Rex Nettleford Remembered in service at UWI Center

Deniece Alleyne writes in memory of Rex Nettleford, whose life and career were celebrated this past weekend at a memorial service at the UWI Center in Baseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Exactly one month after the world learned that Professor Ralston Milton “Rex” Nettleford, Emeritus of the University of the West Indies had transitioned to meet the ancestors his life and work were remembered in a moving service at the UWI Center in Basseterre. It was only fitting that the man who contributed the most to the development of the school of continuing studies that evolved into the UWI Open Campus over his twenty – five year tenure as its head would be so honoured.

This illustrious son of Jamaica and the Caribbean was remembered by distinguished alumni of the UWI including Sir Dwight Venner, Sir Probyn Inniss and many others in moving personal tributes that were odes to the many and varied accomplishments of the academic, scholar, historian, dancer and cultural ambassador that was Professor Rex Nettleford. The service was held under the patronage of the governor general Sir Cuthbert Sebastian and in attendance were the leaders of both the federal and the Nevis Island Administration cabinets, cabinet members from both islands, members of the UWI family here in the Federation both staff and students, members of the diplomatic corps and other invited guests.

Renditions in song by both artistes and the audience, prayers, scripture and a beautiful spiritual effusion on the African drum all combined to create an enriching experience for those gathered that no doubt pleased the spirit of the man they remembered who so enjoyed the cultural and spiritual expressions of black, Caribbean people.

Regional integrationist that he was Professor Nettleford was no stranger to the Federation or indeed any of the islands in the UWI family. This writer sat spellbound during his most recent lecture here as part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans in 2007. It was a meditation on the resilience of Caribbean people through memory, mask, myth and metaphor that allowed us to transmit and preserve that essential part of ourselves to the next generation and so survive with soul intact three centuries of brutal oppression. It is that same process of memory and metaphor that will keep the sterling contribution of Professor Nettleford alive for generations to come for in so many ways he “walked good.”

The tribute appeared at

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