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Early warning can savE livEs

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Top: Red Cross representatives visit a riverside community as a part of a risk reduction field visit Below: An example of an Early Warning System in Dominica

f you knew twenty minutes before that a severe flood or tsunami would occur, what would you do? Early warning systems (EWS) allow individuals and communities a window of time for fight or flight. For time-critical events such as tsunamis, mudslides, and flash floods, the warnings are a trigger to action — to move quickly out of the danger area. For more moderate hazards, e.g. street flooding or slower arriving hurricanes, warnings provide an opportunity to fight to protect your family and property, either by relocation or barrier protection in doorways and windows. Early warning is not only the production of technically accurate warnings but also a system that requires an understanding of risk and a link between producers and consumers of warning information, with the ultimate goal of triggering action to prevent or mitigate a disaster. Given the Caribbean’s susceptibility to hazards, three organisations have partnered to improve early warning systems across the region. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) are teaming up with the National Disaster Management Offices in Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Saint Lucia, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. This initiative takes a regional, national, and community approach where organisations and communities bring unique knowledge, skills, networks, and tools to EWS development. At the community level, Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground working with the communities to monitor hazards, issue timely warnings, and take early action to protect themselves. This effort then links to national and regional multi-hazard systems. National Disaster Management Agencies in the Eastern Caribbean are working with meteorological offices and other warning agencies to improve national EWS. Based on individual country assessments, teams are seeking to address local needs and in some countries, a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for EWS is being developed. Regionally, CDEMA’s website (www.cdema.org/ews/) hosts a toolkit which provides an overview of successful practices from the field and presents guiding principles which build a strong foundation for the design or strengthening of EWS. Supporting this collaboration is the Disaster Preparedness Programme of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DIPECHO), which has for more than a decade provided funding to reduce disaster risk in the Caribbean. Early warnings allow for early action, and early action can save lives.


Contents No. 155 • January/February 2019

76

86 EMBARK

24 Wish you were here

Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago

26 Need to know

Essential info to help you make the most of January and February across the Caribbean — from jazz in Haiti to reggae month in Jamaica to a film festival in Barbados

46 Bookshelf and playlist

Our reading and listening picks

50 screenshots

Filmmaker Ian Harnarine talks about his new short, Caroni

52 Cookup

Coco Loco A longtime traditional ingredient in Caribbean cuisine, coconut is enjoying a new popularity, thanks to health trends. Franka Philip considers the potential for culinary innovations. Coconut flour, anyone? Coconut vinegar? 16

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IMMERSE

57 Panorama

57

Beauty and the Beast T&T Carnival may be the world’s greatest street party, but among the glamourous bikini bands and shimmering sequins, some traditional masquerades offer a defiant take on the darker side of our history

masquerade and performance are mediums for challenging Caribbean stereotypes, writes Shereen Ann Ali

68 Backstory

82 own words

Dennery Style If you have ears to listen at Carnival time, you’ve heard Dennery Segment, even if you don’t know the name. Laura Dowrich explores the roots of the soca genre originating in a small village in St Lucia

74 icon

The mighty Shadow Attillah Springer writes a letter to T&T’s late calypsonian-philosopher

76 closeup

Barbed beauty For Barbadian artist Adam Patterson,

“I’ve always felt, ask me where I’m from!” Claire Adam, Trinidad-born novelist, on learning to observe, the usefulness of honest criticism, and the notion of “home” — as told to Nicholas Laughlin ARRIVE

86 round trip

All about blue Is any colour more distinctive of the Caribbean? Take a tour of the region through our many hues and shades of blue


CaribbeanBeat CaribbeanBeat An MEP publication

100 neighbourhood

Road Town, Tortola A year and a half after the devastation of Hurricane Irma, the capital of the British Virgin Islands is back in the business of welcoming visitors

102 BUCKET LIST

little tobago A wildlife sanctuary off Tobago’s northeast coast, this tiny island has an unlikely history — and numerous seabirds ENGAGE

104 Green

The plastic wars Plastic pollution is a growing danger to the environment, to wildlife, and to ourselves. As Jamaica implements the first major plastics ban in the Caribbean, Erline Andrews learns about its possible impact — and pitfalls

108 Discover

Saved by microbes Trinidadian microbiologist Adesh Ramsubhag is a pioneer in researching potentially revolutionary uses of the Caribbean’s native microorganisms, writes Raymond Ramcharitar

110on this day

when the bogeyman is real Sixty years ago, Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier set up a fearsome paramilitary corps to dispatch political opposition. James Ferguson looks back at the sinister history of the Tontons Macoutes

112 puzzles

Editor Nicholas Laughlin General manager Halcyon Salazar Design artists Kevon Webster & Bridget van Dongen Production manager Jacqueline Smith Web editor Caroline Taylor Editorial assistant Shelly-Ann Inniss Business Development Manager, Tobago and International Evelyn Chung T: (868) 684 4409 E: evelyn@meppublishers.com

Business Development Representative, Trinidad Mark-Jason Ramesar T: (868) 775 6110 E: mark@meppublishers.com

Business Development Representative, Trinidad Tracy Farrag T: (868) 318 1996 E: tracy@meppublishers.com

Barbados Sales Representative Shelly-Ann Inniss T: (246) 232 5517 E: shelly@meppublishers.com

Media & Editorial Projects Ltd. 6 Prospect Avenue, Maraval, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago T: (868) 622 3821/5813/6138 • F: (868) 628 0639 E: caribbean-beat@meppublishers.com Website: www.meppublishers.com

Read and save issues of Caribbean Beat on your smartphone, tablet, computer, and favourite digital devices!

Printed by Solo Printing Inc., Miami, Florida Caribbean Beat is published six times a year for Caribbean Airlines by Media & Editorial Projects Ltd. It is also available on subscription. Copyright © Caribbean Airlines 2019. All rights reserved. ISSN 1680–6158. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. MEP accepts no responsibility for content supplied by our advertisers. The views of the advertisers are theirs and do not represent MEP in any way. Website: www.caribbean-airlines.com

Enjoy our crossword, sudoku, and other brain-teasers!

120 classic

A dip into Caribbean Beat’s archives: Lisa Allen-Agostini explores the colourful lexicon of wining, just in time for Carnival

The Caribbean Airlines logo shows a hummingbird in flight. Native to the Caribbean, the hummingbird represents flight, travel, vibrancy, and colour. It encompasses the spirit of both the region and Caribbean Airlines.

WWW.CARIBBEAN-AIRLINES.COM

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beyond ordinary...

...Explore the extraordinary Caribbean island. Unspoilt, untouched, undiscovered Tobago TobagoBeyond.com | #101ReasonsTobago


Cover Masquerader Ricardo Felicien of the devil band Rhapsody in Blue, based in Paramin, Trinidad. Devil mas has been a tradition in his family for generations Photo Maria Nunes

This issue’s contributors include: Shereen Ann Ali (“Barbed beauty”, page 76) is a freelance writer who has covered cultural and social issues in Trinidad since the 1990s as a reporter for three national newspapers. She is also a graphic designer and illustrator. Erline Andrews (“The plastic wars”, page 104) is an award-winning Trinidadian journalist. She is a regular contributor to Caribbean Beat and her work has also appeared in other publications in T&T and the US, including the Chicago Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor. Jason Audain (“Beauty and the beast”, page 57) is a self-taught photographer from Trinidad and Tobago with a particular interest in Carnival and portrait photography. He is the recipient of awards from the T&T Photographic Society and his work has been shown in T&T’s National Museum. Vahni Capildeo (“Sailor is a state of mind”, page 40) is a Trinidadian-British poet, author of six books, most recently Venus as a Bear. Maria Nunes (cover and “Beauty and the beast”, page 57) is a Trinidad and Tobago photographer and producer who works in the field of cultural heritage. Her book In a World of Their Own: Carnival Photography was published in 2018. Attillah Springer (“The Mighty Shadow”, page 74) is a Trinidad-born writer, DJ, and flag woman. She is a director of Idakeda, a collective of women in her family creating cultural interventions for social change.

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A MESSAGE From OUR CEO

Dear Customers, What is it to be Caribbean? What are the essential characteristics of this unique club? Many people say luck! Others say that to be Caribbean is to be easygoing, fun, or warm; generous or wise, vibrant or respectful. Some would say we are as different as we are alike. I think, of course, it is like a good cocktail, a perfect blend of all these things, with a few magic ingredients added in for good measure.

And do we always appreciate how special it is to be Caribbean — do we sometimes take for granted the energy of our music, the vibrancy of our cultures, the beauty of our places and our people? At Caribbean Airlines, we believe this is the right time to embrace and celebrate our Caribbean identity. We are diving deep into the culture and the spirit of our many diverse nations — bonded by a shared sea and similar heritages — to bring out the best of the region. This will be reflected across our whole airline identity, from our brand to

through all the changes and new opportunities, what will remain the same is who we are at heart at Caribbean Airlines

our community activities, and our presence at festivals and major events in the destinations we serve. And we will build even further on our role as the airline that brings the Caribbean together by enhancing connectivity across the region and increasing the choices available to our customers. New technology will make travelling more convenient, even easier — such as our new Caribbean Airlines App, for example, which puts booking, managing, and monitoring your journeys right in front of you, on your favorite mobile device. And in the not-too-distant future, a new fleet will bring higher levels of comfort and capability to every journey with Caribbean Airlines. Our objective is clear and focused: to be the most efficiently run and sustainable airline in the region. To be the best in terms of on-time performance, and to constantly delight all our valued customers. But through all the changes and new opportunities, what will remain the same is who we are at heart at Caribbean Airlines — a blend of all that is best about our people and our region, the essence of the authentic Caribbean, to share with you, our customers. Thank you for your consistent support, and we look forward to a successful Caribbean 2019 together. You can find us at www.caribbeanairlines.com, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @iflycaribbean.

Garvin Medera Chief Executive Officer

In 2019, Caribbean Airlines will add twelve Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to its fleet

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jason audain

wish you were here

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Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago In the lead-up to Carnival, one of the best places to experience T&T’s mas traditions is The Old Yard, a popular performance showcase hosted annually by the University of the West Indies’ Department of Creative and Festival Arts. There you'll find Midnight Robbers, fancy sailors, Dame Lorraines, and enough troops of devils to set your heart racing with their bloodcurdling cries and menacing dance — like these young members of the Jab-A-Mien devil band.

WWW.CARIBBEAN-AIRLINES.COM

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NEED TO KNOW

Essential info to help you make the most of January and February: what to do, where to go, what to see!

jason audain

Warpaint and feathers: a traditional fancy Indian, one of the characteristic masquerades of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

Don’t Miss Trinidad’s traditional mas The cracks of the jab-jabs’ whips grab onlookers’ attention. Moko jumbies tower above, and king sailors with their elaborate headpieces show off their 26

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fancy footwork. In the moonlight, a mysterious La Diablesse hides her face with a wide-brimmed hat, and a long old-fashioned dress covers her cow hoof. Some of the most electric moments of Trinidad Carnival happen on the Wednesday night before the Carnival climax, in the traditional mas competition at Adam Smith Square (27 February this year). Once considered a dying art form, traditional mas has found a new popularity in recent years, thanks to the energy of younger performers dedicated to keeping these characters alive. Look out too for

Pierrot Grenades, Midnight Robbers, Dame Lorraines . . . And if you miss them on Wednesday night, you can catch more of them at noon on Carnival Friday in Victoria Square, and on the road on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates numerous flights daily to Piarco International Airport in Trinidad from destinations in the Caribbean and North and South America


need to know

Top Three

Venues filled to capacity and crowds singing along at the tops of their lungs are typical at the Port-auPrince International Jazz Festival (PAPJAZZ), running this year from 19 to 26 January. Under the stars, the city is rejuvenated with music. Cosy jam sessions are a PAPJAZZ signature, creating a welcoming opportunity to chat with the artistes. Outstanding performances, playful tunes, and daring repertoires are guaranteed from local and international luminaries. Among this overflow of talent, here are three acts to look out for.

mark fitton courtesy papjazz haiti

PAPJAZZ hits

Phyllisia Ross

Hits such as “Konsa”, “Only For You”, and “My Life Without You”, sung in English, French and Creole, leave audiences smitten. The international career of this Haitian-American singer-songwriter took off when she was just sixteen. Every song she’s written relates to a real-life situation, experience, or feeling, while her vocal style and shifts among multiple languages pay homage to her Haitian roots. Proud to dabble in almost every genre, she weaves traces of soul, R&B, reggae, kompa, and zouk into her compositions.

Dam’nco

courtesy papjazz haiti

This Parisian band forms a musical universe of funk, metal, waltz, mazurka, and hip-hop. Listen to “From Paris with Love,” or “Barbes” and you’ll understand why their videos have amassed a social media following in the tens of thousands. Multifaceted drummer and singer Damien Schmitt, with the help of some lifelong friends, created Dam’nco in 2015. Delivering the groove on stage are bassist Swaéli Mbappé, Yann Negrit on guitar, and Michael Lecoq and Nicholas Vella on keyboards. Improvisation is a trademark of the band’s arrangements, so there’ll be many surprises.

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courtesy papjazz haiti

Cécile McLorin Salvant

The New York Times lauded her as the finest jazz singer to emerge in the past decade. The two-time Grammy winner is known for carefully curating her repertoire, often unearthing rarely recorded or forgotten songs that tell strong stories. Growing up in Miami with a Haitian father and Guadeloupean mother, Salvant began playing the piano at age five. When she performs, she starts a conversation in song. Her voice comments on lyrics she presents on a platter of diverse tonal shifts, fresh delivery, and sheer soul. She’ll hook you from one note to the next.


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need to know

Must Try Treats for Three Kings’ Day Some people don’t take their Christmas decorations down until after the twelve days of Christmas. And in Puerto Rico, that’s when the festivities happen. Tradition says three kings delivered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on the twelfth day after Jesus’ birth. Three Kings’ Day — Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos, also known as the Epiphany — is on 6 January, celebrated with parades, family gatherings, parties, gifts — and, of course, delicious food. Such as . . .

Rosca de reyes

The top is decorated with slivered nuts, candied fruit, or coloured sweet dough. And on the inside, this sweet, soft yeasted bread (above) is flavoured with hints of almond, citrus, and cinnamon. Sometimes rumsoaked fruits are also in the mix. If you find the baby figurine in your slice, congrats! You’ll become the queen or king of the day, and have the honour of hosting the next party.

Coquito

A delectable coconut and rum version of eggnog. 30

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Pasteles

Wrapped and boiled in banana leaves, pasteles are cornmeal mixtures with pork in adobo sauce, grated green banana, pumpkin, potato, and some raisins.

Buñuelos

Wind fritters — buñuelos de viento — don’t sound very filling, but make the perfect side dish for a meal. When fried, the dough doubles its volume, giving the impression the fritters are filled with air. Want to try them yourself? Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients 4 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt ½ cup sugar 2 eggs 1 cup milk 4 tablespoons butter, melted oil (for frying) cinnamon and sugar mixture Directions In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add the flour mixture gradually while beating. Add the melted butter, and continue beating. Place dough on a floured surface and knead until silky and elastic. Roll into balls and flatten with the palm of your hand. Fry in hot oil (at 370° F), or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Toss fritters in the cinnamon and sugar mix. Recipe courtesy geniuskitchen.com Shelly-Ann Inniss


need to know

On View Ebony G. Patterson, . . . while the dew is still on the roses . . .

courtesy the the artist and monique meloche gallery, chicago

Born in Jamaica, Ebony G. Patterson divides her time between Lexington, Kentucky, where she teaches, and her hometown Kingston, source of her inspiration, ideas, and visual fuel. The latest stop on her jetpowered international career is the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), where Patterson’s show . . . while the dew is still on the roses . . . opened in November last year and runs through 5 May, 2019. Patterson transforms one of PAMM’s high-ceilinged galleries into a “night garden,” full of shadows and profusions of tropical vegetation (rendered in plastic and silk), the setting for a series of her ornately embellished tapestry works. Fabrics of every texture with repeated floral imagery, laden with rhinestones and glitter, lace and braids and

beads, are the artist’s medium. Patterson’s earlier investigations of Jamaica’s dancehall scene, with its complicated intersections of violence, race, class, and gender, expand here to encompass a broader awareness of injustice and inequality across borders, alongside a fierce claim of dignity on behalf of the disenfranchised. Endangered young black men don elaborate, bejeweled outfits, staring down the viewer, but the occasion seems grim rather than celebratory. The standout work here is a new sculptural installation, in which mounds of red, orange, and white artificial carnations and roses suggest funeral tributes. Ghostly frosted glass blossoms protrude, and among the floral lushness lurk fragments of silent evidence: the sole of a foot, a discarded piece of jewellery.

Left Dead Tree in a Forest (2013, mixed media on paper, 87 x 83 inches). Collection of Monique Meloche and Evan Boris, Chicago, Illinois Right . . . wata marassa — beyond the bladez . . . (2014, mixed media on paper, 85 x 84 inches). Collection of Doreen Chambers and Philippe Monroguie, Brooklyn, NY

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courtesy the the artist and monique meloche gallery, chicago


need to know

How You Say Reggae is the musical heartbeat of Jamaica, and Reggae Month, celebrated each February, comes with an overflowing programme of performances, seminars, exhibitions, and other events dedicated to the musical genre and its offspring, like dancehall. But reggae’s global popularity doesn’t mean that non-Jamaicans always understand every nuance of the lyrics, usually sung in patwa. Here are some lines from iconic songs you may have failed to understand — and some useful phrases for your next reggae concert.

courtesy chronixx

Reggae patwa primer From “Do It For the Likes” by Chronixx

Gwaan like seh dem deh a studio a voice Translation: Pretending that they’re at a studio recording

From “Boombastic” by Shaggy

From “Blood Money” by Protoje

From “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy

Pull up! Dah tune yah bad

Yuh need fi tek weh yuself fram yah suh

Di party a go slap weh!

Likkle more. Mi ago crush di road

Naw guh laba laba and a chat pure faat Translation: Not going to talk excessively and speak pure nonsense

A me seh one thing Nancy cyan understan Translation: And I say one thing Nancy cannot understand

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Man deh road a carry one wuleepa a felony Translation: Men with a lot of felonies walk the road freely Start over! This song is nice

The party is going to be awesome!

The party’s over. It’s time to go

See you later. I’m going on the road


need to know

blue waters productions

Actor Adrian Green in a scene from Panama Dreams

Word of Mouth Exploring Panama Dreams Are you an explorer and adventureseeker? Does the thought of dabbling with dynamite scare you? If guaranteed high wages, would you migrate without your family to toil in the blazing sun for over ten hours daily? More than 100,000 West Indians migrated to Panama between 1880 and 1914 to work on “the greatest engineering feat of its time” — the Panama Canal. In the intriguing docudrama Panama Dreams, Barbadian filmmaker Alison Saunders follows their journey, and explores the influence of the canal on the families and societies left behind. She discovered “well-hidden but serious issues” of shame, racism, classism, and power which descendants of the diaspora still face. Barbados sent the largest group of labourers. Sixty thousand Barbadians — one-third of the island’s population at the time — voyaged to Panama to build the canal. Saunders, like many of today’s Barbadians, is the descendant of a Panama Canal labourer. In 2011, she travelled to Panama in search of information on her relative Prince Collymore, portrayed in her film by Adrian Green. Saunders didn’t find the leads she expected, and the missing details of Prince’s life were left to her imagination. Panama Dreams combines dramatic 36

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recreations, historical accounts, fiction, and the narrative of Saunders’s own journey to spotlight the significant contributions these West Indian heroes made to one of the engineering marvels of the world. To this day, the Panama Canal earns approximately $2 billion in revenue annually. Saunders has been writing, directing, and producing TV programmes, documentaries, and narrative films for more than twenty years — her body of work includes the award-winning drama Hit for Six! For Panama Dreams, she left no stone unturned, as she acted as researcher, writer, director, and producer. Her narrative often weaves in interviews with eminent historians such as Professor Sir Woodville Marshall,

along with Jamaican writer Olive Senior, whose widely acclaimed book Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the Building of the Panama Canal played an integral role. Current Panama Canal employees, friendly societies in Panama, Panamanians with the surname Collymore, people in search of their ancestry, and many others also contributed to Panama Dreams. Similar to our hardworking ancestors, Saunders overcame the obstacles and premiered her film last March in Barbados. Panama Dreams received rave reviews, leading to nominations in six categories and two wins at the Barbados Visual Media Awards. Although not officially released to the public, the film continues to be screened at festivals around the region — including the upcoming Barbados Independent Film Festival. For many Caribbean viewers, Panama Dreams will awake a sense of pride and nostalgia. As a Barbadian, I felt encouraged to seek out my own roots. One of my biggest regrets is not studying history at school. I had no idea of the West Indian impact on the Panama Canal until young adulthood. Sadly, by that time, my Panamanian great-grandmother had already passed away, and her story is a faint memory among aged relatives. Despite this loss, I’m determined to dig deeper. Shelly-Ann Inniss

The third edition of the Barbados Independent Film Festival (BIFF), running from 11 to 20 January, highlights hidden treasures from the world of independent cinema, with a Caribbean feel and international appeal. The 2019 programme includes outstanding films which embrace the power of storytelling to inform, inspire, and entertain, from filmmakers including Alison Saunders, Stephen Lang (Avatar, Don’t Breathe), Andrew McCarthy (Weekend at Bernie’s, The Black List), and National Geographic director Martin Edstrom. The picturesque Walled Garden Theatre of the Barbados Museum, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the main venue. For more information, visit barbadosfilmfest.org.


courtesy national theatre

need to know

On Stage Nine Night Following last year’s six-week staging at London’s prestigious National Theatre, Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night is currently enjoying an extended run at Trafalgar Studios in the heart of the city’s theatreland — making Gordon the first black woman playwright to have a play open in the West End. A story of grief, ritual, and identity set within a Caribbean-British family, Nine Night’s plot unfolds in the kitchen of distraught protagonist Lorraine, who is grappling with the loss of her beloved mother Gloria, as conflicting family dynamics take an additional toll. Centred on the Jamaican funerary tradition of celebrating the deceased’s life through an extended wake, the seemingly simple storyline reveals layers of complexity as each new character introduces another problematic element, and the unspoken truths of their hidden lives reveal as much as the play’s plausible dialogue. Delivered with an air of authenticity that can only stem from personal experience, it is an inaugural triumph for Gordon as a 38

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playwright, her longstanding career as an actor surely contributing to the drama’s lifelike feel. Praise for the work has been nearunanimous, an unusual situation for what would normally be deemed a fringe play with a “black” theme. The Guardian saluted its portrayal of an ethnic-minority family at home in multicultural Britain, while the five-star review that appeared in the Evening Standard described Nine Night as a “remarkable debut” for Gordon in playwright mode. The Times, a bastion of the conservative upperclass establishment, gave the play its unreserved recommendation. Since the noughties, Gordon has gradually carved a niche for herself in the acting world. Appearing in cop-show television dramas, Gordon faced the familiar difficulty of finding meaningful roles of substance as a black actor. In contrast, a particular strength of Nine Night is the realness of its characters, including Robert, the scheming brother at loggerheads with Lorraine; his white wife Sophie, who is embraced by the family despite her parents’ refusal to

accept her choice of husband; and long-lost half-sister Trudy, inexplicably left behind in hardscrabble Kingston. Then there’s the seriously old-school Aunt Maggie, whose withering looks and enduring Jamaicanness give the play some of its most humorous interludes. Through the dramatic tussles between these characters in the aftermath of Gloria’s passing, the audience observes a family caught between the traditions of the older island-born generation and the contemporary British way of life. In the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, which saw scores of British citizens erroneously returned to the Caribbean by force, Nine Night’s ascendancy seems particularly timely, questioning the very nature of Britishness — although the experience of grief is more at centre stage here. Ultimately, Nine Night reveals Gordon as a playwright of considerable skill, whose nuanced work deserves its glowing accolades — which also include the 2018 Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright. David Katz


need to know

maria nunes

Vahni Capildeo gets into the spirit of sailor mas: you can’t ’fraid powder

Word of Mouth Sailor is a state of mind Poet Vahni Capildeo on her initiation into the performance art of the fancy sailor, one of Trinidad Carnival’s best-loved traditional masquerades In the dark street, a copper and indigo figure, larger than life, is dancing with magnificence and joy. His trousers flare out. His headpiece is metallised and wide like a constellation. This is a King Sailor. We have gone into town — Port of Spain at night — for an evening dedicated to “traditional masquerade.” 40

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Many people are standing in the street. Others walk through the square. It is not always clear who is in costume, preparing, or undressing, except when serious rituals are performed; for example, when a medicine man and his companions in full feathers ceremonially mark and hallow the tarmac.

As if heedless of taking part in a spectacle, the King Sailor moves lovingly among his spectators. He moves in dance posture: as if an invisible string passes through the top of his head and is pulling him straight up. This is not ballet dance posture. The invisible string is mobile. The King Sailor is often almost off-kilter. The axis of his movement shifts. You can see him dancing in the street as if he is dancing on the deck of a boat that is riding waves. The flat surface seems to be tilting. His feet are super-light. They land changeably, discombobulating the viewer. His steps obey the invisible roll of surf. The King Sailor is someone I would recognise outside the costume, but in role, he is utterly transformed. Even if wild and rambunctious behaviour is the norm for all characters let out on shore leave, there are two ways of inhabiting the seafarer. There is a clear and extravagant difference between plain sailor mas, the Carnival costume for white-capped revellers, and the fancy sailor. This has been well documented, for example in the photographs of Maria Nunes. The fancy sailor is a blast of swansdown, glittering epaulettes, and colours. The stick she or he often carries is neither a weapon nor a decoration (though it can be both), but a companion in cleverly reeling routines. There are dances which can be taught, and which stylise actions, such as gamblers just off ship throwing dice, or firemen sweeping past with their long hoses. However, these


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maria nunes

Veteran fancy sailor masquerader Bernice Nero, who died in August 2018

dances are not fossilised. Individual sailors dance competitively. Each sailor challenges, refines, and expands on what his companions bring to the long routes of Carnival Monday and Tuesday before the off switch is thrown on Ash Wednesday. “You learn on the road,” I was told firmly. Famous for my lack of coordination, I am still learning. More wisdom from the road: “Sailor is a state of mind.” Back in 2016, my co-conspirator Andre Bagoo, aware of my desperate desire to meet a fancy sailor, boldly ambushed the super-courteous King of them all, Jason Griffiths, in his Belmont home. Griffiths slowly revealed to us seven decades’ worth of newspaper clippings, a veritable museum of headpieces and sculptural costumes, and the secret history of the sailor’s twentiethcentury evolution. He talked about reconceptualising the role, portraying subjects bigger than and different from the ocean but still awash with seamovement potential: the exploration 42

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of histories, of galaxies. Griffiths’s eyes lit up with mischief as he described “throwing powder” on people who caught his attention (the sailor being armed with talcum powder, or these days the less harmful cornstarch, to imitate gunsmoke). “I woulda throw powder on you,” he teased. That was the moment I knew I had to go on the road. The following year, Andre and I signed up with Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors, the beginning of my throwing powder on everyone: a policeman, near-nude persons of all genders playing pretty mas, a formidable moko jumbie towering on what looked like seven-foot stilts . . . On that first Carnival Monday, I did not personally know anyone in the band, though of course one of the kings, Keith Simpson, turned out to be an old family friend. Soon the sailors themselves felt like family. I developed a profound respect for the leader, Ancil McLean, an austere, ferocious, gifted designer whose house seems to be arrayed with costumes in every stage

of completion hung at every height, specially mixed, matched, and fitted to each of his band members. Standout moments for me are the 6 am home-cooked breakfast, served with old-style politeness and simplicity — how finely is that pimiento minced in the sandwiches, and how much fresher can a watermelon be when a machete is taken to it — the way that people’s faces light up when they see the sailors, even or especially those looking from high windows because for whatever reason they cannot be on the road, or those living in areas stereotyped for their deprivation —and taking a rest with bandmates leaning against the wall of the Lapeyrouse Cemetery, perhaps while a scarlet and emerald hummingbird hovers lightly on your headpiece half as high as you again, by the genius of Ancil and the wirebenders. This is a living art, but the average age of the band is approaching silver. The sailors need new crew. Come and play.


jason audain

need to know

Datebook More highlights of January and February across the Caribbean Spice Island Billfish Tournament, Grenada

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival A “late” Carnival — falling on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 March this year — means a long season, stretching over the first two months of the year. Here are our must-do picks for your Carnival itinerary

21 to 26 January Anglers from across the Caribbean enjoy three and a half days of fishing plus a day of R&R in Grenada’s capital, St George’s

Red Cross Kiddies Carnival

Music Truck Friday

National Panorama Finals

Placencia Sidewalk Art Festival, Belize

National Junior Panorama Finals

Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain 24 February

9 to 10 February Stroll from one end of the resort village’s four-foot-wide main street to the other, enjoying live music, poetry readings, colourful works by local artists and artisans, and more

Mashramani, Guyana

23 February Under the theme “Celebrate Mash 49 with Victory in Mind,” Guyana’s cultural heritage is showcased with flamboyant float displays, exuberant costumes, diverse contests, and concerts 44

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Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain 23 February

National Stick-Fighting Finals Venue TBA 27 February

Tobago Calypso Monarch Competition

Scotiabank Junction, Scarborough 28 February

Re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots

Piccadilly Greens, Port of Spain 1 March

Dwight Yorke Stadium, Tobago 1 March (Medium and Large Conventional Bands) Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain 2 March

Dimanche Gras

Queen’s Park Savannah 3 March

Parade of the Bands

Port of Spain and other towns and communities across the country Carnival Monday and Tuesday, 4 and 5 March SAI


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bookshelf High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture by Kevin Adonis Browne (University Press of Mississippi, 256 pp, ISBN 9781496819383) Perhaps it’s only when our sight is risked that our seeing acquires a specific urgency. For Kevin Adonis Browne, “open-angle” glaucoma prompted a reflection on how he might see the world, and his place in it. In High Mas, his book combining essays and photographs, we witness myriad possibilities not only of seeing mas but of seeing oneself as a mas — a personal conglomeration of the mystical, the rapturous quotidian. If we believe the sweetly-crooned mantra that Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the greatest show on earth, Browne’s essays in High Mas are confessional agents at that altar. Composed with sociological cartography, the rhetoric on display here is that rarest of things: accessible, and joyously available to all — like Carnival itself should be. In the vivid, immersive suites of photographs that follow the essays, Browne’s lens tears down the tiered barriers that often dictate how Carnival bands are organised. As co-celebrants of his vision, we see the inhabitants of mas at sweating range, plastered in blue paint or dragging their cloven hooves before them. The images, even to an untrained eye, have been composed with all the accuracy of which love is capable. Essays flank and surround the thoughtfully-captioned photographs, both contextualising and celebrating the rich feast of images. In this way, Browne’s written and seen mas conjures itself with a voluble understanding of not only Carnival, but Trinidadian and Tobagonian resilience, rambunctiousness, and puncheon-soaked badmind. All of this makes High Mas an offertory libation, a potent brew, and an enduring sight.

Giant

Black Dogs and the Colour Yellow

by Richard Georges (Platypus Press, 80 pp, ISBN 9781999773618)

by Christine Barrow (Peepal Tree Press, 163 pp, ISBN 9781845234171)

In “Wardian Case”, from Giant, Richard Georges’s second poetry collection, the image of “a fading Union Jack buffeting in the summer wind” carries an ill breeze of decaying empire. You can look to Georges’s poems for this elegant artillery against the colonial past of the British Virgin Islands. Such work, created without flashiness but with ample fervour, is a clarion to disturb former plantation scions where they are interred. Giant is a collection concerned as deeply with the subterranean as the skyscraper, as motivated by towering superstructures as by the confessions of the earth. Georges attunes us to the rhythms of violence, but never without a message we might take into the dark: “When words, like bullets, rupture / flesh and make us meat, / burning holes in our pretty worlds, / what else but poetry can unmake such terrors?”

Christine Barrow, who made Barbados her home for nearly fifty years, delivers a masterclass in short fiction’s powers of subtlety with her first book. These stories do not declaim so much as they stitch, quietly and with stunning resolve, a Barbadian tapestry as complicated as it is unsentimentally beautiful. You will find it difficult to dispute that these characters could be anything but real: the strong grandmothers brined in superstitions and regrets; the world-weary women who both keep and resent each other’s domestic secrets; the fisherman who knows to his detriment that the sea can be dangerous. Threaded in with menace is a hard-won ease, a sense that “the love going round and coming round will keep you safe.”

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bookshelf Q&A A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pp, ISBN 9780374283612) The Dominican writer Jean Rhys, best known for her 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea, was no stranger to either penury or obscurity while she lived. A View of the Empire at Sunset by Kittitian-British novelist Caryl Phillips lands us in the thicketed interior of Rhys’s story, before she penned the tragedy of Antoinette Cosway. Phillips’s fascination with Rhys — Gwen, as she is called throughout the novel — is total and consuming. As a narrator, she is allowed all the imperfections and obsessions of character that befit a true exiled creative, a writer and woman at the crossroads of empire and innocence, enchantment and dispossession. This is no dutiful “Jean Rhys: Greatest Hits” fictional biography: it’s something subtler, better.

Erotic Islands: Art and Activism in the Queer Caribbean by Lyndon K. Gill (Duke University Press, 312 pp, ISBN 9780822368700) Q u e e r n e s s wa s n o m o re “discovered” in the Caribbean than anything else Columbus claimed to have found. As Lyndon K. Gill’s Erotic Islands reveals in a passionately accessible branch of academia, these islands have always been queer. In the way a spectacular Minshall mas might contain a bedazzlement of many mirrors, so too is this text populated with multiple points of light. Gill stirs a primordial cauldron of same-sex desire and identity in our region through the scrutiny of history, the picong and balladry of calypso, the revelry of Carnival, the legacies of death and survival wrought by HIV and AIDS. Gill’s mirrors of revelation do more than bedazzle: they alert us to the interlocking truths of how queerness has been sung, danced, paraded, elided, and resurrected in our Caribbean space. Reviews by Shivanee Ramlochan, Bookshelf editor

Trinidadian Maria Nunes’s debut collection of photographs, In a World of Their Own: Carnival Dreamers & Makers (Robert & Christopher Publishers, 216 pp, ISBN 9789769614208), witnesses multiple lineages of mas performers and artists. Shivanee Ramlochan, who wrote an essay for the book, talks to Nunes about the latter’s role as Carnival archivist, documentarian, and devotee.

In a World of Their Own spans more than two hundred pages of some of T&T Carnival’s beloved icons: tell us about selecting the lives and stories that envelop this work. It’s been a gradual process of making connections over time, of one thing leading to the next, of one person leading you to another. With some people, like renowned and beloved wire artist Señor Gomez and legendary Black Indians Narrie Approo and Darlington Henry, it was clear to me that I wanted to pay special tribute to them. With others like Steffano Marcano and Tracey Sankar-Charleau, who are on the front and back cover of the book respectively, I’d developed a significant body of images documenting their work, so there was no question they would feature prominently. The decision that the book would be a journey through time and place in Carnival was the singular guide to what was chosen in the end. It was a very helpful focus to have, given the volume of work I had to consider with the editors.

This book represents the power of the archive, a resonant invocation of memory and ritual: has the mas become a home to you, and how? It most certainly has. Mas has become inextricably bound up with my identity, my vision, my aesthetic. Mas has claimed me. I have a deep sense of belonging now within mas. I’ve also developed a deep sense of how much memory is embedded in playing a mas. This is what engages and animates me in my work.

A maker of images is often last to be photographed themselves. Where do you feel you reside most strongly in your work? I think I am there somehow, dissolved in the emotional intensity of the moment, there in the stillness, there as a reverent witness. WWW.CARIBBEAN-AIRLINES.COM

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playlist Filmstrip Keba (Labrat Music) Miami-based, Trinidad-born singer and songwriter Keba Williams says of the five tracks on her new EP Filmstrip that “they are my truth. They mark a transformation in my life from a girl into a woman.” That autobiographical snapshot has resulted in a series of songs that suggest or maybe acknowledge the hardships that face womanhood. On the standout single “Perfect”, Keba sings, “I’m scared of the critics, don’t

Two Worlds 5OH8 + KVL (Rude Mood Records) A pair of writers at Slate magazine recently noted that “artists are changing how they make songs and assemble albums to optimise for streaming.” The playlist is becoming the new norm, over the long-playing album, and the extended play is the choice for the digital generation making tentative steps in the music industry. Two Worlds blends the EDM aesthetic — future bass and trap — of Bostonbased DJs and producers 5OH8 and KVL

Osaka Riddim Various Artists (Precision Productions) Trinidad Carnival is upon us. Back in the final months of 2018, producers were busy perfecting their release riddims — multiple songs on a single music track — to flood the marketplace with an early warning of what soca has in store in the new year. Groovy is the tempo of this early tranche of music, and on Osaka Riddim, from super producer team Precision Productions, the music sets a benchmark for other producers to either achieve Single Spotlight

Feel Alright Tebby (567239 Records DK) Bahamian singer Tebby Burrows tells us that her new song “Feel Alright” is “a reminder to stay present, grounded, and trust that everything will work out in the end.” That kind of positivity would be nice if we lived in a perfect world. She even sings, “And at the end of the day when you lay in your bed / If the one you love chooses somebody instead / I hope you know you’re never alone and you feel alright.” With a voice that suggests the young Tracy Chapman,

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want to risk it / Rather be comfortable / I’m just being honest / Oh don’t you know it’s hard to be vulnerable” — encapsulating the mindset of a blossoming soul looking to make it in the world. Songs of hopeful love, regretful breakup, and heartbreak, anchored by a powerhouse voice with range and a modern, funky R&B setting, provide a ready milieu for her growth, literally and figuratively, in a music industry that takes no prisoners. If one’s life is a movie, this sequence is an episodic narrative that satisfies all the way through. with the soca voicing touched by hip-hop of Braveboy (formerly Mark Hardy) from Trinidad. This short, intense set of songs — just three, with an atmospheric prelude — could be a supercharged addition to festivals anywhere. Determined aggression (“Fyah Bun”), an inevitable breakup announcement (“Let You Go”), and a come-on to a nubile dancer (“Give It to Me”) are the span of themes of this collaborative set that dances between the urge to wine and to rave as an escape. It’s an interesting amalgam of genres seeking a new way to sing the Caribbean. or to supersede. Precision has assembled a group of five singers, including multiple Soca Monarch Voice, to channel their individual ideas upon a bed of music that pulses with the electronic pacing and sonic perfection that has a home in cultures outside the Caribbean. Voice and Kerwin Dubois shine with anthems inspiring both responsible reflection and joyful elation. Preedy, vocal group LFS Music, and 5Star Akil join in with the celebratory songs that Carnival is known for, with a wink and a nod towards the carnal pleasures of the Caribbean bacchanal. Burrows channels a euphoric promise that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. This pop song is a motivational anthem for many singers caught in the tireless cycle of still trying to “make it.” There’s a hint that the song is deeply personal, but the sentiments make for a great track that may catch a wave among a generation of Caribbean people looking to break out beyond the boundaries of our island existence, in the real and metaphorical senses. Self-doubt has an antidote in this catchy tune. Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell


screenshots

“I’m asking the audience to fill in some blanks”

courtesy ian harnarine

A sad irony underpins the short film Caroni. Its protagonist, a domestic worker in New York City named Rajni, gives care and affection to her employers’ baby, yet is unable to provide the same for her own daughter in her native Trinidad. They chat via messaging service — though we never see Rajni speak; we only hear her voice — but technology can’t assuage the longing for togetherness. As her daughter’s obsession with the brilliantly plumed scarlet ibis in the nearby Caroni Swamp makes her dress up as one, Rajni herself begins a wondrous transformation to take her home. Following his acclaimed short Doubles with Slight Pepper, New York–residing, Toronto-born, Trinidaddescended filmmaker Ian Harnarine returns with another touching and accomplished exploration of the impact of economic migration on family relationships. He speaks with Jonathan Ali about nannies, tassa drumming, and asking audiences to make an imaginative leap. Where did the idea for Caroni come from? One of the first things that struck me when I moved to New York City was all of the strollers filled with white babies that were pushed by black and brown women. And in talking with many New Yorkers, when you tell them you’re West Indian, they will immediately say: “Oh! Our nanny is from Trinidad” or “Oh! My nanny was Guyanese.” Doubles with Slight Pepper is realist in style, while Caroni contains elements of the fantastical. Why the shift? This production started as a scientific approach to the mythical chimera animal. It was always meant to be more experimental than my usual work. I’m asking the audience to fill in some blanks because not everything is spelled out. Trying to keep the audience’s attention while not frustrating them was a balance we were trying to achieve. Radha Singh as the mother gives a moving performance. How did you cast her? We were very lucky to find Radha! Trying to cast Indo-Caribbean actors in New York is hard — the traditional casting resources are still a bit exclusionary and 50

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lacking in real diversity. Radha came to audition for us via a [theatre] troupe, and she immediately “got it.” She’s Guyanese-American. She worked hard to get the Trinidadian accent right, but also did the work to understand the world of nannies in New York. What was it like working with Arianna Ruben — the daughter — in Trinidad? Working with Arianna was a dream come true. I did a project for Sesame Street where we filmed some pineapple farmers in Trinidad. One of the contacts I made through that project had young kids, and I thought he would know some girls that could do the job. During a pre-production trip, we held a small audition for girls, and Arianna really stole the show! She’s wise beyond her years and really understood what we were going for. A striking aspect of the film is that we never see mother and daughter in the same scene. We wanted to create as much disconnect as possible between mother and daughter, so we never wanted to show them talking together. In fact, even on set, the actors never worked together. We filmed Arianna’s portion and put it on the cell phone for Radha to play off of.

It’s a testament to the actors to work in such an unorthodox way and still pull off compelling performances. Another memorable element is the use of tassa drumming in the score. I really love tassa drumming. It’s primarily used in Indo-Caribbean culture during celebratory events like weddings. I thought it would be interesting to place that same music in a different context than it’s usually used, and I thought the results were powerful. Having made several well-received shorts now, are you looking to step up to features? Yes! We’re very close to getting the green light for the Doubles with Slight Pepper feature film. I am also currently working on the adaptation of David Chariandy’s novel Soucouyant, about a Trinidadian-Canadian family in Toronto. And I’m still fascinated with the nannies in New York City, so I’m beginning to think about longer-form stories within the same world. Caroni Director: Ian Harnarine T&T/USA/Canada, 2018 8 minutes


cookup

Coco loco

Coconut — ubiquitous around the Caribbean — is a longtime staple ingredient for baking and sweets, and savoury dishes like oildown. New health trends have brought coconut oil back into favour. And don’t talk about our insatiable thirst for coconut water . . . Franka Philip investigates a new coconut-centric recipe book, and considers the potential for even more culinary innovations

I

Illustration by Shalini Seereeram

love coconut bake. I’m always searching for ways to make the “perfect” version. This simple, lightly leavened bread is something that says comfort to me. What we West Indians call bake is a staple in many homes, because it’s quickish and easy to make, if you don’t mind kneading dough. There are many variations, but for me, coconut lends the sweetness and texture that make a bake irresistible. It’s only recently that I’ve given serious thought to how ubiquitous coconut is in Caribbean cuisine, particularly baking and confectionery. If you walk into a bakery, you’ll find coconut drops, coconut tarts, coconut turnovers, pone, and coconut bakes. Head to Store Bay, Tobago, and among the much-sought-after sweets sold by vendors there, you’ll find sugar cake (shredded coconut cooked with sugar and spices), toolum (shredded coconut cooked with molasses and spices), and chip chip (chipped coconut cooked with sugar and spices). There are several key savoury dishes that aren’t

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complete without coconut milk — like breadfruit oildown, for example. Trinis, Grenadians, and Vincentians argue about who makes the best oildown, but everyone agrees that coconut milk — the kind made from fresh blended coconut, not the powder from the pack that’s mixed with water — is crucial. My coconut education got a proper upgrade a few months ago, when I received a copy of Cooking with Coconut, a book by American chef and food journalist Ramin Ganeshram. Ganeshram’s father was Trinidadian, and he was a major influence in her approach to appreciating food. She is also the author of Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago, one of the best cookbooks about our cuisine. Cooking with Coconut is one of the few mainstream coconut-only cookbooks on the market. In an interview, Ganeshram said she wrote it as a result of the growing popularity of coconut as a “superfood.” “I began to notice first that the cuisine of coconut-heavy cultures was coming into the mainstream,” she says, “and then, that coconut itself was taking hold as a crossover ingredient, beginning with coconut water. Today, coconut has ‘jumped the shark’ if you will. I even see house cleaning products with coconut here in the US.” Although coconut might be at risk of becoming over-exposed, Ganeshram believes that, based on responses to the book, coconut is being explored by people with alternative dietary preferences. “The book has been most popular with coconut lovers, but I’ve been pleased to see that it has created some converts — usually from people eating carb-free, gluten-free diets or vegan diets, who are willing to try coconut as a substitute for various things.” Cooking with Coconut is the first cookbook I’ve seen that gives details about using all the parts of the coconut, from coconut meat to coconut milk, to coconut nectar and coconut flour. Some of these are not usually seen on our supermarket shelves here in the Caribbean, but do bear some exploration — like tadi, or the sap of the coconut palm. Ganeshram explains in the book that it “can be consumed


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that works extremely well. I’ve been experimenting with cuisines that use coconut naturally, such as south Indian or Thai. When it comes to our own cuisine, I’ve been adding coconut where we might not normally — in curry, for example, or in vegetable dishes to add a certain texture.”

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immediately as a beverage, or aged in a process that produces vinegar.” The potential is similar to fruit vinegars like strawberry or cranberry vinegar. It can be used for salads, ceviche, or marinating meats. The book also gives an exciting survey of dishes from a range of cultures. For example, Ganeshram gives an updated version of the Filipino classic sinigang (sour tamarind soup). There’s also Thai chicken satay, Korean pancakes with coconut pajeon, Indian-inspired coconut tikka masala, and Brazilian-style coconut cashew chicken, among others. Ganeshram admits that the way Filipinos use coconut in their cuisine is most intriguing to

ocally, in Trinidad and Tobago, there has been a noticeable return to a particular coconut product: coconut oil. A few years ago, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil started appearing on our shelves. It isn’t cheap, but it does tout many benefits. Coconut oil was widely used in the Caribbean as a hair product, skin moisturiser, and cooking oil for many years, but people stopped using it because it can get rancid and begin to smell awful quite quickly. The process of cold pressing makes a purer oil, and it is more effective for baking, making vinaigrettes, and even eating on its own. Lately, more people in T&T are turning to coconut oil for the health benefits. To add to the options for cooks who use coconut oil, the Coconut Growers Association launched a range of infused oils in 2017. The market for the chilli-, lemon-, and garlic-infused oils is still small, but it is growing. And of course we can’t forget one of the biggest-selling coconut products: coconut water. From a health perspective, it’s a great source of electrolytes and minerals. But for pure pleasure,

A few years ago, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil started appearing on our shelves in T&T. It isn’t cheap, but it does tout many benefits her. “They use the whole fruit, she explains. “You find coconut vinegars, liquor, syrup, as well as the meat and milk. Of course, most of the commercially available coconut in the world comes from the Philippines as well. I love Filipino coconut desserts — they are so different from Caribbean desserts, straddling both Asia and Europe in format and taste.” When asked if she feels Caribbean cooks could be using coconut more creatively, Ganeshram unsurprisingly says yes. “I often say that coconut is the ‘vanilla’ of the Caribbean,” she explains. “This is both good and bad — it means it’s both everywhere but also it’s not much thought about. “We as Caribbean people could be using coconut with a lot more creativity than we do — the way that American chefs have started to use jackfruit as a meat substitute. In Cooking With Coconut, I created a ‘meaty’ vegan patty filling with coconut

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it is amazing. Add coconut water to any spirit, and you have a delightful drink. This is what is driving sales of coconut water across the region. In fact, the demand is so huge that some sellers are resorting to unscrupulous measures. At a coconut growers’ conference in 2017, Dr Compton Paul of the Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute warned consumers about this. The demand for coconut water is so high, he said, that people are harvesting the nuts at five or six months of their development, when the nuts should be harvested closer to nine months. Manufacturers are also using artificial coconut water flavours, and they’re diluting the sweet coconut water to stretch it. So with the demand for coconut water and other products growing in the Caribbean, it looks like it will be a while before our beloved coconut “jumps the shark.” n


jason audain

Immerse

Panorama 55 Beauty and the beast

Icon 74 The Mighty Shadow

Backstory 68 Dennery style

Closeup 76 Barbed beauty

(1941–2018)

Own Words 82 “I’ve always felt, ask

me where I’m from!”

A Bookman, one of T&T Carnival’s traditional masquerade characters, with his book purporting to list the names of damned souls


panorama

Beauty and the beast T

hink of the visual spectacle of Carnival, and what images come to mind? Acres and acres of kinetic colour, plumes and satins, beads and glitter? The sultry pleasures of barely-clad flesh on sensuous display? The elaborate fantasies of pretty mas? Yes, but there’s another side of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, darker, dirtier, sometimes even sinister, embodied in the forms of traditional mas. Consider the masked, pistol-brandishing Midnight Robber with his aggressive lyrics and black cape adorned with skulls, a projection of our collective fears of violence. Or the bat with his tunic of fur and quivering wings, recalling creepy things that approach in the tropical night. Or the varied taxonomy of devil mas: the Bookman with his record of damned souls, the rampaging dragon barely kept in check by his attendant imps, the blue devils and red devils, jab molassies glistening black, lunging with their pitchforks and spitting flame — like the enraged spirits of those who died enslaved on colonial plantations, returning to jog our memory. Because, despite the best efforts of today’s profit-driven mega-bands, Carnival is not merely

Carnival may be the greatest party in the world, a bacchanal of joyous abandon, but that’s only one half of it. Among the colour and the glitter are darker elements that belong to the heart of Carnival as a ritual of catharsis and memorial of history

the world’s greatest street party — it’s that, but it always has been and still is a ritual of memory and self-knowing, a public enacting of tragic and painful truths, an assertion of resilience in the face of history. Indian mas reminds us of the centuries-long suppression of the Caribbean’s indigenous peoples, and their stubborn survival. Sailor mas is a mocking riposte to imperial hegemony — reducing a mighty military threat to the jokey dance of drunk sailors on shore leave. Towering high above us and moving with superhuman agility and grace, moko jumbies summon ancestral spirits from across the Middle Passage, protecting or admonishing in turn. Like joy and regret, love and hate, reality and dream, Carnival contains — is even powered by — the contradictions and reversals of the human condition. There’s no better illustration than the work of Carnival’s two pre-eminent philosophers: the late calypsonian the Mighty Shadow, with his “bass man from hell,” and masman Peter Minshall, creator of Danse Macabre, Santimanitay, and the techno-mutant monster Man Crab — thrilling and chilling at once. Carnival is truest to itself, perhaps — as we are truest to ourselves — when the beauty and the beast meet in a dance of mutual recognition, each seeing each in the other, belonging forever together.

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Dwayne Watkins Photography

A masquerader from the band Yuma crosses the stage in a whirl of floating feathers

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Jason Audain

As dusk falls, moko jumbie Kriston Chen of the band Moko Sõmõkow stalks down the steep road from the hilltop village of Paramin

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Maria Nunes

This Dame Lorraine, portrayed by Nathaniel Charleau, may be dressed demurely in white, but traditionally the character portrays sexual ribaldry and gender transgression

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Maria Nunes

With its scales and horns, wings and fearsome eyes, gaping jaws and jagged fangs, the dragon — portrayed here by Junior Taylor — represents barely restrained brutality in a traditional devil band

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Jason Audain

The young revellers of Kiddies’ Carnival portray some of the festival’s most elaborate visual fantasies with innocent enthusiasm

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Jason Audain

A fire-breathing jab molassie, Andishire Bernard, heralds the Jab-a-Mien devil band at the Old Yard showcase of traditional mas at the University of the West Indies St Augustine campus

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Jason Audain

Moko jumbie and designer Alan Vaughn of the band Moko Sõmõkow is a regal vision of floating, shimmering blue

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Jason Audain

Dwayne White of Jab-a-Mien has perfected the devil’s penetrating glare

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Jason Audain

Surprised by an explosion of confetti, masquerader Kathryn Hill of the band Bliss pauses in momentary wonder

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Jason Audain

Maswoman Tracy Sankar-Charleau has won a devoted following for her intense portrayals of original characters inspired by Carnival’s macabre traditions — like this Lady of the Night bearing a flaming coffin and accompanied by a prancing douen, Sankar’s son Jude

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backstory

You may not know its name, but if you’re a soca fan or Caribbean fete-goer, you’ve definitely heard the sound: a fast-paced, frenetic beat with driving percussion and heavy bass. It’s called Dennery Segment, a genre of soca with roots in a small village in St Lucia, and its influence is all over the 2019 Carnival season. Laura Dowrich explores its origins, and explains why some think Dennery Segment has put St Lucia on the musical map

Lashley “Motto” Winter

Dennery style 68

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courtesy motto

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n 2018, as Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival drew to a climax, a different genre of music swept every Carnival fete. St Lucia’s Dennery Segment, though not a new phenomenon, achieved maximum exposure thanks to soca king Machel Montano’s song “Showtime”, on the Pim Pim Riddim. At 147 beats per minute, the song’s driving drum kicks, heavy bass, and flutes — which gave it a frenetic sound, similar to Jab Jab music — combined to send soca lovers into a frenzy, as Machel commanded them to “bend over, bend over, bend over, showtime!” The song’s producer, Lashley “Motto” Winter, rode the wave of success, too, with his song “Party Lit” on the same riddim, a collaboration with New York–based soca artist Lyrikal. He also

produced, last year, the Gwada Riddim, featuring Bunji Garlin and Fay Ann Lyons. Motto, a St Lucian resident in New York, is today considered the leading producer of Dennery Segment. The musical genre, which began in the small fishing community of Dennery in St Lucia, has gone mainstream thanks to Motto’s strategy of matching big-name soca artists from outside his native island to Dennery Segment riddims. It all began, Motto says, when he sang on the Revolt Riddim back in 2014. Motto’s song “Bend Dong” was a success in New York, so he did a remix with St Vincent’s Problem Child and Grenada’s Mr Legz, to appeal to a wider audience. He did the same with a single called “Force”, featuring Grenada’s Lava Man and

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photos courtesy the artists

Subance (Gervan Janvier) and Mighty (Nevin Alexander)

Loose Cannon and St Vincent’s Hypa 4000. Motto followed up with an album based on the Force It Riddim with Problem Child, popular Trinidadian artists Shal Marshall and Patrice Roberts, and Barbadian Marzville, among others. Shal’s song “Dip” was massively popular during T&T’s 2017 Carnival, sparking a dance challenge across the diaspora. But Machel’s endorsement last year was no doubt the cherry on top the cake, and Dennery Segment has been embraced by the St Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) as a marketing tool for the

In its earliest incarnation, Dennery Segment was defined not only by its simple, stripped-down percussive beats, but also by its lyrics sung in Kweyol island’s cultural products. “The Dennery Segment musical subgenre can move quicker and penetrate areas that traditional marketing campaigns can only dream about,” says Clinton Reynolds of the SLTA. “Our aim is to make the world aware of St Lucia’s rich cultural heritage and our authenticity, so the demand for experiential visits to our destination increases. We’re achieving that, in part, through the success and reach of the Dennery Segment music.”

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Reynolds explains that the success of the genre will also reap benefits for the community after which the music is named, thanks to a Village Tourism Programme due to come on stream in 2019. Government endorsement of Dennery Segment through the SLTA — which has provided sponsorship support to artists for a tour of the US and promoted the music through their overseas offices — certainly marks a dramatic turning point for the sound, which not too long ago was shunned by mainstream producers, radio stations, and artists in St Lucia.

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n its earliest incarnation, Dennery Segment was defined not only by its simple, stripped-down percussive beats, but also by its raw, sexually charged lyrics sung in Kweyol, St Lucia’s second language. Jahim Etienne, a.k.a. Dub Master J of Studio 911, is widely credited as the man who gave birth to the genre. A resident of Dennery, Etienne says he was influenced by the music his grandfather and his peers sang, a type of traditional folk music called solo, which uses drums, shak-shaks, conch shells, and bamboo. “They made music with drums covered with goat and sheep skin,” Etienne recalls. “I used to be around them often, listening to their lyrical content. They would make a song in Kweyol on anyone who does anything nasty. Nobody really recorded that kind of music.” Etienne, who is now a television host, says he started making music in 2000, and used traditional natural instruments to create his samples, as he wanted to make something uniquely St Lucian.


But the Kweyol lyrics posed a problem for the Studio 911 artists. “When we put it into Kweyol, it sounded harsh, so corporate St Lucia would reject us. When we go out to perform, they would not put us on the lineup, they would brush us aside,” he recalls. But the music became popular among a grassroots audience, even outside St Lucia. Back in 2005, Etienne sang a controversial song called “Kwiyé 911”, which was a massive hit in neighbouring Martinique. “That was the largest crowd I ever perform for, I shed tears of joy. The whole of Martinique was singing the song line for line,” he says. At home in St Lucia, however, the music remained an underground phenomenon, attracting younger artists who incorporated soca, dancehall, and African music into their beats, as well as English and patois words. Initially the music was known as Kweglais, Etienne says, a combination of Kweyol and English. Motto adds another perspective: between 2005 and 2008, he remembers, Angola’s kuduro music swept the island, and many used those beats to sing over. A radio DJ by the name of Nigel Nicholas is said to have dubbed the

Dennery Segment has been embraced by the St Lucia Tourism Authority as a marketing tool

Dennery Segment music videos have an avid following on YouTube. From top, “Any Size” by Don Ups, Big Sea, and Brandon Harding; “Bad in BumBum” by Subance and Mighty; “Party Lit” by Motto and Lyrikal; and “Split in di Middle” by Freezy

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Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

genre “Lucian Kuduro”, and until recently that term was used interchangeably with Dennery Segment.

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nother stage of its evolution came with two of the top Dennery artists, Subance and Mighty, who are said to have crystallised the genre with a series of riddims, which hadn’t been done before. Sant Justin, former manager for the duo, says the artists weren’t respected at first, and were criticised for the raw content of their lyrics. “Like dancehall, they sang what was happening at the time,” he says. “They got a lot of fans, and the fans were growing more than the persons who didn’t want to hear it — and it just grew from there. It hit radio and they were persistent, releasing music every week, every month.” Most important, the younger artists sang their songs in English, which helped make them palatable for a wider audience. In 2017, Subance and Mighty’s “Bad in Bum Bum” and Freezy’s “Split in the Middle” found traction in T&T, paving the way for a Dennery explosion from St Lucia’s home-grown artists. And Dennery shows no sign of waning in T&T. For

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JADE MONKEY EAT PLAY

The village of Dennery perches on a hillside along St Lucia’s Atlantic coast

Carnival 2019, Motto came out of the gate early, dropping the song “Pick Yuh Position”, a collaboration with Skinny Fabulous, in late October last year. He plans to release two more Dennery Segment riddims for the Carnival season: Simon Says and Vice. “Bend Dong for the Hmm” by Lucian artists Khrome and Nassis, on the Mad Cow Riddim, is also expected to make a splash. And to show how deep Dennery has taken root, more T&T artists are expected to incorporate the genre into their offerings. Preedy, known for sweet “groovy” songs, surprised his fans when he dropped his first release for the season, “Lost and Found”, on the Dennery Segment riddim of the same name. Machel is also expected to revisit the genre this year. Watching the rise of Dennery Segment has made Jahim Etienne proud. Though he has now switched his attention to movie production, he continues to track the progress of the genre. “When I heard the song Machel released, I was happy,” he says, “because this is a man I have been following his whole life. Hearing Machel on the riddim with a St Lucia vibe — I could not imagine hearing that during my lifetime.” n

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icon

Dear Winston, the Immortal, Now that you are gone but not really, I can say some of the things I always wanted to say to you, but could never find the words or the right moment. On our encounters, I always felt like I was in the presence of a being who was too great to be real. The fact that you seemed so unaware of your greatness made you even more amazing. You were magical, a walking example of obeah, in the highest sense of that which cannot be explained merely with words. A shadow is a thing that appears when the light is obscured. It is the darkness that we are, it is our truth. Dear Shadow, you were and are our truest self, grappling with the reality of darkness while holding desperately to the certainty that we are also made of light. Look, I’m a writer who is terrified of writing, and on the days when I feel there are things I want to say, I find myself referring to you first. You have a song for every state of mind, you are the soundtrack of the stranger trying to find her way back to herself. You were fearless about being unsure of yourself, about being afraid, about doubting your talent. This always appealed to me, the way you banished your

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fear to the bars of music that wrapped around us all, the most beautiful cloak of darkness, the most naked disguise. I tried to follow your example, to be honest about the fear, but still trying to make work that mattered. You hit sometimes and you missed sometimes, but you kept going. You were what a philosopher should be: happy to not be labelled, comfortable in your strangeness, playful, and sharing wisdom with such refreshing simplicity. You were the future before Afro-Futurism. You taught me nihilism better than any textbook. I heard “Cook Curry Ochro” and laughed at how easily you made a case for vegetarianism. I listened over and over to “Soucouyant”, marvelling at how you took a modern crisis called AIDS and made us understand the seriousness of it from the point of view of the nightmarish blood-sucker who now needs a blood test from potential victims. I think they should declare “My Belief” our National Hymn. You taught me the correct sound that accompanies a woman’s rolling bumbulum, so much so that I always aim for a whups whaps when I wine. You taught me the beauty of language and storytelling in song, because you played with words and


The Mighty Shadow (1941–2018)

Attillah Springer writes a letter to Trinidad and Tobago’s great calypsonian and philosopher, who died last October Photography by Maria Nunes

sounds and, even in your wailing, you gave meaning to the emotions that don’t have a name. In Shadow hagiography, we will always recall that time you were scheduled to perform after one of those big soca artists with endless backup dancers and pyrotechnics, and then you came on stage and said one word and sent the crowd so wild.

Your music made life in a small confusing place more livable. Your music made sense of the mysteries, and even though you were the greatest mystery we understood you and we loved you. And perhaps it was your last poetic act to transition to immortality just days before you received your honorary Doctorate of Philosophy. You were always our philosopher, our

You were what a philosopher should be: happy to not be labelled, comfortable in your strangeness, playful, and sharing wisdom with such refreshing simplicity Your weirdness was ours. You were our obzokee moments, the moments when all you can do is hold your head or stretch your arms as if you want to hug up the whole world. Shadow, you asked what is life, and I have no reasonable answers and I don’t know if you found them either. What I do know is that you took every living thing and made it valuable.

high priest, our griot, whether the university or the judges or the radio stations or the soca mafia acknowledged you. I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, I believe that you created a heaven for us out of the hell of creative frustration. Thank you for that. Thank you for not going to plant peas in Tobago. Thank you for choosing us even when we did not choose you. n

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closeup

Buchibushi, a performance work by Adam Patterson (2018, Oranjestad, Aruba)

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Barbed beauty A cactus humanoid brought to life? A sea urchin wandering the streets of Bridgetown? Barbadian artist Adam Patterson uses elements of masquerade and performance to challenge others’ views of the Caribbean — exploring complex home-grown identities along the way, writes Shereen Ann Ali

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Sharelly Emanuelson, courtesy Adam Patterson

hat would you do if you saw a strange creature approach you on the street, humanoid in form but with a huge sea urchin for a head, with terrifyingly sharp spikes sticking out in all directions? Would you run for the hills or stand transfixed, wondering if Carnival came early? Would you talk to it, to see if it were alien? Artist Adam Patterson performed this strange character in his home island of Barbados in 2016, playing a one-man walkabout called Echidna. To Trinidadian eyes, it might have seemed a monster mas, and delightfully so, though it left quite a few Barbadian viewers nonplussed. Born in Bridgetown, Patterson graduated in 2017 with a degree in fine arts from Central St Martins in London. He’s currently studying for a master’s degree in education in arts at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Consistently exhibiting since 2014, Patterson is quietly passionate about subverting Caribbean stereotypes through his art practice. Patterson’s works embrace thorny issues of identity. What does it mean to be a Bajan, for example, or to be any Caribbean islander in a world that’s culturally stratified by global players?

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Hydar Dewachi

What’s it like to be a mixed-race person dealing with people who want to pin you down, wriggling against a wall, in black or white terms? And what happens when you throw homosexuality into the mix? Do you accept how others see and define you, or do you resist easy labels, choosing your own path? Monstrous masquerade forms, queer selfhood, and neocolonial angst and resistance all bubble up in Patterson’s performance works. They take several forms: street theatre performances borrowing from masquerade traditions, experimental, edgy short videos, and expressive writing, often in ruminating poetic essay form — whether as printed text, sound narration, or oratory. Echidna was created during an informal residency with the art centre Fresh Milk. Patterson says the piece was triggered by his frustration and anger at images of packaged tropical paradises in art shows of the time, what he describes as “the continued celebration of images that others expect of us, that a tourist economy expects of us as people of the Caribbean region.” So he responded with his spiky portrayal. The name was borrowed from a Greek mythological figure who combined beauty with qualities of fearsome monstrosity and power. Like the Greek Echidna, the sea urchin can be beautiful to look at, yet dangerous to touch. This active, threatening form of beauty appealed to Patterson and struck him as more authentic to the Caribbean space than typical metaphors of passive paradise.

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Hydar Dewachi

Adam Patterson’s works embrace thorny issues of identity. What does it mean to be a Bajan, for example, or to be any Caribbean islander in a world that’s culturally stratified by global players?


Patterson sees the sea urchin’s long, sharp spikes as fantastical forms of self-protection, letting the creature hunker down into its own landscape, drawing sustenance from its own territory as it keeps away outside negative influences, unconcerned by the projections, fears, and concerns of others. The whole idea of being looked at, judged, and interpreted according to somebody else’s desires or needs is something Patterson rejects, and fights against. He expands the meaning of the judgmental, categorising gaze of the “other” to the stereotypical way too many foreigners choose to see and define Caribbean people.

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Monstrous masquerade forms, queer selfhood, and neocolonial angst and resistance all bubble up in Adam Patterson’s performance works

Hydar Dewachi

ast year, Patterson performed a macabre mas art piece called Mangrove Village in a fellow artist’s studio in Bridgetown. In this performance, he appeared as a ghoulish monster in thick layers of shaggy sargassum seaweed, like some sinister denizen of swamp hell. As he lumbered slowly across the studio space, he

Bikkel (2018, performance, London). Commissioned for Jerwood Staging Series, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation

uttered a speech bursting with imagery of rot, stasis, and decay, launched with the opening salvo, “They found my body bloated in the mangrove.” But the creature was not totally dead: just paralysed by fear of change, and immobile with the “pride of stagnation-hood.” The Mangrove Village character borrows costume elements from the Shaggy Bear folk character who accompanies musical tuk bands at Crop Over and Christmas time in Barbados. Shaggy Bear dances in a costume made of long strips of cane trash, banana leaves, or cloth, and he is a jolly, acrobatic, lively character. Patterson’s shaggy sargassum figure, however, is slow and halting, a collective miasmic being in danger of “being broken by the mangrove, if we do not move towards revolt.” The performance can be read as a call to more active, self-aware, self-confident forms of creating and asserting our collective cultural selves in our own Caribbean spaces, even as it critiques stagnation in too many aspects of island life. The performance speech, Patterson says, was inspired by his reading of novelist George Lamming’s Sovereignty of the Imagination, and issues of decolonisation and freeing the mind were very much part of his creative process.

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courtesy adam patterson

In yet another Caribbean island, Patterson has performed a dice-like game of chance, or a pickaxe, or it can refer to a very quite different work called Buchibushi, part of a 2018 Caribbean resilient person. In Patterson’s case, he confesses the title came Linked arts residency in Aruba. The title, Patterson explains, to him from the Dutch brand name of his partner’s bicycle. Patterson’s Bikkel performance features a character in a strikcomes from two Papiamento words: bushi, which is the name for a local cactus, and buchi, an adjective in local parlance convey- ing mask of sculptured cloth spikes which erupt where normally ing hardness and roughness, and which suggested to him a rustic you’d expect to see facial features. The hard spikiness of the farmer quality. But buchi can also be a derogatory Papiamento sea urchin has here been made softer, more vulnerable, moving away from hard brittleness and associated notions of toxic masterm for a homosexual. Patterson’s Buchibushi is dressed in a cactus-green costume culinity to embrace a kind of hipster creature in a hoodie with with an oversize, cryptic head formed from a large inverted a casual, camp quality. The body costume, says Patterson, was influenced by London clay vessel. The vessel and Rotterdam male is hard on the outside fa sh ion si l houet te s, but can contain lifeborrowed from tracksustaining water within. suits, bomber jackets, From its top sprouts a and hoodies — clothing flowering cactus plant that tries to suggest a — a joyful splash of cool, tough masculincolour, but with its own ity while also being armour of spikes. It soft and comfortable looks both playful and to wear. slightly scary. BuchiW hile per for ming bushi also has a single Bikkel, Patterson played large opening on its face music from a phone in — an ambiguous eye his pocket, including or mouth aperture (or aggressive dancehall “one-eyed monster?”) tracks by Vybz Kartel — through which the (“Real Badman”) and performer can see withmellower racks by Rupi out being seen. (“Tempted to Touch”). In the performance, Echidna (2016, performance, Speightstown, Barbados) Patterson was riffing off this eerie being wanexpectations of mascuders in from the wilderlinity projected by such ness of Aruba’s arid popular music, while hinterlands to place exploring the idea of a sustaining aloe vera vulnerable, more accesplants in cracks along sible masculinity, more a publ ic c it y r oad . open to feelings. The character is like a Part of the inspirapeaceful yet supremely tion for this perfordetached a lien ga rmance, he says, came dener who gently roots from his reading of good energy through American poet, interhis aloe plants. Chilsectional feminist, and dren loved it. People began knocking on his clay-pot head (“That sounded very loud civil rights activist Audre Lorde (1934–1992). “Raising black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, on the inside!”), to connect with the character. suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy,” wrote Lorde in her essay epending on the idea, there’s usually a medium that “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response”. “If they cannot suggests itself,” says Patterson of his creations and love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.” performances. “I enjoy working with performance It made Patterson reflect on the nurturing role of mothers, and because it offers a lot of space for including text, voice, and the the need for love, connection, and alternative models of manhood whole creative dimension of costume-making. And I enjoy the which do not extol only hardness, violence, and a cauterising of all gentle qualities, in order to be thought of as a man. theatrical aspect of it, the flexibility of performance.” As Lorde once famously said, “those of us who have been Among Patterson’s most recent works is a 2018 performance called Bikkel, created under the auspices of Jerwood Visual forged in the crucibles of difference . . . know that survival is not Arts in London. The Dutch word bikkel derives from a bone an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and in a sheep’s heel, but the word can also mean a bone used in a make them strengths.” n

The whole idea of being looked at, judged, and interpreted according to somebody else’s desires or needs is something Patterson rejects, and fights against

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own words

“I’ve always felt, ask me where I’m from!” Claire Adam, Trinidad-born author of the debut novel Golden Child, on the lessons of observation, her eagerness for criticism, and her relationship to “home” — as told to Nicholas Laughlin Photography by Tricia Keracher-Summerfield, courtesy Claire Adam

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grew up in Port of Spain, the youngest of four children. My father’s Trinidadian, a doctor who lectured in medicine at the University of the West Indies. My mother is Irish. She was also trained as a doctor, but she stopped practicing after we were born. I was fortunate to grow up in a house with a lot of books. But thinking back on it now, the books I can remember most clearly are the books we studied at school. I remember reading The Crucible [by Arthur Miller], and you know, this play is set in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s, about as far away from Trinidad in the 1980s as you could get. But the way it’s written, you straight away feel like you’re in the room with these people.

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I’ll always remember the character Giles Corey, who wouldn’t confess to a lie. They laid planks of wood on his chest, and they kept on adding more planks, slowly crushing him, and trying to get him to confess. And his final words were, “More weight.” I remember me, as a fourteenyear-old girl in Trinidad, thinking, if it ever comes to something like that, I will try to be like Giles Corey. My mother had grown up in Ireland, so Trinidad was new for her, and she was something of a natural scientist — she was always doing botanical drawings of flowers, leaves, seed-pods. The house was full of things like jars and ice-cream containers with caterpillars or spiders, and my mother would be making detailed drawings as the chrysalis grew and the

butterfly broke its way out. It was a bit like My Family and Other Animals [the memoir by Gerard Durrell). My mother’s most frequently repeated instruction was to observe. Sit quietly and look at something. For example, look at that spider building that web. Observe the spider. Before long, questions start occurring to you. How did that spider know to first put a thread from there to there, to support the twig she wants to build on? Where does the thread come from? My mother knew the way to get children interested is not just to feed them all the answers. In the immediate vicinity, say, in the garden, I would observe things like flowers. I would pick flowers and look at petals, pollen, notice that some flowers close at night and open again in the morning, and some petals are papery, and some are waxy, and some bruise easily. It’s a principle or a skill that’s relevant to writing, to observe people: speech and gestures, and more broadly what people say and do to each other — actions, and consequences of actions. We used to go to Ireland every three years to visit my mother’s family in Cork. There was the ritual of getting out the suitcases, finding all the wool sweaters — summers in Ireland felt very cold to us! We used to stay with my grandmother, and she had a huge garden out in the countryside. The landscape was so different, the colours, the way the trees grew, the physical sensation of raindrops — smaller, sharper, colder raindrops. I suppose we were something of an oddity, when we showed up in the village in Ireland, these four brown-skinned children, but I don’t remember anything negative. We probably stood out a little, but in a good way — people were curious, but welcoming. I think when you come from a little Caribbean island and go out


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into the wider world, you encounter this curiosity frequently. You have to explain where you’re from, where Trinidad is, why you speak English, why you are the colour you are. I’ve never been bothered by this — on the contrary, I’ve seen it as a privilege. I’ve always felt, ask me where I’m from!

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left Trinidad at eighteen and went to university in the States. I did physics — I found it very demanding, but I stuck it out. At Brown University, there’s no core curriculum: outside of the classes required for your major, you just take whatever courses you want. It was like being in a sweet shop! I want that, and that, and that! So I did some neuroscience, some cognitive science, I learned Italian. Literature was always on my mind. It was sort of a push-pull. Physics or literature? But I found the literature classes I took fairly baffling. They seemed to make connections that I found tenuous, and reach conclusions, and then announce the conclusions as if they were some sort of fact. Coming from physics, I just couldn’t follow this at all. I was like: you started on A, which was just a hypothesis, and we’ve ended up on Z, but nobody has ever proved that A was true in the first place! I lived in Ireland for a year after finishing university. I’ve always felt very welcome in Ireland, but I never introduce myself as Irish. I always explain that my mother is Irish, but I grew up in Trinidad, and I’ve been living in London for a long time: it’s a bit long-winded, but at least it’s accurate. For years, I kept notebooks, filled with stuff — journal notes, attempts at stories, phrases, snippets. I was always writing something — that was always a sort of parallel to whatever else was happening in my life. But when I came to writing more seriously, I came at it from the point of view of rolling up my sleeves and thinking, OK, how do I figure this out. I joined various writing workshops, and I did a creative writing MA in London. I found the workshop groups very useful, because they were data. You write a piece, and you get, say, twelve responses. Some people would feel very hurt if they got bad

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feedback, but I never felt like that. I was like, this is great data! I said to people, don’t just tell me what you liked, tell me what you hated. I started working seriously on my writing after I had children. I had the sense of time running out. It took about five years to write Golden Child, with longish gaps between drafts. It felt slow, and although I never seriously considered giving up, I occasionally wished I’d never started, because it was so much harder than I expected! But I knew, from reading about

other writers’ experiences, that this is not at all unusual. My agent sent Golden Child out to British publishers first, and I was settling in for a long wait, because sometimes it’s like that. But we had an offer within a couple of days, a pre-empt from Faber. And shortly after that, Hogarth offered on it in the US. It’s all been very exciting. I feel very lucky.

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wish I had a writing routine. In practice, mostly I wash dishes, do laundry, and drive my kids around. For years, it’s been a running joke in my family that I keep setting my alarm clock for 5 am, in the hope that I can get up and do an

hour’s writing before the day starts. The sad reality is that I’m just not a morning person at all. If I make any progress on new work, it tends to be at night. I can work happily until 2 or 3 am. Things that looked chaotic and muddled at 4 pm become perfectly clear at midnight. Writing Golden Child, I used to trawl the TT newspapers online, following links, watching YouTube videos. I usually wasn’t looking for anything specific, just trying to immerse myself in that world again. I used to download photos, and I have a file of probably hundreds of photos of Trinidadian scenes. I found this part really hard, of having to sort of mentally be in Trinidad, and sometimes feel a great longing and nostalgia — which would remain unfulfilled, because I knew I wouldn’t go back to live there — and yet physically be somewhere else. I’ve been living outside Trinidad for over twenty years now. At first, I went back every year, and then it was every few years. But since my parents moved to London, I haven’t been back, and mentally it feels like a big shift. It’s a strange halfway position to be in — and many other people are in a similar place — of having a “home” place which is far away and kind of belongs to the past, and becoming less and less accessible as each year passes — and yet on the other hand not feeling that the place where you are currently is “home,” either. But I don’t sit here agonising about it — this has come about because of choices I have made. And it helps that this is a common experience: there are so many of us now who are in this position. n

Claire Adam’s debut novel, Golden Child (Faber, UK; SJP for Hogarth, US) tells the story of a family quietly surviving in rural Trinidad in the 1980s. Twin teenage brothers Peter and Paul could not be less alike. When the latter goes walking in the bush one day and doesn’t come home, his father Clyde is faced with a life-changing decision .


Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

ARRIVE

Round Trip 86 All about blue

Neighbourhood 100 Road Town, Tortola

Bucket List 102 Little Tobago

The milky blue mineral known as larimar is unique to the Dominican Republic, mined in the mountains of the country’s southwest


round trip

All about blue

Shane Pinder / Alamy Stock Photo

Of all the many colours of the Caribbean, the most distinctive may be blue, in its myriad hues and shades, from the cerulean of a brilliant dry-season sky to the sparkling ultramarine of the surrounding sea — and many others in between

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Dean’s Blue Hole, the Bahamas The limestone landscape of Long Island is dotted with caves and sinkholes, eroded over many centuries — the latter forming distinctive “blue holes,” flooded with fresh or sea water, almost perfectly circular, and eerily deep. Most impressive of all is Dean’s Blue Hole, in a bay west of Clarence Town, with a depth measured at 663 feet — the perfect location for the celebrated Vertical Blue freediving competition, running annually since 2008

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Industriales baseball team, Cuba It’s one of the quirks of Caribbean history, the way baseball, the quintessential American game, also happens to be Cuba’s national sport. And the team true Habaneros root for? Industriales, also known as “los Azules,” for their royal blue uniforms. Founded in 1962, Industriales nurse a traditional rivalry with the “Wasps” of Santiago de Cuba — who take the field uniformed in red

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Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / getty


Semuc Champey, Guatemala In the department of Alta Verapaz, in the hills above Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, you’ll find the little-known wonder of Semuc Champey. Here, in the deep rainforest, the Cahabón River flows under a natural limestone bridge, above which six terraced pools glimmer a brilliant turquoise. Getting here involves a challenging hike or a bumpy 4x4 ride, but the payoff is obvious at first sight

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Yuliia Kononenko / shutterstock.com

Blue Curaçao liqueur The Laraha orange, a citrus variety unique to Curaçao, is far too bitter to eat — but its aromatic peel is the key ingredient in the distinctive liqueur named for the Dutch island, and traditionally tinted blue. Curaçao liqueur is also manufactured in the Netherlands, but only one distillery in the world still uses true Laraha peel: that’s Senior & Co., based in Willemstad since 1896. Blue Curaçao lends its distinctive hue to all manner of cocktails, a staple of bartenders around the world

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elegant accents from bumpers to roof. With the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, you can be confident your GLA will take you anywhere you want to go. You can opt for all-wheel drive with several different engine variants, so you’ll always be sure of grip when you need it. Whether you need to be connected or want to feel protected, the GLA surrounds you with advanced technology that’s designed to enhance your life on the go, even when you’re away from your Mercedes-Benz. The GLA features a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and the optional automatic 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission shifts so quickly and smoothly you won’t notice it changing gear. The compact GLA packs some sizable surprises. Its sensible footprint conceals a cabin that’s generous with legroom, headroom, and luxury. With the available HandsFree Access, just a “kick” under the bumper can open the standard power liftgate. It’s a grand opening to a generous space: 43.6 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded, or a generous trunk with all five seats in use. The Mercedes-Benz GLA is the car for you if you like adventure — in or out of town.

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Moriah Quinn / Alamy Stock Photo

Blue poison dart frog, Suriname Known in Latin as Dendrobates tinctorius and in indigenous Tirio as okopipi, this brightly coloured frog, native to rivers and streams in Suriname’s interior forests, has no need for camouflage. Rather, its azure markings serve as a warning to possible predators — it’s not called a poison dart frog for nothing. Each frog’s pattern of markings is as distinctive as a fingerprint. It’s a favourite of frogkeeping hobbyists worldwide, but there’s nothing like the thrill of spotting one of these small, brilliant creatures in its wild habitat

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Blue devils, Trinidad

maria nunes

Of the various species of devil mas among Trinidad’s traditional Carnival masquerades, blue devils are by far the most celebrated — a favourite of photographers, subject of films and books, and perennial crowd-pleasers. On Carnival Monday, the place to see them is their home ground: as far back as anyone can remember, the village of Paramin in the hills north of Port of Spain has been home to rival blue devil troupes, with their blood-curdling hoots and menacing dance to the rhythm of drums, breathing fire and mock-menacing onlookers with their pitchforks

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Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo

Blue Mountains, Jamaica They are an icon of Jamaica, towering above Kingston, home to rare flora and fauna that thrive in the microclimates of higher elevations, and to the island’s best coffee farms. In brilliant sunshine, the lushly forested slopes of the Blue Mountains are obviously green — but as dusk falls, or on rainy day, they fade into the many smudged shades of blue that lend them their name

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KPMG in Trinidad and Tobago is a locally owned and operated Partnership and employs outstanding professionals whose purpose is to Inspire Confidence and Empower Change in everything we do. KPMG in Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the KPMG Caricom grouping which belongs to the KPMG Islands Group (KIG) sub-region. We have strong working relationships with KPMG’s other member firms in KIG located in Bahamas, Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Malta and the Turks and Caicos Islands. KPMG in Trinidad and Tobago and all member firms are committed to providing consistently high-quality services in an ethical and independent manner. We recognise that our work and the quality and integrity of our people play a vital role in building trust with stakeholders, and can help in sustaining and enhancing confidence in our profession and the capital markets. We therefore invest significantly in the continuous development of our people.

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Contact us to explore how we can drive your business forward together. KPMG Savannah East 11 Queen’s Park East Port of Spain, Trinidad W.I.

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Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Andre Jenny / Alamy Stock Photo

neighbourhood

Streetscape

Road Town, Tortola The capital of the British Virgin Islands took a hit from Hurricane Irma in 2017 — but, more than a year later, Road Town is back in the business of welcoming visitors to the Caribbean’s busiest sailing headquarters

Sheltered, horseshoe-shaped Road Harbour on Tortola’s south coast lends its name to the capital of the island and the British Virgin Islands. Government offices and banks line the waterfront, looking over the cruise ship terminal and dozens of small yachts. Picturesque Main Street, one block inland, is a winding thoroughfare, home to many of Road Town’s remaining historic buildings, as well as the four-acre J.R. O’Neal Botanic Garden (above), a lush, peaceful refuge with an orchid house and outdoor pond. At the other end of Main Street, the BVI Folk Museum has a small but fascinating collection ranging from Amerindian artefacts to shipwreck relics, housed in a century-old wooden cottage.

Drink like a sailor

Island hop Several different ferry companies offer multiple daily crossings from Tortola to the BVI’s two other major islands, Virgin Gorda and Anegada. Head out early enough, and you can explore Tortola’s neighbours on a day-trip. The must-see destination in Virgin Gorda is The Baths, where huge granite boulders scattered and piled along the beach form caves, tunnels, and swimming holes. Low-lying Anegada, meanwhile, is famous for its seafood — its fringing reefs abound with lobster — and is also a snorkellers’ paradise, with underwater attractions including numerous wrecks.

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mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

For centuries, men of the British Royal Navy were granted a daily rum ration, doled out by each vessel’s purser — or “pusser.” This tipsy tradition came to an end in 1970, but nine years later an enterprising entrepreneur purchased the rights to use the brand name Pusser’s Rum, and the recipe for the Royal Navy’s traditional blend. Pusser’s Rum may be legally headquartered in the United States, but it has a longstanding link to Tortola — perhaps best explored at the Pusser’s Co. Store and Pub in Road Town, where the resident bartenders will mix you any number of rum cocktails, and bottles of the stout-hearted spirit are on sale alongside memorabilia of all kinds.


History

Eric Rubens / shutterstock.com

First settled by indigenous Arawaks moving north up the Antillean chain, Tortola was spotted by Columbus in 1493. Long a pirates’ stronghold, the island was formally claimed by the British in 1672. The eighteenth century brought a small flood of settlers, running sugar plantations on the labour of enslaved Africans. Later, after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, Africans liberated by illegal slave ships were settled in Tortola, establishing a free black community before Emancipation in 1834. In 1853, rioters protesting a new tax set fire to Road Town, destroying almost all its buildings. The collapse of the sugar industry led to an economic slump, till the rise of tourism as the BVI’s main income-earner in the twentieth century — with a lucrative side in offshore banking as well. 2017’s Hurricane Irma passed directly over Tortola and devastated the island, wrecking homes, businesses, utilities, and much of the infrastructure of the tourism sector. Recovery efforts were slow in the immediate aftermath but eventually picked up pace, and by the 2018 tourist season the island was ready once more to receive visitors and their much-needed dollars and pounds.

Head to sea

jason Patrick Ross / shutterstock.com

Tortola is arguably the Caribbean’s sailing charter capital, with dozens of companies and hundreds of boats of all sizes and degrees of luxury available — whether you’re looking for a fortnight at sea exploring the turquoise waters and sandy islets of the Virgin Islands, or just a daylong excursion. “Bareboating” is the term for crewing your own chartered yacht, but if you’ve never unfurled a sail or put hand to rudder, fully crewed vessels are also in supply. With a boat at your command, you can explore every secluded bay and hidden cove, far from the madding crowd.

To the heights

Co-ordinates

Mount Sage, Tortola’s highest peak at 1,716 feet, rises just west of Road Town, and its forested slopes (above) are protected by a 96-acre national park. Here you’ll find what’s probably the only original forest on the island, largely untouched since preColumbian times. There are trails for hikers, species like mountain doves and redtailed hawks for birders, tiny hermit crabs underfoot, and amazing views across the island for those who simply enjoy a spot of landscape. The North Coast Overlook right beside the park entrance offers the most sweeping vista of all.

18.4º N 64.6º W Sea level

Anegada

British virgin islands

Poems for the island With a population under 24,000, Tortola must be one of the smallest island communities ever to have one of its writers in the running for a major international award — which was the case in 2017, when poet Richard Georges was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for his debut book — appropriately titled Make Us All Islands. A follow-up, Giant, appeared not long after. In both his books, Georges explores the history and landscape of the BVI with quiet lyricism and a sharp eye.

Virgin Gorda tORTOLA

Road Town

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bucket list

rapso imaging

A wildlife sanctuary for over a century, this tiny island off Tobago is an almost untouched home for hundred of seabirds

Above right Little Tobago in the distance, behind Goat Island, off Tobago’s northeast coast Above A red-billed tropicbird, at its nesting site on Little Tobago

courtesy the tobago house of assembly

Little Tobago

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mile off Tobago’s northeast coast, Little Tobago is a cliff-ringed, forest-covered refuge for seabirds — with an unusual history. In 1909, concerned about the overhunting of Papua New Guinea’s spectacular greater bird of paradise, the British politician William Ingram scoured the tropical regions of the British Empire for a suitable location to establish a private nature reserve. Four dozen birds of paradise were transported halfway across the world to Little Tobago, in the hope that they’d form a thriving colony. The plan didn’t quite succeed: the birds of paradise did not thrive in their adopted West Indian home, and 1963’s Hurricane Flora is believed to have despatched the last of them (though to this day a bird of paradise is depicted on T&T’s hundred dollar note). But Little Tobago — given to the T&T government by Ingram’s heirs in 1924 — remains a bird sanctuary, home

to substantial populations of seabirds, including tropicbirds, shearwaters, boobies, and frigatebirds. The island has no human population, but birders can visit via boat from Speyside — a short, scenic trip that also allows close-up views of Goat Island (with its abandoned holiday villa) and the gorgeous coral reefs in Tyrrel’s Bay. Visitors should stick to Little Tobago’s well-marked paths, leaving the rest of the island’s vertiginous terrain for the birds. n

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TOBAGO

Little Tobago


imagebroker/ alamy stock photo

ENGAGE

Green 104 The plastic wars

Discover 108 Saved by microbes

A densely packed neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince, Haiti

On This Day 110 When the bogeyman

is real


Rich Carey / shutterstock.com

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As public awareness spreads about the dangers of plastic waste, a growing number of countries around the world have implemented bans on plastic bags and other single-use items. With Jamaica implementing a partial plastics ban, Erline Andrews investigates its possible impact, and progress on similar policies elsewhere in the region


Washed into the ocean, plastic bags can be mistaken by sea turtles for jellyfish, part of their regular diet

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t started in 1990, when Nantucket, an island off the US state of Massachusetts, became the first local authority to ban plastic shopping bags. Concerns about the convenient and widely popular items had begun to emerge as early as the 1970s, when researchers observed plastic litter in the ocean that was harming marine life. Animals were getting entangled in and ingesting the trash. In 2002, Ireland became the first country to mandate that consumers be directly charged for plastic bags. By that time, the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest collection of floating trash, had been discovered. That year, Bangladesh became the first country to ban plastic bags entirely. The south Asian nation is susceptible to

flooding, and plastic debris was found to be a main cause of clogged waterways. Rwanda followed in 2008, with one of the world’s most stringently enforced plastic bag bans. Today, eleven years later, Rwanda is considered one of the cleanest countries anywhere. Over the past decade, countries and municipalities around the world have started banning or taxing single-use plastics at an exponential rate. What began as a trickle has become a flood. According to the first-ever United Nations report on the issue, of the sixty or so countries that have such regulations, about forty have put them in place within the last two years. In that time, eleven countries from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have implemented a ban, or announced the intention to do so. “There has been a global shift, and that has been largely attributable to environmental advocacy groups who have been working for decades on these issues, raising awareness,” says Suzanne Stanley, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust

apply for two-year exemptions. Permanent exemptions for medical reasons will be granted for plastic straws. Breaking the law can result in fines of as much as JA$15,000. The government has pledged to deal with plastic bottles through a deposit-return system. They’ve already experimented with a limited pilot project. “The major impact for me,” says Jamaican Senator Matthew Samuda, “was seeing that there is an island of garbage developing off the coast of Honduras which is coming from Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba — pretty much every island in the eastern Caribbean and Central America.” Samuda set the ball rolling on the ban when he presented a motion that was passed in Parliament.

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n the lower end of the commitment scale in the region is Trinidad and Tobago, a country whose major export is oil, from which plastic is made. A bill written in 2012 to facilitate the recycling of plastic bottles has yet to be passed by

“There is an island of garbage developing off the coast of Honduras which is coming from Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba,” says Jamaican Senator Matthew Samuda (JET) — one such group. In September, Jamaica announced one of the most comprehensive plastic waste control policies in the region, the result of months of work by a government-appointed task force that consulted various stakeholders. Jamaica, with a population just shy of three million, imports about 1.4 billion plastic bags per year, according to the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a Jamaican think tank. Most of them wind up in landfills, or are not properly disposed of, and contribute to flooding. But, beginning in January 2019, this number is expected to fall drastically. The country’s new policy bans the importation, manufacturing, and distribution of styrofoam containers, plastic straws, and plastic bags smaller than twenty-four by twenty-four inches. Manufacturers and importers can

Parliament. In July 2018, the minister of planning announced the intention to stop the importation of styrofoam containers by the start of the new year. She gave no further details or updates. The private sector has picked up the slack. Massy Stores, the biggest supermarket chain in Trinidad and Tobago and the English-speaking Caribbean, started charging for plastic bags last July. In Barbados, they were joined by a group of other major supermarkets in an initiative organised by the NGO Future Centre Trust. So far, other supermarkets and retailers in T&T haven’t followed Massy’s lead. Customer resistance seems stronger in T&T than elsewhere in the region, and it’s likely not a risk smaller chains and stores were willing to take. But Massy T&T marketing manager Anthony Choo Quan believes the

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In 2017, photographer Caroline Power documented a massive patch of floating garbage off the Honduran island of Roatán — including vast quantities of plastic

caroline power

According to the United Nations, in about twenty per cent of the countries with anti-single-use plastic regulations, they have had little impact because of a lack of enforcement customers the chain may have lost will come back, and that the move succeeded where it mattered most. The number of plastic bags the chain gives away dropped by eighty per cent in T&T, he says. “We used to give away 34 million bags a year. What was done to the drains, with the flooding, [and] the ocean was a lot.” Choo Quan gave this interview shortly after T&T experienced some of the worst flooding in its history, in October 2018. Hundreds of people lost much of the contents of their homes. Video footage and photos of drains filled with plastic bottles and other debris were widely shared on social media. Massy Stores T&T — a long-time corporate sponsor of environmental causes — has also installed reverse vending machines at three of its branches for customers to return used bottles and cans in exchange for shopping discount points. The deposits are picked up by a recycling company. Massy hopes to expand the initiative. Choo Quan says the chain is looking at other ways it can reduce plastic waste, even as there are signs consumer resistance will continue to be a challenge. “Don’t tell me to walk around with my straw or walk around with my bag. It could be irritating,” says a customer outside one branch of Massy Stores, who would only give her name as Mala. She was referring to reusable bags and straws. “First provide [disposable] alternatives and then ban,” she says. She was one of

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the customers who resented the plastic bag fee, but she came around, she says, after visiting Britain and seeing it in operation there. Other observers question the longterm effectiveness of bans, taxes, and alternative materials. Barry Fakoory, a Trinidadian manufacturer of plastic containers, says banning plastics can mean replacing them with products that are more expensive and may not be better for the environment. “Plastic is the greatest invention ever made, but it’s the worst managed product ever made,” says Fakoory. “Why do so many people use plastics? It’s cheap. It’s durable. It’s a lot more sustainable than people say it is.”

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lsewhere in the Caribbean, St Vincent and the Grenadines, in addition to a ban on the importation of styrofoam, is removing value added tax from biodegradable containers to make them cheaper. One of the big problems with plastic is that it takes hundreds of years to decompose. But biodegradable products aren’t necessarily much better. Biodegradable plastics only break down under certain conditions. What’s more, according to UN experts, the chemicals that are supposed to make them biodegradable also make them harder to recycle, and can be harmful to the environment. Fakoory believes the key to dealing with plastic in the long run is recycling

and reusing it. The products he makes are composed of sixty per cent recycled material, he explains. “The issue should never be about biodegradability, but more about reusability, turning garbage into something useful. Until that is done, we’re never going to find the answer to world waste issues,” he says. According to the UN report, in about twenty per cent of the countries with anti-single-use plastic regulations, they have had little impact because of a lack of enforcement and affordable alternatives. “The latter has led to cases of smuggling and the rise of black markets for plastic bags or to the use of thicker plastic bags that are not covered by the bans. This has increased environmental problems in some cases,” says the report. JET’s Stanley worries that without a sustained public education programme and proper enforcement the Jamaica ban will also have little effect. “We don’t do well with enforcement in Jamaica,” she says. “A ban is only as good as enforcement. A ban is only as good as people complying because they’re educated and aware of its importance.” Senator Samuda says the Jamaican government planned a public education campaign that included town hall meetings and ads. They’ll use feedback to adjust the policy going forward. The ban, he said, “is the first of many steps that we intend to take in terms of our environmental management and protection.” n


Saved by microbes The remarkable biodiversity of the Caribbean includes tiny microbes in our soil and water, many still unknown — which offer compounds with potential novel uses, from medicine to agriculture. The Trinidadian microbiologist Adesh Ramsubhag is at the forefront of this field of research, writes Raymond Ramcharitar, and his work suggests the pursuit of science could be the Caribbean’s economic salvation 108

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wacomka / shutterstock.com

discover

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he microbial biodiversity of Caribbean soils can be tens of thousands of times greater than temperate soils,” says Adesh Ramsubhag, a microbiologist at the University of the West Indies campus in St Augustine, Trinidad. The implications are enormous, even if they don’t seem that way at first. Many of these microbes have unique genes that result in their production of “novel metabolic compounds.” And those compounds have potentially major useful applications. Such as reversing the worldwide attenuation of antibiotics. Ramsubhag (and his graduate students) have uncovered one compound which will do just that. It is now being patented, and once that process is complete, he says, “This could be a gamechanger, with the potential of saving many lives and bringing in significant economic benefits to the country.” Other possibilities include compounds which can clean up oil spills, improve crop yields, and have other medical applications — all of which Ramsubhag and his collaborators at UWI are working on. These may seem like astounding revelations, and they are. But the question arises: why are they only now being revealed? The answer is that they’re not. That the Caribbean’s biodiversity is greater than that of temperate climates is well known. The Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, founded in 1921, was the institution that preceded and eventually became the nucleus of UWI’s St Augustine campus, and significant research was carried out, and discov-


eries were made, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, but there’s been little continuity. Today, many foreign pharmaceutical companies come to the Caribbean for “bio-prospecting” and take samples back to metropolitan labs for research. However, Ramsubhag says, we haven’t developed our own research infrastructure in the English-speaking Caribbean to harness the potential of our biodiversity. The story is different in another Caribbean country which has moved to exploit the natural potential of its bio-resources. Cuba, one of the largest manufacturers of pharmaceuticals in the world, is a leading global centre for biomedical research. If Trinidad and Tobago seems lethargic about this area of scientific inquiry, one reason is the country’s oil and gas industr y, which has dominated the island’s economy and academic attention for the last half-century. The ongoing change to renewable energy technologies that rely on alternatives to fossil fuels has stunned the country, which is now in the

funding programme to support research and are entirely dependent on university grants, which are very limited. If we could get about [TT] $5 million per year, we could make a major impact in ten years.”

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his “failure to diversify” has plagued the T&T economy since Independence in 1962, and Ramsubhag was aware of the dynamic of underdevelopment before he entered academia. He grew up on a farm with his parents and siblings in south Trinidad, and in his early twenties had settled into a career as a farmer. He decided to enroll at UWI to pursue a degree in agriculture, and there he discovered his affection for science. His aptitude was recognised and encouraged by some faculty members, and today he still visits the farm run by his relatives, but his business is in a lab. After he completed his PhD in microbiology in 1998, Ramsubhag worked with the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), where he applied his scientific knowledge to practical issues facing both the private and govern-

with food production, medical sciences, veterinary medicine, and engineering. Talking to Ramsubhag, you hardly get the impression of a colossus straddling and uniting many different subdisciplines of science. Face to face, he’s a shy, unassuming man who talks passionately about his research, but is reticent about taking too much credit, and sharing generously with his students and collaborators. He credits his academic aptitude to the respect for knowledge and education he acquired at home. His eight brothers and sisters were all older than he was, and he listened to them talking about their school work around the dinner table, which inspired him to take his own studies more seriously. In many ways, he says, his story is instructive for students and policy makers. At his secondary school in south Trinidad, he was guided into an arts stream for advanced level studies, which did not interest him. He was an unenthusiastic student because he wasn’t exposed to the subject areas which stimulated him. It wasn’t until later in life that he found his

courtesy raymond ramcharitar

Foreign pharmaceutical companies come to the Caribbean for “bio-prospecting” and take samples from soil and sea back to metropolitan labs. However, we haven’t developed our own research infrastructure to harness the potential of our biodiversity throes of economic trauma. The movement of resources into bio-prospecting might seem natural and logical, but it hasn’t been the case. The country spends more money on its annual Carnival than on scientific research. “In today’s world, we have the advent of the knowledge-based economy, and all progressive countries allocate a significant amount of resources to support research and innovation, in some cases greater than four per cent GDP,” says Ramsubhag. “Individual researchers and laboratories in these countries would typically have access to millions of US dollars to support their activities. Here, we have no national

mental sectors — like quality control in industrial and manufacturing plants, and environmental issues. Once he joined the university, he was instrumental in developing microbiology as a discipline in the Faculty of Science and Technology, and his students credit his generosity and guidance in bringing their projects to fruition. “His PhD in 1998 started a new wave in Trinidad and Tobago,” says Ramsubhag’s colleague Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, “of taking a molecular biological approach to studying microorganisms which were largely studied microscopically or biochemically.” Ramsubhag has since collaborated across the university

passion, which many people never do. In 2018, Ramsubhag was named the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence Laureate in Science and Technology. In his acceptance speech at the ceremony in Jamaica, he acknowledged again the influence of family and community in creating and shaping him. He also pointed to a path which might be the Caribbean’s salvation: the pursuit of science. “I strongly believe science and technology can be significant sources of social and economic development in the Caribbean. But there is critical need for more funding of science-based programmes in the region.” n

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on this day

When the bogeyman is real Sixty years ago, Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier set up a paramilitary force to deal with political opposition of any kind. The Tontons Macoutes were named for a terrifying bogeyman of Haitian folklore, James Ferguson writes, but the terror and violence they inflicted on ordinary people was all too real Illustration by Rohan Mitchell

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f all the sinister characters who inhabit the dark fictional world of British novelist Graham Greene, Captain Concasseur of The Comedians, the novel set in François “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Haiti, is perhaps the most forbidding. With a name that in French means “crusher” or “grinder,” he is a sadistic secret policeman whose trademark dark glasses make him terrifyingly inscrutable. In one memorable scene in the novel, he and his fellow thugs hold up the funeral cortege of ex-Minister Philipot, an opponent of Papa Doc who has committed suicide, smash the hearse’s windows and whisk away vehicle, coffin, and corpse in front of his horrified widow. A flight of Greene’s morbid imagination? Well, no. The scene in question was based on a real event that took place on 12 April, 1959, when the funeral of Clément Jumelle in Port-au-Prince was unceremoniously hijacked on the orders of the

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recently elected president, Papa Doc. Jumelle had been impudent enough to stand against Duvalier in the presidential elections of September 1957 and, worse, to condemn the outcome as rigged. Rumour had it that Papa Doc intended to use Jumelle’s remains in some sort of vodou ritual — but such rumours were primarily intended to terrorise ordinary people. At the heart of Duvalier’s reign of terror were the Tontons Macoutes, a paramilitary force chillingly exemplified by Greene’s Concasseur. The Macoutes originated in the early months of 1959, sixty years ago, when Duvalier had recently survived an attempted coup d’état carried out by senior Haitian military officers and American mercenaries. The president was well aware that the army had always been the supreme political arbiter in Haiti, and was determined not to suffer the fate of many of his predecessors, who were overthrown, assassinated, or exiled. The military, for their part, had at first thought that the seemingly mildmannered, soft-spoken country doctor who was elected in 1957 would be their pawn and that business would continue as usual. Many of them refused to join in the attempted coup, which was easily crushed. But this complacency was profoundly misguided, as Papa Doc used the revolt as a pretext to purge the army and remove the threat of further dissent. As officers were imprisoned or banished and lower ranks simply dismissed, the creation of a paramilitary counterweight gathered impetus. The notoriously unpredictable national military was to be held in check by Papa Doc’s own militia.

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o be a Tonton Macoute was to be given free rein to bully, extort, assault, and even murder. Many members, particularly in the countryside, were wealthier peasants and landowners who already commanded fear and respect in their communities. In the capital and towns, recruits were often criminals. The organisation was a strange mix of naked self-interest, expressed in corruption, theft, and protection money, but also unwavering loyalty to Duvalier and pitiless repression of dissidence. One of Papa Doc’s henchmen, Luckner Cambronne, headed the Macoutes during the 1960s while also operating a business that exported Haitian blood plasma to the United States, earning


The Tontons Macoutes were a strange mix of naked self-interest, expressed in corruption, theft, and protection money, but also unwavering loyalty to Duvalier lacked the terrifying totalitarianism of his father’s. In the 1980s, exiles, the Catholic Church, and even community groups dared to protest, sometimes violently, against the government. In February 1986, such protests developed into a full-scale revolt, and Baby Doc, under pressure from the US, chose to fly into exile with millions of dollars looted from his impoverished country.

the nickname “the vampire of the Caribbean.” Alongside systematic extortion, the aim was to destroy organised political opposition and to terrify ordinary Haitians into submission. Victims were often openly murdered in the street, while many more disappeared into the infamous Fort Dimanche prison, never to be seen again. Fort Dimanche was supervised by the Uzi-wielding Madame Max Adolphe, one of the most senior Tontons Macoutes and a close confidante of Papa Doc. What Graham Greene described as the “nightmare republic” was ruled by fear and superstition. Many Tontons Macoutes were also houngans, local vodou priests who claimed supernatural and often harmful powers. Duvalier himself, formerly an expert in Haitian rural culture, cultivated a frightening persona of omniscience and black magic. And his private army, originally named the Cagoulards (hooded men) and then officially retitled the Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale, were universally known as the Tontons Macoutes, the traditional bogeymen of folklore who would stuff errant children into their hessian sacks at night and carry them off to be eaten for breakfast. At the organisation’s peak, the Macoutes numbered some 25,000 members, one per 150 Haitians. This terror network emboldened Papa Doc to dismiss US concerns over human rights and to extend his term in office indefinitely: in April 1961, a referendum granting him a further six years was won by the rather implausible margin of 1,320,748 votes to zero. Duvalier carried on in power until his death from natural causes in April 1971, to be succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude or “Baby Doc.” Under Baby Doc, the Tontons Macoutes remained a powerful force, even if the new president took personal possession of foreign aid payments that they had previously pilfered. But change was in the air, and Baby Doc’s regime

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he Tontons Macoutes, or at least the lower ranks, were now victims rather than oppressors. Many were murdered and their homes destroyed in a frenzy of retribution known in Creole as dechoukaj or “uprooting.” Those higher up in the hierarchy were less likely to be killed, and were able to retain positions in state-owned and private industries. It was the neighbourhood bully rather than the high-level embezzler who was targeted. In the ensuing decades of political turmoil, when military regimes alternated with short-lived civilian governments, the Tontons Macoutes were no longer a visible entity, even if all Haitians were aware of their continuing presence. Only recently, perhaps, could it be said with any certainty that they are a spent force. Graham Greene foretold the eventual demise of Papa Doc’s paramilitaries when at the end of The Comedians Philipot, the nephew of the ex-minister, joins a rebel group that kills the Macoute in an explosion: I saw Concasseur knocked backwards as though struck by an invisible fist: the chauffeur pitched upon his face: a scrap of the cemetery wall leapt in the air and dropped . . . Concasseur’s black glasses lay in the road. Philipot ground them to pieces under his heel and the body showed no resentment. n

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Spot the Difference answers The backgrounds are different shapes; there are more buttons on one Sailor’s outfit; there are different colours on the legs of the Burrokeet; the Burrokeet man has different head patterns; the Jab Molassie has an extra piece in his whip on the right; one of the Burrokeets has an eye on the horse; the Jab Molassie has a neck in the right image; the Sailor on the right has a star on his cuff; the tail looks different on the Burrokeet; the Sailor’s collar is different.

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classic

Wining words A Carnival favourite from Lisa Allen-Agostini, originally published in January/ February 2006 issue

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Jason jarvis

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hen I was a little girl, it was bad form for a middle-class lass to play Brown Girl in the Ring and actually wine when she had to “show them her motion.” Today, that kind of mild schoolgirl wining is passé. I’ve seen tiny tots wine down to the ground at Carnival time, displaying a wondrous nonchalance to how far we’ve come in just twenty years. Jamette culture is truly ascendant. The word jamette comes from the patois “diametre,” meaning someone from the fringes, a socially unacceptable person. Well, what’s on the fringes depends on your centre. Wining, which was once jamette behaviour, is not only acceptable now, it’s celebrated. At Carnival, people of all colours and social strata engage in wining. To wine, if you don’t know, is to move your hips and waist in a “winding” motion, hence the name. The dance is peculiar to calypso, although someone with real skill and dedication could wine to any kind of music. I have identified roughly twenty terms associated with wining. There are few words in our language, this lilting thing that is Trini, with such versatility. Wining not only has fine and delicate gradations — degrees of wine, as it were — but has come to have particular resonance as a metaphorical act. Wining, in metaphor, is an act of insouciance, of superiority. I didn’t just beat you; I wine in your face. The actual wine, the thing done typically between a man and a woman, to music, at a party, has come to mean so much more than what it is. How a wine is carried out could portend the start or the end of some-

thing, or indicate a person’s stature or lack of it. For, even with the democratisation of jamette culture, a real enthusiastic, no-holds-barred, down-tothe-ground wine reveals you as either an artist or a member of the working class. The converse, the barely-there social wine, marks the pretender to class and status. You’ll hear these wining terms in calypso and soca, but increasingly they are creeping into everyday language. Wine up: to wine vigorously Wine down: to wine while lowering the bottom to the ground in a squat Wine around: to wine in a circular motion, or to move around while wining Tief a wine: to creep up behind or in front of someone and wine on them surreptitiously Take a wine: to boldly do same Give (someone) a wine: to allow someone to wine on you; a pity wine Wine back: to actively participate in a wine initiated by someone else Small wine: a short wine Hard wine: a particularly vigorous wine, usually on someone Slow wine: a wine to a slow song, or on every other beat Sweet wine: a wine that feels good, arousing Dutty wine: a wine with bad intentions,

a true jamette wine, uninhibitedly sexual Rough wine: wining fast and hard, usually with someone Social wine: a polite, non-sexual wine, done by someone who either can’t wine well or who wants people to think they’re too high-class to wine well Stiff wine: an awkward wine lacking the fluidity of spine that characterises a fine wine Tourist wine: the half-a-beat-out-oftime and amateurish wine practised by tourists who don’t know the art Wine in time: correct wining, done to the dominant beat of the music Wine out of time: incorrect wining, done to the offbeat or no beat at all Walk and wine: in a display of sauciness or impertinence, or overt sexuality, a woman (or man, usually gay) may walk while shaking her bottom Wine on (someone): to wine against someone, either facing them or from behind Wine in (someone’s) face: metaphorical. To trounce, to lord it over someone Wine off (one’s something): to wine so hard that something surely must be broken Just a wine: Though a wine could mean more, sometimes it is just dancing and nothing else. n


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Caribbean Beat — January/February 2019 (#155)  

A calendar of events; music, film, and book reviews; travel features; people profiles, and much more.

Caribbean Beat — January/February 2019 (#155)  

A calendar of events; music, film, and book reviews; travel features; people profiles, and much more.

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