Finding the Forgotten: The Caribbean Memory Project

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In “Finding the Forgotten,” Simon Lee writes about the Caribbean Memory Project (CMP), an online resource “to promote public awareness and participation in the collection and circulation of everyday archives for cultural, social and historical research.” The project was co-founded by Dr. Kevin Browne (Syracuse University) and film producer and scriptwriter Dawn Cumberbatch. Here are a few excerpts on the Caribbean Memory Project; check out the full article in the link below:

[. . .] The genesis of CMP is grounded in the recent personal past of its founders. Browne, who left Trinidad in 1989 before entering the sixth form at Presentation College Sando, experienced an epiphany on the day in 2004 when he simultaneously received his acceptance at Penn State to read for his PhD and news of his grandmother’s death. Returning for her funeral he was shocked to find out so late in the day, that she had been a teacher. “This project was born of shame” (at his ignorance of this piece of family history) and he resolved to pursue his doctoral research “in honour of her.” His sense of loss informed his dissertation and the book Tropic Tendencies published in 2013, “a work of reconstruction”, which set out to answer the question “What is Caribbean Rhetoric and its role in popular culture.” Tropic Tendencies initiated “a conversation about the tasks we Caribbeans face” by re-viewing vernacular cultural expressions through the filter of the “carnivalesque” and the performative displays which developed “in response to a historical situation” and “misrepresentation.”

Cumberbatch recalled meeting Browne shortly after her mother’s death, when sorting through her mother’s possessions she became acutely aware of the imperative of “preserving heritage” and Browne’s archiving project immediately resonated with her.

As Browne explained, CMP seeks to go beyond the accumulation of artefacts, stories and images to form passive archives, or simply recognizing oral and folk traditions, to embrace “the aural, dance, humour and the matrix of intellectual and spiritual activities, which can raise community consciousness.” The project is informed by a sense of urgency, driven not only by the erasure of Caribbean cultural expressions by the exigencies of globalization but also by the awareness that “We’re in global crisis. The sanctity of humanity and ideas is threatened. There’s a lot we’ve forgotten.”

[. . .] After meeting Cumberbatch, Browne began Foundation(s), a digital vernacular archive, focused on “the digital curation, rhetorical research and free distribution of texts of Caribbean import”, which provided the developmental platform necessary for CMP. Browne is an unusual, arguably unique postmodern Anglophone Caribbean scholar/archivist/photographer/poet/blogger; one of a rare breed who is not shy to marry theory and practice, in a praxis which interrogates such fundamentals as: “Who am I? Where are we going? What are we supposed to be doing?” He’s unusual in that having experienced the visceral life on the ground (poverty, violence) along with migration, exile, isolation and a belated cerebral career (after serving as a US marine), his intellectual focus and strategies of enquiry are founded on his vernacular roots, and by extension those of all Caribbeans.

Furthermore his theory(ies) are grounded in precisely that vernacular “everyday” life we all experience, but mostly take for granted or dismiss in a digital landscape clogged with info overload. If we can’t keep up with Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media, is there any time left for the past? The past of old family snapshots, documents and all the detritus, we’re tempted to simply delete?  Browne appropriates the same digital media, which is an inescapable facet of our globalized postmodern world, to allow an egalitarian access to a framing of what we take as mundane products and expressions of the past, in order to reconsider our present and future. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.guardian.co.tt/lifestyle/2015-05-27/finding-forgotten

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