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Performing Trinidad in Butetown: Carnival, Community and Belonging – Dr Adeola Dewis – MLANG Guest Lecture 30.03.17

Dr Adeola Dewis is a Visual Artist and Researcher. Originally from Trinidad, Adeola completed PhD research at Cardiff University. Her current research is focussed on Trinidad Carnival performance and the translation of its self-empowering effects for art making and art presentation within the UK. This presentation engages her research into the Trinidad Carnival performance and its various crossings – including the crossing and translation of this performance in a Cardiff space. Having worked extensively with Trinidadian artists myself ( Tricia Lee Kelshall and Jointpop ) I am aware of  the critical importance of carnival to Trinidad. I always attend St Pauls Carnival in Bristol which is one of the biggest Afro-Caribbean events in the UK. I was keen to learn more about the Butetown Carnival and also felt that Adeola’s presentation would compliment my current focus on Haitian Kanaval in the ‘Imaging The Islands‘ Francophone Caribbean course that is part of my undergraduate Translation (BA) degree at Cardiff University. [Wez G]   Adeola began her talk by focussing on her native land. Trinidad has a world-renowned Carnival which is regarded highly as one of the best in the world. Her upbringing in this Carnival culture therefore places her as an ‘expert’. Trinidad was first colonised by the Spanish in 1498 yet it was the French planters that really brought Carnival to the island in 1783. The French never officially ruled Trinidad, although they were de-facto rulers, culturally and socially due to the large Francophone population there that governed the plantations and brought many of the enslaved Africans to work the cane-fields. There were Spanish laws and Trinidad was a Spanish colony for 300 years until handed over to Britain in 1797… Adeola brought forward the idea of a ‘collective individual body memory’, part of the essence of Carnival, and this dates back to the plantation culture. Performance undeniably has its roots in West Africa, and manifests in Carnival through Masquerade and Ritual. In Trinidad there was much difference between the different African languages, cultures and customs. This was added to the European values and cultural differences, later followed by the cultural input of Chinese and Indian indentured workers who migrated to the island, adding to the creolisation of Trinidadian culture. Mentioning some theoreticians of Theatre performance in the West Indies, Adeola spoke of how the Plantation, Maroons and Carnival were all inextricably linked. There is RECALL, RESISTANCE, REMAKING and RESTITUTION….

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The Repeating Island – Representations of the Francophone Caribbean

With close reference to Benitez-Rojo’s notion of the ‘repeating island’, discuss how the Francophone Caribbean has been represented by writers, travellers and artists.   This essay shall focus on how various writers, travellers and artists have represented the Francophone Caribbean. The Islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti shall serve as the focus as these are the locations in the Caribbean where a Francophone culture dominates. From the art of Agostino Brunias, to depictions of Haitian revolutionary hero, Toussaint Louverture. From Martinican poet, Aimé Césaire’s, Le Cahier du Retour au Pays Natale to how film director Euzhan Palcy depicts Plantation culture in Rue Case Nègres. Of course, Benitez-Rojo’s notion of the ‘repeating island’ shall never be far from our minds and in order to utilise his ideas to full effect it shall be essential to firstly summarise exactly what this Cuban author refers to in his conceptualisation of Caribbean culture. Antonio Benítez-Rojo sees in the Caribbean a meta-archipelago that is affected by elements of Chaos that repeat across the different islands, incorporating a polyrhythmic essence that reverberates across the multilingual cultures that comprise the Antilles. In the postmodern, post-colonialist environment, the remnants of slavery cannot be escaped in that Plantation culture remains embedded, a core component of cultural discourses, resistance and a division along racial lines, more so than in other geographical regions of the world which adapt more readily to the global environment as they haven’t the same inherent difficulties as having to constantly define history, the oft suppressed history of the Atlantic Slave Triangle, the undocumented creolization, an oral history of African traces or eradicated Carib races or of illiterate Maroon communities who struggled against their Béké masters. The repeating island is a polyrhythmic syncretic agglomeration of different cultures that unites Africa with Europe and Asia with the Americas. Agostino Brunias was a London-based Italian painter from Rome, whose travels to the West Indies have bequeathed us with a rich vein of material of a not only escapist, but also romantic nature. Agostino Brunias ‘The Linen Market Santo Domingo’, ca. 1775   Agostino Brunias ‘Mujer criolla y criadas’, Saint-Domingue (Haiti), painted between 1773-1796     Agostino Brunias ‘Dancing Scene in the West Indies’, 1764-1796  In the first of the three paintings Brunias depicts a market scene. There is a stark contrast in the painting between the use of black and white, with the women mainly wearing white clothes. The…

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