Dr Elizabeth Watson (left) as she received her diploma from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. (Picture courtesy the University of the West Indies.)
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The National Cultural Foundation (NCF) joins cultural communities in Barbados and beyond in mourning the passing of outstanding cultural scholar and activist, Dr Elizabeth Watson.
Dr Watson was revered by her peers as a librarian, an archivist and author who was deeply committed to telling the untold stories of marginalised music makers in Barbados. Understandings of Barbados’ and the Caribbean’s music lore have been enriched by her research as well as her commitment to ensuring its documentation and archiving.
As an ethnomusicologist and calypso connoisseur, her association with the NCF spanned many years, where she generously shared her knowledge and expertise as a distinguished judge in the Pic-O-De-Crop and later Party Monarch competitions. Even after her tenure as an adjudicator, she never missed a Pic-O-De-Crop and continued for many more years as an observer and analyst of this premier competition. Hers was a very familiar voice, and on occasion face, during the media commentary of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition in Barbados, as well as the radio commentary for the Calypso competition in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
As an archivist and audiovisual librarian, Watson was a reservoir of information and an invaluable resource with respect to the chronicling and safeguarding of not only the local, but also regional history of music and several discographies of popular artistes like Cultural Ambassador, Stedson “RPB” Wiltshire with her publication Mr. Ragga Ragga and From Ma Boy to a King, the annotated discography of the music of the Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, John King.
Documenting and archiving was for Watson, a passion, her joie de vivre. Her research on the life, times and music of local cultural icon Dalton “Man Face” Bishop known as Jackie Opel earned her a high commendation for her PhD dissertation in Cultural Studies awarded from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, where she was chief librarian for many years. Her thesis was described by some as groundbreaking and the most comprehensive study on Jackie Opel to date, broadening the understanding of his role in the development of Jamaican, Barbadian and by extension popular music in the Caribbean.
The NCF remembers her generous spirit, selfless commitment to championing our musical heritage and for sharing her knowledge and expertise with young scholars, researchers and cultural enthusiast. We are grateful to her and that the everlasting flame of knowledge that she has left burning for us and generations to come.
Sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones, may she rest in peace. (PR)