October 12, 2018

Maryse Conde's Reading @ the Historical Museum of SF-Update

“You are not born a Caribbean writer—you become a Caribbean writer.” With that opening statement, Maryse Conde, author of twelve novels—including I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem; Windward Heights; Crossing the Mangrove, and Desirada, began her reading on Thursday, April 6, 2006 at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.

A spellbinding storyteller with an expansive knowledge of philosophy and aesthetics, Conde described her journey from Guadeloupe, “We are the last of the colonialists,” to Paris, France where she discovered her vocation. As she explained, “I always thought that to be a writer, you had to white and dead.” While in Paris, she began to ask one of the questions that occupies her creative life: What does it mean to be a Caribbean writer?

Her answer took her from France to Guinea. For as she learned about the complexities of the subject, she also re-discovered her African ancestry: “Slavery did not exist in my family. It was something of which we were to be ashamed.” Her readings of Frantz Fanon’s, Black Skins, White Masks, led her to Guinea where after twelve years she concluded, “I had no place in Africa.” It was primarily the differences in food, music, language, and religion, “Religion gives you a means of relating to yourself and other people,” that she realized how much she had idealized Guinea/Africa, so she decided to return to Guadeloupe.

This is not to say that her transition to Guadeloupe with the other Negropolitans was easy, for she was always asked the question: Are you on the Kreyol side or the French side? The frequency of the inquiry led her to speculate about language and identity from which she deduced that while language, Kreyol, is an important marker, it is not the only marker that distinguishes one as Caribbean. With that understanding, she began to experiment with the images, sounds, and characters that were uniquely Caribbean while disconnecting herself from the more insular demands from her colleagues, “Writing is the only sign of freedom—you have no master.” Again, the idea of freedom came back to haunt her as she realized that many the Caribbean intellectuals did not share her ideas about developing a narrative strategy that was different from the European ideal. Nor did they share her ideas about race, gender, and economics and their link to economic and psychological dependence.

It wasn’t until she came to the US, however, that she fully confronted the issue: What does it mean to be black woman born in the Caribbean? The question literally fell into her hands when a short biography of Tituba landed in her palms as she was walking through a library. She saw many similarities between Tituba’s and her own experiences that involved issues of race and gender, yet as she explained, “It was important for me to know myself.” That quest to know herself has taken her on a grand adventure and has yielded many important insights: “When a writer can say, ‘Here is my voice,” it is an accomplishment.”

First published on April 10, 2006

October 7, 2018

Round-up: 37th Annual West Indian Literature Conference

West Indian Literature Conference

"Miami Extensions: 305 Creativity, Alive and Thriving"
(L-R )Jason Fitzroy Jeffrers, Filmmaker, Co Founder of Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival; Maria Ketsia Theodore-Pharel, Author of Rope; Caridad Moro-Gronlier, Author  of Visionware; Dr. Patricia J. Saunders, University of Miami.

There are conferences, and then, there are Conferences. The 37th Annual West Indian Literature Conference was one of the best Conferences that I’ve ever attended. The program offerings were diverse, fascinating, and riveting with a remarkable blend  of lectures for critics and creative writers.

West Indian Literature Conference
"Publishing Workshop for Creative Writers"
Johnny Temple, Publisher, Akashic Books, Brooklyn, New York
I got to meet many of the writers and critics whose work I’ve always admired, but with whom I’ve never broken bread. 

West Indian Literature Conference 
  (L-R) Oonya Kempadoo, Author of Tide Running, Ifeona Fulani, Author Seasons of Dust, Nelly Rosario, Author of Song of the Water Saints.

West Indian Literature Conference
 “Caribbean Women’s Textile/Textual Practices as Archives of Memory and Mourning”
Rachel L. Mordecai, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

West Indian Literature Conference
"Frame Work: Imaging and the Afterlife of Things"
Kevin  Adonis Browne, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Author of High Mas,
The Caribbean Memory Project

West Indian Literature Conference
 “An Aesthetics of Federation and a Federation of Aesthetics: West Indian Literature and the Project of Regional Unity”
Alison Donnell, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom

West Indian Literature Conference
“Manscapes: Grooming New Jamaican Iconography”
Isis Semaj-Hall, University of the West Indies, Mona

West Indian Literature Conference
“After the Collaboration: The Kamau Brathwaite Bibliography"
Kelly Baker Josephs, The City University of New York


And then, on Friday night, there was the public performance of Zong! by M. NourbeSe Phillips for the Africans lost in the Maafa. Imagine a host of Caribbean writers, all dressed in white, descending on Historic Virginia Key Beach—the Black Beach-- to offer benedictions for the ancestors and you will have some idea of the moment.
West Indian Literature Conference

M. NourbeSe Phillips, Author of Zong!

One of the highlights of the Conference was the lecture by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Vassar College), “The Debris of Caribbean History: Literature. Art, and Archipelagic Plastic,” in which she masterfully wove the ecologic degradation of the Caribbean to the legacy of imperialism and showed how plastic is being used by artists and writers, including Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite as metaphors of colonial trauma.

Geoffrey Philp

 “The Debris of Caribbean History: Literature. Art, and Archipelagic Plastic,”
Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Vassar College)
Repeating Islands 

Give thanks to Pat Saunders & her team for hosting the 37th Annual West Indian Literature Conference, which brought together academics and writers to discuss issues that are essential to our understanding of Caribbean literature and a framework for moving ahead into the brave new digital world of text production, critiques, and archival.

Patricia J. Saunders, Associate Professor, Department of English

On a personal note, I would like to thank Pat for inviting me to launch Garvey's Ghost at the conference and giving me the space to introduce my work to professional critics, professors, and graduate students. It is a memory I will always cherish. 

Bless up, Pat. You have done a mighty, mighty work

October 4, 2018

37th Annual Meeting of the West Indian Literature Conference

Geoffrey Philp

October 4-6, 2018

Hosted by:
Hemispheric Caribbean Studies (HCS)
 University of Miami
Newman Alumni Center
6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, Florida, USA

This year’s conference recognizes the vast routes/roots that link the Caribbean to the hemisphere and the globe. As many writers and literary scholars have noted, the immense bodies of water that appear to isolate belie the currents that intimately connect, and at times, destroy shelter, lands, and peoples. Deploying Arjun Appadurai’s concept of “scapes” that work to enable the exchange of ideas and information, we hope to engage a breadth of issues relevant to Caribbeanists in the region and its diasporas. Throughout the conference our aim will be to explore the intersections between disciplinary approaches to problems that are borne out of the shifting tides of globalization and cultural expression. Undoubtedly researchers in literary studies, anthropology, history, philosophy, medicine, sociology and environmental studies, are all concerned with issues of global migration, environmental sustainability, human rights, state power, education and other global issues that have particularly devastating impacts in the circum-Caribbean region. Our conference will examine some of the innovative approaches to addressing these issues across national, cultural and disciplinary boundaries, and particularly encourage inter, multi, and transdisciplinary conversations and panels.

For more information, please follow this link: West Indian Literature Conference