LiTTscapes: Moray House Trust in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture and the Theatre Guild and in association with Trinidadian Dr Kris Rampersaud yesterday presented “LiTTribute 11 – LiTTurgy to the Mainland” with readings and performances inspired by Rampersaud’s book LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago. The coffee-table style book contains photos and writings from T&T. In photo: Rampersaud (right) hands over a copy of her book to UG’s Al Creighton. It will be available in the University of Guyana library. (Photo by Arian Browne)http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/media/photos/02/16/moray-house/
LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction From Trinidad and
Moray House Trust, Georgetown, Guyana
February 15, 2013
of Ceremonies: Paloma Mohammed and longtime friend; Professor Al Creighton: Acting
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana and Head of the Guyana Prise for
Literature; Distinguished guests all, Friends
of the Guyana Theatre Guild – brilliant, brilliant interpretation of the
introduction to LiTTscapes.
I salute you, thank you for making the
work your own, because that is what it was meant to be – to be claimed and
owned and rendered by the generations next and those to come.
If I might begin by drawing attention to
the title of this event – a LiTTribute – first of all – a title with which I
took obvious authorial licence - as a combination of a literary tribute that
has Trinidad and Tobago at its centre and which also celebrates other creative
disciplines of music, song, dance, art and architecture, fashion and cuisine.
confession – this is really not just the second such – if one were to count the
launch of LiTTscapes itself during the jubilee of Independence month in August
last year which set the tone for the LiTTribute (To the Republic) – hosted by
Trinidad and Tobago’s First Lady in celebration of the 36th
anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s Republican status. That in itself was
followed by the inaugural LiTTour – which is literary journeys evoking tribute
to the landscapes of fiction from Trinidad and Tobago and took on a life of its
own – as on that fateful journey we stumbled upon the defaced tombs of some of
the earliest European settlers in South Trinidad – a French family shipwrecked
enroute from Martinque to Venezuela in the mid 17th century.
Yep – that is our Caribbean story.
Inescapably, our stories are tied up and entangled and intermingled with each
other’s and that goes back into our prehistory.
As now, the unfolding story of
LiTTscapes – post-publication - unfolds with these LiTTributes, the LiTTours,
but also the expanding knowledge that will be reflected in the next publication
on my table – Letters to Lizzie – an engagement with Queen Elizabeth in the
context of her 60th jubilee celebrations and our 50th
anniversary of Independence (the celebration of which I have found particularly
problematic to identify with – given that my whole orientation, the whole
vision and world view of LiTTscapes is that we ought not to be defining our age
in terms of the time of recent self governance but as the sum total of all our
history and experiences; the sum total of all the peoples who came and those
whom they met there; and the yet nebulous truth of from whence they came and
how our islands and this our continent began).
What the story of these LiTTributes
unfolds, is that it is clearer and clearer that as islands, we are not just islands.
We are part of that continent at the beginning of the world, as Lawrence Scott
in his novel, featured in LiTTscapes articulates.
So it brings me to beginnings. I have
never been able to contemplate the history of my islands as the isolated story
of Independence or colonialisation or even migration, not the recent migrations
that brought most of us here, nor even the prehistoric ones.
I have poured over maps and drew the
invisible line that connects South American rivers and topography with our
islands; and looked at biological studies of our flora and fauna and geological
and anthropological and archeological reports, and even without that, know,
there are primordial linkages which we have been taught to forget.
Within the whole context of debates and
discussions about globalisation are those other debates and discussions – those
on globe-forming – in which we have not really seen ourselves, but in which our
writers – our writers of fiction position us.
A couple months ago when an anaconda
crawled up the Caroni River, Trinidad’s attention was jerked awake to the
realities of such primordial connections to the ecology of South America. It is
part of our knowledge we have buried somewhere in the dark recesses of our
Until about four years ago, I had never
been to Guyana – the land just a stone’s throw away – and then only for a day
so all I saw was the route to the airport and back, and immediately it recreated
for me the landscape around the Gangetic plains from which some of our
Last year I was back and this time for a
couple more days and saw a little more, something of what lay behind the
mystique of the Demerara River.
This time around, my third tryst here, I
braved the potholed roads and on a return boat that is a little more than canoe
more and ventured further into what Joseph Conrad might call the heart of
For me, it was the heart of light; the
niggling inside my head that is getting more insistent of late as I research
and get ready to release Letters to Lizzie (that is if I can get the time and
headspace to finish writing it!); the niggling that there is so much more
beyond our immediate geographic space; beyond the waters of the Caribbean Sea
and the Atlantic Ocean that washes upon us that we often view as waters that
divide us but which to me contain our shared experiences and heritage and
But I have not had only three visits to
Guyana – so as our master calypsonian would say, I lied! You see I had already
visited Guyana a hundred times through my imagination, through research and
through the stories and poems of your authors like Wilson Harris, Roy Heath, Edgar
Mittelholtzer, Jan Carew and Martin Carter. (And
Al Creighton in his comrephensive and incisive and generous review mentioned
Raleigh and Ian MacDonald whom we share along with Lakshmi Seetaram-Persaud who
is married to a Guyanese Al – they do not belong to Guyana alone (and there is
only one Derek Walcott citation in LiTTscapes that refers to St Lucia, the
other citations are all based on his comments on Trinidad).
Even before last week when I went to the
native people’s habitats in Berbice, I had already sailed with Wilson Harris’ Donne
hundreds of times to the Palace of the Peacock a conqueror and captor; and
participated in the density of history and the condensation of time he saw, as
a surveyor, mirrored in the Guyana hinterland that he has been able to infuse
in his novels;
I had numerous hilarious private moments
laughing at Lizzie, through John Agard’s mashing up the Queen’s English – so
now she had to take note and made him the UK’s poet laureate – hats off and
And I had, with Martin Carter and Walter
Rodney danced on the walls of prison and shared an insistent that although a
prison, it was my wall and hence mines to cry or dance on. And that is why I
requested the Dance interpretation of Martin Carter’s poem The Knife of Dawn. And I have never seized to marvel at this one,
written in 1927 with the lines “We who are sweepers of an ancient sky;
discoverers of new planet, sudden stars… “ Yes, you heard me, written in 1927,
before space travel, before mega thrusts to the moon” Our writers have been our
visionaries though we have remained blind to the enormous possibilities and
potentials of ourselves that they have been presenting us with.
So that’s why I asked and was immediately
granted my wish for a dance interpretation of Carter’s poem which will be done
by the Guyana National School of Dance – thank you for that, Paloma, for so
readily agreeing without even knowing what a tremendous source of inspiration
that poem has been in its notes of defiance, of empowerment, of envisioning –
and which still is to me in all of what I try to do!
That item will close tonight’s
LiTTribute: and indeed the LiTTurgy to the Mainland: thought they may think
they may be paying tribute to LiTT scapes, the work before us today; it is also
my tribute to a source of inspiration and which I present to those who follow
and hope they to will take what might have seemed to be a ridiculous and
petulant decision to make my dance right here; to remain in the Caribbean and
continue the exploration of the nuts and bolts that make it this place we love
so well and so love to hate as well. And that despite the tremendous force that
is constantly in operation to insist that there is a better world out there to
make someone of ourselves – forcing and pushing our young people out to
discover new planets and sudden stars elsewhere - not the ones hanging over
It is this kind of reawakening that I am
hoping of LiTTscapes and its ambitions and intentions – what I called at its
launch last year a revolution – a revolution in reading! A revolution to
re-envisioning ourselves; at how we look at our world in the first and foremost
instance, and how we look at the rest of the world and our place in it – as
centres, not on the periphery – as sweepers of an ancient sky; not as
offsprings in a new world; and as DISCOVERERS – of new planets and sudden star;
That is our challenge: to lift ourselves above
and beyond the self derision and self negation we have been hinged.
What brought me to Guyana this time was
my own exploratory urge.
LiTTscapes, I hope is a stimulant to
curiosity – to be curious about ourselves in the first instance, our immediate
locale and to discover and explore and rediscover ourselves and those around us
an those who have been exploring and discovering those around us – our writers
– who have probed and can stimulate us to probe deeper, beneath ourselves – to
move beyond the self-derision and self deprecation and the discover our
ugliness too, and too, our beauty.
That’s what I found in the Guyana hinterland
this week – what I began to find as I traced the imaginary line that connects
us – island and continent.
This is a LiTTurgy – a praise song: to
all those who came before, and on whose enormous shoulders we stand and are