art in all its forms

art in all its forms


On the brink of possibility

Cover by Pasko Merisier for the latest issue of The Caribbean Writer.

The Caribbean Writer has published its 25th Anniversary issue, a bi-lingual edition dedicated to Haiti.  The 640-page edition features 70 pages of poetry from Caribbean poets including Kamau Brathwaite, the talented Jennifer Rahim, Ernest Pepin and Sonia Sanchez. There is also a section on prose, as well as a section on Haitian art, and interviews with novelist Earl Lovelace (who recently won the 2011 Caribbean Literary Prize and is interviewed by Alake Pilgrim) and Elizabeth Nunez. Contributions from Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming, Edwidge Danticat, Merle Hodge and are also featured.

One of my favorite pieces in the edition is 'Haiti' by Jennifer Rahim. The poem uses the problem of language as a starting point to debate the place of Haiti in modern society. Just as language reveals a development long in train before current idioms, Haiti's fate is tied to a specific historical context. For those of you who aren't in the mood for French, here is a short english extract:

By Jennifer Rahim

For the earth has spoken,
to you, her magma Creole.

Full-throated syllables, up-
rising from deep down,

an honest elocution –

"History aligns our fate and all that's left is to make the best of what we are presented with," argues editor Opal Palmer Adisa in an introductory text to the special edition. I would not be so bold to state this as this volume's thesis, though such a claim is not implausible. This is a rich volume, with important provocative thoughts on Haiti:

"Haiti came into my consciousness as the place of the first successful revolution....What makes one create a system where every person in the society has a sense of their own power and of some path that they are journeying to change the old order? Are we committed to continuing the struggle to understand and live out what it means to be equally human? Here is a grand new terrain. Here are people on the brink of creating a new world, on the brink of possibility."


"In the current prolonged, slow-motion disaster, the images that stay in my mind are of squalid refugee-camp conditions in the midst of which people somehow manage to keep their children in clean clothes; cheeks fat and eyes bright; little girls hair braided with care, prettied-up almost defiantly with bobbles and boclips...But 'this remarkable people' is us – the people of the Caribbean."

–MERLE HODGE, p. 244

I am pleased to have two of my poems, 'Aid' and 'Golden Grove' (complete with French translations by Fedon Honore) included in this volume. Here is a sample from the French section for those of you interested in such things:

Par Andre Bagoo
Ramper par terre, c'est creuser, c'est respirer 
la crasse. L'oxygène, c'est du rocher

Le pillage se transforme en mode de vie
pendant que les embarcadères débordent: 
vingt cinq étages applaudissent

Les palais vides vous mangeront.
Le débris libéré, rempli.
Si les murs ne vous crevaient
ceux qui vous manquent le feraient

Traduction de l'anglais par Fédon Honoré 28/12/2010

READ more here.

Telling stories

FILM REVIEW: Dark Tales From Paradise

THE CHALLENGES of making a competent film locally cannot be underestimated. Film-makers may have problems with technical issues, with funding and with accessing markets, even their own. Additionally, in a country where cinema is tied to notions of watching other societies on screen (our idea of “film” is tied to the US and European fare which is sold to us), seeing ourselves depicted on-screen, and inevitably simplified, for the purpose of “entertainment” can trigger complex reactions. 

But these are all challenges which a group of three film-makers have embraced with some boldness.

The tag-line for Dark Tales from Paradise, which screened this month at the Harvard Club St James at a TT Entertainment Company/ TT Film Company event, is “3 Dark Tales, 2 Beautiful Islands, 1 Kind of Film”. It is a provocative series of short films, assembled together in one feature “grind-house” style.

In Ryan C Khan’s ‘Midnight Affair’, an American scholar visits Trinidad during Carnival, loses his girlfriend and ends up deeply enmeshed in supernatural affairs. The film features Keshav Singh, a sensitive actor who is good in the role, which could have easily gone haywire. Khan, who has a background in commercials, does a good job in some of the surreal supernatural sequences.

The caustically titled ‘Sweet TnT’, by Andre Johnson, effectively and movingly depicts one man’s gradual fall into crime as he battles foreign stereotypes of this country. It is the work of film-makers with a talent for the medium of film. For instance, the film makes vivid use of a painting during one scene, and statues and graves at a cemetery in another. The work, which suffers from some technical defects, is compelling as it builds to its climax. (The actress Natalie Mackay is good in a role that demands a certain ruthlessness.)

‘Radica’,  by Francis Escayg and Timmy Mora, is about a remote fishing village in the throes of mass hysteria after the murder of a local. The film has a promising start with some excellent black humour: at Radica’s funeral, as people mourn and weep, her family opt to insert cutlasses into her coffin, and call on her to enact vengeance. The tenderness of the community’s mourning contrasts sharply with her family’s edicts. However the film slows down a little too much thereafter, but manages to make some very profound observations about how crime affects a community and, by extension, a nation.

“I wanted to highlight the small man and to show how one simple betrayal could have a domino effect: what could cause somebody to trip,” Escayg said this month.

Of his film, ‘Sweet TnT’ Johnson remarked, “If we had made a comedy they would not take us seriously.”

“We are attempting here to raise the bar. You need to see the perception of the tourist and still you get a story with a twist in the end,” he said.

Though his film’s main protagonist is American, Khan said the aim, ultimately, of his film was to cater to the Trinidad and Tobago audience.

“It comes from wanting to impress people locally,” he said of his motivation as a film-maker. In terms of marketing, he told the audience on Sunday, “the job is on you. You have to demand. You demand, we will supply.”

Johnson remarked, “we want local, we want to see ourselves.”

“We have not started to tell the Trinidad and Tobago story yet. We will be telling for a long time to come,” he said.

Flexible Man

Photo by Christopher Cozier. 

Surinamese artist Dhiradj Ramsamoedj is currently in residence at Alice Yard, as part of its fifth anniversary programme.

FROM Alice Yard:

On Saturday 3 September, at 9.30 am, Ramsamoedj will present and discuss this work during an informal gathering at Alice Yard. All are invited to join in over a cup of coffee. This will also be an opportunity to meet our third anniversary artist-in-residence, Jamaican Charles Campbell.
About the artist:

Dhiradj Ramsamoedj is based in Paramaribo, where he graduated from the Nola Hatterman Art Academy in 2004. His work has been shown in two solo exhibitions, most recently 
Ordinary People Reloaded (2010) at the Readytex Gallery in Paramaribo; and in group exhibitions in Suriname, the Netherlands, and the United States, notably Paramaribo SPAN (2010) and Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC (2011). 

SEE more here.


Search for the extraordinary

Kingdom Come by Lavar Munroe. Graphite drawing, digital colour, Ultrachrome K3 ink on velvet paper (2010)

"When I work, I am most concerned with self-fulfillment and execution. I am never satisfied. Satisfaction begins at the end of a first piece. By the beginning of the second piece, that satisfaction is lost, and I am on a quest to renew, replace and replenish it upon completion of the new piece. It is a cycle that is never ending."

Laliwa Hadali Yellow butterfly of the Sun, mixed media, 2011

"The work has to search for meaning, it has to explain life on every level, the everyday and the extraordinary. It has to explain life on every level, the everyday and the extraordinary. It has to challenge preconceived notions, it has to ask questions not ordinarily asked in an attempt to answer them in ways that are life-affirming."

–Lavar Munroe, in an interview with Dr Ja A. Jahannes 

FROM the latest, amazing edition of ARC, an art magazine available at Paper Based Bookshop, Hotel Normandie, St Ann's. Call Joan on 625-3197.

Let's Rebuild by Lavar Munroe. Graphite drawing, digital colour, Ultrachrome K3 ink on velvet paper (2010)


FILM REVIEW: Jane Eyre (2011)

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre

THE LATEST film version of Charlotte Bronte's novel understands, perhaps more than those that have come before it, that the book's melancholic gothicism goes hand in hand with its eroticism.

From the very opening of the film, there is an overwhelming sense of the more sensational aspects of Bronte's novel which is famous for defying genres and for hiding different strands of critique within its tightly wrought Yorkshire coils.

Mia Wasikowska is the best Jane on film (there have been many fine renditions, including those by Samantha Morton (1997) and Charlotte Gainesbourg (1996)). She understands Jane's deeper conflict and temptations, as well as her purity, integrity and naivety. As Rochester, Michael Fassbender never quite manages to escape Orson Welles' shadow (1943) but he brings a sense of the scoundrel that is at the heart of a character who must be attractive, yet, in some ways, repulsive. Plus, he's easy on the eyes. Unlike previous versions, this one makes plain the large age difference between the two characters who are pulled together by forces long in motion before they meet.

Screenwriter Moira Buffini's choices in relation to the film's screenplay are audacious and somewhat risky, but pay off spectacularly in the opening scenes. Almost all of the key dialogue in the book is left intact. Perhaps out of a need to not interrupt the original symmetries envisioned by Bronte for her book, the depiction of the woman in the attic has been preserved, notwithstanding post-colonial critique and that powerful response to her, Wide Sargasso Sea.

This film, directed by Cary Fukunaga, is handsomely photographed by cinematographer Adriano Goldman who washes all of the shots in the colours of the dull moors: greys, browns, moss and delicate pastels. It is all tied together by one of the finest scores for the year: Dario Marienelli's wonderful, dissonant violin terraces, beautifully executed by Jack Liebeck.

The Blu-ray version, released this month, does a superb job of picking up the finer details of the landscape, the costumes and the detailed production design. STARS: ****/4

LISTEN to the soundtrack here: