The Voices From Inside event was one of those really nice and hopeful events that make you believe in the potential of us all to do good things. It was a showcase of the prisoners’ poetry, and a reading from Dr. Baz Dresinger’s new book Incarcerated Nations. She had travelled all over, looking at our prison systems. Too many of them are holding cells for people, and do very little to reform or treat their ills. Too many are soul-destroying cages.
It was nice listening to the prisoners’ poetry. It was really nice to see how their fellow inmates responded to the work. One guy was clearly the prison saga boy, with shades and ting. I wish I was able to take a picture, but we had to hand in our cell phones to security.
It was also nice that for Baz’s book, they drafted local celebrities Kees Dieffenthaller, Machel Montano and Anya Ayoung-Chee to read excepts. Kees also performed, and Mohammed Muwakil, singer and well-known spoken word artist, opened the proceedings. It was a great showcase for the prisoners.
As a journalist I knew that I was going to talk to as many people as I could. Since the event was a Bocas Lit Fest event, I decided, let’s ask people what their favourite books were. So that’s what I did, and here are their answers.
Here’s a list of the books mentioned:
Mohammed Muwakil: Seed to Harvest by Octavia Butler
Anya Ayoung-Chee, Kees Dieffenthaller & Machel Montano: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Kees Diefenthaller: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Machel Montano: The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Dr. Baz Dresinger: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
If you were to ask me that very same question, my books are The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. And an honourable mention to Wine of Astonishment by Earl Lovelace, because I felt like I was buzzing while reading it. I was simply overcome with the sensation that it was meant to be read aloud.
In the 7 years it’s been around, Bocas has grown from strength to strength. The annual literary festival has hosted some of the most successful and interesting writers, publishers and poets of Caribbean, and World literature. And because it’s in Trinidad, there’s a non-pretentiousnessto the proceedings that may make your faves seem significantly more approachable.
I’ve always been a fan of Bocas. Especially as a formally voracious reader, who has slowed down significantly. I use Bocas to get me excited about reading again. And it has, not to my old standards, but I’m on the path to being a real reader.
I also got to experience Bocas as a journalist. Just before the festival began, I spoke to Founding Director Marina Salandy Brown about the growing influence Caribbean writers is having worldwide. Perhaps, we should be looking towards developing Caribbean literary industry.
And as I mentioned in that piece, the Prime Minister was featured on special panel to discuss his autobiography From Mason Hall to Whitehall. A smart move from a festival that has just been recognised by Penguin Publishing as being one of the 20 best literary festivals in the world. It also allowed them to put the Prime Minister on the spot about his book tax.
It’s also a strategic move from the festival organisers. Because many good things are allowed to whither and die, because they can’t get the support they need. Bringing the Prime Minister, into the festival may help it win some support for it’s projects.
I’ll have more on Bocas, in another post. I may even share my book haul. See you soon.
‘Tell Desperadoes when you reach that hill
I decompose, but I composing still.’ ”
A statement so timely on the rot that pervades Trinidad that I had to double check the year it was written because I thought he was talking about our current state. We’ve been doing this nonsense for years.
I sit high on this bridge in Laventille,
watching that city where I left no will
but my own conscience and rum-eaten wit,
and limers passing see me where I sit,
ghost in brown gabardine, bones in a sack,
and bawl: “Ay, Spoiler, boy! When you come back?”
And those who bold don’t feel they out of place
to peel my limeskin back, and see a face
with eyes as cold as a dead macajuel,
and if they still can talk, I answer: “Hell.”
I have a room there where I keep a crown,
and Satan send me to check out this town.
Down there, that Hot Boy have a stereo
where, whole day, he does blast my caiso:
I beg him two weeks’ leave and he send me
back up, not as no bedbug or no flea, but in this…
Local designer Ryan Chan has just released an adult colouring book. You know that I’m obsessed with them. Especially Caribbean colouring books. To the point where I had promised myself that I’m only allowed to buy Jade Gedeon’s Carnival Escape colouring book. I going to break that promise to include this gem.
Because I’m a cliché, I have an obsession with colouring and colouring books. It’s fun, it’s art with training wheels, because I haven’t drawn a thing in years. I needed an outlet and colouring books are it.
I’ve been dying to find books that are more my style, so fashion themes are a fave. As are pop culture, and abstract patterns. But what I really, want are books that are more representative of where I live, the Caribbean, and the type of woman I am, Black. So I made a list of Caribbean colouring books for all ages.
Some of the adult colouring books I own, will own soon (Amazon is processing the order), or would like to own. A few are no longer being printed, which is sad, but I have a thing for history, so I included them. I will separate my list of colouring books for children, from the list for adults.
Adult Colouring Books.
Escape Colouring Books. Jade Gedeon’s lovely series, book 4 is coming out in February, and I can’t wait, because I’ve been longing for a Carnival colouring book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’ve finally ordered her first 2, and they are on their way. The reviews are amazing! The books are Island Escape, Rainforest Escape and Carnival Escape.
Dear:… A Healing Colouring Book: I literally harassed Danielle for her colouring book. Actually no, she was pregnant at the time, so we just spoke via Facebook messenger and I rushed over to Paper Based Bookshop in the nick of time to snag my copy. If she reprints the Wildflower Series Colouring Book I will get one because her illustrations are gorgeous.
James Hackett: It’s not out yet, but he says one is coming. I can’t wait.
Children’s Colouring Books
ZW Colouring Book: I discovered Zaidee Walker’s book randomly during a Sunday morning breakfast run to the San Antonio Green Market, which is right by me. Her drawings are simple, but the possibilities are endless. I bought 2. One for me, and gave the other to my co-worker’s daughter. It’s simply done, and you can probably beg her to produce a copy for you.
MacMillan’s Caribbean Colouring Books: The series still pops up, offering false hope, but the Caribbean Flowers book is out of print. The entire series seems to cater for a wide range of skills, like the Caribbean Carnivals book is suitable for a younger child but the Caribbean Flowers books seems more advanced.
The problem in the Caribbean is single print runs, so books go out of print very quickly even though the interest has far outlasted supply. To be fair though, interest can be a slow burn. I blame that on insufficient marketing, but I digress.
The new edition was edited by Danielle Delon, whose previous work includes The Letter’s of Margaret Mann. This is a re-publication of the 1907 edition of the book which takes you into the kitchens of named Creole and British immigrants living in Trinidad at the time.
The National Trust is selling the book for $425.00
Ian Fleming’s James Bond Based on Porfirio Rubirosa According to New Research by Forensic Historian Daniel J. Voelker.
Through a series of connections that include Noel Coward, Errol Flynn, Doris Duke, Rita Hayworth and a host of Caribbean locations, litigator and forensic historian Daniel J. Voelker has made a compelling case establishing mid-19th century playboy Porfirio Rubirosa as the primary model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Voelker is known for his groundbreaking findings that rewrote the history of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. The research has been gathered into an article: “Will the Real James Bond, Please Stand Up.”
Although Rubirosa’s name has been floated for years as a potential role model for Bond, Voelker traced the intersections of multiple early to mid-20th century personalities to add factual validation to the case. The reason Fleming may have never publicly admitted this is because he feared a racial…
On Friday I got to see Michel-Jean Cazabon’s paintings for the first time. I mean his actual paintings, not prints in a book, his hardwork was before me and it was an experience. Because I was there for work I didn’t get to take them in the way I’d want to, so I’ll have to go back before the exhibition closes on the 25th September.
Last year Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley announced the purchase of 10 paintings from Trinidadian 19th century artist Michel-Jean Cazabon. Those paintings, and 39 others are currently on display at the Diplomatic Centre. Viewing is free but you have to register at the National Museum for tickets.
Also on display are some of the Margaret Mann paintings. Mrs. Mann was the wife of a British captain, she was tutored by Cazabon. As was common, she wrote many letters to her family describing in great detail her life in Trinidad during the years 1847 and 1851. 87 letters to be exact. Which offers a rare female-centred view of life in the Caribbean in the 19th century. Along with her paintings, we have a an unparalleled peek into life in Trinidad during that time.
Hopefully I have sparked your interest in everything Cazabon. If you want to learn more about him, do take advantage of the opportunity to see his work at the Diplomatic Centre. Also there are a lot of books available. Including Danielle Delon’s The Letters of Margaret Mann. Geoffery MacLean is the foremost expert on Michel-Jean Cazabon, he has written several including the official book accompaniment to the current exhibition called Cazabon Legacy. I think that they have settled on a price of $250 TTD. His older books include Cazabon: An Illustrated Biography of Trinidad’s Nineteenth Century Painter Michel-Jean Cazabon. The author Lawrence Scott’s Light Falling on Bamboo is the fictionalised retelling of the artist’s life, which is fascinating, to say the least. Geoffrey has shown me the divorce decree that Cazabon’s parents signed at the dissolution of their marriage.
There’s also Michel Jean Cazabon’s Book of Trinidad 1837, but at a bid price of $25,000 USD, it might be out of your reach.
More accessible is Gerard Besson’s detailed blog post on Cazabon, his life, his woes. You can read that here.
Moments like this make it seem that we’re getting better at valuing our history. In September, 2011 Citizens for Conservation restored his tomb in Lapeyrouse. According to Geoffery is could probably do with a touch-up, but it can be viewed. It’s on the 7th Street of the cemetary.
I have long promised not only will I read more, but I will read more books from one author. I have my favourites, like Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I own and have read the entire set, 2 of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novels, plus several of her magazine articles and essays. But I jump around so much, so I’ve only read Zadie’s White Teeth and her article on Jay-Z but On Beauty stands untouched on my bookshelf, and I’m only just introduced myself to Nalo Hopkinson.
I will change, I promise.
As many of you know, I’m trying to read a couple Zora Neale Hurston books to get deeper into her not-insignificant bibliography. But she’s not alone on the list of black women whose work I wish I could read and analyze full-time. Who wants to fund a PhD program for me to spend 100% of my time on the following 20 names?