“Caribbean Textures” Cycle Focuses on Kamau Brathwaite and George Lamming

The interdisciplinary “Caribbean Textures: Caliban Multiplied” cycle continues in Havana. At the end of October, Casa de las Américas and the University of Havana hosted the panel “Caliban and Barbados.”

Yolanda Wood, Director of the Centre for Caribbean Studies (CEC) at Casa, welcomed the students and scholars by reading a letter by Barbadian writer Kamau Brathwaite, thanking the cultural institution for the forthcoming publication of his poem “Caliban” (1969) on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. Surrounded by photos of Brathwaite’s stay at the Casa de las Américas, where he has twice served as member of the jury for its world renowned literary award (for poetry in 1976 and essay in 1998), the first panel of the afternoon discussed Brathwaite’s work and “its relationship to the Caribbean, to Caliban as symbol, and to the universe of thought and image that the Barbadian author has developed with reference to the Shakespearean character and its postcolonial connotations, but with a different political resonance.”  The session, moderated by Marietta Fernández, included Haydée Arango, Ariel Camejo (professors of the School of Arts and Letters at the UH) and philosopher Félix Valdés.

The session discussed Brathwaite’s physical and poetic trajectories as well as his production, comparing works such as his 1969 “Caliban” from the collection Islands and the 1976 “Caliban” from Black and Blues and the poet’s use of cues, morphology, and rhythms from calypso, spirituals, ska, reggae, and other musical manifestations; his influence in the emergence of new voices in dub poetry in the Caribbean and Great Britain; his reinvention and use of a new calligraphy; the concepts of national language and Creolization; the ties between Caribbean and Barbadian literature and the characters of “The Tempest;” the importance of the symbolic and polysemous figure of Sycorax in his poetic and theoretical production; and the idea of “nation language,” the development of his Sycorax Video Style, the poet’s transformation of language, and consequently, a transformation of Caribbean cultures, which rendered with a new degree of semantic opacity, pose a different tension between colonized and colonizer.

Later in the afternoon, Roberto Fernández Retamar, president of Casa de las Américas, and author of the emblematic essay Caliban, discussed the evolution of William Shakespeare’s Caliban and Ariel as conceptual characters and their development in Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó’s 1900 Ariel, Barbadian George Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile (1960), and as well as Aimé Césaire’s, Kamau Brathwaite’s, and his own [Fernández Retamar] work.  

The second panel, with Caribbean literary critic Emilio Jorge Rodríguez and CEC director Yolanda Wood, was dedicated to Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile. Emilio Jorge Rodríguez offered a tight review of Lamming’s paradigmatic texts to reveal certain clues to his pan-Caribbean world view. Dr. Rodríguez also focused on Haiti’s centrality as an axis of the construction of a new Caribbean identity in his works.  He pointed out that Haiti’s appearance in Lamming and [Alejo] Carpentier’s literary production points to a wider signification of their work and the existence of what Rodríguez refers to as “shifting centers” [centros deslizantes] in Caribbean culture, a concept he has been developing in his critical work.

Wood spoke about the new paradigms and ways of “naming” the Caribbean, as well as the previously unheard of “permanent spirit of defiance before all existing stigmatizations” present in Lamming’s work. She stressed how The Pleasures of Exile became a founding text of Caribbean thought.

For full articles on these topics, see http://laventana.casa.cult.cu/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=5767 and http://laventana.casa.cult.cu/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=5768

One thought on ““Caribbean Textures” Cycle Focuses on Kamau Brathwaite and George Lamming

  1. Hi…my name is Jayasrinivasa Rao and I am from India. I am a student of literature and read West Indian literature for my MA in English and among the books I read was George Lamming’s ‘In the Castle of my Skin’. I went on to do an M.Phil. on the narrative techniques in George Lamming’s ‘In the Castle of my Skin’. I want to read George Lamming’s poems, but I am unable to get hold of them. Only recently, I found two of his poems in the Kykoveral Anthology of West Indian poetry which I found online. I would be pleased if you could direct me to more of George Lamming’s poems.

    Thank you and warm regards,

    Jayasrinivasa Rao

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