Monday, 23 May 2011

Asante Adonai Literary Lyme Jamaica Paid Attention to Children's Needs

Once Upon  Lyme....tailor made for young readers

Storyteller, Amina Blackwood Meeks
The Asante Adonai Literary Lyme held on May 22 in Winefield, St Ann gave as much attention to the Children's literary programme "Once Upon A Lyme" as it did the big stage, and their patrons loved it. Set on its own small hillside, well within view of most parts of the venue, storyteller Amina Blackwood Meeks, managed a day of activities for children from ages 3 to 12.

Every activity on the programme was related to the reading and expression of the spoken word. The experienced Blackwood Meeks engaged the children in fun activities such as riddles, and told Ananse stories with the storytelling 'sandwich' that starts, Crick Crack Break My Back, and ends Jack Mandora, me no choose none: traditional storytelling tools to let listeners know that this is just a story for you to learn, and not an encouragement for you to go and do wrong. Blackwood Meeks told the story of Ananse and the Snake. The children were also able to go centre stage and contribute their own words through riddles: Sun burning hot on you; replace you with I, what do you get? Answer, sin.  

Tanya Batson Savage
The readers who read from their own work had different styles, but each style allowed them to connect with the children and hold their attention during the short, and very focussed, presentations.

Tukulah Ntama got the children involved in craft by making a scrapbook book that they would later fill with their own words and collages.

Children's author, Tanya Batson Savage, expressively read the story of Primrose and the River Mumma from her book, Pumpkin Belly and Other Stories. A story that truly invites imagination.

There was action when Kellie Magnus read from Little Lion Goes For Gold, the third in her series of Little Lion books. The book anticipates the excitement of the Jamaican athletes in the upcoming Olympics and other premier athletic events.

Kellie Magnus
Jana Bent played the CD that goes with the audio book and music compilation , Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band - a book that promotes respect for the natural environment. With additional sound effects provided by the wild parrots of Asante Adonai, Bent and her team of two children artfully moved around showing the pages of the books in time with the storytelling.

Auntie Margaret was on hand in the tent to help the younger children, and at appropriate breaks, the children were refreshed with bottled water from Wata, and St Mary chips by Caribbean Producers. Books by the authors were on sale on site by book vendor, Bookophilia. That store also carried a range of Caribbean themed children's books on sale.

Jana Bent
The children who were old enough to stay unsupervised by their parents seemed to be very accustomed to a story telling and story reading atmosphere. They followed instructions readily, and sometimes even anticipated them. The group grew no larger than 30 children at any one time and there were slightly more boys than girls in attendance.

The The Asante Adonai Literary Lyme is the first event at that venue which expects to attract retreats and celebrations in a natural environment.
Children's centre at the back

Friday, 13 May 2011

Two Seasons Talking Trees Writers' Social

Two Seasons Talking Trees Hosted a Writers' Social for writers who will be reading at the fiesta and also supporters of the fiesta. The event that was held in Jacks Hill on May 12 was a relaxed evening that gave everyone a chance to meet and greet and become comfortable for the event ahead on May 28.
KOOL FM Sales RepJoan Harley Smith, PR Consultant, Keith Brown,
Talking Trees Poet and KOOL FM General Manager Tomlin Ellis

Guest, Rashelle Lovindeer and Ray Barrett, uncle of Talking Trees short story writer, Igoni Barrett

Newstalk 93 Marketing Manager, Baduka Nannee, and
Talking Trees panel moderator, musician and composer, Joy Simons Brown
Sonia King, Two Seasons Talking Trees administrator, Carroll Fofanah, Jennifer Cheeseman

Talking Trees Children's Programme Coordinator, Ingrid Blackwood

Talking Trees collaborator and writers' social hostess, Janet Barrett,
with proprietor of Two Seasons Guest House, Christine Barrett

Janet Barrett, and proprietor of Jamaica Cultural Enterprises, Karen Hutchinson
Karen will be providing ground transportation for Talking Trees Literary Fiesta and also
the Treasure Beach Bread Basket Festival

Talking Trees playwright, Keiran King, with hostess, Janet Barrett

Newstalk 93 FM Manager, Jennifer Cheeseman, with Talking Trees writer, Sonia King

PR Consultant Keith Brown with Ray Barrett

Talking Trees writer, UTech Lecturer in
Communication Studies and Creative Writing, Nova Gordon Bell

Rory Barrett, cousin of Igoni Barrett

PR consultant, Scarlett Beharie

Sir Kenneth. Catering for the event by Audrey Chin

Monday, 9 May 2011

How Not To Hug A Crocodile

How Not To Hug A Crocodile
On May 8, Mother's Day, I went to Hope Zoo close to the closing time. It is when the grounds are most busy with families and groups of friends having a good time. At that time of the year, the many Black Mango trees are laden with fruit and a part of the zoo experience is picking to take away or eat on the spot. Some of the animals, like the peccaries, the capuchin monkey and the ostriches also feast on a mango diet.

Peccary enclosure
One visitor skillfully stoned a huge mango tree near the peccary enclosure and on recovering ripe fruit remarked, "At least me get something for me $150 dollars."

Some distance away, a group stood next to a crocodile enclosure looking at the huge male there that is about seven feet long. A woman threw a ripe mango on him and he amazed everyone by snapping his jaws, catching it mid air. Naturally, those who missed the split second trick needed to see the feat and the woman eagerly gathered a few more mangoes.

"At least me get something for me $150 dollars," she said.

By the ostrich enclosure, Romeo and Juliet stayed deep within their grounds, behind the trees far from the fence. When they arrived last year, covered in resplendent plumage, they used to eagerly come forward and interact with visitors. Now they seem cautious, if not sullen and afraid.

My son has benefitted from Hope Zoo as he now appreciates reptiles. I started carrying him regularly when I noticed that he had adopted the curious Jamaican revulsion and fear of all lizards. Being able to show him the animals from a safe distance and talk about them in a calm manner helped him to confront and then overcome those early fears.

Many visitors arrive at the Hope Zoo with anticipations that cannot be met. They want to see a big cat. Not having one seems to leave an opinion that the Hope Zoo is 'not a proper zoo'. It used to be promoted as a Central American and Caribbean Zoo with an ongoing conservation project dedicated to the Jamaican Iguana. That seems just fine. I also welcome the return of the flamingo enclosure at the front as this will create a natural place to take beautiful photos that will promote the zoo.

On the matter of the crocodiles that are persecuted, the zoo can make a few changes to help that matter.
Flamingo enclosure can be a photo spot
  • Have large, if necessary branded, graphic signage at the entrance that discourage teasing or harming the animals;
  • Engage the services of trained customer service personnel instead of uniformed security guards, during holidays and busy months. The staff that is there now are very willing to share information, but cannot interact with visitors when the zoo is full;
  • Have fun inexpensive giveaways for small children that encourage appreciation of the crocodiles.
Additionally, I would like to issue a challenge. Can the zoo introduce deer that are a menace to farmers in the Rio Grande Valley in Portland? Unlike the crocodile, they: are not an endangered species; can teach about introduction of invasive species; are cute.

This crocodile has one eye. He or she needs a name and a history to tell visitors.

Garfield Ellis Tells a Woman's Story in Till I'm Laid To Rest

Garfield Ellis tells a Woman’s Story in Till I’m Laid To Rest
By Gwyneth Harold Davidson
The literature teacher at the St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) saw the gifted writer latent inside her sports loving - but troublemaking - student, Garfield Ellis, and she insisted that he sit GCE O’ Level English Literature. He reluctantly agreed, then in less than a week, ditched it. This is the origin of the rebellious and irreverent heroes who appear in the novels and short stories of Ellis. The protagonist in his newest novel Till I’m Laid To Rest is however, a woman. 
Now the holder of a Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Ellis laughs out loud at the memory of his reluctance to study literature.
“When I attended STATHS we had a splendid library. Zac (the legendary educator and Principal of STATHS, Isaac Henry) paid a lot of attention to it, but at the time and did not follow literature; I was radical in my approach to education,” he says.
Most of Ellis’s stories feature slightly roguish heroes, drawing from his childhood and also his experience as a marine engineer on merchant vessels. This new book explores the well-known theme of the single girl making it in life, a theme that is perhaps not well represented in Jamaican fiction writing and literature.
“I was inspired by a friend who told me her life story about what women have to go through and the kind of lives that people lead when they try to make it in the USA. It is about a woman from Central Village who worked in a bank until she met a white Jamaican man in the tourism industry and became a kept woman. Crime destroyed the man’s business and she did not want to go back into some cheap place so she decided to use her visitors’ visa and run away to the States,” Ellis said.
The book’s heroine is from Ellis’ home district, a place rich with characters. He says that the library there and also his education at STATHS left him with a taste for drama.
“The Central Village community library of the 70s was in good condition and I used to race to borrow books like the Hardy Boys series. I was also in drama, and in 1977 or 78, was awarded the Male Actor of the Year for the Schools’ Drama Festival. My drama teachers were playwright Trevor Nairne and film and stage actor, Ronald Goshop.”
Ellis upcoming publications include a novel, The Angel’s Share which is set in Jamaica and is currently being serialized in literary publications. He is carefully also crafting a novel that is sure to be rich in its detail as well as paced with adventure and drama.

Wind In My Hand will be a historical novel told through the life and times of a group of young men who attended the maritime institute. I want to tell the history of the evolution of that institution through their stories,” Ellis said.

Ellis will be making his first Jamaican appearance since the launch of Till I’m Laid to Rest at the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta on May 28 in Treasure Beach.

Writer, A Igoni Barrett is committed to his country, Nigeria

Writer, A. Igoni Barrett, is committed to his country, Nigeria

By Gwyneth Harold Davidson

Nigerian writer with Jamaican roots, A. Igoni Barrett, was in a good mood when Bookends caught up with him via a Skype link recently. His family was gathering for a wedding, but the other reason for his joy was the recent advances in his writing career. He has completed a second collection of short stories, secured an aggressive agent and has been offered valuable residential fellowships abroad.

Although he is only 32 years of age, Barrett has spent the past decade building a solid reputation as one of Nigeria’s energetic, young writers. He first came to public attention in 2005 when he won the BBC World Service short story competition for his story, The Phoenix. Since then he has been on  reading tours across several African cities and last year founded the BookJam reading series, bringing internationally acclaimed writers to audiences in Lagos. Among the things that Barrett took away from those experiences is that several of the more successful writers do not choose to live in Nigeria. The reasons given are that publishing systems and opportunities are not easily available in their homeland. Barrett is determined to be excellent, be successful, and be at home.

“We are suffering from a brain drain in my country. Nigerians go abroad and do well. I don’t want to be like so many of our writers and live abroad. Public education is subsidized in Nigeria. The public puts in all of this money to create graduates, many of whom then leave to teach in universities in Europe and the USA or who go to the United Arab Emirates to run their systems and then we are left without a system. I want to show people that you can make something of yourself here in whatever field you choose.”

Barrett has a vocation to use his writing to help to transform his country. He wants Nigerians to read high quality writing about themselves and their situations from writers living there.

He challenges himself to take on difficult circumstances in the life of the ordinary person in his country, but somehow manages to maintain the humour and small joys that come with being alive. In one of his more recent works, My Smelling Mouth Problem, the protagonist who has bad breath participates in an adventurous and humourous bus ride. A Jamaican reader will find that situations in Barrett’s Lagos mirror scenes in Jamaica. He said that his Jamaican father, the noted writer Lindsay Barrett, told him many times that he always felt at home in Nigeria because it felt as if he was still on his Caribbean island.

Lindsay Barrett has made his mark as a poet and essayist in Nigeria for several decades and has travelled that large country extensively. His passion for writing about social issues seems to have passed on to this son.

“Some people say that my stories are tragic and dark; but I like to think of them as redemptive stories about my country. I write some of them—for example, My Smelling Mouth Problem—in the tone and accent that Nigerians use when speaking English. That is a humourous voice. When I talk to my father I realize that there is so much of Nigeria that I do not know. Nigeria is a highly populated country with more than 150 million people. In Lagos, you can live on the same street with your brother and not see him for years,” he says.

Born in the industrial town of Port Harcourt, Barrett attended the prestigious University of Ibadan in another state and also spent some of his growing-up years in Lagos. His mother is a teacher of English and her ancestors are Kalabari people from the oil-producing Niger delta, who participated in the slave trade to the Americas. Barrett says that his father sometimes jokes that he deliberately married his mother to get back at those ancestors. Barrett’s middle name, Igonibo, speaks to his father’s status, as it means “stranger”.

Barrett discovered his writing voice while an undergraduate student of agriculture at Ibadan University. It was his second attempt to fulfill a family expectation that he get a degree.

“My grandmother wanted me to be a doctor and after one week as a physiology undergraduate I knew that medical science was not for me. I then got into agriculture, but with one year left for graduation I made the decision to leave and become a writer,” he said of his student years.

Barrett was a 21-year-old university student when he made the brave move to find his father who he had not seen in more than ten years. Lindsay Barrett read his early work and declared that he “had talent and now had to put in the work.”

Barrett said of that meeting, “My father was the first person to support me as a writer. I felt I had to prove to myself that I was serious about writing, so I gave the ultimate sacrifice—I gave up my university education for a self-education in writing.”

Father and son have since then been close professional colleagues and supporters of each other’s work. Igoni Barrett says that he finds the relationship “incredibly empowering”.

After a decade of pursuing writing as his primary profession, Barrett has secured important literary achievements including the publishing of his book of short stories, From Caves of Rotten Teeth. He has been on a three-month writer’s residency in Kenya, and will be on two more before the end of the year in the USA and in Italy. Also, he has a new agent who is eager to sell his latest book.

While in Jamaica, Barrett will visit Trench Town, other well known culture sites, and is looking forward to meeting his family.

Among Barrett’s treasures of 2011, will be his participation in the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta, in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth on May 28. Reading in the afternoon segment Roots and Branches, Barrett will be the sole international writer on a lineup with 13 Jamaican writers.

Keiran King's Last Call for Two Seasons Talking Trees Lit Fiesta

Reading of Keiran King’s Last Call at
Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta, May 28

By Gwyneth Harold

Four young friends: a broken hearted woman with the voice of an angel; an everyman plodding along in life; a confident stewardess with boundless ambition; and a charming man who uses women for pleasure.  They have not seen each other in ten years and choose to connect at the most prestigious lounge in Kingston, the bar at the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Their reunion is held under the watchful eyes of the veteran bartender, who sees in them, the world passing him by. The first reading of debut playwright Keiran King’s Last Call will be at the Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta on Saturday, May 28 in Treasure Beach.

King says that he penned the production in 2010 while tending to his ailing grandfather, to whom he was very close.

“He was born in 1919 and the main motivation for this particular project, which is bringing to life the period when he was a young man,” King said.

“I picked the Myrtle Bank because of the almost mythical place that it occupies in the collective memory of our older Jamaicans. It was a very swanky place and it wasn’t the sort of place where, because of the prejudices of the day, everyone would be allowed. It had this air of sophistication and elegance and - although levelled by earthquake, burned down twice and rebuilt - was host to a number of important events over the decades. It has a hold over our collective memory and seemed like the perfect place to set the piece,” King says of the hotel that stood on Harbour Street downtown for nearly a century and closed in the 1960s. The facade of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, now on a section of that site, is in tribute to the hotel’s design.

King and his grandfather shared a love for American film and stage music of the 1930s to 1950s, and Last Call will also share this sound.

He said, “This music, called American standards, is enduring as it is still being performed by musicians today. Half of the music in Last Call is from this collection and the other half is written by me, with orchestration by Karen Armstrong.”

King spoke passionately about the importance of seeing through all elements of the production to deliver a fine stage product to the audience, “We are paying attention to the details of the production. Our sets will have the artistic designs that you would expect to see in the architecture of the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Our actors will be outfitted in the fashion of the period; well cut suits and dresses.”

King entered the world of musicals at age ten when he was cast in a Father HoLung production and grew up playing to sold out audiences at the Little Theatre.

“It was a fantastic way to start,” he recalls. “It was a caring environment where the cast were like uncles and aunts who looked out for me every step of the way. I did that all through Campion, and while I was at UWI Mona appeared in Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) shows, including Pearlie. The person who directed all of the Ho Lung and JMTC productions that I was in was Alwyn Bully. I did theatre school in Ithaca - one of the best theatre schools with a Broadway sized stage - and even after studying abroad, Bully remains one of the best directors that I have worked with. It is sad to me that he is no longer in Jamaica working.”

The cast of Last Call are: Maurice Brown; Richelle Bellamy Pellice; Aisha Davis and Shane Powell. Production staff are: orchestration; Karen Armstrong; choreography; Paula Shaw; set design, Larry Watson; sound and lights; Nadia Roxburgh; assistant director; Michael Daley; costume and production, Scarlett Beharie. Curtains rise at the Phillip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona on June 29.