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 – credit and link back if you use).
To Harry Belafonte, who is US born with Jamaican roots and even spent part of his childhood there with his grandpartents. Belafonte’s musical career began in the late 1940s and his breakthrough album was Calypso in 1956 which sold by the millions with career-defining songs like the still popular “Banana Boat Song/Day-O” and “Mama look ah Boo-Boo Dey”, originally recorded by Lord Melody. While no Caribbean person would crown him King of Calypso (in a world in which Sparrow exists and, for Antiguans, the Monarch), it was a title, one he wore uncomfortably, assigned him in the US, given that he brought calypso into the American mainstream. Since Belafonte’s death on April 25th 2023, social media has also been rediscovering his activism including his substantial contributions to the US Civil Rights movement and involvement in making “We are the World” happen. Belafonte was also, of course, an actor, beginning in the 1950s with Hollywood classics like Carmen Jones and Island in the Sun through blaxploitation era pics like Buck and the Preacher and Uptown Saturday Night (both directed by and co-starring Bahamian-American Sidney Poitier, another recent loss to the culture) to most recently Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman.
Art and Culture
A production team from Trinidad and Tobago was in Antigua April 23rd – 26th to film Anthony N. Sabga awards for Caribbean Excellence arts and letters laureate Joanne C Hillhouse ahead of the June 2023 awards ceremony. Joanne, founder of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, was announced in March as the winner of the prestigius prize for her own writing and her contribution to the literary arts culture of Antigua and the Caribbean through her advocacy, activism, and action in this space. The team also filmed public health doctor Dr. Adesh Sirjusingh in Trinidad and Tobago – he is the Public and Civic Contributions laureate for 2023 – and agri-scientist Dr. Mahendra Persaud in Guyana – the science and technology laureate. Re the shoot in Antigua, I would like to express thanks to the team producer Robert Clarke, director Ryan Gibbons and audio engineer Kerron Lemessy. as well as to Marissa Walter and the staff and students of St. Andrew’s Primary, Barbara Andrea Arrindell and the staff of The Best of Books Bookstore, Ms. Mannix and her staff at the National Publi Library of Antigua and Barbuda, the owner and staff of Sips & Tips at the Northwalk Commercial Center, my family. (Source – Me)
National Poetry Month is an American thing, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, has been embraced by poets in other places – we just call it Poetry Month over here. Let’s see how we are marking the month in Caribbean spaces. At the Poets of the Caribbean blog, they’ve shared “Dis Poem” by Mutabaraka for National Poetry Month; Zora, a platform on Medium, in “Seven Young Black Women Writers to Celebrate and Support during National Poetry Month” mentioned Aja Monet who is Brooklyn-born with Caribbean roots; and I have been sharing pieces from my 2021 Medellin virtual reading on the Poetry Month 2023 playlist on my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel. The next video is set for premiere on Saturday 22nd 2023 at 10:00 a.m. AST meaning that people can watch it with me and comment live. (Source – various)
Ghanaian born British writer with Caribbean roots Margaret Busby, editor of Daughters of Africa and New Daughters of Africa and Britain’s first female Black publisher has been named the new president of English PEN. ‘Busby said: “For some four decades, I have admired and supported the work of English PEN, and to be able to play a part in helping that work continue is a privilege.” As president of English PEN she looked “forward to helping enable the full potential of literature worldwide, with equality of opportunity for all”.’ From the Guardian UK. (Source – Twitter)
In other PEN News, a reminder than US-based Jamaican writer Marlon James is a guest chair of the 2023 PEN World Voices Festival in New York. He will be having a fireside chat with fellow Booker Prize winner Ben Okri on May 13th 2023. Haitian-descended Roxane Gay will be in conversation with R F Kuang. (Source – PEN gmail)
Art week (previously written about here on the blog) began April 16th in Antigua and Barbuda. At this writing, I’ve visited the exhibition at the airport and visited Edison Liburd‘s art gallery, announced as a stop on the art hop. While this is no longer so, it was nice to visit his new location in All Saints and see some of his works in progress and finished pieces. Speaking of, here are some pieces from the exhibition (one of two main exhibitions on mainland Antigua, not to be confused with the Barbuda activities) in the arrival area of the V. C. Bird International Airport.
From left to right the artists are Stephen Murphy, Nicoya Henry, and Argent Javan, and the images are lifted from their respective social media.
ETA: The other major art week exhibition is at Boom, a restaurant and spa spot that was a gun powder magazine in English Harbour back in colonial times. Here’s a teaser but definitely go check it out for yourself if you’re in Antigua – it’s worth the visit.
Art from left to right are by Murphy, Emile Hill, and Carol Gordon.
ETA: This artversation on ABS TV was also a part of Art Week.
ETA: This CREATIVE SPACE of me on a Barbuda art hop during Art Week. With special thanks to Codrington Express Ferry Service.
(Source – I checked out both shows, watched the ABS live after being cued by Facebook, and travelled to Barbuda)
Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s When We were Birds has won the 2023 Bocas book prize; read about it here.
A Caribbean writer has again made the Women’s Prize short list after Trinidad and Tobago’s Lisa Allen-Agostini (What the Devil Knead) did so last year. From 16 longlisted writers, Fire Rush by Jamaica-born British based Jacqueline Crooks is in the top six. The judges describe it as “a brilliant celebration of Black womanhood…a story about dub reggae, friendships, love, and loss which spans London, Bristol, and Jamaica”. Here’s the announcement.
Other shortlisted writers/books are Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris, Pod by Laline Paull, Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, and Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. The Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary prizes. It is awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. It has been issued for the last 28 years. Past winners include African American writer Tayari Jones for An American Marriage, Nigerian wrier Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, British writer of Jamaican descent Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Jamaican British writer Andrea Levy’s Small Island. (Source – YouTube)
Summer Goodwin of Christ the King High School has won the Antigua and Barbuda Sailing Week Harper’s art competition for 2023. It is described in the Daily Observer as a “bold image depicting the coral reef being protected by a sea goddess/mermaid.”
This year’s theme was “Society, Coral Reefs, the Sea and You”. More than 70 entries were received. (Source – Daily Observer by Newsco)
“Hurricane Watch: New and Collected Poems by Olive Senior,” Carcanet Press, “has been shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award! The award, from the League of Canadian Poets, is for the best new book of poetry by an active League member. The prize was established to honour Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian poets. The winners of the League Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 4th May – you can read more about the awards here.” (Source – Nature Island Literary Festival on Twitter)
Barbadian writer Callie Browning has a bestseller on her hands. The Girl with the Hazel Eyes is number one in Black and African American literary fiction on Amazon. “My first ribbon” she said on Twitter, with the crying emoji. Consider this your reminder to check out “Callie Browning has “done everything wrong” and That’s All Right: The Bajan Author on the Secrets to Her Success (Guest Post)” here on Wadadli Pen. (Source – Callie Browning on Twitter)
First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize and its sister award Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize, founded in 2020, seek to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. This year’s announced Bocas fiction winner When We were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd is on the 2023 longlist.
(Source – Twitter)
With my story “Evening Ritual” being in the ne 2023 abridged German translation of New Daughters of Africa, I thought I’d share some of the events in case, unlike me, you happen to be in the area. Like this April 28th discussion on empire at the University of Cologne and this one on June 20th at the Orangerie Theatre in Cologne.
Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dandicat’s Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work has been adapted for the stage. Writer and director is Lileana Blain Cruz, a Drama League and Obie award winning, and Tony nominee. The play will be staged at Colony Theatre in Florida from May 4th – 28th 2023. This from artist director Michel Hausman: “Create Dangerously is a dream come true for Miami New Drama. We have the opportunity to work side by side with Miami native, Lileana Blain-Cruz, a Tony nominated artist, hailed as the future of the American theater. From the company’s founding it was my mission to collaborate with Lileana since we were both Artistic Fellows at New York Theater Workshop. Now, we have the opportunity to do so with a spectacular artist whom we admire and adore, a Haitian Miamian and National Book Award Winner, Edwidge Danticat. Her work is piercing, unbelievable, and like open heart surgery. Create Dangerously is a celebration ALL about the immigrant artist, an experience our company knows and feels deeply.” (Source – Edwidge Dandicat on Facebook)
We’ve already told you, but here’s your timely update that Bocas is coming up and is once again live. This year there’s a decided focus on new and emerging writing talent from the Caribbean at the Trinidad-and-Tobago-based literary festival which will run from April 28th to 30th. Venue is the National Library in Port of Spain and a whopping 80 (!) events are planned. Booked authors include Kevin Jared Hosein, Sharma Taylor, and Cherie Jones – all of whom have been having breakthroughs in the last couple of years with major book deals, media attention, and prize listing.
“Seeking out and promoting new literary talent is something the NGC Bocas Lit Fest has become known for,” says festival and programme director Nicholas Laughlin. “It’s maybe the most exciting aspect of what we do, and we’re thrilled to have such a diverse and accomplished lineup this year. These are writers we’ll all be talking about in a decade — just as we’re right now celebrating authors like Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, who first shared her writing in an earlier Bocas New Talent Showcase years before she published her acclaimed novel When We Were Birds.” (Source – Bocas email)
Domfesta, the Dominica Festival of the Arts, is held every May. Activities, scheduled but not organized by the Dominica Cultural Division will include…
(Source – Facebook DM)
Carolyn Cooper previews the return of Calabash, May 26th – 28th, in Jamaica, with an Anansi spin. “Unlike Anansi, the founders of the Calabash International Literary Festival – Colin Channer, Justine Henzell and Kwame Dawes – did not selfishly hide the magical packey’s table full of nice eatables. They invited the world to share the literary feast they themselves conjured up. Since 2001, the festival has brought together a stellar cast of writers from the Caribbean and all across the globe to celebrate the power of the word. Both spoken and sung! Nobel Laureates have shared the Calabash stage with aspiring writers on the open mic. It’s an egalitarian festival.” – Jamaica Observer. (Source – Calabash Festival on Twitter)
Fun fact: I’ve been on the Calabash stage but not as an invited author (that’s still a dream) but as one of those writers scrambling (read: talking themselves into stepping) to the open mic. It was one of those feel the fear, do it anyway moments. I read from The Boy from Willow Bend and years later I realized the young writer signing us up was/would go on to be multi-multi-award winning author Marlon James. The author I was really excited (read: nervous) about meeting in real time, though, was Colin Channer and I had my fangirl moment. Channer’s Waiting in Vain was a favourite of my book club at the time and a personal favourite. It was one of those books that brought Caribbean books out from behind the glass cabinet (where they were kept at my local library) into easily accessible spaces while still, I like to think, having the respect of the academy. I was in Jamaica, along with a small contingent of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, in 2007, thanks to funding from the Commonwealth which we got together and applied for – and which I was subsequently invited to report on for a Commonwealth publication.
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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and To be a Cheetah – the latter scheduled for July 2023 release and available for pre-order wherever you buy books at this writing). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.