Author: Keryn Nelson

“Caribbean actors in Hollywood movies do not inspire me”

I love movies but, currently, seeing Caribbean actors in Hollywood movies does nothing for me

I anticipated BlackPanther’s release so much that I may have been the only local to have noticed the release date changed three times; from February 16, to the 22, and then the 21. I was livid, by the way, the day I noticed it was pushed back to February 22, noting that here in the Caribbean, we would be among the last–certainly the last in the African diaspora– to see it. On February 21, when by chance I logged in to the Caribbean Cinemas website and saw it was showing a day earlier, I joked with friends that it was a must that I be amongst the first on island to see the movie because no one deserved it more than I did (Marvel fans don’t fight me, it was really a joke, although I am also always one to say; people often disguise truths as “jokes”) but my reason for wanting to see it may differ from most.

Cast and Crew

In 2016, when I learned Chadwick Boseman was playing Blackpanther in Captain America Civil War, I dragged myself to the cinema to go watch a superhero movie—Superhero movies are not my least favourite but they certainly are not my most. Needless to say, I was a Chadwick Boseman fan. I had seen him in Get On Up, 42, even his smaller roles in movies like Draft Day, and as one of the few black faces in the tragically whitewashed “Gods of Egypt.” Ofcourse Boseman shone as BlackPanther in Civil War, and when Marvel confirmed the character would lead his own film, you guessed it, my non-superhero movie watching self was through the roof.

Months later, I discovered Ryan Coogler would direct BP which would also star Lupita N’yongo and Michael B Jordan alongside Boseman. It was not N’yongo’s impressive portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave or her other roles in The Jungle Book, Star Wars or as the flight attendant in Nonstop (yeah, I caught that one too) that had struck me most about the Kenyan actress. But more so the elegance, intelligence, class and sensuality with which she moves through the world all while cloaked in humility and “realness.”

Jordan on the other hand, caught my attention for less noble reasons. The crush I developed after seeing Chronicle for the first time ran deep. I was elated when I spotted him in the fourth season of the series Friday Night Lights. Although it has been over 6 years and fully healed from my crush, I had along the way watched Red Tails, That Awkward Moment, Fantastic Four, Creed and Fruitvale Station for more of Jordan’s magnetic, star power. The latter two movies mentioned however bring me to the most significant of reasons for my interest in BlackPanther; they were both directed by Ryan Coogler.

I learned of Ryan Coogler after watching Fruitvale station— the Director’s first feature film out of film school. I was hooked then, not by Hollywood glitz and glamour, but Fruitvale station told the compelling story of the deceased Oscar Grant who was unjustly shot dead in Oakland by police. I learned through interviews with Coogler and his leading cast that the film had received critical acclaim and picked up the Audience Award and Grand Jury price at the Sundance Film Festival as well as several other awards around the world. The fact that Coogler had made such an impact, right out of film school with a small budget was reason enough to follow his career. I would follow his career to when he made Creed. Coogler appears to move throw the world with a sense of purpose, naive millennial confidence coupled with a healthy amount of self-doubt, which I sense may very well be the driving force behind his pragmatic film-making style. The logistics behind his films are identifiable, yet seamless– he is a unique talent, one any young filmmaker would view as an inspiration.

Seeing Black Panther for the first time

When I made it to Caribbean Cinemas on February 21, Wednesday night, straight from work, I was there mainly for the cast and crew. All of whom ofcourse, did not disappoint.

My favourite character in the movie was Shuri. I fangirled over her coolness, her intelligence, her strength, and this was before I learned the actor playing her was Guyanese.

Both Letitia Wright and Winston Duke – actor behind M’baku, who now has a large group of female admirers– were heralded in Caribbean circles, primarily on social media, for their Carbbean heritage (Duke being “Trinibagonian”). When I learned of it, I too, proudly relayed the information to my family and friends and the news was met with pleasant surprise. But upon watching interviewe related to the film, I noted that both actors had left the Caribbean before the age of ten.

Opportunity

When atleast one parent is from the Caribbean, a child is bound to grow up identifying heavily with Caribbean culture but what they may not identify with is the actual physical limitations of living on a rock, or a dot on a neighbouring continent with similar history and setbacks. Caribbean people too, have dreams. We, as children, grew up watching movies like everyone else, and some of us developed a deep seeded desire to make and be in them as well. But for many of us, our dreams come to an abrupt halt once we leave secondary school and the impracticality of surviving on a passion forces us to change course simply because there is absolutely no avenue or opportunities for growth nor rewards for your natural expertise. You also have what feels like 0 resources at your disposal. The few of us who remain adamant about pursuing our interests ofcourse then, look for the easiest way to book a flight out. Will the time ever come when leaving will not be the only option?

Our creative industries often see the dark halls of inconsistency as ideas come and go; intiatives start, thrive then end— the money to keep them going never a certainty. We simply do not have the platforms to fortify our talents; to give artists that feeling of accomplishment, even after productions and projects begin, run and end. In a world where the American voice and accomplishments are so loud and bright, they penetrate our world at all angles and make our initiatives seem small, and overlooked by the wider public. Where as small towns in foreign places may have community theatres, where paid acting work may be only a bus or train ride away, here in the Caribbean, you better learn fast how to make your own oppurtunities.

Moving on, anyway

As we often do, we learn to press on. There are still creatives churning, working, growing, throwing things on the walls and hoping they stick. The Leila Janah quote “talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not” often comes to mind when I think about Caribbean actors, filmmakers, directors and the like. Everyday, the number of persons pursuing their interest in film seems to grow here, especially with the rise in festivals, workshops, competitions and clubs. Information regarding the ease with which films can be submitted to local, regional and international festivals is reaching more people. We all look forward to that time when travelling will not be a necessity for working on craft, but only the positive result of hard work, opportunity and achievement.

Full Fine Art – An Interview with Georgia Fullerton

Georgia Fullerton was drawn to artistic expression as a young girl living Jamaica. Years later, now based in Toronto, she has found her footing and embraces the mantle that comes with living life as a full time creative. As we prepared to close the curtain on 2017, while Fullerton readied herself for a coming art exhibit in her home country; Jamaica, she fit us into her schedule and gave us the opportunity to get to know her, her art and her journey.

“Ackee, no saltfish” by Georgia Fullerton

I am always interested in a person’s artistic journey, can you tell me about yours? When did you start painting & drawing? And, when did you decide to build a career from this?

Georgia: My journey in art began, from what I can remember, at age 2 when my mother was still in Jamaica (my birthplace), preparing to come to Canada. My father was already in Alberta, securing a teaching job and finding a home for the rest of the family. My parents would write letters back and forth and in one particular letter I had scribbled a small ‘note’ to my father. It was my first markmaking as a young artist. Moving through my school age years I spent time on my own drawing but the original inspiration to came from my mother, who in the mid-seventies got her Masters of Education at the University of Calgary and brought home many lithograph prints and drawings. I would sit and look through her work and conduct my own critiques and sometimes title the works for her. My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to pursue areas in the arts. In 1983 I enrolled at Red Deer College in Alberta and studied visual arts with a specialization in Printmaking. Transferring to York University’s Fine Arts Department in 1985 I received my Bachelor of Arts degree and began my working career in the print industry. I learned and succeeded in multiple areas of print production; from apparel printing, offset printing to leading edge digital print on demand and direct mail marketing. After an 18-year career in print production my desire to pursue my passion for visual arts led me to put aside the nine to five and focus on becoming a full-time artist. As it is, we artists wear many hats and I am no different as an arts educator, facilitator and an expressive arts therapist; a new direction.

How has your art evolved throughout the years? (What themes did you explore before and which ones do you do now?) And why?

Georgia: My earlier work was mostly portraits and figurative in theme. Using acrylic paints, I would focus on people who made some kind of impact on my life, like my family members, exlovers and others who were part of my journey. The figurative works were inspired by my own curiosity with the human form. Also because in college and university I was heavily involved in sports, I grappled with the duality in my art of “the artist and the jock”. Today I consider myself to be an abstract expressionist artist, as my style has changed to a more intuitive way of conceptualizing and painting. I still paint with primarily acrylics and use found objects like wood, hair, fabric and plant life to add texture and play to my art. The themes in my work today explore the self, healing from trauma and the relationship that occurs between artist, image and the liminal space between them. My work delves into the psychology of art and relationship.

The Absurd Beauty By Georgia Fullerton

Correct me if I’m wrong but, your latest work seems to be mostly Abstract Expressionism, what lead you to make that artistic choice? (If not, then feel free to still explain why a large part of your collection is Abstract Expressionism)

Georgia: Yes that story is one I find myself telling each time I’m asked to do an artist talk or present at a school or community event. Back in 2010 I was the victim of domestic abuse and that experience not only changed my life and sense of self, but also was what changed my artistic style. The result of this one-time abusive situation found me back at the matrimonial home of my exhusband who allowed me to stay there until I “sorted myself out”. The six months I stayed there with our daughter, I spent a lot of time in the spare bedroom surrounded by canvasses, paints, brushes and my memories of the recent trauma I suffered. It’s here that I began to view my relationship with art differently. I started to use my art therapeutically and my paintbrush became my healing stick. As a result of this awakening, I created 3 large pieces that exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in the largest group show at a major venue featuring artists of Caribbean and African descent. It was a turning point for my art and my impending career. I was introduced to a new type of therapy known as Expressive Arts Therapy. Throughout my training in this form of therapy, my studio work began change to abstraction and unearthed a more intuitive approach to art-making. I began to focus more on the process than the end product.

There is a lot of beauty and soul in your Portrait and Figures pieces. What inspires these most?

Georgia: These pieces always come around because of an emotion that I feel from someone I’ve had communication with. It’s a simple representation of a feeling or thought around an experience I’ve had with someone or something. The element of surprise is the existence of bold sensuality and sometimes eroticism in some of these images and their expression.

‘Femask’ by Georgia Fullerton

Q: Femask and Maskulyn in particular, can you explain the vision and choices behind them?

Georgia: Like so many of my early works, there is always a back story to the back story. The inspiration with these two paintings came from an exhibition theme called MASK (Scotiabank Caribana exhibition; Blue Dot Gallery, Toronto). This duo expresses the idea of the masculine and feminine sensibilities through the lens of sexual dominion and role reversal. ‘Femask’ accentuates the strong, beautiful, and sensual energy of a female inspired mask. The male counterpart is the painting ‘Maskulyn’ that fuses a masculine figure with the seemingly more feminine act of crying in an attempt to show that regardless of the temporary mask or masks we wear, expressing who we are and what we feel brings forth both feminine and masculine traits.

‘Within reach’ by Georgia Fullerton

“The healing impact of the arts on the human experience,” seems to be important to you. Can you expound on that? (Why do you feel that way?)

Georgia: I think we live in a society today that at times overlooks the inclusion of the arts as a way to address the global concern of human suffering. Mental health/mental illness as topics are ‘trending’ in the world today, and I feel that with social justice issues and our obsession with technology; for example, people are missing the importance of using creativity as a way of healing and gaining greater self-awareness and overall wellness. I also make that statement because I have experienced art and art-making as innately therapeutic. My mission is to be a messenger in communities where the arts is overlooked or not viewed as something that can help us in our attempt to live a whole and healthy life!

I also like to ask successful Artists to share a bit of advice or words of encouragement with others who are considering that path. Can you share one key lesson or life mantra you adopted along your journey, that you think helped you a lot?

Georgia: Be open to discovery and change in your artistic career and use everything you encounter as a resource to developing your practice. I’m a big believer in what I call creative cross-training; where exploring the use of other modalities of art can enhance, and open up new pathways of ‘seeing’ and relating to your primary form of artistic expression. I’ve learned that from my work in expressive arts therapy, that movement, using voice, writing or playing an instrument, has informed and inspired my visual art and brought it to a new creative level. My vision puts a spotlight on a world where play and imagination through the arts leads to overall wellness. I love the quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” To add to this beautiful vision, in my own quote I say, “It’s in that place of non-judgment where art expands the possibilities.”

What is next on your journey?

GENERAL

• I plan on continuing to practice and promote my original art and build my brand FULL Fine Art in 2018. The continued support of community helps to keep me grounded and engaged with marginalized populations, continuing to offer therapeutic arts programming and give back to my community.

• Expand JustGeorgia® my arts-based business that delivers therapeutic arts workshops in community settings and helps to stifle the stigma surrounding mental health in marginalized communities.

• Bring Expressive Arts therapy programming to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean.

SPECIFIC

• A live painting and mini-exhibition event, Christmas 2017 at Living Spaces-Fine Furniture & Accessories in Kingston, Jamaica.

• Partner with the City of Toronto SPARK Funding program from May to October, 2018, as part of the city’s Cultural Hotspot community arts initiative.

• Assist in the creation and facilitation of a new Art and Health Program at TAIBU Community Centre in Toronto.

• Begin the process of becoming a registered psychotherapist with the College of Psychotherapist of Ontario

• In the future to partner again with The Royal Ontario Museum for their Friday Night Live events.

• Continue to develop The Imaginative Language of Art Program™ (The ILA Program™) a therapeutic arts program for young and old with learning differences. I anticipate a combination of individual and collaborative opportunities in my future, that will keep me living artfully!

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Georgia works out of her home studio in Ajax, Ontario, Canada

website: www.fullfineart.com

contact: info@fullfineart.com

 

The Essence of the West Indies Captured in 16 Songs

The Essence of the West Indies Captured in 16 Songs

It is nearly impossible to avoid looking back longingly at the 90s. It may have been the absence of advance technology – us and our inability to summon whatever music we wanted, whenever we felt like it – that may have made music such a sate pleasure as it was back then. Now however, the sounds of the 90s are likely at the center of many 90s, 80s and 70s babies’ nostalgia.

Although every Caribbean island had their share of local hits, there were definitely mainstream classics which together, serve almost as a West Indies, 90s soundtrack. Here are 16 songs(oldest to newest) which capture the essence of the West Indies in the 90s.

1) Black Stalin – Feeling to party (1991)

Granted this song was “birthed” in the same year as most 90s kids who are now old enough to recall it and it’s presence throughout the decade. However, If it was not part of your personal collection, you would likely remember it as a staple piece among your parents’ and/or elders’ music favs.

2) Terror Fabulous Feat. Nadine – Action (1994)

Action was released on Terror Fabulous’ second album Yaga Yaga. For 90s kids this one definitely falls into the “we were too young to actually know what we were singing and dancing to” category. Who wants to bet that the lyrics of Nadine’s classic chorus is known by all bonafide West Indians, or atleast all above the age of 23.

3) Mighty Shadow – Dingolay (1994)

This Trinidadian Calypsonian is known for his distinctive voice and his early Soul, Calypso hit, Dingolay. It was important to include this one in such a line up because then and even now, when we listen to it, we can feel the ingenuity in its lyrics and Mighty Shadow’s musical expression. It is a classic.

4) Chaka Demus and Pliers – Murder She Wrote (1994)

Is it even possible to talk about Dancehall without mentioning Chaka Demus and Pliers’ Murder She wrote? The fact that this song is still heard at Caribbean fetes and concerts currently is an indication of how big it was in the 90s.

Murder She Wrote was a huge international, commercial success upon its release in 1994 on the duo’s album“tease me.”

5) Bere Hammond – No Disturb Sign (1994)

Beres Hammond has been gifting the world with his musical talents since the 70s. The 90s however, saw a peak in his career and an era of classics. Many of his songs are treasured Jamaican, Caribbean masterpieces. No disturb Sign captures a West Indian essence, encompassing everything, including life’s mundanities, the possession of an insatiable love for another, and the desire for a good time – all back-dropped by one of the smoothest reggae melodies.

6) Dawn Penn – You Don’t Love Me (No No No) (1994)

Life is full of ups and downs. For women dealing with “love”, the ups feel like soaring way above the highest earthly elevations. The lows however, are like being shot down from the sky mid-flight. You don’t love me‘s” drawn out lyrics were relatable enough to be a hit in the 90s, and still are today.

7) Shaggy – Boombastic (1995)

Before his other mainstream hits like Angel and It Wasn’t Me came the hard-hitting commercial smasher Mr Boombastic aka ‘Mr. Lover Lover’. Mr. Boombastic came off of Shaggy’s third album and was featured in International ads and movies. Shaggy also won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album that same year.

8)Kassav’ – Dife Soupapé (1995)

A heralded band in the Caribbean, particularly in the French West Indies, Kassav is firmly established as regional/ international treasures. The group was formed in 1979 in Guadelopue and has been blessing the world with passionate, zouk music eversince. Released in 1995,  Dife Soupapé is one of their many hits.

 

9) Buju Banton – Murderer (1995)

“Murderer” is steeped in sociopolitics and was released on Banton’s Til Shiloh album, a deviation from his initial Dancehall sound.

Disclaimer, Buju Banton will show up a few more times on this list (merely because most persons still know all the words to so many of his songs). He is one of those musicians whose music you may seek out for a quick listen, only to end up devoting atleast an additional fifteen more minutes to the task.

10) Sanchez – Never Dis Di Man (1995)

Out of Jamaica once again, with roots in Reggae, Never Dis Di Man was set out to enlighten. It’s catchy cadence helped plant Sanches’s lyrics on everyone’s tongues in the 90s, including those of us who were too young to appreciate the message but were old enough to vibe to a good ol’ reggae tune.

11) Buju Banton – Untold Story (1995)

Untold Stories set Buju Banton up, for some, among the likes of Bob Marley, due to its conscious message and soulful delivery.

It is one of those songs where as young children, some of us sang along to its verses and chorus without knowing what we were truly singing till we grew older. Our understanding though, did not come with the usual shock at vulgar lyrics but rather, personal disappointment that things in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean were dire then and still are now.

12) Chris Garcia – Chutney Bacchanal (1996)

I do not mean to make this about me but, I did my first ever dance performance to this song (as far as I can remember). It was at my pre-school graduation and also marks the beginning of a life long love for performance art. This is the power of art.. the power of Chutney music.. the power of the 90s.

13) Lady Saw – Give me a Reason (1996)

A living legend she is. With a career spanning over two decades, Marion Hall, better known as Lady Saw, aka, the Queen of Dancehall has given us hit after hit and is known around the world for her gutsy style. Give me a Reason was released during the earlier stages of her career, but still stands as one of her greatest hits.

14) Buju Banton – Wanna be Loved (1996)

Not much else to say. He is a great artist and his 90’s success is undeniable. Wanna be Loved never gets old, really. Add his 1997 hits Destiny and Hills and Valleys to the list too.

15) Beenie Man – Sim Simma (Who am I?) (1997)

The king himself released Who Am I as the second track off his album Many Moods and Moses. The song was produced on the Playground Riddim and was written by Beenie himself. It’s basically a dancehall anthem at this point.

16) Mr. Vegas – Heads High (1998)

Last on our list and rounding things out, we have this piece of vintage, Caribbean gold. Mr. Vegas is another Jamaican artist with so many globally successful records it is hard to keep track of them all. Heads High is one of those songs you would hear belting through the neighbourhood on a Saturday morning back in the day. #ClassicCaribbean

END

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Choosing ‘Art’ For A Living

Theatre production; Adaptation of Elena Garro’s ‘El Encanto, Tendajon Mixto’ – Mexican Embassy’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Theatre is a gem of an artform. Anyone who has seen a staged play live knows it can be likened to magic.

Kentillia Louis is an Artistic director, lecturer, manager and curriculum officer advocating for and enriching Arts and Culture in Saint Lucia. She has worked as the Artistic Director for the Walcott School’s Festival and as Director of Requiem for a Badjohn, a play staged for the first time in Saint Lucia earlier this year. She also manages the Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture (YouthSPAC) organization, and works as a part-time lecturer at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and University of West Indies open campus, among several others gigs.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity in May of this year to pose a few questions to Kentillia on her experiences working as an Artist on a small, Caribbean island.

Q: Can you highlight the aspects of this profession you enjoy?

K: One of the things that I enjoy about being an artist in the Caribbean is that because of, I suppose, size there’s a camaraderie between us all. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, everybody’s always willing to lend a helping hand. Always willing to try and see how they can collaborate or assist, because as much as we think we’re different, we all have similar issues.

Another thing is we have a rich culture. We have so many cultural forms that provide for the arts. We have material to create plays, to create performance styles, to use in so many different ways as stimuli for dance, drama anything. To find inspiration for anything that I do, it’s very easy, I just have to close the books, close the laptop and go out there and just observe my people, listen to the radio, listen to the music, watch the dancing and within there, something always comes up.

The good thing about our cultural forms is that it’s participatory. I mean you can go to the La Rose festival and you are not just be a spectator on the outside. Those different groupings are always very willing to include you, listen to what you have to say. So I really have enjoyed that, his is what gives me my identity and my unique approach. I’ve been able to really make sure i’m well grounded in it, in everything that I do to use it as my base.

Q: Can you highlight the challenges?

K: Always training-training and space. There are never enough spaces for training or opportunities for training – long term training I should say. There are always persons who approach me to join the group but i’m very particular about numbers. That’s why I have not increased the size past a certain point because we have a lot of young persons in Saint Lucia who are very, very talented, but they just have the raw material. What if we invested in them and helped them with the training and the exposure. As well as training them for showcasing opportunities because you can train, but you have to be trained to perform and be showcased.

We forget that not everybody starts off at the top, nobody did. Everybody had to build their way there and we have to, as a nation support them. That’s one of the major challenges, so sensitizing our public to the importance of supporting their own, even those up and coming, support them, because they will be the next big thing and it will be nice if you could be part of that experience with them.

Space has always been a problem- performance spaces. I mean right now we only have the National Cultural Center which is extremely limited and expensive. So persons who are building should put an auditorium. That’s what a lot of organizations do, and they will rent it out at a reasonable price. We can take that into consideration here. People think there are not a lot of groups but there are a lot of groups out there. They just don’t have the opportunity to perform in a proper performance space. That’s one of the major issues that we have right now.

I think as much as people understand the performing arts and culture, there is also not a respect for it and that’s one of the things I’d like to see change. That’s where your identity comes from, that’s where your sense of you comes from. We go to all of those platforms to balance our selves out when we feel angry, sad, and so forth. They’re crucial to us and our development as a person, as a society. And the respect that art should be given,it’s not being given right now. We do it as a by the way thing, we do it only as something we can use to maybe enhance the tourism product. But it’s more than that. Every society you find persons really holding on to their arts and culture because that’s where you find a sense of pride, you find reflections of yourself, that’s one of the things that we don’t have here.

Requiem For a Badjohn was staged at the National Cultural Center, Castries Saint Lucia in April of 2017

Q: You seem to have a passion for the performing arts as do many, but people often forego theirs after leaving Secondary School. As someone who continues to do work in this field, what other options can those with similar interests consider outside of school?

K: There are a lot of opportunities. I think though, when people think of the performing arts they only think of the performance aspect of it. To go out there and really survive in the arts you need to have more than one skill, for example I direct, I teach, I do production managemnet and I do stage management. So, you do more than one thing, it’s the same way everywhere else. You have to pay your dues. There’s also the amount of work you are going to have to do for free because you have to get your practical in as well as you building your name and your reputation. I see a lot of young persons going around saying “not for exposure” (referring to the ‘exposure not currency’ local campaign) and so forth, but I think we miss the point because I see every body jumping on that band wagon, but we have to be very careful… first of all if you’re an amateur you’re an amateur let me be very clear about that. You chose to be an amateur, you chose not to go an train yourself, you chose not to certify yourself, you chose not to do that, therefore if that’s the level you are going to hold yourself at, you’re going to be treated at that level. If you want to be a professional then invest in it, invest in it and pay for your training. There are a lot of clubs and certification courses you can do here, do them, pay the money and do it. And then start to build your credit within it, so then yes you can then look at a business or someone, a client and tell them this is my worth. That’s what needs to happen and once you have that skill you will get a job.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture?

K: The first group of students were students from secondary school and they were interested in continuing to look into the field as their employment, as their profession. And so, I continued with them, to train them in the various artforms, make sure to provide them with

various opportunities. Not only do you get training but you get real life opportunities to use your training whether it be in dance, drama, music and so on. And a lot of the work that we do has a cultural heritage component to it.

It is for the youth, the age range is about 14-25. So it really is for young people and their wants and needs really pushes everything that we do within those fields. We also do stage management, production management, we teach various parts of the different artforms and how to use performance to help bring about some kind of change or awareness.

Kentillia (upper middle) addressing four young performers during ‘she.lc 2017’ rehearsals

Q: Do you and the group’s members share a vision when it comes to the future of Saint Lucia’s Art and Cultural industries? 

K: Yes, it’s about producing the next set of artists and producers, stage management and so forth. We want to make sure we have a world class arts and cultural industry in Saint Lucia that someone won’t come and say “well that’s how they do it in Saint Lucia apart from the rest of the world”. No it has to be on par – whether it is you’re in Trinidad, Jamaica, New York, London, everything must be on par, that is what we are working towards, so that that way too, you have more opportunities, more changes, more chances of persons getting big not only here but going international and being able to make their name and to develop.

And, What kind of work do we plan to do in the future? Same like we’ve always done. Right now we just came from two major projects so  we’re on a break because one of the things I encourage is that my group members also do their individual projects and have their individual activities, because I also want to train them to have leadership qualities and take the initiative. A lot of them do individual work at carnival time, so usually we don’t do anything as a group during this time. But as soon as that’s done we do social events, we start training again and then we get ready for activities later on in the year and next year. So we are hoping to do a play or a short film towards the end of the year.

Q: Are there any current or upcoming projects from yourself or the organizations you work with that you would like people to know about?

K: At this point in time, I think we have found the fruits of our labour, it’s actually starting to show right now. There are lots of performance based youth groups around the island. From Youth on Fire in Anse La Raye, to Kiddie crew. So I’m just happy that all of those organizations are working. And what people fail to realize is that we are not in competition with each other. There’s this misconception that we are, but we all work together, we help each other because we realize that we are trying for the same thing and there’s not going to be a situation where there is too many of us. It’s all of us coming together to help to build Culture and Arts in Saint Lucia as well as to provide a medium for young persons.

There’s a lot going on when you look at carnival bands, when you look at Kiddie’s carnival bands coming on, a lot of people who have created the bands are persons who went through some sort of training as performers, in Theatre Arts, music stage management, stage production and so forth. A lot of those persons who have bands now will tell you its in those kind of groupings they got their start. I think a lot of those young persons are becoming their own entrepreneurs, I’m very happy to see that.

In terms of me personally, I’ll be working with CVS to ensure that their summer youth platform program comes off and is as educational and entertaining as possible for the participants. And I’m working towards Nobel Laureate week, that’s my next big thing.

 –END

 

Why I Can’t Get Enough Of Princess Nokia

Up – Princess Nokia in Tomboy video, Bottom – Princess Nokia in Brujas video

With my lil’ titties and my fat belly (x10)” – actual lyrics from Princess Nokia’s single “Tomboy”. The song opens up with a baggy shirt and trouser clad Princess Nokia walking across the screen, flanked by two women.

When I first watched the video and heard that cool voice ejecting itself from my speakers, I knew this discovery would be a problem; I would be obsessing over another Artist yet again for an unforeseeable amount of time.

This was not the beginning however. It started where it remains; with her self awareness, self love and spirituality. It was infact these things that led me to her heterogeneous body of music.

I had stumbled onto a video she had done with Genius; “Princess “Nokia “G.O.A.T.” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified”, where she explains the lyrics of the first verse from her song “G.O.A.T”. At that time, she was decked in floral print sitting against Genius’ distinctive pineapple yellow background.

The video begins, a composed, smooth, raspy voice says “I am a gorgeous woman. That’s not me being egotistical or narcissistic, it’s just a fact. I’m a knockout. I have confidence and je ne sais quoi that is, you know, unmistakable and my pheromones and my chemistry and the way I walk, I am divine feminine energy.” My attention is now grabbed and gripped tight. About fifteen more seconds into the video, to debunk the implication that she is the “greatest of all time” she says “in no way am I the best… I ain’t shit…” To her, “G.O.A.T” was simply a double entrendre that she “decided to run with”, as the analogy of a being “eating off the land, using [its] resources” to become “great” is something she identifies with.

I was enamored. “Who is this woman speaking of herself so brashly?” I thought. “Why is she doing it?” Knowing well the repression societies have inflicted on blossoming women, I wondered, “how did she become this?”

She continues. As she raps the lyrics, I notice that her voice crouches in a corner of her throat, a pur turned into an enticing gnarr. When the video ends, my journey through a hypnotic world of roses, mermaids, passion and weed begins.

Interview after Interview I fall deeper in awe as I witness a dancing, uninhibited spirit and I can’t seem to get enough.

Princess Nokia is a woman who has found her voice. She does not push politics but rather, principles. Having had feminism as a major recurring theme in her life, she speaks to everyone, including the neglected female; the excluded, unjustly demonized black and brown women (and men) who often go unheard and unrepresented in feminist movements. Her work and her world act as compassionate spaces for everyone.

She has acquainted herself with purpose and has leaped into action; Once a journalist and photographer, she also hosted the Smart Girl Club podcast where she echoed the importance and fundamental components of self love and self care – encouraging listeners to connect with their spiritual selves.

She has learned of her roots and of her history. A woman who associates herself with the borough of Manhattan, A woman of Harlem. Her inspiration comes from both the lightness and darkness of that world. A girl familiar with the uncensored night scene of an urban neighbourhood. A girl who walked on its streets alone. A woman of Afro Latinx, Afro Caribbean ancestry living in a society dirtied by color-ism, she is in complete love with her Puerto Rican heritage; “I am an Afro-Indegenous woman, I’m Puerto Rican which means I’m triple raced, I’m black, I’m white and I’m native American” she says in one of her interviews, before going on to explain how these roots have shaped her spirituality and her identity.

She has fortified herself away from the possessive grasps of men who want to be held accountable for her success. She produces her music independently and tours the world performing at sold out venues, a rare thing for underground artists.

She has blossomed in her solitude. Outcasted for her frank queerness, her rugged way of existing and her outright eccentricity at a young age, she spent lots of time alone. Now, as a twenty five year old woman, alongside her healthy relationship with nature, (and its generosity towards providing us with life and beauty hacks) retreat is a chief component of her spirituality.

She has stepped into herself as a woman and embraces who she is so audaciously it is delicious to even watch and listen. A woman who was not bred under a glorifying gaze towards her beauty but was stripped of it, having her crown mutilated at a young age for no reason, then to grow into a body that is not conventionally lauded, she now declares her own beauty.

In the span of a few days I have watched and re-watched several of Princess Nokia’s interviews as well as her Fader documentary “Princess Nokia – Destiny”. I cannot cover all that she is in an article but I did want to show my love and appreciation for who she is.

Her confidence, her magic, her full acceptance of self is damn near tangible – it’s contagious. I have felt more beautiful, more a woman, more intelligent more confident in my struggles, triumphs, spirituality and perspectives because of the bravery of this woman. My wish is that girls and women everywhere can hear, see, feel Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, aka Princess Nokia and be moved by her in the same way that I am.

 

PS I watched this interview and revisited it about 5 times in one weekend:
Princess Nokia at Brown University (click the photo)

Interview w/ Caribbean Filmmaker Pierre Chester

Millennials – Technology – Creativity. Is it me or do these three go hand in hand now?

This is certainly the era of the Iphone, the Android.. of Instagram, YouTube and the like. Consider it .. how many photographers and videographers do you know? It’s cool though, who doesn’t like a fancy photo, or some quick burst of ethereal scenery in motion? How many of us spend an embarrassing number of hours skimming through the portfolios of creative lens maestros? Not to mention we especially love the work of our counterparts who think outside the box and use their gifts to tell unique stories. Pierre Chester is a storyteller/ filmmaker from Saint Lucia.

To read about Pierre’s journey and perspective on Film in the Caribbean, click here.

“Being on set is a great feeling, with everybody coming together and making a script come to life, it’s a rush.” – Pierre Chester

 

Gilroy H- Choosing Art No Matter What

A dedicated, young, Caribbean Artist. I have known Gilroy for a little over ten years now. Although his persisting passion towards Art was something I came to notice later than sooner, his creativity had always stood out to me. Not long into my brainstorming session – trying to figure out how many interesting, inspiring people I knew to possibly feature – did he occur to me as an obvious choice. Below is a snippet of our interview:

You have been doing this for so many years, what would you say pushes you to continue with your Art so consistently? 

There are actually different reasons for me pushing myself to continue…trying to be an inspiration to others especially those younger than myself to show them that even if it’s difficult and people tell you otherwise that you should always believe in yourself and do what makes you happy, do what makes you feel complete.

For my Family and not just those related by blood but the friends who became family as well. They have been with me throughout this from the beginning. From me as a child drawing on everything in the house to me being stubborn turning down jobs because it had nothing to with Art. To me leaving jobs because I felt limited and stifled as an artist and wanting that freedom to create whenever I felt like it. It’s been tough, really tough. I won’t say there were not times when it felt useless doing this because at the end of the day, bills had to be paid, mouths to feed.

But they’ve always had my back, supporting and encouraging me telling me that a door will open some way somehow…I just had to keep pushing. It’s given me that drive, that mentality to overlook everything. Even after suffering a life changing injury from my previous job which has now put so many limitations on my life, my mobility, what I am able to do and not do now these people still encourage me to focus on my happiness even with these limitations and everything else will just fall into place when you work hard enough for it pray and continue to trust in God.

 

To read more, click here.

 

 

“I Will be The Hero in My Story”

Unwatered Childhood Dreams Part II

Occasionally I have flashbacks of my younger self, sitting on the floor of my childhood home, absentmindedly staring up, out of the window, into a vision my mind projected onto the sky. Between my open thighs would be some emblem of the crafts I loved most; either a notebook with words clumsily strewn together for 1, a poem that would never be published 2, a song I would hope to one day sing 3, words I would hope to one day act / my little silver and blue cd player, open cd cases and cds scattered on the tiles while I prepped for a bedroom concert – a sure way of training for a career that would spring from some hopeful seed / sheets of paper with bad drawings of one of the many things I would “eventually” design.

These flashbacks are always specked with warm, glimmering rays of light, a construct of the magic associated with childhood; innocence, wonder, desire, faith, knowing, but it would all be enveloped in the bittersweet sent of nostalgia.

It was classified as “dreams”. The thing you wished to be most successful at in your current lifetime was your “dream”. Not sure how many others suffered this delusive habit, but as a child my “dreams” were always set as some future occurrence, while my face and body mimicked my then youth. I later learned that something our deepest desires and ‘wildest dreams’ cannot beat is the constant inching hands and ticking of passing time. Envisioning things as happening “sometime in the future” turned my ‘dream catching’ into a cat and mouse game. I did not catch the mouse and my age and appearance overtook that of the girl in my ‘dream’.

Nevertheless, the “glimmer and magic” mentioned above are things I involuntarily associate with my childhood, yet as an adult I still feel their accompanying warmth like an ember continuously lit in my spirit. That constant pull of an unfulfilled ambition – an image I can better describe as the child version of myself tugging at the hem of the skirt or dress shirt of my office outfit each day.

For many “grown ups” with unrequited dreams there is a trail of events in their past where parts of themselves and their dreams died; times where they expressed their desires to a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, teacher but met ridicule or no offerings of support in return – where they attempted a step forward but failed and lost the courage to try again – where they observed others receive abundant, overt praise and believed that they were not as good – they expected opportunities to present themselves but they never did, so it was taken as an indication that perhaps it was not meant for them… Until they eventually arrived at a place where they saw no point in believing in “a dream”.

Some may claim that there is no longer an ember glowing in a dark corner of their soul reminding them of a desire that once burned. However I also know that there are others who will until the day they die feel that tug from little hands beckoning a quick glance at the thing their soul most desires.

 

A new feat of my flashbacks though are their proceeding thoughts; what was once a conundrum, that is, regretful feelings of losing faith, settling, resentment towards those who made me feel that it was wrong to want to do things differently are now replaced with the realization that all the things I expected others to express to me, I could express to myself, that as an adult, I can seek, search, grow and learn to reinforce my positive thoughts and beliefs in my capabilities. I have the power (and tools in this information age) to learn the things that were not taught to me, and I can reignite that flame by fueling my spirit and pouring its richness onto my own glowing ember.

Keeping my desire burning is my responsibility. Picking up a pen to write again, stepping behind or infront a camera, using creative skills to manifest new ideas are all things I like to do and want to do and can do. 

Becoming ones own Hero sounds a bit romantic, but it is an expression and declaration of a willingness to go “all in” on a bet on oneself. It is choosing to believe and rely on ones innate and acquired abilities. If there is a deep desire to do something at any point, at that same point there will be the possession of what is needed to take atleast a small step forward in manifesting that desire, and if no possible small steps are available, it might simply mean that the time is not right but it does not mean the time will never come. Moreover, part of ones heroism is to figure out a step. Part of ones heroism is to stop waiting for someone to offer a “go ahead” or a “you are good enough”.

Part of my heroism is accepting that if no one gives me a chance, and I want to do something, I will create my own chance.

A (2017) Take on Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Much of the joy of reading is tied to the exposure one gets to purposeful, reflective stories and delighting in creative story telling. Now twenty-five, I find myself eager to read not only for enjoyment but also to find stories that enrich my spirit and mind as a Caribbean woman moving through the world. (And now that I am looking for any and everything to write about – because I just want to write and write some more… to hopefully one day be great at it) I thought a recent book I read made for a good challenge and topic. Below is a synopsis including my thoughts on a recent read but a 30 year old Toni Morrison classic.

Loaded. Important. Spell binding. Toni Morrison’s Beloved receives no stars from me because it defies the commonness of star ratings and exists outside the classifying lines of “fictional novels”.

Heavy with themes of slavery, race, home, guilt, love, community and identity, Beloved follows the story of Sethe, a mother of four in 1873, who was put in the position of sending her three young children (two boys, and a “crawling baby girl”) off in a wagon in order to have them escape the perils of “Sweet Home” and its slavery. Swollen with her fourth child still in the womb, Sethe later flees “Sweet Home” on her own, to reunite with her children and to live in freedom.

Following a set of events, including delivering Denver, her second daughter and last child in a sinking boat, Sethe eventually makes it to freedom; a two story house referred to as “124” on Bluestone Road in Cincinnati Ohio, inhabited by her mother in law, “Baby Suggs”, and Sethe’s children. In this corner of Cincinnati, the freed lives of blacks are full of tenderness, love, determination, and chants of hope, all the things Sweet Home was not Sethe realizes, but for her the joy of the place is short lived. A disturbing encounter leads Sethe to murder her first daughter in a desperate act of protection, marking the beginning of the demise of the once haven, 124, which later becomes haunted by the baby’s ghost. The house, which was once a hub for the community turns into a place of scorn.

Later, in various forms of abandon Sethe, Denver and Paul D, another sweet home runaway who wanders into the picture at the beginning of the novel become the only three inhabitants of 124, excluding the ghost. Paul D presents to Sethe a new opportunity for something other than the seeming alienation that has eclipsed her life, but this vision is seared when they come home one afternoon and find a young, ailing girl who goes by the name “Beloved” on a stoop infront the house. It is hinted throughout the story that the girl may be the ghost of Sethe’s dead baby in human form. This welcomed intrusion (oxymoron intended) sews, plants and rains uncontrollable things into 124 that leaves its members emotionally hypnotized.

Beloved is an uninhibited peer into America’s history. Stripped of flowering, the language is raw, simple, yet fluid in the way of the most intoxicating poetry. Nonlinear, the events of the novel are revealed as the plot moves back and forth from present to past tense effortlessly.

Additionaly, although Sethe is at the center of the story, the narrative moves freely from 1st to 3rd person between each character. Hence we are made to consider a difficult time and circumstance from various perspectives;

Sethe’s narrative forces us to face the realities of her experiences as a slave woman, the brutality she came under while working for her white slave owners, the traits of which were so dark, she preferred her children dead than to have them live through it. The way the guilt and aftermath of her actions rocked her own-better life at 124 with Baby Suggs, her children and their surrounding community shed light on the relationships and intricacies of Black communities held together by the willingness of its members to create lives worth living in a world designed to stump the very prospect of this out of the picture.

Sethe’s daughter Denver’s narrative invites us into the confines of the life of a first generation “free” African American. Having been with her mother “all her life”, Denver up until the age of 18 comes across a product of a grief stricken but in her own right resilient matriarch and her loyalty, loneliness and will prevail at various stages of the novel.

Paul D, an African American man’s fragmented journey sketches a map of hardship across America’s southeast. Here we have a male perspective, from his life as a boy, his humanistic desires contained to a cottage and field, a young man shackled and buried, then uncertain and lost once he is free, a grown man cold and hard, scouring for things he is not even sure exists.

Baby Suggs, an endeared woman even after facing the brunt of slavery in its varied forms; savage then lenient, folds into herself after witnessing white men with self-rightousness etched into their eyebrows, spread malice through and to the lives of “negroes” like an infection.

Sethe’s “crawling baby” a reminder of the innumerable, unlived, severed African lives. Children who were turned over into unconsciousness by parents who felt the life waiting for them in this world too filled with torture and violence, so death seemed a more desirable alternative.

This was my vain attempt at summarizing a work of Art with complexities that have been analyzed for 30 years now, the resulting variety of ‘conclusions’ conflict in so many ways that an attempt to put a finger on one true meaning would be futile. Nonetheless, Beloved is laden with meaning and story. The events of the plot are precise but it captures the essence of a time when the definitions of life and living were violently distorted. All in all, my rating of Beloved is that Everyone should read this book at-least once in their lifetime.

5 Caribbean Art Festivals To Look Out For

For years Caribbean Artists have ploughed the fields of creativity in order to bear works that adequately reflect the region’s unique stories and perspectives. Interestingly, with each passing year, the margins of artistic platforms widen (a feat perhaps of the rapid technological advancement characterizing this age), allowing for increased opportunity and audience interaction; more places and spaces where artists can share their work. Yet, many still express that there is a lack of respect shown towards their craft. Nonetheless, several Caribbean Artists refuse to be pushed beyond despair into a place where they are made to abandon their beliefs in their work and their purpose.

In the hopes of one day having a more than thriving Art culture here in the Caribbean, I went searching for consistently held regional Art Festivals, ones which serve as platforms for both new and seasoned, regional writing, filmmaking and performance talent. Below are five that everyone should look out for.

 

1) The Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival

In 2016, some 26 films were featured at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival; an annual event held in Port of Spain to showcase the work of Trinidadian, Caribbean and international filmmakers, and to highlight projects that appeal to the Caribbean Diaspora. Among selected and screened projects are feature length films and documentaries, as well as short and experimental films.
Actual screenings are put on for about two weeks in September, however entries are accepted as early as February of the same year.
The committee behind the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival encourages Caribbean Filmmakers to submit their work for free via their website http://ttfilmfestival.com/ where more information regarding the festivals history as well as submission regulations can also be found.

 

2) Calabash International Literary Festival

One of the longest running Art Festivals in the Caribbean, the Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in the year 2000. Held in Treasure Beach, Jamaica the event is hosted on a benial basis, on even years.
This event attracts book lovers, authors and anyone willing to bask in a downpour of reggae, relaxation and literary prowess, in a quaint South coastal Jamaican village. The Calabash International Literary Festival Trust which operates the event also provides publishing seminars and writing workshops throughout the duration of the festival.

For more information visit: http://www.calabashfestival.org/.

 

3) Carifesta – The Caribbean Festival of the Arts

‘Carifesta xiii’ is slated to be held in Barbados with the theme “Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves” from August 17th to August 27th of this year.
With a name most Caribbean nationals are already familiar with, this event stages a number of creative Caribbean “music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, folk art, photography and literature” talents.
The festival which comes around every few years, aims to highlight the kaleidoscopic vibrancy and diversity of Caribbean and South American cultures and artistry.

For more information visit www.carifesta.net.

 

4) GIMISTORY; The Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival

Storytelling is rooted in tradition and is one of the world’s oldest art-forms.
From November 25th to December 3rd story tellers from all over the world travel to each district of the Cayman Islands as well Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, to perform stories some of which meant to reveal details of ancient “myths and legends”, as well as to evoke “laughter, drama and wonderment”.

The event, which began in 1997 and is held annually, serves as a canvas for the imaginations of audience dwellers. With its storytellers as the brushes, each word strokes the assorted colours and layers of the world’s heritages.
Through an application process the festival’s founders and operators welcome anyone to its stages.

For more information visit http://www.artscayman.org/gimistory.

5) Caribbean Youth Film Festival

A fairly new festival aimed at creating opportunity and a platform for precisely younger filmmakers, The Caribbean Youth Film Festival is a four day event held in Saint Lucia. This year the festival, which is held annually, will run from August 7th to August 17th making it five years now since its inception.

The Caribbean Youth Film Festival committee invites anyone ’35 and under’ to submit his/ her work (short films only) which will be screened to local and international audience members.
In the spirit of cultivating the Caribbean’s film landscape, the committee adds to its roster workshops and seminars held around the time of the festival as well as throughout the year, for persons of all ages and backgrounds, whether new to the art of filmmaking or seasoned.

For more information visit facebook.com/CYFFestival.

Some say, ultimately, it really depends on a person’s will and dedication to his/her craft to determine whether they can build themselves up and together as an Artist. Knowing that there is an audience ready and willing to bare witness to ones work however, can serve as motivation, especially in a culture where emerging Artists may feel invisible.