Archive for the 'Decolonization' Category

14
Mar
09

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (1966, Gillo Pontecorvo)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Battle of Algiers (Full Version) …“, posted with vodpod
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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.

09
Dec
08

Colonialism in the News: part two

Continuing from the first post on July 23rd of what was intended to be a series, the reader can look forward to more regular roundups of news and media commentary that feature or engage concepts of contemporary colonization and historical colonialism, as well as past and present decolonization efforts. As much as we would all like to be past colonialism, it still weighs very heavily and has left a deep imprint on many social, economic, and political situations around the globe.

Select extracts from each article are provided below.

•••••••

AFRICA

European leaders say Robert Mugabe must go

TIMES ONLINE, Dec. 8, 2008

…The Zimbabwean government has continued to brush away the voices of criticism from abroad, often accusing Western governments of colonialism and of plotting to bring down the Zimbabwean state.

Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Information Minister, dismissed Mr Sarkozy’s remarks.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign state with a president elected in accordance with the constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“No foreign leader, regardless of how powerful they are, has the right to call on him to step down on their whim.”

West should atone for colonial sins on Zimbabwe

by Chenjerai Cjitsaru, Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, Dec. 8, 2008

The attitude is that the entire Western bloc ought to atone for its brutal colonization of Africa by helping Zimbabwe to get out of the political, social and economic rut in which a group of selfish politicians has plunged it for the past nine years….

Even the United States has its dark past in Africa. In sending former African slaves back to Liberia from the US, it created a situation which pitted the new Africans against the indigenous people….

One country which today remains in turmoil had the misfortune of being colonized by the stiff upper-lipped, cold-blooded British, and the excitable, pasta-gobbling, trigger-happy Italians. Somalia has known little peace since independence in 1960. The Italians are generally acknowledged as having been the cruelest colonialists.

Africa can only fantasise about Obama’s victory

by Bashir Goth, ONLINE OPINION (Australia’s e-journal of social and political opinion), Nov. 25, 2008

this [the electoral victory of Obama] was something the world had never seen the like of it in living memory.

In Africa this was equal to the 1960s when the wind of change for freedom was blowing over the continent and Africans were breaking the chains of colonialism. Obama’s victory was embraced throughout the world as a victory of character over colour as was dreamt by Martin Luther King, a victory of human equality over bigotry and a success story that could only be written in America….

as an African who as a young student was imbibed with Africa’s post colonial nationalism, the literature of Negritude, the horrors of apartheid in South Africa and the last vestiges of colonialism in former Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola, I can understand why Africa should rejoice in Obama’s victory.

But as the last echoes of the event faded away, I asked myself, why Africa should rejoice? Obama’s victory is an American victory; a victory that was conceived and delivered in America. Africans had celebrated as if an African dream leader had been elected for the continent; as if the African people would wake up to a new dawn where all their suffering and hardships would disappear.

Conflict and Colonialism

by Sokari Ekine, Canadian Content, Dec. 5, 2008

The present conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) highlights the role of multinational and Western mining interests in helping to fuel conflict and inflict human rights violations in other African countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. But the scramble for Africa’s rich resource base is leading not only to conflict but, as a recent article on Tanzanian mining shows, also to a push towards re-colonization:

‘Multinational mining activities are introducing another era of colonialism in Tanzania as they hold major decisive positions on the use of prime land areas, and profit greatly from the mining of valuable mineral resources. In the recent past, Tanzanians have raised concerns on how the multinational mining companies plunder the natural resources at the expense of the local people. Because of the prevalent high rates of this pillaging of the national stock of natural resources, the citizenry have woken with an uproar to question the government’s stance on ensuring land security for its people, and benefits from their resources.’

Cameroon: Commemorating 50 Years of Continental Pan-Africanism

by Mwalimu George Ngwane, AllAfrica.com, Dec. 5, 2008

On December 5, 1958, Kwame Nkrumah convened the first-ever pan African Congress in Africa specifically in his home soil of Accra-Ghana. The main objectives of that Congress were to “accelerate the liberation of Africa from imperialism and colonialism and to develop the feeling of one community among the peoples of Africa with the object of enhancing the emergence of a United States of Africa.”

Fifty years later, the continent’s search for a united Africa has been bedevilled by two kinds of leaderships; one which appeals to global sympathy and the other which arouses continental empathy.

Bala Usman, the late renowned Nigerian Political Scientist, defined globalisation as ‘an empty political cliché with a neo-colonial outfit’. His compatriot, Tade Akin Aina, defined globalisation as a new phase of capitalist expansion, focussed on exploitation, accumulation, inequality and polarisation.

In its most basic form, Senegalese writer, Demba Moussa Dembele, regards globalisation and structural adjustment programmes as being among the main instruments of the West’s recolonisation strategy of the African continent.

South Africa: A History Beyond European Colonialism

by Mengfei Chen, New University, Volume 42, Issue 9, Nov. 17, 2008

A few weeks back, someone defaced the Cecil Rhodes statue on campus. “Fuck you and your dreams of empire,” read the message scrawled sloppily in black paint on the granite base. Day after day, the words remained. Students barely spared it a glance on the way to class. The administration ignored it. Even the cleaning staff seemed to have better things to do. It was two full weeks before someone found the time to remove, with little ceremony, the graffiti.

At one time, the lack of interest would have surprised me. After all, it’s Africa. People here have more cause to care about empire than just about anyone else. But it didn’t. Among students at the University of Cape Town, a distinct apathy, on the surface at least, exists toward the colonial past. As I discovered at the beginning of the semester, most classes in the history department are filled with exchange students. The locals at Africa’s premier university take classes in accounting, management or biology. In a tight job market, it is wiser to acquire practical money-making skills for the future than to spend time contemplating a past that cannot be changed.

CARIBBEAN and SOUTH AMERICA

Cuba, Ethiopia highlight their excellent bilateral relations

Nov. 13, 2008 (author unidentified)

After expressing his satisfaction with his visit to Cuba, [Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Relations, Tekeda] Alemu stressed the important role played by Cuban soldiers in the 1970’s in the preservation of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and stability.

He pointed out that Ethiopians will never forget Cuban internationalists or their participation in the fight for the national liberation against colonialism and neo-colonialism in the so-called Black Continent.

Cuba, CARICOM to strengthen ties

PRENSA LATINA, Dec. 5, 2008

Havana, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) A summit meeting of the leaders of Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries will be held here next week aiming at building closer ties. The Dec 8 summit of the 15-nation grouping would also focus on “implementation of gradual reforms including encouragement to private-sector business initiatives”, a Caricom secretariat release said Wednesday….

The Caricom summit is expected to invite Cuban leader and former president Fidel Castro as a special guest in recognition of his contribution to the region’s fight against colonialism.

Castro to get CARICOM honor

caribbean360.com, Dec. 1, 2008

HAVANA, Cuba, December 1, 2008 – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will honour former Cuban President Fidel Castro, at the upcoming third CARICOM-Cuba Summit, for his contributions to the region and Africa.

CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington singled out Mr Castro’s aiding South African nations, like Namibia and Angola, in their fight against apartheid and colonialism, and for providing medical training to Caribbean countries.

Chávez wants respect for Latin American sovereignty

EL UNIVERSAL (Caracas), Nov. 26, 2008

During his key speech at the opening session of the Third Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asked the global super powers to respect the sovereignty of Latin American nations.

“We make an appeal to respect our sovereignty; to be allowed to rebuild ourselves after the disaster left by centuries of colonialism,” he said.

He lamented that the media of most countries accuse his government of meddling. “The biggest interventionist in the world is called the United States. I am accused of meddling when, for instance, everybody knows that the United States has been trying to destabilize the government of (Bolivian president) Evo Morales,” said Chávez, as quoted by state-run news agency ABN.

V. S. Naipaul, a Man Who Has Earned a Knighthood, a Nobel and Enemies Galore

Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 18, 2008

“For a successful immigrant writer to take such a position,” Mr. French continues, “was seen as a special kind of treason.”

But Mr. French quickly and adroitly steps back to give us a wide-angled and morally complicated view of how Mr. Naipaul, knighted in 1990 and named a Nobel laureate in 2001, made his way in the world, how his greatest books were conceived and composed, how he became what he became: genius, loner, sexual obsessive, ogre, snob, provocateur and profoundly influential and controversial thinker on subjects like colonialism and belief and unbelief.

Born into an Indian family in Trinidad in 1932, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was raised in relative poverty. His hapless father, a sign painter and occasional journalist, was the inspiration for what may be Mr. Naipaul’s signal work of fiction, “A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961). Mr. Naipaul’s more animated mother, Mr. French suggests, inspired his literary voice: “bright, certain, robust, slightly mocking.”

A scholarship took Mr. Naipaul, at 18, to University College, Oxford, and he has lived in England ever since.

MIDDLE EAST and ASIA

No, neo-colonialism is not the answer

by Farish A. Noor, THE NEW NATION (Bangladesh), Nov. 14, 2008

I recently had a conversation with an Indonesian political analyst in Singapore, where I am currently based.

In the course of our discussion about the state of Indonesian politics, he let slip a statement that I felt terribly uncomfortable with. While lamenting the state of Indonesia’s convoluted politics, he opined thus: “I wonder if Indonesia’s problems could be solved if we allowed a foreign government to run our country?”

Now, talk like this usually sends shivers up my spine. We will recall that up to the late 1990s, it even became fashionable to talk about the necessity for the re-colonisation of Africa. This sort of nonsense was all the rage in some American political magazines and journals, and of course this neo-colonial bile was dressed up in the discourse of altruism and universal humanism, as if the colonisation of any country was an altruistic act between fellow human concerned about the fate of others. Never mind the fact that the ones doing the colonising would be the same Western powers and the ones being colonised would be the same hapless denizens of the Third World.

Thoughts on nationalism

MALAYSIA TODAY, Dec. 8, 2008

…the British proletariat became much better off than their compatriots in France or Germany.

This is where nationalism starts to come in. First, colonialism gave benefits to the English working class and improved their conditions. At about the time that Capital came out, British working class men received the vote (women did not get the vote until some decades later).

The vote gave the British working class an even greater share in the spoils of colonialism and imperialism…

Rafsanjani: Enemies trying to undermine religions

MATHABA.net, Dec. 1, 2008

Colonialism sought to eliminate clerics from the country’s political scene with an aim of attaining its sinister goals but to no avail, he said.

The Victory of the Islamic Revolution is now regarded as the zenith of the enemies’ defeat in their campaign against religion and clerics, he said.

29
Sep
08

The Shadows in the Dark are Blue Devils: Turning the World Upside Down

This is Ataklan again, with more video of Trinidad of a quality and nature that I could only hope to make myself. We have heard from Ataklan before on this blog, with “The Sun Starts to Rise,” which came around the time of the summer solstice, by lucky chance. Now as we enter into a darker fall, today we have “A Shadow in the Dark.” As is often the case with Trinidadian songs and videos that I like to feature here, my comrade Guanaguanare has posted this on her blog a while back, and transcribed it: see her post here.

More in a moment, but first here is the video:

I like the video for its messages of humility, tactical restraint, its suspicion and critique of dominant power, and the daily grind of those placed and held in the gutters of society:


Man, I’d rather be a shadow in the dark,
Than a big fool in spotlight.
I’d rather be a dog without a bark,
Than a loud dog without a bite.

It’s 3 Canal time again, with a video of Blue Devils dancing, classic figures from the pre-dawn J’ouvert of the Trinidadian carnival. There are many reasons why 3 Canal is the featured musical inspiration of this blog, not least of which is their rescuing of the potent political symbolism of carnival-as-resistance, their consistent critiques of capitalism and hegemony, their philosophical dwelling in the working class street, and of course their hybrid musical inventions.

Today Washington crooks cook up a transfer of public wealth into the mismanaging hands of the super wealthy, because otherwise the failure of “capitalism that works” (we have been fed a diet of propaganda of how capitalism is the best possible system, the only system that works, no viable alternatives) might have caused some “shock” to people in growing tent cities, in jobless lines, people losing their homes? Those realities of dispossession and loss will continue regardless of Wall Street’s improved health, and indeed, because of it.

This is a “world turned upside down” in another sense than the one intended by 3 canal — this is Americans’ much hated “socialism” (public funds wielded by an interventionist state) coming to the rescue of capitalism. And they will pay for it very dearly. In the meantime, John McCain entertains fantasies of no new spending on social programs, but lots of new spending on national security — an aspiring “war president” of perverse proportions, who thinks you can run an army without an economy, presumably because he is confident that China and the Gulf States will continue lending the U.S. money for its imperial adventurism? McCain looks more like an old guard figure of the declining USSR, a war-a-holic headed for the same exit, coincidentally also stuck up his melanoma in Afghan sand.

  • Public financed private wealth
  • State bailouts for the “free market”
  • A national war economy funded by foreign lenders
  • Securing economic health (for the dwellers of the tent cities?)
  • An aspiring VP Palin, who thinks the bailout is about health care…

Enjoy it, it’s your state sanctioned madness.

3 CANAL

Sphere Related Content

02
Sep
08

Italy Compensates Italy for Colonialism? Externalizing Injustice, Importing Rewards

Arising from the post on Italy’s decision to pay compensation to Libya for Italian colonial domination, a number of questions and issues come to mind:

  1. Injustices were suffered by non-state nations, by ethnic groups, by “tribes” and by individuals. How is payment by the colonizing state to the “independent” state supposed to remedy those injustices?
  2. The process also seems to fortify the central role of the state in human affairs, and more than that, it assumes that states in receipt of compensation will be fair in using the proceeds for the benefit of those who suffered.
  3. A one-time pay off can imply non-recognition of the continuing inequalities between nations, between those in the centre and the periphery, and unequal capital accumulation.
  4. Receipt of payment, by a state, implies continuing incorporation and adherence to a global capitalist state system.
  5. As mentioned before, there is the problematic assumption that one can tally human suffering and translate it into a monetary figure.
  6. Compensation also implies that the wrongs of colonialism have now been settled, and it ignores forms of continuing colonialism.
  7. There is the paradox that by remembering history, and treating it as an account to be settled, an outstanding balance to be collected, that in the post-payment phase forgetting history is now sanctioned — why revisit old wrongs when amends have been made?
  8. Compensation paid to another state externalizes the apology — what will a state such as Italy do to decolonize itself within, so that it learns the lessons of colonialism, and commits itself to never again dehumanizing, oppressing, and exploiting other people? Will a right winger like Silvio Berlusconi now lead anti-NATO marches shouting, “Hands Off Afghanistan?”

These are the questions that worry me about this compensation issue, aside from the calculated business moves that are veiled by what appears to be a cynical, false sense of remorse. When looking at compensation processes one has to think of actors, intentions, institutions and the context in which compensation occurs. What I think we are witnessing in the Italian case is a blunt, cold pragmatism that cares nothing at all for Libyan victims, and instead serves as one way that the dominant system produces its own apologia, excuses and legitimates itself in the process. The real outcome here is that Italy has compensated Italy.

Sphere Related Content

01
Sep
08

Independence, Nationalism, Indigeneity: Pride in Patrimony or Prostrate before Princes?

A few “random” thoughts for today, August 31, 2008, Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago, some of which revolve around the symbolized, emblematic figure of the Amerindian in the development of a national sense of identity (something that I wrote a lot about in Ruins of Absence, Presence of Caribs. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005). I can start by saying that at least Trinidad has an “independence” day, a potentially subversive thought from where I sit here in the neo-colony/neo-colonizer that is Canada, that still celebrates “Victoria Day” and still conquers indigenous land.

Memory as a Medal

For at least the past several years there has been public debate in Trinidad around the coloniality of the “Trinity Cross” as the national medal awarded to distinguished citizens. Many felt that it symbolized Christianity, and thus stood as an act of discrimination against Trinidad’s other major faiths, notably Hindus and Muslims. Some defenders suggested that the Trinity in this case referred to Trinidad — they mean the same thing, the first in English, the second in Spanish. Perhaps this is another case where different values are attached to the same word in different languages: “Black” is better than “Negro,” even if Black is the translation of Negro. In comes the new order: the Order of the Republic of the Society of Distinguished Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and Other Distinguished Persons, or, just simply the Order of Trinidad and Tobago. This is now almost official and there is little reason to doubt that it will be finalized.

Previously, two separate discussions that appear on this blog touched on some of the themes involved in creating this new order, so to speak. One concerned Trinidadian debates about Eurocentrism and indigeneity, and the bifocal nature of the official meanings of “indigenous” in Trinidad: one side referring to descendants of pre-colonial first nations, the other referring to anything “born” in Trinidad. Amerindians are indigenous people, and steelpan, on the other hand, is the indigenous instrument. The second relevant post asked the question of whether the state of Trinidad and Tobago really recognizes indigenous people in the country. My argument is that through subtle, circuitous means, no the state does not. So while the state “recognizes” a tiny fragment of possibility, the small, formally organized Santa Rosa Carib Community in Arima, it has so far refused all other nationals the opportunity to formally self-identify as indigenous, by excluding the category from the national census, even when pressed to do otherwise by the United Nations.

What the state does do is engage in a shadow play of symbolic veils, creating a sense of nation and locality when so many of its citizens have fled, and so many non-citizens have rushed in to buy up valuable natural resources, creating a sense of place just as the place is gutted and tossed into the non-place of capitalist globalization. As a result, one ends up with the conscious cultivation of tokens, to placate in the absence of lived reality — remember the past, because the present looks pretty grim. And one ends up with the following decoration:


Serving as a crown at the top of the medal is a feathered headdress:

The crest is represented by a familiar aboriginal symbol, the feathered headdress of an Amerindian chief….(i) The First Peoples: The design seeks to acknowledge the contribution of the autochthonous (or first) inhabitants of our land embodied in the crest surmounting the medallion.

And yet the medal is made of gold, more than just symbolic of the conquest, expropriation, and exploitation of the same indigenous people. I have no solution to the medal created by committee with all of its differing elements juxtaposed, and I am not one who normally thinks in terms of preferred nationalist symbols. What I think is a problem is the shallowness of recognition of indigeneity in the name of an inwardly squeezed, outwardly opened nationalism.

Show Some Pride, a Prince is Looking!

The other ambivalent display of indigeneity, this one directly involving members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community at one point, came when the “Prince of Wales, Charles Philip Arthur George and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, paid a visit to the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, on Wednesday 5th March, 2008, as part of their tour of Trinidad and Tobago to promote environmentalism and to reinforce British ties with former colonies” (see: “Royal Visit to UWI Highlights Lingering Colonialism“). One can see images of the visit starting here. Trinicenter.com lays bare the ghastly display of subservience to which Charles and Camilla were treated:

The scene was reminiscent of when the Queen of England had visited the country in February 1966, four years after the country’s Independence from Britain. Speaking with a gentleman who as a child witnessed the event, recalled that children lined the streets with flags in hand in the hot sun singing, “God save the Queen!” He reminded me that homage was being paid to former slave masters by a newly “Independent” nation with citizens calling on God to bless and save the royals. Today, the atmosphere was not much different with children and adults scrambling to get a touch of the royals’ hands. “I will never wash my hand again,” was what one female intimated.

The spectacle reflected the wider societal historical neglect, with the University of the West Indies at the helm of the education system sustaining the colonial mindset. Of course, true thinking individuals would know that the university is still an agent of imperialism and colonial conformity with their statues of European figures lining the third floor university library and places such as the JFK Quadrangle and auditorium named after an American president. There is no prominent symbolism that I am aware of in the University to cause appreciation of our African and Indian past.

Yesterday we witnessed children being encouraged by their teachers to touch the royals, seemingly without knowledge of Britain’s historical legacy, or even with their complicity in the mass-murder of millions in recent history. Certainly, this is an indictment against the teachers (among others) who refuse to challenge bogus history and continue to feed young minds with a self-debasing concept of history.

UWI’s Centre for Creative and Festival Arts did a skit about climate change. Unaware of the significance of symbolic actions, their continuous prostrating in front of the royals looked like a reconfirmation of colonialist attitudes and the idea of White power and supremacy over Black subordinates.

Without explaining the history of the Steelpan and reminding all that the Steelpan was developed in resistance to colonialism, the royals were allowed to play the Steelpan like children with toys. This came over as a mockery of the instrument. The royals should have been reminded that the Steelpan was born in resistance to their drive to suppress African forms of expression.

Marvin George, artistic director of “Arts in Action” posted a critique of this criticism on Facebook, on March 23, 2008, arguing that its “Offering Earth” ceremony, commissioned by the British High Commission, was meant to display pride in Trinidad’s indigenous heritage. The fact that the performers stayed low to the ground, worshiping the earth, could only be mistaken as lying prostrate in front of “the Royals.” Instead, it was meant as an “Amerindian allegory” — and Arts in Action consulted available scholarly texts on indigenous peoples in Trinidad (all except mine of course, which would have been difficult to read and apply for producing a show for elites).

It would seem that Arts in Action really bungled things, producing the opposite reaction from that intended. While disclaiming that this was a minstrel show, the fact is that they went to pay their respects to “the Royals” at the “invitation” of the British High Commission. That they readily agreed, even more than the troubled aesthetics, is what I find troubling. Why was indifference not an option? Why the greed for attention?

“Independence” remains a promise, if one chooses to take the time to reflect on what it could mean.

Happy Independence Day…from Kobo Town

SING OUT, SHOUT OUT


forty years ago today
independence came our way
welcomed by our struggling songs
it came but would not stay
and we, wanting to believe,
let ourselves be deceived
by the well-groomed speech of ambitious men
who time proved to be thieves
but the years went by and nothing came
new flag, new name, same old game
where the lucky laugh and the poor endure
having lost the will to fight again

Chorus
I remember when we were young
and hope was strong
and we had waited long
to hear the midnight bell
that would dispel
the age that kept us down
I recall when we would bleed
’cause we believed
freedom was in reach
of those who seized the day
but freedom came and faded like a dream

children of a passing age
remnants of a dying rage
whose anthems swept across this land
proclaiming a new day
and we waited patiently
for the elusive decree
that would rub away the scars we bore
and set our voices free
but the years wore on and nothing came
tyrants just bore different names
while the official line promised brighter times
we knew all things remained the same

independence, what an elusive dream
things are never ever what they seem
marchin’ hand in hand awaitin’ the command
of the liberator, soon to be the henchman
people’s vanguard, propaganda ministry
freedom fighters fillin’ the ranks of the secret police
while the tale on the times told in obituary lines
we offer our resistance with these humble rhymes

sing out, shout out, the dream never dies….

Speeches: Jawarhalal Nehru, August 15th, 1947, On India’s Independence; Milton Obote, October 9th, 1962, On the Independence of Uganda; Winston Churchill, June 18th, 1940, Address to House of Commons.

07
Aug
08

“The Mongoose” from a Trinidadian, Indian, Greek Point of View

My comrade Guanaguanare has published a different take on “The Mongoose.” Naipaul has been a deeply problematic figure in Trinidadian cultural politics, loved and reviled, admired and scorned. I had the pleasure of seeing him speak in Port of Spain, in 1991 I believe, in the company of friends from the University of the West Indies. The “who’s who” of Trinidadian intelligentsia showed up for this rare event, at which Naipaul declared that the novel was dead and he could write no more.

Given his position within Trinidadian debates, Guanaguanare, who like myself deeply appreciated Walcott’s poem, brings a Trinidadian perspective to bear. In that essay, Guanaguanare brings into play kalinda (stick fighting) call and response music, calypso (with a video of The Mighty Chalkdust‘s “From Naipaul to Shame” — nice to see a professor as a prominent calypsonian), and references to Hindu myths.

Guanaguanare stresses that this satire, biting comedy, is well crafted for the purposes for which it was intended. (I was almost expecting to see something about not throwing one’s pearls before swine.) To those who sneer and refer to the classics as somehow more elevated, Guanaguanare brings in Aristophanes and Euripides, the dueling Walcott-Naipaul of their time.

It’s a great piece.




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