Leah Mahon (The Voice) reports that the pioneering Jamaican dub poet Jean “Binta” Breeze MBE has died at the age of 65.
Born in Jamaica, Breeze was a lauded artist and performer known for her exceptional talents in Dub poetry, leading performances at literary festivals in both the UK and across the Caribbean.
She had undergone her training at the Jamaican School of Drama and began writing poetry in the 1970s.
She went onto write 10 books of celebrated poems and stories, and released five albums of her work.
According to her representatives, Renaissance One Writers and Event who announced her passing, Breeze died in Jamaica on August 4, following a “period of ill health”.
In a statement on Twitter, they said: “We are incredibly saddened to announce that our dear friend Jean “Binta” Breeze MBE – poet, artist, theatre director, choreographer, actor and teacher – has died in Jamaica, aged 65. Sending our deepest condolences to her family and friends during this terribly sad time.
“Jean was an especially important part of our literary community in the UK and the Caribbean and her body of writing and orality, and the warmth and connection she generated through her art, touched the hearts and minds of audiences around the world.
“We are in a state of shock and we will be mourning her loss for some time.”
The poet Michael Rosen, who had performed alongside Breeze, spoke fondly of the late performer to the Guardian: “I performed alongside her at the Ledbury poetry festival. She took hold of the whole performance place, invoking scenes and people from her life in poem and song. It was as if she summoned her mother into the room and became her.
“Her poetry and performance was an announcement about womanhood, ethnicity, colour, nationhood and in particular Jamaica. I was riveted.
“She was also great company backstage, talking openly about her life and difficulties, and interrogating me about where I was at. She had a huge infectious laugh which came from all of her. I was thinking that one day, perhaps we would meet up again in a poetry setting. Very sad that it’s not going to happen.”
The UK-based group of producers and curators said in a tribute to Jean: “Her body of writing and orality, and the warmth and connection she generated through her art, touched the hearts and minds of audiences around the world.
Throughout her later life, Breeze continued to spend her time between Leicester and Jamaica, still writing teaching and performing.
She also worked as a director and scriptwriter for theatre, television and film.
Her incredible contribution to literary communities in both the UK and the Caribbean led her to be awarded an MBE in 2012 in the Queen’s birthday honours, for her services to literature.