CREATIVE SPACE SWIMS IN TO THE CHOPPY WATERS OF MARINE CULTURE

My CREATIVE SPACE column tackles art and culture in Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean. A recent mini-series focused on marine culture.

Read them below and/or watch the video interviews;

CREATIVE SPACE #19 OF 2021: MARINE CULTURE 1 OF 2: FEAR OF SWIMMING, WITH CHRISTAL CLASHING O’REILLY

“we had classes three times a week after school for primary school students…these were public schools” – Christal on a pre-COVID initiative to create more swimmers on island, where ironically (albeit anecdotally), there is considerable fear of swimming

CREATIVE SPACE #20 OF 2021: MARINE CULTURE 2 OF 2: FINITE RESOURCES, OCEAN LAW, AND COMMUNITY ACTION, WITH TRICIA LOVELL

“although everybody knows about it, it isn’t something that has been extensively studied compared to other forms of marine debris” – Tricia, who is currently in Sweden pursuing her PhD on her interest in derelict fishing gear

The work that these women do is so important, and they are both impressive in their own right, and I appreciate both of them making the time for these conversations. Hope you enjoy.

Roll the Tape

That bit of anachronism was prompted by the recent upload of my interview with Diaspora Kids Lit to my YouTube channel,

and my decision to use that as an opportunity to promo the channel in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. As I shared recently on social media, roughly half of the content on my YouTube channel was posted in the past year – which suggests that the channel’s been fairly inactive in previous years (or that I’ve become a much more productive content creator in our year of lockdown), however you choose to look at it. I don’t feel more productive – it’s been a weird emotionally and physically draining year, and I feel lost more than anything to be honest, but the numbers don’t lie. I guess. I don’t check my stats obsessively, just enough to see what’s hitting and what isn’t and hopefully adjust accordingly. I don’t do it often enough though and still mostly post (as I do here on the blog and on social media) what I want when I feel like. While deciding what to pull to promo the site (highlight reel style), having decided to share the most popular posts and boost some of the least popular (7/3 split for a mixed top 10 of reasons to check out AntiguanWriter on YouTube).

Most viewed 1-7

ABS TV interview on Musical Youth – “One of my favourite bits of it is the camaraderie between the kids” – and the second Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project

My participation in 2020 in the Voice of the People (radio programme in Antigua and Barbuda) Summer Reading Project on To Shoot Hard Labour (RIP Sir Keithlyn Smith)

A reading I did at Breadloaf in Vermont which I attended as an international fellow (just the audio) –

Interestingly, two of the three videos linked above are before this past year, and they have the most views, in descending order, on the channel. But I think the video below, which has nearly the same number of views of all of the above in a fraction of the time (just a few months), may be outperforming them all. It is my first YouTube live conversation, held for the 2021 World Book and Copyright Day with Trinbagonian poet and artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune – illustrator of two of my books, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and The Jungle Outside. I felt a real sense of accomplishment teaching myself how to do the live (don’t laugh) and powering through the real time technical hiccups, and had fun chatting about how we made it with Danielle.

In 2020, I won a grant (A Catapult Creative Arts online grant) which required me to create a video about some aspect of my work and I did an #AskMeAnything, questions sourced from social media, and shared some new writing from my short story collection in progress. I was dealing with a huge (understatement) family emergency and very little sleep during the chaotic time that I shot and edited this, not to mention that I had to edit and compile the video twice (the first time, after many hours of work, it didn’t take – I don’t know why – and I had to build and render it again) under the pressure of an upload deadline as required by the grant. I say that because I am both amazed that this was done at all considering everything that was going on and feel pretty good about how it turned out considering that all I wanted to do in this time was…sleep.

I don’t believe I made this next one – I believe that was Wadadli Pen team member Floree Williams Whyte – it was a promo ad for the 10th year of the Challenge, which is a part of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a project I started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.

This next watch is like a silent film – it didn’t start out that way but copyright issues hit me (this was early YouTube for me and I was still figuring out the rules) – it’s basically a diary of my first writing camp, the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project back in 2013.

So it’s interesting to me that though I am producing more content, for viewers of my channel, it’s about an even split between older and newer.

Now because I believe in showing the bottom rung some love, and maybe using the most popular to boost the least popular…

Least viewed 1-3

A short clip of a reading from a school visit in February 2020, i.e. pre-lockdown, to my secondary school alma mater – reading to and dancing along with Musical Youth

Our first Wadadli Pen awards announcement in lockdown. 2020. I did it as a facebook live and it wasn’t great (understatement). The actual live had much much more people/views though, so its ranking here is a bit deceptive.

In 2020, I found myself doing something that wouldn’t have happened but for lockdown, insta (as in instant/impromptu and made specifically for instagram upload) readings from my bedroom. I come from a media background and going on camera means nicing up yourself a bit and planning what you’re going to say; so just jumping on video as natural as ever and just reading was out of my comfort zone but fun.

Sunday Post 19.9.21

This is a link up with The Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post. The purpose of this meme is to recap the past week on the blog and showcase books.

It’s been a weird week. …so weird, I couldn’t begin to know where to start. …Let’s talk books.

My companion book on this week’s walkabouts was Windrush, the UK book subscription service Heady Mix’s first anthology of 2021. I’m up to page 96 from 79 in my last reading journal. It started out with essays and now I’m in to the creative writing – fiction – section. And so far, four stories in, that section is dope, no duds here. – ‘A Simple Man’, a charming fable by Irma Rambaran, a Trinidad writer who died in 2016; ‘Bruises’, a brutal queer coming of age tale by Puerto Rican Yolando Arroyo Pizarro, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel; ‘Desire’, a quick non-fiction take on culture and migration by Barbadian-British Andrea Stuart, and especially ‘Granma’s Porch’, a story both ominous and humorous by Bahamian writer Alexia Tolas – an award winning story I might add. You can read it here (posted to the Fiction section of the Wadadli Pen blog’s Reading Room and Gallery).

Demetri never wanna leave, neither. When it get dark, he wan’ stay on the porch and talk. His pink lips grow pale whenever Granma turn on the outside light and call me in. I ask Granma if it safe for Demetri to be living with Gully. She say Demetri’s a boy. He gone be fine.

Granma’s Porch by Alexia Tolas

I know Alexia from a Commonwealth Caribbean writers workshop we did together in 2018 in Barbados.

Speaking of walkabouts: That’s Alexia in black in the middle and me, far right with other writers.

I had to drop her a line to say “wow” because this story was a gut punch.

My story ‘The Other Daughter‘ follows this in the collection and that’s where I am.

What I’m finding interesting in the selection is notwithstanding the title and the opening essays being consistent with that title and addressing the immigration of Caribbean people, primarily in to the UK, and the social pressures that resulted, these creative pieces don’t have any obvious connection to that. Though they are stories of Caribbean people and do deal with social pressures and movement if not always migration, there is not clear connection to the UK. Which is an interesting choice. One that clearly allows my inclusion as a writer in Antigua.

Recently on the blog

Moments (this is from July)

Emancipation (this is from August)

Time a-Changing (a creative piece from CREATIVE SPACE, July)

Alice was on her way to the shop, up the narrow road, when she stepped to the side to let cars pass down the single remaining lane. One of the cars, a pick-up, stopped, blocking the lane. No horns blasted in protest. She looked up. It was a police truck.

https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/creative-space/creative-space-2021/creative-space-15-of-2021-times-a-changing

Music is my Medicine (this is from August)

COVID (this is from August)

Speaking of, it’s hot here, the beaches are closed (or very tightly restricted), and tomorrow is uncertain as are all days these days.

Happy Sunday.

Upcoming Appearances

Next up for me is Trinidad (virtually) for my Bocas workshop session on writing children’s lit

Register and/or pass it on. It’s online so you can participate from anywhere. Here’s where you go to register.

That’s October 2nd.

I’m also confirmed to present at the Antigua and Barbuda Conference on October 15th during a panel on Antiguan and Barbudan fiction and its interpretations.

I’m also finalizing a couple of other things, one for October, one for November and will drop them in Appearances once I do. As the Bookings information at the top of that page explains if you with to book me for a book club, school, or other event, feel free to Contact me with your offer including event purpose, date, time, and appearance and/or facilitator fee and/or book bulk purchase (including virtual – actually pretty much only virtual at the moment).

Okay, back to prep.

Reading Journal (and Booker) 14.09.21

I find myself listening (in the background) to the announcement of the Booker Prize shortlist. Two thoughts. It occurs to me that I’ve only ever read 1 and some of this prestigious prize’s winning books Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings and my listen to an abridged audio book version of Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. So often in this reading journey, I am struck by the sense of too many books, so little time, and this is one of those moments – and also the sense (more an external judgment, maybe even from some of you reading this) of not having read the ‘right’ books. *waves* hi, are you new here, I have decided that while I will continue to review (or chat about) books I’ve read, reading should not be a chore, so I read what I want to, and then there are the books I want to read but have neither time to read nor money to acquire (depending on the budget priorities at the time). Yes, I can and do get some books for free (review copies, advance or otherwise) but I don’t ask a lot to be honest as some publishers and authors give off a vibe like they think you’re just looking for freebs (as we would say in Antigua and Barbuda), so sometimes I just hold my side (as we also say) and read some intersection of what I’m interested in and have access to – my TBR is about a million miles long. And it’s just grown by six, thanks to this Booker announcement. Not because I’m interested in correcting some deficiency. Rather because I’m interested.

The short listed books are now in my TBR (in this order, based on my interest, as informed by the summaries):

Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
The Promise by Damon Galgut
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasm
No one is talking about This by Patricia Lockwood

How about you? Have you read any of the short listed books? Are you a Booker stan? Have you read all or some of the winning titles?

As for my own reading, I think I’ve already mentioned that I finished two books so far this month (which is about my average for the year) – Ruby’s Dream: The Story of a Boy’s Life by Ronan Matthew (a memoir of growing up in Ovals, Antigua and his early years as a migrant in New York, thinly framed as fiction) and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (which I slow read AND listened to, sometimes both). My reviews linked.

I’ve dug a little more in to Heady Mix’s Windrush and am up to page 79. I’m now in to the creative pieces which is so far fun.

Love for Lost!

“The book is wonderfully written. I love it very, very much and so does (my son). We read it quite often. We’re going to be going back and making a few more purchases very soon, and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this. It’s really cool what you’re doing and I really hope that you don’t stop and I’m looking forward to reading all of your books with (my son).”

This reader review of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (Spanish language edition: Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe) came to me today via a voice note in my DMs. It was a right on time spirit boost. Shout out to all the readers who remember to show love.

I’ve added this to the Lost! reviews page.

My Books.

My creative writing reviewed.

Speaking of showing books love, I am a reader before I am a writer and my Book Chat/Blogger on Books series allows me to shout out the books I’ve read and loved and/or have something to say about. These are less reviews and more conversations because that’s what I’m always seeking to have.

Here are my quick takes on some of my recent reads, of which the most recent is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I just-just finished.

Have you read that one? How about any of my books? Any other book you wan to show some love? Conversate with me in the comments.

Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 50s-Now

Repeating Islands

“Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 50s-Now”— a landmark group exhibition spanning a whole ocean and half a century—will be on view from December 1, 2021 to April 3, 2022 at Tate Britain.

Description: This exhibition will explore work by artists from the Caribbean who made their home in Britain, alongside other British artists who have also made work addressing Caribbean themes and heritage. It celebrates how people from the Caribbean have forged new communities and identities in post-war Britain – and in doing so have transformed British culture and society.

The exhibition features over 40 artists, includingAubrey Williams,Donald Locke, Horace Ové,Sonia Boyce,Claudette Johnson,Peter Doig,Hurvin Anderson, Grace Wales Bonner, and Alberta Whittle.

[Shown above: Denzil ForresterJah Shaka1983 Collection Shane Akeroyd, London © Denzil Forrester, courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery.]

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CREATIVE SPACE Catch-up

There have been some additions to my local art and culture series since I posted a round up of the posts by popularity a little while ago. Here’s what you might have missed.

From the 18th installment of 2021 which ran in the September 1st edition of the Daily Observer just ahead of the extended edition being published here on the site, about my visit to the 300 year old historical site, recently re-imagined by art students from our local college (see above), and specifically the recently restored Clarence House –

“The restoration is a mix of historical accuracy and creative license; a metal-galvanize tub upgraded to “this copper fanciness”, an area of expansion where you’ll find “the only cement wall in the house”. The basement which was perhaps rum storage and servants’ quarters back in the day is today, along with the back patio, where the stables used to be, used for events. It is air-conditioned. Upstairs, the original layout is designed to aid natural airflow.”

I list tour details and some of the more salacious details (e.g. the Black mistress who reportedly went back with him to England) about the house’s most famous non-resident and about how the current World Heritage site got its new life on life when the Friends of English Harbour came together in the 1960s and a reminder to explore this space consciously, and more.

Read the whole thing here.

From the 17th installment of 2021 which ran on August 18th 2021 in the Daily Observer, ‘Not Nat, But Cool Like That’ –

“COVID came and I decided I’m going to do something. I need to record. Everyone was like, ‘you’re going to record at this time?’…it’s a good time, in time of crisis people always need music.” – jazz vocalist and musician Foster Joseph talking about his latest project. And about his musical history.

“In terms of exposure, there was the man Foster describes as the father of modern music in Antigua, Arnold ‘Sugar’ Williams. “He took me under his wing, he gave me all the books, and most important thing he gave me all the recordings…he used to live in the United States and he brought back all the major recordings of the major jazz artists…that is my university because I would sit down in the afternoon and listen.” He would go on to play in a trio with Williams in the 70s at venues like Brother B’s and Shorty’s Beach Bar.”

I got him to talk me through the creation of a song, “a smile like you is like sunshine/after a rainy day”, about a certain lady, about his favourite musical milestone – a Lincoln Centre session, and more.

Read the whole thing here.

From the 16th installment of 2021, in which I lean more into culture than art, specifically media culture in Antigua and Barbuda.

“Also emerging in the 1940s was radio, a game changer if ever there was one. Not even TV, coming on stream in 1965 with ZAL, now ABS, nor Cable TV, 1983, made radio irrelevant – its impact and reach is still significant even in the internet age which has loosened and expanded the definition of media.”

A reminder that like any freedom, we must be vigilant about maintaining whatever hard won press freedoms we have.

Read the whole thing here.

Speaking of freedoms, the 15th installment of 2021 is a work of fiction called ‘Times A-Changing’ in which a young girl navigates her neighbourhood and the men on the corner,

‘Their leers and laughter would follow her, unless one of the older ones was there and sober enough to remind the others, “hey, hey, hey, that’s Ms. Arthurs girl. She only 10. She still in primary school. Watch yourself.”

She swallowed to stop herself from gagging and drawing their attention.’

But by the end of the story something shifts not only in the girl but the men, who have to deal with their own sense of powerlessness in the face of the increased police presence in their community.

Read the whole thing here.

I have done my interviews for the next two installments, so watch this space.

MadameNoire Remembers Actor Michael K. Williams Through His Incredible Body Of Work — MadameNoire

Source: Courtesy of HBO / HBO MADAMENOIRE previously reported that Emmy-nominated actor and producer Micheal K. Williams was found deceased in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6. Known as a class act for his extreme talent, Williams’ entertainment career spanned over 25 years in countless projects in both TV and film. On-screen, he was known…

MadameNoire Remembers Actor Michael K. Williams Through His Incredible Body Of Work — MadameNoire