Paul Keens-Douglas’ “Tanti at de Oval”

tantiA blog called Premaimages recently featured Paul Keens-Douglas’ story “Tanti at de Oval,” first published in 1992. “Tanti at de Oval” was written to give the readers “a colorful example of life in the Caribbean [. . .] with heartening humor, intense expression, colorful language and colorful illustrations,” says the blog. The story is about the writer’s aunt, Tanti Merle, and her first visit to The Queen’s Park Oval to watch an important cricket match between Trinidad and the Combined Islands. Here are excerpts with a link to the full description:

Paul Keens-Douglas–Playwright, Writer and Performer: Paul Keens-Douglas is a Trinidadian-born playwright, writer and performer whose voice is nicely recognized in the Caribbean. A writer for more than thirty years, Keens-Douglas’ narratives have aired on numerous radio stations. His stories present engaging colloquial language, vivid imagery and relatable tales. Keens-Douglas is also a motivational speaker and lately in 2008 was the keynote speaker at the Virgin Islands Humanities Council’s “Virgin Voices: A Literary and Spoken Word Festival” in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

A Caribbean Story–Tanti at de Oval:  Tanti at de Oval is written in initial person as the narrator tells the tale of Tanti Merle’s antics from her preparation for the trip to the match to her behavior at the game. With the help of colorful illustrations by Joan Camps-Campin, Keens-Douglas shares how Tanti Merle embarrassed herself and her companion at the Oval. Her antics incorporate her significant basket of goodies, her choice of a taxi bus and her loud cheering at the match. The story hits a climax as the match concludes and Tanti nearly brought on a riot among the spectators. Keens-Douglas writes “Dat exact same Tanti Merle dat look as if butter can’t melt in she mout. It take me ‘bout two hours to get she out de Oval. She drop de basket an’ de Parasol mash-up. ”

Caribbean Language & Life: Elements of Caribbean life highlighted in Tanti at de Oval are the significance of cricket, the dialectal language, and the camaraderie and rivalry fostered by local sports. In relation to the language, Tanti at de Oval is written in dialect but a glossary is supplied to describe such terms as “jook outâ,” which according to the writer signifies “to dig out with (a) sharp object.”

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