Tag Archives: fashion

Storytelling in Fashion (a 2022 MET Gala Post)

The MET gala (American fashion’s biggest night and a themed fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute) has little to do with us here in Antigua and Barbuda. However, there were notes I found of interest in the 2022 Gilded Age theme. Meaning the opulent, bustled, jewel-toned, ruched, ruffled, beaded, embroidered, fringed, ribboned, buttoned, hooked, laced, bird feathered, layered, s-curved, corseted aesthetic popular among society women of the 1870s to early 1900s. Notes of broader cultural importance, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Primarily some of the pieces worn by Black people. Which was interesting because, as as we know with Black people in the Americas (speaking hemispherically), as you go back in to history, if we’re referenced at all, it gets…tricky.

Gabrielle Union in Versace…Versace, Versace, Versace.

“When you think about the Gilded Age and Black and brown people in this country, this country is built off of our backs, our blood, sweat, and tears. So we added these red crystals to represent the blood spilled during the accumulation of gross wealth by a few during the Gilded Age, off of the backs of Black people and people of color in this country,” she said during the Vogue livestream. A second influence, “Diahann Carroll, a symbol of opulence and, if you will, a gilded glamour.”

I like that Union’s look references the exploitative source of the wealth …while still being one of the more striking looks of the night.

Danai Gurira in Head of State…the fashion house.

“I couldn’t find references [in the Gilded Age] of people that look like us,” says (designer Taofeek) Abijako. “We also know the historical context as to why. The most exciting part was being able to reimagine what these people looked like.”

I was fascinated by the intersectionality that designer and muse sought between the Gilded Age (bright blue, a certain silhouette) and contemporary Nigerian art (the designer is Nigerian and Danai was raised in Zimbabwe and both wanted their African identities reflected).

Quannah Chasinghorse in Atelier Prabal Gurung. With jewelery by Antelope Women Designs. and borrowed eagle feathers.

“Quannah’s look encapsulated the Indigenous perspective on Gilded Glamor by showcasing Indigenous artistry, ingenuity, resiliency, beauty, and excellence,” says Jody Potts-Joseph, Chasinghorse’s mother. “It is important to understand that for Native Americans, the Gilded Age represents a period of  United States policies of removal, genocide, and assimilation all creating generations of trauma for Native Americans. Yet, we are still here—and Quannah gracefully reminds the world of our strength, beauty, talent and resilience in every space.”

The tipi-shaped tulle dress, the mix of First Nations inspired accessories is a nice nod to her culture as much as it is a reminder that the mainstream culture at the time (as now) was not everybody’s story.

Cynthia Erivo in Louis Vuitton.

Cynthia Erivo highlighted the history behind her Met Gala 2022 fashion on the red carpet with an E Online representative, where she disclosed that the gown she wore was from the Louis Vuitton archives in an effort to promote sustainability. She also disclosed that her headwrap was inspired by women of Louisiana from the 1800s, who had to cover their hair for necessity. (Source)

This is one of my favourite stories of the 2022 Met Gala. Though the dress, with its drop waist, is more roaring 20s than Gilded Age, the standout headpiece is a history accurate conversation piece. So, let’s talk. We have a a headwrap or headkerchief (Tête en l’air or tèt anlè in the French Creole Caribbean islands) as part of our traditional dress (Wob Dwyiet in French Creole). These were part of the evolving fashion of the colonial Caribbean among freed Blacks and they take different shapes; some more functional, some more decorative, some more ceremonial. Yes, they could be more than just for show; for example, the number of peaks made when tying the headwrap could communicate different things such as a woman’s availability or non-availability to anyone wishing to court her. We may have lost the language but, to this day, headwraps are a feature of African-Caribbean and diaspora head fashion.

A dark part of the history of headwrapping among Black women in the West Indies/Americas, however, is that there were at times laws regulating such headwrapping. The tignon law in America, for instance, was a 1786 law, inspired by white woman envy, forcing Black women to wear a headscarf in order, seemingly to make free Black women less appealing to white men or less free in their bearing by tying them to the enslaved class of Blacks. The law was reportedly imported from the Code Noir of the French colonies, dating back to 1685 in the Caribbean, and later coming to Louisiana, at the time a French colony in America. The Spanish colonizers followed. The law basically decreed that women of colour had to wear a scarf or handkerchief and could no longer wear feathers or jewellery in our hair. As we do, though, they made it fashionable, adding flair to it and soon even Napoleon’s paramour Joséphine of France had adopted the wearing of the headpiece “and it became considered haute couture in the early 19th century before decreasing in popularity in the 1830s” – according to Wikepedia, referencing ‘Fashioning Frenchness: Gens de Couleur Libres and the Cultural Struggle for Power in Antebellum New Orleans’ by Whitney Nell Stewart in volume 51, number 3 Journal of Social History by Oxford University Press (2018) and Light, Bright, and Damned Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America (Praeger, 2009) by Stephanie Rose Bird.

The head scarf is also, though, part of the African tradition that survives in the west – especially post-the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s and it was delightful to see it, with its rich history, disrupt the mostly white red carpet.

Ashton Sanders in Casablanca.

“The Moonlight actor was one of a few who eschewed the white tie-coattail look, opting for a Canadian tuxedo reminiscent of the Buffalo Soldier uniforms, a Blacks-only regiment of the US army formed in 1866. The gold accents enhance the waist, giving the impression of a corset. The gold gloves, brooch and binoculars tie the look together.” (Source)

The Buffalo soldiers weren’t just characters in a Bob Marley song. They were real all-Black regiments, nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers, in the American west beginning in 1866. They fought in the Indian wars and the Spanish-American war, and fought wildfires and poachers in America’s national parks. Like Marley sang, “if you would know your history, you would know where you’re coming from.” This history.com article states that the song ‘highlighted the irony of formerly enslaved people and their descendants “stolen from Africa” taking land from Native Americans for white settlers’ while still facing racism themselves.

Riz Ahmed in 4S Designs.

“This [outfit] is a shout-out to the immigrant workers that kept the Gilded Age golden,” Ahmed told Vogue. “It’s what makes the city run.” (Source)

It’s important to remember that as wealth exploded among the new rich and tensions increased between old and new money during the Gilded Age, the working poor, moving from farms to factories, were exceedingly vulnerable (pre-unions etc) and the immigrant worker (as in every time) especially so.

Questlove in ZEGNA/Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective and Erykah Badu in Marni.

“I’m here representing Greg Lauren and Gee’s Bend quilters, who are these women from Alabama,” Questlove, 51, told Vogue. “For African Americans in this country, the Gilded period is a little bit different for our story, so I wanted to highlight Black women who’ve sacrificed for the country.” (Source) The Gee’s Bend residents in Alabama, specifically the women, have been quilting using scraps of old clothing, feedsacks (probably our crocus bags), and other fabric remnants since the 1800s, according to the Smithsonian. Questlove’s oversized coat was also a tribute to recently departed fashion pioneer Andre Leon Talley. While Questlove’s quilting is hidden in the lining, Badu wore her patchwork (as we called quilting when I was growing up) out loud. Fashion vlogger HauteLeMode said of Badu’s outfit, “if we look at textiles from the Gilded Age…there was a resurgence of quilting during the Gilded Age because of the Centennial. There are quilts that literally look like they’re made up of fabric scraps that are just sort of thrown together in the same way that Erykah Badu is doing.” This idea of repurposing pieces in to patchwork is also part of our traditional culture if not so much in practice anymore.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Christopher John Rogers. Headpiece by Philip Treacy.

“Parker’s outfit was inspired by Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Keckley was an enslaved woman who became the official dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln and the first Black female fashion designer in the White House.” (Source)

You can read more about Elizabeth’s remarkable life here. In referencing her, the designer said, “The idea was to highlight the dichotomy between the extravagant, over-the-top proportions of the time period, and the disparity that was happening in America at the time.” 

Rahda Blank in Denise Trotman/Jennifer McFarlane.

“I rep a woman who could have made Hollander’s dress- an Obeah Woman who by day used her hands to sew, cook, wash White folk clothes & tend to their chirren and by night used her hands to conjure spells for our survival using ancestral African spiritual practices not meant to survive the middle passage. This would be my homage to Marie Laveau but also The Condomble Woman, The Santeria Priestess, The Ifa Woman, The Yoruba Priestess. The Voodoo Vixen and all women practitioners of ancestral arts from Africa.” (Rahda Blank on instagram)

My favourite part of this outfit is the wooden cutlass replica because if that wasn’t a tool for survival and war for Black people on bakkra’s plantation, I dont’ know what was. I also love that she said “obeah” – as “voodoo” seems to be the default in American media but “obeah” is the more common term in the English speaking Caribbean. To touch quickly on her references: Marie Laveau was renowned in New Orleans for the practice of voodoo in the 1800s; Candomblé, particularly popular in Brazil, is a religion built on African spirituality; Santeria, similarly developed in Cuba during the late 19th century, is also an African diasporic religion; Ifá is a Yoruba religion and system of divination; Yoruba is a West African ethnic group and the related language spoken by people of Nigeria, Benin, Niger, Togo, Yorubaland, and their diasporas; voodoo and obeah alike are similarly religious practices rooted in West Africa and brought to the Americas by the millions of enslaved people who crossed over during the Middle Passage. Fittingly, the dressmaker is a Jamaican American which means that from concept to design, there was some Caribbean in the building.

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, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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You should read…

I mentioned it before and I have skimmed it previously, but I am finally taking some time to read through the Daily Observer Independence 2021 issue (I know, I know).

For any non-Antiguans-&-Barbudans here our 40th anniversary Independence commemoration was November 1st.

The first 15 or so pages of the anniversary issue are taken up with the obligatory messages (read if you like that sort of thing but really, skip). Beginning on page 16, though, take the time to scroll through ‘The History of Antigua and Barbuda’ which begins “before 9000 BC” and comes forward to the present. It includes this image I’ve never seen before (wish the article had included something of its provenance) of an auction of enslaved people at Redcliffe Quay (bit of trivia: the barracoon where enslaved people were held is still there just above Redcliffe Quay, one of St. John’s City’s two major tourist shopping centres, on lower Nevis Street – and I hope the powers that be do whatever needs to be done to preserve it).

An interesting (little known) detail in this history is that when Antigua was captured by the French in 1666, the English retreated to Ottos hill (or Ottos Mount as the article calls it – I’m not sure if they mean Mount St. John where the hospital is or Ottos hill, part of my childhood stomping grounds as a #gyalfromOttosAntigua) leaving the enslaved people behind as the invaders rampaged and burned; but (and this is the interesting part) the Kalinago (called Caribs in the article) assisted the enslaved in escaping and they fled to the Shekerly Hills where they lived for many years (I learned about the free community at Boggy Peak/Mount Obama well into adulthood – in school we learned that there weren’t maroon communities in Antigua because the terrain didn’t allow for it). So that was interesting to me. Oh, the French only held the island to 1667 – which is why Antigua remains pretty firmly in the English-speaking column.

The article also goes in to detail about the fate of the two main leaders of the 1736 rebellion (King Court and Tomboy – interesting to me because we don’t hear nearly enough about Tomboy, who received “35 strokes with a large iron bar” before his execution).

And for those of us who grew up not knowing, the article touches on some of the other rebellions – 1831, 1858, 1918.

There’s a Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau poem which has this line that I love, “I love Antigua like a lover” – but which is not so blinded by love that it does not challenge us to be better.

I liked some of the fresh (?) details about the national symbols – like the Antigua Black pineapple being originally introduced by the Arawakan speaking people (the fruit also gets a whole article elsewhere in the publication), and being used for making twine and cloth, and for healing purposes, or the whitewood tree’s alternate name being Black Gregory.

The Independence baby article – featuring Sasha Stuart Young – was a bit (too) long but a good catch-up (p. 25-30).

The Barbuda article had a few touches beyond the usual cliches – I especially found endearing the details about the elderly going to the lagoon at 5 a.m. to “sap their knees” and ease arthritic ache, or about how that same lagoon feeds the people with lobster, conch, and fish – and keeps them independent. And, like a dark anti-chorus: “Today, after Independence, the lagoon has become an environmental collateral damaged site.” A reminder of the tensions between Antigua and Barbuda, the exploitation of the latter by the former. The author, Darlene Beazer-Parker also includes a poem that has a roll call of Barbudan people, “Bo Ram Bo, Boxer, Tomack, and Dada”, and places, “Hog Hole, Five Springs, Darby Cave, Ann Pass”, and a glossary of Barbudan expressions, like “tikka yah dome”, that reminds that Barbuda is not just a playground for tourists, or even Antiguans, but home to those who “smell the mud after the rain.” (another phrase I liked).

The article on recently deceased national hero Sir Lester Bird was an interesting read – especially his early athletic exploits – if sanitized as such things inevitably are. Speaking of, I like that the Paul Quinn op-ed touched on the tensions in the build-up to Independence, which was not a foregone conclusion (nor initially, the piece suggests, a popular one). Shout out to the ad for Antiguan Homemade Fudge in this section because e bang good.

I like the issue’s engagement with young Antiguans and Barbudans doing awesome things in a substantive way; such as former junior calypsonian A’shante and her multiple enterprises including Amplify Caribbean with other young Antiguans and Barbudans, and mental health advocate Chaneil, recently featured in my CREATIVE SPACE series.

Nice to see the nurses styling in their national dress fabric.

Now we just need to support them by doing everything we can to keep our COVID-19 numbers down.

I’ll admit to skipping through the sections on COVID (though I’m glad it’s in there) – and am all vaxxed and boostered up, wear my mask etc. That said, I liked the approach in the article by Dr. Cleon Athill, looking at the socio-economic vulnerabilities exposed by the virus on the national and individual level, and ending with call for dialogue on several key areas including the importance of critical thinking, the balance between personal and community rights, and the roles of various stakeholders in the event of a national crisis.

Space was made for the work of the diaspora – shout out to the Friends of Antigua Public Library in New York.

There was an article on our only living national hero accompanied by this picture.

…and of the first Antiguan and Barbudan to be called up to the West Indies Cricket Team (Andy Roberts). “Being the first Antiguan to play and the first to make the headlines, I realized that I cannot fail because this is opportunity for people to know there is a small island named Antigua.” He remarked how even in Jamaica they didn’t know Antigua and while Jamaicans knew the name Antigua by the time I studied there (thanks to cricketers like Viv and Andy) and there were already a lot of Jamaicans living in Antigua, I did get some questions that exposed the huge gaps in information and massive misconceptions about the “small islands” like mine. So I can relate.

It was nice to see the sports section make space for one of the greats off the field (Gravy), who for 12 years made entertainment of spectacle during cricket matches – and going deep in to his formative years, like the time he was clowning in front of the class and in retaliation the principal “beat everybody else all to me.” A reminder that growing up Caribbean could be brutal. But could also be charming, like the story about how he got his nickname the time he asked his mom to take back the meat and give him more gravy. Make no mistake, what Gravy did was performance art (his grand finale in a wedding dress for instance, as a bride walking down the aisle) and like any artist his chief regrets are related to the artistic expressions he either didn’t achieve or didn’t complete. “Up to now I am at home, I think about things I should have done on the Double Decker, from one end to the other end. There is a steel beam that runs across Double Decker from one end to the other end and I always see myself going up there and walking across the Double Decker stand in mid-air.” His wish, to the powers that be, take care of the disabled and less fortunate, and, to the public, “remember me”.

In the CREATIVE SPACE entry in the Independence issue, I remember some of my favourite Antiguan and Barbudan protest songs (my spin being that protest songs are some of the most patriotic). You can still listen to the playlist. You should also check out DJ/broadcaster Dave Lester Payne’s Independence top 10 in the Daily Observer Independence issue.

There is also…

An article on cryptocurrency chastising those of us lagging behind to catch up or, “delusional”, be left feeling like we’re in “a galaxy far, far away” – there is an explanation of the explosion of cryptocurrency but no crypto for dummies which some of us need.

An article on cha-cha dumpling, ostensibly, but really on the cut and contrive nature of the Caribbean culinary experience – and a hint of the enterprise necessitated by the pandemic (subject Caesar is a taxi driver but…the pandemic).

An article on popular Antiguan sayings (only fair as we had some Barbudan ones earlier). I will admit though that I’ve never heard “you lip shine lakka dog seed” (gross).

An article on children’s games, primarily from a boy’s point of view so lots of street cricket and marble lore, but not a deep dive on hand games, ring games (with the exceptions of Ring-a-rosie and Brown Girl in the Ring), and especially jump rope games (this was one of the popular past times when I was a girl. I don’t remember us doing double dutch though; that was more of an African American skipping style). I liked the article but I’m now thinking I need to do that deep dive on Caribbean jump rope games – maybe for a future CREATIVE SPACE.

A flour feature. Like flour day which I recently found out about, this feels like an odd thing to boost given certain lifestyle diseases that have likely ‘helped’ the ballooning health bills (referenced elsewhere in the publication) but flour is not without cultural context (it is one of the foods that has sustained us – droppers to ducana). Interesting choice to include cornmeal here, which I don’t think of as flour but, I guess. It is referred to as corn flour which on technicality allows for the inclusion of cornmeal pap and national dish (or half of) fungee.

An article on superstitions which was a resonant retelling of the folklore I grew up on or heard about growing up – jackolantern, soucouyant, jabless/diablesse, jumbie (the article also says duppy but that was terminology I only read about in stories set in Jamaica) with mention of obeah (not a connection I instinctively make but…okay).

What’s left? Fashion of course and I guess we can officially call Amya’s the queen of Independence, with the label’s independence accessories getting a whole feature. Nice.

This issue is triggering memories as I’ve interviewed a lot of the people featured over my journalism career – Goldsmitty which has a jewellery feature based on the bread and cheese bush (again, interesting) and Amya whom I first interviewed many years ago and most recently included in a piece in CREATIVE SPACE among them; been cussed out by a couple of them too (not Hans or Louise though) in the course of my reporting.

Among the standard fair (articles on governance, patriotic songs, nostalgia pictures) in the closing pages, a highlight for me was the picture of my primary school alma mater at the youth rally – seeing us (well not me, I didn’t march, but us) was dope (especially since people, including Catholics, hardly seem to remember we existed).

Verdict: definitely worth a read.

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, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, 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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Carib Lit Plus (Early to Mid August 2021)

Happy Emancipation Day (August 1st 1834).

A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here)


How can you help the arts?

For one, the Bocas Lit Fest has a Friends of Bocas initiative, inviting participation from individual stakeholders (regular people). For a contribution, you get access to a whole host of exclusive activities. Our winning Wadadli Pen writer of 2021 was gifted membership access as part of his prize thanks to Bocas, in addition to workshop access to some of our other finalists. Want to get in on the action while supporting the work? Details here.


Flags are being flown at half mast after the August 9th announcement of the passing of former Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister and National Hero Lester Bird in early August. Bird who was only the country’s second prime minister after Independence, and successor to his father, often referred to as Father of the Nation and National Hero Vere Bird Sr., was also author of two books found in our literary database of books by Antiguans and Barbudans on this site: Antigua Vision – Caribbean Reality: Perspectives of Prime Minister Lester Bryant Bird and The Comeback Kid: An Autobiography of Sir Lester Bryant Bird K.N.H. with Lionel Max Hurst.


Milton Benjamin, veteran journalist from Antigua crossed over late in July. His passing in part inspired me to write about Antigua and Barbuda’s media culture in my first CREATIVE SPACE of August which you can read here.


Kassav, the Guadeloupe band whose ‘zouk-la’ had the ability to enliven any soca fete I’ve been to has lost co-founder Jacob Desvarieux, also in late July. His passing brought forth an outpouring of tributes, like this one that landed in my inbox from Karukerament.


Jamaican writer Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, associated with the early dub poetry movement, has also passed on the ancestral plane. The Jamaica Observer reports.

(Source – the local news I heard about locally, the others via social media)


Antiguan and Barbudan author and Wadadli Pen founder-coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse will be reading at the Medellin World Poetry Festival (virtually) on Augutst 10th 2021 at 8 p.m. AST. Here’s how you can watch.


The Caribbean Style & Culture Awards. See site.


ETA: The BCLF list below is of Caribbean writers resident in the Caribbean. Above is the long list of Caribbean writers resident in the Caribbean. It includes 9 writers from Trinidad and Tobago, 5 from Dominica, 5 from Jamaica, 3 from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1 from Barbados, 1 from Puerto Rico, 1 from St. Lucia, 1 from Guyana, 1 from Grenada, and 1 (Joanne C. Hillhouse) from Antigua and Barbuda. Click images to enlarge.

The Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival’s short story competition has been one to watch. And we’re watching this incredible 2021 long list.

Congratulations to the 22 long listed writers. The wealth is spread on a list that includes 7 writers from Trinidad and Tobago, 5 from Barbados, 3 from the Dominican Republic, 2 from Jamaica, 2 from Guyana, 1 from Dominica, 1 from Puerto Rico, 1 from Haiti, 1 from St. Lucia, 1 from Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, and 1 from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. No your math isn’t wrong, you know how it is in the Caribbean – some writers are from multiple places. (Source – Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival facebook page)


Belated congratulations as well to St. Lucia’s Canisia Lubrin, who with The Dyzgraphxst (poetry, McClelland & Stewart) becomes the third St. Lucian to claim the main Bocas prize after Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (White Egrets, poetry, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2011) and Vladimir Lucien (Sounding Ground, poetry, Peepal Tree Press, 2015). Other winners of this coveted main book prize and its considerable purse have been the British Virgin Islands current Poet Laureate Richard Georges (Epiphaneia, poetry, Out Spoken Press, 2020), Jamaica’s current Poet Laureate Olive Senior (The Pain Tree, fiction, Cormorant Books, 2016) and, also of Jamaica, Kei Miller (Augustown, fiction, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017), and Trinidad and Tobago’s Earl Lovelace (Is Just a Movie, fiction, Faber & Faber, 2012), Monique Roffey (Archipelago, fiction, Simon & Schuster, 2013), Robert Antoni – of Trinidad descent and raised in the Bahamas -(As Flies to Whatless Boys, fiction, Peepal Tree Press, 2014), Jennifer Rahim (Curfew Chronicles, fiction, Peepal Tree Press, 2018), and Kevin Adonis Browne (High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture, non-fiction, University Press of Mississippi, 2019.


Canada-based Gayle Gonsalves of Antigua and Barbuda was a National Indie Excellence Awards finalist for her latest book My Stories have No Endings. (Source – the author’s social media)


Barbados’ Shakirah Bourne is now out in the world even as she works on its follow up.


New Anansi

The author is from Trinidad and Tobago. I haven’t been able to find more information about it, which is odd. (Source – JRLee email)


It occurs to me that I’ve, not by design, reviewed a number of books by Dominica’s Papillote Press – perhaps more than any other Caribbean press, because they proactively reach out with ARCs, no pressure if I can’t read the books right away. I generally have enjoyed their catalogue, what I’ve read of it and thought I’d share my reviews.

Dangerous Freedom by Lawrence Scott – currently reading
Guabancex by Celia Sorhaindo
Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini
The Art of White Roses by Viviana Prado-Nunez
Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay


Impact Magazine dropped in May 2021 (I believe). I thought I’d mention it as it describes itself as the newest source of entertainment and lifestyle news from Antigua, the Caribbean and the world at large. (Source – N/A)

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, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, 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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The Art of Design

21231750_10214197102507537_5084057354635053102_nI’ll admit that this contest wasn’t really on my radar before and it only is this year because my niece emerged as the winner. In any case, it’s in step with some of what we do here, share and celebrate young Antiguans and Barbudans doing creative things; so I thought this was an appropriate platform to share. Per coverage in the local press, Nicoya Henry (in black and braids, 2nd from right in the top image) has emerged winner, from a field of nine, of the 2017 Courts Fashionista Competition.

“In a release from Courts, the furniture store said the event was conceptualized with the primary purpose of improving and developing the talent of our youth.” – from the Daily Observer, September 1st 2017

Growing up, Nicoya’s love of fashion and modelling ran alongside her love of art and design – she’s modelled on local, regional, and international runaways and she’s won visual art competitions like St. Anthony’s Sidewalk Art Festival. In recent years, her love of art has found expression through fashion – she’s performed well in the fashiontastic design competition (and in fact, runners-up in this contest, Shem Henry and Shirrine Gillon, are names I first came to know at Fashiontastic), organizes and promotes a fashion event called Fashion Formation, and gets her side hustle on creating clothing. So, the evolution continues with her win of the Courts competition.

It was a very Project Runway type of competition in spirit – right down to competitors getting a stipend to purchase material needed to create their designs (the equivalent of having access to that store they do on the show) and designing in response to a unique, shall we say, challenge. As Nicoya explained it to me, contestants had to do a design based on a Courts product (for those who don’t know, Courts is a furniture store). This was her item:


This was her drawing: 21325878_10154959746868481_638764358_n

And this is the final design on the runway:21361156_10154959704348481_5524166_n

She walked with EC$2500 and the title, and said in the post-interview: “I feel very, very great that I won. I put in a lot of hard work, and it wasn’t easy breaking those mirrors. Right now, I still have splinters in my fingers, but it has paid off.” – from the Daily Observer, September 4th 2017

Cool, right?

To quote an audience member quoted in the paper “Our people have talent and I believe they can compete on any stage around the world.” – from the Daily Observer, September 4th 2017



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, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, With Grace, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Do not re-use content without permission and credit. 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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Kudos, Calvin

Black ‘n Black… Southwell Inc… Calvin S… Beautiful People… designer Calvin Southwell has been trending as a fashion icon since the late 1980s. A new documentary tracks his journey.

calvin s

If you could see Calvin’s facebook page, you would see how much love he’s receiving and if you get a chance to see the documentary, you’ll see why. For me, part of what I liked about the documentary apart from the insight to what shaped him, was that he is an example of someone stepping out on a limb, following an improbable dream. In a society, especially, where creative pursuits are seen as hobbies, the effort, the hard work, the cost not fully appreciated, that took some guts…and no doubt a fair amount of turning a deaf ear to the ones trapped in the box. That Calvin is still a cool, down to earth, friendly kind of guy makes it that much easier to join with others in celebrating him.

Beyond that, all I can say is, we need more of this kind of recording and celebration of the dreamers and doers in our society. I think of this, and before this the Short Shirt documentary, that serve as inspirational reminders of the talent birthed right here that can with determination imprint on society. Calvin S’s imprint on fashion in Antigua and the Caribbean is undeniable. Congrats to him. And let’s tell more of our stories!

Read coverage of his red carpet premiere here. And here are some highlights from Calvin S.’s remarkable career (a career still very much in progress) from the event programme:

  • Designs featured in magazines far and wide – including She Caribbean, Profiles, Panache, Island Wear, Elan, Shabeau, Business Focus, and the in-flight magazines of BWIA, LIAT, Caribbean Star, as well as several online fashion journals.
  • Designs shown on runways in London, New York, Paris, Miami, Toronto, and various Caribbean islands including at the prestigious Caribbean Fashion Week.
  • Awarded the Grand Order of Merit in 2003.

The documentary – Calvin S of Antigua, the Designed Life – was written, directed and produced by D. Channsin Berry, a Hollywood based producer of numerous documentaries including the acclaimed and thought provoking Dark Girls.

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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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Melissa G Wins/Tameka J Debuts

Okay, I’m a little late with this one. But bear with me; a lot of artistic Antiguans out there doing their thing and I just trying to keep up. This time I turn the spotlight again on Melissa Gomez.

Her first feature length documentary Silent Music won the Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Deaf International Film & Arts Festival in May. It had its US debut shortly after, in fact earlier this month, with a screening at the DC Caribbean Film Festival in Maryland.

Go on, Melissa!

And you, reader, go here to read my October 2012 exclusive Wadadli Pen interview with Melissa. And here and here for my previous coverage of the film’s movements on the festival circuit.

Now for a little six-or-less degrees of separation trivia. Melissa’s partner in work and life is Christopher Hodge, the director of Dinner, written by Tameka Jarvis-George who is mentioned all over this site as songwriter, poet, screenplay writer, actress, model, novelist…and now we can add fashion designer after she debuted her GenX 724 line at Caribbean Fashion Week. What first time designer debuts at the biggest fashion showcase in the region? Tameka J that’s who.

Go on, Tameka!

Read about Tameka’s adventures in Jamaica and the dreaming and daring it took to get there on her blog.

Ent ah tell you artistic Antiguans out there doing their thing and ah jus’ tryin’ to keep up?

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