art in all its forms

art in all its forms


First lines of the books up for the Bocas Lit Prize 2011

A Nobel laureate, a MacArthur "genius" fellow and a first-time author are all shortlisted for the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the winner of which is to be announced during the first ever Bocas Literary Festival to be held in Trinidad this April. Here are the first lines from the three books shortlisted from Edwidge Danticat, Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and first-time author Tiphanie Yanique:

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>>>EDWIDGE DANTICAT: Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (Princeton University Press, 208 pp.)

On November 12, 1964, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a huge crowd gathered to witness an execution. The president of Haiti at that time was the dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who was seven years into what would be a fifteen-year term. On the day of the execution, he decreed that government offices be closed so that hundreds of state employees could be in the crowd. Schools were shut down and principals ordered to bring their students. Hundreds of people from outside the capital were bused in to watch.        

--from Chapter 1, p. 1.

>>>DEREK WALCOTT: White Egrets (Faber and Faber, 86 pp.)


The chessmen are as rigid on their chessboard
as those life-sized terra-cotta warriors whose vows
to their emperor with bridle, shield and sword
were sworn by a chorus that has lost its voice;
no echo in that astonishing excavation.
Each soldier gave an oath, each gave his word
to die for his emperor, his clan, his nation,
to become a chess piece, breathlessly erect
in shade or crossing sunlight, within hours--
from clay to clay and odourlessly strict.
If vows were visible they might see ours
as changeless chessmen in the changing light
on the lawn outside where bannered breakers toss
and the palms gust with music that is time's
above the chessmen's silence. Motion brings loss.
A sable blackbird twitters in the limes.

--from p. 3

>>>TIPHANIE YANIQUE: How to Escape a Leper Colony (Graywolf Press, 240pp.)

Babalao Chuck said that when they found the gun it was still in the volunteer's pulsing hands. The child was covered in his mother's blood and body. Her red sari redder. The volunteers at the leper colonies were young Trinidadian doctors and British journalists and criminals trading time in jail for time among lepers, and sometimes young people who carried tiny Bibles in their pockets. No one ever told me which kind killed Lazaro's mother. The volunteer was asked to leave and that was to be the end of it.

--from Introduction, p. 1.

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READ more about the Bocas Lit Fest here.


Alicia's site



Alicia says of 1): 

This body of work was specifically created for the joint show Line and Colour at the Gallery, Caribbean Art Project in Grenada.The work continues to explore ideas about the box, introduced in previous works. I am very interested in the physical and mental boxes we allow ourselves to be in. Shifting from the idea that they are imposed by others and acknowledging that they are to a great extent self inflicted. I find myself constantly considering being in and out of these boxes. 

Of 2):

This project stemmed from an interest in using the human body to make art; the body as the medium of the work as opposed to the maker of the work. I began an inquiry into my body and the ways I was comfortable and uncomfortable using it. The core issues (for me) that impact ones comfort level in exposing the body inevitably surfaced (to my dissatisfaction). These issues are what gave the work it's strength. There are strong references to family and religion and for me they are heavily intertwined. It brought into question what is and isn't allowed.

SEE her new website here (or click on picture below).

I think I just smurf'd in my mouth

No words can describe this. Perhaps: The horror! The horror! Neil Patrick Harris (Dr Dougie Houser) will never recover from this.

There is even a 3-D Gargamel:

It all gets the tagline: "This summer, our turf gets smurf'd".

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.


The ideal marriage

Two figures (likely male, though possibly female) are upside-down. They wear t-shirts (or are they robes? Kurtas?) that hang with v-shaped necklines over their chests. On closer inspection, the 'v's are more like arches that look something like this { as opposed to < (or rather ^). The two arches that serve as necklines are, on closer inspection, also different. One is slightly pointed (or more pointed, more pointedly). One arch is arguably Muslim in style (though I will not vouch for this), the other is possibly Hindu or Christian. One is filled with silver glitter, the other gold.

This is a description of the kind of play that happens when you encounter a piece in The Ideal Marriage, a new exhibition by Ashraph at Y Art and Framing Gallery at 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook. The piece described above is completed with two drawings of the same arches meeting at the bottom of the canvas with a small circle (ring, eye, egg) inside.

The show, said to be in the works for "a couple of years" contains 20 pieces in mixed media. There are silk screens, paper, canvas, glitter, inks and collage works, all unified by the motif of the dual arches (which sometimes multiply into menage a trois-like variants) as well as Ashraph's use of clean spaces, minimal compositions.

The artist is investigating relationships between people, between forms, thoughts, perceptions, colours, patterns, textures, ideas. The arches are representative in a figurative way as well as possibly phallic. They suggest architectural differences, the human body, religion and the idea of different personalities, all of which often have almost imperceivable distinctions that may unite or divide. Most striking, though, is a sense of emotion being interrogated. Ashraph has, with these canvasses, penned a love letter.

Here is how Ken Critchlow describes the work: "the images suggest connections between marriage and balance, symmetries between man, woman and sometimes a mysterious observer."

And Judy Raymond: "The two glittering shapes begin as religious symbols but might also stand for...any opposed yet complementary dyad. After all, any marriage, any relationship between two individuals is mixed. In every possible combination these bright shapes playfully suggest the variety of desire, the endless permutations of love."

Christopher Cozier observes: "the surface of the work functions like a veil suspended between the viewer and the inferred story. Should we stay where we are or should we look further inside the work or inside ourselves?"

What we must also not forget in all of this is that Ashraph has drawn from Derek Walcott's great poem 'Love After Love', the first lines of which are: "the time will come / when, with elation / you will greet yourself arriving / at your own door, in your own mirror".

Yes, The Ideal Marriage can be read as an analysis or investigation of relationships between two people. But it is also clearly the artist's examination of conflicts within himself, conflicts which he must engage in dialogue with and through which he is compelled to view all of his other relationships.

What is the ideal balance between lust and spirituality? Between two differing religions or ideologies, both with claims on the subject?

How is the citizen to negotiate between two choices that may be different but in fact resemble? Between two political (in all senses of that word) alternatives? Between two political systems? Between one form of coalition and other types of (self) representation? Between varying aesthetic points of views? How to choose between different philosophies, disparate streams of reason? Between different ways of self-presentation? This is the hidden and, in my view, most intriguing aspect of a show which must not be missed.

The Ideal Marriage runs until March 28. For further information call 628-4165.


Moving from an idea to a deconstruction

The Quarto Player, photo courtesy CarnivalMix blog.

If You Say So: Jackie Hinkson at Softbox Studios, 9 Alcazar Street, St Clair, Trinidad, from February 16 to March 16.

If You Say So is an exhibition of more than a decade's worth of sculpture by Jackie Hinkson.


"This project has been an exciting challenge for me, one that has tested my powers of discipline and perseverance in a way very different from, let's say, watercolour.

"I had considerable difficulty in establishing the proportions of my envisaged forms because the wood I used, cedar, has an outer ring of unusable sap and it was only after I had started working the figure and removing the sap that I could be reasonably sure of my final proportions. This uncertainty sometimes resulted in unexpectedly elongated forms.

"Happily, I was able to exploit this distortion to elicit greater emotional expressiveness. Distortion can be a powerful tool in visual expression...I cannot over-emphasize the role that intuition plays in my expression." (Programme for If You Say So.)

Hinkson is famous for his paintings such as a series called Christ in Trinidad, a work which applied a Biblical vernacular to Trinidad and in the process created exciting ironies. But the sculpture is also strong.

There are some hints of his painting. Small subtle brush strokes accentuate the wood, giving the forms unexplained shadows and smudges and bringing  out the sense of the inchoate and, thereby, emotional.

Something in the work, though accidentally arrived at, betrays a haunting longing. Hinkson's sense of not over-sculpting is key here. He lets the wood maintain an integrity that is never diminished by the form the artist is moving towards.

These figures are literally in transition. Moving from solid to something soft and permeable; moving from an idea to a deconstruction. A completed thing to the incomplete, yet finished and perfect.

SEE videos on Hinkson here and here.

'Inside things'

From Brianna McCarthy's blog Passion Fruit. SEE more here.


My two favorite tracks from Carnival 2011

There were many contenders. From Kes's "Wotless" to Benjai's "Trini". But one track rose above all of them. "Burning Up" by Machel Montano and company:

A very, very close second place was "Bend Over" by Mr Montano once more (let's face it when all the dust settles, Machel's music is good soca).

The food at Chaud Creole; Buzo

IF A SINGLE dish can define a restaurant, then for Chaud Creole it must be the corn soup.

This is not corn soup as you know it. This is corn soup broken down, post-modern style, analysed and reassembled into something fun, fresh and completely unexpected once plated in front of you. Corn soup purists everywhere may be slightly alarmed at this. But they have no reason to fear.

Here is a soup where the solid ingredients (silky dumplings, christophine, potato and vegetables) have been uprooted, revived through their exile and then re-introduced to the corny goodness. The vegetables were cooked separately, plated and then the corn-soup itself thrown over them like a ridiculously rich sauce. This allowed each ingredient to maintain its integrity; for flavours to pop in the maize stew and, thus, avoided the sometimes bland melding together that tends to happen in a long-gestating broth. It was absolute genius to have this dish unfold. Here was a traditional local dish, re-invented in a way that is not at all fussy but rather fun and that maintains the integrity of what corn soup is.

Chaud Creole's interior, at 6 Nook Avenue, St Ann's.

Chaud Creole has other good stuff (good fish dishes, competent local deserts such as pone and soupie) and is an interesting alternative to Chaud, its sister restaurant a few blocks away from the Savannah.

In a sense Chaud Creole is not doing anything new. It is doing something the better restaurants have been doing quietly for decades in this country: re-serving the traditional. But hopefully this new spot will remain a fixture and will deepen its range of local food.

Chaud Creole, 6 Nook Avenue, St Ann's. Call 621-2002. Open for dinner daily 6pm to 10.30 pm; lunch Monday to Saturday 11am to 3pm.

CHECK the Chaud Creole website here.

The interior of Buzo is done in the almost cliched severe minimalist style, but care was taken to give patrons pockets of intimacy that managed to delight

ANOTHER restaurant that is making a name for itself is Buzo, an Italian restaurant with a modern take, located at Woodford Street, Port-of-Spain. The most striking thing you notice about it is its space. The decor is severely minimalist in the almost cliched international style, but the arrangement of the seating areas, both indoor and outdoor, manages to create pockets of intimacy that make the restaurant actually seem warm.

Rosemary and salt pizza

The food is good, starting with the straightforward ciclista (thin-crust pizza with just rosemary and salt--no tomato sauce), served sliced and in a basket. I tried the saffron risotto, which was delightfully grainy, not clumpy, but yet smooth. There were some excellent sides: the lentils, soup, rosemary potatoes. Of the main courses the salmon was perfectly prepared, chicken stuffed with spinach was a given care and attention in terms of its balancing of proportion and texture that is notable.
Perfectly prepared pink salmon 

The pastas got good reviews, though it is harder to say what stood out in this regard. Deserts were also good, but not daring. Clearly the chefs have decided to abide by the old adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it"! This worked wonders for the panacotta, creme caramel and the gelato, all of which were served with pleasing relish.

Creme caramel

All in all the dining experience was extremely pleasant; a friend pointed out that staff knew how to pronounce things on the menu, knew how to describe each item and were extremely courteous and never intrusive. Buon Appetito!

To reach Buzo call 223-2896.


'I'll keep him'

SEE more on Tanya Marie's hot re-vamped blog here.

'So this is permanence; love-shattered pride'

There is going to be a special screening this Thursday at Studiofilmclub of Control (2007), with the film's director, Anton Corbijn, present. Corbijn is best known for his iconic, black-and-white portrait photographs of musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and Bruce Springsteen. He has also made music videos for the likes of U2 and Depeche Mode.

Control, a multiple prize-winner at the Cannes Film Festival, is the story of the late Ian Curtis, singer for the short-lived but highly acclaimed late-'70s Manchester rock group Joy Division. Sam Riley (who stars in the new film adaptation of Brighton Rock) takes on the role of Curtis, while Samantha Morton (In America, Elizabeth: The Golden Age) plays his wife, Deborah Curtis. Following the screening I will moderate a q+a session with Corbijn.

After the film the band jointpop, who this year are celebrating their fifteenth anniversary, will play a short set of some of their best-loved songs.

All this happens at SFC (Building 7, the Fernandes Business Centre, Barataria) this Thursday. Doors open at 7.30pm; the film starts at 8.15. Admission is free.

JONATHAN ALI on CONTROL (Anton Corbijn/UK/2007/122')

The spirit of rock n’ roll rebellion collides with the humdrum realities of British lower-middle-class life in Anton Corbijn’s debut feature. In his Macclesfield bedroom in 1973, Ian Curtis (newcomer Sam Riley, a revelation) writes poetry and nurses teenage dreams of escape to a soundtrack of David Bowie and Roxy Music. His besotted girlfriend Deborah Woodruff (Samantha Morton, playing the role of wide-eyed naif with heart-tugging conviction) agrees to marriage. Quickly routine bites hard, as Curtis juggles a job with trying to make it in a band, struggles with epileptic seizures and the demands of fatherhood, and becomes enmeshed in an affair with a Belgian groupie he can’t/won’t quit.

Based on Touching From a Distance, Deborah Curtis’ memoir of life with her late husband, Control is not a Joy Division biopic. (Though, to be sure, the band’s music is integral to the tale.) Corbijn instead nods in the direction of British social-realist drama—there’s a kitchen sink or two to be seen—while elegantly employing the monochrome style he uses to create his celebrated still portraits. What could have been an exercise in solemn miserabilism is, assuredly, not; rather, this is a moving portrait of the thwarted idealism of youth, and of two young people brought together and then tragically torn apart by love.



Dimanche Gras 2011 wrap-up

In case you missed it--yes I can hear the snarky retort to this statement now in my head: who would regret missing such an annual torture-fest?--here's a wrap up of what went down at the Big Stage at the Queen's Park Savannah from 6pm on Sunday to 2.30pm this morning (Monday):


Although the supposed Road March contender "Advantage" by Machel Montano advises one to stamp, trample and mash-up the stage, the Queens of the Bands didn't get the memo. Instead, one by one, the stage trampled them. The very first contestant (Jayle Marcano, with a presentation called 'D' Ruby Brooch ((you must remember that for Kings and Queens the definitive article is shortened to d to prove the costume is local, and then capitalised into a D and placed in 'D' for smug fit, annually))) got entangled in a TV camera crane. These costumes cost thousands and while I don't want to be insensitive, it was funny as hell. The crane kept on bobbing up and down and then toppled the backside of the bejeweled splendor of Ms Marcano.

Not funny was when the MacFarlane queen collapsed (it's official: all MacFarlane kings and queens are jinxed). The queen was on stilts and suddenly she had an awful, painful, anguished look on her face and then fell, her legs splaying in a gruesome split. It was an awful thing to watch people frantically run to her aid, not knowing if she was conscious or not.


This was by far the most entertaining King and it came from Curtis Eustace. It was my winner even if it was an homage to a past costume (the eventual winner was a big depiction of a tsunami by Wade Madray that was ripped apart by speakers on the stage because it was too big). The clown opened up to reveal two midgets, who then ripped pieces off the costume, triggering the release of balloons. C'mon, that was hot ppl!


For years, under the PNM, the country has had to endure that awful category of calypso called "The Social Commentary". For those of you who don't know it, this category is the heart-wrenching type that is best exemplified by Singing Sandra's dirge "Voices from the Ghetto". Ever since Sandra won with that song, we haven't heard the end of Social Commentary (with capitals), when calypsonians hammer us over the head with how terrible the world is.

But this year, the Social Commentary disappeared. Instead, suddenly, we had political picong left right and centre. All kinds of people who never even sang about politics in their careers before this year, became Political Commentators (with big capitals!)

But they were witless, had no satire, did not have a grasp of word-play, had awful stage presentations, had no sublty--in other words had none of the ingredients that make kaiso an art. (The exception though was Chalkdust's tired but competent songs and a few gems in between). It was awful and sounded a lot like calypsonians trying to be political for political sake. One even wore a PNM tie, another declared that he was waiting patiently for the Government to collapse. YES we all know calypso is a traditionally African/PNM field, but the great calypsonians had that skill of appearing to be fair. Of if not fair, at least wickedly skillful and funny in their one-sided satire.

Instead, we had to endure a car coming onstage with a stalled engine representing The Government; an office scene in which a former PNM PM gave out goodies for which we should be grateful (such as the Hyatt Regency hotel!!!); some kind of Atillah-the-Hun's-pen-meets-King Arthur's sword scene; a bride and groom with a devilish masked seducer who takes the bride and then stabs her to death (which was the kaisonian's a metaphor for voting against the PNM, naturally); some kind of giant golden clasped hand that unfolded and collapsed and then let out Joseph wearing a techni-coloured coat. These people had no clue!

Brian London delivered the best calypso of the night with a first song called "We Fed Up" (so was the audience by the time he came on). This was the best critique of the Government, skillfully and artfully done through the prisim of a tribute to Shadow. Benjai had the best performance. (As a side note he was CHEATED by being given the last place. If the Dimanche Gras judges were thinking strategically they would have realised that this was probably his only opportunity to win something big since he was shut out of Groovy Soca Monarch and is unlikely to take Road March, even though he deserves it for "Trini". Such a strategic award would have raised the profile of the Dimanche Gras show and exposed it to a new audience). But just when you thought London had it in the bag, his second song was BORING. In fact, all the performers had this problem: one good song/performance and another boring one. Only Chalkdust pleased in both rounds.

Meanwhile what can you say about the deeply offensive lyrics that were featured this year? Cro Cro called black coalition Government supporters "black bottom lickers". That was such a subtle, artistic and sophisticated way to get his point across wasn't it? Kizzy Ruiz called corrupt people "them bitches". In a bizarre performance Tamika Darius called Louis Lee Sing "an old Lagahoo" and, of Jack Warner, said that his "PP not yet working." She wore a PNM tie, in case there was doubt about the slant of her songs. And Sugar Aloes also openly declared his resolve to wait for the coalition to collapse, because it is in the best interest of the country. Winner Karene Asche spoiled a competent calypso ("Uncle Jack") when she called Warner "the world's first black Hindu", which is possibly a racist remark in my view.

It was embarrassing for what should have been a banner year. Look at how much material the calypsonians had: they had elections, the PNM's bizzare last few months, the church at Guanapo, Pena, Hazel and that stupid talk about where she slept, Calder Hart etc etc. And they had this Government's grand piano fiasco, SIA/SSA. And what great calypso was produced? Not one comes to mind. Never has $2 million been more undeserved.


It was still entertainingly corny! MC Richard Pierre was hoisted onto the stage in the middle of the proceedings with a crane amidst smoke and exploding pyrotechnics to the music of Star Wars for unclear reasons.

Then, there was a looooong dance 'sequence' about the history of the country which featured supposed "Amerindian" dancers with nobody of Amerindian descent. The "Ameridians" seemed to be dressed like Africans and to play African instruments. Anyhow, the "Europeans" and their contribution to this country was also represented accurately with dancers wearing petticoat-supported gowns that looked familiar (someone said the "presentation" was recycled from the Summit of the Americas).

Storms of confetti had to be swept off the stage every five minutes by about 50 CEPEP workers whom the organisers were lucky to book, it being the hectic Carnival season and all. There was a quietly lovely GLBT moment when Stinger (don't know who he is? Apparently, he's a chap called Dexter Parsons) said since it emerged that he was in the Dimanche Gras finals all sorts of snake in the grass people suddenly know him and love him (given the $2M top prize). He sang that he got "love letters...from women and men".

It all fell apart in the end though, when the programme was not respected after the Prime Minister and Gypsy arrived onstage. The great Shadow had to perform with both on stage--as well as a sea of media people--as nobody in charge was able to bring the PM onstage only at results time, leaving her to linger for a while. However, all in all the show was delightful for several reasons. And it's sometimes comforting to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

'Death, you’re vain; incurable'

This month, TATE ETC. in collaboration with Eggbox Publishing brings you Vahni Capildeo's poem 'Death' based on J M W Turner's work Death on a Pale Horse
Is this really you? Riding for a fall? The cataloguers are unsure it’s not just some other
horseman — I want it to be really you. So long as I can tell rose from fire, love from
sickness, word from dust. I am tender of you.
READ full poem at Tate website here.  CHECK out more on Vahni Capildeo here and on the publishers of her latest book here.

Walcott, Kei Miller, Yanique up for prizes


Ten writers representing six different countries are in the running for the mewly-established 2011 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The prize longlist, announced by the judges on 28 February, 2011, includes three books of poetry, four of fiction, and three of non-fiction. The writers range from Nobel laureates to debut authors.

In the poetry category, the three contenders are all extended meditations on themes of memory, loss, and hope. Kamau Brathwaite’s elegiac and typographically complex Elegguas joins Kei Miller’s uplifting collection A Light Song of Light and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott’s White Egrets, which muses over age and mortality.

Three novels and a book of short fiction vie in the fiction category. Myriam Chancy’s The Loneliness of Angels, steeped in Haitian history, charts human connections across gulfs of time and space. Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, inspired by a Senegalese folktale, plays with the conventions of traditional storytelling. Rabindranath Maharaj’s The Amazing Absorbing Boy offers a fresh take on the Caribbean migrant experience. And Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape a Leper Colony lyrically explores its characters’ emotional intimacy.

The non-fiction category brings together Beauty and Sadness, a collection of literary criticism and memoir by Andre Alexis; Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously, a series of essays on the role of the “immigrant artist”; and Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul’s travel narrative The Masque of Africa, which investigates the survival of indigenous religious beliefs on the continent.

The judges read approximately sixty books entered for the Prize, which will be presented for the first time this year. The OCM Bocas Prize is open to books by Caribbean writers published in the previous calendar year, and comes with an award of US$10,000. The winners in the three genre categories will be announced on 28 March, and the Prize will be presented on 30 April, during the first annual Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain. Details of the four-day event (28 April–1 May) will be released on 22 March.

The 2011 judges include a range of distinguished writers and scholars from the Caribbean and its international diaspora. The poetry panel, chaired by Merle Collins, also includes Jane King and Mark McWatt. Publisher Margaret Busby chairs the fiction panel, which also includes David Chariandy and Lorna Goodison. And historian Bridget Brereton chairs the non-fiction panel, joined by Sir Hilary Beckles and Charlotte Williams.

The final cross-genre judging panel, headed by Arnold Rampersad, will also include Marjorie Thorpe as representative of the Prize administrators.

For further information, visit


The 2011 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist:


Elegguas, by Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados) — Wesleyan
A Light Song of Light, by Kei Miller (Jamaica) — Carcanet
White Egrets, by Derek Walcott (St. Lucia) — Faber


The Loneliness of Angels, by Myriam Chancy (Haiti/USA) — Peepal Tree
Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord (Barbados) — Small Beer
The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj (Trinidad and Tobago/Canada) — Knopf Canada
How to Escape a Leper Colony, by Tiphanie Yanique (US Virgin Islands) — Graywolf


Beauty and Sadness, by Andre Alexis (Trinidad and Tobago/Canada) — House of Anansi
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/USA) — Princeton
The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, by V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad and Tobago/UK) — Picador