caribbean civilisation

But in our tourist brochures the Caribbean is a blue pool into which the republic dangles the extended foot of Florida as inflated rubber islands bob and drinks with umbrellas float towards her on a raft. This is how the islands from the shame of necessity sell themselves; this is the seasonal erosion of their identity, that high-pitched repetition of the same images of service that cannot distinguish one island from the other, with a future of polluted marinas, land deals negotiated by ministers, and all of this conducted to the music of Happy Hour and the rictus of a smile. What is the earthly paradise for our visitors? Two weeks without rain and a mahogany tan, and, at sunset, local troubadours in straw hats and floral shirts beating “Yellow Bird” and “Banana Boat Song” to death. There is a territory wider than this - wider than the limits made by the map of an island - which is the illimitable sea and what it remembers.
—  Derek Walcott’s Nobel Lecture, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory

Cities create a culture, and all we have are these magnified market towns, so what are the proportions of the ideal Caribbean city? A surrounding, accessible countryside with leafy suburbs, and if the city is lucky, behind it, spacious plains. Behind it, fine mountains; before it, an indigo sea. Spires would pin its centre and around them would be leafy, shadowy parks. Pigeons would cross its sky in alphabetic patterns, carrying with them memories of a belief in augury, and at the heart of the city there would be horses, yes, horses, those animals last seen at the end of the nineteenth century drawing broughams and carriages with top-hatted citizens, horses that live in the present tense without elegiac echoes from their hooves, emerging from paddocks at the Queen’s Park Savannah at sunrise, when mist is unthreading from the cool mountains above the roofs, and at the centre of the city seasonally there would be races, so that citizens could roar at the speed and grace of these nineteenth-century animals. Its docks, not obscured by smoke or deafened by too. much machinery, and above all, it would be so racially various that the cultures of the world - the Asiatic, the Mediterranean, the European, the African - would be represented in it, its humane variety more exciting than Joyce’s Dublin. Its citizens would intermarry as they chose, from instinct, not tradition, until their children find it increasingly futile to trace their genealogy. It would not have too many avenues difficult or dangerous for pedestrians, its mercantile area would be a cacophony of accents, fragments of the old language that would be silenced immediately at five o'clock, its docks resolutely vacant on Sundays.

This is Port of Spain to me, a city ideal in its commercial and human proportions, where a citizen is a walker and not a pedestrian

—  Derek Walcott’s Nobel Lecture, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory
Do they, the planters think that men who have been able to enjoy the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched away? They supported their chains only so long as they did not know any condition of life more happy than that of slavery, but today when they have left it, if they have a thousand lives they will sacrifice them all rather than be forced into slavery again. No, the same hand which has broken our chains will not enslave us anew, France will not revoke her principles, she will not withdraw from us the greatest of her benefits, she will protect us against all our enemies, she will not permit her sublime morality to be perverted, those principles which do her most honour, to be destroyed, her most beautiful achievement to be degraded, but if to reestablish slavery in San Doming this was done, then I declare to you it would be to attempt the impossible, we have known how to face dangers to attain our liberty, we shall know how to brave death to maintain it.
—  Toussaint L'Ouverture in  a letter to the French government, excerpt from The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938), by Afro-Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James
Caribbeans seems to believe we are of an identity that is purely our own, without much influence, as opposed to Americans who we view as having a watered down culture. However, this independent, “richer” culture is not without external influence. Some of us recognize our ties to Africa while others don’t realize how their everyday lives and tradition have been passed down over generations since before we arrived in the West Indies. Rightly so, we are proud and boastful of our culture, but it is time that we started looking more critically at how our identity was molded. While the spirit of the people is truly African, the culture was definitely influenced greatly by slavery and colonialism.
— 

Alicia Davis, Culture Wars: Is Caribbean Culture Richer Than Black American Culture?

the essence of the Caribbean being is hybridity, that glorious mixing that happens with cross-fertilization and jumbled-up genealogies. Like Caliban in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, we are strangers in our own lands, speaking with words that are foreign to us. Our fullest expressions happen beyond words in the language created by music, by art, by our bodies in the dance. Junkanoo is the ultimate site of these expressions, or at least, it’s supposed to be, and it can be. It’s for us the most sacred work that any of us can perform. But Junkanoo, weather or no weather, is not invincible; if we play with it too much, we can lose its truth and be left with an empty shell.
—  by Nicolette Bethel 

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Manuel Mendive
(Havana, Cuba)
Serigraph on paper (12 x 9 ¾),
2002

Manuel Mendive is the leading Afro-Cuban artist, and quite possibly the leading Cuban artist working today.  Born to a family which practiced Santeria, he practices what the Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has termed ‘living mythological thought’ and uses Afro-Cuban imagery to examine the questions of contemporary life. 

UNESCO HERITAGE SITES IN THE CARIBBEAN

Barbados

  • Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

Bermuda

  • Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications

Cuba

  • Old Havana and its Fortifications
  • Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios
  • San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba
  • Viñales Valley
  • Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba
  • Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos
  • Historic Centre of Camagüey

Curacao

  • Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour

Dominican Republic

  • Colonial City of Santo Domingo

Haiti

  • National History Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers

Puerto Rico

  • La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site

Saint Kitts and Nevis

  • Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

So what exactly is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and how does a place get this designation?

According to UNESCO’s website, to be named a World Heritage Site, a location, whether it’s “a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex or city” must be recognized by them to be “of special cultural or physical significance.”

Before a site can be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it must first be proposed to the World Heritage Committee by the member country or state in which it is located. If it is determined that the property nominated meets at least one of the necessary requirements, it is inscribed on the World Heritage List.

There are now 936 sites located in 150 countries, with 25-30 added annually.

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Ibeyi - River

Ibeyi is a French-Cuban musical duo consisting of twin sisters, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. The duo sings in English and Yoruba — a Nigerian language that travelled to Cuba via slavery in the 1700s. “Ibeyi” is a Yoruban word translating into English as “twins”. Their father, Anga Diaz, was a famous Cuban percussionist.

One misconception outsiders have about Haiti, or any so-called “third world” country, is that poverty is all there is. Reality tells a different story. People live, die, get married, lose their virginity, graduate high school and college, dream and strive in Haiti. There are, in fact, many possibilities.

Haitians are humans, not symbols of poverty. But you shouldn’t have to go to Haiti to find that out.

—  The Slaves of Saint-Domingue Did Not Dream, They Exploded by Ferrari Sheppard

As a Caribbean person, in the the light of our historical circumstances, the assertion of my own narrative and presence is important. At one of my first exhibitions, one viewer warily proclaimed “Who she feel she is to paint she self on such a big canvas?!.. She must feel she is somebody.”

Traditionally, we have never completely controlled or had a share in the historical constructions or the configurations of mass-media that label us, and therefore we always run the risk of being misrepresented. I recall being being told, by a well respected artist, that that if I wanted to make “serious paintings,” that I had to avoid using too much colour.

Needless to say, I did not buy this. I continue to challenge the notion that one has to live and work in a place covered by a grey haze to have a “real” and “serious” life. Years later I even found myself making a large black and white painting in response to this and then had fun decorating and violating it with beautiful pink and red artificial flowers.

—  Irénée Shaw, Trinidadian artist 
Every Caribbean island is unique even as we share so much in common. St. Lucia’s unique qualities come from its Creole/Kwéyòl history and culture, a blend of French, English, African, Asian and the older Amerindian that have become something new in Kwéyòl language and culture. You sense the St. Lucian unique spirit especially in its folk music and dance.
—  St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee
Each country in the Caribbean faces the question
of how to obtain capital for development. Some are better off than others because of the state of their natural resources. However, even the most well off and developed realize that the health of the economies of the region affects the wellbeing of other states, whether it is the trade tensions which exist within Caricom over the issues of alleged subsidies or on the issue of illegal migration which are all driven by under development and poverty.

There is no doubt that this region faces a crisis of capital for development. The countries are vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the world economy due to adverse employment effects in the developed world.
—  Distinguished Open Lecture “The Role of the Bahamas in CARICOM: My perspective on where we are going,” the Rt. Honourable Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas 
Creole Canticles

1.

Let us praise His Name with an opening lakonmèt,
and in the graceful procession of weedova;
let laughing, madras-crowned girls rejoice before Him in the scottish
and flirtatious moolala, its violon hinting of heartache.
And while we forget time turning in quick-heeled polkas,
pause during the tentative norwegian —
for when the couples end the gwan won,
you alone must dance for Him your koutoumba.

2.

I was glad when they call me to go up in the Séwénal.
The violon scraping my heart,
banjo and kwatro thrumming my grief like their plectrum,
and the guitar pulling my heel.
—I only seeing her tuning the mandolin on her bosom —
Then the shakshak shake me loose, insisting, insisting,
“wait for the bow, the bow and the courtesy,
wait for the sax, the drum and the kwadril to start.” Selah.

3.

And so, she has come: to the gold-flecked Wob Dwiyèt,
its long train in folds over her left wrist,
the clean petticoat adorned with lace,
the satin foulard, the head-piece of rainbow madras—
from the nondescript costume of the far city,
from the profligate famine of Cardun’s estates—
to the embracing plenitude of Kwadril shakshak and violon,
to that Bright Brooch on the glistening triangular foulard.

4.

The cascading words of my hand
pluck His praise from eight-string bandolin and local banjo,
place His favour on madras and foulard, the satin and the lace,
plant His steps in mazouk, lakonmèt and gwan won;
point His casual grace in yellow pumpkin star, pendular mango,
plait Him a crown of anthurium and fern —
He is the Crown, the Star of grace, the Dancer of creation,
the Robing of righteousness, Tuning of the spheres,
Hand of the Incarnating Word.

St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee

________

Lakonmèt, weedova, scottish etc are traditional folk dances of St. Lucia.

Séwénal – a musical tradition of St. Lucia in which musicians and others with any object that can make a musical sound walk in procession through the town – making music and diverse sounds, of course.

Violon (violin), banjo, shakshak, kwatro are traditional folk music instruments.

Kwadril (quadrille) – folk dance of St. Lucia, out of the French heritage.

Wob Dwiyèt – national dress of St. Lucian women. The verse describes parts of the dress.

Foulard – a triangular scarf-type part of the wob dwiyèt that is placed over the shoulders. It is usually fastened at the front by a distinctive brooch.

Cardun – a name created by the poet to describe a certain bacchanalian sprit of carnival licentiousness. (from the expression “fete can’t done.”)

Bandolin – Creole version of mandolin, traditional folk music instrument.

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Bahamian-living-in-Miami Fashion Blogger and Stylist La’Vonne Alexis released some behind-the-scenes footage of her branding photo shoot, “Alexis Flora,” shot in the Bahamas!