Caribbean Beat — March/April 2021 (#163)

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H E L P P R OT E C T T H E F O O D S U P P LY A N D N AT U R A L B E AU T Y O F T H E C A R I B B E A N

Declare Agricultural Items

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U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Plant Health Directors Forum

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ACROSS 3. The chosen spokesperson for the Don’t Pack a Pest program. 6. Pests and disease can be transported through _______. 9. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conduct inspections at various _______ of entry that are pathways for the introduction of pests and disease. 11. Unsuspecting _______ bring in food, plants and other agricultural items containing harmful pests and diseases. 12. Approximately 50,000 species of plants and animals have _______ the United States. 14. Any good that is made from animal or plant materials is an _______ item. 16. Passenger _______ is a critical component of the Don’t Pack a Pest program. 17. Visit DontPackaPest.com to _______ yourself on prohibited items. 20. The global economy spends $1.4 trillion annually combating _______ species. 21. Straw hats and other woven goods can carry the red palm _______ which causes severe damage to palms and banana trees. 23. Is the Caribbean spokesperson for the don’t pack a pest program. 25. A _______ dog is trained to target a specific odor, thereby locating prohibited items. 26. Unprocessed _______ like carved masks and other handicrafts can potentially harbor invasive insects. 27. The Asian citrus psyllid is a vector that carries huanglongbing, also known as _______ greening disease and arrived in the U.S. on imported items. 28. Help _______ our food supply. 29. Each year these types of pests destroy about 13 percent of the U.S. potential crop production, that’s a value of about $33 million.

DOWN 1. The giant African land _______ is one of the most damaging pests in the world because it consumes at least 500 types of plants, can cause structural damage, and can transmit disease. 2. Even one piece of _______can transport harmful pests. 4. If you do not declare agricultural items, you can be subject to _______ between $1,100 and $60,000. 5. An invasive species can be any kind of living organism, or even an organism's seeds or eggsnot native to an _______ and causes harm. 7. Before traveling with agricultural items you should ask yourself can I _______ it? 8. _______ all food and agriculture items when you enter the United States or other countries. 10. Agricultural risks grow with the ever increasing amount of this. 13. The USDA and state departments of agriculture work together to _______ introduced pests. 15. All agricultural items are subject to _______, to try and detect and prevent the unintentional spread of harmful invasives. 18. An acronym meaning animal and plant health inspection service. 19. More that 110 CBP agriculture _______ teams provide screening for agricultural goods. 22. APHIS and PPQ are acronyms meaning animal and plant health inspection service and plant protection and quarantine which are a part of what U.S. federal department? 24. When you travel please remember Don't _______ a Pest! 25. On an typical day CBP inspectors will _______ 352 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4,638 quarantinable materials, including plants, meat, animal byproducts, and soil.

ACROSS 3. Linus 6. travel 9. ports 11. travelers 12. invaded 14. agricultural 16. awareness 17. educate 20. invasive 21. mite 23. Sassy 25. detector 26. wood 27. citrus 28. protect 29. insect DOWN 1. snail 2. fruit 4. penalties 5. ecosystem 7. bring 8. declare 10. trade 13. eradicate 15. inspection 18. APHIS 19. canine 22. USDA 24. pack 25. discover

ANSWER KEY


REINSTATING HEALTHY AND SAFE TRAVEL TO THE CARIBBEAN:

NOVEL CARIBBEAN TRAVELLERS HEALTH ASSURANCE STAMP AND MOBILE APP The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), through its innovative Tourism/Traveller’s Health Program (THP), funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is committed to protecting the health and safety of travellers coming to the Caribbean. CARPHA, partnering with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) continues to elevate Caribbean tourism by building traveller’s confidence and reinstating healthy and safer travel to the Caribbean during COVID-19 through:

Proactive COVID-19 Health Measures for Reopening Tourism

Caribbean’s Travellers Health Assurance stamp for Healthier Safer Tourism (HST) Caribbean travellers now have the added assurance of a healthier, safer option when trying to use tourism facilities that have the HST stamp. The HST stamp is a unique, measurable and verifiable travellers health assurance and recognition award for tourism facilities that are implementing the recommended, proactive COVID-19 health measures.

Caribbean Traveller's Health Mobile App Proactive COVID-19 Health Measures

Travellers Health Assurance Stamp

Caribbean Travellers Health Mobile App

Proactive COVID-19 Health Measures

This app is a multi-faceted, Caribbean traveller’s health information repository, designed for travellers and health and tourism stakeholders. Health information and travel requirements by each Caribbean destination

Early warning and response travel/tourism information system

Health alerts

Training in COVID-19 health measures for the hospitality sector Hospitality health safety and environmental operational standards

Identification of facilities that has been awarded the HST stamp Download the app on Google Play and the Apple Store.

@CARPHATHP

www.carpha.org/THP

@tourismandhealth_carpha

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A MESSAGE From OUR CEO As those of us who usually travel frequently know well, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I know many people are missing the opportunity to travel as they usually do, whether that’s for leisure or business, to journey to fresh places or familiar, meeting new friends or old. Alongside the changes to our daily lives, there are constant reminders of the massive impact the pandemic has had on the world, in lives lost and economies ravaged. Not least on the airline industry, which has seen demand fall more than sixty per cent year on year. Despite this, Caribbean Airlines has continued operations where possible, and maintained our laser-like focus

on passenger and staff safety, with the addition of a whole range of new practices and protocols to ensure air travel is as safe as it can be from the threat of the coronavirus. Caribbean Airlines continues to work closely with public health authorities and international bodies to make certain that the protocols we follow are in line with international best practices. And, as the largest airline network in the region, we continue to support the Caribbean wherever we can, whether providing repatriation flights to many countries, or enabling the transport of temperature-controlled shipments of vaccine to the Caribbean from several territories worldwide, including Europe, India, and the United States.

Our cargo operations have been even more essential during these difficult times. Throughout the pandemic, they have transported goods into and out of the region, maintaining muchneeded connectivity and commercial links. The cargo team continues to offer expansive global and regional connectivity through our scheduled freighter services, specially approved flights, charter flights, and interline arrangements. And, even while we had to drastically reduce the number of passenger flights, we have continued to add new destinations to our network and ensured our people and fleet are ready to support the return to travel normality, when it comes. This includes developing our services further, with digital improvements, ever-expanding cargo offerings, and enhanced duty-free. For our Caribbean Miles and Club Members, the heart and soul of our business, there is also good news. Your loyalty means everything to us, so we’ve made sure your benefits will remain intact until 2022. By then, of course, we hope the fantastic progress on vaccines has enabled our way of life and commerce to truly kickstart recovery. Meanwhile, wherever, whenever you are traveling‚ we wish you a safe and wonderful experience, and thank you for choosing Caribbean Airlines.

Garvin Medera Chief Executive Officer


Contents No. 163 • March/April 2021

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EMBARK

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10 Wish you were here St John’s, Antigua

12 Need to know

Make the most of March and April, even during the time of COVID-19

22 Bookshelf and playlist

Our reading and listening picks

landscape of beaches, mountains, and forests

40 Backstory

Barbados by road The most fun way to experience the natural beauty and cultural riches of Barbados? A road trip. Here are three itineraries featuring the best of Bim

The miseducation of merle hodge Five decades after she made her literary debut with the now-classic Crick Crack, Monkey, the Trinidadian author is about to publish her third novel. She tells Andre Bagoo where her interest in childhood stories comes from

32 Offtrack

46 Bucket List

ARRIVE

24 Explore

Paria bound Nixon Nelson hits the trail to Paria Bay — one of the hidden treasures of Trinidad’s north coast, a stunning

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Waitukubuli Trail, Dominica Explore the stunning Nature Island through the Caribbean’s longest hiking trail

48 Destination

Són City Santiago, near Cuba’s eastern tip, is the country’s most musical city, writes Donna Yawching — and the soundtrack moves to the beat of són

54 snapshot

Higher and higher St Lucia’s most medalled athlete, high jumper Levern Spencer, made her debut two decades ago. But her biggest victory may still lie ahead, says Sheldon Waithe

64 DID you even know

Are you a book lover? Think you know Caribbean literature inside out? Let our trivia column put you to the test


Caribbean Beat CaribbeanBeat An MEP publication

Editor Nicholas Laughlin General manager Halcyon Salazar Design artist Kevon Webster Production manager Jacqueline Smith Web editor Caroline Taylor Editorial assistants Shelly-Ann Inniss, Kristine De Abreu

Business Development Manager, Tobago and International Evelyn Chung T: (868) 684 4409 E: evelyn@meppublishers.com Business Development Representative, Trinidad Tracy Farrag T: (868) 318 1996 E: tracy@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

Cover Chalky Mount, a prominent natural landmark along the East Coast Road in Barbados Photo Above Barbados

Printed by SCRIP-J, Trinidad and Tobago

Read and save issues of Caribbean Beat on your smartphone, tablet, computer, and favourite digital devices! 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 2021. 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

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Connected by the sea Marine biologist Anjani Ganase explains how Caribbean countries are connected by the welfare of the region’s unique coral reefs

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hat lies beneath our Caribbean Sea is an underwater carnival like nothing most of us have ever seen. Described as busy underwater metropoles by Sylvia Earle, one of the first female ocean explorers, coral reefs fringe most coastlines within the tropics around the world. Caribbean coral reefs, in particular, are distinct from any others. They have evolved separately from reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. Show any coral reef scientist photos of coral reefs around the world, and they will pick out the Caribbean reef in an instant. Typically, Caribbean reefs consist of some two hundred species of reef-building coral, an array of large sponges, and giant swaying soft corals that look like palm trees underwater. While Pacific reefs may have over a thousand species of coral, Caribbean reefs – with fewer species — grow three-dimensionally, with giant coral colonies that create magnificent underwater sculptures, mini mountain ranges, and soft coral forests. Caribbean reefs glisten under the ocean in shades of blue, green, and brown, and, as you may guess, Caribbean reefs are home to unique fish, adapted to live within our seascapes. Coral reefs are not just a wonder to explore. Caribbean countries are dependent on reefs as marine resources for fisheries, and for protecting the coastline. These reefs are not only visitor attractions, they are an untapped treasure trove for medicines and research. Caribbean territories earn billions of dollars in revenue annually from tourism and food generated from coral reefs. Yet very few Caribbean people — fewer than one per cent — have ever experienced any underwater coral reef wonder for more than a single breath. For this reason, Caribbean reefs, what they look like, their importance and our impacts on them, are out of sight and out of mind. In the last fifty years, more than two thirds of Caribbean reefs have become severely degraded. Many reefs are not managed for fisheries, and are therefore over-exploited. Because island communities tend to dwell near the coast, many habitats — such as beaches, and mangroves that buffer the runoff of polluted water into the sea — have been altered or removed completely. Whatever runs off our coastline gets flushed directly onto coral reefs. As a result, many Caribbean reefs are impacted by diseases exacerbated by global warming. The threat of climate change to Caribbean coral reefs will precipitate a nearly complete loss (up to ninety per cent) by 2050, unless there can be significant reduction in carbon emissions, alongside more stringent measures for reef protec-

tion and management. Today, many Caribbean islands are feeling the impacts on fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection, and even their social lifestyle. Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Years of research have identified hope spots throughout the Caribbean region where people have learned to consider their marine environment as part of the island ecosphere, and where governments have started taking action to manage and monitor reefs. There are many initiatives for coral restoration as well. The Nature Conservancy (nature.org), as one example, is working with governments and communities across the region to promote the protection of coral reefs through the establishment of marine protected areas, marine spatial planning, and conservation. They used new satellite technology to map coral reefs from thirty countries in the wider Caribbean to support reef health monitoring and management. Other research-based organisations such as SECORE International (secore.org) work on locations throughout the Caribbean, including Curaçao, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and the US Virgin Islands to implement restoration via coral breeding, in order to build reef resilience against climate change. Caribbean people need to urgently speak out for their reefs and the threat of climate change, with one Caribbean voice. Caribbean nations are connected by the same ocean and dependent on the marine life in it, as well as common cultural histories. Deepening the understanding and sharing the relationship with the sea will only improve our connections to each other, fostering reliance and resilience. Let us use these connections to learn together to protect, preserve, and showcase Caribbean coral reefs. Anjani Ganase is a marine biologist with a special interest in coral reefs. She works with the NGO SpeSeas (speseas.org) to improve ocean conservation and awareness in Trinidad and Tobago. Follow her on Twitter @AnjGanase and Instagram @wildtobago. This essay is part of a series reflecting on the Caribbean Identity and what it can be.

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wish you were here

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St John’s, Antigua Approaching Antigua and Barbuda’s capital from the sea, you’re welcomed by the pastel-hued, perfectly restored Georgian buildings of Redcliffe Quay, facing the sheltered harbour. The twin towers of the Victorian cathedral rise in the distance, overlooking the city, where historic buildings are scattered among modern structures. To learn more about the islands’ history, head to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda on Long Street, in a former colonial courthouse.

Photography by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

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NEED TO KNOW

Carole Anne Ferris/Alamy Stock Photo

Essential info to help you make the most of March and April — even in the middle of a pandemic

Don’t Miss Kite season 12

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Dozens of kites dancing in the sky with tails fluttering in the glorious breeze — not to mention holiday-induced grins on children’s faces — confirm it’s Easter time. Trinidad’s Queens Park Savannah, Barbados’s Garrison Savannah, Grenada’s Fort Jeudy, Jamaica’s Grizzly’s Plantation, Guyana’s Sea Wall, and neighbourhoods around the Caribbean are popular venues for kite mania, at its height during the dry sea-

son. Other traditional Easter activities may not be possible during COVID-19 times, but the thrill of seeing your kite soar aloft is perfectly suited to being in the socially distanced outdoors — whether you opt for a traditional hexagonal kite handmade from paper and cocoyea strips, or a fancy plastic model bought at a toy shop. Shelly-Ann Inniss


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need to know

Word of Mouth Little Thoughts on Big Matters

Courtesy Neil Marshall

Along with their ABCs and 123s, all school children should know about the three Rs — reduce, reuse, and recycle, to cut down on discarded waste that burdens and pollutes the natural environment. In recent years, some Caribbean countries have even banned single-use plastics, but this is just a start. We each have to play our part for a cleaner, healthier world, says Maria Marshall — an eleven-year old environmental advocate and perhaps the youngest filmmaker in Barbados. Her multiple-award-winning short film Little Thoughts on Big Matters has earned her global recognition, including from Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and British actor and UNICEF Global Ambassador Orlando Bloom. As we observe World Recycling Day on 18 March, Marshall tells Shelly-Ann Inniss how recycling makes a difference

Are recycling, and environmental mindfulness generally, part of Barbadian culture?

Yes, Barbadians tend to repurpose items a lot, and this is noticeable with the beautifully painted tyre gardens in community parks and around homes. Even at our schools you will see teachers repurposing ice cream and formula containers as crayon canisters. At the government level, there are signs, public service announcements, numerous garbage bins, and posters encouraging people to dispose of their trash properly.

If you were a junior environmental minister, what are some activities or rules you would implement?

With such a responsibility,and knowing that most habits start at a very young age, I would implement a new subject within the school system that strictly deals with environmental awareness. Just as children learn maths and English, they would learn how to protect and care for their surroundings and develop a thoughtfulness about preserving the environment. The whole world would benefit.

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Do you have any favourite items that you have up-cycled or repurposed as a form of recycling?

One of my favourite repurposed items is a coconut shell. My aunt sometimes makes coconut oil and uses a lot of them. At my primary school, our theme was “Go Nuts”, and each class had to come up with an idea for how to use materials from the coconut tree. I decided to use the shells as small hanging pots. Thirty students designed and painted their own coconut hanging pots and then planted small herbs in them. It was so lovely to see all those shells being used for something that was beautiful and sustainable.

What tips do you have for people who don’t know much about recycling?

I think we make this thing seem difficult, but it is actually easy. Everyone can do it in their day-to-day lives just by asking themselves some simple questions: do I really need to buy this right now or ever? Can I

repurpose this in some way? It is your way of thinking about things that may need a little tweaking. We only have one earth, and we must all try our very best to protect it.

Apart from your YouTube channel, where can we tune in for Little Thoughts on Big Matters?

As much as my Little Thoughts on Big Matters has travelled the globe, I am still only eleven years old, and I have to listen to my parents. So for now I am only on YouTube, but hope to have my new works showcased at various film festivals locally, regionally, and hopefully internationally.

You have been called the Bajan Greta Thunberg. What does this mean to you? I am Barbados’s Maria Marshall. I believe that we have the same hope of having a safe, clean, and living Earth for all people and animals, but I think our approaches are different.

Watch Little Thoughts on Big Matters on YouTube at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6dguJcEpC-s


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need to know

Must Try St Lucian Easter treats

From bun and cheese in Jamaica to crab matoutou in Martinique, culinary treats are a beloved Easter tradition across the Caribbean. So what do St Lucians look forward to, come Easter weekend? Writer John Robert Lee, with help from his wife Veronica, shares some of the island’s traditional Easter dishes with Shelly-Ann Inniss.

Some Caribbean countries have a go-to cookbook. Is there one in St Lucia? Our favourite St Lucian cookbook is Manjé Kwéyòl: Food Culture in St Lucia. It gives useful information about how our food reflects Kwéyòl culture, and provides recipes for traditional foods and drinks.

What top Easter recipes does it highlight?

Akwa lamowi — which are saltfish accra or bakes — kolédé, and pennépis. Kolédé is an accra made with a mixture of small fish — for example, sardines, or a tiny river fish called twi-twi caught at the river mouth with baskets — and flour batter.

And how would you describe pennépis?

Pennépis, or “penny-a-piece” — or “pain d’épice,” spice bread, as Derek Walcott calls it in his poetry, using 16

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the French spelling — with its strong ginger taste was always a favourite Easter treat — and still is. It is flat, like a large brown wafer, crunchy, with protuberances of the chips of ginger over it. Some say the burning sensation from the ginger will remind you of Jesus’s pain and passion.

Do you have any fond memories around cooking at Easter? I’ll have to consult my wife Veronica for her memories.

What does Veronica recommend for an Easter snack?

She recommends the kolédé, also a confectionary called konfiti patat, and a drink called mango colada. All these recipes are found in the Manjé Kwéyòl cookbook, and no doubt familiar in creative versions to our Caribbean family. I’ll enjoy those, and some pennépis.

Pennépis Ingredients: ½ lb flour ¼ lb sugar ½ cup water ¼ lb fresh ginger Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine sugar and water in a pan. Simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and forms a syrup. Then allow mixture to cool. Peel the light skin off the ginger (you can do this easily by scraping it with a small sharp knife), wash, and grate finely, then add ginger to flour. Slowly add sugar syrup to flour and ginger mixture and form into dough. Do not make dough too sticky. Pull dough into two-inch pieces, and using a rolling pin or a clean one-quart bottle, roll into paper-thin sheets. Put rolled-out dough on greased baking sheets and place in oven. Pennépis are done when they are golden brown, and you have to constantly monitor them because they cook very quickly. Try placing just one sheet in the oven at first — you may find you can just about roll out one while the previous one bakes. Don’t let them overcook, or the sugar might begin to taste bitter. Source: islandeffect.com



need to know

Top Five

The OCM Bocas Prize announcement

T&T’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest thrives online The past year has been a trial by fire — or, more literally, a trial by pandemic — for Caribbean culture, as COVID-19 health regulations, lockdowns, and travel restrictions have resulted in closed theatres and galleries, cancelled concerts and festivals, and general hardship for many who work in creative professions. But some art forms, it turns out, are well suited to this new socially distanced life. Curling up with a good book has long been a solo activity. And while booksellers in many parts of the world report bumper sales figures, literary festivals like Trinidad and Tobago’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest have temporarily reinvented themselves in a virtual format, broadcasting online to regional and international audiences. In its eleventh year, Bocas promises a full programme of online events — from workshops and seminars aimed at budding authors to discussion panels tackling topical issues, and the popular Bios & Bookmarks series, broadcast on Sunday afternoons, where authors read from and discuss their recent books. The highlight is a virtual festival on the weekend of 23 to 25 April, offering two and a half days of sessions where stories and ideas from the Caribbean are front and centre. Here’s our pick of the 2021 NGC Bocas Lit Fest programme — and a sneak preview of what’s in store for book lovers. Writer Vahni Capildeo, chief judge for the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize

The most coveted annual award for Caribbean literature recognises winners in categories for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction — with an overall winner to be announced by chief judge Vahni Capildeo on the evening of Saturday 24 April. Look out, too, for recorded readings by the shortlisted writers.

Imagining the Caribbean future

A high-level debate on the festival’s Sunday morning brings together a distinguished panel representing politics, science, and economics to consider the way ahead for the Caribbean, and answer questions posed by young people from across the region.

A landmark novel turns twenty-five

Published in 1996, the now classic novel Cereus Blooms at Night by Trinidadian-Canadian author Shani Mootoo broke barriers in placing complex queer Caribbean characters at the heart of a story about love and loss. A special event marking the book’s quarter-century anniversary brings its author together with writers of a younger generation to discuss its legacy.

Remembering “Shake” Keane

Vincentian icon Ellsworth “Shake” Keane, who died in 1997, is remembered for both his music — he was a celebrated jazz trumpeter — and his poetry. Writer Philip Nanton brings him to life in a new biography, celebrated with an evening of poems and music.

Celebrating 2021’s new books

Hayley Madden, courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

At the heart of the festival programme, authors of new books share their words and discuss their ideas. Look out for sessions focused on historical fiction, contemporary noir, magic realism, transnational family stories, and more.

For more information on the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, visit bocaslitfest.com. The 2021 festival programme will be launched in March, and virtual events are streamed at youtube.com/bocaslitfest and facebook.com/bocaslitfest

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need to know

Listen In © copyright 2020 splice studios/abigail hadeed, courtesy gillian moor

Everchanging Amanda Choo Quan talks to Gillian Moor about the T&T musician’s long-awaited album “I’m honoured,” Gillian Moor responds. I’ve just thanked her for the interview — one in which, in her soft but precise way, she has guided me through her new album (“It’s the best thing I ever made,” she states). In truth, I should have said it first. Moor’s career started in 1992 as part of Homefront, a trio making a name when rapso could sell out stadiums in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean Sound Basin studio was used to record music by the Notorious B.I.G. and General Grant (instead of for, well, who knows?). Despite the waxing and waning of T&T’s mainstream interest in local, non-soca music, Moor has written and performed on her own for a quarter of a century. She has served as both griot and gatherer, turning venues into confessionals with her raw kaiso-rock — and launching the careers of others through Songshine, an open-mic series she started in 2004 and paused in 2019 due to COVID. Musician and actor Nickolai Salcedo has described it as his “first start.” Documented sparingly, Moor’s songs have mainly been the domain of the stage — ranging from sparkling numbers performed acoustically at festivals (the folksy “Hold on Tight”, for instance), to gritty, vulnerable feminist anthems best heard at a club under cover of darkness (“Half a Heart”). Everchanging, Moor’s new full-length album, is therefore both retrospective and debut. “I have been in the space so long, and yet . . .” she says. In the end, the album — the summation of her career — was made possible partly by a grant from the state-owned enterprise MusicTT, and partly through extensive fundraising. Finally released in July 2020, Everchanging is at once intimate and political, truth-telling about the enduring pain felt by society’s silenced (particularly by women and the underclass). It’s also musically deft, steered by Moor’s piercing vocals — rich and reminiscent of Lilith Fair — and dipping into blues, funk, calypso, and hard rock. This is all the work of Moor and her team, which includes the

producer Ravi Maharaj, a.k.a. a_phake, and musicians Joanna Hussein and Jon Otway. “When we crafted the order of songs, we wanted to take people on a journey that would have a couple of unexpected twists,” Moor explains. “Go dark at some point, come back from that, show heartbreak, show anger, show despair. But it always comes back to hope.” A standout is “Big Snake (War on Crime)”, a rollicking protest anthem that borrows melodically from extempo — replete with sly saxophone — giving way to a harder, trickier rock rhythm over which Moor wryly sings “We gonna lock up all them smokers / Kidnap and murder stop / And give the police endless power / Trust those cops.” “Big Snake,” written long before Black Lives Matter, is testament to the sticking power of astute songwriting. It feels, as does the album, as though recorded live, bringing to mind Moor lit up on stage, baring soul and teeth in a time before. Let Everchanging tell us why it should not take a pandemic to remember Trinidad’s surfeit of talent.

For more information about Everchanging, visit www.gillianmoor.com

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need to know

Courtesy Akilah Watts

Among the emerging artists featured at CaFa 2021 is Barbadian Akilah Watts, who works in media including drawing, painting, and sculpture. Her most recent works touch on issues of race and culture, as well as ideas of belonging and beauty Left Just a Roll and Set (2020, acrylic, 24 x 24 inches) Below Fresh to Death (2020, acrylic, 24 x 24 inches)

On View

For ten years and counting, Barbados’s Caribbean Fine Art Fair (CaFa) has celebrated the region’s visual artists and their role in the international art scene. The fair — which runs this year from 10 to 24 March, virtually and in-person — showcases individual artists and small thematic exhibits by art galleries. One 2021 highlight is a nontraditional exhibit curated by Zoe Osborne of Mahogany Culture Collective, featuring seven up-and-coming Barbadian artists — Brandon K. Best, Alex Gibson, Housing Area, Sydney McConney, Akilah Watts, Chris Rocket, and John Alleyne — at the Exchange Centre Gallery in Bridgetown. Diaspora Dialogue, a CaFa signature exhibit, is also scheduled, including a virtual panel. Look out for work by Dominica’s Earl D. Etienne and Puerto Rican Diogenes Ballester, alongside global diaspora artists from Africa and the United States, and exhibits from US-based galleries Calabar and Ebony Art. 20

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Courtesy Akilah Watts

New Barbadian artists at CaFa

For more information about the CaFA programme and participating artists, visit cafafair.com


courtesy hairouna film festival

need to know

Word of mouth Caribbean stories at the Hairouna Film Festival Vincentian filmmaker Aiko Roudette, director of the annual Hairouna Film Festival, shares her perspectives on contemporary Caribbean film, as HFF makes its virtual debut from 20 to 28 March Each year, when reviewing films submitted for consideration to be screened at the Hairouna Film Festival, we are filled with joy at what we encounter: a flood of films from Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, St Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, and of course St Vincent. Films that are brave, hilarious, and strange. Some are comedies, some are dramas, but they are all love letters to our beautiful region, born from the committed vision of a Caribbean creative. Even those films that deal with darker themes of corruption, envy, or abuse promote ideas of a strength and manner of dealing with hardship that is uniquely Caribbean. These are our Caribbean stories, and they come from the heart of who we are. In Mama’s Story from Barbadian filmmaker Chukwuemeka Iweza — an

official selection for HFF 2021 — the character Ms Unis acknowledges the role of folktales in passing along cultural realities.“Every folk song got a lil bit of truth in it,” she says. Akin to a folktale passed from ear to ear, film is our twentyfirst-century way of transmitting and creating our own cultural truth. In the last decade, filmmaking equipment has become more accessible across the Caribbean, resulting in a steady stream of cultural production that honours, celebrates, and upholds our region. This vision of Caribbeanness brings us together to exchange ideas, bonded through different perspectives on shared experiences. It is the unifying

quality of these films that presents us with great healing potential on a personal and collective level. One of the Hairouna Film Festival’s main objectives is to spread this potential to as many Caribbean people as we can. We consider ourselves an equal opportunities social impact project. Our festival is entirely free, happens outdoors in public places, and travels to approximately eight different Vincentian communities each year. In 2021, we will be virtual, which means that even more people across the region and the world will have the chance to participate. Workshops, screenings, and post-screening Q&As will be held online at the end of March. This year, we will also launch the first ever National Script Writing Competition held in St Vincent and the Grenadines, open to Vincentian nationals, including those living in the diaspora. Finalists will be invited to a three-day writing residency where they will get mentorship from top industry professionals, and the winner will be awarded funds and supported through the production of their short film — bringing another unique Caribbean story into the world.

For more information about the 2021 Hairouna Film Festival and its virtual programming, visit www.hairounaff.org

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bookshelf

This month’s reading picks from the Caribbean Reviews by Shivanee Ramlochan, Bookshelf editor

Inheritance: The Story of a West Indian Family by Ian McDonald (Paria Publishing, 88 pp, ISBN 9789768244437) Prolific poet, essayist, and fiction writer Ian McDonald turns his attentions to chronicling his redoubtable family tree. What might we expect from a veteran Caribbean writer who describes himself as “Antiguan by ancestry, Trinidadian by birth, Guyanese by adoption, West Indian by conviction”? In Inheritance, the worlds of McDonald’s foremothers and -fathers are peppered with exploits, tales of warfare and conquest, entrepreneurship and landed interests. A gold-hued plane propeller hangs in pride of place in St George’s Cathedral, Antigua, a tribute to the Royal Air Force hero after whom the author is named. Yet for every larger-thanlife predecessor, this slim volume heralds quieter matriarchal lives, the vital industry of women, and the voices of those whose records could not be pristinely documented.

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of colour

My Mother’s House

by Katherine Agyemaa Agard (Essay Press, 180 pp, ISBN 9781734498417)

by Francesca Momplaisir (Alfred A. Knopf, 304 pp, ISBN 9780525657156)

“It is possible to spend your entire life searching for something that you miss. / That thing can be a colour.” To approach of colour with a linear, prescriptive architecture of understanding is to be dismayed. What Agard, who has dual GhanaianT&T citizenship, instead presents is labyrinthine, genre-combative meditations on unbelonging, the configurations of racial identity both in and away from “home,” and how the self behaves when it is seeking itself in art, politics, and education. Drawing richly on her family’s histories, Agard summons visual archives, chat exchanges, historical documents, Peter Doig’s Lapeyrouse Cemetery paintings, and postage stamps: all in service of a visionary ethnography. Braiding these cues, signifiers, and markers is the author’s disruptive, poetic text, as confessional as it is curious, as it is remarkably urgent.

In Haiti-born, US-based Francesca Momplaisir’s dark debut, the walls themselves are scorched with terrors. Wielding psychological horror like a truncheon, this tale of an immigrant family’s settlement in New York City twists conceptions of expected diasporan narratives, asking hard and profound questions about what it means to belong, and to where. Pushing anthropomorphic tropes to grizzly limits, Momplaisir rattles the rafters of domestic safety, casting the wildly unlikely protagonist Lucien, whose ambitions morph into his own grotesque undoing in the alleged land of milk and honey. The house, La Kay, is as important as the family she holds within her walls. Momplaisir casts her scrutiny beyond her inhabitants, creating room in her dimensions for wrenching reflections on Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima: both subjects of a brutal America.

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The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé (World Editions, 368 pp, ISBN 9781642860696) Guadeloupean Maryse Condé, who won the famed 2018 “alternative” Nobel Prize (the New Academy Prize in Literature), has remarked that the win placed Guadeloupe more solidly on the global cultural and literary map. The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, translated from the French by Richard Philcox, plants stakes in that specific firmament of world literature, in both satiric and subversive flourishes. In Condé’s visioning of the lives of fraternal twins Ivan and Ivana lies an energetic, compulsive exploration of sibling interdependence and aggressive radicalisation, situated at the divergent triplepronged crossroads of faith, mania, and superstition. Guadeloupe and Mali are front and centre, a canny retooling of the canon to signify the importance of worlds outside the Anglophone metropole.


playlist

This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell

Single Spotlight

Feel Good Playlist, Vol. 1 – Stripped Sessions

Aftermath — Reprise

América Vibra

Payge Turner (Middleman)

Kalpee (FVP Records)

A funny thing happened some months ago. Trinidadborn singer Payge Turner — now based in Seattle, via Kansas — entered the US television competition The Voice and blew the socks off a nation. Not the US, yet, but her own native land — with a voice and posture that point to great things, if curated wisely. On her new single, Turner mines her song catalogue to reprise a ballad that speaks to a kind of traumatic loneliness: “Deep down you cripple the feeling you’re losing your mind / Damn, don’t you replay the pulse of the aftermath.” The song takes a turn from its original acoustic alternative/progressive vibe to develop a more traditional electric rock tinge, progressing towards a denouement that finds peace again. Turner’s voice — which wowed a nation, chauvinistic but clueless of a career — shows signs of power that transcends the easy connection to a soul singer’s sonority. Talk about discovering anew, or the Columbus effect — this song reintroduces island greatness.

Natiruts & Ziggy Marley, feat. Yalitza Aparicio (Sony Music Entertainment Brasil)

When artists strip away the production value of an album — an “unstripped” EP of the same name was released last year — down to just voice and one instrument, the listener becomes part of an intimate dialogue that can go either good or bad. Bad is easy to do, good takes work. Clearly, Trinidadian singer Kalpee has done the work to move the five songs here away from minimalist island pop infused by his Caribbean accent and modern mechanical riddims towards a sonic profile that suggests acoustic chill and mature reflection. His voice is direct and clear, juxtaposing ideally with a guitar at its reverberating best. Here is a chance to do more than just mentally “go tropical.” Instead, listen to the angst and ardour, the adoration and apathy of Caribbean youth. With musical cues suggesting reggae — “Put a Record On” hints boldly at Marley’s “Three Little Birds” — and calypso on “Climb”, the singable lyrics resonate universally.

The ubiquity of reggae music is cemented by the fact that Brazilian reggae band Natiruts (say “natty roots”) asked Ziggy Marley, son of the icon, to share the singing credits on this trilingual song asking for unity in the Americas. Joining the singers is Oscar-nominated Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio of Roma fame, to speak into existence the words that open the song, in Spanish: “We don’t want walls. We are bridges.” Released on the day Donald Trump stopped being US president, this song is a precursor of a kind of hope for a renewed connection within the Americas to values that affect all. Social justice is highlighted in English lyrics by Marley, and in Portuguese by Natiruts vocalist Alexandre Carlo. “Our dreams are so big,” he sings, “they can’t fit in the cellars of this ignorance / And the awareness of what we are and can be is the fire of hope.” The idea of consciousness, of messaging the Third World, has always been at the centre of reggae music. This wins.

I’m Thinking You Should Will The Wolf feat. X.O. Drew (On Lock Records) During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, island artists and songwriters had time to reflect. They had time to record and rejig careers to fit the new space where audiences are now. The evolved sensibility of singersongwriters, capturing these times in short sound bites, is appealing. At just under three minutes, this song — which could be a cautionary tale of breakup confusion and remorse — serves up an island pop groove that belies the singer’s origins. Will The Wolf has transformed from one half of the introspectively acoustic Trinidad pop duo Buffalo & Black to become more than a voice, but an entertainer also using the medium of video to tell stories that tug at heartstrings and show sides of Caribbean life that are sometimes beyond the mainstream. With production from Michael “Tano” Montano, the song percolates at a cool tempo with a modern hip-hop groove.

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explore

Barbados by road

Courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

Barbados is world-famous for its spectacular beaches — but when you’re ready to experience the rest of the island’s natural beauty and cultural riches, there’s no better way than a road trip. A full gas tank, your favourite playlist, and good vibes are all you need to enjoy these three itineraries

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The rugged coast at Bathsheba, one of the classic sights on a drive along the east coast of Barbados

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If you have a

whole day . . . Loud whistles and the clickety-clack of train wheels on a twenty-four-mile track were once familiar sounds through Barbados’s dense canefields, forests, and gullies. Evidence of the island’s Victorian railway — in operation from 1883 to 1937— still spans the former route from Bridgetown to Belleplaine in St Andrew parish. Here’s what you’ll find along the way.

Foursquare Rum Distillery and Heritage Park: cleanse your palate with rum, the island’s pride and joy — after Rihanna, of course. Lively insights about the rum-making process, from sugarcane to bottle, never disappoint. Neighbourhood rum shops: these watering holes pop up along the journey, sometimes with smiling invitations to join a friendly game of dominoes. A casual meal of local fare and a rum punch are recommended for refuelling. Sunbury Plantation House and Museum: constructed in flint and other imported stone for one of the island’s first colonial settlers, it’s the only great house in Barbados with all rooms open for viewing. Hackleton’s Cliff: perched a thousand feet above the sea, with sweeping views of the east coast almost to the northern tip of the island. Ask locals about the associated folktales, which you’ll never forget. The Soup Bowl: dramatic waves frilled with white foam are ideal for surfing competitions in Bathsheba, on the island’s wild east coast. St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway: though not on the old train route, this is a bonus for railway buffs. An actual steam locomotive excursion takes you past the historic great house and ends at Cherry Tree Hill.

st nicholas abbey

soup bowl hackleton’s cliff

Sunbury plantation rum shops

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FourSquare


Courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

A rum tasting at historic St Nicholas Abbey

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If you have

half a day . . . Treasure hunts are only for children — said no one. Barbados is full of scenic vistas, and some say the landscape gets more picturesque the further north you go. There’s plenty to discover —sometimes just around the corner, and in sunken gardens, too.

Arlington House Museum: this elegant threestory eighteenth-century house in Speightstown is full of memories of Barbadian heritage, told through interactive technology. Barbados Wildlife Reserve: roam freely and at your own pace, like the animals in their natural habitat. Green monkeys rustling in the bushes, birds tweeting to each other, and reptiles basking in the sun are just some of the attractions at this sanctuary in St Peter. Farley Hill National Park: majestic in its glory days, this hilltop mansion — now an awesome ruin surrounded by mahogany woodlands — overlooks the east coast. It’s a cosy and shady escape to nature for a picnic, a wedding, and serenity. Hunte’s Garden: once a natural limestone gully, transformed in the 1950s into a lush utopia of miniature secret gardens and rare exotic plants, best admired on a stroll.

barbados wildlife reserve farley hill national Park Arlington house museum

Hunte’s garden

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Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock.com

A profusion of tropical flora at Hunte's Garden

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If you have a

couple of hours . . . If you have just a morning to spare, Bridgetown and its Garrison — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is a must-do. Explore the historic centre of the island’s capital on foot, then head by car through the western outskirts and along the south coast.

Agapey Chocolate Factory: from bean to bar, pleasure your tastebuds with a tour of this cocoa workshop on Hincks Street. Wickham Lewis Boardwalk: a picturesque gateway to the city’s Broad Street, bopping catamaran cruises, and flight-seeing via helicopter tours. National Heroes Square: a prime stage for cultural events in the city against a backdrop of historic monuments and architecture, including the nineteenth-century Parliament Buildings. Drill Hall Beach: just a stone’s throw from the historic Garrison Savannah and its military environs, tranquillity abounds — and so do baby turtles scurrying to the sea.

agapey chocolate factory

National heroes square

wickham lewis boardwalk

bridgetown

Garrison savannah

drill hall beach

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AGF Sri/Alamy Stock Photo

National Heroes Square at the heart of Bridgetown

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Ziad Joseph

offtrack

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Just south of Paria Bay, a short hike into the forest, the river takes a plunge at Paria Falls

Paria bound Trinidad’s north coast, where mountains tumble down to the sea, is home to popular beaches like Maracas and Las Cuevas — but also to littleknown bays accessible only by hiking, plus forest trails, waterfalls, and some of the island’s most dramatic scenery. Nixon Nelson heads out to Paria Bay, one of the gems of the north coast WWW.CARIBBEAN-AIRLINES.COM

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A

bout an hour into the hike to Paria Bay, I lost my sole. More precisely, the sole of my left sneaker. Perhaps it was not entirely unexpected. My favourite and most comfortable sneakers were at least eight years old, visibly tattered, and I’d wondered if they were up to one last big hike. The answer came on an uphill stretch of the trail which recent rain had churned up into a slick of mud. Some prompt bush engineering was called for. Luckily, my companions were an architect and a designer. With a length of wiry vine, a shoelace rejigging, and a few careful knots, my left sneaker was soon sufficiently repaired to get me through the rest of the day, and I could once more turn my focus from the state of my footwear to the spiritraising scenery of Trinidad’s north coast trail.

Matthew Tung

Trinidad’s Northern Range rises abruptly from the sea, creating a dramatic landscape of forested slopes, sheer rock cliffs, and sandy bays

Ziad Joseph

In most Caribbean islands, you can follow almost the entire coastline by paved road. But thanks to overlapping quirks of geography and history, the north coast of Trinidad — a fifty-mile expanse between Scotland Bay in the west and Point Galera in the east — is only partly accessible by road. The island’s Northern Range rises abruptly from the sea, creating a dramatic landscape of forested slopes, sheer rock cliffs, and sandy bays, but the mountains also cut off the north coast from the populous plains to the south. In the nineteenth century, as Trinidad’s agricultural economy shifted from lowland sugar to hillside cocoa and coffee, numerous small estates were established here, connected to the capital, Port of Spain, by boat. But the tiny villages and homesteads dotted along this

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Above The broad sweep of Maracas Bay, Trinidad’s most popular beach

Preparing for the Paria trail Depending on your level of fitness, the hike from Blanchisseuse to Paria Bay should take approximately two to three hours each way. Leave as early as you can, to get started before the hottest part of the day. The trail includes some fairly steep stretches, but nothing too strenuous for a fit hiker. Wear sturdy sneakers or hiking shoes — and consider boots in the rainy season, when conditions can get muddy. A trekking pole or walking stick may be helpful on the includes and declines. You’ll almost cer-

tainly want a sea or river bath at Paria, so wear or bring a swimsuit and lightweight towel. Make sure to bring adequate water — you’ll probably want two litres per person for the entire day. The trail crosses several small streams that are usually safe to drink from, once the water is running freely. Time your departure from Paria to allow enough time to get back to your car. If a full day on the trail sounds too strenuous, you can also get to Paria by boat from Blanchisseuse, though it can be a choppy ride.

Opposite page Sunset at Macqueripe Bay, with the mountains of Venezuela in the distance

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Along the coast Hiking trails, waterfalls, caves — Trinidad’s North Coast has them all, but the top attractions are its beaches. From popular bays with parking, changing, and eating facilities to near-secret coves accessible only by hiking and climbing, this fifty-mile stretch of coastline takes years — or a lifetime — to fully explore.

Maracas Bay Ever popular, and always crowded on weekends, Trinidad’s most celebrated beach is the place for traditional shark and bake — and still manages to be a quiet escape on weekdays

Saut D’eau The trail to this tiny bay starts in the mountain village of Paramin. It’s a challenging downhill trek — and an even more challenging uphill return — but worth it for the sheer tranquillity

Las Cuevas Bay Just a fifteen-minute drive past Maracas, Las Cuevas is quieter and calmer, and better for swimming

Macqueripe Bay This small and perfectly sheltered bay is perfect for swimming — and offers clear views of Venezuela across the Bocas del Dragon. A zipline crosses high above the bay, for the adventurous, and a nearby trail leads to an abandoned satellite tracking station built when Chaguaramas was a US Army base

wild, beautiful coast remained relatively isolated for decades. Then came the Second World War. The British government leased Trinidad’s Chaguaramas Peninsula to the United States to establish a sprawling military base, and residents of Port of Spain were suddenly deprived of their most accessible beaches. In recompense — the story goes — the US Army carved a winding road up through the Northern Range to Maracas Bay, which soon became, and remains, Trinidad’s most popular beach, as famous for its shark-and-bake vendors as for its broad horseshoe of sand. Today the North Coast Road runs past Maracas and Las Cuevas to the village of Blanchisseuse, halfway along the coast. At the island’s northeast-

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Yarra Beach A picture-perfect beach with a small river lagoon. Keep your eyes peeled for the sign along the North Coast Road

Blanchisseuse Named (in French Patois) for the longago washerwomen who bleached their garments on sun-baked river stones, this once sleepy village is now home to a scattering of holiday homes and a couple of modest resorts and restaurants. Marianne Bay is the main beach attraction, and a hike up the river brings you to the celebrated Three Pools

ern tip, the villages of Toco, Grande Riviere, and Matelot are similarly connected to the eastern towns of Sangre Grande and Arima. But the central eleven-mile stretch of coast remains inaccessible by car — a largely unspoiled reach best known to fishermen, hikers, and campers.

C

oming from the west, the hike to Paria Bay starts more or less at the Blanchisseuse Spring Bridge — a historic suspension bridge over the Marianne River. A ninety-minute drive from Port of Spain, the bridge marks the end of the paved thoroughfare and the start of a dirt road which tends in the rainy season to a condition of muddy adventure. The first couple of miles past this point, beach houses perch along the rugged shoreline,


Grande Riviere In recent decades, the beach at Grande Riviere has become celebrated as one of the best places in the world to see endangered leatherback turtles as they come ashore to lay their eggs

Paria Bay The broad beach lined with coconut trees and the perfect waterfall are rivals for the main attraction at Paria

Madamas Bay Some call it the most beautiful beach on the north coast, with its fine sand, clear lagoon, and hills towering behind. It’s also one of the most remote

Matelot In Trinidad, the name of this village is almost proverbial for somewhere far away. It’s the end of the paved road from Toco — “behind God’s back,” residents will tell you with some pride

Toco This quiet, close-knit village strung out along the coast is the closest part of Trinidad to the sister isle, Tobago

Point Galera The Northern Range tumbles into the waves where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean — overlooked by a white-painted Victorian lighthouse

eventually giving way to modest farms. At small Laspor Bay with its rocky stacks, the hike really begins. The trail narrows to single file, and enters what feels like true wilderness. Various hiking guides and websites describe the Paria trail as anything from moderately challenging to difficult. The challenge depends partly on your fitness level and, indeed, partly on the weather — several months into the rainy season, parts of the trail can be a muddy slog. But the topography offers a welcome alternation of uphill and downhill slopes, and long level stretches no more strenuous than a stroll. Experienced Paria hikers know that on the outbound journey, the second of the big “hills” after Laspor is the toughest. Mostly hugging the coastline, with inspiring

Ziad Joseph

Gran Tacarib A couple hours’ hike past Paria, Grand Tac feels a world away from Trinidad’s bustle. Great for an overnight camping trip, or accessible via a (usually rough) boat ride

River meets sea at Yarra

views of glistening water and crashing waves far below, the route occasionally veers inland. It’s all but impossible to get lost — this trail has been well tended for generations. On official maps of Trinidad, it’s even labelled as the Paria Main Road — a name that dates back a century and a half, to

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Right Cathedral Arch frames the view at Paria Bay Below The view from Turtle Rock, along the Paria trail

when the trail was first cut to allow access on foot or by donkey to the old cocoa estates. The sights and scents of the forest change gradually over the months, as different trees move through their blossoming and fruiting seasons — today you catch a whiff of ripe hog plums, another time it might be the musky perfume of a flowering cannonball tree. You can see or hear dozens of bird species flitting through the forest canopy. And it’s easy to spot one of the trail’s most striking wildlife species, the emperor butterfly, its wings flashing a brilliant iridescent blue as it lazily flutters by. Meanwhile the sea breeze never pauses, rustling among the treetops. An hour past Laspor Bay, keep an eye out for Turtle Rock, a gnarled outcropping jutting into the sea. A narrow branch off the main trail descends

Rachel Lee Young

through wind-stunted trees to the giant crag, offering views for miles up and down the coast. It’s the place to pause for a snack, catch your breath, take a selfie or two, before the last stretch of trail. Paria Bay announces itself with the so-called Cathedral Arch, an example of nature’s own architecture and an almost obligatory backdrop for photos. It marks the westen end of the bay, a halfmile sweep of sand and pounding waves. Fill your lungs with sea air, and revel in the view. If you’re tempted to a swim, trek down to the farther end of the bay, where a patch near the mouth of the river is sheltered from the swells and tides. But the day’s adventure isn’t over. You’ll have

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Ziad Joseph

to get back on the trail to experience Paria’s true gem. Halfway along the beach, a sandy trail heads inland before meeting the bank of the Paria River. Clumps of bamboo offer shade, and soon you’ll hear the muffled rush of the Paria waterfall. It takes a bit of a rocky scramble — or a wade and swim — to get to the natural pool where the waterfall cascades thirty feet into cold, emerald-green water. Most days, you’ll have this gorgeous spot to yourself. Flowering trees tower high above the gorge and schools of small fish dart around your knees as you ease your way into the pool. Float away and let the delicious cool soothe your aching muscles. Let your senses free. n

The sights and scents of the forest change gradually over the months, as different trees move through their blossoming and fruiting seasons

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backstory

The miseducation of Merle Hodge Trinidadian writer Merle Hodge began her career by publishing what would become a beloved Caribbean classic, Crick Crack, Monkey, in 1970. Five decades later, as she prepares to publish her third novel, Hodge tells Andre Bagoo what took so long — and what drives her interest in capturing the often confusing experience of Caribbean childhood on the page Photography by Mark Lyndersay

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I

t may be hard for some to picture it, but Merle Hodge was once a schoolgirl. Before she became a doyenne of Caribbean literature — her 1970 debut Crick Crack, Monkey is now considered a classic; Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat calls her “a giant” — she was like one of the children in her books. Each of her novels is an elegant précis of the distortions wrought by colonialism in pre-Independence Trinidad. In that Trinidad, school is no gateway to enlightenment: it becomes the conduit by which the subject is disciplined and punished. “During my student days in England, I went to Denmark from time to time, and worked in a children’s home,” Hodge tells me, in reply to emailed questions. “When we took the children for walks in the woods, they could tell you the name of every tree, flower, or weed along the way. When we read to them from their storybooks, I saw that the stories were peopled by characters who looked just like them. “All of this was in sharp contrast to my childhood experience,” she continues. “These children had a strong sense of who they were, and what that meant. Nobody was suggesting to them that they would be better people if they were somebody else, somebody from a different place. Crick Crack was, to a large extent, a looking back at my childhood from this vantage point.” It is a vantage point relevant to all Hodge’s work. After Crick Crack, Monkey came the novel For the Life of Laetitia (1993); an influential manual on grammar, The Knots in English (1997); and now, fifty-one years after her debut, One Day, Congotay, scheduled for publication in September 2021 by Peepal Tree Press.


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H

odge was born in Curepe, Trinidad, in 1944, one of four children. Like her sisters, she spent time in two households: that of her parents and that of her grandmother. Her grandmother had a separate home, but sometimes visited to take care of the children. (Hodge chafes against the notion of the “nuclear family,” which ignores the fact that, in the Caribbean, children frequently inhabit a network of households.) With the aid of scholarships, Hodge went to Bishop Anstey High School in Port of Spain, then to the University of London, where she studied French language and literature and Latin. She left

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Trinidad in 1962, the very year the country became independent. Crick Crack, Monkey was written between Britain, Denmark, and France. The novel is a bildungsroman, narrated by Tee. After the death of her mother triggers a custody battle, Tee moves between two worlds: the semirural realm of cantankerous Tantie and the urbane sphere of waspish Aunt Beatrice. This movement brings about a clash of intersectional values surrounding class, culture, community, and race. Tee’s “education” is not limited to academics. Soon there are competing claims to her loyalty. By the novel’s last line, as she pays Tantie a painful final


Each of Merle Hodge’s novels is an elegant précis of the distortions wrought by colonialism in pre-Independence Trinidad

visit, Tee looks upon Tantie with disdain: “I desired with all my heart that it were next morning and a plane were lifting me off the ground.” It is a line that resonates, I feel, with the conclusion of V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street, where the unnamed child narrator scornfully looks upon all the characters he has just described, and flees “walking briskly towards the aeroplane.” But Crick Crack’s politics play second fiddle to its stylistic verve. The strength of its prose comes from its perspective: it is written from the view of the child, forcing a distillation. For long stretches, it is clear Tee is yet to come to terms with her

mother’s death (in childbirth) and the subsequent disappearance of her Papa (who, having gone off “to sea,” may have migrated, may have taken ill, may have —). It is not that children are unable to process truth; it is that they find themselves within narratives they cannot control. Pre-destination and fate: these are concerns, to some extent, of all writers. But through these inferences, Hodge questions the future of the Caribbean project itself. The impression is powerful. Similar elements take flight in For the Life of Laetitia, a novel which, published almost two decades after its predecessor, revisits and reverses some of the choices made in Crick Crack. Just as Tee splits into a double character, so too does Laetitia. But while more is at stake in the second book, Laetitia eventually exudes agency and self-determination. “In the late 1970s, I taught [in Trinidad] in a newly built senior comprehensive school,” Hodge says of the origins of her second book. “I set out, I think, to look at the high school experience in the era of Independence — almost two decades in — that had brought on an expansion of secondary education. “In contrast to Tee lifting off to escape and disown her world, Laetitia insists on going home, embracing and claiming her heritage. She has stood up to the classist and racist teacher in defence of her friend Anjanee. In this respect, Laetitia can be seen as a companion novel. Tee’s capitulation is replaced by Laetitia’s resistance.”

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Talking to Merle Hodge Excerpts from the writer’s interview with Andre Bagoo. In recent years, “young adult” fiction has become a big subgenre in the writing world. Your books for me are relevant to all ages, but they could fit into this category nonetheless. Is the “young adult” label useful? Or should we simply focus on the writing and what it achieves? Over the years many people have told me, to my surprise at first, that children from that age upwards have been reading [Crick Crack, Monkey] with interest. World literature contains many novels which employ a child as protagonist, or as seeing-eye, but are not aimed specifically at children. Some of these works appeal to young readers, and some don’t. Child readers might understand and enjoy a piece of fiction at one level and not decipher everything in it. For example, we might read Alice in Wonderland as children and be quite entertained

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by it, but need to read it again as adults to gain a full understanding of issues involved. In the labelling of books by readership, it might be enough to indicate that a book is suitable for readers “of all ages” — your apt formulation — rather than label it categorically into “young adult,” which could perhaps deter adult readers. In your first two novels, children are often treated as pawns or collateral to the agendas of adults, caught up in adults’ egos, ambitions, agendas, prejudices, insecurities, etc. In T&T, we now have a Children’s Authority to investigate violations of children’s rights, but it seems unable to keep up with reports. Looking at current events, do you think we have made enough progress on recognising children as full human beings? Recognising children as full human beings? We have some distance yet to go. Slavery has left its impact on Caribbean culture. Adults may view children with the apprehension that the slave-owner felt about the enslaved — the potential of


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odge has spent decades teaching and lecturing in several countries, administering writing residencies — for twenty years she has led the Cropper Foundation’s biennial writers’ workshop in T&T, alongside Funso Aiyejina — and sitting on a range of key advisory bodies in the Caribbean. Activism has been part and parcel of her career. For example, in 2017 Hodge wrote a letter to the editor of the news website Wired868 after political rhetoric about re-introducing corporal punishment resurfaced. “Let’s leave the children’s well-being out of the politicking, please,” Hodge urged. “In the twenty-first century, to beat or not to beat children is no longer a topic up for debate.” Even her manual on grammar, The Knots in English, makes an impassioned case for distinguishing between Creole grammar and English grammar: “We have a language of our own, and English is another language that we have to learn.” Activism is a central theme, too, in her new novel, which, at the time of our interview, Hodge was still putting the finishing touches on. “All three novels have been written in occasional snatches of time in between other work – studying; demanding day job; activism,” she says. “One Day, Congotay has been about twenty-five years in the making.” The new novel, Hodge explains, is set in Trinidad in the period between 1900 and 1955. The protagonist is Gwynneth Cuffie, a school teacher. Teacher Gwynneth puts her energies

the latter to get out of hand and overpower their owners. Hence the whip and the range of other inhumane punishments devised for keeping the enslaved in check. Hence the strong resistance of adults, right up to the twenty-first century, against abandoning corporal punishment in favour of a non-violent approach to child-rearing. The women’s movement has done enough advocacy to convince most of the population that a man beating his female partner is just as unacceptable as any adult beating any other adult — called “assault” under the law. Yet a woman or man beating a child is seen as natural and necessary behaviour. Advocacy for non-violent behaviour has not had much impact there. Verbal or emotional abuse of children is also quite in order. Some of our interactions with children do suggest that we do not see them as fully human.

“All three novels have been written in occasional snatches of time in between other work,” says Hodge. “One Day, Congotay has been about twenty-five years in the making” into the struggles of her time, such as the battle for political and cultural self-determination and the early labour movement. She also engages in struggles that are of another time: her advocacy for children, and her ideas regarding a woman’s place, go against the grain of mainstream opinion. Gwynneth’s activism is closely interwoven with her personal life, and the novel is as much a glimpse of a people’s history as it is the story of one woman. The classroom of today — with its laptops, tablets, mobiles, online distractions — looks nothing like the classroom of pre-Independence Trinidad. All of Hodge’s novels are time capsules, but they challenge us to ask how much things have really changed. From first to last, her projects manifest the fact that, as formidable as she is today, Hodge is fully aware of, indeed has written paeans to, the wisdom of children. n

how long you take to write? Can you describe your writing process for readers? I don’t have anything as planned and disciplined as a set process, except for a lot of self-critique and rewriting. This ongoing revision might be part of what accounts for long gaps between one book and another. And then, I don’t generally have the whole novel in my head when I begin writing. I’m not sure any writer does. Often an individual scene from somewhere along the chronology of the story will come into my head, and I write it down as soon as I get the time. I don’t have the luxury of writing continuously for any significant stretch of time. What makes the “process” even more haphazard is that sometimes there is time but no inspiration to write. After One Day, Congotay, when is the next novel coming?

Crick Crack, Monkey was published in 1970, For the Life of Laetitia in 1993, and now, three decades later, you’re about to publish a third. What are the factors that contribute to

I might attempt some short stories. I would hate to start a novel and not live to finish it.

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Courtesy Discover Dominica Authority

bucket list

Waitukubuli Trail, Dominica The Caribbean’s longest hiking trail takes you through the stunning landscape of the Nature Island dominica

From Scotts Head in the south to Cabrits National Park in the north, Dominica’s Waitukubuli National Trail runs for 115 miles across the island, through some of the Caribbean’s most dramatic scenery. Opened in 2013, the trail — which bears the indigenous name of the island — is divided into fourteen segments, many of them challenging, each a good day’s hike. For the intrepid, the two-week journey, with overnight stays at villages and campsites, is an unforgettable experience, while more casual hikers can tackle individual segments, many of which run past some of Dominica’s most famed natural attractions.

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Roseau


Courtesy Discover Dominica Authority

Boeri Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, near the Waitukubuli route

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destination

Són city Near the eastern end of Cuba, Santiago is a regional capital, a treasure house of history — and, Donna Yawching writes, the island’s most musical city. The soundtrack is driven by the rhythms of són, she learns — and the soul of Santiago is in its musicians’ fervour for their heritage

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n Calle Heredia, people are dancing. Swirling, swaying, shimmying: complicated patterns of movement turning sound into substance. Underlying it all, the driving rhythms of són, the music that defines Cuba’s eastern provinces. Santiago de Cuba, the regional capital, is beyond a doubt the island’s most musical city. It throbs, day and night, with everything from sexy salsa to romantic bolero; from primal drumming to intricate choral confections. Music — most of it live — exudes from bars, parks, concert halls, patios, even private homes. Rhythm, in this city, is life, and dancing is as inevitable as breathing. Not surprisingly, Santiago and the surrounding Oriente province are the birthplace of són (pronounced “song”), a genre which has branched out in multiple directions, the best known today being salsa. (Cubans, in fact, are somewhat dismissive of salsa, despite its worldwide popularity. “Soneros say that salsa doesn’t really exist,” declares Fernando Dewar, leader of the Septeto Santiaguero, a band which has won two Latin Grammy awards. “Salsa is a movement, not a genre. Són is the trunk of the tree.”)

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Every tree, of course, has roots; and these are what make Cuban music so rich. With its history of Spanish colonialism, the enslavement of Africans, and French immigration, the threads have wound together to create an intricate tapestry of sound that hearts and feet and hips cannot resist. From the soulful bolero to the wicked guaracha, the intimate trova to the compelling conga, the polyrhythms of the various Cuban musical traditions bring joy to a society where life is often hard.

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t the heart of it all, says Juan Carlos Berbes, a specialist at Santiago’s Museo de la Musica, is la trova — music born of one man and a guitar, the trovador, the cantante ambulante. “You could find him on a street corner, a park bench, a barbershop, under a balcony, anywhere.”


Vadim Nefedoff/Shutterstock.com

Looking over the rooftops of Santiago de Cuba to the towers of the cathedral

Trova — clearly an offshoot of the European troubadour tradition — appeared on the Cuban scene around the end of the nineteenth century, with the legendary José “Pepe” Sánchez, who moulded the music into something distinctly Cuban. “It is, in fact, the first genre of real Cuban music to rise up,” Berbes says. “All the subsequent genres come out of la trova, and bear some aspects of it; they took the elements that suited them and created something new. Trova enriches them.” Trova is not, primarily, meant for dancing; it is poetry on the hoof. “The songs tell a tale, a story, something that happened, en una manera pausada: tranquilly, poetically. It is to be listened to.” Drifting from the countryside into the city, trova became less picaresque, picking up a few additional instruments on the way:

Santiago de Cuba is beyond a doubt the island’s most musical city. It throbs, day and night, with everything from sexy salsa to romantic bolero

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Tony Pleavin/Alamy Stock Photo

Són vs salsa So where does salsa come into the picture? Every Cuban dances it, but every Cuban musician declares that his music is són. According to Fernando Dewar, leader of the Grammy Award-winning Septeto Santiago, salsa is “not a genre,” but rather a fusion of styles created in New York, when Latin musicians from various countries and traditions came together to play. A new mix emerged from these collaborations, with hotter rhythms and — for the dancers — quicker turns. Són, I am told, is danced “a contra-tiempo” to the bass, while salsa is danced “a tiempo.” “For someone who doesn’t know the genres, it’s complicated to tell the difference,” says Dewar. “There are many small details.”

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Salsa dancers rehearsing in a courtyard in Santiago de Cuba


Conga Completely separate from the són tradition, conga is nevertheless a vital part of the Santiageuran identity. Far removed from the silly conga lines of American movie tradition, Cuban conga delves all the way back to the roots of the enslaved Africans who were brought to the island by Spanish — and later French — colonials, mostly in the nineteenth century. Conga is essentially an ambulant percussion group: various styles and sizes of African drums beat to age-old rhythms as large crowds shuffle and dance (it’s called arrollando) behind them. Community-based, they came about as accompaniment to the African celebrations and festivals during and after the days of slavery. Today they are an essential part of the annual Santiago Carnaval.

and listen appreciatively, són sweeps you irresistibly to your feet, mojito forgotten on your table as you abandon yourself to the beat. “It invites you to dance,” says Berbes, in the year’s understatement. “The són cubano is the fusion of Spanish and African music,” says musician Ernesto Valera, explaining its infectiousness. “Són is characterised by its cadenza, or rhythm: not too fast, not too slow.” Valera is the leader of the Familia Valera-Miranda, a group famous for being among the region’s earliest performers. Dating back to 1868, this musical family played at rural celebrations and fiestas, passing their lyrics and melodies from generation to generation. Valera views it as his sacred mission to keep the tradition alive. “It’s an obligation,” he says simply.

maracas, clave, a bit of percussion. The poetry became more important than the wandering; today, most Cuban towns and cities have a Casa de la Trova, where this form of music, and its offshoots, are performed. By 1925, trova music was evolving into something more lively, with the appearance on the scene of Miguel Matamoros, initiator of the són and bolero movements. The prolific Trio Matamoros dominated the scene for more than thirty years, generating such standards as “Són de la Loma”, “Lagrimas Negras”, “Alegre Conga”, and “Juramento” — all of which remain popular today, thanks to the ubiquitous music groups that perform them in Santiago’s many bars and patios. The essential quality of són, says Berbes, is that it is bailable — danceable. While trova encourages you to sip some rum

While trova encourages you to sip some rum and listen appreciatively, són sweeps you irresistibly to your feet, mojito forgotten on your table as you abandon yourself to the beat

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his is a sentiment echoed by many of the city’s soneros. There is a widespread consensus that the country’s traditional music needs to be staunchly defended from modern incursions such as the hip-hop–inspired reggaetón, beloved of Cuban youth. “Són has lost strength,” laments Valera. “Reggaetón has invaded. I don’t like it — the lyrics are stupid, empty, gross, insulting to women.” “It is inevitable that the young people are attracted to music coming from different countries,” points out Maria-Mercedes Soto, leader of Morena Són, one of the rare all-female groups. “The outside influence is very strong.”

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Attila Kleb/Alamy Stock Photo

The government, however, has pushed back. “Five years ago, all you heard on the street was reggaetón,” says Berbes. “But now the traditional music has returned and is making a comeback. It is being presented in many venues, all over the place. The authorities want to keep the tradition alive.” And what the Cuban authorities want, the Cuban authorities get. Traditional musical instruments (such as the trés guitar, the clave, the bongos) are now taught in the conservatories, alongside the classical. “Before, the trovadores were street musicians,” says Soto. “Now they have better technical formation.” Her own band is an

There is a widespread consensus that the country’s traditional music needs to be staunchly defended from modern incursions such as reggaetón, beloved of Cuban youth 52

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example, with all her musicians possessing the sought-after Aval de Professionalidad, a performing licence granted only after a stringent audition before an official panel of top musicians. The licence may be essential for the soneros to find work, but as for the music itself — “nuestra musica,” Soto adds with a smile, “ya en la sangre está” (“it’s in the blood”). Today, the heart of Cuban són is the city of Santiago, where bars such as ARTEX and the Casa de la Trova on Calle Heredia offer trova and són (in all its variations: bolero-són, guarachasón, són montuno, són guaguanco) from 11 am to 7 pm daily. The Sala de los Grandes (above the Casa de la Trova) takes over at 10 pm, presenting the larger, louder groups to an enthusiastically dancing audience of locals and visitors alike. The Septeto Santiaguero is a big favourite at this venue — when they’re not busy touring abroad or producing Grammyaward–winning albums (2015, 2018). The group plays “traditional music with contemporary amplification,” says Dewar. “We have to defend the tradition. If we lose this music, we lose the essence of who we are.” n


The instruments of són What creates those unique rhythms, those catchy melodies and complex harmonies? Són throws a couple of unfamiliar instruments into the mix. The clave: Essentially, two short hollow sticks, knocked together to keep time. It looks dead simple, but it is the heart of the music: all the other instruments, and the singers (and the dancers), take their tempo from the clave. “It is the boss,” says Juan Carlos Berbes. The player must have a rock-solid sense of rhythm; if he falters at all, says Ernesto Valera, “puede ser un desastre” (“it could be a disaster”). The clave’s different tempos and rhythms define if a piece is trova, són, bolero, rumba, etc.

The botijuela: This unusual instrument is actually made of clay: an earthenware jar formerly used to transport liquids. Musicians blow into a small hole carved in the side; the low hollow sound emerges through the mouth of the jar. While sometimes used in són, the botijuela is more commonly to be found accompanying the purely African rhythms of the conga.

The quijada (jawbone): Teeth and all! The cleaned and dried jawbone of a donkey or cow, this is struck and shaken, to click and buzz and rattle as part of the percussion. It’s most likely to be found in the more folkloric versions of són.

The trés: This is a guitar like no other, the lead instrument in són. Described by Wikipedia as a “three-course cordophone of Cuban origin,” the trés (“three”) is somewhat smaller than a regular acoustic guitar, and tuned differently. Its six strings are strung in pairs; it is not strummed, but rather intricately picked to support or play counterpoint to the singer. Complex trés improvisations are common; one veteran tresero described his instrument as “the piano” of són.

Opposite page Musicians on Santiago’s Plaza de Dolores

Bildagentur-online/Schickert/Alamy Stock Photo

Right The distinctive trés guitar, lead instrument in són

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snapshot

LPS/Roberto Tommasini/Alamy Live News

Higher and higher

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For years, the title of St Lucia’s most medalled athlete has been held by high jumper Levern Spencer, who first made her mark at the age of fourteen, over two decades ago. Her career is a textbook example of the value of persistence, writes Sheldon Waithe — and her biggest goal, an Olympic medal, still lies ahead

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Levern Spencer at the 2019 Palio Città della Quercia athletics meet in Italy

here’s something to be said for perseverance. Elders know what they’re speaking about when they impart their gems of wisdom to unsuspecting young folk, and the adage of doggedness holds particular value, particularly in the sporting arena. Levern Spencer epitomises this attribute in spades, along with the other maxim of fine wine only getting better — or, in her occupation, higher — with age. The lanky high jumper is the most decorated athlete in St Lucia’s history: that’s across gender as well as time. If that suggests she’s been at the international forefront for many years, then that’s correct — but it’s within the last decade that Spencer has combined talent, skill, belief, and experience to make giant leaps forward at major global athletics competitions. And that’s meant medals by the bucket-load for St Lucia. Spencer’s ability was apparent from her early ventures into athletics at secondary school, but her career has still been a pleasant surprise. “I had no idea sports would take me this far,” she says. “I was just running around, jumping, having fun, but then I broke the St Lucian national record when I was only fourteen. Just breaking it meant that’s something — you can take this up as a career.” The Carifta Games, the annual regional competition that consistently spawns future world-beaters, soon followed. Spencer did not exactly waltz in to take the top step of the podium — rather, it took her three years to finally earn Carifta gold, in 2001. Then something clicked within. The realisation that she could win at that level pushed her to claim a bronze medal at the World Youth Championships in Hungary that same year. It was the further confirmation required to set her on a path to the top. Spencer completed 2001 with gold in the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships. St Lucia took notice, and named her Sportswoman of the Year. No one could have predicted then that she would take that title a further fourteen times (and still counting).

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Jaroslav Ozana/CTK Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Peters won gold at the 2019 World Championships with a throw of 86.89 metres

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or Spencer, representing her nation is a source of both pride and motivation. Her exploits made her an unofficial envoy for years, before St Lucia made it official in 2019, bestowing the title of Goodwill Ambassador. “As I travelled around the world, the question ‘Where is St Lucia?’ is one I’ve had to answer many times,” Spencer says. “And that question is normally asked after I have defeated opponents from so-called big countries. I have always seen my sport as one way of promoting my country.” The support of her immediate family — together with her strong faith and her relationship with numerous sponsors — spurs her forward year upon year, helping to explain Spencer’s

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age-progression equation. However, it’s what she deems her extended family — her nation — that is her biggest motivation, a fact that Spencer revisits consistently. “It is always comforting to know that when you have given of your best to make your country known, your efforts are recognised and appreciated by the people who matter. And that is all of St Lucia,” she says. Spencer looks to her countrymen even when it’s not all medals and titles. “Even when I have been criticised for not meeting expectations, I looked at it as they wanted me to be the best — and so I used that criticism as a stepping stone in my quest to get to the top.”


“There are still goals to be achieved and dreams to be realised,” says Spencer

Fact file Levern Spencer St Lucia High jumper Born 23 June, 1984 Height: 5 feet 9 inches Personal best: 1.98 metres (Athens, Georgia; 8 May, 2010)

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pencer achieved middling results in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 2003 Pan Am Games — her first major competitions — a trend that continued at her first senior World Championships in 2005. But by the time the Commonwealth Games came around again, she was a true contender. By then she was in the US college system, gaining the all-important finishing touches of technical support at the University of Georgia, where she studied health promotion and behaviours. The university has a proud history of producing Olympians in swimming and athletics, and Spencer was determined to be added to that list. “Georgia has really good academics, but also really good coaches,” she explains. “My teammates

“I had no idea sports would take me this far,” Levern Spencer says. “I was just running around, jumping, having fun, but then I broke the St Lucian national record when I was only fourteen” were really supportive. Everybody cheers, even in practice, making it like a competition every time. With the balance of academics, it was a really good place for me.” Graduation was not only literal: on the field she stepped up to a bronze in her second Pan Am Games, and achieved the qualifying mark to attend her first Olympics in Beijing, as part of St Lucia’s three-person team. The standard attained, she began her remarkable decade of achievement and elevation: bronze at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealths, attending her second Olympics in 2012, CAC Games gold in 2014 — then the first really big one, gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Her nation welcomed home their heroine with typical Caribbean revelry, celebrating their first gold medal. Spencer made the 2016 Olympic final, eventually leaping to sixth place, surpassing all expectations. Then she obliterated the field at the 2018 Commonwealths, to banish past disappointments: once again, St Lucia celebrated an unprecedented gold. She continued their party with a second Pan Am gold in 2019.

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t Lucia’s iconic volcanic spires, Petit Piton and Grand Piton, symbolise the ups and downs that led to Spencer’s eventual triumphs: a smaller peak of early success, followed by a trajectory towards the larger peak that truly dominates all as it reaches for the sky. So it’s apt that Spencer enjoys spending time around her island’s iconic landmarks. “I love to climb the Pitons, and walk around the beautiful scenery in St Lucia,” she says. “This twentyyear journey has not been smooth sailing. I’ve had mountains to climb and rivers to cross, but with the help of God, support of my management team, and unfailing love of my St Lucian people, I have pressed towards the mark.” The winner of the high jump at the Rio Olympics was thirty-seven years old. Levern Spencer turns thirty-seven this year. The chance of St Lucia earning its first Olympic medal has never been this good, and when the Tokyo Olympics finally happen, Spencer aims to deliver. “There are still goals to be achieved and dreams to be realised.” There’s that perseverance once again . . . n

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did you even know

Get lit The month of April brings the start of the Caribbean’s literature festival season, with T&T’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest on the weekend of the 23rd to the 25th. Are you a book lover? Think you’re well read in Caribbean literature? Try our trivia quiz, and check your score in the answers below!

1. What was T&T author V.S. Naipaul’s first published book? The Suffrage of Elvira A House for Mr Biswas

courtesy Ingrid Persaud

Miguel Street The Mystic Masseur

2. Which of these authors famously writes under a pen name?

Olive Senior Jamaica Kincaid

Caryl Phillips Dionne Brand

6. Pitch Lake is a book by which of these T&T authors?

3. Which Jamaican author’s debut novel concerns a fateful struggle between two village preachers?

Alfred Mendes Valerie Belgrave

John Hearne Patricia Powell

7. How many Nobel Laureates in Literature has the Caribbean produced?

Marlon James Kei Miller

4. T&T-born Ingrid Persaud (pictured above) recently won the 2020 Costa Book Award for best debut novel, with Love After Love. Her book takes its title from a poem by which Caribbean writer?

Two Three

Lawrence Scott Andre Bagoo

Four Five

8. Aldrick, Sylvia, Fisheye, and Pariag are characters in a novel by which of these writers?

Eric Roach Lorna Goodison

Kamau Brathwaite Derek Walcott

5. Which of these novels was adapted into a BBC TV

Austin Clarke Ismith Khan

Earl Lovelace David Dabydeen

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

The Orchid House, by Phyllis Shand Allfrey

9. And a question for the most faithful Caribbean Beat readers: who is the only fiction writer ever to appear on the cover of the magazine? Check our online cover gallery if you can’t figure it out!

The Ventriloquist’s Tale, by Pauline Melville

Brother Man, by Roger Mais

George Lamming Merle Hodge

series directed by Horace Ové?

Oonya Kempadoo Elizabeth Nunez

Answers: 1 The Mystic Masseur 2 Antigua-born Jamaica Kincaid, whose real name is Elaine Potter Richardson 3 Marlon James, John Crow’s Devil 4 Derek Walcott 5 The Orchid House 6 A trick question! Alfred Mendes published his novel Pitch Lake in 1934, and Andre Bagoo published a book of poems with the same title in 2017 7 Three: Saint-John Perse of Guadeloupe (1960), Derek Walcott of St Lucia (1992), and V.S. Naipaul of T&T (2001) 8 They are all characters in The Dragon Can’t Dance, by Earl Lovelace 9 Oonya Kempadoo — our March/April 2002 issue

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