Volume 68, No. 3
Our Artist’s Voice section opens this issue with a focus on the work of Barbadian artist Ada M. Patterson, who states that she is “reaching for a trans poetics of climate crisis in [her] work, where these shimmering, slippery and indiscernible intimacies between bodies and worlds can be spoken to and grieved”. Patterson explores “what it might mean to be queer and trans in the Caribbean”, living “’below the surface’, on the edges of islands, seas, respectability, gender and beyond”. “How can I be more like water?” she asks. In our lead essay, Paul Humphrey, reading queerness in Rita Indiana’s novels La mucama and Hecho en Saturno, states that “it is necessary to interrogate the symbolism of the sea . . . to then explore the multiple possibilities that arise from questioning colonial historiographies, mythologies, and conceptions of time”. Indiana’s protagonists possess the supernatural power of time travel, and “fluidity in time is intrinsically linked to the sea”; they are fluid also with regard to gender and sexuality, subverting heteropatriarchal and colonial forms as they seek to avert a climate disaster or resolve inner conflict. Ultimately, Humphrey concludes that although both novels end in apparent failure, “the potentiality for a queer futurity is indeed perceptible, not least in the many forms of art produced across the two texts and their wider commentary on normativity and colonialiity”.
Nadia Butt explores travel and transformation in V.S. Naipaul’s fictional autobiography Half a Life. Here, Butt suggests, the reader experiences a fluidity of time as well as of perspective, moving “from one epoch to the other just as from one community to another” in following the trajectory of Naipaul’s protagonist Willie, “a nomadic and deterritorialised being”. “This travelling self is . . . in constant flux in the flashback narration of the novel, as it is always fabricated anew in new surroundings,” Butt asserts, and the desire to live a full life “requires crossing borders and boundaries that are not only geographical or territorial, national or cultural, but also deeply personal”. Naipaul’s antihero “seems to meander his way through colonial and postcolonial chaos in order to come to terms with his fractured self and identity”.
Andrea O’Reilly Herrera discusses the work of Cuban diasporic artists Alberto Rey, Leandro Soto and Baruj Salinas, whose work explores themes of “rupture and displacement” and expresses “the postcolonial concept that territorial dispossession redefines the way we understand distance, and alters our understanding of spatiality and borders”. Their art “captures the fluid and shifting aspects of situated or contextual subjectivity rooted in the local, the geographical, the historical and the present”, and they “offer an alternative or altered concept of movement and nomadism – a quintessentially Caribbean aesthetic . . . a kind of weightlessness or detachment from physical spaces, at the same time that it allows the possibility of being rooted in multiple places”, ultimately transforming the experience of non-belonging into “multi-belonging”.
Tohru Nakamura’s essay considers the theme of brokenness and the body in the Jamaican writer Kei Miller’s short stories, suggesting that “he describes the body as a locus of existential realisation of one’s racially and sexually fragmented selfhood”. Miller’s acknowledgement of unbelonging is defiant: he “declares that he does not wish to fit into either the European white or the Jamaican masculine world”, and “[t]his decision constitutes what he thinks of as the act of ‘breaking the body’, namely deterritorialising the body by disrupting the fixed and established racial as well as heterosexual gender norms inscribed on the body and the ‘habit of hiding’ one’s sexual predilections”. Brokenness for Miller “means an authentic life,” Nakamura asserts, “exhibiting the erotic within himself by his queer body rather than escaping into the anonymous life by his black body”.
Moving in another thematic direction, two articles consider ways in which social capital may be deepened or enhanced by adaptation of traditional cultural models. R. Sandra Evans and colleagues discuss collaborative networking among a group of St Lucian women in academe using the template of the koudmen, “a longstanding cultural tradition in some Caribbean societies that engenders cooperative labour towards the execution of a particular project”. Paul Pounder and Marsha Hinds Myrie examine the traditional Barbadian rum shop as an entrepreneurial model in the small retail sector. They identify shareability, active listening and caring as unique characteristics of rum shop owners who “use human capital to enhance the experience in the rum shop, and social capital to strengthen the ties”.
A translation of Jacques Viau Renaud’s poem “Canto a America” by Ariel Francisco is included in this issue. Renaud, born in Haiti and raised in the Dominican Republic, was killed in 1965, at age twenty-three, while fighting against the US-backed dictatorship.
Kim Robinson-Walcott, PhD