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. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 30th one which means there are 29 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. – JCH
“The tiny footprints you made on the home we shared, I could never erase them, and you had me wrapped around your finger while his fingers were wrapped around my neck.” – Catalayah by Wendy Hara
“How many tied cotton bags of crystallized sugar were you and your father’s other bastards given to suckle? So you could, years later, find yourself” – Poems by Jacqueline Bishop
“You need an agent because you’ll be so eager to publish that you’ll pay them” – Tayari Jones
‘More forgiveness and understanding. I talk quite unexpectedly to Ronald Bickram. (There’s no such thing as an innocent introduction.) He was an entrant in the non-fiction category for the Bocas Prize. He admits his work needed more vigorous editing. “I went back and found a mistake on every page!” We have a frank talk about the need for work to be in the best place possible before being released to the world, and for judges and entrants to have conversations similar to ours. “For writers like me to know what to do—how to make the work better,” he says. We shake on this, and he tells me he has a relative in Black Rock, St Michael, not far from where my mother grew up in Barbados. She has a Chinese restaurant with local flare, Wing Kwong. “Tell Rene you met me!”’ – NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2018—Day by Day by Robert Edison Sandiford
CREATIVES ON CREATING
‘Lovers Rock is also about what she goes through in the industry: “I walk into a room and I’ve had my own label for the past five to seven years and the energy is still like, ‘Who do you think you are?'” she says. “I finally was like, ‘No, no, no, you’re not gonna keep disrespecting me.’ The response to the question, ‘Who do I think I am?’ is always, ‘I know who I am, a queen. Who do you think you are?'” – British soul-pop singer Estelle talking to NPR about her new West Indian inspired lovers rock album.
“People assume all kinds of things about you when you’re silent. That you’re stupid. That you’re smart. That you can’t hear. That you can’t communicate. That it’s a religious thing. That it’s an attention-seeking thing. Over the years, Ghillie heard them all. The religious thing was closest to the mark, although truth be told, his motives were far from holy. He made a vow to speak only when he had something worth saying, but he persisted with it because of how crazy it made people. Social workers, teachers, policemen, doorsteppers, they couldn’t bear his silence. Sympathy turned to rage in a surprisingly short space of time, particularly if he didn’t meet their eyes. It gave him a perverse sense of pleasure, saying nothing as they wheedled and cajoled, pleaded and threatened.” – Lynda Clark’s ‘Ghillie’s Mum’
‘We would make up games to entertain ourselves. There were always so many kids, babies, and toddlers around that you had to kind of invent an activity that would be good for all ages. I excelled at this (probably my need to entertain, or just my inherent geekiness). There was the game “questions in a hat,” where we’d rip up small pieces of paper and write anonymous, naughty questions for each of us to pull out of a hat and answer (I’ve since turned it into a drinking game with my friends). We made up dances to show off in the club. We’d play characters and perform skits for one another. We were all the entertainment we had and it was glorious.’ – Issa Rae
“Cap’n Tim Meaher, he tookee thirty-two of us. Cap’n Burns Meaher he tookee ten couples. Some dey sell up de river. Cap’n Bill Foster he tookee de eight couples and Cap’n Jim Meaher he gittee de rest. We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother. We seventy days cross de water from de Affica soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Derefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama.” – Zora Neale Hurston ‘Barracoon’ excerpt
“I was reluctant to ask him where he was going, what he was doing these days. Part of me was always reluctant to ask this of my friends from primary school, absurdly afraid to embarrass them. At 14, I had been awarded a partial bursary to a private boarding school in the city, which got its prestige from selling itself as an international school, thus attracting children of ministers, ambassadors and the wealthiest in the country. My single mother was a primary school teacher, with a permanent government job, so in primary school I had been considered fairly well-off. As a boarder, I was one of the school’s poorest students, often called to the principal’s office because my mother had missed paying her share of my tuition. The fact that I attended this school, taking French and Drama lessons, around students who spoke English all the time and talked back to their teachers, meant that the trajectory of my life had taken a sharp turn from my primary school friends. Whenever I saw them, I worked hard to reassure them that I had not changed, that I was still the same person who had gathered with them over the soft sorghum porridge we ate at break time.” – Good Manners by Gothataone Moeng
“I think it’s important for us to be honest; to say, yeah, we’ve overcome but also talk about the ugly side of it. Because I’ve found in my experience sometimes you wonder if it’s you alone going through this. If, you know, why isn’t it coming as easy as this particular person. And you’re not hearing the ugly part of it: the I can’t feed myself part of it, the I don’t know where the school fee is coming part of it, the my God I wonder if I can be like one of those women that, you know, sell their bodies to make a dollar part of it, the ugly part of it, the whole you know what I need some new underwear but I’m going to wear the old tear up ones because school fee need to be paid ugly part of it. I just think it would be better if people shared that because we overcome it and it helps us to feel less alone.” – Zahra Airall in Candid Conversation with Alicia Ward
“I’m also aware that of the 400 or so writers featured on the BBC’s ‘Caribbean Voices’ programme over 15 years, only 71 were women and that’s only 1/5th of the voices featured. It was bit of a ‘boys club’, as Alison Donnell says in her essay ‘Heard but Not Seen’ [in The Caribbean Short Story Evans, L., McWatt, M. and Smith, E. (eds.) (Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, 2011), 29-43]. Many of the female Caribbean writers of that time have evaporated into thin air. There are over 200 private collections of papers in the West Indiana Collection at UWI in Trinidad. I was the first West Indian woman to add my papers, four years ago, in 2014. I was shocked to find this out.” – Monique Roffey
“I’ve been immersed in 19th century newspapers and memoirs, mostly from Trinidad. They are fascinating and, because of the blatant blind spots and racism, disturbing.” – Rosamund King
“SE (Summer Edward): Seven Stories, the UK’s National Centre for Children’s Books, recently acquired the archives of UK-based award-winning Guyanese children’s authors, John Agard and Grace Nichols. I find it unsettling that institutions in the UK are more concerned about preserving Caribbean children’s literature as cultural heritage than we here in the English-speaking Caribbean are. What do you see as some of the advantages of creating our own repositories to collect archival material related to the Caribbean children’s literature?
JRL (John Robert Lee): The advantages are that we are better placed to understand the roots and sources of our literature, to identify the authentic stories and storytellers, to make connections between the stories, our histories and our community lives, and to see how the older stories can provide a continuity into the present and future, and even generate new stories that have an authentic foundation in the traditional experiences and values of the past. Our own repositories provide national archives of what we recognise as important records of our literature and history.” – Read the full interview in Anansesem
“PS: When did you decide to pursue your art and writing full time?
Danielle: There was one very clear moment in 2011 when I just could not ignore the pull toward a creative life anymore. It felt like drowning very slowly, little by little each day. I had no idea how I would make it work financially, but I had to leap anyway and have faith. Before this I was an English teacher, and although I loved, and still love, working with children, my heart was pulling me toward something else. Not one day goes by where I am not thankful for the chance to live and work in my purpose.” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune interview
“When I actively started thinking about what I wanted to publish, Una Marson’s Pocomania was on the list. I had been coming across the name of that play as a quintessential Jamaican work since I was doing my BA. I then learned that it was housed in the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) and I thought, that needs to change. If that play was so important, why don’t more contemporary people have access to it? One of the key things to know is that without the printing press, we would probably have forgotten Shakespeare by now. We need to give more of our playwrights similar access. Publishing the works of our playwrights is a part of how we acknowledge, celebrate and keep good work from disappearing into the ether. I, therefore, made my first proposal to publish the works more than a few years ago and the timing wasn’t right. But finally, last year it came to be, and the more I learned about Una Marson, the happier I was that we had managed to publish this.” – Tanya Batson-Savage
“Many of the older writers are still important: Walcott, Brathwaite, Naipaul, Harris, Rhys, Lamming, Hearne among others. Lorna Goodison, Mervyn Morris, Earl Lovelace, Ian McDonald, the late Victor Questel, Dionne Brand and those who follow that first ‘Golden Age’ generation. Many new voices have arrived, many of whose works are rewarded by big prizes: Kwame Dawes, Claudia Rankine, Marlon James, Vahni Capildeo, Kei Miller, Vladimir Lucien, Tiphanie Yanique, Ishion Hutchinson, Shivanee Ramlochan, Ann-Margaret Lim, Richard Georges, Jennifer Rahim among others. These and their many other colleagues are important. Time will tell, of course, how truly important and significant they are. Then there are many Caribbean writers who have grown up in the diaspora: Caryl Phillips, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and others. Peepal Tree Press, Carcanet and Papillotte Press are doing a great job in publishing the works of the older and newer writers. And we have not even touched writers from the other language areas of the Caribbean.” – St. Lucian poet and archivist John Robert Lee interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage
“In Ghana, I had worked in theater and for Ghana Television. In Barbados, I wanted to carry on theater directing. Since the theater companies were self-segregated, I (being white and nervous about intruding across evident racial lines) went to the one known for white or near-white members and a lot of European plays. They asked me if I had a play to suggest. Death and the King’s Horseman was an ambitious project to do outside Nigeria, requiring a lot of solid grounding in Soyinka’s cultural contexts. It was also ambitious as to the casting, in Barbados. It is a powerful story about English colonial intrusion on an ancient culture, told, as Soyinka carefully explains in his introduction to the play, from within Yoruba social space, focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the title character. He and his society are the core of the play, and so most of the main parts require actors of African descent. To find those actors, I needed to upset the self-segregation common in Barbados theater at the time, and I approached a group of black actors and writers. Earl Warner, later very well known as a major theatrical figure in the region, agreed to play the main role, Elesin. The white actors for the colonial parts came from the company producing the play. The production involved about fifty people, a fairly large budget, and a lot of work.” – Elaine Savory interviewed by Kelly Baker Josephs
“What I find myself most drawn to and excited by (both in my own reading and in programming the festival) are voices and perspectives which are not what anyone would expect. I think that many of us, even here at home in the region – we should know better – we sometimes have very narrow ideas of what the Caribbean is, or should be. What is a Caribbean subject or voice, or topic or question or anxiety, and I’m not keen on that. I think we are far more various than we give ourselves credit for.” – Nicholas Laughlin interview for Caribbean Literary Heritage
“The irony of the Internet, which was supposed to rob us of our attention span and be the death of journalism, is that it has actually promoted a new passion for longform nonfiction. It’s also given us more opportunities to find and discover poets, who are a big part of the movement towards essays as well, since they are doing work that is increasingly hybrid. In general, the best thing I can say about social media and the Internet is that it has allowed a lot of people to bypass the gatekeepers, such that I don’t know if there’s a real gate any more.” – Alexander Chee
I’m calling this a love letter because love isn’t only romantic. In the note that follows, you’ll hear loud and clear Linisa Geroge’s boundless love for her sister in art, Zahra Airall, and the complicated love artists have to the journey, as well as passion (a kind of love) for the art that flows through her. I want to share the love as I felt it reading this, and so, with Linisa’s permission (from her social media):
“I’m feeling a bit emotional right now, so please allow me this moment to share something. As most of you know Zahra and I have partnered over the years to do quite a bit of creative projects in Antigua. Last year we made the very difficult and frustrating decision to take a year off from Poetry In The Pub. Many of you were sad and while we understood your emotions, we needed to step back and work on individual projects that needed our attention. There were things that we wanted to do that kept haunting us because we were not putting the time needed into getting them off the ground.
Today is the 27th June 2018, and well look at the universe responding to our hardwork. I revealed on Monday that my first book will be available in August and I founded a collective that will focus on fostering collaborative work between all creatives. Zahra is presently in Turks and Caicos with her Honey Bee Theatre on tour with her play ‘Light In The Darkness’ sponsored by UN Women through the Directorate of Gender Affairs.
In order to grow and evolve you must make hard decisions. You must step away from certain things and people and seek clarity. You must go silent. You must bite the bullet and prioritize. You must some times strip everything down and start over. I won’t get into all the frustrating tears of weariness that we’ve shed, or the times we were so close to calling it quits on our haunting dreams. I just wanted to share with you what it looks like when you push through in spite of surmounting obstacles.
I’m usually a very private person but in the past year retreating and focusing on my health and personal and professional development has allowed me to unlock new levels of consciousness. I don’t have any answers to success or financial freedom, but I do know the joy and peace that come with owning your greatness and living out your passions. Art.Culture.Antigua will be back next week and the Black Girl In The Ring Foundation is slowly tying up all its loose ends. There are other things in motion that I won’t share just yet, but know that I’m putting in a shitload of work. I’ve sacrificed a lot, some very personal. I’ve messed up and had to check myself and do better. The losses are tough to understand sometimes, but I’ve learned from every last one.
Thank you all for being supportive, whether you know me personally or not. Thank you for your kind words and deeds when I needed it most. Thank you for challenging me to do and be better. Thank you for every criticism and pat on the back. Thank you for supporting the arts and for supporting Zahra and I and all our many many initiatives.
A special thank you to my close circle, who may not always understand my process and why I do certain things and make certain decisions, but show up to cheer me on without me even asking. You all are the real MVPs and you each know how much I cherish your unwavering love and support.
For who much is given, much is expected, so I felt it necessary to share this with you. I am supremely grateful. Everything is not right, but I am right where I am suppose to be. Give thanks ALL-ways.”
Linisa has announced a forthcoming project The Black Exhibit and her first book ‘The Flowers In Her Hair – an ode to Afro-Caribbean Womanhood’, both due this August 2018. Linisa is a past Wadadli Pen Challenge judge and patron. Both Linisa and Zahra have built up a lot of goodwill in the arts community through the energies and time they’ve put in to local arts – on their projects and in support of projects by other artists. As their stagings of the Vagina Monologues and its local spin-off When a Woman Moans indicated they set the bar high. In an environment where the art DOES NOT get the support, investment, attention, or boost it needs, Linisa and Zahra have invested time they could have been putting in to their own art in to building an arts community – Young Poets Society to Poetry in the Pub. Creating art, while making a living, while being an arts advocate, while life-ing is tiring – I know – so kudos to them for having the courage to step back to come forward. This is Linisa’s Love Letter to Zahra and their journey as figurative twins (though not bound by blood they share the same birthday), but it speaks to me and my own journey (its trials and triumphs and, again, its trials) and I suspect it will you as well. We are, none of us, perfect, among the things Linisa testifies to above is that we are all flawed works in progress, but in many ways these sisters are #blackgirlmagic #repecttheirhustle #beinspired
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, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved.
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 artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 23rd one which means there are 22 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.
‘We must never for a moment doubt that it is absolutely vital that a nation should foster and honour its writers. The good writer devotes his energy to searching for truth. And in the love of truth, straight and unvarnished, lies not only the hope but the safety of a nation. “The people need poetry,” the great Russian Poet, Osip Mandelstam, wrote, “to keep them awake forever.” The good writer, the true writer, as Cyril Connolly said in Enemies of Promise, “helps to unmask those pretenders which distract all human plans for improvement: the love of power and money, the short-sighted acquisitive passions, the legacies of injustice and ignorance, a tiger instinct for fighting, the ape-like desire to go with the crowd. A writer must be a lie-detector who exposes fallacies in words and ideals before half the world is killed for them.”’ – Ian McDonald
FROM THE BLOGS
“People think writing children’s stories is some simple, easy thing. You’ve heard that, right? It is not; children deserve that as much attention be taken with their stories as would be taken with an adult novel. The child doesn’t need to recognize the many layers in a story. The layers of meaning will come later, or not, but the layers create the finished picture. The child just needs needs to enjoy the story, just needs that satisfying feeling of reading a story where the ending spreads like joy from the tips of the toes to the tips of the fingers and creates a bubbling-up-joy in the heart and mind.” – Caribbean Children’s Literature Diane Browne
“Being a migrant is like living in a limboland where you never fully belong anywhere, the positive perspective being it also gives you a wider and deeper empathy and universality.” – Maggie Harris interview
“In the lateness of the night, she rises from the table. After these many years, she has become attuned to the restaurant, and to her beloved. They work in tandem. She can hear the eaves sigh in the wind, feel the dining room chairs sag with relief as the frenetic energy of the day finally draws to a close.” – The Woman Who Lived in the Restaurant by Leone Ross
“Across a field of short, sparse grass, she spied another group of aliens, facing each other in silence as usual, with their silver-stones piled in the center. Some were young—short with thick fur. Others were old—their scaly skin showing where hair had fallen out in patches about their body. She wondered if they considered this planet theirs. The family parrot, Rupert, considered the bell on his cage to be his property and pecked anyone who tried to move it. And the aliens of this world were certainly smarter than Rupert. Clara remembered her father’s stories about Columbus invading the Caribbean a thousand years before and declaring himself its discoverer. Maybe Clara and her family were the invaders now.” – from Clara in the New World, 2492 A.D. by Imam Baksh – See more here.
“Placing one slender, manicured tip on the backspace key, she erased every word, every trace of what she’d been feeling. It was four in the afternoon, and Laurie was beginning to feel suffocated. She needed this meeting to end. The only consolation was that she’d chosen a seat with her back against the wall, so her screen was not easily seen. Today was not her day to present, nor did she have the energy to rebut the statements being made, so she blindly allowed her mind to wander – a dangerous pastime.” – The Looking Glass by Zahra Airall (also posted to A & B Writings in Journals and Contests)
“I would say to young writers be true to yourself and go for what is deeply meaningful for you, ask yourself over and over: What do I want to say? Be as authentic to yourself and your subject as you can be. Write every day.” – Lawrence Scott
“My mantra is definitely slow and steady wins the race. I apply this mantra to a lot of things, but I think in terms of my business I really avoid the sensation of being overwhelmed.” – Holly Wren Spaulding
Several Caribbean writers sharing their work and insights, including Jamaica’s Tanya Shirley – “Matter of fact which women really needs a head unless she’s proficient in giving head and keeping her mouth shut when she’s not”; St. Lucia’s Vladimir Lucien – “…no land, not enough last name to get the loan…”; and Barbados’ Karen Lord – “It appears that war, when deprived of one reason, simply seeks out another; we are still a people divided.” – listen to the full thing at the BBC.
“…if you have just finished writing your first story, you may want to take some time honing it and your craft and ensuring that it is truly ready for publication before approaching publishers. Completing a draft for most writers is the first step in a long journey of becoming a published author.” – advice from agent Anna Ghosh
“I had this image of a woman grieving the illness of her lover, but yes, the lover is not-quite-human. He’s a construction or a creation or a person who has been made in our own image. I was thinking of love as a double helix between attraction to the other, the opposite; and attraction to some unarticulated part of ourselves that we recognize in another. And then, out of the blue, I could see Jin and Naomi dancing together, and the perspective was that of child, a neighbor, watching this love affair unfold, and interpreting that otherness, that not-quite-humanness, in a very different way. So that was the beginning.” – Five Questions for Madeleine Thien
“The reason an inciting moment matters is that it determines what the story is about. It’s like a snowball that is pushed down a hill. It will gather it’s own momentum, and direct the story to its conclusion unless you put obstacles in the way (like a rock) to throw it off track and into another direction. If you don’t want your story about Cinderella to hinge on the prince’s ball, you might not want to include the invitation in the plot in the first place.” – Andrea Lundgren
Solange Knowles jam sessions and creative process for Seat at the Table.
“When I sat down to write Ashael Rising, I knew very little about KalaDene. In fact, it didn’t even have a name until the third draft or so. My world-building was all done as I went along. I once heard an excellent description of the process; it explains just what it feels like to me so I’m going to share it here. World-building is like walking through a tunnel (the world) with a torch (the story) so I can see as much of the world as the story shines a light on and a little bit around the edges but everything else is just fuzzy shapes in the darkness, with maybe a puff of cool air indicating that there might be a door to somewhere else off to the left.” – Shona Kinsella talks world building
“Here’s the catch: More than one type of character arc exists. Our characters can change for better or worse. Or, perhaps they might not change much, except in strength of resolve. So, how do writers determine what kind of arc a character is following, or which arc fits our story best?” – Fantasy writer Sara Letourneau blogging on character arcs
“People think writing children’s stories is some simple, easy thing. You’ve heard that, right? It is not; children deserve that as much attention be taken with their stories as would be taken with an adult novel. The child doesn’t need to recognize the many layers in a story. The layers of meaning will come later, or not, but the layers create the finished picture. The child just needs needs to enjoy the story, just needs that satisfying feeling of reading a story where the ending spreads like joy from the tips of the toes to the tips of the fingers and creates a bubbling-up-joy in the heart and mind.” – Jamaican author Diane Browne blogging Children as Heroes/Heroines of Their Own Stories
N.B. This is specific to items written for the stage or screen which have been published in book form (not including screen/plays excerpted in journals which will be posted to the journals list). It’s short but I decided to share it anyway. The list of produced plays and films is longer (though still comparatively short). Use the search feature to find it. This list is also cross-posted to the main list of Antiguan and Barbudan writing which I started building in 2005 for the Independence Literary Arts exhibition at the National Museum. Use the search feature to find that. For other genre specific listings , search for fiction, non fiction, poets, children’s literature, songwriters, or whatever else. This list is all books all the time, but you can also search this site for publications by Antiguans and Barbudans in journals, contest wins, and performances. Chances are it’s somewhere here on the site. Some listed books are traditionally published (i.e. the rights acquired by trade publishers for sale with writers receiving an advance and royalties per contract), published with a small or independent press (still traditional but on a different scale), published via a hybrid press (a mix of traditional publishing and self-publishing), or self-published (including vanity press or any mechanism through which the author pays to publish). If you’re looking for Wadadli Pen winners, use the drop down menu on the right or search Wadadli Pen by year, name, story or other feature. Do your own research re the quality of any books posted here (we even have some reviews posted to the site) and if you share, credit. Hope you find what you’re looking for.
Name: Zahra Airall
“Makeba’s Walk” (p. 96) and “You should have been there” (p. 102) in
Voices Monologues and Plays for Caribbean Actors (ed. Yvonne Weekes). House of Nehesi Publishers. St. Martin. 2021.
“Over the Hill and Through the Wood” in
She SEX – Prose and Poetry: SEX and the Caribbean Woman. Bamboo Talk Press. Trinidad. 2013.
About the Book:
Per Weekes’ introduction in Voices Monologues and Plays for Caribbean Actors, theatre arts was introduced as a CXC and CSEC course offering in 2001. Voices, which includes monologues on historical figures and real events, dramatically fictionalized, offers students across the Caribbean insight to the region and what sets it apart from the rest of the world.
Sex, Prose and Poetry, SEX and the Caribbean Woman has been described as “an important gathering of women’s voices” (Tiphanie Yanique, author of How to Survive a Leper Colony). Airall’s story, “Over the Hill and Through the Wood” is about an older woman finding sexual gratification for the first time.
About the Author:
Zahra is an educator, photographer, spoken word artist, poet, and stage and TV writer, director, and producer. She is a part of the following teams: Women of Antigua (which brought The Vagina Monologues and When a Woman Moans to the Antiguan stage), August Rush (producer of the Expressions Poetry series), and the team that brought the first TEDx event to Antigua. She’s also put on several well-received productions under her Sugar Apple Theatre and Zee’s Youth Theatre banner, in Antigua and abroad, and has racked up several awards as writer-director in local and regional secondary schools theatre competitions. See her credits for film-TV and stage productions in Playwrights and Screenwriters (The Antigua-Barbuda Connection). See also writings on her plays in CREATIVE SPACE here, here, and here. She is, also, a teacher, writer, and photographer.
Wadadli Pen connection: Zahra was part of a small grouping of Antiguans who organized a week of Black History Month activities culminating with the Wadadli Pen Challenge awards. This was the return of the Wadadli Pen Challenge after a three year break and the first year of the Wadadli Pen visual arts challenge. The Wadadli Pen/BHM week of activities included a national Museum exhibition of visual art by Antiguans and Barbudans including Zahra/byZIA Photography, who, also directed ‘Word Up! 2010’ (sequel to ‘Word Up! 2006’, a joint Museum-Wadadli Pen fundraiser and literary arts showcase) which was a mix of fashion, poetry, calypso, theatre, with Zee’s Youth Theatre headlining, and the Challenge awards. 2010.
Name: Edson Buntin
Anu Bantu: Treasure Island and Haunted Park. Antigua Printing and Publishing. Antigua. 2007.
About the Book:
“The format of this book is that of both a novel and a play rolled into one”–p.324.
About the Author:
Edson Buntin is a dramatist and an instructor in French at the Antigua State College. His contributions to theatre are both onstage and off, as an actor including serving as a cast member in the 1979 production of Dorbrene O’Marde’s Tangled Web and as founder of the Scaramouche Theatre and overseeing several productions at the College, such as Conjugal Bliss. Plays written by Buntin include Con Man Sun Sun, Mr. Valentine, and Wedlock. He has also acted in local films such as Once in an Island.
Name: David Edgecombe
Lady of Parham.Caribbean Reads Publishing (second edition). St. Kitts. 2014.
About the Book:
Lady of Parham, set in Antigua, introduces the audience to five revelers who have come together to form a Carnival troupe but settle for dramatizing the tale of the Parham ghost. In the telling of the ghost legend, Justin, Tulip, Sauna, Kyle, and Mabel must confront the demons that threaten to derail their lives. Lady of Parham is based on a local Antiguan legend. The play has been staged, including an eight night run at the Little Theatre, University of the Virgin Islands.
About the Author:
Edgecombe’s inclusion on this list is due to the Antigua-specific nature of this play. He hails from neighbouring Montserrat where he was the founder of touring company, the Montserrat Theatre Group. He has written over a dozen plays which have been staged throughout the Caribbean, in Canada, and in Nigeria. He joined the faculty of the University of the Virgin Islands in 1990 to teach English and was artist-in-residence in 1991. He also taught Journalism, Speech Communication, and Theater before becoming Director of the Reichhold Center for the Arts. He went on to become a full-time professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, University of the Virgin Islands. He has published several of his plays with Caribbean Reads Publishing; but, notably, Lady of Parham was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize for Literature Caribbean Award.
Name: Gus Edwards
The Offering & Other Plays by Gus Edwards.
Black Heroes in Monologues (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2006.
50 African American Audition Monologues (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2002.
More Monologues on Black Life (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2000.
Monologues on Black Life (ed.). Heinemann. US. 1997.
Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company (w/co-editor Paul Carter Harrison). University of Pittsburgh Press. US. 1995.
The Offering. Dramatists Play Service Inc. US. 1978.
Old Phantoms. Dramatists Play Service Inc. US. 1969.
About the Books:
Black Heroes in Monologues – What is a hero? How is one defined? When Gus Edwards discovered that the majority of the young actors, playwrights, and teachers he encountered didn’t know who Nat Turner was—nor many other key men and women in black history—he summoned the power of theatre to correct the situation. Black Heroes in Monologues brings these and other influential African Americans to life once again.
50 African American Audition Monologues – Finding authentic African American material has never been easy for actors. Gus Edwards continued to remedy that situation with this third collection of powerful, original monologues for African American men and women. The pieces offer a refreshing alternative to recycled standards. And they showcase the language and frame of reference that are immediately recognizable, both emotionally and culturally, to the people who will perform or view them. Edwards has arranged the monologues by performance length, a key component in auditioning.
More Monologues on Black Life – This collection presents fresh material written in a voice that reflects the modern African American experience. The collection offers the complete text of Gus Edwards’ remarkable ‘Lifetimes on the Streets’, in a volume with another collection of monologues entitled ‘Reaching for the Dream’. Together, these two sets of monologues are a vital resource for actors and actresses looking for honest, vibrant material. The characters in ‘Lifetimes on the Streets’ range from a woman on her way to her hairdresser who enters into a strange relationship with a painter who invites her to have a cup of tea with him, to the Common Man, an old man carrying a bag who warns that Harlem is entering a new ice age, to a businessman who, on the death of a homosexual friend, wanders into a porn movie and is forced to confront his own discomfort and lack of confidence. The rest of this volume is a collection of monologues for men and women, ranging in age from 15 to 50.
Monologues on Black Life – In acting classes all over the country, African American students are routinely given monologues either from old Black plays like A Raisin in the Sun or contemporary Anglo plays, prompting them to ask, “Where are the new works aimed at us?” Students need material that is fresh and authentic, material that speaks in their language and to their concerns.
Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company – This anthology celebrates more than twenty-five years of the Negro Ensemble Company’s significant contribution to American theater. Collected here are ten plays most representative of the eclectic nature of the Negro Ensemble Company repertoire. The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) was formed in New York City in 1967 with support from the Ford Foundation to aid in the establishment of an independent African-American theater institution. Under the artistic directorship of Douglas Turner Ward, the NEC offered a nurturing environment to black playwrights and actors who could work autonomously, guaranteeing authenticity of voice, full freedom of expression, and exploration of thematic views specific to the African-American experience. Since its inception, the NEC has introduced audiences to more than 150 theatrical works. Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company allows scholars to review a diversity of styles which share common philosophical, mythic, and social ideals that can be traced to an African worldview. A foreword by Douglas Turner Ward and an afterword by Paul Carter Harrison and Gus Edwards assess the literary and/or stylistic significance of the plays and place each work in its historical or chronological context.
The Offering – The scene is a shabby basement apartment on New York’s West Side, where Bob Tyrone, an aging black, lives with his young wife, Princess. Now on welfare, Tyrone spends most of his time dozing, or glass in hand, watching television. Unexpected visitors arrive in the form of Martin, an obviously prosperous young black man, and Ginny, his beautiful white girlfriend. Martin offers Tyrone a large sum of money, but Tyrone declines and invites his visitors to stay the night. In a series of highly atmospheric scenes, it develops that Martin, a hired killer, had known Tyrone when he too was a power in illegal activity, and he still regards him with awe. At first the action seems to be concerned with Martin’s desire to help his former mentor. But gradually, as the sense of menace deepens, we are aware that a struggle for sexual dominance has now become the focus of their relationship – as Tyrone seduces Ginny, and Martin, suddenly powerless, yields to the psychological battle of wits to which his now reinvigorated master has subjected him. Successfully produced by New York’s renowned Negro Ensemble Company, this arresting first play blends menace and humor, with unique stylistic originality, as it details the confrontation between a young man, his aging mentor and the women with whom they share their lives.
About the Author:
About the Author: Gus Edwards was born 1939 in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas. He moved to New York in 1959. His plays have been showcased by the Negro Ensemble of NY among other companies across the US. Initially, a protégé of Stella Adler, he worked as an actor in films and on stage. But limited by his accent, he began writing his own material. These included The Offering (1977), Black Body Blues (1978), Old Phantoms (1979), These Fallen Angels (1980), Weep Not for Me (1981), Tenement (1983), Manhattan Made Me (1983), Ramona (1986), and Louie and Ophelia (1986). Most of his plays are reportedly set in “the slums and ghettoes of New York…his characters often exist outside of the boundaries of what is thought to be appropriate behavior in society.” (Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 157). His works for television include Aftermath (1979) and a TV adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also wrote narration on the Negro Ensemble Company for PBS. Though self-taught, the critically acclaimed playwright has taught theatrical writing at several US colleges and became associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University, directing where the multi-ethnic theatre and teaching in the film studies programme. In 2000, he was appointed artistic director to the Scottsdale Ensemble Theatre in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Gus Edwards is one of the first Caribbean writers to contribute to American theatre.” (Notable Caribbean and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 158)
Name: Fransene Massiah-Headley
Pepperpot…A Caribbean Woman’s Story…Poems for the Stage. Dominica. 2008.
About the Books:
Pepperpot is a Look at the Antigua culture. It documents a Caribbean woman’s life story while revealing some of Antigua’s rich history employing the Antiguan Nation Language to tell the story of the characters.
About the Author:
Fransene Massiah—Headley is an Antiguan educator, writer and dramatist. Writer and Dramatist.
Name: Ian McDonald
“The Tramping Man” (one-act play) in A Time and A Season (a collection of eight Caribbean plays). UWI’s School of Continuing Studies. 1976.
About the Books:
“Tramping Man” was performed in Guyana in 1969, broadcast by GBS in 1972, and published in A Time and A Season ed. Errol Hill, 1976. It is about a Dionysian carnivalesque figure, a spirit of unquenchable freedom who is seen by the state to challenge its power. The play has been frequently staged.
About the Author:
McDonald is the author of several books of fiction and poetry, including Caribbean Classic The Hummingbird Tree – which has been made in to a BBC production. He has described himself as “Antiguan by ancestry, Trinidadian by birth, Guyanese by adoption, and West Indian by conviction.” Ian McDonald’s Antigua connection is through his father (who is of Antiguan and Kittitian extraction, while his mother is Trinidadian). He himself was born in Trinidad in 1933 and went to Guyana in 1955. He has lived there ever since. From a white West Indian family, he worked in the sugar industry, pre-and-post retirement. He wrote a weekly newspaper column and worked to revive the seminal literary journal Kyk-over-Al. His writing began in the 1950s with publications in BIM and New World. He has considerably more publications than mentioned here, including appearances in The Caribbean Writer, Poui, and the Caribbean Review of Books. He has received an honourary PhD from the University of the West Indies. Adept at sports – specifically tennis – he was Guyana’s 1957 Sportsman of the Year. His backstory includes a five times great-grandfather Edward Dacres Baynes, 1790 to 1863, who served as a soldier in Jamaica just after emancipation and after that a colonial civil servant in the Leeward Islands including the post of President of the Council of Montserrat, who eventually settled in Antigua with his wife and fifteen children. Baynes published a poetry collection entitled Child Harold in the Shades. His family line also includes a great-uncle Donald McDonald, an Antiguan trader, businessman and Assembly member who also wrote verse and published a volume in London in 1917. His grandmother, Hilda McDonald was the first female member of the Antiguan House of Assembly and author of a small booklet of verse, Sunflakes and Stardust.
“Aneemah’s Spot” (pg. 181 – pg. 207) in Give Voice: Ten Twenty Minute Plays from the Obsidian Theatre Company Playwright’s Unit (edited by Rita Shelton Deverell). Playwright’s Canada Press. 2011.
About the Books:
“Aneemah’s Spot” is a riveting dramatic duet set over one night in the Toronto mega-city. The real-time tale is a stealthy mix of dialogue, rhyme and spoken word that follows two childhood friends – Aneemah and Wan – left to deal with the fallout of a tragedy that comes too close to home. The murder of “G” brings them together to mourn and share histories as they are forced to let go of the past, and decide how they will navigate life from this moment on – apart or together. Written by Motion, the most recent award-winning production (up to this posting in 2018) was directed by Charles Officer, starred Amanda Parris and Shomari Downer, and featured an infectious sound-scape by DJ L’Oqenz.
About the Author:
Motion is the daughter of an Antiguan mother. She is an award winning artist whose accolades began when she became the first female Hip Hop artist to be nominated for MuchMusic’s Best Rap Video. Her pioneering presence continued when her commentary on urban life and love in Toronto made her the winner of the CBC National Poetry Face-Off with her nationally acclaimed poem ‘Connect the T.Dots’. Motion is the first Hip Hop artist in Canada to publish a collection of writings, Motion in Poetry, with the companion album, the Audio Xperience. She’s performed at Russell Simmonds Def Poetry Jam on HBO and is a member of the Obsidian Theatre’s Playwrights Unit. She’s written for stage and screen.
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, Dancing Nude 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). 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.
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
Barbara Arrindell in Cacique magazine – January 2023
“We speak of this orange (creative) economy quite a bit these days, and we need a greater investment in the arts so that creatives and those involved in the craft can continue to create without worrying about being able to sustain themselves.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today –
– (January 12th 2022)
Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
“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.” –
‘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)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 2 (2022) – “When writing, where this was concerned, the one thing that I really wanted it to feel like and be like was Antiguan… I was very intentional with everything from the food choices to the music…but I also wanted them for the most part to be not necessarily heartwarming but …my general brand, for everything I write…Antiguan, full of love, and spicy.”
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 1 (2022) – “I started writing epic fantasy. I think that’s what I wrote for a very long time…but eventually I said to myself, well, this is what I like to read so I’m really confused as to why I’m not writng it and that’s when I started to segueing into trying my hand at writing romance novels.”
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.
“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.
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.
“We shot this at Half Moon Bay and this was supposed to embody just light and sand and turqouise waters, and just playfulness and joy, like there was supposed to be an innocence to it because this is where you meet the Yemoja character and so this was really just about having fun and just playing with my body and the dress under the water and trying to imagine what Yemoja wuld have felt just being in clear chrystal blue waters.” – Christal Clashing discussing Yemoja’s Anansi in a February 2022 CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column
“Sometimes I try to have this hope that we have reached a stage where black people are not being treated unfairly and [this news] just dropped me into a rabbit hole again.” – Heather Doram (Daily Observer, 2021)
“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)
Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.
Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”
Claudia Ruth Francis talking with Italy’s Conoscere TV about her book Six Steps: An African-Barbudan-Caribbean Story (2022):
“I was very surprised when I realized that I was only six steps away from my ancestor who was on the slave registry in Barbuda.”
“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.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV’s Good Morning Antigua Babuda for March 8th 2023 International Women’s Day –
“It actually started as a conversation between me and my nephew and his mother that became this sort of bedtime story.” (speaking of To be a Cheetah)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Joanne C. Hillhouse part 2 (2022) – “Part of it is that I knew that world: I was the girl with the guitar slung over her shoulder, going to practice, playing in the choir, being shy about it, being self-conscious about walking with the guitar..for me the interesting things were the kids discovering their love of art, and discovering their potential within the art space, and connecting with each other through art…and the instinctive urge to explore colourism in that space because it exists in our spaces, our Black spaces, our people of colour spaces, it exists, so all of those things were interesting to me; the romance, yes, but all of those other things as well.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today (January 12th 2022) – “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is not for you to judge what you’re creating as you’re creating it. Let it be. Let it breathe. But part of what I’m doing in my current stream of workshops is now when you come back to the work, how do you begin to edit it, how do you being to redraft it? Because if you are serious about putting your work out in to the world, that is going to be a part of the process. And one of the things I always encourage budding writers to do is to begin to think of putting their work out in to the world. Whether it’s submitting to journals, or contests, or beginning the process of starting to query longer works that they wish to publish. But before you get to that point, once you get past the ‘just write’, once you get past the ‘let it breathe’, is beginning to dig in to the work and refine it, and begin to put it out in to the world.”
“One of the things that you grow up hearing in the Caribbean is girls shouldn’t climb trees because they going blight the tree, meaning that the tree not goin’ grow or not goin’ bear, so I wanted to put a girl in a tree; we need to break those sort of stereotypes. One of the magical things about children’s picture books is that they are what begins that process of socializing children in to who they are and who other people are.” – presentation by Joanne C. Hillhouse at Write the Vision’s Aspiring Authors and Writers Virtual Literary Event
“Even the idea of taking on an internship as a writer, because he’s an aspiring writer, is a luxury…you have to be able to support yourself in order to do an internship that can help you figure out this writing thing sometimes; so all of the things you need to feed the life that will allow you to do the creative thing is sometimes the biggest challenge.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse on taking on her first personal intern; just one of the things discussed in this conversation with Diaspora Kids Lit
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Andy Caul of ACalabash: “To write those kids in Musical Youth, I reached back to my own teen-hood when I had my group of friends and I used to play the guitar. I used to go to guitar lessons, to play guitar in the choir. We went to fetes, Carnival, talent shows, walk-a-thons, the beach, we walked from school together. We had our clique. We had shared experiences. And I know in the reviews, they particularly commented on the Black joy in Musical Youth. And I appreciated that because that, in a way, was a joyful existence. The thing that people misunderstand about Caribbean life and Caribbean people is that while it can be very hard, marked by poverty and other things, it’s not just that. It is just life. It is love and laughter and we have some of the most inappropriate sense of humor when it comes to some of the darkness and the things that we joke about and the things that we find funny. So, yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there is political victimization. Yes, there is all the narratives but there’s also friendship, laughter, fun, music and all that stuff. I did not feel like I was writing against anything. It felt like I was just writing what was true.” (2021)
“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”
–Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat (2021) that involved audience questions.
“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021
“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books
“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)
“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)
Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.
“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.
Joanne Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to Commonwealthwriters.org (2014): “I use a lot of detail, a lot of specificity in rendering the world, and I write from a very character-driven place – Who are they? What do they want? What is their truth (don’t compromise on telling their truth)? Why should we care?” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse is interviewed by Jamaican publisher-writer for Susumba (2013): “Honestly, I think it comes down to the material. I see publishing as the end game not the first step. Develop your craft, read a lot, experience life, write; these are more important. And when you’re ready do your research… take your shot, and don’t give up.” Full interview.
Fiction. It challenges me and I fall in love with the characters and enjoy discovering the story. Poetry, because it’s my outlet; it’s not always about publishing, often it’s just about getting it out. This is the medium I use for that type of writing more than any other…for me, the most accessible, I guess. Though it is it’s own kind of challenge (technically). But I like all forms for different reasons.
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.
“There’s a piece that I did that I call ‘8-8-21’ that I wrote after teargas Sunday last year. I call it ‘Freedom 8-8-21’…it starts by saying, I think, ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When the youth are protest ready, they become revolutionary’. And it goes on from there and it just kind of encapsulates the entire Sunday, everything that happened that Sunday. Because I happened to be there. That was my personal experience. I was caught up in it. I was gassed as well… that piece means a lot to me not only because it was my experience but also it’s history, it’s chronicling what happened that day.” – Dotsie Isaac, in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE
“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.
Foster Joseph, jazz vocalist and musician, in conversation in 2021 with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
Clifton Joseph in Never Apart: ‘…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.”
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.
Naomi Jackson, a New Yorker of Antiguan and Barbadian descent, author of critically acclaimed novel The Star Side of Bird Hill, in conversation with Writing Home: American Voices from the Caribbean –
“The Caribbean was both this place of joy and possible exile.” Listen here.
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.
“I suppose that my work is always mourning something, the loss of a paradise—not the thing that comes after you die, but the thing that you had before. I often think of the time before my brothers were born—and this might sound very childish, but I don’t care—as this paradise of my mother and me always being together. There were times when my mother and I would go swimming and she would disappear for a second, and I would imagine the depths just rolling over her, that she’d go deeper and deeper and I’d never see her again . . . And then she would pop up somewhere else. Those memories are a constant source of some strange pleasure for me.” – Jamaica Kincaid conversation in the Paris Review, 2022
“Writing, it seems to me, depends primarily on a kind of chaos [so] that categorisation . . . only hinders the reader and the writer,” says Kincaid, explaining that she prefers to think in terms of “different forms” because “when I started to write, I just wrote”. – Jamaica Kincaid, from interview in the Financial Times, 2022
Jamaica 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.
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.
Joy Lawrence in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for Wadadli Pen (2013): “The history books we are familiar with are usually written from the European or American perspective. I want people to understand our story from our perspective – how we feel, our likes and dislikes, our goals and aspirations. No outsider can tell our story the way we can.” Full interview.
Joy 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.
“That’s the direction I want to go with my writing, where I want it to be a small Caribbean island, I want it to be genre fiction, category romance, in the Caribbean, because sometimes those are the books you want to read, you know, you don’t want to be thinking of the heavier literary fiction or whatever – sometimes you just want ice-cream.”
– Kimolisa Mings, CREATIVE SPACE interview, February 2023
“I was the representative for the Clare Hall Secondary school, my alma mater… I fell on stage…the crowd’s reaction was a mixture of *gasps* and laughs, and at that point I had to make a decision, ‘hey, you go continue or you go stop.’ Cause you can either be poor thing and people laugh at you for the rest of your life or you can act the shit out of this and make it worth it. And I stayed on that floor and I continued my entire performance from the floor. The next day, I was the front page article: If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again . The next year, I was the billboard for the website. I had my own billboard on the road…which is something that is not normally given to an unplaced contestant…that experience that you would think would have deterred me or broken me down in some kind of way was something that opened a whole big spectrum to me as a person in terms of confidence and being able to think on your feet, you know, ‘you need to get this done, wha you go do.'” – Kevon Moitt, designer
(the self-produced documentary series was released in 2021)
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.
Dorbrene O’Marde about writing Nobody Go Run Me about King Short Shirt (2022):
Noting that he had written the first chapter five years before beginning the book – “Writing is interesting in that sense…you start, you put it down, and sometimes you just don’t get back to it for a long long time unless something prods you, and it was this celebration of the 50th anniversary, that says ‘wow, I have written this thing here’.”
Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s BigIssues (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.
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.
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.”
Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)
“…my little house is my own piece of paradise and it’s very conducive to creativity because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady are set on the island, and I’ve also developed a writing career over there. I wrote a TV series called Paradise View, which was shown on Antigua TV. When I last left the island, the people at the check-in desk were asking when they would get to see more. I’m now working on another show called Maisie and Em, which I describe as Golden Girls set in the Caribbean.” – UK writer Elaine Spires who made Antigua a home away from home speaking to Write’s Editing Services on the impact of island living on her writing
“They were great times – with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.” – Elaine Spiresspeaking with The Publish Hub
“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.
“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021
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.”
“You send the draft to the editor and you sit nervously for the next two weeks or how ever long …waiting for that email or that call…then you take the feedback, you kind of sit with it for a while, you think about it, then you try to work on another draft. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you won’t agree…it should be a conversation…it’s a dance back and forth that you have to be patient with, and, once again, give it some space, read the review, and give it some space before you go and work on the redraft.”
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; of Nicoya Henry – event photo (credit unknown). Barbara Arrindell, Foster Joseph, Sonalli Andrews, and Floree Williams-Whyte video links are to Joanne C. Hillhouse’s CREATIVE SPACE vlog. Video links also pulled from ABS TV, Words Aloud, the Dan David Prize, Novek Designs, edwin1030, Petra the Spectator – this is believed to be within the realm of fair use – no copyright infringement is intended. Some of my own appearances on platforms by Write the Vision, Diaspora Kids Lit, Badass Black Girl, ABS TV, National Public Library, Intersect Antigua, and some videos produced for my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel are also included.
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.
This year’s Literary Arts winner at the National Youth Awards is Zahra Airall. Airall is already a multiple NYA winner as she’s been involved in so many things over the years – from the Women of Antigua (When a Woman Moans, Vagina Monologues) and August Rush (Expressions), to Zee’s Youth Theatre and Sugar Apple Theatre (see our screenwriting and playwriting page for more). She’s produced and scripted (not only stage but) film/TV content and steps on stage (in numerous productions) and in front of the camera (on Keeping it Real). This past year her drama group out of Antigua Girls High School, where she teaches, won the Antigua and Barbuda Secondary Schools Drama festival, and also won some awards and critical acclaim when they took the play from the first year’s win to regional competition in Trinidad. Read her guest blog, exclusive to Wadadli Pen, here. What else? Oh, she’s a commercial and artistic photographer as well. And a mommy. She blogs here.
I’m sure I’m missing something but I think I’ve hit the highlights.
Bottom line, Zahra has been about it for a number of years and her work has often intersected with her gender and youth advocacy. Congrats, Zahra and keep making that art with purpose.
I don’t have a picture from the NYA but these are some images of Zahra through the years being awesome.
Zahra performing in a local production of The Vagina Monologues which she co-produced and co-directed.
ETA: I just want to add that I have believed in and supported the idea of a National Youth Awards over the years. Every year, even if time is not on my side, I nominate someone – I usually try to nominate a few people across different categories. When I was writing for a local daily, it was easier to keep up with who was doing what and making what kind of impact. But even now that I’m currently out of the game, I try to pay attention and recognize. I also try to share so that other people will be encouraged to look around them and encourage the young people (defined as anyone 35 and younger) in their community doing amazing things. It’s about positive reinforcement. It’s about creating the kind of society we want to see, rewarding the qualities we want to encourage. I don’t know how the judges decide – what rubric they use – but it’s good to be a part of that process of drawing their attention to worthy young people (not that all people aren’t worthy just by being but, you get my point).
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 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.
This page has grown fairly quickly, so I’m breaking it up in to two pages. For H – N, go here, for O – T, go here, for U – Z, go here. and 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.
AARON, GLENROY – ‘Summer One’ and ‘Coconut Man’ (visual art – painting) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
ADAMS, RILYS – Fictional Reality (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
AFLAK, ALLAN – (visual art – photography – also published in Alexis Andrews’ book Images in 2007) – 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
AIRALL, ZAHRA – – Island Expressions in St. Kitts – 2016
AIRALL, ZAHRA – The Looking Glass (fiction) – in Theorizing Homophobias in the Caribbean – Complexities of Place, Desire and Belonging – 2012
Excerpt: “They’d met at a conference in Mexico, she was from Dominica, and Laurie was instantly drawn to that thick French accent when Marie spoke.”
ANDREWS, ALEXIS – (visual art – photography) – 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
ARMSTRONG, VEGA – Legend of the Sea Lords (fiction, 2012 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem – 2012 + Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
Excerpt: “Suddenly Freya dove under the water, the others quickly followed her. When they caught up with her they too saw the mysterious creature.”
ARRINDELL, BARBARA – Belonging to Barbuda (fiction) – Caribbean Feminist Stories, intersectantigua.com – 2020
ARRINDELL, BARBARA – Scholarship Child (fiction, from her book The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories) – Interviewing the Caribbean (Caribbean Childhood: Traumas and Triumphs Part 2) edited by Opal Palmer Adisa – 2020
ARRINDELL, BARBARA – A LIFE, a spirit…a name (fiction, subsequently published in 2017 anthology The Black Notes edited by Althea Prince) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
ARRINDELL, BARBARA – How Snake Stories became Anansi Stories (fiction, fable) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Volume 7 – 2013
AUGUSTUS, CARL – Isolation (visual art and poetry) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020
AUGUSTUS, CARL – Live Free (visual art) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020
AUGUSTUS, CARL – Take Flight (visual art and text) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020
BARNES, SYLVANUS – Harp of Gold (poetry, from his book Barney’s Wit and Wisdom) – 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
BARTON, SHARON – ‘Evolution’ (visual art – designer gown, worn by Antigua Carnival Queen first runner-up Kimmorna Otto, which, in 2005, won best evening gown; it attempts to capture the colour and flow of reggae and calypso) and ‘Wild Orchid’ (visual art – designer gown worn in 2006 by Antigua Carnival Queen runner-up Charmaine Morgan) – 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
BATSON, NADIA – Expose (song lyrics, the Trinidad and Tobago singer/songwriter penned the tune for Antigua-Barbuda soca band El A Kru) – 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
BEAZER, CHATRISSE – The Legend of Banana Boy (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
BENJAMIN, AKEILE – The Adventures of Mr. Coconut (fiction, 2012 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem – 2012
BROWN, MARK – ‘Jumbie’ and ‘Queen of the Band’ (visual art – painting) – 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
BROWNE, BRENDA LEE – Granny Cecelia’s Travelling Handbag – Womanspeak: A Journal of Art and Writing by Caribbean Women Volume 8 – 2016
Excerpt: “Dante’s mother asks if he is getting married as he smells as sweet as a bride and he had been getting ready since about 5pm – well since midday when he went to the barbers for a trim and a shape.”
BROWNE, BRENDA LEE – For my Father & Untitled (poetry) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
BROWNE, BRENDA LEE – Betty Sope – Womanspeak: A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Volume 7 – 2013
BROWNE-BANNISTER, TAMMI – Wee Willie Winkie (fiction, winner of the 2016 Marguerite Cobb-McKay Prize) – The Caribbean Writer Volume 29 – 2015
BROWNE-BANNISTER, TAMMI – Stabs in the Dark (fiction) – Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series – 2014
BROWNE-BANNISTER, TAMMI – Strange Fruit (fiction) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
CADOGAN, DAVID – ‘Rasta Pan’ (visual art – painting) – 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
CHARLES, KENNELLA – Awaken to the Night – (fiction, 2005 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
CHRISTOPHER, MARCUS – Lyrical Sampler (calypso lyrics) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
DIXON, S A – (visual art – illustration for Market Day by Latisha Walker-Jacobs, award winning art and story in Wadadli Pen 2011 Challenge) + Cocos Nucifera (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
DORAM, HEATHER – ‘Spirit of Carnival’ (visual art – mixed media painting on felt, cover art capturing the colour, glitter, and masking of the Carnival season, and illustrating the mythical connection with the inner self that happens during Carnival) and ‘Mama Looka Mas!’ (visual art – painting); and ‘Genesis’ (used a metaphor for Carnival and life, worn in 1994 by Lesley-ann Brown) and ‘CARICOM Woman’ (exploring the concept of “us coming together as a people, as a region” worn in 1992 by Diana Horsford) and ‘Spirit of Africa’ (worn by 1993 Antigua Carnival Queen Charmaine Bailey) and ‘Lady in Red’ (worn by 1988 Antigua Carnival Queen Irma-Marie Senhouse) – (visual art – costumes with builder and husband Connie Doram). Additional costumes for Vitus mas troupe (a highlander costume, 1997’s ‘Cocks Crow’, 2000’s ‘Folktales’ including characters like Anancy in his spider’s web, and 2003’s ‘Peace and Love’ (the stiltwalker section High High High)) – 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
D’ORNELLAS, ANNALISA -Toes in the Sand (poetry, national contest selection) – 2009
Excerpt: “I was once a girl that played on these shores. I gathered the shells in bundles and scores. I wore them on my neck and strung some as bangles I noticed their twinkling and delightful angles.”
ECKERT, DEBORAH – ‘Lornette and Oriane’ (visual art – painting) – 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
Excerpt (from Johnson’s introduction): “The stories, riddles, and proverbs given in this collection were recited by George W. Edwards, a native of Greenbay, Antigua, British West Indies…George Edwards is a man fifty years old. In giving the bulk of this material, he exhibited unusual memory-power. Aside from prompting, suggestions, and riddles Nos. 34, 39, 42, 45, and 47, he alone is responsible for the entire collection. He has lived in New York for the past ten years. His greatest aid in recalling the stories has been his wife, who is about thirty years of age and also a native of Greenbay, Antigua. She is the informant of the five riddles mentioned above.”
EDWARDS, GEORGE W. (AS TOLD TO JOHN H. JOHNSON) – The Chosen Suitor from Folklore from Antigua, British West Indies, Journal of American Folklore Vol. 34 No. 131 – as reproduced in Bluebeard (ed. D. L. Ashliman) – 1999 -2014
Excerpt: “Dere’s a woman had one daughter an one son. Dis boy coco-bay, boy, an’ he was an’ ol’ witch too.”
EDWARDS, SHAKEEMA – Diaspora & That Laugh (poetry)- Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
EDWARDS, SHAKEEMA – The Curse of the Kumina (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem (Best of Wadadli Pen Special Issue) – 2011
EVANSON, TANYA – Poetry Africa (Durham, South Africa) – 2018
EVANSON, TANYA – performs at the 8th Word N Sound International Youth Poetry Festival in Newtown Johannesburg – 2018
EVANSON, TANYA – Temple Exercises as feature poet at Vancouver Slam – 2016
EVANSON, TANYA – GRIOTS OF ALL TIME – live spoken word @ The Club, The Banff Centre, Banff AB Canada / 2014 Spoken Word Program
EVANSON, TANYA – Word Aloud Festival (Durhan, Canada) – 2014
EVANSON, TANYA – Mundo Gumbo – Canadian Festival of Spoken Word – 2013
EVANSON, TANYA – Apocalypsiata (poetry) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Art and Writing by Caribbean Women, Volume 7 – 2013
Excerpt: “Soon there’ll be nothing left to burn/books, beds, bodies on the Barbie”
EVANSON, TANYA – reading/performing at Calgary Spoken Word Festival – 2013.
EVANSON, TANYA – reading/performing (including “An-teee-ga”) at the Calgary Spoken Word Festival – 2012
Excerpt: “Let me tell you bout that place/in Caribbean/clear blue water/sand sat between your toes/in hot sun/and the people/my people/and not my people/Antigua” (An-teee-ga)
EVANSON, TANYA – Zamizdat Scat at Calgary Spoken Word Festival – 2011
EVANSON, TANYA – Dervish Weaponry (poetry, from the 2008 CD Memorists) – on Badilisha Poetry X-Change – 2008
FARARA, JAN – ‘Steel and Sparkle’, ‘Rhythm at Sunset’, ‘Carnival Pride’, and ‘Carnival Stilts’ (visual art – paintings) – 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
GEORGE, GEMMA – Stray Dog prepares for the Storm – (fiction, 2004 award winnin g Wadadli Pen story) – Anansesem (the Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
GEORGE, LINISA – The Rebellion (poetry) – intersectantigua.com – 2020
GEORGE, LINISA – In the Closet (poetry) – BBC Poetry Postcards series – 2014.
GONSALVES, GAYLE – Miss Ellie (fiction) – Tongues of the Ocean – 2014
Excerpt: ‘Ellie points to England, a land that is far from the Caribbean Sea, and smiles at her daughter, “This is where it all started.”’
GORDON, CAROL – ‘Ancestral Call’, ‘Dance’, ‘Friend’, and ‘Nubian’ (visual art – painting) – 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
GORDON, ORIQUE – The Lost Coin (fiction, 2011 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
GRANT, DEBESHA – Blue Mountain Hike (fiction, 2005 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
GREGORY, JAMILA – ‘Bird of Paradise’ (visual art – costume design intended as a play on the word ‘Bird’, depicting the flower ‘Bird of Paradise’ and also the bird ‘The Great Bird of Paradise’. It was the first costume to ever to be presented on stilts in the pageant’s history. It was built by Johnson Browne, Jamila Gregory, and the Vitus Mas Troupe. Gregory, the 2006 Carnival Queen, won the costume segment of the Antigua Carnival Queen competition) – 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
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, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Please do not repost artist images without permission and credit. If you enjoyed this post, check out myJhohadli page 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.
I wanted to create a separate page for playwrights and screenwriters. You won’t find these in the listing of Antiguan and Barbudan writers or any of the genre listings, unless they’ve written books. This list refers specifically to contributions as writers for screen and stage, and specifically to productions which have had a public viewing. It is a work in progress, so please inform me of any errors/omissions/oversights. T’anks.
Antiguan & Barbudan Theatre – a brief background (source: The Cambridge Guide to Theatre edited by Martin Banham) – “A party of amateurs opened Antigua’s first theatre in 1788…visiting companies came for a week’s run, their performances reinforced by local actors. The West India Sketchbook (1835) mentions a theatre in Antigua with amateurs performing Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer along with a PANTOMIME called Harlequin Planter, or The Land of Promise. This latter – containing ‘aboriginal savages’, their evil spirit Maboya, white settlers, black slaves [edit: enslaved Black people], Astraea, the goddess of justice, members of the Anti-Slavery Society, HARLEQUIN and Columbine – might count as one of the earliest pieces of native Caribbean theatre, dealing as it does with the local scene…Antiguans recall, from the 1930s, the OPERETTAS and MUSICALS presented by one Nellie Robinson of the TOR Memorial High School. In 1952 the Community Players were formed, causing a stir in local circles when, led by the drama tutor of the University of the West Indies, they created the village play Priscilla’s Wedding using local dialect…in 1967 the Antigua University Centre was established, with a 400-seat open-air theatre. Several short lived theatre groups sprung up at this time.” (p. 319) – bold and italics mine.
(Playwright?) – Rising from the Ashes (toured to Dominica, 1988). Performed by Popular Theatre Movement (“…started in village communities, where role-playing, discussion and creative play-making help to identify issues and suggest solutions” – The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre).
Eleston Nambalumbu Nambalala Adams – b. 1954. Founder, in 1979, of the Rio Revealers, which according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas Volume 2, his plays, referred to as “slapstick drama, have been taken to the islands of Montserrat, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.” The bibliography of drama in English by Caribbean writers, to 2010
compiled by George Parfitt and Jessica Parfitt indicates that he is believed to have authored 14 plays but could not confirm. Adams has been a teacher, reporter (Daily Observer newspaper), and minister of government, including a stint as culture minister. (listing lacks itemization of individual plays and year of first production – help fill the gaps if you can)
Zahra Airall – Airall has founded, written, and directed several theatre companies. Her Zee’s Youth Theatre produced the well-received School Bag (2009). In 2015, her adult company, Sugar Apple Theatre, teamed up with Dorbrene O’Marde for a revival of Harambee’s Tangled Web (read my reaction post). Sugar Apple Theatre returned with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (previously staged in Antigua by Women of Antigua of which she was a founding member and co-director) in 2019 (my review here).
It’s worth noting that Airall, a teacher, also took the winning local team (Antigua Girls High School) to the 2015 Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival where she served as writer and director for their performance of her play The Forgotten. Read review/coverage of that outing here. She followed up this production with Whispers in Wallings which netted her and her Antigua Girls High School students best production, best direction, and a number of other prizes (8 overall) at the 2015 National Secondary Schools Drama Festival. She’s also taken youth theatre to other Caribbean countries e.g. in 2018, AGHS’ Honey Bee Theatre went on a UN sponsored tour to Turks and Caicos with her play Light in the Dark which was also performed domestically. In 2019, Honey Bee Theatre presented The Long Walk (reviewed here) in Antigua and again, that summer, at the Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival, winning a plethora of prizes including best production, direction, and screenplay. Also in 2019, Honey Bee Theatre took on Derek Walcott, while Sugar Apple Theatre, after a triumphant 2019 outing with the revival of the Vagina Monologues, announced plans for an original production and its take on Shakespeare in 2020. Zahra Airall, a multi-National Youth Award winner, and Woman of Wadadli awardee for fine arts, was born in the theatre, figuratively speaking, as her parents were performers with Dorbrene O’Marde’s Harambee; and she won her first prize in 1992 at age 9 as the youngest person to submit to the Rick James Ensemble One Act Play Competition.
Antigua Community Players – This group was inaugurated in 1952. Musical dramas written and performed by the players include Priscilla’s Wedding (groundbreaking for its time as a benchmark in local theatre), Night Must Fall, Guest in The House, Outward Bound, See How They Run, Charley’s Aunt, A Christmas Carol, and Celebration in the Market Place – all collaborative pieces written by the Players. The group eventually morphed into a choral group well known for its folk music presentations and musical productions. Dame Yvonne Maginley (deceased as of 2019) was instrumental in this aspect, taking on the role of musical director in 1957. The Antigua Community Players’ first operetta was Betty Lou; annual concerts followed, and, in 1972, the Players produced Ballad Antigua, written by well known composer of Caribbean songs Irvine Burgie, and presented it in Antigua, Montserrat and in Guyana. Following the success of Ballad the Community Players produced Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado (in 1973), HMS Pinafore (in 1975 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the commissioning of Nelson’s Dockyard and in 1995 to mark the Players’ 43rd Anniversary), and Pirates of Penzance (in 1986). The Antigua Community Players performed at the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee, and, in 1984, during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the city in Rochester, New York and also in the Annual Lilac Festival. The Players have performed in New York; Miami; Washington; Toronto; London Ontario, Canada; Birmingham and Leicester; the News Day Parade in London, England; Syracuse; St Croix; and St Thomas. As musical director, Dame Yvonne Maginley composed many songs over the years that have added to the Antiguan and Barbudan catalogue of folk music.
Antigua Dance Academy – Antigua and Barbuda’s premier Afro-Caribbean folk dance group since 1991, ADA has put on several productions that have included drama scripted by members of the troupe. This includes, as part of ADA’s Out of the Drum folk rhythm festival, a 2008 street theatre presentation on national hero King Court/Prince Klaas/Tackey’s rebellion with guest performances by Nevis’s Rhythmz Dance Theatre and Trinidad’s Shashamane recreating, respectively, plantation fieldwork and African stick fighting. Francine Carbey, as the ADA’s resident drama tutor and artistic director, is, with founder Veronica Yearwood, the force behind these dramatic turns. Other members have contributed plays to ADA productions – e.g. Samantha Zachariah who wrote her first play for the group in 2010. Read more on ADA.
Barbara Arrindell – Call Me Klass (1998) – based on and inspired by the life of National Hero and leader of an aborted 1736 uprising of enslaved Africans in Antigua and Barbuda Prince Klaas/King Court/Tackey. Initially staged as a Black History Month fundraiser.
Dreams…Faces…Reality (2001). The play tells the story of a healthy young man whose life is turned upside down following a routine physical which showed that he was HIV positive. Arrindell was author and director. Stagings included an initial 2001 World AIDS Day performance by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group, a 2002 Black History Month performance, several 2003 stagings, including one in Anguilla, by the Optimist Club at the Pares Secondary School. Between 2005-2006, it was staged over 15 times by the Friends Hotline for Youth to stir conversation among secondary school students in Antigua and Barbuda. Another drama group performed select scenes in 2007 at churches across the island to reduce the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS. It has been adapted for radio broadcast, running for several years on Observer Radio in the build-up to World AIDS Day.
Barbara Arrindell speaks with the audience after a performance of the AIDS themed ‘Dreams…Faces…Reality’ performed by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group
Jamian Benta is a teacher and his productions seem to be primarily in the area of secondary school productions. As an english teacher at Pares secondary, he took the students to the National Seconday School Drama Festival with his first production A Mother’s Heart. At his second school Clare Hall Secondary, he formed the Dramalites. His other plays include Problem Child, Village Boy, Family Jumby, and A Tale of Massa’s Wine.
Edson Buntin –Anu Bantu: Treasure Island and Haunted Park (published). Dramatist, instructor in French at the Antigua State College; his contributions to theatre have been both onstage and off, as an actor including serving as a cast member in the 1979 production of Dorbrene O’Marde’s Tangled Web and as founder of the Scaramouche Theatre and overseeing several productions at the College, such as Conjugal Bliss. Plays written by Buntin include Con Man Sun Sun, Mr. Valentine, and Wedlock. He has also acted in local films such as Once in an Island. (Dates unknown – help fill the blanks if you can)
Child’s Play – this is a youth theatre group formed in 1992 by Jamaican dramatist Amina Blackwoods-Meek (as mentioned in this youtube video). She was also the founder, as noted on her website, of Zebra Theatre Group in 1987, also in Antigua and Barbuda. No details as yet re original productions but wanted to document their place on the theatre scene for the record.
David Edgecombe – (Edgecombe passed in November 2021, RIP) Edgecombe, a theatre and public speaking lecturer at the University of the Virgin Islands, is not Antiguan and Barbudan but his play Lady of Parham (shortlisted as of 2015 for the Guyana Prize for Literature), published by Caribbean Reads (2014), is set in Antigua and based on the mystery surrounding the ghost of Parham. Per the Caribbean Reads description, it “introduces the audience to five revellers who have come together to form a Carnival troupe but settle for dramatizing the tale of the Parham ghost. In the telling of the ghost legend, Justin, Tulip, Sauna, Kyle, and Mabel must confront the demons that threaten to derail their lives.” Lady of Parham premiered in St. Thomas and has since played in other Caribbean countries like Dominica and Montserrat, where Edgecombe was a founder of the Montserrat Theatre Group. His other works (unrelated to Antiguan and Barbudan theatre – to the best of my knowledge) include For Better For Worse, Making It, Coming Home to Roost, and Heaven.
Gus Edwards – b. 1939 in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas, he moved to New York in 1959 – his plays have been showcased by the Negro Ensemble of NY among other companies across the US. Initially, a protégé of Stella Adler, he worked as an actor in films and on stage. But limited by his accent, he began writing his own material. These included The Offering (1977), Black Body Blues (1978), Old Phantoms (1979), These Fallen Angels (1980), Weep Not for Me (1981), Tenement (1983), Manhattan Made Me (1983), Ramona (1986), Louie and Ophelia (1986), Moody’s Mood Cafe (1989), Lifetimes on the Streets (1990), Restaurant People (1990), Tropicana (1992), Frederick Douglass (1992), Testimony (1993), Confessional (1994), Dear Martin, Dear Coretta (1995), Slices one-acts (1996), Drought Country (1997), Night Cries (1998), and Black Woman’s Blues (1999). Most of his plays are reportedly set in “the slums and ghettoes of New York…his characters often exist outside of the boundaries of what is thought to be appropriate behavior in society.” (Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 157). His works for television include Aftermath (1979) and a TV adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also wrote narration on the Negro Ensemble Company for PBS. Though self-taught, the critically acclaimed playwright has taught theatrical writing at several US colleges and became associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University, directing where the multi-ethnic theatre and teaching in the film studies programme. In 2000, he was appointed artistic director to the Scottsdale Ensemble Theatre in Scottsdale, Arizona. “He has published Classic Plays of the Negro Ensemble (1995), Monologues on Black Life (1997), and More Monologues on Black Life (2000). Several of his plays have also been published… Gus Edwards is one of the first Caribbean writers to contribute to American theatre.” (Notable Caribbean and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 158)
Lonne Elder – Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (1971) – performed by the Open Air Theatre.
Oliver Flax – A Better Way (1976) – directed by Edgar Davis – and The Legend of Prince Klaas (1972) – the latter of which was sent to be performed at Carifesta in Guyana in 1972. Performed by Bobby Margetson’s Little Theatre.
Linisa George – one of the writer/directors and producers (as part of Women of Antigua) behind the production When a Woman Moans (below). Brown Girl in the Ring, a poem from that production has become a significant part of her brand (as a publication aesthetic) and has been performed at different fora including the CARA Festival in Antigua in 2009 , the 2012 Poetry Parnassus in London, and, after publication in a special Antigua and Barbuda edition of online journal Tongues of the Ocean, Shakespeare in Paradise, 2015, in the Bahamas.
Tom Green – Tom Green is British, not Antiguan, though he did lead a masterclass on playwriting here in Antigua and is listed here because of a play of his that is based in Antigua. The play is entitled Antigua and it is the story of bestselling writer Katherine Sampson, whose second book is overdue by two years when her agent sends her to the Caribbean with instructions not to return without a finished manuscript. In Antigua, she meets an enigmatic American be-devilled by his own problems. This play was first produced at the Tabard Theatre in London in 2006. Green’s other plays (unrelated to Antigua and Barbuda – to the best of my knowledge) include The Death of Margaret Thatcher, A Place in the Sun, and Talking in Bed.
Joanne C. Hillhouse – known, primarily, as a fiction writer/published author, but some of her first public writings were plays: e.g. Barman’s Blues, not staged but joint second placed winner (her first creative writing prize) in the Rick James Theatre Ensemble One Act Play Competition in 1992; Changes (Sisters and Daughters), Hillhouse’s first full length play, staged in 1990, by the State College Drama Society one of two done while she was a student at the Antigua State College; and Trials of Life, showcased as a Taylor Hall entry in dramatic competition at the University of the West Indies while she was a student there (sometime between 1992 and 1995). The actress in that play received honourable mention. Several of her poems were incorporated into scripts for stagings of Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans in the early aughts. Hillhouse who has scripted documentaries, ads, and public service announcements for clients or as part of public education programmes, on the creative tip had her (short) screenplay, Is Like a Like It, excerpted in The Caribbean Writer Volume 27 in 2013.
Cleopatra Isaac, Paula Henry, and Darleen Beazer -co-scripted Journey to Heaven which was performed by participants in The Young Leaders programme at Sir McChesney George Secondary School and members of the Barbudan community. (article published April 10th 2006 in the Daily Observer)
The play, performed in 2006 in Barbuda and Antigua, focused on a young man’s gradual understanding of repentance and forgiveness ‘after death’, and explored the concept that no more than 6 degrees of separation exists between people, meaning an individual’s actions always affects the lives of others. The actors were Devon Warner, Tenesha Beazer, Salim Cephas, Adonia Henry, and Leona Desouza. “Shaping the Future” was the theme of the 2006 Young Leaders’ project, and it encompassed cherishing life, embracing family values, and respecting one another. In the play, the value of respect is addressed in drama, dance, and song, using all aspects of the arts to embrace a vision.
Owen Jackson – As writer/director with the National Youth Theatre, Jackson produced several plays including After 9/11 (2007) and My Birthright (2007). (entry incomplete – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Owen Jackson taking high school students through a drama warm up exercise.
Youth drama club – tableau in downtown store window … and attracting a small crowd doing it
George ‘Rick’ James – deceased September 2018. Various plays including the one man play Oulaudah Equiano (1990) about “the engrossing story in living detail of an Igbo prince, his enslavement, and freedom” (book summary), Gallows Humour in 2005, and 2007’s Our Country, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade, and unique for telling, on a stage constructed in the open air of the King George V grounds, drawing a vast cast from a mixed pool of local professionals who were amateur thespians, and tracking the life of Antigua and Barbuda from pre-Columbian times to present.
Our Country: an arawak chief Our Country: Slave ship scene
slaves at market
His Rick James Ensemble encouraged young and future Antiguan and Barbudan writers like Zahra Airall and Joanne C. Hillhouse through its One Act Play Writing Competition. James was also an actor in US and especially British theatre and television
James performing in Sit Quietly on the Baulk
for many years, and an award winning costume designer in local mas.
Colin Jno Finn – playwright and director with the Nazarene Drama Team – On the Block (2008) of a young man’s struggles with the church; Nine to Five (2009) about challenges in the work place; It’s Too Late (2010) of a strained relationship between a father and son; and Power Struggle (2011) of one person’s attempts to boost another from office. Read my review of Power Struggle here.
Jamaica Kincaid – Her 1998 book A Small Place was staged at the Gate Theatre in London in 2018 in what was described as so faithful an adaptation that the text is performed entirely in its original form.
Edgar O. Lake – Some Quiet Mornin’; Matters of Antiguan Conspiracy: 1736; The Stone Circle; The Killing of Arthur Sixteen; more… (incomplete + unsure of publication production status + dates unknown – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Iyaba Ibo Mandingo – ‘He is a Poet, Painter, Writer, Sculptor, Actor, Teacher, Mentor, Author and “continued work in progress”, as he puts it…His Self-Portrait, a one-man play performed in his studio, speaks of his life through poetry and prose, concurrent to him painting his self-portrait during the show.’ – from this interview with the artiste which also references his chap books (41 Times and Amerikkkan Exile), his company (Iyabarts), his art series (War, Spirit Drawings), in addition to his plays (Self-Portrait which has grown into unFRAMED, his first full length play), and forthcoming work (novel Sins of My Fathers, chap book 30 Days of Ink, ad the off Broadway run of unFRAMED). As his biography shows, he is a native Antiguan who migrated to the U.S. as a boy. These roots as well as his experiences in America infuse unFRAMED as seen in this excerpt.
Andrew O’Marde – O Lord, Why Lord? and Tell It Like It Is with Harambee Open Air Theatre.
Dorbrene O’Marde – – synonymous with quality theatre in Antigua and Barbuda in theatre’s heyday (i.e. the 1970s to early 1980s), his Harambee Open Air Theatre (a 1972 merger of the Grammarians and the University Centre’s Open Air Theatre) is “considered the most important group of recent times” (from The Cambridge Guide to Theatre by Martin Banham). O’Marde is a graduate of the Antigua Grammar School, UWI Cave Hill, University of Toronto, and Tulane University where he obtained a Masters of Public Health. He has been credited as a playwright, director and producer of theatre and music, newspaper/magazine columnist, public speaker, and calypso writer, judge and analyst. His involvement in calypso has included crafting hits for artistes like Scorpion, Stumpy, Singing Althea, and others; though his biggest contribution to the art form is arguably the seminal Calypso Talk magazine, an annual chronicle of the art and the issues surrounding the art. He also wrote Nobody Go Run Me, the biography of Antigua and Barbuda’s Monarch King Short Short, which was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize, in addition to the novel Send Out You Hand.
O’Marde’s career in theatre began with the Antigua Students Association in 1965 (You the Jury, Devil’s Advocate, Androcles and the Lion – English classics). Jezebel (1955) and Star Bomber (1962) are credited as two of his earliest works. His involvement in theatre continued, between 1968 and 1971, with the Cave Hill Drama Group (UWI, Barbados) when other theatre notables like Dominica’s Alwin Bully, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Clement Bouncing Williams, and St. Lucia’s Robert Lee were all students.
O’Marde was a member of the Theatre Information Exchange (TIE) and the Eastern Caribbean Popular Theatre Organization (ECPTO) and was involved in cultural research with both these organizations. He formed Harambee in 1972.
In addition to directing plays by other notables from the Caribbean theatre scene and beyond, O’Marde wrote and directed Homecoming, For Real: A Caribbean Play in Three Acts(1976), Fly on the Wall (1977), Fire Go Bun, For Real, We Nativity, The Minister’s Daughter – which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Nigerian writer Obi Egbuna, We Nativity – which included songs by Antiguan and Barbudan lyricist Shelly Tobitt, Tangled Web (1979), Badplay (1991 for the Family Planning Unit), and This World Spin One Way (1998); and directed several others. Read more about his work in calypso and on the stage, plus his other cultural work in BIOGRAPHY deo 2010 . Tangled Web, according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, prompted the government to legislate against civil servants participating in plays critical of the government.
Before going dormant in the late-eighties, Harambee took productions to Montserrat, St. Kitts, Dominica, Barbados, St. Thomas, and Saba.
O’Marde has returned with a couple of productions since then, notably 1998’s This World Spin One Way – which has also had stagings by directors Jean Small, Director UWI Creative Arts Centre, and David Edgecombe, Director Reichhold Centre, and a revival of Tangled Web with Zahra Airall’s Sugar Apple Theatre in 2015. He also lent technical support to Women of Antigua’s first staging of the Vagina Monologues in 2008. Read my review of This World Spin One Way. Read my ‘review’ of Tangled Web. (some dates still missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Sislyn Peters – One of her plays, Trust, was adapted by the City College of New York’s English Department, Division of Humanities & Arts, and performed at the Aaron Davis Hall, in 2001. Peters was born in Antigua and graduated Princess Margaret High School. As a child, she wrote verses, and short stories. As a teenager, she sang with local bands, including Pat Edwards’ Playboys, and Vere Anthony’s Teen Stars. See poetry for her other accomplishments.
Eustace Simon – several plays including Crossroads, The Awakening, Betty’s Hope, and Illusive Dreams. 1990s. Modern Theatre. 2000s. National Theatre Group. Announced launch of a National Theatre channel on CTV in 2012. (dates missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Lester Simon – Obeah Slave (taken in 1969 by the Grammarians to Montserrat and Barbados).
Monique S. Simon – The Antigua-born, US-based writer adapted Adynah from a novel-in-progress, which has been illustrated, excerpted and published in Carib Beat, and which won a NY Council on the Arts Award for (First Chapter of a Novel in Progress) and a Cropper Foundation grant. The play was based on one of the book’s character’s Adynah Williams, described as the kind of local cook whose delicacies are sold from her house on weekends and who is first to be called for catering a local event. The story was produced as a three vignette play for Know Theatre in New York in the Fall of 2003. Simon scripted and directed voices of Caribbean people living and working in the area, pre-recorded and editing those voices so that they could provide off stage interaction during the one-woman show. Simon not only wrote, directed, and starred in the play, she designed the set – all while working as a full time professor at Broome Community College in Binghampton, NY.
Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. She’s run workshops in Antigua and participated (as writer and actress) in Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans. She’s also created content for the stage and screen, some inspired by and set in Antigua. Her Adventures of Maisie and Em (later adapted to film with Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans). Her Antigua plays include Singles Holiday, about a group of vacationing Brits, which was adapted in to a novel and then had a third life as a play on the English stage (2014), and Sweet Lady, about a mother and daughter and an island tryst, which was staged in Antigua before also becoming a novel. (missing dates – fill in if you can)
Stage One – This youth drama collective led by Kanika Simpson-Davis favours adaptations (which involves some re-scripting) of popular tales like Cinderella , Snow White, and Anansi and Snake. 2004 – present (?)
Stage One: Anansi and Snake
Stage One: Cinderella Reloaded 2007 Stage One: scene from Cinderella
Leon Chaku Symister – Voices of Protest (1976); and Time Bomb (1977); Tilting Scales (1980). Third World Theatre. According to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, it was thought to be too libelous for public airing but played to crowded houses at the University Centre.
Various writers – Women of Antigua – playwrights/actresses/directors Linisa George and Zahra Airallshepherd this femalecentric brand of theatrical activism. The original production When A Woman Moans was staged in 2010 and 2012, and mostly scripted by Airall and George with inputs from Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Floree Williams, Greschen Edwards (another WOA founding partner), Melissa Elliott, Marcella Andre, Carel Hodge, Mickel Brann, Brenda Lee Browne, Craig Edward, Nekisha Lewis, Kimolisa Mings, Elaine Spires, and Jihan Lewis. Women of Antigua debuted with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in 2008 and this locally conceived, similarly themed production, was its successor. Both productions over two nights brought the curtain downon WOA’s theatrical activities in 2012.
Vaughn Walter – deceased as of 2019. Culture Director and head of Antigua and Barbuda’s CARIFESTA planning committee. Active in theatre and film, and in staged productions for pageants and festivals through the years. (entry incomplete – if you can help fill it out email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Amber Williams-King – In 2010, Amber Williams-King participated in the AMY (or Artists Mentoring Youth) project, helping to create Step Right Up which received 3/4 stars from Toronto’s NOW magazine. In 2011, she wrote a play: Love and its Dialects which ran in the Paprika Festival at Tarragon Theatre in Canada where she resides. In 2010, she received first-honourable mention in the Scarborough Arts Council’s inaugural Writer’s Month literary competition. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Holla! A Collection of Womenz Wordz and in So the Nailhead Bend, So the Story End.
Zahra Airall – When No One Is Looking (2012, short film, an ABS TV Production in collaboration with the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS) – also co-director.
Howard Allen (also producer/director) – (w/Jermilla Kirwan) Diablesse (2005, HAMAfilms); and The Skin (2011, HAMAfilms) – reviewed here.
Alexis Andrews – Vanishing Sail – here’s the trailer. Winner of the Caribbean Spirit Award for Best Overall Feature at the Caribbean Tales awards and People’s Choice for Best Documentary at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
Oteh Thomas Anyandjuh (African born, resident in Antigua) – Love that Bites (2010, OTA Entertainment and Third Eye Studios) – also director.
*** Shashi Balooja (also an actor, director, casting director, and producer on stage and screen; from Antigua but resident in the US) – w/Cecile George and Michael Sandoval, film short Ariana (2004, ABC Film & Video/Andrisk Inc/Media at Large, USA); w/Roger Sewhcomar, documentary The Altruist (2009, Media at Large/ABC Film & Video, USA); w/Caytha Jentis Exposed (2012, Media at Large, USA) – winner feature film award and genre award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival; w/Stephen Kelleher, film short Promises of Home (2012, Media at Large/Reverse Momentum Films, USA). Balooja had plans to extend Ariana into a feature film.
Francoise Bowen conceived and wrote Back to Africa (directed by Anderson Edghill) which she described as a “short documentary (depicting) a little piece of Antigua and Barbuda’s history (specifically that enslaved people thought Africa was nearby). Bowen went on to found the Francoise Acting Studio which, among other things, has run workshops and produced The Story of Four (a video series promoting safe sex).
Centelia Browne – Idle Hands – (A Wadadli Plus production, a short film). Credits say ‘A Film By’ which is usually the director credit and there is no separate screenwriter credit. 2019.
Courtney Boyd – The Grove – (A Wadadli Plus production with C-BEN Pictures, a Nut Grove Production – web series pilot written and directed by Boyd who also directed other Wadadli Plus productions such as The Diagnosis) – 2019.
Sadé Clacken Joseph – Ponyboi (2019) is described as the world’s first intersex-made narrative film. It is co-directed by Clacken Joseph and River Gallo, who stars, as their graduation project. Clacken Joseph is from the Bronx, born to Antiguan and Jamaican parents. Sadé, at this writing (2021), is directing Issa Rae’s Rap Shit. Ponyboi can be viewed on Sadé‘s site (click her name). Other director credits include shorts What to Expect (2015), Hats (2017), Finding Phoebe (2019), Samir (2019), and more.
Cinque Productions (Chris Hodge and Melissa Gomez, also producer, director) –Deaf Not Dumb (2000, short fiction film), 2 Dolla Picture
Melissa assessing a shot as her camera man looks on.
(2001, animated short), Share and Share Alike (2008, documentary – 2010 winner of Best Documentary Production at the Berlin Black International Cinema Festival), Changing Course (2009, film short), and Silent Music (2012, documentary) silent-music-poster co-writer/producer/editor Jay Prychidny. Silent Music, a portrait of Gomez’s deaf family won Best Documentary at the 2014 Maine Deaf Film Festival and the 2012 Caribbean Tales Film Festival, as well as the Audience Choice Awards at the 2013 Toronto Deaf Film & Arts Festival. Gomez, resident in the US, also has a project known as the Baby Mini Doc Project which creates day in the life documentaries which capture “every day moments and milestones with your littlest ones”. Melissa has worked on a number of other projects in the US, including co-producing Makers (PBS) and Nine for IX (ESPN), producing behind the scenes content for Hell on Wheels and Low Winter Sun (AMC), and serving as supervising producer on Me on My TV (FLOW). She has worked as a freelance production manager on advertising campaigns for H & M and Malibu Rum. Melissa has a Masters of Arts degree in Screen Documentary from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a Bachelor of Arts in New Media from Ryerson University in Toronto.
Alvin Glen Edwards – Once in an Island
on the set of ‘Once in an Island’ Jermilla Kirwan in a scene from Once in an Island
(2009, Wadadli Pictures) – also producer. The feature film has since been adapted into a book (released 2012).
Bridgette Hanniford – My Time Now (A Wadadli Plus production, a film short directed by Melissa McLeish, 2020)
Roland ‘Mayfield’ Hosier – He didn’t work from a written script but he’s the pioneer behind Antigua and Barbuda’s earliest forays into (largely improvised) film production producing The Fugitive, 1972, and Midtown Robbers, 1978.
Noel Howell – He was the co-writer (with Courtney Boyd), director and producer of Redemption of Paradise (2009, Color Bars Production) – best actress and best Caribbean film at the 2010 Jamaica Reggae Film Festival; as well as a video producer and independent publisher on projects like Once in an Island (co-producer/co-director). In 2017, he also directed (per IMDB) a film adaptation of The Little Rude Boys/Girls, a child-written book he published in 2010.
D. Gisele Isaac –
The Sweetest Mango (2001, HAMAfilms); and No Seed (2002, HAMAfilms). Antigua and Barbuda’s first and second feature-length films. Isaac also wrote regularly for the stage in the form of the skits included in the annual (in the 2000s) ‘Programme’ put on by the Professional Organization of Women in Antigua and Barbuda; usually a political satire.
Tameka Jarvis-George –
Ugly – short film (2011, Wadadli Film Studios) for which she provided character monologue – 2011
On the set of Dinner, Tameka with her co-star and husband.
Jamaica Kincaid – Life and Debt (a documentary film by Stephanie Mack; written by Jamaica Kincaid). 2001. New Yorker Films. USA.
Shabier Kirchner – a cinematographer cum filmmaker with his short, Dadli (2018).
Jermilla Kirwan – (w/Howard Allen) Diablesse (2005, Hamafilms) – also actress in this and The Sweetest Mango.
Dr. James Knight – The Making of the Monarch – independently produced documentary on the Monarch King Short Shirt. 2013.
Lawson Lewis – Redonda: The Road to Recovery – Environmental Awareness Group executive produced documentary (with various international donor partners). 2022.
Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) –
Coroner (Canadian TV series) – Motion wrote Season 2’s ‘Borders’ in 2020 and Season 3’s ‘Eyes Up’. It earned her a 2022 Canadian Screeen Awards nomination for writing ‘Eyes Up’.
Rebirth of the Afronauts: a Black Space Odyssey (episode 7 of season 2 of Obsidian Theatre’s 21 Black Futures series) – New Year’s Eve 2059, the night before the long-awaited Reparations Day. Chariott receives a mysterious call that leads her on a curious ride through the world outside her bubble – where cities are sky high, curfew is in the streets, and it’s harder to tell hue-mans from the holograms. On this surreal road trip, she tunes into BlackSpaceX, along with a cadre of cryptic guides, finding herself on the astronomical journey of her life. Directed by Jerome Kruin, Performed by Chelsea Russell, with Music by NON. 2021.
Akilla’s Escape – the Antiguan-Canadian poet/writer co-wrote this feature with writer-director Charles Officer stars Saul Williams and explores what happens when a simple, routine drug handoff goes sideway, landing 40-year-old drug trader Akilla Brown in the middle of a violent robbery. Akilla must set things right and retrieve the stolen goods over the course of one arduous night. Akilla’s Escape debuted at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.
Nadya Raymond – The Diagnosis– (A Wadadli Plus production in association with Wadadli Creatives and C-BEN Pictures, a short film directed by Courtney Boyd). 2019.
Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. Her writing credits (Spires is also an actress) include the TV series Paradise View, the Lawson Lewis edited promotional film shorts The Adventures of Maisie and Em – episodes Fix a Flat and Best Friend(Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans) –
the vid clips were posted to youtube in 2013. Her novel Singles Holiday was reportedly also made in to a TV pilot.
Chavel Thomas (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – Silence, Screams – short film (2016, Dotkidchavy x Jamzpari)
Nigel Trellis (born Guyana, resident in Antigua)– Hooked (2009, Tropical Films) Working Girl (2011, Tropical Films)
Unknown/Uncredited – The Guest (2020, short film by Wadadli Plus)
Various (Joel Lewis, Noah Yeboah, Destiny Simon, Delicia Howell, Shenika Bentick, Sheneilla Somerset: members of the Antigua and Barbuda Film Academy) – Don’t hit me Pickney (2022, short film, producer Dr. Noel Howell)
Keron ‘K-Wiz’ Wilson (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – The Date – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Mechanic – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Stationary – short film (2013, Black Roots Records)
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 excerpt, please credit the source. 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.
Cue Kenny Rogers’ Through the Years…as we launch the 5th installment of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (2004 – 2006, 2010 – present), let’s take a look back at moments from the programme’s six year run.
Verdanci Benta wowed the judges with her mature and accomplished entry, Shirley’s New Roommate. The then Golden Grove Primary School student won the ‘best under 12’ category and a spot in the top three overall; a reminder that it’s not about age, it’s about talent. Verdanci would show up in each subsequent competition, earning some form of recognition…most of the time.
Note the BWIA banner in the background? I have to give it up to corporate Antigua for stepping up to support, a new programme they knew little about. That year’s award ceremony was held at Heritage Hotel and a number of them showed up…so of course we had to get a group shot with Culture and Education officials, winners and/or their parents, and sponsor representatives (author S. E. James, front row left, Anicol and Caribbean Star, front row right).
As I look at the pic, I’m reminded how much I loved the stories that first year like, from far left standing, Siena Hunte’s Nuclear Familiy Explosion, Liscia Lawrence’s The Day I saw Evil, Gemma George’s Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm (the winning entry), Lia Nicholson’s Tekin Ahn Day (that’s her mom in the picture), and Damani Tabor’s Irate Beggar. The prizes that first year were well deserved. Here’s Gemma collecting her computer from Gerard Shoul of Comnett:
For all the times I’ve wished I could pursue programmes under Wadadli Pen as a full time paying job, it remains a volunteer gig. But in 2005, it felt like a full time job. There were writing workshops with the kids…
There was prize solicitation…here I am pictured with Paula Lee of Cable and Wireless at a media handover of their 2005 contribution:
There were in-school writing workshops like this one at Buckley’s Primary (which that year submitted the most entries):
There was media promotion, winner recordings, web site development, judging, and, of course, the prize giving ceremony (all of which required a lot of back ground prep from the partners which, at the time, included Young Explorer, D. Gisele Isaac, and Alstyne Allen). It cut into work time, to be sure, but paid off in other ways as this was our best year yet in terms of participation.
The kids were beaming; the Youth Minister stopped by, Heather Doram, the then Culture Director, dropped some wisdom…
and later that year, three of the kids (Rilys Adams, Sarah Ann Li, and Sandrena Martin) won literary awards recognition from the Optimists. All in all, a good year.
We started not with the actual awards but with a joint literary showcase and fundraiser (Word Up!) with the Musuem of Antigua and Barbuda which attracted support from new and established writers (including Wadadli Pen finalists like Sandrena ; and which, as this Jermilla Kirwan image by Laura Hall shows, was highly entertaining .
The Museum (thanks, as always, to Michelle) was once again the venue, later that year, when we staged the Awards ceremony:
Sapped, I shelved Wadadli Pen for a couple of years, but returned …
In 2010 (still pressed for time but even more determined to keep it going) with new partners, an art component, and a theme driven approach (it was part of our Black History Month programme of activities). In that spirit, the awards ceremony was part of a special BHM edition of Word Up (directed by Zahra Airall) which included dancing (Antigua Dance Academy) , drumming (Zucan Bandele and friends), calypso (King Zacari), performance art (Argent), and poetry (Linisa George, ZIA, and Zee’s Youth Theatre channelling various Antiguan writers ).
Wadadli Pen was back…and here to stay (2011 launched just this week!), whatever it takes.