THE AL GILKES COLUMN – A picture worth memories
After much encouragement by relatives, friends and people I don’t even know to start documenting my relatively long and multifaceted life as journalist, show businessman, political activist, musician, columnist, public relations consultant, and so on, I have started accumulating a mountain of information from which I will eventually draw whatever becomes a finished work.
In so doing, I have come to realize that nothing triggers lost and forgotten memories better than photographs. They say that one is worth a thousand words; but for me one is also worth a thousand recollections. And every one I have recovered so far from various sources is now a treasure in some chapter of my life.
Among them are photographs of my Harrison College khaki short pants days by schoolmate Carl Moore; of teenage days playing steel pan; of early working days in the old Advocate on Broad Street with the likes of Harold Hoyte, Clive Daniel, Gordon Brooks and the late Cyprian La Touche Jr; of drummer boy days in recently departed Dee Gee Gittens’ Soul Kings band, including one with then Prime Minister Errol Barrow playing percussion; of extensive travels for THE NATION covering events across the Caribbean and in far-off places like Spain, Israel, South Africa and the Falkland Islands; of public marches with also recently departed Eric Sealy’s People’s Pressure Group; of myriad entertainment promotions, including Stevie Wonder at Kensington Oval and the first ever staged in the National Stadium – The Original Opels In Concert; of general election PR activity with the late Prime Minister David Thompson in 1994; and subsequently with former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. And the list goes on.
It’s going to take me a while yet to sift through the ever increasing pile, but I am sure that no matter what I continue to unearth, the one photograph that will stand out as the most treasured of all will be that which immediately catches the eye of anybody entering my home – a close-up of Nelson Mandela and me.
Ironically, that photograph was taken by Wes Hall, whose claim to fame for taking anything before that was wickets as a member of the then glorious West Indies team. It was taken at the Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mandela had been released less than three years before from his Robben Island prison home and Wes was in the country in his then official capacity of Minister of Tourism and Sport.
Ten years before, I had placed caution to the wind and ventured into South Africa with the so-called rebel West Indies team in an attempt to capture with pen and camera the harsh and brutal images of life which indigenous Africans endured under the apartheid regime. Now I was back, this time free to move around as I pleased, capturing images of changes the end of the oppression was bringing about, as Mandela prepared for the greatest challenge of his life, that of becoming president of the country that had deprived him of his liberty for 27 years.
Al Gilkes is head of a public relations firm. Email [email protected]