I watchin’ you. You look like some kinna smart man. I watch at how you movin’ strange.
–the words of a Trinidadian watchman

As this blog’s Watchman I can tell you that I was not born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago, but I owe it everything of any special importance to me in my adult life, including friends, family, an education, insight, and lasting ties that bind. I lived and studied in Trinidad for several years, and I started traveling there from 1988. I acquired Trinidadian permanent residence in 2003. The name, Watchman, was inspired by two Trinidadian sources, one is a saying (see: Words of Wisdom), and by a namesake, a calypsonian who was known for his scathing criticisms of all who were in power or in other high offices. He was unsparing. He always spoke his mind and his words were like lashes against the high and mighty. He usually wore military fatigues on stage, to symbolize his war-like opposition. His nom de guerre was: The Watchman. He appears in a rare online video below:

That I worked on several occasions as a watchman…had no impact whatsoever on my choice of this emblematic figure of vigilance.

What am I doing here?

This blog is an offshoot of two others (this one, and that one), out growing both in a sense, not fitting well into either one, and with many posts imported from both. I have been blogging since 2003, and this particular blog was created in August of 2008.

This is a place where I am free to be militant, to lay down licks like peas against imperialism, colonialism, inequality, and the brutalizing ignorance of the powerful. It may not do much at all, but it is better than total silence and complicity. Here I fight against what I call the norms of intellectual pacification, and the ways that mainstream North American academic discourse is used as counterinsurgency.

It is a place where I can devote myself to the richness of online Caribbean cultures, and to continue writing more generally about indigenous issues and contemporary anti-colonial struggles. Here I can experiment with different forms of writing fiction, poetry, and what I call “jumbie ethnography” (see below).

The key areas of focus on this blog, for now, are:

  • radical indigenism and cultural revival
  • the international politics of indigenous struggle
  • Caribbean cultural identity, creolization, difference, history, and autonomy
  • the politics of independence and decolonization
  • critique of imperialism, capitalism, and modernity
  • politics after the state, the world market, and Western hegemony
  • anarchy and autarky
  • ways of life based on self-sufficiency
  • rethinking human-animal, our impermanence

and the list will grow to be sure.

Jumbie ethnography?

A jumbie is what Trinidadians call a ghost, or a spirit. The jumbie ethnographer wanders online looking for other spirits to dialogue with. In dryer terms, this is “open source ethnography” — I look to pry nothing from secret places, I do not wish to expose knowledge that is meant to be secret or inaccessible, I just work with what is freely and voluntarily already made available, out there on the Internet, by these other spirits. Sometimes, preferably more often than not, I collaborate either openly or indirectly, with a number of these comrades and partner spirits. The results of my jumbie ethnography can only be seen, openly, on this site primarily. The results will not be hijacked, privatized, and sold.

This jumbie ethnographer, the Watchman, also fancies himself as a spirit blow — a virtual lash in the hands of the late Dr. Roi Kwabena who, as he says in Deep Obeah, wished to be an obeah man, “shining a mauve candle on injustices in the global village…manifesting and distributing spirit blows.” Dr. Kwabena was a Trinidadian public anthropologist, activist, poet, historian, writer, who ended his years in Birmingham (you can read more about him from his sites under Inspirations). I hope to do him honour and to eventually turn over more of this blog to featuring his works and words.

Watch the Language

Elements of this site feature what some Trinidadians might call “native talk” or “local parlance” — Trinidadian Creole English. I do not use elements of the language in an attempt to pass myself off as a native Trinidadian, or as someone who somehow owns part of the culture, and claims to be endorsed by it. I use features of that language in parts of the site as nothing more, and nothing less, than a tribute to a great language that thankfully continues to renew and propagate itself, even in the midst of American media saturation. It is language, as well as art and style, one that appropriates me far better than I can appropriate it. Had I truly been clever and persistent, the entire blog would have been written in Creole, but I hope to help spread fascination with this language outside of Trinidad and to see it gain greater recognition and appreciation.

5 Responses to “Wha’ yuh say?”

  1. August 29, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I’ve just discovered your new blog and appreciate the tribute to our brother roi, who is still here, including that impulse to send a final message. He has always been a powerful and prodigious correspondent, almost embarassingly so! So I’m now diving into your blog(s) but as I do, wanted to send a sign that I’ve entered your house and to raise thanks for your being here as I settle in. I’m grateful that you’re honoring roi’s legacy and so much else of value, I can see. Do you know Anthony Joseph and his work? If not, I recommend highly. The African Origins of UFOs, his amazing first novel, was published by Salt and nominated for the Commonwealth Prize. gratitude and respects, lauri

  2. August 29, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    It is a real blessing to have you visit, many thanks (I also fixed the comment moderation feature that delayed the appearance of your note). I have been looking at Anthony Joseph’s blog, but I have just started. I agree, his work really is fascinating. Again, I am most grateful for your visit and my many thanks for that wonderful piece you wrote about Roi’s work, he must have been deeply impressed with the depth and seriousness of the treatment.

  3. September 19, 2008 at 9:59 am

    As usual, your blog points me to some interesting sites. I’ve been thinking of making some videos with Roi’s work–do you know who I should contact about this? Wouldn’t it be cool to keep his words alive with image?
    Let me know what you think.
    Met another Trini today, from Laventille, here in Denmark. Guess what? Her name is Leslie-Ann! :-)

  4. September 19, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I have prepared one already, for Sour Chutney, and am about to feature it soon (it’s already on YouTube). I tried contacting the new owner of Roi’s lulu page, without any response. Roi had given me permission to use some of his sound files. I think Roi would be pleased if he knew that his work was spreading and being re-presented, so I would go ahead and wait to see if anyone complains.

    Lord knows I have tried over and over and over to contact his family, to no avail. I have also bought each and every one of his items on lulu, and added to the permission to use a few of his files, I feel my bases are covered.

  5. 5 Patrick Connolly
    January 27, 2013 at 3:14 am

    We need more anti-colonialist, anti-Capitalist and just general all around Socialist ideas in the world so good job.

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trinidad street graffiti images courtesy of thumbprints.co.tt; all other photos courtesy of caribbeanfreephoto, under Creative Commons licenses.


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