Category Archives: culture

A Tale of the Magical Calabash

imagesOnce upon a time, three friends, Colin, Kwame and Justine, set out looking for treasure.  Not quite.  They weren’t children playing in the sand.  They were adults who understood that treasure isn’t something you just find.  It’s what you create.  And they certainly knew about creativity:  Colin, the novelist; Kwame, the poet; and Justine, the producer of events from scratch.

So they conjured up this international literary festival and set it in an improbable location, Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.  It would add a whole new dimension to Brand Jamaica!  They named the festival ‘Calabash’.  And they invited the world and his wife to attend.  Mateys were welcome too.  And admission was free.  Whosoever willed could come.

photos_1But why this quirky name?  Well, the festival was going to be held at Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach.  But that’s not a single beach.  It’s a string  of fishing villages: Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Great Pedro Bay and, yes, Calabash Bay.    Colin chose the name to honour the location of the festival.  And calabash also suggests creativity.  As we say, turning our hand to make fashion.

res1_07aThe hardy calabash, from both the tree and the vine, is very versatile.  It has several practical and artistic uses.  In many cultures of the world, the hollowed-out gourd is a water vessel.   And musical instruments are also created with calabash.  For both the sitar from India and the kora from West Africa, calabash is used as a resonator.  So the multi-functional calabash is a brilliant image for a homegrown literary festival that includes musical performance.

‘GLOBALICIOUS’
The twelfth staging of the Calabash International Literary Festival, a month ago, was dubbed ‘globalicious’ by Kwame Dawes, the programmer for the event.  And it certainly was both global and delicious.  The calabash was full to the brim and running over with both literary and musical delicacies.

Calabash2014Logo-300x256The writers came from twelve countries:  Antigua, Barbados, Belarus, England, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland and the USA.  And the musical performers were from Haiti, Jamaica, the UK and the USA.

For me, the most engaging writer/reader was Jamaica Kincaid.   She “shell down di place”, as one of my friends put it.  We’re now so attuned to the culture of the gun that excellence in all spheres of life is celebrated with a gun salute – whether verbal or literal.  A real pity!  Blame it on the military and all those Hollywood movies that big up gun violence.

boutique-hotel-Jakes-Hotel-Villas-and-Spa-St.-Eli-1-8-3-2-thumbA very close second was Salman Rushdie who turned out to be quite different from what I expected.  He was very cool; not at all stuck up.  As another of my wicked friends said, “nothing like a fatwa to keep you real”.  After the festival, I stayed on for a few days at Jake’s.  And the young man who carried my bags announced with quite a flourish that Salman Rushdie had stayed in that very cottage.  I must admit I felt like a groupie.

ngugi_wa_thiongoThen I was so looking forward to hearing Nguigi wa Thiong’o read.  He’s one of the stalwarts of the anti-colonial war on the African continent. Unfortunately, his daughter, Wanjiku, stole the show.  Literally.  She read for forty-five minutes, instead of her allotted twenty.  And her brother Mukoma read for thirty minutes.  So the Big Man had to be cut off soon after he began.  And it was such a powerful story he’d started to tell about coming home from boarding school to find that his village had disappeared.

OPEN MIKE, MAIN STAGE

 One of the highlights of the festival always is the Open Mike.  There are so many entertaining surprises.  Like the farmer and fisherman whose stage name is “The Incredible Steel”!  He rode 48 miles on his bicycle from Jerusalem, Santa Cruz to perform his poem, “The Voice”, in tribute to Tessanne Chin.  He got a standing ovation.  Then there was the cosmetologist, Venise Samuels, who performed a brilliant poem about unconscionable taxation.  So much talent!

Treasure Beach Sc_bc_TreasureB28The only disappointing aspect of Calabash is the lack of comfortable accommodations.  Of course, there’s very little the organisers of the festival can do about that.  After all, Treasure Beach, is a fishing village.  But some of the people in the rental business have rather grand names for very basic lodgings.  ‘Villa’ is a most pretentious word for a small four-bedroom house.  And there are ‘resorts’ that bear absolutely no resemblance to their upscale namesakes.  All you can say in their favour is that they are a last resort if you absolutely can’t find anywhere else to stay.

calabash-2007-stageBut all you really need for Calabash is a place to crash.  If you try to keep up with the programme, you would go non-stop from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. the next day!  And even if there are not too many villas and resorts in the fishing village, there is always the sea.  It’s a magnificent backdrop for the main stage.  I can’t imagine that there’s any literary festival anywhere on Earth that has a better setting.  It’s all in the magical calabash.

 

Dutty Tribal Politics

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Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford’s “unfortunate” apology is quite inadequate. He takes no responsibility for his words. He “got carried away”. I suppose he was possessed by evil spirits (both JLP and PNP) and ended up speaking in tongues: “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an” sey a PNP dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman an’ sey a PNP dat. Some a unnu haffi have on orange fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty Labourite.”

11084282-two-cute-cows-and-three-sheep-on-pasture-with-a-wooden-fence-and-landscape-in-background-1Under the influence of the spirits, Crawford highlights a problem that is particularly troubling for politicians who can never be sure exactly how many sheep they have in their pen. Jamaican voters are a slick crew. They follow you up and down on the campaign trial. They wear your T-shirts. They eat and drink with you and, behind, they don’t just ‘susu pon you’, as Bob Marley warned. It gets worse than that. Many of your apparent followers are not even registered to vote. And even if they are, there’s no guarantee they’re actually going to vote for you. They know they’re free agents.

This is a lesson many politicians, both JLP and PNP, have had to learn the hard way. Don’t trust the size of the crowd! So Damion Crawford’s ‘inspired’ words can be interpreted as a pastoral altar call, pleading with his flock for integrity. If you start to kiss your teeth at the analogy, just substitute ‘Christian’ for ‘PNP’, ‘heathen’ for ‘Labourite’ and ‘church clothes’ for ‘orange’: “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an’ sey a Christian dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman and sey a Christian dat. Some a unnu haffi have on church clothes fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty heathen.”

OUTWARD APPEARANCE

dressMy reformulation of Damion Crawford’s damning words is not intended to let him off the hook. Instead, I want to underscore just how foolish his presumptions are. Neither ‘orange’ nor ‘church clothes’ is a sign of character. A wo/man’s true colours are not the ones s/he wears. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:26, International Standard Version). Politician or pastor, Crawford does not seem to understand that outward appearance is not to be trusted. Dreadlocks don’t signify Rasta. And some baldheads are steadily trodding on the path to Zion.

Another troubling issue is Crawford’s assumption that ‘PNP’ and ‘Labourite’ are permanent identities, fixed by your DNA: you are who you vote for. This conviction sustains tribal politics in Jamaica. Voters are not expected to use their intelligence, selecting the best political representatives in any election cycle. Well, best as far as you can tell. Instead, like a robot, you should simply vote generically for your party, i.e., yourself. Complete lunacy!

Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-your-mouthThese days, it’s so easy to get caught up in tribalism. If it’s not politics, it’s religion. We barricade ourselves in garrisons: we and them; saved and damned; uptown and downtown; queer and straight; green and orange; ‘dutty Labourite’ and ‘plyboard-an-zinc PNP’. (In this instance, Crawford appears to be an equal-opportunity chastiser, talking out of both sides of his mouth). Once you choose your camp, it’s not so easy to change sides. Worse, if you don’t choose a side, you run the risk of being shot at from all angles.

CRAWFORD’S TRUE COLOURS

RobertMontaque20070709C

Robert Montague

JLP Chairman Robert Montague had every right to demand an apology from Damion Crawford for that ‘dutty’ throw-word. He couldn’t allow Crawford to just dish the dirt and get away with it. Montague had to stand up for principle. But it was also a question of party pride. And Montague coudn’t resist the temptation to be tribalist. He had to draw the class card.

36614610In a press release issued on May 27, Senator Montague stated, “We know that generally when the PNP says they love the poor it’s about politics and not development, [sic] but now Minister Crawford has shown his true colours, too. The very same classist behaviour he accuses others of, [sic] is clearly in his heart if the card he draws to make a point, [sic] is one of the worst classist phrases to ever be brought by the PNP into the politics of Jamaica.”

The JLP equivalent of ‘dutty Labourite’ is ‘classist PNP’. Unfortunately, in the tracing match of tribal politics, ‘classist’ just doesn’t have the sting of ‘dutty’. And the reason is quite obvious. ‘Classist’ is English (from Latin); and ‘dutty’ is hard-core Jamaican, with all the authority of a big, phat bad-word. One could easily mistake ‘classist’ for a compliment. It sounds so stush. Not like ‘dutty’.

According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, the noun ‘dutty’ (doti) comes from the Twi language of Ghana. Its primary meaning is ‘soil, earth, clay’. The dictionary makes it clear that ‘there is no necessary sense of uncleanness”. But it concedes that the meaning of the word has been influenced by English ‘dirty’. And, in fact, the second meaning of ‘dutty’ is ‘excrement, dung’.

sexism1As adjective, ‘dutty’ has come to mean ‘dirty’. But it’s much more than physical uncleanliness. In the Jamaican vernacular, ‘dutty’ covers a host of sins. Classism is dutty. Sexism is also dutty. I’m surprised nobody has challenged Crawford’s sexist view of women as lazy predators, waiting for Friday to telephone men for money.  That’s a whole other load of dutty.

Sexual Falsehood Top To Bottom

ninth-280I got several emails last week from angry people trying to persuade me that Dwayne Jones was responsible for his own murder.  His crime was not cross-dressing.  It was deceit. But since the whole point of cross-dressing is to deceive, this distinction really makes no sense.

Some people passionately argued that the men who were deceived into thinking that Dwayne was female were the real victims.  And they had every right to take defensive action.  One woman compared the deceit to rape.  This is how she put it:  “There is an emerging way of telling stories nowadays that lays no responsibility on the victims whatsoever and I don’t get it.

“Dwayne was Jamaican.  Why did he put himself at risk like that? AND!!!! he also put the lives of other men at risk.  If no alarm had been made, some of those other men would have been labelled gay. Some of the men who were wined upon against their will may even have been traumatised for life.   As my friend was when his schoolmates from a prominent Kingston high school raped him”.

But the men who were ‘wined upon’ were quite willing to participate.  Dwyane did not wine on them against their will.  It was not rape.  It was consensual wining.  As far as the men knew, they were not dancing with a man.  Dwayne had become the self-styled ‘Gully Queen’.  It was pure theatre.

Simone Perrotta, Christian ChivuCross-dressing men are not necessarily gay.  And dancing with a cross-dressing man doesn’t automatically put a man at risk of being labelled gay.  Full body contact between Jamaican men is not always taboo.  It’s perfectly acceptable on the sports field. Footballers passionately embrace when a goal is scored.  It’s a ritual of the game.  I know it’s not exactly the same as wining in the dancehall.  But the body language is similar.  It’s just a different dialect.

BLOODY CLOTHS

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of Jamaican men.  But I think a self-confident man could have acted far differently to the outing of Dwayne.  A real man could have made a joke of it. He could have just said, “Bombo claat! Di bwoy good!  Im ketch mi fi true!” And even though Dwyane didn’t have a bombo, the profanity would have been enough of a judgement.

a-dictionary-jamaican-english-frederic-gomes-cassidy-paperback-cover-artThe so-called ‘bad’ word, ‘bombo’ is a perfectly good word of African origin, meaning ‘vulva’.  But like many other elements of African culture in Jamaica, the word has been devalued.  The word shows up in Eric Partridge’s 1949 Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English where it’s described as “West Indian; orig[inally] a negroes’ word”.

Our own Dictionary of Jamaican English, published in 1967, notes that in the Zulu language there’s a similar word ‘bumbu’, meaning ‘pubic region’.   So a cloth for the bombo, like a cloth for blood, is simply a ‘sanitary pad’.  How a clean cloth could become a very dirty word in Jamaica is a whole other story.

And talking of cleaning cloths, I got an informative email from a Jamaican living abroad: “When I first came to Asia, I noticed that many men carried a small packet of wet wipes.  I asked what it was used for.  I learnt only Muslims did this. I learnt that they used it in the bathrooms to wipe their penises to ensure there was no dribbling after they passed urine. Urine on clothing is considered unclean and it is avoided like the plague.”  So our male cross-dressers at Caribbean Fashion Week do have a point.

LETTING THE COCK OUT

rooster-prev1230259193QKMb3gAll of the angry email-writers stopped short of saying that Dwayne should have been put to death.  They couldn’t quite go there.  But none of them laid any blame on the woman who let the cock out of the bag.  I think she should have taken a less scandalous approach.  She could have called Dwayne aside and said something like this:  “Hey bwoy!  Yu mad! Yu no know dem man wi kill yu if dem find out?  Mind yu self!”  But she didn’t.

Dwayne’s deception is an extreme version of the sexual games people play all the time.  These days, women have mastered the art of deceit.  They completely reengineer themselves:  false hair, false eyelashes, false nails, false breasts, false bottoms, false everything.  You can actually buy panties in local stores with padded bottoms.  And men have been known to stuff their briefs, especially when the contents are very brief.  A most wicked falsehood!

Picking up a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ at a dance is a very risky business. You really don’t know if you’re going to get fish or fowl.  It’s a big chance you take.  And as for online dating, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.  People just lie, out and out.  I’m amazed by the statistics you hear on American television about all the marriages that dating services have arranged.  I keep wondering about the divorce rates.

Before

I got a most intriguing email about a Chinese man, Jian Feng, whose unnamed wife gave birth to a rather ugly baby, in his opinion. The child looked like neither parent.  Feng assumed the child was a ‘jacket’ and accused his wife of adultery.  But that was not her abomination.  The rather plain woman had done extensive plastic surgery to make herself beautiful.  Genes don’t lie so the baby came out looking like the ‘real’ mother.

article-2223718-15B43F0C000005DC-575_306x423Jian Feng filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife had deceived him. He won the case and was awarded US$120,000 – more than  the US$100,000 his wife had spent on plastic surgery.  I suppose if Feng had been a certain kind of Jamaican man he would have batter-bruised his wife physically.

But divorce, in this case, is emotional abuse.  Why couldn’t Feng have lived with the fact that his wife simply wanted to be beautiful?  In much the same way, Dwyane Jones just wanted to be the gully queen.  Death is a very high price to pay for that forbidden desire.

JTA Bark An Bite

There are two spelling systems used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

  • CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING
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Doran Dixon

Mi sorry fi JTA. Inna disya hard time, govament waan cut tiicha pay! No sah! Notn couldn’t go so. Mi do understand wa mek Doran Dixon an Paul Adams ha fi a bawl out. Yu can’t sidong mek mongrel daag rush-rush yu an waan bite-bite yu up. Yu ha fi run di daag! Worse if di daag look like seh it deh pon cocaine! Dixon seh JTA a no no likl puss weh fraid fi mongrel.

Puss an daag no av di same luck. Govament can do an seh anyting dem waan. But teacher no fi seh notn. Dem fi just sup it. Dat can’t right. All Bible tell yu seh yu no fi provoke yu pikni to wrath. To rahtid! An JTA a no govament lickle pikni. Dem a big smaddy. Dem have chat.

Inna fi wi Jamaican language wi love use metaphor an simile fi describe how wi feel. An mi no waan nobody lost dem pass come tell mi seh ‘metaphor’ an ‘simile’ a no fi wi Jamaican word. If English can tief so much word from Greek, Latin, French, not to mention fi wi owna Jamaican language, wa mek we can’t tief too? Pon top a dat, wi no ha fi use no label fi talk bout how wi talk. Wi no ha fi seh, ‘Dis a metaphor.’ Wi just dweet.

When Paul Adams seh, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, dat a metaphor. How im fi go know if di minister deh pon drugs fi true? Im no mean it dat way. Fi real. Im mean to seh, di minister sound like seh im lik im head. Im no righted. Or like wi seh inna one next metaphor, it look like duppy a follow him. Di minister nah behave normal.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

Same way when Dixon throw word bout mongrel, a bex im bex. An im right fi bex. An im know weh im a seh. Yu mighta no like di metaphor im use. But yu ha fi admit seh im mek im point. Di best joke, though, inna Jamaica, daag-mongrel an man-mongrel a two different kind a mongrel. Daag-mongrel a di bad-breed mongrel weh no got no pedigree. Wi mek up nuff proverb bout dem deh careless mongrel. Tek for instance, “Sorry fi mawga daag, mawga daag turn round bite yu.”

images-2Man-mongrel now, dat a one different-different story. Dem deh mongrel a di high-class mongrel. A dem run tings inna Jamaica. Look pon ‘Page 2′ inna di lickle beenie nyuuspiepa. A deh so yu see man an woman mongrel. Dem mix-up mix-up. Dem a no so-so black; an dem a no so-so white. Dem a no so-so Chiney or so-so Indian. Dem a lickle a dis an lickle a dat. Dem a ‘outa many, one smaddy’. Dem a di real-real tapanaaris Jamaican. An plenty so-so black people love mix up wid dem an gwaan like seh dem a mongrel fi true.

Anyhow, mi no know a which mongrel Dixon did a talk bout. Like a spite, it could a go two way inna dis ya case. If me was di minister, mi would a just go wid di man-mongrel an no bodder nyam up miself. After all, every daag have im day an every puss im 4 o’clock.

  • PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Paul Adams

Paul Adams

Mi sari fi JTA. Ina disya aad taim, govament waahn kot tiicha pie! Nuo sa! Notn kudn go so. Mi du andastan wa mek Doran Dixon an Paul Adams a fi a baal out. Yu kyaahn sidong mek mongrel daag rosh-rosh yu an waahn bait-bait yu op. Yu ha fi ron di daag! Wos if di daag luk laik se it de pan kokien! Dixon se JTA a no no likl pus we fried fi mongrel.

Pus an daag no av di siem lok. Govament kyahn du an se enting dem waahn. Bot tiicha no fi se notn. Dem fi jos sop i. Dat kyaahn rait. Aal Baibl tel yu se yu no fi provuok yu pikni tu raat. Tu raatid! An JTA a no govament likl pikni. Dem a big smadi. Dem av chat.

Ina fi wi Jamiekan langwij, wi lov yuuz metafa an simili fi diskraib ou wi fiil. An mi no waan nobadi laas dem paas kom tel mi se ‘metafa’ an ‘simili’ a no fi wi Jamiekan wod. If Inglish kyan tiif so moch wod fram Griik, Latn, French, nat tu menshan fi wi uona Jamiekan langwij, wa mek wii kyaahn tiif tu? Pan tap a dat, wi no ha fi yuuz no liebl fi taak bout ou wi taak. Wi no ha fi se, ‘dis a metafa’. Wi jos dwiit.

Wen Paul Adams se, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, dat a metafa. Ou im fi go nuo if di minista de pan jrogs fi chruu? Im no miin it dat wie. Fi riil. Im miin tu se, di minista soun laik se im lik im ed. Im no raitid. Aar, laik wi se ina wan neks metafa, it luk laik dopi a fala im. Di minista naa biyiev naamal.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

images-5Siem wie wen Dixon chruo wod bout mongrel, a beks im beks. An im rait fi beks. An im nuo we im a se. Yu maita no laik di metafa im yuuz. Bot yu a fi admit se im mek im paint. Di bes juok duo, ina Jamieka, daag-mongrel an man-mongrel a tuu difran kain a mongrel. Daag-mongrel a di bad-briid mongrel we no gat no pedigrii. Wi mek op nof pravorb bout dem de kielis mongrel. Tek far instans, “Sari fi maaga daag, maaga daag ton roun bait yu.”

Man-mongrel nou, dat a wan difran-difran tuori. Dem de mongrel a di ai-klaas mongrel. A dem ron tingz ina Jamieka. Luk pan ‘Page 2′ ina di likl biini nyuuspiepa. A de so yu si man an uman mongrel. Dem miks-op miks-op. Dem a no suoso blak; an dem a no suoso wait. Dem a no suoso Chaini ar suoso Indyan. Dem a likl a dis an likl a dat. Dem a ‘out a meni, wan smadi’. Dem a di riil-riil tapanaaris Jamiekan. An plenti suoso blak piipl lov miks op wid dem an gwaan laik se dem a mongrel fi chruu.

Eni-ou, mi no nuo a wich mongrel Dixon did a taak bout. Laik a spait, it kuda go tuu wie ina disya kies. If mii woz di minista, mi wuda jos go wid di man-mongrel an no bada nyam op miself. Aafta raal, evri daag av im die an evri pus im 4 a’klak.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

pan_logoI’m sorry for the JTA. In these hard times, the government wants to cut teachers’ pay! That can’t be right all. I certainly understand why Doran Dixon and Paul Adams had to protest. You can’t carelessly allow a mongrel dog to rush you and try to bite you all over. You have to shoo the dog! Worse if the dog looks as if it’s on cocaine! Dixon said the JTA is no pussy cat that’s  afraid  of mongrel dogs.

Cats and dogs aren’t equally lucky.  The government  can do and say anything it wants. But teachers mustn’t say anything.   They just have to put up with it.  That can’t be right. Even the Bible says you mustn’t provoke your children to wrath. Hell, no!  And the  JTA isn’t the government’s little child.  Teachers are adults. They have the right to speak out.

images-3In our Jamaican language we love to use metaphors and similes to describe how we feel. And I don’t want anyone to make the mistake of telling of me that  ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’ are not really  Jamaican words. If English can steal so many words from Greek, Latin, French, not to mention our own Jamaican language, why can’t we steal too? Furthermore, we don’t need to use a label to define how we use language. We don’t have to say, ‘This is a metaphor’.  We just do it.

When Paul Adams says, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, that’s a metaphor. How can he know if the minister is really on drugs? He doesn’t mean it literally.  What he’s actually saying is that the minister sounds as if he’s not thinking straight.  He’s lost it. Or, as we say in another  metaphor, it’s as if a spirit is stalking him.  The minister isn’t behaving normally.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

In exactly the same way,  when Dixon provocatively used the word mongrel, he was angry.  And he had every right to be.  And he knew exactly what he was doing. You mightn’t  like the metaphor he used. But you have to concede  he did make his point. The best joke, though, is that in Jamaica, canine mongrels and human mongrels are  very  different breeds. Canine mongrels have no pedigree.  And there are lots of proverbs about those low-class mongrels. For instance, “If you take pity on a hungry dog  it will turn on you and bite you.”

images-9Now, human mongrels are a completely different story. They are high-class breeds.  They are the elite of Jamaican society.  Look on ‘Page 2′ in the tabloid newspaper.  There you’ll find lots of  human mongrels, both male and female.  They are mixed breed.  They are not fully black; and they are not fully white. They are not fully Chinese or fully Indian. They are a little of this and a little of that.  They are  ‘out of many, one person’.  They are the genuine, top-class  Jamaicans. And lots of ‘pure’ black people love to mix with them and get on as if they, too, are really mongrels.

Anyhow I don’t  know which breed of mongrel Dixon was  talking about. Quite contradictorily, it could go both ways in this case. If I were the minister, I would just go with  the human mongrel and  not bother to get upset. After all, every dog has its day and every cat its own time.

 

Every Hoe Have Dem Stick A Bush

hoeThere are two spelling systems used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

soulmateA so old-time people seh. An a no so-so farm work dem dida talk bout. A man an woman business. Everybody have fi dem owna match. Hoe an stick wi find dem one anodder.

But tings an times change. Inna dis ya time, an a long time now, a no ongle hoe a look fi dem stick; an stick a look fi dem hoe. Stick a look fi stick; an hoe a look fi hoe. An some stick an hoe a look fi stick, hoe, front-end loader, backhoe, all kind a farm tool fi do di work, wid hand an machine!

images-2A no no problem fi me if di stick an di hoe dem join up ascorden to fi dem preference. Mi no business. A fi dem business. Di big problem a when di stick an di hoe hitch on pon one anodder an dem no match.  Last week Sunday, mi get one distressful email from one woman. Mek mi call her Precious. She did have one boyfriend fi 14 year. An she come fi find out seh im dida stick on pon one next man. She never know seh fi im stick never waahn no hoe.

Mi feel it fi her. Precious seh when she read di column, ”Straight’ Wives At Risk’, a di first time she bawl since April 10 when she mek up her mind fi lef di man. She seh, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had.”

images-3Pon top a dat, even though Precious did suspect di man, she never decide her mind fi go do no HIV test. She fraid. She never waahn know seh she ketch anything from im. Yu see, dat a one a di big problem wid di low-down down-low man dem. If yu no careful, dem wi carry yu down wid dem. Yu gone under cover an yu fraid fi deal wid reality.

Anyhow, mi tell Precious fi bawl. Dat wi help wash off her heart. But so-so bawling not enough. Mi warn her seh she ha fi go do HIV test. An a no it one. A nuff more: herpes (1 & 2), hepatitis (B & C), gonorrhoea an syphilis. If yu tink bout all a di disease dem yu can ketch from sex – straight or bend up, wid or widout condom – yu mighta no bodder at all, at all.

REV Clinton ChisholmPing Pong

Rev. Clinton Chisholm

Then, mi put Precious in touch wid Debbie Thomas-Brown from the South Florida Connects support group. Ongle to discover, Precious did done find di website. She dida look fi help. By di way, mi hope some a unu did hear Debbie pon Rev Clinton Chisholm ‘Morning Watch’ radio programme pon Love FM Thursday gone. She good can’t done. An she a come on back 7 c’clock tomorrow morning.  Mi a encourage Debbie fi come a Jamaica fi gi one workshop fi straight spouse. Mi a go help her look sponsor. If any a oonu have any contact, oonu can email me.

Later down inna di week, mi get one lovely email from Precious. She go down a Comprehensive Health Centre pon Slipe Road an do di HIV test. God be praised, it negative. An she a go back go do di rest a di test dem. Mi a hope an pray di whole a dem come out negative.

An mi a wonder bout all a di odder Precious dem out deh, weh know from di bottom a yu heart seh yu man naa play straight. Yu fi follow backa Precious an lef di man pon di down-low. An lift up back yuself. Ongle yu can free yuself from mental slavery.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

A so uol-taim piipl se. An a no suo-so faam wok dem dida taak bout. A man an uman bizniz. Evribadi av fi dem uona mach. Uo an stik wi fain dem wan anada.

images-1Bot tingz an taimz chienj. Ina dis ya taim, an a lang taim nou, a no ongl uo a luk fi dem stik; an stik a luk fi dem uo. Stik a luk fi stik; an uo a luk fi uo. An som stik an uo a luk fi stik, uo, front-en luoda, bakuo, aal kain a faam tuul fi du di wok, wid an ahn mashiin!

A no no prablem fi mi if di stik an di uo dem jain op azkaadn tu fi dem prefrans. Mi no bizniz. A fi dem bizniz. Di big prablem a wen di stik an di uo ich aan pan wan anada an dem no mach. Laas wiik Sonde, mi get wan dischresful iimiel fram wan uman. Mek mi kaal ar Precious. Shi did av wan bwaifren fi fuortiin ier. An shi kom fi fain out se im dida stik aan pan wan neks man. Shi neva nuo se fi im stik neva waahn no uo.

Mi fiil it fi ar. Precious se wen shi riid di kalom, ‘Straight’ Wives At Risk’, a di fos taim shi baal sins Iepril 10 wen shi mek op ar main fi lef di man. Shi se, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had.”

Intuition-Two-26408605_S-570x570Pan tap a dat, iivn duo Precious did sospek di man, shi neva disaid ar main fi go du no HIV tes. Shi fried. Shi neva waahn nuo se shi kech enting fram im. Yu si, dat a wan a di big prablem wid di luo-dong, dong-luo man dem. If yu no kierful, dem wi kyari yu dong wid dem. Yu gaan aanda kova an yu fried fi diil wid riiyaliti.

Eniou, mi tel Precious fi baal. Dat wi elp wash aaf ar aat. Bot suo-so baalin nat enof. Mi waan ar se shi ha fi go du HIV tes. An a no it wan. A nof more: erpiiz (1 & 2), epataitis (B & C), gonariiya an sifilis. If yu tingk bout aal a di diziiz dem yu kyan kech fram seks – schriet ar ben op, wid ar widout kandom – yu maita no bada at aal, at aal.

Den, mi put Precious in toch wid Debbie Thomas-Brown fram di South Florida Connects sopuort gruup. Ongl tu diskova, Precious did don fain di websait. She dida luk fi elp. Bai di wie, mi uop som a unu did ier Debbie pan Rev Clinton Chisholm ‘Morning Watch’ riedyo pruogram pan Love FM Torzde gaan. Shi gud kyaahn don. An shi a kom aan bak 7 aklak tumara maanin. Mi a enkorij Debbie fi kom a Jamieka fi gi wan wokshap fi schriet spous. Mi a go elp ar luk spansa. If eni a unu av eni kantak, unu kyahn iimiel mi.

images-4Lieta dong ina di wiik, mi get wan lovli iimiel fram Precious. Shi go dong a Comprehensive Health Centre pan Slipe Road an du di HIV tes. Gad bi priez, it negitiv. An shi a go bak go du di res a di tes dem. Mi a uop an prie di uol a dem kom out negitiv. An mi a wanda bout aal a di ada Precious dem out de, we nuo fram di batam a yu aat se yu man naa plie schriet. Yu fi fala baka Precious an lef di man pan di dong-luo. An lif op bak yuself. Ongl yu kyahn frii yuself fram mental slievri.

ENGLISH

SOULMATE-HeartThat’s what the old folks said.    And they weren’t talking about just farming.  It was sex as well.  Everybody has a soul mate. Hoes and sticks will find their fit. But things and times do change.  These days, and it’s quite some time now, it’s not only hoes that are looking for their sticks; and sticks looking for their hoes.  Sticks are looking for sticks; and hoes are looking for hoes.  And some sticks and hoes are looking for sticks, hoes, front-end loaders, backhoes, all kinds of farm tools for manual and mechanical work!

It’s not a problem for me if sticks and hoes connect however they choose.  That’s not my business.  It’s theirs.  The big problem is if the sticks and hoes get stuck and they’re not compatible.  Last Sunday, I got a distressing email from a woman.  Let’s call her Precious.  She’s had a boyfriend for all of fourteen years.  And she’s just discovered that he’s gay. She didn’t know he wasn’t into women.

I felt her pain.  Precious said when she read the column, “‘Straight’ Wives At Risk”, it was the first time she cried since April 10 when she made up her mind to leave the man.  She said, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had”.

gettestedAnd even though Precious did have her suspicions about the man, she couldn’t bring herself to do an HIV test.  She was scared. She didn’t want to know if she’d been infected by her partner.   That’s one of the big problems with low-down, down-low men.  If you’re not careful, they will carry you down with them. You go under cover and you’re afraid to deal with reality.

Anyhow, I told Precious she should cry.  It’s therapeutic.  But crying isn’t enough.  I advised her to get tested.  And not just the HIV test.  There are many more: herpes (1 & 2), hepatitis (B & C), gonorrhea and syphillis.  If you were to think about all the sexual diseases you can contract – doing it straight or bent, with or without a condom – you probably wouldn’t bother at all.

Then, I put Precious in touch with Debbie Thomas-Brown from the South Florida Connects support group.  Believe it or not, Precious had already found the website.  She’d been looking for help.  By the way, I hope some of you caught Debbie on Rev. Clinton Chisholm’s “Morning Watch” radio programme on Love FM last Thursday.  She was excellent.  And she’ll be coming on again at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.  I’m encouraging Debbie to come to Jamaica to do a workshop for straight spouses.  I’m going to help her find sponsorship.  If any of you have contacts, you can email me.

41K750RkBBL._SL500_AA280_Later in the week, I got a lovely email from Precious.  She went to the Comprehensive Health Centre on Slipe Rd. and did the HIV test.  God be praised, it was negative.  And she’s going back to do all of the other tests. I’m hoping and praying they’ll all be negative.  And I keep wondering about all of the other women who know in your heart of hearts that your man isn’t playing it straight.  You should follow Precious’ example and leave the man on the down-low.  And lift yourself back up.  Only you can free yourself from mental slavery.

‘Straight’ Spouses At Risk

images-1No matter how hard I try to filter out spam, I end up getting all sorts of unwanted email messages: fraudulent appeals from friends supposedly stranded abroad who need large sums of money to help them come home; sales pitches from China offering goods and services I don’t need; notices that I’ve won huge sums of money in lotteries for which I don’t even have a ticket. You know the usual thing.

The most interesting bit of unsolicited mail I got last week was from South Florida Connects, Inc. Its tag line is ‘No Straight Spouse Left Behind: Straight Spouse Awareness’. The language is old-fashioned, but the issues are current. The website reveals that “You are a straight spouse if you are a heterosexual individual married to or dating someone who is secretly gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered.”

images-2I immediately wondered how you would know that your allegedly heterosexual partner is not what he or she appears to be if his/her double life really is a secret. That’s the trouble with being an English teacher. You constantly pay attention to the meaning of words. All the same, I suppose secrets have a way of slipping out, especially if the spouse in hiding secretly wishes to come clean.

The website offers the assurance that “[i]t is better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a dangerous lie”. Then again, proverbial wisdom advises that “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”. Anyhow, I called the number on the website (954-815-6563) and left a voicemail message.

Ian Boyne

Ian Boyne

PAINFUL RELIGIOUS HARD TALK

The night before I got the ‘straight spouse’ email, I watched ‘Religious Hardtalk’, hosted by Ian Boyne. It was painful. I saw my friend Annie Kitchin valiantly trying to engage in intelligent conversation with the Rev Clinton Chisholm. She had a hard time. Rev Chisholm defines himself as a “Christian apologist”. This is not the same as an apology for a Christian. Annie declared herself to be an atheist.

The problem with being an apologist for any cause is that you often end up appearing irrational. Even if, as in the case of Rev Chisholm, your cause is proving the rationality of Christianity! An apologist takes a position and refuses to budge. On the subject of homosexuality and the Bible, the good reverend seemed unwilling to concede that the laws of Leviticus which sentence to death perpetrators of “unnatural” acts are unconscionably outdated. Well, that’s how it sounded to me.

images-4Annie was on form, completely dismissive of the backward view that all Old Testament laws have validity in modern times. She systematically demolished Rev Chisholm’s arguments. But, of course, he may not agree. In any case, it is precisely this hanging on to irrelevant biblical codes of conduct that makes us so unwillingly to accept the fact that the human rights of all homosexuals in Jamaica ought to be protected under the law. Not only those whose class privilege usually gives them immunity.

And just as the rights of lesbians, all-sexuals and gays need to be protected, so too ‘straight’ people should be protected from the guile of deceitful spouses. We need a ‘straight spouse’ support group in Jamaica. It’s the flip side of J-FLAG. I searched the Internet to see if we already had a support group here. I ended up right where I started: on the South Florida Connects, Inc website.

NO SEX ON HONEYMOON

Debbie Thomas-Brown

Debbie Thomas-Brown

Debbie Thomas-Brown, a Jamaican nurse and former schoolteacher, founded the association based on her own experience and the fact that her research showed there was no support for immigrant straight spouses like her. Right off the bat, she said the fundamental problem is that Jamaica makes being gay a crime. Our society does not allow gay people to be their authentic selves. So many pretend to be heterosexual for an easy life.

Their spouses pay the price, especially innocent young women raised in Christian homes who have little sexual experience and no point of comparison to measure their spouse’s performance – or lack of it. Debbie told me about a young couple who had no sex on their honeymoon. The husband had absolutely no interest. Then the wife caught him with a huge erection, pleasuring himself with the help of gay porn. You can just imagine how she felt.

images-8Deprived of sex, neglected wives start to believe that something is wrong with them. Their husbands tell them they are too thin or too fat. They are just not sexy. In some instances, their husbands have sex (with them) only once a year. Debbie argues that gay men tend to marry women with low self-esteem, who often have anxieties about their attractiveness.

Another target group is women in service-oriented professions who have been trained to keep secrets: nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers, lawyers and police. They are not likely to ‘out’ their partners. And if the women do confront their husbands in private, even with very good evidence, the men usually accuse their wives of being ‘crazy’. And the women start to doubt themselves because that’s the last thing they really want to believe.

images-9I learnt that there’s a Grindr app designed for gay men that facilitates quick hook-ups. It’s available all over the world. Say you’re in the National Stadium at a football match and you send out a message that you want a ‘Canadian’. In the jargon, that’s an uncircumcised penis. In two twos, the app will locate several willing members nearby. It’s as easy as that.

Debbie said she would love to be a guest on ‘Religious Hardtalk’. She has a particular burden for Christian women who get caught in relationships with men on the down-low. And it’s not only women who are conned. Heterosexual men also end up marrying lesbians in the church. Finding a ‘good’ man or woman in the house of the Lord is not as straightforward as we once thought it was. Over to you, Pastor Boyne!

Alpha Boys’ School Get New Logo

Prof. Hubert Devonish, Co-ordinator, Jamaican Language Unit

Prof. Hubert Devonish, Co-ordinator,
Jamaican Language Unit, UWI

There are two spelling systems used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

ABS-NEW-LOGO-REDBig press conference keep up a Alpha yesterday fi show off di new logo fi di school. A long time now Alpha deh bout.  Inna 1880, Miss Jessie Ripoll buy 43 acre a land pon South Camp Road.  An she set up di Alpha Cottage fi look after poor people pikni. Fi di first, she did ongle tek een girl.

Inna 1884, Miss Ripoll decide fi start tek een boy pikni weh a gi trouble.  So dem seh. Plenty time a no di pikni dem a gi trouble.  A trouble tek dem.  Any way, Alpha school tek een di pikni dem an try wid dem fi keep dem outa trouble.

Inna 1890, govament gi permission fi Alpha turn ‘Industrial School’ an gi four shilling an eight pence fi di week fi di pikni dem, one-one. Dem time deh, a twelve pikni inna di school. Di pikni dem learn from book an dem learn fi use dem hand.  All a di pikni dem ha fi learn a trade.  Di school have a print shop, a woodwork shop, a tailor shop an a music shop.

lAn a music build up Alpha name over di year dem! A nuff-nuff big-time musician come outa Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart an nuff-nuff more!

SKATALITES

holy-trinity-cathedral-jamaica1Di Alpha band start up inna 1892. Dem deh time, dem dida play drum an fife.  Den inna 1908, di school get some brass instrument from di Roman Catholic bishop. An a deh so dem buss out!  Come on to 1911, di band so good, di boy dem lead di march go a North Street fi bless Holy Trinity Cathedral.

An a so dem a gwaan.  Inna 1953, Alpha put on di first military parade fi honour di Queen coronation.  An dem keep up one big show, “March to Nationhood”, fi celebrate independence inna 1962.  Di Skatalites band form inna1964, an a four a dem come from Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling an Don Drummond.

So hear how Alpha get new logo.  By di way, ‘logo’ a di pet name fi ‘logogram’.  Dat deh word mek up outa two Greek word – ‘logos’ an ‘gram’.  Logos mean word an gram mean enting weh draw or write, all like di letter dem inna di alphabet.  Dat simple mean, logo a di picture fi di word.

Freestylee-500pxMichael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, one top-a-top Jamaican graphic artist, im draw one beautiful picture fi represent Alpha:  one lickle yute a blow im horn.  An yu can see seh di pikni feel im owna strength an know im power di way im a hold di horn.   Michael did put di picture inna di show weh dem did keep a National Gallery fi di “International Reggae Poster Contest” weh im did organize wid a next graphic artist, Maria Papaefstathiou, weh come from Greece.  When di head a Alpha, Sister Susan Frazer, see Michael poster, she know seh a it dat.  An a so Michael gi Alpha leave an licence fi use fi im ‘gram’ fi dem ‘logo’.  Rispek due!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

images-3Big pres kanfrens kip op a Alpha yeside fi shuo aaf di nyuu luogo fi di skuul. A lang taim nou Alpha a gwaan.  Ina 1880, Mis Jessie Ripoll bai 43 ieka a lan pan South Camp Ruod.  An shi set op di Alpha Cottage fi luk aafta puor piipl pikni. Fi di fos, shi did ongl tek iin gorl.

Ina 1884, Mis Ripoll disaid fi staat tek iin bwai pikni we a gi chrobl.  So dem se. Plenti taim a no di pikni dem a gi chrobl.  A chrobl tek dem.  Eni wie, Alpha skuul tek iin di pikni dem an chrai wid dem fi kip dem outa chrobl.

Ina 1890, govament gi pormishan fi Alpha ton ‘Industrial School’ an gi fuor shilin an iet pens fi di wiik fi di pikni dem, wan-wan. Dem taim de, a twelv pikni ina di skuul. Di pikni dem lorn fram buk an dem lorn fi yuuz dem an.  Aal a di pikni dem a fi lorn a chried.  Di skuul av a print shap, a udwok shap, a tiela shap an a myuuzik shap.

images-4An a myuuzik bil op Alpha niem uova di ier dem! A nof-nof big-taim myuuzishan kum outa Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart an nof-nof muor!

Di Alpha ban staat op ina 1892. Dem de taim, dem dida plie jom an faif.  Den ina 1908, di skuul get som braas inschroment fram di Roman Catholic bishop. An a de so dem bos out!  Kom aan tu 1911, di ban so gud, di bwai dem liid di maach go a North Schriit fi bles Holy Trinity Cathedral.

SKATALITES

SkatalitesAn a so dem a gwaan.  Ina 1953, Alpha put aan di fos militeri paried fi ana di Kwiin karanieshan.  An dem kip op wan big shuo, “March to Nationhood”, fi selibriet indipendens ina 1962.  Di Skatalites ban faam ina1964, an a fuor a dem kom fram Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling an Don Drummond.

So ier ou Alpha get nyuu luogo.  Bai di wie, ‘logo’ a di pet niem fi ‘logogram’.  Dat de wod mek op outa tuu Griik wod – ‘logos’ an ‘gram’.  Logos miin wod an gram miin enting we jraa ar rait, aal laik di leta dem ina di alfabet.  Dat simpl miin, logo a di pikcha fi di wod.

Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, wan tap-a-tap Jamiekan grafik aatis, im jraa wan byuutiful pikcha fi riprizent Alpha:  wan likl yuut a bluo im aan.  An yu kyahn si se di pikni fiil im uona chrent an nuo im powa di wie im a uol di aan. Michael did put di pikcha ina di shuo we dem did kip a National Gallery fi di “International Reggae Poster Contest” we im did aaganaiz wid a neks grafik aatis, Maria Papaefstathiou, we kom fram Griis.  Wen di ed a Alpha, Sista Susan Frazer, si Michael puosta, shi nuo se a it dat.  An a so Michael gi Alpha liiv an laisn fi yuuz fi im ‘gram’ fi dem ‘logo’.  Rispek djuu!

http://www.reggaepostercontest.com/

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

ABS-NEW-LOGO-FINAL-CRVA big press conference was held at Alpha yesterday to unveil the school’s new logo. Alpha has been around for quite some time how.  In 1880, Miss Jessie Ripoll bought 43 acres of land on South Camp Road.  And she set up the Alpha Cottage to care for the children of the poor. At first, she took in only girls.

Then in 1884, Miss Ripoll decided to start taking in boys who were giving trouble.  Well, that’s what was said. Many times it’s not really the children who are giving trouble.  It’s actually a case of trouble finding them.  Anyway, the Alpha school took in the children and worked with them to keep them out of trouble.

In 1890, the government recognised Alpha as an ‘Industrial School’ and gave an allowance of four shillings and eight pence per week for each of the children. In those days, there were twelve pupils in the school. The students got both academic and practical training.  All of them had to learn a trade.  The school had a printery, a joinery workshop, a tailor shop and a music school.

images-6And it’s music which established Alpha’s reputation over the years! A lot of great musicians have come out of Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart and many, many more!

SKATALITES

The Alpha band started in 1892 as a drum and fife corps.  Then in 1908, the school got some brass instruments from the Roman Catholic bishop. And that’s when the band took off!  By 1911, the band was so good, the boys led the procession to North Street to dedicate the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

skatalites-logo-blk-300x264And they just kept on going from strength to strength.  In 1953, Alpha put on the first military parade to mark the coronation of the Queen.  And they mounted a huge show, “March to Nationhood”, to celebrate independence in 1962.  The Skatalites band was formed in1964, and four of them come out of Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond.

So this is how Alpha got its new logo.  By the way, ‘logo’ is an abbreviation of ‘logogram’, which is made up of two Greek words – ‘logos’ and ‘gram’.  Logos means word and gram means an image, like a letter of the alphabet.  Simply put, a logo is a picture representing a word.

Michael put his picture in the show that was kept at the National Gallery for the “International Reggae Poster Contest”.  He co-organised the contest with another graphic artist, Maria Papaefstathiou, from Greece. http://www.graphicart-news.com/

When the principal of Alpha, Sister Susan Frazer, saw Michael’s poster, she knew instantly that that was it.  And that’s how Michael came to give Alpha permission to use his ‘gram’ for their ‘logo’.  Rispek due!

Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson to speak at UWI

Freestylee-500pxMichael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, co-founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest, will speak about his work as a politically engaged graphic artist on Thursday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Neville Hall lecture theatre (N1) at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  Thompson, a Jamaican who now resides in the U.S., is a distinguished graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

In an interview posted on the Jamaica Primetime website, published June 7, 2010, Thompson highlights the cultural and political messages in his poster art:  “My graphic designs, and in particular my posters like the ones on Flickr draw their influences in terms of style from the retro Cuban Revolutionary Poster of the 1960s. The “golden age” as that period is called. The aesthetics and communication are based on the principle that “simple is best” and the message is king. The designs can be placed in the category of modern iconic art with strong political or social messages.

saudi2.jpg.w300h405“These types of activist or socially conscious art are now becoming main stream; made popular by artists like Bansky and Shepherd Fairey whom I admire greatly. My designs are quite varied, depending on the poster type and whether it is political or cultural, regional or international. I tend to lend a voice to issues which I feel passionate about, such as injustice against indigenous people, environmental exploitation and poverty.

“However, I also touch on Jamaica’s rich historical and cultural past. Jamaica’s musical experience is a treasure I just cannot ignore; Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. My style is also deeply rooted in Jamaican popular symbols mostly from the iconic years of the 1970s. I take those images from Jamaica’s urban visuals and turn them into cool posters of our time. Images include hand carts, skates, Honda 50s, s-90 (Honda motorcycle), Rastafarian lion of Judah etc; turning them into hip international visual icons, anything that is retro Jamaican was fair game.

“I try to keep the designs crisp with a minimalist feel yet visually powerful. I always retain a fresh and direct approach to my designs. I illustrate all the elements and just roll with it in a freestyle way. The political side of my art plays a big role in my design collection. They speak on the burning international issues and conflicts. The Israeli attack on Gaza and the wider Israeli Palestinian conflict, the US embargo on Cuba, Healthcare, Police brutality, Exploitation in the Amazon, Freedom, Anti War and Peace, Tibet, and Globalization. I guess I am an internationalist at heart and so is my art”.

Alpha-Boys-SchoolThompson recently designed and generously donated a logo for the Alpha Boys’ School which has nurtered several generations of Jamaican musicians. Sister Susan Frazer, RSM, Director of the school, first saw the illustration of the boy playing the trombone that would become Alpha’s logo at the ‘World A Reggae’ exhibition held at the National Gallery of Jamaica in September 2012. “The moment I saw Michael’s work and the image which is now the Alpha logo I instantly knew it would fit perfectly with our history and our vision for the future at Alpha,” remembers Sister Susan. “The logo has really become not just about branding but a catalyst for collective action across the Alpha community”.

An exhibition of Thompson’s reggae posters is on show at the UWI Museum. These posters were used in the design of the Global Reggae book, edited by Carolyn Cooper.  Maria Papaefstathiou, a Greek graphic artist who co-founded the International Reggae Poster Contest, designed the elegant book:

http://www.behance.net/gallery/Global-Reggae-Book/7627493

Dr. Suzanne Francis-Brown, curator of the museum, says Thompson’s exhibition has attracted a lot of positive attention, both for the vibrant graphics and for the reggae music content. Visitors have been intrigued by his visualisation of the music from its early days through to its global incarnations. The exhibition remains up through the month of April, in tandem with an exhibition on the Origins of the University of the West Indies.

michael-thompson-freestylee-i-am-tivoliThe UWI Museum is located on the ground floor of the University’s Regional Headquarters on the Hermitage Road, across from the main entrance to the Mona Campus.  Opening hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  On the 18th of April, the Museum will remain open until 6:30 p.m. to facilitate visitors on their way to Thompson’s talk.  He will speak on the subject, “Freestylee:  Artist Without Borders”.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Protoje to lecture at UWI

Protoje20130220CThe Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies, Mona continues our series of ‘Reggae Talks’  on Thursday, March 28  at 7:00 p.m.  This week’s  featured guest is Protoje.  He will speak on the topic, “Music From My Heart”.  The venue is the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre in the Faculty of Humanities and Education.   Copies of his latest CD, “Eight Year Affair” will be on sale for $1,000.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Who’s In Charge of the Rompin’ Shop?

Hot_Dancehall_Queen_by_answer973March is International Women’s Month.  It’s a good a time to talk about sexual politics in dancehall culture which is often dismissed by outsiders as misogynist. But dancehall culture can be seen in a quite different way as a celebration of full-bodied female sexuality.  Especially the substantial structure of the Black working-class woman whose body image is rarely validated in the middle-class Jamaican media!

The uninhibited display of female bodies in the dancehall is vividly illustrated in the lyrics of two foundation deejays whose endurance is legendary: Shabba Ranks and Lady Saw.   References to fleshy female body parts and oscillatory functions should not be seen just as devaluation of female sexuality.

32349In “Gone Up,” from the As Raw as Ever 1991 CD, Shabba, playing on the proverbial association between food and sex, notes that the price of a number of commodities is going up.  To a chorus of affirmative female voices, he asks women a rather pointed question and proceeds to give advice on negotiating a mutually beneficial sexual contract:

Woman, wa unu a do fi unu lovin?

(Wi a raise it to)

Before yu let off di work

Yu fi defend some dollars first

Mek a man know seh

Ten dollar can’t buy French cut

No mek no man work yu out

A body line, old truck.

‘Everything a raise’

images-2Shabba makes it clear that he’s not advocating prostitution. The complicated relationships between men and women cannot be reduced to purely economic terms of exchange. He insists that men must assume responsibility for their sexual partner.  It’s a moral issue:

Is not a matter a fact seh dat unu a sell it.

But some man seh dat dem want it.

As dem get it, dem run gone lef it.

No mek no man run gone lef it

An yu no get profit

Everything a raise, so weh unu a do?

Shabba encourages robotic, domesticated females to stand up for themselves. They are often too timid to question the unequal exchange of services and resources in the household:

Have some woman gwaan like dem no worth

Hitch up inna house like a house robot

House fi clean, dem clean dat up

An clothes fi wash, dem wash dat up

An dollars a run an dem naa get enough

Shabba chastises irresponsible men who waste household resources on carousing with their male cronies:

IcyMint32x405g100ctNow yu have some man no want do no spending

Dem wuda do di spending pon dem bredrin

An naa buy dem darling  a icymint.

An icymint is one of the cheapest sweets on the market. The depth of the delinquent man’s failure is measured in very common currency.

Erotica or pornography?

Lady Saw would certainly not put up with this kind of cheap man. In a decisive act of feminist emancipation, she cuts loose from conventional social expectations. Marian Hall’s spectacular performance of the role of “Lady Saw” is not often acknowledged as a calculated decision by the actress to make the best of the opportunity to earn a good living in the theatre of the dancehall.

images-3     Flamboyantly exhibitionist, Lady Saw embodies the erotic. But one viewer’s erotica is another’s pornography. So Lady Saw is usually censured for being far too loose—or “slack”. Even worse, she is often dismissed as a mere victim of patriarchy, robbed of all power. But it is Lady Saw’s anansi-like personality that appeals to a wide cross-section of intelligent fans – both male and female.

In addition to the sexually explicit songs for which she is infamous, Lady Saw’s repertoire includes impeccable hymns, country and western laments, songs of warning to women about the wiles of men and politically “conscious” lyrics that constitute hardcore socio-cultural analysis.

pa-4942810In a radio interview in the “Uncensored” series on Fame FM, Lady Saw boldly countered charges of vulgarity with absolute self- assurance:

Interviewer: Lady Saw, you do things like, yu grab yu crotch on stage. . . .

Lady Saw: Uh huh. Michael Jackson did it and nobody say anything about it.

Interviewer: And you gyrate on the ground. I mean, do you think this is acceptable for a woman?

Lady Saw: Yes, darling. For this woman. And a lot of woman would like to do the same but I guess they are too shy.

Shyness is not one of Lady Saw’s virtues. In response to the question, “Some people are saying that you are vulgar on stage and your lyrics are indecent. Do you think they are justified?”, she dismissively asserts: “I think critics are there to do their job and I am here to my job . . .  to entertain and please my fans.”

Aphrodisiac Avocado

So who’s in charge of the rompin’ shop? In the case of Shabba Ranks and Lady Saw it’s a clear draw.  And, not so surprisingly, even the frontrunners of the reggae revival are singing rompin’ shop songs. Last Thursday evening, Janine ‘Jah9’ Cunningham gave a brilliant lecture at the University of the West Indies, Mona, tracing her musical journey to her first CD, New Name.

images-4One of Jah9’s sweetest tracks ‘bigs up’ her ‘humble lion’ who is almost seven feet tall and wears size 14.  He satisfies her with the ‘right remedy’:  avocado. The aphrodisiac qualities of this fruit are well known.  At the album launch at Redbones, she put on the mask of her sunglasses to sing “Avocado”.

Jah9’s lecture was the first in a series of ‘Reggae Talks’ that are being hosted by the Department of Literatures English. Protoje will give this week’s lecture on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre (N1).  No-Maddz, Cali P and Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson follow.  The public is invited and admission is free. The reggae dancehall rompin’ shop has many rooms.