CREATIVE SPACE #6 OF 2023 (Uploaded March 15th 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 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 @Jhohadli on YouTube. In 2021, the twopart 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 authorjournalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer. 

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on March 15th 2023:

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.


Tasheka Lavann has gone back to Africa. It is the sprouting of a seed planted in her spirit in childhood.

Antigua’s former Carnival 50 Queen, a media practitioner, was in primary school when she was bullied for her dark skin tone. “I was called names like ‘Monkey’, I was called names like ‘Blackie’; in fact, everyone who really called me, they wouldn’t say Tasheka, they would say ‘Blackie’.” Eventually, she went crying to her dad. “I will never forget my dad holding my face, looking me in my eyes, and letting me know how beautiful I am,” Tasheka said. “He told me my skin, the power that is in my melanin; he told me about my hair, how beautiful my hair is; and then he went on to speak about my African culture and specifically how powerful my ancestors were…he allowed this spark to light up within me.” That spark has never dimmed.

Tasheka who started competing in pageants as a child would even minor in African cultural studies while pursuing her media degree.

But she wouldn’t make the move, until 2019, the ‘Year of Return’ in Ghana.

(Tasheka celebrated her 37th birthday while honoring nature and ancestral energies at Busua Beach. Her birthday March 6th is also the same day as Ghana’s Independence Day which she didn’t know until she arrived in Ghana)

The move came after months of research and, before that, years in Canada – where she had settled, on leaving Antigua for the Great White North, her actions and activism at the time sparking public discourse around the treatment of LGBT people in the Caribbean.

(Tasheka protesting police brutality in Canada.)

As to why Africa? Why now. She was working through some things – including a medical procedure that left her “feeling incomplete”. On her journey to healing – “to get in touch with my inner most spirit” – she wended her way home, first to Antigua, and ultimately to Africa – “where my spirit has constantly been haunting me to go throughout my entire life.”

Anecdotally, this is not an uncommon feeling among people in the African diaspora – whether for repatriation or to visit. Some are disappointed on touching the Motherland, though, not to feel the connection; not so, Tasheka.

“When I came here first, I was a little nervous,” she said. “By, say, one week time, hey, you will swear that I am Ghanaian…I have never felt scared. I have felt disappointment…but I have never felt scared. I have never felt like I am not at home.”

Home-home is, of course, Antigua (“mi navel string”). “I call a spade a spade,” she said. “I share my experiences but in terms of me and my love for Antigua…that has never wavered…in fact, when I walk in Ghana, the way how I feel like I’m still in Antigua, inna Bolans, it’s amazing.”

There’s both good and bad. On the one hand, in Africa as in the Caribbean, the stench of colonialism lingers – even as new power imbalances take root. “Even when you look at the systems that are in place, from the education to the religion, to the economy, the politics, the way how everything in this place is to keep a system going in covert ways,” she mused, noting how it manifests in internalized racism and “a white savior complex”. As sugar mills and other ruins remind us of when sugar was king and Black people its unwilling subjects, the slave castles, “or as I like to call it the slave dungeons”, on the West African coast are a reminder of European institutions – church and states’ – centuries long trafficking in human ‘chattel’.

(Elmina, a holding area for enslaved Africans, and believed to be the main, but not the only, port of its type in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, was originally built by the Portuguese in 1482 before passing to the Dutch in 1637 and to the British in 1872)

It does a number on the brain and the spirit, even generations removed.  “For me that was one of the deepest things that I had to struggle with to see how much our people have been so indoctrinated that they hate themselves…everything that is black is demonized,” she said.

(Tasheka at the Elmina slave castle – left atop the castle overlooking the neighbouring fishing community; right, sitting in front of the entrance to the Female Dungeons – where enslaved African women were raped, impregnated, and tortured before being shipped off to the Americas [the Caribbean, North, Central, and South America]. Some didn’t make it out alive and those that did faced centuries of brutal chattel slavery)

On the other hand, she has found natural cultural bridges – e.g. speech (“once you start to talk likkle dialect”) and food.

“One of the things that was surprising for me …was just how similar things are from the food to the language,” Tasheka said. “Antroba, we say antroba for eggplant…(like) the Fante and Ashanti people…we brought fungee which really was fu fu…but still the fu fu is there; the banku is there in terms of the technique the turning of the corn meal in the pot on the coal stove, that’s still there; the texture of the fungee, using the okroe, that is still there with the fu fu as well.”

All things being in balance – the good and the bad – Tasheka notes that “Whilst there is work to be done especially mentally, there are a few younger Africans who are taking the time to learn and unlearn and they are challenging the system. And I’m very proud of them. But it will take a collective effort from Africans both on and off the continent to really restore what has been lost and to create a better future than our past. For those planning to come here to visit or repatriate, come with a level of understanding, humility, patience and mindfulness. Come with your open mind and your open heart.”

She herself hopes to be a bridge between her two homes. “There are so many things I say I have to learn so that when I come back home…it will not just be I’m coming back to relax, it’s going to be a moment of me to pass on something that I think is very powerful that needs to be preserved.” She hopes as well to facilitate pilgrimages to Africa – but has been somewhat setback from this goal after a battle with malaria which put her in a coma and, during that period, falling victim to scammers (both of which she indicated are unfortunate risks over there where “there are a few low vibration entities”). Still, she said, “I know that at some point that it will happen because I’m not a person that gives up…I’m always still pushing and planning.”

Meantime, she’s documenting and has started doing tours of enlightenment – including the slave dungeons and rivers, but also places of new industry like where shea butter and black soap are made. She’s also sharing the Caribbean with her new neighbours – from Antigua and Barbuda’s peerless beaches to personalities like national heroes Sir Vivian Richards and King Court, the latter born in Ghana “just like Queen Nanny of Jamaica”.

As a marker of her community’s embrace, Tasheka has been gifted a Ghanaian name: Yaa Manu Ababio, which translates to The Ancestor That Keeps Returning. It is based on her day of birth and what the chief/king felt her energy revealed.

Given the erasure of our ancestors’ African names and naming rituals during slavery, it’s no wonder she has declared this “one of my greatest gifts here.”


Full interview


About the African spirit:

“Even when you look at the resilience of Africans today, despite their lands and resources being pillaged, and when I say pillaged, I have seen it with my own eyes right in the village that I am; the Chinese come, the Europeans come, everybody comes, and they take and they take and they take and they take advantage of the people because they know that the poverty level is so strong that any little thing, which is it’s not even money it’s dust, and they will take it and they will work hard to get these minerals that they’re making so much money off of, and yet still these mothers carry their baskets on their heads and their babies on their back. Somehow they still manage to wake up every day with enthusiasm and hope.”


A couple of additional images from Tasheka’s time in Africa:

Images –

With effigy in Kente Dress Doll: Celebrating Elmina Town Festival and posing with the Queen Mother Doll which is dressed in the national Kente outfit.

At Ghana Black Square, a national tourist site in Accra, the capital city, where the first prime minister Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana’s Independence in 1957 to a huge crowd. On Tasheka’s first week in Ghana back in 2019, she bought that drum from the art center and took this photo as a tribute to the land of our Ancestors. “It was an emotional moment I will cherish forever.”


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