09
Jan
09

In Memory of Dr. Roi Kwabena

Today is the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Roi Kwabena, someone whose presence in my own work and evolution was fundamental, a mentor and guide, a great example of a publicly engaged anthropologist — completely public, in the sense of not being tied to any academic position, and inspiring some to call themselves and see themselves as “cultural anthropologists” even without the formal “disciplining” meted out by a university program. I will not write another eulogy. I will instead quote his own words from one of his great spoken word pieces, Whether or Not: “We still thinkin’ ’bout yuh.” And by we, I mean we, since today we collaborated to set up a special ring of commemoration, between myself, Blackgirl on Mars, and Guanaguanare (and on Guacara Dreamtime), all of our lives having been touched directly by you Roi, each of us remembering you in our own way on our respective blogs. As some already know, this blog is dedicated to your memory.

The video below is an animation I made many months ago of one of Roi’s longer hybrid productions as featured on his Y42K album, part spoken word poem, part story, part melody. I was reserving featuring this video on this blog until I was ready for the next installment of (Video) Notes from the Indian Diaspora, which I began and then interrupted several months ago (see here, here, and here). Not to delay further, and to have something to commemorate Roi’s work, I present it now.

This is Sour Chutney, a story whose content is sadly like many that were told of the pains suffered personally and communally as part of the social ruptures of Indian indentureship in Trinidad. It is a story of the ardent defense of tradition and male domination in face of new realities, and the violence that is visited upon one “unlucky” young bride. Most chilling for me was the appearance of the “sin eater,” and the whole piece raised the many hairs on my back.

On this day last year, Dr. Roi Kwabena passed away from lung cancer, just one day after it was diagnosed. He had been hospitalized for suspected pneumonia. His loss weighed deeply on me, but today we celebrate his work, we don’t mourn his passing. Thank you so much Roi, for all you have done, and all you have inspired to be done in the future. You live on!

These are some surviving links to his work, still online:

Also see, Dr. Roi Kwabena: Indigenous & African Heritages, when I first had the pleasure to introduce our friendship to readers online.

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