Some Things You Need To Know


Scene from The Long Walk.

This weekend I saw Zahra Airall and Honey Bee Theatre’s The Long Walk, based on a true story. It won outstanding script, directing, costume, sound, and set at the 2019 Antigua and Barbuda Secondary Schools Drama Festival. I’ve posted my review as my first CREATIVE SPACE article of 2019.

I hope you read it.

But I’m really here to share some information from the playbill, headlined “a few interesting things you may want to know”. Given that we are a majority black country, Antigua and Barbuda, I’d re-edit that sub-head to say “some things you need to know”.


Scene from The Long Walk.

You need to know that your ancestors didn’t begin on a sugar plantation in the Caribbean. They were people captured or sold, and enslaved from the west coast of Africa, primarily Ghana, “where the dominant nation along that coast was the Akan Nation, which spoke Twi; they would have been from Akan nations like the Asante (Ashanti), Fante (Fanti) and Coromantee (the warriors).”

reading St Kitts2

Gye Nyame tattoo.

You need to know that the Adinkra symbols, symbols of our tribe (a couple of which – Gye Nyame and Osram Ne Nsoromma – are tattooed on my body) can still be seen in the art around us and in some of our value systems. The playbill pointed out, for instance, that the Sankofa symbol (which is about learning from the past) is “the most popular in Antigua… found in many iron work, window bars, gates and fences”. That’s interesting to me – it’s always interesting to me what survived the journey over and hundreds of years of enslavement and colonialism, and whatever we call this Independence/post-colonial but not quite stage that we’re in right now; especially since at this point so much of it (language, food, mannerisms, etc.) is surviving in spite of us, and in spite of the flood of culture we absorb through media from other places, mostly America these days, unknowingly, unconsciously, but surviving still.

Fungi and Pepperpot Edison Liburd

Coal pot image features in this work of art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Edison Liburd.

My ancestors, my family, those who’ve read my novel Oh Gad! know, are coal pot makers – i.e. potters making many things from the muddy including the iconic coal pot. Per the playbill, “the coal pot is a concept that came over with our ancestors along with the popular Ananse (Anancy stories).”

They describe the historical basis for the ritual in the play, through which a girl is ushered from girlhood in to womanhood – though in the play it’s interrupted, it can be interpreted as testimony to the ways we held on to ourselves in the lives we made here on the plantation. The ceremony accompanying a birth (something I also researched for Oh Gad!) is also explained – that too is interrupted…as we have been. “A child who has not received the outdooring ceremony is called ‘Ohoho’ until this right can be performed.”


Scene from The Long Walk.

This is only one of the words (some again, familiar to me from my research but with room for learning) listed in the glossary in the playbill. It’s a short list so I’ll list them all here because it would serve us people of African descent to know.

African gods –

Nyame – Akan God also referred to as “Sky God” – sees/knows all.
Ogun – (of Yoruba) an Orisha, Spirit or God of Iron/Metal
Yemaya – (of Yoruba) an Orisha, Spirit or Goddess of the Ocean
Asase Yaa – Mother Earth/Wife of Nyame
Bia – also spelled Bea, first son of Nyame and Asase Yaa

Twi sayings –

Nante Yiye – travel well/safe travels
Nante yiye yebehiya bio – we shall meet again
Nyame nte – by God’s will/grace
Akoben – war horn used to sound a battle cry

Since we’re talking language and customs from Africa that may still be with us as Antiguan and Barbudan people, I’m going to recommend two resources among many others that were invaluable to me while researching Oh Gad! – the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, and Joy Lawrence’s The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways. Zahra Airall also gave great credit to the National Archives of Antigua and Barbuda in researching her play, so shouting them out as well.

Oral and Written Communication Training for Antiguans and Barbudans

For anyone resident in Antigua and Barbuda interested in improving their oral and/or written communication skills, a new announcement from Barbara Arrindell & Associates (I’m an associate): Based on the requests made by potential participants our speaking and writing sessions will now begin in mid May after the cultural celebrations taking place in the earlier part of the month. This means that you still have time to register.

Here’s a copy of the registration form: 30725968_1942123662784021_8952227646196940800_n

And in case you’re wondering if this is for you, here’s what some have said in performance reviews about the written communication component which I facilitate:

“My general motivation for taking this class was to improve my writing skills on a personal and professional level. My specific goal was to be able to communicate more effectively through writing. My goal was accomplished; I am a more confident writer. ..I think another half an hour would help, since time seems to fly by quickly. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to work on their writing skills. I would like to say thanks to the facilitator. I have been pushed from my comfort zone and it feels great!”

“I would recommend this course to someone else because it is educational and our tutor is very knowledgeable and likes to be challenged.”

“I think I have improved. I now look at my weak areas when writing.”

“The overall training was good and I’ve learned how to structure my ideas.”

“I am feeling excited about writing now. I am also more aware of common mistakes…writing is fun and I could see it as a hobby in future.”

This course is open to anyone, but targeted especially at working people who may not be as confident about their skills or who simply want a refresher. I structure my sessions to cover written communication in the work environment, internally and externally.

If, however, you’re looking for information on my creative writing workshops, those are ongoing; contact me for information.


By Joanne C. Hillhouse

You are
Who I am
Not something I pull on or off
Like a favourite dress
The burnt orange one
That looks like sunset
You are the sun
And Blood
Gushing through tunnels
To where my heart beats
For you

The willow trees are gone
But I’m still here
The palm trees are dying
But I stay standing
Still breathing you in
And the smell of your
Sea salt
Though it stings
Still sipping gingerly
Of the red bean soup
That tastes like home
Still hoping that
We’ll find our best selves
On this pot holed road
Where we once danced barefoot
In the rain
Though it led nowhere

Come we talk
Inna arwe tongue
Ca mi lub you bad
Not no kinda lub
Fu use up and t’row ‘way
Not no dragged up kinda love
But love dat simmer long
Laka pepperpot
An’ taste just as sweet
Mi waan you listen me good
Mi love you full
An’ you full up every
Part of me
The word an’ dem ah dance
Pan me tongue
Me lub you bad, bad bad

Walk good

©Joanne C. Hillhouse. Do not Cut, Copy, Paste, or reproduce in any way, across any platform, or anywhere without the writer’s written permission.



In the Race

I’m on this list nomsof 2018 nominees for the Astrid Lindgren prize.

First, happy dance!


(no I’m not a redheaded white girl but Charlie is a Supernatural fave plus I couldn’t find the Jessica James dancing gif)

Okay, reality check, I’m one of 235 candidates from 60 countries nominated …but a long shot is still a shot, right? Can’t win if you’re not even in the race and I am. Here’s a downloadable version of the nominated candidates: nomi_2018_web

Thanks to my nominator for taking the time to read the work (With Grace) and fill out the forms (I know it was a pain); you didn’t have to and I appreciate that you did.

FYI: The The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) – named for the beloved Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking, Mio, and other great characters – and administered by the Swedish Arts Council, is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers, and reading promoters are eligible for the award (I am nominated as both an author and reading promoter). An expert jury selects the laureate(s) from candidates nominated by institutions and organizations all over the world. Seriously, there are nominees from the US to the UAE. The winner will be announced on March 27th 2018 and, in the tradition of also-rans everywhere, it is an honour just to be nominated.

Out Dey!

Some days you just need to go back to your happy place (yes, there were bumps in the making and showcasing of Grace’s Merrymakers; but playing mas is still one of the purest pleasures there is because when the music hits you, you feel no pain).


on the road 2

on the road

This is me and a couple of friends playing the mango tree faerie from my children’s picture book for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival.

Video taken by my niece (who was one of my banner holders) 20706223_1678542355489442_804926424_oduring our appearance on the stage – first ones on the stage (no warm up) – Carnival Monday, pictures plucked from the Antigua Carnival’s Facebook – Carnival Tuesday album. The song in the video is Out Dey by Claudette ‘CP’ Peters which went on to earn her the distinction of being the first female soca artiste to win the Antigua Road March title (i.e. most played song on the road for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival).

For the back story go to the making of Grace’s Merrymakers and for the back story to that (i.e. the book itself) go to the With Grace first page and reviews page.

Yep, it may have been released in December 2016 but between being picked as one of the US Virgin Islands’ Governor’s Summer Reads and the tree faerie being Out Dey in de Carnival, it’s been the summer of Grace.

ETA: I’m also making this my Sunday Post (a meme run by the Caffeinated Reviewer) because, yay, I finished and blogged about Wide Sargasso Sea this Sunday. Read the review here. That means that I can add another book to my active reading pile and that book is – ta-dah! – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Don’t judge me. Okay, judge, whatever but another blogger decided to mail it to me after I told her how much the movie sucked – either this is a case of the book being better than the movie or she’s trying to prank me. Either way, there’s a hurricane coming and I need the distraction. You know how this post opens with needing to go to my happy place, well…there you have it.

268 in the Global Anthology

My story The Other Daughter, which, you may remember was published earlier this year in Adda, an online literary platform by Commonwealth Writers, is now a selection for The Culture Trip’s “Global Anthology, an initiative that highlights a work of prose from every country on Earth, as well as many nations, states, sovereignties, territories, and flag-less regions.”

It’ll be a lot of reading to get through but I look forward to anthology

Here’s what Michael Barron, the Culture Trip’s US literary editor said in his intro to the anthology:

“As with any project covering the entire world, assembling an anthology on this scale required a few allowances in its methods. Only three of its criteria are therefore invariable—every piece had to be written in or translated into English; every writer had to be native to the country represented (no expats); and all 193 member states of the United Nations had to be present. That we ended up with over 220 selections is a barometer of how fraught international ‘recognition’ can be, and even this number doesn’t recognize the entirety of Earth’s many human-made divisions.

The variety of prose and the political states of regions found here is an indicator of the many geo-socio-literary challenges that presented themselves as the Global Anthology developed. It was just as difficult, say, to find a writer from the Central African Republic, as it was to choose a single American author to represent the country. We sought to feature as many under-known and contemporary writers (to English and Western readers) as we could, often cold emailing people after hours of Google sleuthing. In cases where we were able to make contact and received permission to translate and publish their work, we would then conduct interviews with these writers for the site. Subsequently, much of this material marks the first appearance by, and introduction to, these writers (and in some special cases the first appearance from a country or region) in English. That they understood and contributed directly to the vision of this project was a huge encouragement for us to keep going. Thank you.”

With only one author per country, he acknowledged, “This isn’t a perfect anthology, but it is a sincere attempt to cast as wide a literary light on the world as we could for English readers. And it will be a living thing, its scope periodically updated and expanded until we’ve accounted for a voice from within every human border. We hope it spurs similar projects in other languages. There is no singular “voice” that one can give to the world; we let the type of writing represented be determined by what we encountered in a certain area: whether it be hospital stories from Andorra, or queer literature from Greenland, or postmodernism from Honduras, or black satire from Eritrea. Along the way we discovered the developing literature of some countries and the robust yet undiscovered oeuvres of others. Obscurity, however, is subjective: we can confirm that there is no place on Earth (not even Antarctica) that literature isn’t written.”

I am thrilled to be repping for the 268 (Antigua and Barbuda) in this anthology. If you haven’t read The Other Daughter Yet, I hope you’ll give it a read and also read the interview conducted with me by Mr. Barron.

‘Open’ the anthology here.