Blood mas

ADELE TODD

This year I chose to look at both the traditional Mud Mas and the historical (and banned) portrayal Pissinlit. Pissinlit was portrayed by men who dressed as women and made fun of their frailties such as menstruation. The costume also gives acknowledgement to Carrie the movie in which a teenage girl has telekinetic powers. Most recently our nation has also been rocked by the murder of a young woman and my portrayal ultimately looks at crimes against women.

The Portrayal itself is titled B L O O D  M A S. The character begins with her foot showing the date in blood. She is wearing a simple slip and carrying a knife. The Performance begins with her bleeding from her calf and then down her arm and onto the knife that drips down her leg. Eventually blood is splattered onto her virginal shift, trickling down. She turns and the front of her night clothing is drenched in blood. Finally blood pours down her head. She begins to slash out again and again with the knife

I am asking with this body of work to include B L O O D   M A S as part of the Jouvert experience. I ask that all victims of abuse and violence be given this voice. Yes, the costume may be scary to look at. Yes, it is in your face about crime and victimization. Yet, it is also strong, because it makes clear that you may want to kill the person but the spirit rises up and takes its power back.Her eyes are open and she is not defeated. She shall NOT be forgotten.

Jouvert can accommodate protest. It can handle controversy. It is not meant to be tamed in any way. The characters we laud have been played to scare, to remind and to make sense of things we cannot understand.My portrayal intends to be part of that pantheon.Thank you for reading.

Adele Todd is a graphic designer, artist and lecturer at The University of The West Indies. In her design career she has produced books and magazines, advertising and trademark design. As an artist she uses performance centred around experimental thread work and a technique she has coined dimensional embroidery.

VOYEUR

Paula David

A green mountain range rises majestically from the sea.  She blankets an island chain where the Bible is always the standard and often the only textbook. The mountain range dwarfs her children.  Her tall, jagged peaks impede movement and entrench isolation.  Blue waters surround her, genuflecting at her feet.

A red and white vessel, as large and ancient as Jonah’s whale, belches notice of its departure.  The boom bounces off the mountains through narrow valleys that act as echo chambers.  The sea is a blue marble tabletop, perfectly flat and polished to full luster.  Around mid-channel, flying fish hover blue grey above the blue-black sea.  The surf plays dodge ball against the sides of the ferry.  A white shrouded seagull skirts the sea’s surface, his telescopic eyes penetrating deep below.

A woman grooms her lover tenderly.  She examines her lover’s face, scratching at scars and stroking wrinkles while her lover’s head rests snugly on her lap.  They are an unlikely pair.  Neither pretty, one is ornamented beyond the bounds of decency, each earlobe bearing the burden of six ingot rings.  The other is clad in brown cotton which sinks into the brown of her skin making her as inconspicuous as a ground dove.  Bejeweled lover lazily traces her index finger from the forehead of her ground dove past her nose down to her lips.  Normally nosy islander passengers avert their eyes.

A young woman strains the seams of her tiger print blouse and black spandex trousers deliciously.  She walks across the deck, cell phone in hand, seeking out the right spot for reception.  With one practiced hand she languidly coaxes a light veil of dreadlocks which has strayed past her cheeks over her eyes back into place.  Her skin is the colour of slightly burnt toast luminescent with butter.  Her lower lip pouts just enough to suggest a hunger that bears no relationship to food.  Pie chart and bar graph in hand, she smiles at the speaker on the other end of the line.  She gestures to him, points at the charts, cajoles and convinces.  Her beauty is wisdom; the sweetness of her voice is reason and the bounce of her hips, purpose.

Tiger woman makes her way towards the staircase as the ferry pulls into harbour.  She skips down the steps.  The lovers wait patiently on their white wooden nest while the crowd of work-a-day passengers, eager to disembark, dissipates. 

The tigress is met at the bottom of the stairs by a tall man uniformed in Benetton khakis and white linen shirt.  His thighs and pectoral muscles are hard beneath the tropical weight clothing.  They shake their hellos, fingers pressed deeply into each other’s palms.  The fingers linger then, reluctantly, disengage.  Lips and eyes smile brightly as they stroll past the octagonal kiosk where minibuses swing by furiously to gather up impatient passengers.

Benetton and Tigress sit on deck chairs sheltered beneath a huge yellow canvas umbrella.  She shows him a balance sheet.  He nods approvingly.  The sun strikes the diamond studded band on her left ring finger.

Bejeweled and Ground Dove hold hands as they stroll across golden sand past rows of yellow umbrellas.  Drunk with love and oblivious of all other human presence, they sit on the sparkling sand in the shade of a Flamboyant tree.  One strokes the other’s hair.  The other wipes sea spray from her lover’s unperturbed cheek.

A waitress giggles a greeting to the tigress.  She looks pointedly at the young woman’s left hand as she smiles through a message to her employer to telephone his wife.  He dismisses the waitress with an impatient nod.  He moves his chair closer to the tigress’ and pulls a bank statement midway between them.  Their thighs touch. 

Benetton and the tigress linger over lunch.  He has not called his wife.  He reaches for the tigress’ hand beneath the table.  Her fingers tighten around his palm.  She leans close enough toward his chest to feel his breath.  Their upper bodies do not touch but waitresses nudge each other.  The tigress pouts playfully as Benetton steals a shrimp from her plate. 

The mountain sits tranquil in the distance.  Waitresses neglect paying guests in their eagerness to serve the pair.  One waitress outpaces the others to replenish a water glass.  She grins triumphantly at her rivals whose faces contort between scowl and smile in good humoured envy.  The guests, islanders with knowing eyes, revel in the neglect that gives them just cause to dawdle and enjoy the spectacle.

A patron reluctantly pulls himself away from the mid-afternoon entertainment.  His torn, once white t-shirt is blood stained from the fish he must resume gutting on a jetty two thousand yards away.  The Flamboyant tree stands mid-way between the yellow umbrellas and the jetty.  As he nears the tree he notices the lovers.  The mountain, now standing legs splayed and arms akimbo, commands him to action.  Her green cape shudders as she summons the chattering wind.  The wind strikes the flaming flowers of the Flamboyant.  They fall to the ground, shocked by the suddenness of the assault.  Air driven sand stings the eyes of the lovers.  The fisherman issues a war cry, plucked from the book of Genesis.  A woman joins him, then a man, then another.  Men and women become a river that swells and breaks its banks in furious deluge.

BOOM!  A rock crashes against the trunk of the Flamboyant tree.  Rubber slippers slap hard against soles that pound on hot sand.  

BYE!  Bejeweled stumbles and falls over driftwood that lies long and thick like a Python on the beach.

BYE!  Ground Dove turns back and swoops Bejeweled to her feet.

BOOM!  Bejeweled and Ground Dove outdistance the flood of island bodies that drip sweat and venom by sixty yards.

BYE!  A man, righteous wrath curdling on his chest, brandishes a cutlass high in the air.

BYE!  A woman hurls a rock, heavy as moral fortitude.

BOOM!  Bejeweled and Ground Dove slip between yellow umbrellas.  Bejeweled wails as she tugs at her lover’s sleeve, urging her to quicken her pace.  The lovers dodge behind Benetton and the tigress.

BYE!  The tigress lets out an agonized scream as a rock strikes her forehead.

BYE!  Benetton is on his feet, bewildered.

BOOM!  The tigress falls, blood drenched, to the ground.  The lovers gather her up.  Benetton leads the women past the bar through the solid mahogany door of his wine closet.

BYE!  The mob rushes forward, rock and cutlass armed.

BYE!  All four push hard to slam the thick wooden door shut. 

Image credit: David Pinto. Good Hope, Trelawny, Jamaica.

I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.  I have lived and worked in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for a little more than 30 years.  I am more curious about my own community than any other.  This leads me to borderline obsessive interrogation and consumption of the history, literature, music and art of the African diaspora in the Americas.

Bookmarked and PREE ink

Save the date. 12 noon on Feb 24, 2021, we’re celebrating the publication of our first print edition Bookmarked, and inaugurating our print arm, PREE ink, with a webinar in collaboration with the Shuttleworth Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund.

The forum will be an hour and a half long with room to take a few questions from the audience. The panel discussion with Diana McCaulay (Judge, The Commonwealth Short Story Prize); Kwame Dawes (editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner magazine) and Luke Neima (deputy editor of Granta) moderated by Isis Semaj-Hall (Associate Editor, PREE) will look at the following:

Rejection is a big part of any writer’s life, even those considered successful. Writers must constantly submit to magazines, journals, online platforms and/or prizes during publication’s long lead times and nothing makes a bigger impact to a writer’s future than winning a major prize. Submission, however, often means any story, poem or article is one entry among thousands, whether as part of a call for submissions, the slush pile, or a prize entry. How do you make your story, poem or article stand out from the crowd? What are editors and judges looking for? Are there any common mistakes writers make in sending their work out? How can you maximize being long- or short-listed? What are some strategies for dealing with rejection?

To join our discussion on Zoom click here and use the passcode 987090 if prompted.

Now Boarding

Isis Semaj-Hall / Riddim Writer

Dub.  

Dub is what happens when time collapses. But it is not the collapse of all time, just the collapse of their time. Dub is the collapse of their time and the rise of fi wi time. Do you follow me? Or do you prefer to see where I’m going?  

Remember when Miss Lou voiced feigned dismay over how her fellow Jamaicans were colonizing England in reverse? What a laugh so many had at the idea of the hopeful colonial subjects flooding out of the tropics by the “ship-load” and “plane-load” to “turn history upside dung.”[i] With a spoonful of Caribbean cane sugar, Miss Lou was always able to report our reality in a way that could make us think and laugh same-time. The way Miss Lou teased the boastful colonial subjects for feeling so entitled, so deserving of an equal chance in England, made Louise Bennett’s radio audiences of the 1950s and 60s double-over with laughter. And readers of Bennett in print version, laughed no less heartily at the idea of this overseas gossip with the fictional Miss Mattie. But what happens if we dub that poem today? Who can find laughter in the right now of the Windrush Generation being re-colonized and reversed back to Jamaica, back to Trinidad, and back to Barbados after a lifetime abroad?

This dub is getting too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again.

I remember in March, my good friend travelled from Ghana through Europe in order to get back home to Jamaica. She made it out of Africa just as the Western world’s borders were closing in response to the pandemic. At a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet in the air, she sailed home on Air Zong Dub, seated figuratively in a sky-ward ghost ship bound by the cartographies of colonialism that we, in the twenty-first century, accept as normal global South travel itineraries.  Can you imagine? Can you see it? Can you hear it?  A full dub flight out of Europe. A dub flight full of fear. Hundreds of passengers sick with worry and seated amongst them, was one lonely, inconsolable young man. He, a deportee, had to be sedated to quiet his cries.  Could Miss Lou have foreseen the Middle Passage in reverse too? 

The dub is getting too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. 

The Home Office is the UK’s government department responsible for immigration. On December 2, 2020, the Home Office “returned” thirteen Jamaicans.  Thirteen is the reduced number, reduced from the nearly 50 Jamaican nationals who were scheduled for deportation. Reports in the Guardian tell us that some were spared because they “may have been victims of modern slavery.”[ii] Modern slavery in 2020.

This dub is way too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. 

I sit on my veranda, sheltered but outside, and I remember that this is Christmas time. Winter in the tropics is cool as the breeze. But when I hear the wind rushing through these December leaves, I hear a dub of Brixton calling in whispered goodbyes. Tier 1, 2, 3, 4, gets dubbed way past COVID-19 to 2020 and the eve of 2021. Who would have thought that Air Zong would be running more Christmas flights than Caribbean Airlines? Everybody wants to go home but only some are reminded that they have no home at all. Flight #442876 is full of dread. 

The dub is much too heavy. Pull it up. Dub it again. Dub it again and again because we can. 

Dub is accumulation and subtraction. When it doesn’t feel right, fix it. When it feels good, do more.  Dub is deconstruction and reconstruction. Dub is not completion; it’s a continued search for satisfaction. Going back by going forward. It is loops. Dub is rhythm in blues. Dub is a ghost. Dub is riddle and recipe.

Dub is the smell of curry that tells us dinner is on the table. It’s the sound of bass that tells us the dance is not quite full yet. Dub is deleting a word and adding a comma for inflection. Dub is knowing that parts represent holes. Not the whole, but the footprint, the ripple, the possibilities, the stories, the memories, and even the memories of places we’ve never been to, and even the memories of homes we never inhabited. Dub is that deportee on Air Zong.   

Pull up these PREE selections. Pull them up again and again for their dub aesthetics. Pull it up because we’re now boarding this PREE dub flight into fiction, non-fiction, poetry, ART-icles, and sound contributions to the Rub-A-Dub. 


[i] Louise Bennett. Selected Poems. 1983.

[ii] Diane Taylor. “Home Office proceeds with disputed Jamaica deportation flight.” 2 December 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/02/home-office-proceeds-with-disputed-jamaica-deportation-flight

Image credit: Isis Semaj-Hall. April 2019 / Lee Scratch Perry’s Black Ark Studio