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PEP COLUMN: Time to bring Kamau home

People’s Empowerment Party

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THE CONTENT of Kamau Brathwaite’s article in the last the SUNDAY SUN has reminded us in the Peoples Empowerment Party that we have been derelict in our duty to publicly call for the return home of Kamau Brathwaite – the Caribbean’s most important poet.And so, we now publicly say to Minister of Culture Steve Blackett, Minister of Education Ronald Jones, and to Prime Minister David Thompson: “Bring home Kamau Brathwaite; make him an offer he can’t refuse; and repatriate him from the alien climes of New York City to take up his rightful place in Barbados as our national poet laureate!”It was distressing to glean from Kamau’s article that he currently finds himself in an oppressive condition in New York City, the victim of thieves who have plundered his apartment of many of his (and the Caribbean’s) most valuable cultural treasures.Why should this be so? Why should the independent nation of Barbados – equipped with a university campus, a tertiary level “Centre of Creative Imagination”, and a National Cultural Foundation – permit its 80-year-old “father” of Barbadian poetry and cultural history to remain separated from his homeland, his nation, and his people?Let us be very clear about this – Kamau Brathwaite is no ordinary Barbadian intellectual or artist! Kamau’s unique achievement has been to have plumbed the depths of and to have internalised the essential culture and landscape of Barbados, and through seven years of lived experience in Ghana, to have discerned the deeply rooted umbilical connection between the Barbadian folk culture and our ancestral West African “heartland”, and having done so, to have traced the Pan-African connections between Barbados and the cultures and peoples of “plantation America” and the Caribbean diaspora.Equipped with this profound, authentic and holistic understanding of Barbadian culture and identity, Kamau has, over several decades, helped to reveal the Barbadian people to themselves through such brilliant poetical collections as Rights Of Passage, Islands, Masks, Mother Poem, Third World Poems, and through his several pioneering studies on the historical processes of creolization in the Caribbean.Surely, now more than ever, we, the current culturally beleaguered generation of Barbadians, are in need of Kamau’s presence and spirit amongst us. Surely, we need to hear Kamau’s prophetic voice warning us that: “It is not enough to be freeof the red white and blue… is not enough to be freeof the whips, principalities and powerswhere is your Kingdom of the Word?….I must be given words to refashion futureslike a healer’s hand”For decades, Kamau has been trying to come home. Back in the late 1970s there was some discussion about him becoming Barbados’ first “Director of Culture”, but apparently our then Government refused to transport his extensive literary collection to Barbados, and as a result negotiations broke down.And back in the 1990’s Kamau actually came home and attempted to establish a ‘cultural centre’ for young writers and poets at his ‘Cow Pasture’, Christ Church home, but the governmental authorities refused to grant permission on the ground that the land was needed for airport expansion.We cannot delay any longer – Kamau is now 80 years old – let us resolve to do ‘now’, what we should have done over 30 years ago, and bring Kamau home!
•The PEP Column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party. Email [email protected]