CREATIVE SPACE #2 OF 2023 (Uploaded January 18th 2023)
CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the two–part CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on January 18th 2023:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE #2 OF 2023: PARTY DONE? (MUSINGS ON THE ART OF CAMPAIGNING)
The Antigua and Barbuda flag and a rainbow’s promise. Photo by Barbara A. Arrindell.
Cars with loudspeakers are an efficient if obnoxious part of Caribbean political culture. They cut through the quiet morning like a cock’s crow, trumpeting the day awake. In a day when people are more likely to wake up to their phone alarm than a farm animal, the vehicle repurposed to crier duty with its costume of party stickers, nar go no wey. Like the cock, it’s uncomplicated. The best ones favour you with a song and the others lean in to repetition – a name, followed by praise or disparagement, and a clear instruction to call up or relegate the candidate named. Efficient. But obnoxious in that it’s a mishmash of sound: a radio you can’t turn off, a mosquito resistant to being flicked away. It’s right there in the name – loudspeaker; it will not be ignored.
And while I’ve heard jokes about falling billboards and opinions of the portraiture on said billboards and critiques of the poetry or lack thereof of the sloganeering on said billboards and appreciation for the juxtaposition of this billboard with that putting them in communication with each other, and accounting for said billboards – the cost, the wastefulness, the uglifying of the landscape, with the posters and plastics around trees and lampposts catching strays, the loudspeaker is perhaps the thing I’ve heard the most complaints over.
Ka dem loud no wah.
They maneouvre along barely passable roads with admirable fixedness and unrelenting loudness. Some so focused on message and momentum, they have no regard for turf, the invisible line that says this is my territory, that’s yours. One woman vexed by the constant rumble of warring messages finally informed one of them that it was in the wrong neighbourhood – was quite literally doling out turkey to a non-constituent and the extra was unappreciated.
If you are not of the Caribbean and happen to be here during election season, I wonder what you make of it – the sounds riding the air like jam bands at j’ouvert. And, the rallies with all their regalia, including seen once with my own eyes, colour-coded doggy ‘fits fit for fashion week. Does it seem like theatre, our street version of Shakespeare in the Park with its oratory that plays to the back of the crowd, musical interludes, and rampant rhetoric. I love theatre but I’ve rarely attended these open air performances because they do largely feel like performances, right down to the call and response, everyone playing their role and enjoying it. The lime is not mere idleness as it may seem to the outsider or even to insiders who find such gatherings lacking in substance; as we’ve seen in every Hollywood epic, peep the pre-battle dancing in The Woman King, it’s about rallying the troops so to speak, the foreplay that makes the main event more engaged.
Debates, policy papers – we’ve had them but they’re not as systemized as this bacchanalia that, like anything, works because all parties take part.
Til someone – audience or actor – doesn’t show up, every season will continue to play out like an amusement park at which we might skip the ferris wheel for the bumper cars, maybe take a shot at winning a cheap teddy bear, but we’re in it.
Whether we want to be or not – especially as it’s advanced to ads popping up in online safe spaces, motorcades making for social media highlight reels, and memes – okay that one was funny, you know the one. If you love music, some of the calysocas have even got in your head as our most melodic get some shine outside of the only other season we decide the arts matters.
Speaking of what matters, for me, beyond the basics that shouldn’t need to be said because as an independent I feel the soaring prices viscerally and have the same needs as anyone, the creative arts is clearly a top issue and I’ll continue to shout in to the wind about how arts development – investment, incentivizing, and philanthropy in a consistent and community-building way – could have social and economic impact beyond imagining. So, while I can appreciate the presentation (begrudgingly as I’m not a fan of the silly season or the sillifying of a season that means so much), when we turn up on ‘V-Day’, it will hopefully be with mindfulness for what matters to us and for the common good. And hopefully, when it’s all said and done, the collective will be better for it because a party that gives you a blackout and hangover is just a bad memory…with a whole ‘eap ah mess to clean up after and nobody putting hand.
This week’s column took a few turns before ending up here as today, January 18th 2022, is election day. Before this, I was wondering what’s the arts agenda of the parties and candidates, and unsurprisingly found it to be an afterthought if that. So, in case anyone with power and interest in the arts happens upon this post, I wanted to share some links to some of my previous writing on the arts and why it should be on the agenda.
In this Carib Lit Plus, on the Wadadli Pen blog, I wrote about the latest of the Caribbean poet laureate appointments and the arts initiatives that had come out of it. Read that in the context that as early as 2011, there was a public call in Antigua and Barbuda for an appointment to be made for someone to run a literary arts programme, year round – a residency programme or ambassadorship could be one route (other Caribbean countries have now modelled it). That same Carib Lit Plus post referenced the Public Library Author of the Month initiative, and with a poet laureate or writer in residence programme, I can imagine more ways the Public Library could be a hub of community literary activity. That post ends with a link to the Wadadli Pen YouTube channel, and as a reminder I started Wadadli Pen in 2004 to create the literary activity and opportunities that had been absent for me as a young writer, and Wadadli Pen continues to be the only initiative of its type operating consistently in that space. Our initiatives have included the writing and visual arts challenge, workshops, community showcases, digital archives of our arts and artists, literary activism, and our reader-driven book of the year project. This posting also mentions a regional reader-driven writer award boosted by O magazine which is a testimony to the ripples that can happen once we get things (writing centers, artists in schools etc) started and, here’s the kicker, rest in peace to the development, networking, and showcasing that happened at Antigua and Barbuda’s International Literary Festival, keep them going.
Carib Lit Plus itself is an arts bulletin I’ve managed to keep going now for several years, as with my CREATIVE SPACE column, mentioned in the linked post. The bulletin remains, as with all things Wadadli Pen, a labour of love, and the column started paying me a modest fee about two years ago as I continue to seek ways to monetize and build across multiply platforms. As I type that, I think about artists being paid for our labour and how this should be a priority. I mentioned artists in schools and residency initiatives above and, those in mind, it’s as basic as a stipend to cover travel and expenses and a cheque that says you value our time, talent, and expertise – too often we’re still seen as hobbyists with no real life expenses. I’ve written about Catapult which is a grants programme I have benefited from regionally but we need more at all levels.
My feelings about an arts agenda (i.e. what the arts needs at a systemic level) in Antigua and Barbuda are captured in this 2014 post about the arts registry – not much has changed. Notable exception being there is now the Antigua and Barbuda Cultural Industires Mapping Project which I do need to make some time to explore but which broadly speaking seems like a step in the right direction.
I also wrote about what writers specifically would like to see in terms of an enabling environment, not just in Antigua and Barbuda (and not just my voice) but the Caribbean (Caribbean voices). Financial and institutional support comes up, as does publishing avenues and infrastructure.
There are so many links I could share, I have not been shy about advocating for the arts, but I’ll end with a 2022 CREATIVE SPACE on What Artists Want, which touches on arts philanthropy for a variety of activities to the benefit of the community.
If you would like to be featured in a future CREATIVE SPACE or to pay for a (web only) advertisement or sponsored post (on jhohadli.wordpress.com exclusively), BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne. Contact me also to explore advertising options.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing or excerpting with link and credit is okay. But for re-publication of CREATIVE SPACE or any other content on this site contact Joanne – also use this link to contact Joanne for appearances (reading, speaking, discussions), workshops/courses, writing, editing, or other offered service.
You must be logged in to post a comment.