Noted Jamaican storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks will participate in the 20th Scotland International Storytelling Festival to be held in Edinburgh from October 23 to November 1. The Festival will explore the rich and complex idea of ‘homeland’ by bringing together Scottish storytellers with tradition bearers from the indigenous cultures of North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Among her performances will be a one-hour show called ‘Atlantic Voices’ about the Makere people and one dedicated to Halloween on October 31st, which will feature her tale ‘Fe We Duppy or Fe Dem Ghosts?.’
Blackwood Meeks recently published an article in the book The Sea is History: Exploring the Atlantic, published by the German University of Mainz. The book includes two fellow Jamaicans, Anne Bailey (“Beyond Boundaries”) and Erna Brodber (“The Bag-nolds District of St Mary, Jamaica” and “The Atlantic Crossings of the Late Eighteenth Century”). Blackwood-Meeks’s contribution took the form of a story inspired from the oral tradition in song. She told the Gleaner that thepeople involved in Kumina have a song about the Makere people, singing, “the Makere people lost through the wilderness.” She was drawn to the song’s rhythm and haunting melody, before reading Dutch Anthropologist Jan Knappert’s Legends of the Congo. The book contained a narrative about the Makere people in the Congo, who were constantly raided by Arabs. Here’s the description from the Gleaner’s article:
The women and children were held hostage and the men forced to hunt for ivory, but often when they returned with the elephant and rhinoceros tusks, the hostages would still not be freed. Eventually, on one occasion as the Arabs approached, they decided to flee, leaving even their family altars behind. However, on one night during their flight, upon reaching the Mokongo river, they had to build a sisal bridge which could only carry a limited number of persons at one time. As the Arabs approached again, everybody still left on that side of the river rushed on to the bridge, which collapsed, and nothing more was heard of them.
Blackwood-Meeks says she had a very “emotional moment” when she read the story and made the connection to the song, so she wrote a story about it that was published in March 2007. In it, her character, Jing Bang, is at the Kingston waterfront shouting ‘Jesus’ and people think she is mad, not realising that she is actually calling the name of a ship. She is actually longing for her brother, who had promised to return for her, but was one of those who was on the bridge when it broke. Blackwood-Meeks also connected the story of the Makere people to a folk song she learnt in Antigua, as well as the first wave of migrants who went to England for the rebuilding process after World War II.
For the article in the Gleaner go to http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20090920/arts/arts7.html