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WORD VIEW: Crossings

Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: Crossings

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One of the events of the of the Bim Literary Festival & Book Fair, May 15-17, will be the raising of the Chamberlain Bridge as a symbol of the theme Crossings: Breaking Borders. A boat will sail from the inner to the outer basin of the Careenage just after the bridge is raised, signifying the crossings that have been a part of our history and our individual experiences.
There could be no more fitting home for the Bim Literary Festival & Book Fair than Independence Square, especially in light of the festival’s present theme. This heritage site sits at an intersection linked by two bridges to the rest of The City. Passers-by of all kinds traverse the area daily. A waterway, transporting locals as well as visitors who come to the island, partly borders the Square. An ideal hub.
Moreover, the festival site incorporates the National Library, which will host various panel discussions built around the theme. One such topic relating to migration is Panama Crossing: Heart Of Darkness Or Ray Of Light? The panel comprises well known individuals, including academics, who have studied or written on the Panama-Barbados connection.
In addition, Ronald Williams will explore a literary interpretation of the Panama experience in his intriguing novel A Death In Panama. This panel discussion is particularly significant in light of the current 100th year celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal.
Not much is generally known about the phenomenon of East Indian migration to Barbados. Nakhuda Sabir, a panellist, will provide such insight from his recent book Bengal To Barbados.
The idea of crossings, however, is not only geographical. Panellists will explore, for example, the borderline between sanity and insanity; ethnicity and the margins that exist especially in the Caribbean; sexuality with its social taboos and breakthroughs. These discussions are all interactive, allowing the audience, along with the panellists, to express all possible sides of the issues involved.
A most gratifying aspect of literary festivals is their ability to bring together writers from beyond the borders of the host country. Under the tents, in the Scarlet Lounge of the Waterfront Café, from a moored boat in the Careenage – the air will be charged with the wealth of creative imagination as novelists and poets from Jamaica, Haiti, St Lucia and Trinidad join Barbadians to read their work to appreciative audiences.
Among the readers will be poet Edward Baugh, also the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony, and Erna Brodber, writer of the acclaimed novel Jane And Louisa Will Soon Come Home. Haitian academic and poet Evelyne Trouillot will also be here.
Another highlight of the festival will be the Book Tour along the heritage site, celebrating the works of our vintage Barbadian writers including Frank Collymore, George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Austin Clarke and H.A. Vaughan. Other Barbadian writers will be featured as well.
The organisers, Writers Ink Inc., hold fast to the view that love of reading must be inculcated from an early age, therefore the Bim LitFest Children’s Fair, funded by The Maria Holder Memorial Trust, is an essential part of this national literary festival. There are several activities designed to foster reading and writing skills and, of course, Spider Anansi will be there to assist in the process. This Trickster figure of folklore has himself survived the crossing from Africa to the Caribbean and continues to fascinate and entertain children with his bold, inventive moves.
The organisers of this festival, writers themselves, are indeed committed to promoting the love of literature and the overall enhancement of literacy.
The older people used to say that some of the cruellest individuals you could ever come across were those who could neither read nor write. It is no secret that the levels of literacy are falling in Barbados, as they are in several other parts of the world. Is there a correlation between illiteracy and the increasing incidences of violence? The personal shame, fear and sense of powerlessness that accompany illiteracy must surely be cruel tormentors.
On the other hand, the competent use of language furnishes individuals with the opportunity to manage their environment and relationships in successful and productive ways. Moreover, it is known that creative expression can help to foster psychological equilibrium. It is only right that a country should celebrate its writers and readers on the occasion of the Bim Literary Festival & Book Fair.
•Esther Phillips is an educator, poet and editor of BIM: Arts For The 21st Century