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Artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez has designed a comic book character who combines superpowers and activism on the troubled island, Alan Yuhas reports for London’s Guardian.

Tides are rising and a hurricane is due. Crime is growing, families are fleeing and hundreds of thousands are out of work. At best, they are forced to follow men and women who cannot even agree to fight a virus that harms infants. At worst, their leaders are corrupt.

More than 1,600 miles from the island of Puerto Rico, Marisol Rios De La Luz is at Columbia University, with a long commute from Williamsburg. She majors in environmental studies and has an interest in activism. She recently visited family back in Puerto Rico, where a Taino goddess, Atabey, and her twin sons granted her superpowers over flight and weather.

Marisol doesn’t exist, but her creator hopes her story could do something to resolve the problems that do.

“It isn’t that she’ll storm Wall Street and knock out hedge funds holding Puerto Rico’s debt,” the artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez told the Guardian. “That’s fantasy.”

Instead, Puerto Rico’s new heroine will do the usual superhero things – fight crime, save lives, defeat villains. But she will also inject the messy work of politics into the clean, brightly lined world of comics.

“It’s not just she can fly, she can control the weather, and her costume looks like the flag,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “The mere fact that you’ve created la Borinqueña makes her political.”

Named after Puerto Rico’s anthem, the character was created to “represent the real face of diversity”, Miranda-Rodriguez said, noting that people of color and women are still underrepresented in comics, especially in the mainstream that is usually relied on by Hollywood.

Studios did recently announced three major comic book movies – Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman – in which a white man will not play the lead. In such spirit, Miranda-Rodriguez said he drew La Borinqueña to be “not oversexualized, respectfully designed, a woman who looks like your sister, your daughter, your wife – someone who looks like you”.

He also contrasted the character with the origin stories of her more famous peers.

“Comic book stories always towed from a male perspective,” he said, “where, at the height of their powers, something tragic happens that makes that character become an altruistic hero. But she didn’t have to have some tragedy to wake up to her sense of civic responsibility – she just wanted to lead. She’s one of many who’s always been there, serving and being part of the community.”

Comics have always taken on politics, usually without much nuance. Superman, the immigrant extraordinaire, fought Nazis. Batman the billionaire fought the communist KGBeast. the X-Men weremarginalized and the Avengers surveilled. Captain America facedRonald Reagan, the snake man.

Miranda-Rodriguez has taken a slightly different tack, filling La Borinqueña’s world with political problems that her superpowers alone cannot solve.

On Friday, Puerto Rico defaulted on $779m in bonds, despite a last-minute rescue effort passed by Congress. The island was already crippled. Schools and hospitals have closed down, doctors have left en masse, and the population has dwindled as hundreds of thousands have fled to the mainland. Industry abandoned the island after tax breaks expired: 12.2% of the people who remain are unemployed and 45% live in poverty. On top of all this, the Zika virus hasswept on to the island with mosquito season.

Miranda-Rodriguez has painted the sprawling crisis into his characters’ stories.

“It’s affecting real lives,” he said. “Can one person change it? No. But we’re aware of it and we can do things to make others aware.”

Marisol begins as an activist in her community, organizing for common causes such as voter rights, climate change and police accountability.

Miranda-Rodriguez said: “She may realize, ‘My superpowers can’t change this but I can help people who are here and inspire them to help themselves.’”

And though Marisol is literally empowered by a pilgrimage to her family’s ancestral home, the Puerto Ricans who remain there are disempowered by the federal government, as American citizens who cannot vote for president and have no power in Congress.

“It’s actually Puerto Ricans in the diaspora that really need to be the ones to step up and speak out,” Miranda-Rodriguez said, noting that those who live in the states can vote. “If we don’t like you, we can vote you out, and that’s the real power.

“We’re a growing demographic as a voting bloc and as consumers. How much more powerful would we feel if we were consuming products that look like us, pursuing candidates that look like us and speak like us?”

Through pop culture, Miranda-Rodriguez said he hoped to get a message out about a current crisis and a long history of unspoken abuse.

“Real truths are finally being exposed, coming into the mainstream,” he said, before alluding to a recent supreme court case that struck a blow to the island’s limited self-governance by saying it must abide by a federal double jeopardy rule.

He said: “The supreme court just said, ‘Let’s be real, this concept of a commonwealth is a fraud. It’s a colony.’”

The artist said he did not know whether independence or statehood would be best for Puerto Rico, but he was heartened that at least one member of Congress,Nydia M Velázquez of New York, had noticed his work, which is slated to debut this fall through a studio run by Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC.

“This is a comic book, yo. Nobody’s wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt in Congress. But it’s what she represents.”

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Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party, or PNP, on Monday celebrated the 240th anniversary of the independence of the United States by proposing a new 51-star flag, Fox Latino News reports.

PNP secretary-general William Villafañe unveiled the flag at the headquarters of the party, which supports making Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state.

“It’s time to achieve equality,” Villafañe said.

The politician presented the standard at the PNP’s headquarters in San Juan, saying that the new flag sent a message to the United States to solve the island’s political status and “respect the wishes” of the Puerto Rican people.

The PNP official called on the U.S. government to “respect the will of the people and give way to a decolonization process in which statehood is achieved” in the island.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth and Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth.

On July 25, 1898, U.S. forces invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War.

The island’s residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.

Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad domestic autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 4, 2016

Caribbean Island’s Last Two Rare Frogs Are Reunited

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Male and female mountain chicken frogs that were sole survivors of deadly disease are hoped to begin breeding on Montserrat for the first time since 2009, as Jessica Aldred reports in this article for The Guardian.

The last two remaining wild mountain chicken frogs living on Montserrat have been reunited, and are hoped to begin breeding on the Caribbean island for the first time since 2009.

Last month, a project took the last female and relocated her into the territory of the remaining male as part of a 20-year recovery plan for the species, one of the world’s largest and rarest frogs that exists on just two Caribbean islands, Montserrat and Dominica.

The two frogs are the island’s only known survivors of an outbreak of the deadly chytrid fungus disease, a pandemic ravaging amphibian populations worldwide. There are less than 100 left in the wild.

The frogs were living 700m apart among the boulders of a steep, fast-flowing stream in the rainforest at a site known as Fairy Walk. The male had been heard calling for several weeks but after 10 nights of hour-long hikes to the site, the team of conservationists was getting worried that they hadn’t found the female.

Eventually one of the local field workers spotted her. “She was just sat there at the side of the stream, it was absolutely amazing and such a relief,” said Jeff Dawson, amphibian program manager for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and coordinator of the mountain chicken recovery program, which also involves ZSL, Chester zoo, Nordens Ark in Sweden and local governments.

The female was then caught, weighed and measured, and checked for general health, before being taken to the male’s location downstream and placed in a “soft release” tent to give her time to get used to the new environment. The male joined her about an hour later, and the sides of the tent were gradually opened to allow them to move out in their own time. “When we left you could hear contact calls which was really encouraging,” Dawson said.

Zoologists and camera traps will continue to monitor the frogs in coming weeks, as one of the fears is that the female will try to return to her former site. But Dawson said the abundance of natural and artificial nest holes, a constant water supply and plenty of food meant they were unlikely to move.

The frogs now have until the end of August to breed. “Knowing when is going to be tricky,” said Dawson. “As far as I’m aware, breeding by this species has never been observed in the wild in Montserrat before. Unless we see them mating we won’t know until next year when there will be juveniles.”

The frogs have a unique breeding mechanism. They use a burrow during mating and after fertilization the female creates a foam nest in which she lays 10-80 eggs. The tadpoles are fed on unfertilized eggs and develop in the foam, which is protected by a skin that forms on the surface.

There is a high degree of shared parental care, where both will nest on the eggs and aggressively defend the burrow against intruders. Within six to eight weeks, the tadpoles will have changed into froglets.

“These two frogs now have a chance of breeding, whereas if we’d left them where they were the poor male would just be sat there calling every night with no one to hear him,” Dawson said. “If they do breed that would be brilliant and a fantastic, good news ray of light for the recovery program.”

Dawson said however that this stage was just a small component within a much wider, long-term research programme across Dominica and Montserrat.

As the island’s only two known survivors of the chytrid outbreak, which devastated Dominica’s population in 2002 and reduced numbers from of tens of thousands to around 200 when it reached Montserrat in 2009, the two frogs have also been swabbed to see whether they may have any genetic resistance.

“This is important for conservation efforts because if these frogs do have some type of resistance to the disease which is heritable, then the offspring may inherit that,” Dawson said.

Next year the team will look at establishing semi-wild enclosures populated with captive-bred animals where they will trial environmental manipulation to try to help frogs survive in the wild with the disease.

Chytridiomycosis, described by scientists as “the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates,” has so far infected more than 600 amphibian species globally, causing population declines, extirpations or extinctions in more than 200 species. It spreads via spores and affects the skin of amphibians — through which many drink and breathe — leading to cardiac arrest.

“We’ve followed this species from its crash and everything we’ve learned will all help inform the next stage of its recovery,” Dawson said. “In wider terms, studying these frogs and the slow recovery of the population on Dominica which was thought to be extinct is really important for understanding how amphibian populations can bounce back from this disease.”

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 4, 2016

Brexit and banking top agenda for Caribbean as leaders meet

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An article by Jacqueline Charles for The Miami Herald.

Caribbean leaders opened their annual July summit in this English-speaking South American nation on Monday with a somber and reflective tone as they mourned the passing of one of their “titans” and welcomed three new leaders into their regional fold.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who launched a Caribbean security and crime-tracking agency during his 13-year involvement with the 15-member Caribbean Community regional economic bloc known as Caricom, died Saturday of acute myeloid leukemia in Port of Spain. Manning, 69, was hailed as “one of the titans of the integration movement” during the opening ceremony at Guyana’s National Cultural Center in Georgetown.

Manning “will be remembered as a visionary, a patriot, and Caribbean man who was committed to excellence and the Caribbean Community,” Trinidad Prime Minister Keith Rowley told fellow leaders.

Seven dignitaries spoke during the opening, including Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit who co-hosted the 37th regular meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community along with Grenada President David Granger. The meeting was held in Guyana, the headquarters of Caricom, because Dominica is still recovering from last year’s Tropical Storm Erika. Chile President Michelle Bachelet and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland have also been invited to address Caricom leaders during the summit.

Speakers highlighted the region’s ongoing economic challenges and issues they plan to tackle over the next two days. Among them: a pending banking crisis as U.S. banks end corresponding relationships with some Caribbean banks amid tougher U.S. regulations; rising crime and security; ongoing border disputes between Belize and Guatemala and Guyana and Venezuela; and the impact of “Brexit,” Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union.

“The consultations taking place must strive toward striking a balance between U.S. and Europe interests on one hand and the Caribbean interests on the other,” said Suriname President Desire Bouterse.

One matter that isn’t on the agenda but of deep concern to some of the newly elected leaders is the benefits of Caricom.

Last week, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness launched a review of his country’s Caricom involvement, and recently elected St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on Monday did not dismiss the possibility of his Eastern Caribbean nation doing the same.

“Being part of a regional organization I must see the benefit and the quality and the effectiveness,” said Chastanet, a former tourism minister whose opposition party won general elections in June.

Holness, who is also attending his first meeting since winning his country’s February general elections, said Jamaica wants to see a strong Caricom, but the deeply indebted nation has to “ensure that the systems and protocols within Caricom” work.

“Much more could have been done,” Holiness said. “We are here to make Caricom work; it’s in Jamaica’s interests for Caricom to work.”

But St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, acknowledging the frustrations over the group’s slow pace of decision-making, warned leaders not to denounce “all of our immense achievements over the last many years.”

Gonsalves also called on the community not to forget Haiti, which continues to see its citizens deported from the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Haitian Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles, who is attending his first Caricom summit, will be asked for an update on the deportations, and Jamaica plans to raise concerns about the “guns for drugs” trade between Jamaica and Haiti.

Jean-Charles is stepping in for interim President Jocelerme Privert. His presence gives leaders a chance to get a first-hand update on the situation in Haiti, which is embroiled in a doctors strike that has shut down most of its government-run hosptials for more than three months and increased political uncertainty as the fate of Privert remains in limbo weeks after his 120-day term expired on June 14.

Last week, Haiti’s parliament failed to hold a vote on whether to prolong or end Privert’s term, and on Saturday, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, warned that the international community was losing patience.

“The responsibility is yours,” Ladsous told Haitian lawmakers during a three-day visit to the country. “It is up to you to find a formula to overcome the current blockages.”

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An article from Info-Europa.

Jamaican Pulse opens in the United Kingdom at the RWA Bristol on June 25 and runs until September 11.

The exhibition, conceptualised and co – curated by artists Kat Anderson and Graeme Mortimer Evelyn, is a first.  At a time when Jamaican art is receiving growing international acclaim, Jamaican Pulse will celebrate the extraordinary diversity and legacy of Jamaican art, presenting contemporary artwork alongside key works from Jamaican art history.

The exhibited work will span multiple disciplines including painting, sculpture, photography, textiles and moving image, and will be supported by twentieth century artwork from a number of public and private collections, including the Jamaican High Commission, London, and The National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston.

Jamaican Pulse and the associated events happening in the wider community, ranging from opera to theatre to dance, has something for everyone.  Well known contemporary Jamaican artists like Ebony G Patterson,  Laura Facey,  Storm Saulter, Camille Chedda, and many more will be exhibiting.

Works from Jamaican Masters like Edna Manley, Everald Brown, Ras Dizzy, Albert Huie, Karl Parboosingh, Kapo, David Pottinger, George Rodney and more will also be on display.

Curation is a vital but often overlooked role in the art world.  These art professionals are visual and spatial storytellers, charged with selecting a collection of artworks for a venue.  They use their skills to selecting artwork for an exhibition and they communicate a narrative to the audience.

Go Global Art recently caught up with Kat Anderson and Graeme Evelyn in London to discuss their role as co-curators of “Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora”.

GGA: How did you change from being “artists” to being “curators” and what is the main difference between those roles?

KA: I studied Fine Art at university and had a few artist commissions, but in recent years I have been working primarily as a Creative Producer and Curator. I’ve worked at the Bristol City Museum, at the Art Galleries in Bristol as a Junior Curator and as the Gallery Manager of Centrespace.  In these roles, I was involved in curating shows, but Jamaican Pulse is the first major exhibition that I have curated.

GME: I am both an artist and studio director, and I have curated and co-curated on many occasions on a much smaller scale within group art exhibitions, open studio events and festivals. Like Kat, Jamaican Pulse represents the first major exhibition that I have curated.  I would say that the major difference between being an artist and being a curator is that an artist creates artwork from an individual and unique perspective and interest – whereas a curator selects works from the artist from which to create a space and conversational theme, that hopefully inspires dialogue between the audience and the artist’s artwork.

GGA:  What is the most memorable project that you have worked on?

KA: One project that I am extremely proud to have produced was called Down at the Bamboo Club. It was an ‘Abolition 200’ project for Picture This Moving Image in Bristol. Through the commission of artist films, public workshops and exhibitions the project examined Bristol’s involvement in the Slave Trade and its legacy to the city and the psychological impact on descendants of enslaved Africans.  I worked with some really talented artists and the project generated some interesting intersections between art and the local community.  Not only that, we got to work in some important historic sites in my hometown that I was not aware of, such as the John Wesley Chapel.

GME: For me it would be the Afrika Eye International Film Festival of 2012 at the Watershed Bristol.  I selected Andy Mundy – Castle’s documentary The Fade, which chronicled the lives of four barbers in Accra/Ghana, London, New York and Kingston Jamaica.  I also included Life and Debt – the seminal 2001 documentary film directed by Stephanie Black (inspired by the essay “A Small Place” by Jamaica Kincaid.  Life and Debt examined the economic and social situation in Jamaica, and specifically the impact of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Globalization policies.  Lastly I selected Jamaican filmmaker Storm Saulter’s groundbreaking contemporary Jamaican cinematic feature, Better Mus’ Come, which details the deadly impact of partisan Jamaican Politics during the Seaga/Manley era.

GGA: Kat, you live in Berlin and Graeme, you’re based in London – how did you both come up with the concept and decide to work together on this show?

KA: Well we know each other from Bristol – I grew up there and Graeme lived there for a number of years.   I believe it was around the time that I was doing The Bamboo Club project when Graeme and I met.  Graeme actually led a workshop for one of the projects.  I started visiting him in his studio and we just began talking about art in Bristol, things we’d seen, things we’d not seen, discussing work we had an affinity with…

GME: Yes, Kat and I have been friends for some time now and have followed each other’s journey as second-generation Jamaicans in the British art world.  We often hung out at my studio and discussed the under-representation of contemporary Caribbean artists in the UK and decided to take some action to rectify this missed opportunity.  Jamaican Pulse is a timely intervention that hopefully can create an awareness of and interest in the important voice of contemporary Jamaican and Diaspora art in the 21st century.

GGA: You mentioned that you are both second-generation Jamaicans; do you think that your Jamaican heritage made a difference?  GME: It certainly helped us to come up with the themes of the exhibition, as we were able to draw on direct experience from our parental and family heritage.  This impacted the questions we posed to the artwork and to the artists themselves.  Without familiarity with Jamaican culture, history and language, I believe it would have been very difficult to understand the subtleties of the important messages these artists convey.

KA: This exhibition comes from a very personal place and our heritage has very much been the driving force.  As a second-generation Jamaican who has only ever been to Jamaica once before this project, the idea of seeking out work that I have a conceptual and cultural affinity with, but which also offers up very different geographic and life perspectives, was a real objective for me.

GGA: How did you choose the venue for the show?

GME: When we started to devise this exhibition, Kat and I chose The Royal West of England Academy as these galleries are arguably the most stunning large gallery spaces in the South West.

KA:  There was also a bit of a challenge. We wanted to go to the most imposing art institution and see how far we could get with a proposal to show Jamaican Contemporary visual art.  We could think of nowhere more fitting of that description than the RWA, which is the oldest gallery in the city.  It felt kind of austere, ‘private’ and quite frankly white!  It was also conservative in the exhibitions it had hosted, which made us all the more keen to infiltrate it with this exhibition in particular.  We were interested in how we would be received and whether our concept would be accepted at all.  Interestingly, it took four years to be approved.  By that time, I’d done a Master of Arts degree and we had both moved to London.  I was actually getting ready to relocate to Germany, when I received a call from Graeme saying they wanted us to do the show!

GGA: How did you select the artwork for the show and were there any specific things that you were looking for?

GME: The selection of the art for this exhibition began as an exploration of the contemporary artists that are currently working in and outside of Jamaica. We were very keen to promote emerging artists, rather than relying on the work of ‘established’ artists as the sole voice of contemporary art on the island.  Rather than stating a theme to which these artists’ had to respond, it became a process of learning and constantly reassessing as curators and second-generation Jamaicans, ‘What are these artist interested in?’ ‘What does it mean to be Jamaican in the 21st century?’ Art and Politics became the Jamaican Pulse theme simply because we found that the artists wanted to contribute to their nation’s ongoing cultural evolution as social commentators and agitators – rather than to just ‘make art for arts sake’.  There is a distinction between making art created from a position of privilege, and creating art as an agent of change.
GGA: How important was it to include artists from the Jamaican Diaspora?

GME: It was of vital importance. The Jamaican Diaspora art community is very large, proactive and extensive.  What we hope this exhibition produces is a renewed interest from institutional spaces and art collectors around the world in this burgeoning new interest in contemporary Caribbean voices based in the UK and beyond.

KA: I would say that the show was fairly evenly split between resident Jamaican and Jamaican Diaspora artists.  What was great about this project was the opportunity to see and learn about the Jamaican Diaspora artists in North America.

GGA:  Did you commission any works especially for this show? KA: We commissioned a new performance piece by Lawrence Graham Brown, which will be performed at the opening weekend at the Arnolfini, Bristol.  Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow will be restaging two performances called “Crop Killa” and “Gypsies’ Picnic: The Veins of Oya was Always Here” at different times and locations over the opening weekend also.

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 3, 2016

Former Trinidad and Tobago PM Patrick Manning is dead

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Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning died early Saturday after being diagnosed with blood cancer. He was 69–Jamaica’s Observer reports.

On Friday, his wife, Hazel Manning, a former education minister, confirmed that her husband had been suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was “being prepared to undergo treatment”.

A statement posted on his Facebook page, noted that “at 8:15 am today, Former Prime Minister Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning passed away peacefully at the San Fernando General Hospital after battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“Former Prime Minister Manning was surrounded by his family and loved ones. The Manning family would like to thank everyone for their prayers, love and support during this trying time.

“Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.”

Manning served as prime minister on two occasions between 1991-2010 and in 2012, suffered a stroke and received medical attention in the United States. He did not contest the September 7, 2015 general election.

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 3, 2016

Danielle Brown: The Soul of Caribbean Culture

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East Side of Flatbush, North of Love by Danielle Brown, reviewed by Glenville Ashby for Jamaica’s Gleaner.

East of Flatbush, North of Love barrels through time, charting a compelling psycho-cultural journey like no other. Dr Danielle Brown is meticulously introspective, pedagogical, and prophetic. Here, personhood, nation, region, and destiny are inextricably bound. Born in the United States of Trinidadian parentage, Brown is emblematic of cultural fluidity, a representative of myriad cultures that somehow finds a monolithic expression. She is the voice of the Caribbean – a melange that is politically and culturally black. East of Flatbush vividly captures Brown’s childhood in the diaspora. It unveils a transcultural painting embedded onto a multilayered, autobiographic frame, and we are left with a picture of an ever-evolving principle that finds enduring life. Brown’s story mirrors that of millions of New Yorkers.  Her work is ingeniously crafted as every theme and chapter is predicated – cued – by musical verses. A talented musician and educator, she examines the existential value of song and dance to identity.‎

Life, history, and destiny are revealed through music. It is the scholastic thrust of Brown’s ethnographic landscape.

Her youth unfolds with little fanfare, but each phase is telling. They are periods of cultivation, times to live carefree; but they are nonetheless pivotal – a prognostication, for sure.

Throughout, she explores every cultural nuance, and amid its blaring sociological message, there are flashes of comedic brilliance. “For some reasons,” she writes, “sitting on other people’s cars was common throughout the 1980s and 1990s,” as she relates her readiness at “no more than five years,” to confront these infractions with bat in hand while yelling out the window.

Later, she fluidly injects a cultural staple: “The Cuttail”. This unique branding of corporal punishment she defines as “a rite of passage for almost all West Indian children.” She chronicles her most memorable experience as she culls lyrics from ‘I Wish’, a Stevie Wonder classic. “Trying your best to bring the water to your eyes; thinking it might stop her from whipping your behind.”

And she raises the importance of spirituality to the Caribbean psyche. This is underscored as we encounter the juxtaposition of mainstream faiths with folk expressions. Brown discerns the significance and lure of mysticism and the occult. They continue to hold court amid technology and modernity. And a few intriguing tales prove her point.

Historical movement

We are served doses of history and geopolitics. “Prior to 1924,” she notes, “immigration to the United States from the Western Hemisphere was unlimited, and West Indian migration to the United States increased steadily until that year, when the number of West Indians arriving in the country peaked at 12,243.” All that changed with the passing of the 1924 Immigration Act, we learn, when an “upsurge in migration after 1965” was attributed to the “tightening of British immigration laws following an independence movement through the Commonwealth.” This was accompanied by “easing of immigration laws in the United States” that proved propitious to West Indians.

“East of Flatbush” is as comprehensive and instructive as it gets. Culture is unyielding through oral tradition and the repatriation of second- and third-generation foreign nationals to their mother lands, if only for a short stay.

Brown is the consummate griot, channelling the voices and aspirations of yesteryear. Relying on the cadence and poignancy of lyricists, she relives past indiscretions, failures, and successes of a region. The calypsonian is a subtle provocateur, social agitator, a dispenser of truth. Verses of Jean and Dinah are used to cement her argument: “Well the girls in town feeling bad, no more Yankee in Trinidad, They going to close down the base for good, then girls have to make out how they could … .”

Hip Hop, reggae, and every genre birthed in the consciousness of the underdog and disenfranchised is an invaluable source of social and psychological sustenance, she argues.

In redefining their own experiences, in shaping a new narrative, Caribbean artists at home and abroad have succeeded where our politicians have failed. They have united disparate, unique islands, creating a Caribbean imaginary and binding ethos.

And where our religious leaders have fallen short, the healing properties of culture have tempered racial, ethnic, and political differences. Artistic expressions narrate the past and the now, but in a mystical, transcendental way, they unveil the future. The triumph of Brown’s work is the triumph of culture – Caribbean culture.

East of Flatbush is a window into the validity of the diasporic soul. Life with all its challenges and vicissitudes is made that much easier with the infinite rhythms of our inner being. Culture is a balm that soothes the longing in a faraway place.

Rating: Recommended

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 3, 2016

TRAFFICKED WINS BEST FOREIGN FEATURE AT THE 2016 SFBFF

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TRAFFICKED, written and directed by Trinidad and Tobago national, Sean Hodgkinson, picked up the award for Best Foreign Feature Film at the 18th annual San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF).

The festival screened dozens of films from June 16th-19th, with its  mission of giving independent filmmakers, actors, and directors a space to showcase their work.

A co-production between Eye On Dependency and Quirky Films, TRAFFICKED is a cautionary tale of three friends on vacation who are lured into the seedy world of narco-trafficking.

The 72 minute film, produced by Marcia Henville and Hodgkinson, stars Gyerlini Clarke, Aaron Charles, Kia Rollock and Brett Bengochea.

TRAFFICKED was made possible with the support of First Citizens, the Ministry of Tourism, the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), the Ministry of Trade and Industry, The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP), Toyota and the British High Commission Port of Spain.

For more information please contact info@quirkyfilmstt.com

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 3, 2016

RIP Mininí, Cuban Rumbero

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Francisco Zamora Chirino, one of Cuba’s greatest rumberos, died from kidney failure in Matanzas, Cuba, on Thursday morning. He was 79.

Founder and leader of the group Afrocuba, Mininí, as everyone called him, was born in Pueblo Nuevo, one of the most important spaces for the dissemination of Cuba’s African heritage. There, and in other yumurina communities, he learned the secrets of African-derived persussion, from the tambores Yoruba to those of the Bantu tradition, and the ritual songs of cultures deeply rooted in Cuban identity.

In Matanzas, a center of rumba creativity, he also became one of the islands principal rumberos.

In 1957, Mininí formed the Guaguancó Neopoblano group, which was the basis of Afrocuba, conceived by him as a music/dance folk collective. It was initially an amateur movement, fostered by early Cuban revolutionary cultural policy, and afterwards recognized as a professional group that over the years consolidated its place as one of the best of its kind in Cuba. The group recovered a lost bríkamo carabalí and gangá musical repertory and introduced the innovative batarrumba, a fusion of the sound of the batá drums with the rumba’s characteristic instrumentation.

Afrocuba has performed in the United States, Latin AMericain and Europe, and recorded several albums, among the Árboles (1985), Raíces Africanas (2005) and Moquekeré Okagua: Atención Cubanos (2015).

Upon hearing of Mininí’s death, Ulieses Mora, director of the Timbalaye project, said: “Mininí was not only a masterful performer, but a man of great generosity of spirit who trasmitted his wisdom to new generations.”

Poet Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC, recalled the artist and the human being: “He was a good man, very ethical. He was like a prince invested with the dignity of his people’s culture. I shared with him unforgettable performances inside and outside Cuba. Mininí will never be forgotten.”

 

TERRI_WALKER_0

The Voice features UK singer Terri Walker, who took part in Homelands, a four-part series that follows musicians “as they embark on a global music adventure,” and, as in Walker’s case, explore their roots.

[. . .] Homelands is a year-long series following four of the UK’s most exciting and diverse artists; Shakka, Diztortion, Terri Walker and Saskilla, as they embark on a global music adventure. The project will document musicians visiting their roots, and help them learn about where they came from and then create something new in response to their journey of self-discovery. Watch over the next four weeks as the musicians explore their international roots.

Born in London to Jamaican parents, Walker moved to Germany aged four, returning as a teenager to study opera at the Italia Conti Academy. Her breakout was singing for UK garage heavyweights TNT, 187 Lockdown and Shanks & Bigfoot. After signing to Def Soul UK in, 2003 she released the album Untitled which saw her nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and four MOBO awards. Here, she documents her trip back home:

Tell us about day one in Jamaica.  It began with excitement and a tinge of anxiety but all the angst disappeared once the food and banter began. First we went to the Bob Marley Museum, then we went to Trench Town and the famous government yards that Bob Marly [sic] sang about.

Did day two match the first?  Yes, I linked up with Damian Marley’s collaborator Winta James as part of the global collaboration. I got to know him and sketch ideas for a track that we were going to make together. Then I interviewed the founders of Stone Love in Kingston and the courageous Spragga Benz for the documentaries I’m making of my trip.

Did you meet anyone inspiring during your trip?   I had a master class with the amazing multitasking media queen and ‘fixer’ Carlette DeLeon from Headline Entertainment who ensures her artists like Sean Paul get looked after properly. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is running the whole Jamaican music industry in years to come!

[. . .]  What happened on the final day of your Homelands Jamaica experience?  After a morning in the Blue Mountains, we spent the rest of the day in the studio with Winta James who I met on day two. Working with Winta James was so natural that I forgot my surroundings. I’m not going to lie: it only really hit me what had taken place after I laid down my ideas and left. I was singing at Tuff Gong Studios! You cannot get any more real than that if you are recording music in Jamaica! This was an amazing residency. So many emotions I didn’t expect I was going to experience. [. . .]

For more information, visit: www.homelands.org.uk

For full interview, see http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/terri-walker-takes-trip-jamaica-discover-her-roots

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