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    May 23

  • 06:45 PM

Black History Month: George Lamming

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, sherrylynclarke@nationnews.com

Added 13 February 2014


Researched by Sandra Sealey ​GEORGE Lamming was born to a white English father and black Barbadian mother in Carrington’s Village, St Michael, on June 8, 1927. Later immortalized as Creighton’s Village in Lamming’s debut novel In The Castle Of My Skin, Carrington’s Village was and still is semi-rural in character. ​Lamming’s childhood was shaped by his unmarried mother, who later married, and despite difficult financial circumstances, instilled a sense of ambition in her only child. He also observed first-hand the economic upheavals that shook Barbados along with other Caribbean countries in the 1930s, as rural black farm workers began to move to the colonial-dominated cities to try to escape their grinding poverty. Lamming won a scholarship to attend Combermere School, where he was taken under the wing of the legendary dramatist, and literary icon Frank Collymore, and encouraged to write poetry. He left the island for Trinidad in 1946 at age 19 and, with Collymore’s help, landed a teaching position at a boys’ school called El Colegio de Venezuela in Port of Spain, where he stayed until 1950. He then joined the post-World War II migration of Caribbean young people to England where, for a short time, he worked in a factory. In 1951 he became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service. He entered academia in 1967 as a writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts Centre and Department of Education at the University of the West Indies. Lamming gained recognition in Britain for his poetry and short fiction and, in 1953, he published In The Castle Of My Skin. That book won Lamming wide acclaim in Britain and was also published in the United States. His next novel, The Emigrants, deals with a group of West Indian expatriates who, like Lamming, resided in England. His more recent works depart from this semi-autobiographical format. Of Age And Innocence and Season Of Adventure take place on Lamming’s fictional Caribbean island of San Cristobal and, according to Jan Carew, represent an attempt “to rediscover a history of himself by himself”. His next novel, Water With Berries, describes various flaws in West Indian society through the plot of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. ​Natives Of My Person, his final novel, is an account of the voyage of a slave-trading ship on its voyage from Europe to Africa and then to the North American colonies. Lamming has served as a visiting professor and writer-in-residence at the City University of New York and worked as a faculty member and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. He has also served as a distinguished visiting professor at Duke University and a visiting professor of Africana studies and literary arts at Brown University. In addition to his American experience, Lamming has taught or lectured at universities in Tanzania, Denmark, and Australia. Among the most prominent writers of the modern Caribbean, Lamming produced a body of fiction that was deeply rooted in his own experiences, yet also probed the deeper historical forces at work in modern Caribbean life. His fiction remained focused on the Caribbean, however, and in later life he returned to Barbados and the region in which his fictional creations were rooted. A strong opposer of colonialism, Lamming sees the lack of cultural identity in this region as a direct result of the history of colonial rule. Now 86, Lamming shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in the form of lectures, essays and speeches. He has a close attachment to the school which has been named in his honour, George Lamming Primary, located at Flint Hall, St Michael, in the environs of his beloved Carrington’s Village. Sources: Encyclopaedia Brittanica, goodreads.com ​  


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