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Piece of unease


John Sealy

Piece of unease

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Graham Bannister’s poem Are You Real might cause a few raised eyebrows among those proud black Caribbean women who treasure their synthetic hair, false nails and “bling” as enhancing their looks.
But the angst of the women might not be just because they feel Bannister wants them to be Plain Janes. It might be Bannister’s skin colour that is the trigger for their anxiety. Who does this white man thinks he is, they might say, to tell the strong Caribbean woman what not to wear or wear?
But having seen Bannister perform Are You Real at the first semi-finals of the 2012 National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) last Friday at the Lester Vaughan School, one senses that this Bajan feels a genuine sadness for women who “detract” from their natural beauty by wearing what some derisively call “donkey hair” false nails and “bling” – flashy, ostentatious jewellery – and bleaching their skin “till it lighter than mine”.
Are You Real is a spoken word piece that challenges the Caribbean woman to accept her identity.
One would say that Bannister’s piece reflects reality, but his lines were familiar to those one would hear coming from a domain predominantly black. Hence the possible unease.
The audience – mostly females – shared Bannister’s sentiments, applauding at the end of his recitation.
“Woman, are you real, are you true? I need to know – are you woman,
Given to us by God in order for man to exist?
The epitome of beauty exemplified by all that is great, enduring,
Woman, upright honest and caring, true to yourself and others, genuine and sincere.
Are you there?
Woman, why wunna does wear fake hair smelling like something no one can describe […] ?
You walk round hitting your head all day like if you going mad inside.
And young teenagers, thing is, you bleaching you nice dark skin till it lighter than mine
Tell me why?
Woman, fake nails cemented on wid glue covered wid gold
Yet you got the gall to sit here and tell me you want a real man
Who got real money to support a fake you . . . . Be true, be genuine, be you.
Realize the beauty of the true woman is her smile . . .
The way she carries her natural hair.
It is in her walk, in her sway, the Caribbean way . . . .”
Bannister’s piece was just one of the better performances of the evening.
I Am Sorry . . . So What? by the Individual Bringing Creativity was another winner.
Utilizing the medium of spoken word, acoustic guitar and vocals, I Am Sorry tells a story of a confused man battling his emotions.
The piece featuring spoken word artist Clifh Gittens and Damien Pinder on guitar opened with Gittens saying:
“This is not a story, But a mind made up – Uh sorry
A calm before the storm
An intersection of a cross-section
I had to move from round that session
Is like I got an obsession
So before I get into a rage
And end with a concussion
I am sorry.”
Religious singer Ann Allen was an example of good delivery and tone. No frills to her presentation, but her voice exudes conviction and one could not doubt that she meant it when sang Thank You Lord and This Day.
Dance is in good hands based on the pieces from duo Cara Nichols and Johari Taitt with Forever With Me. Simon Gill and Heidi Barrow doing a work called Gravity were almost flawless in their moves that were enhanced by convincing choreography.
NIFCA lived up to its reputation as belonging to everybody.
The cast of performers represented several ethnic groups, religious socializations and genders and at the end of the near four-hour presentation, the consensus arrived at was: well done.
There was something also different about last Friday’s showcase. There was also a good representation of adults appearing before the judges, especially in the category of drama/speech. This brought a balance to the production which over the years seemed heading to be a children’s bandstand.
The future looks good for the Ellerslie Rising Stars Female Trio who did a piece called I Smile and spoken word act Damien Reid who performed Eat-Mergency.

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