Analyzing the Impact of Kamau Brathwaite’s Work on the Caribbean


Prolific in his writings about African identity in the West Indies, Caribbean poet and scholar Dr. Kamau Brathwaite’s work has explored the historical links and events that have contributed to the development of the black population in the Caribbean. Scholars and literary enthusiasts are analyzing the impact of his work this week at the Critical Caribbean Symposium Series at The College of The Bahamas.

“A Splice of Space and Time: Celebrating the Life and Work of Kamau Brathwaite” was held November 22 and 23, 2013 at The College’s Oakes Field Campus.

“Dr. Brathwaite is known for his poetry and critical work in terms of thinking about questions of history, identity and language in the Caribbean region,” said Dr. Keithley Woolward, Co-chair of the symposium and interim Director of Graduate Programmes at The College.

“His work, unfortunately, is under studied, particularly in the Caribbean region. So, we wanted to actually bring a group of people together to talk about his work,” he added.

Born in Barbados in 1930, Brathwaite is the author of numerous collections of poetry including Elegguas, Middle Passages and Black + Blues. He has been honoured with the Casa de Las Americas Prize for Literary Criticism, the Bussa Award and the Charity Randall Prize for Performance and Written Poetry. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex.

The Critical Caribbean Symposium Series has emerged as a critical platform for the discussion and exploration of the Afro-centrism that binds the Caribbean region.

Elaine Savory, Professor of English Literature at The New School, New York delivered the keynote address. She examined important highlights in the work of Dr. Brathwaite and what they contribute to thinking about the Caribbean. Other speakers and panels analyzed aspects of his work. Additionally, Dr. L’Antoinette Stines, founder, artistic director and principal choreographer of L’Acadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force, from Jamaica, performed a choreographed dance to Dr. Brathwaite’s poetry.

“He [Brathwaite] is also important in terms of thinking about The Bahamas, and our history and independence, in terms of majority rule and one of the earlier works that he did was in terms of tracing out the African presence within the Caribbean,” said Dr. Craig Smith, co-chair of the symposium and Assistant Professor of English at The College.

The two day symposium was free and open to the public in order to include the wider community in the discourse.

“It is about elevating the level of conversations that we are having here at The College of The Bahamas, bridging the gap between the College of The Bahamas and the community. By doing that, [we are] also making a connection between College, community and the world,” said Dr. Woolward.

The mission of the Critical Caribbean Symposium Series is to engage scholars from The Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond from a wide range of disciplines, in dialogues and conversations around the many social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges facing the region today. This series underscores The College’s mandate as the national tertiary institution to foster the intellectual development of students and the wider community by encouraging critical analysis and independent thought.

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