theatre…I somehow missed it…and don’t remember why. I remember it got positive reviews though.

And having seen it for myself last night at the Cathedral Cultural Centre, I can say they were well deserved. Sure, the rhythm could be smoother, and likely would be if they had the luxury of a real theatrical run, nights on end of repetition until everything became second hand. But the bumps can be overlooked, I think, because there was hardly enough to make the ride bumpy…at least not beyond that dictated by a script and production delving on one level into the messiness of man and woman business and at a deeper level a philosophical questioning vis-à-vis the nature of being.

Basic plot – man and woman shack up, woman cheats on man, they break up; years later, they meet up, and meet up again, and again, and again, such dalliances leading to internal questioning and external gossip.

Beyond the plot, we’re looking at the dimensions of love, whether jealousy is a product of love or possession, do we always want what we don’t have, trust, desire, faithlessness, forgiveness, impotence (emotional and physical), forgetting, letting go, moving on.

For me, it provided a uniquely unblurred view into the baffling (at least to my Venus-mind) nature of male logic – the way loyalty and infidelity can exist within that logic without irony or contradiction. The twist, of course, is that we are reminded that women are just as f*cked up as men when it comes to being satisfied with who they have, or perhaps it is, that as humans we are never satisfied  – we always want the thing we don’t have.

Then again, maybe it’s not that, because one doesn’t get the sense that the high profile accountant and ambassador’s wife would have orbited any-man trying to figure out if she wanted a taste, it was this man, and the history they had, and the way he stimulated her mind, and challenged her, and her bafflement at how cynical he had become, her guilt maybe that she had been at least in part the cause of it, her… so many maybes.

As for him, a swirl of defeat, bitterness, self-pity, and self-deception, a mix up mix up of feelings tamped down, because maybe it hurt too much to feel, to care.

If the actors could benefit from a series of performances to get the rhythm down, I could certainly benefit from a series of viewings, multiple readings if you will, to pin down the true meaning.

The main sense I had coming away, re the dynamics of being men, women, human in this world together is, it’s complicated. And come to think of it, This World Spin One Way is similar to that Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin film with its swing shift of humor and pathos and old fire stick plotline – albeit that O’Marde’s play with its deft word play (in place of slapsticky shenanigans) made for a more sophisticated experience, never mind all the f*cks (tame in any case by Hollywood’s and possibly Broadway’s standards).

This World Spin One Way did make me nostalgic for something I’d never had, though as I was reminded it did exist, yes, exist here, once upon a time; theatre that trusted its material enough to pull back on the theatrics, to play the quiet beats, to set the tone for the kind of laughter it wanted to invoke, to set the context, to allow for genuine and nuanced human interaction, to …be as real as life.

Good play, well written play, well directed play, well-staged play (for the most part), good performances all around but especially so that of Dr. Alvin Edwards, not because his character was likeable, he often wasn’t, but because he so successfully made him human.

As with all content (words, images, other) 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 WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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