A run and rerun of sold-out highly appreciative and applauding audiences had translated into an onslaught of deflating media reviews that Walcott. The emerging media tone was that not even the globally lauded Nobel Laureate Walcott, could capture and convey the Steelpan and steelband; that what he presented was farcical and a shadow of what the steelpan was and meant to the people who spawned it and the society that claimed it.
...Port of Spain, the sum of history, ,,,A downtown babel of shop signs and streets, mongrelized, polyglot, a ferment without a history, like heaven. Because that is what such a city is, in the New World, a writer's heaven.
...I was entitled to the feast of Husein, to the mirrors and crepe-paper temples of the Muslim epic, to the Chinese Dragon Dance, to the rites of that Sephardic Jewish synagogue that was once on Something Street. I am only one-eighth the writer I might have been had I contained all the fragmented languages of Trinidad.... This is Port of Spain to me, a city ideal in its commercial and human proportions, where a citizen is a walker and not a pedestrian, and this is how Athens may have been before it became a cultural echo. (Derek Walcott, Nobel Lecture, 1992)
If one believes in the potential of literature and its related arts to transform us and societies, one would have to conclude that there must be insufficient reading, understanding and internalization that could impact our individual and human condition.
Our lives become immersed in trying to resist the forces that threaten to have us degenerate into a mere 'cultural echo', even in the face of superlatively incisive vision and artistry of the likes of Derek Walcott and the enormous creative capacity we embody.
Wind the clock back, to 1962 and the dawning of ours as nations newly independent of colonial rule. His search inwards takes him through the colonial journey from Africa, via Eurasia to the Caribbean., and as relevant then as it is in today's world of irrationalism, violent extremism, racism and terrorism. He writes in A Far Cry from Africa:
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?
Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilizations dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
These experiences would inspire and buoy my own drive to grow, nurture, encourage and sustain literary appreciation through the Leaves of Life initiative and the publication of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago - which deviated in its presentation of prose fiction to also represent some of Walcott’s insights through poetry on our ‘scapes’ - and its associated activities of LiTTours – Journeys Through the Landscapes of Fiction; and LiTTributes – events that celebrate the literary artistic impulse in itsrelation to other arts in song, music, drama, costuming, cuisine, art and design, architecture, landscape, culture, festival and celebration, forging connections among us, and with other societies too - with LiTTribute to the Mainland - staged in Guyana, to LiTTribute to LondonTTown, and elsewhere. LiTTribute to the Antilles that we staged in Antigua in fact sprang from Walcott's Nobel Lecture, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory which had also inspired our Evening Epic, the award ceremony for literary prizes. His Nobel lecture I use to encourage comparative discourse to broaden our appreciation of ourselves, outlooks and perspectives on Caribbean society, with the Nobel Lecture of Sir Vidia Naipaul, Two Worlds our Trinidadian son who took the prized Nobel Laureate almost a decade after Walcott in 2001.
There are no more fitting words for an epitaph than what you have written yourself, with my most recent visitation from the sower:
The Walcott Files
LiTTscapes for Littribute to the Antilles
A LiTTribute at UNESCO
Inscription by UNESCO of Poems
Small only in Size UNESCO Executive Board told
World in a Fishbowl
Death of Knowledge & social Conscience
A Musical Heritage walk UNESCO Creative Cities
Making Music with Steel
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