NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2022

The 2022 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, taking place from April 28 to May 1, is organized around an overarching theme this year: “Four Days to Change the World.” All events will be streaming and available from anywhere in the world through various platforms: the literature festival’s site, bocaslitfest.com, as well as Facebook and YouTube. The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters this year goes to Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge (see below). Festival director Nicholas Laughlin writes:

FOUR DAYS TO CHANGE THE WORLD:  Here in the Caribbean, like everywhere else in the world, we’re living through a time of extraordinary change — social and cultural, technological and environmental. Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to change the way we work and play, even our simplest daily routines. Meanwhile the threat of global climate change is looming, and recent events have compelled us to confront social inequalities in dire need of change. To survive, we need to adapt. Our writers have risen to these many challenges, with a host of recent books that investigate ideas about change in every sphere and field — whether personal or collective, political or cultural. Through genres as diverse as fiction, poetry, and life-writing, contemporary Caribbean writers are courageously exploring the changes we are all living through, and the changes we need in order to create a more just society. At our twelfth annual festival, we’re following their lead, with a special programme of four consecutive evenings, each with its own thematic focus, adding up to a bigger story of how ideas, stories, and words can change the world for the better, by focusing on some of the most vital books and authors of the past year.

2022 BOCAS HENRY SWANZY AWARD: With bodies of work that span borders and decades, and having helped to launch some of the most talented contemporary Caribbean and diaspora writers, Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge have played an unmistakable role in shaping the region’s literary landscape. Now the Bocas Lit Fest is honouring them with the annual Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters.

Founded in 2013, the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award is named for the late BBC World Service radio producer Henry Swanzy. Irish by birth, Swanzy was a catalysing figure in the development of modern West Indian literature, having worked from 1946 to 1954 as producer of the influential Caribbean Voices radio programme, originally founded by Jamaican Una Marson.

The Bocas Lit Fest created the award in Swanzy’s memory to honour and celebrate the contributions of editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have devoted their careers to developing Caribbean literature, often behind the scenes. Recipients of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award are selected by the festival’s organising committee and honoured each year at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

The 2022 awardees, Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge, are being recognised for their work over more than two decades as creative writing teachers and mentors, in particular through the influential Cropper Foundation Writers’ Workshop. Aiyejina and Hodge led the residential workshop from its founding in 2000, guiding and mentoring participants from across the Caribbean, many of whom have gone on not only to be published, but acclaimed for their books. In addition, Aiyejina was the founder of the creative writing MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programme at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine campus, the first degree-granting programme in creative writing in the Anglophone Caribbean.

Born in Nigeria and resident in Trinidad and Tobago since 1989, Funso Aiyejina is a celebrated poet, short story writer, playwright, and scholar — a former Dean of Humanities and Education, and current professor emeritus at UWI, St. Augustine. He started his teaching career at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, and was lecturer and later professor at UWI from 1990 to 2014. Aiyejina won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region for his short fiction collection The Legend of the Rockhills and Other Stories. As a scholar, he is especially well known for his work on Earl Lovelace, including a biography and film. [. . .]

Lauded as one of the first Black Caribbean women to publish a major work of fiction — her classic 1970 novel Crick Crack, Monkey — Merle Hodge is a beloved fiction writer, literary critic, social and cultural activist, and retired lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at UWI, St Augustine. During her UWI career across two campuses, she taught French, West Indian and African Diaspora Literature, and Creative Writing even before the founding of the MFA programme.

Both Aiyejina and Hodge continue to write and publish — each has published a new book in the past two years — but the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award recognises their crucial parallel work as teachers and mentors of younger authors, and their dedication to nurturing a generation of writers grounded in Caribbean literary tradition and language, exploring the region’s social complexities. [. . .]

For full program of events, visit https://www.bocaslitfest.com/

For more information, see https://www.bocaslitfest.com/2022/04/02/announcing-the-recipients-of-the-2022-bocas-henry-swanzy-award/

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