PREE to the World!

For our first writing studio PREE is gathering together a Booker Prize winner, a Wyndham Campbell Award winner, an Oprah Magazine best of 2019 author, the 2018 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award and the 2017 winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, a winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, and the author of How to Say Babylon which generated a 7-way auction won by Picador and offering them to the world in Kingston, Jamaica, this May. Read more about our outstanding line-up here

In addition there will be a non-fiction/essay writing workshop by Garnette Cadogan, author of Walking while Black, and two seminars on How to Get Published and The Craft of Editing by Sharmaine Lovegrove of Little, Brown and Dialogue Books. We will be posting more information about these sessions in the near future.

Between May 24-28, 2020, on the eve of Calabash International Literary Festival, we invite writers from the region and globally (Caribbean connection NOT required) to apply for a place at this exciting and unique writing studio. The Studio will be held on the verdant campus of The University of the West Indies, Mona. 

On May 25, 26 and 27 there will be panel discussions and talks by our line-up of award-winning authors at locations to be announced. These sessions will be open to the public for a nominal fee. 

For more information on fees to attend the Studio please visit this link. We are currently accepting applications to the Pree 2020 Writing Studio! To express interest, please email a short sample (2500-3000 words, one to three poems) of your work to preewritingworkshop@gmail.comwith Pree Writing Studio 2020 in the subject line. 

Rollin’ Calf

Kedon Willis

First came the ball o’ blue fire bright like a Sunday morning sky. Then Massi realized she couldn’t move neither of her feet. She held on to a cane stalk and pulled hard at one leg, but it held fast to the ground. Massi looked over at her house on the rise overlooking the cane field; it burned like a brilliant dot from its distant mound. Massi could make out the light from the single candle burning in the window. Mamma, she wanted to say. But Massi couldn’t move her tongue. That’s when she knew, but for Jesus, she was gon’ get eat by a Rollin’ Calf.

Massi could remember when her mother used to tell her ’bout de Rolling Calf. But it wasn’t no calf; it was a big ol’ black bull, wit’ blood leakin’ from him mouth, and a chain ’round him neck

Some nights, sitting in her mother’s lap, Massi would ask: Why de Rollin’ Calf have a chain ’round him neck? The mother would be playing in the child’s hair. The crickets and cicadas blaring their night songs just outside the little square window. ’Cause a Jamaican bull is not no bull to be messed with. The mother would smooth the baby hairs at Massi’s temples or run her fingers through her fat braids. De owners used to think they could keep him tie down, the mother would say, but you can’t keep a bull tie down.

Rollin’ Calf, her mother would continue, only roam at night. Whenever you see blue fire in a field you should run, ’cause dat mean him on de hunt. You know him got you in him sights when yuh head start to swell like a tomato in de hot sun. You want to cry but yuh eyes gone dry. You want to scream but yuh tongue gone dead. You want to run but yuh feet can’t take you nowhere. The last thing you’ll hear is the rattling o’ de chain. The last thing you’ll see is him two eyes burning like coal from de stove.

This part of the story used to make Massi antsy. She would scratch her feet together or want to wriggle from her mother’s arm. She couldn’t understand certain things. Why him is de way him is? she would say. How him come to be? The mother did not like this line of questioning. She would let the croaking of the lizards outside pour onto the silence. It is what it is, she would finally say.

That was years ago now. Massi can’t tell the last time she sat on her mother’s lap. They’ve been quarrelling a lot lately; Massi’s been coming in way after the sun sets. Little girls not to be roaming outside at night, the mother would say, people will think unholy things. Is long time since anybody see me as little girl, Massi would say back. Ah doh share de same bed wit’ you no more.

Massi was looking at the light burning in the window of her wood shack home. Mamma, Massi wanted to say. But she couldn’t move her tongue. 

When she heard the distant rattle of a chain, she felt her palms get wet against her housedress. The sound was coming from behind, easing closer like a raking drawl. When she felt its breath, sweat dribbled down her thigh. She felt its breath for a long time against her back, sometimes barreling down in a sudden snort, billowing her dress, warming her thighs. 

She realized she could move her hand when she felt the bull’s wet nose in her palm. It was slick with leak, but she pressed her hand hard against the rubbery wet, digging into the hot nostrils. She ran her hand up the arch of his muzzle, careful not to get too close to the eyes; she was still afraid of his eyes. Breathing hard, he opened his mouth and ran a heavy tongue against the inside of her arm. She grabbed hold with her hand and dug her nails into the tongue’s marshy flesh. She still had her back to him, but she knew there was blood when she felt the warm stream ooze through her fingers.

Granny Nanny

My grandmother was a little thief; she could swipe a banana from de peel while it still in yuh hand. 

My grandmother was alone; her mother died when she was eight. 

My grandmother never had a family, but she say she never sleep on the roadside yet. She could sneak into anybody’s bed and rest her head on the same pillow and sneak back out before the cock crow.  

My grandmother never went to school but she could trace bible quotes in the black sand by the harbour. 

My grandmother never knew her father, but she got to know different men about town. That’s how she got pregnant with my auntie at fifteen. 

My grandmother was a soldier; she bared her breasts in the line of fire just like Bustamante did. 

My grandmother was a warrior; the morning she woke up and her husband was gone, she went to work anyway. When he stumbled up the dirt path a few moons later, she stood inside the front door with a machete. With my mother in her belly, she pointed the machete at him and dared him to take another step. 

My grandmother was Justice; when a street cock pecked after my mother, she snapped its neck with a sodden rag. She cooked it in browning and pimento seeds and gave my mother both breasts. 

My grandmother was uncompromising; she grabbed my Auntie by the throat and called her a whore. She pressed the machete into Auntie belly and asked who the father be. Auntie never did say, and to this day I’ve never met my Auntie. 

Grandma is a healer. When fever ’bout to kill me dead, she wrapped my body in blankets and doused it with white rum. The scent nearly choked me, but I woke up fine the next day. Grandma is a wicked woman. She grabs my hands when Ah cry for things sometimes. She lifts me in the air and asks if Ah know what life is about. She shakes me about and her hands burn like tar.

Image credit: Marinna Shareef. The God of the Underworld

Kedon Willis is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida. His research examines how queer Caribbean writers from different linguistic regions negotiate the politics of queer identity within their respective countries. His comparative work has appeared in English and French, and he has published both academic and creative works in publications such as the Florida Review and the South African journal Tydskrif vir Letterkunde.

La Belle Creole: The Shape-shifter of The Atlantic

Lisandro Suriel

Since the dawn of women, Creole has haunted the junctions between merging civilizations, changing her name and appearance to suit her circumstance. Who is Creole? What does she look like? Does she even exist?  Many think she is birthed from empire, however, that is only where she got her name.  Appearing in many guises throughout the ages of the Black Atlantic, her true form is enshrouded by ideologies about beauty, race, class, and gender. Creole is merely a name imposed upon her through the mythicizing gaze of others. Ultimately, La Belle Creole only appears to you by reflecting your own understanding of race, gender, and identity, casting her true ontology to the realms of Black imagination.

La Belle Creole is inspired by the cultural exchange of the medieval Black Atlantic that took place between the Caribbean, Mesoamerica and the flourishing Mandingo Empire. Many griots spoke of this time before Creole got her name, when there existed an emperor who was said to be obsessed with what lay on the other side of the Ethiopian Sea, known today as the Atlantic Ocean.  As the richest man to ever exist, the emperor called on the peoples of Kama (Africa) to fulfill his desire of traversing the vast ocean. Intending never to return, he set out with 200 ships and established an African presence in the Americas predating European expansion.  This was the last time the world and Creole remained unnamed and unchained by the dogmatic shackles of Western imperialism. One can imagine a time when people might have had entirely different conceptions about what constitutes borders, racial identity, gender, and sexual orientation.

Rather than shackles, the freedom of wealth and curiosity brought our ancestors across the Atlantic in waves of diaspora. Trans-model Jasmine Hassan in La Belle Creole represents a trans-Atlantic identity rooted In a Free State. La Belle Creole venerates forgotten histories, values, and peoples we must strive to remember. 

Lisandro Suriel is a Photographer and Artistic researcher born and raised in Saint Martin. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Photography at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and received his Master’s of Art by research in Arts and Culture: Artistic Research at the University of Amsterdam.  As part of his Master’s thesis he analyzed early twentieth century illustrations of West-Indian mythology in relation to cultural aphasia. This research forms the foundation of his on-going artistic research project Ghost Island in which he visually deconstructs the New World-imagination of the African Diaspora. 

We will always run out of time if we keep trying to be what the world around us tells us who we should be

Marinna Shareef 

 I’m the type of person who would like to be the best they can be for everyone. The best friend, the best helper, the best person. I’m a perfectionist. I realised a while back that I was tired of spreading myself thin and giving pieces of myself to others that I couldn’t even give myself. From then on I’ve had to deal with not being the ‘best’ anymore, and being a selfish person sometimes. I’ve had to give myself the attention that I was giving everyone else before, and it’s left me in a state where I hardly go out or socialize. However, it’s been benefiting me in so many ways and I’m so glad that I began to do this. This was one of the bigger steps that I had to take in my mental health journey, and I’m lucky to say that my close friends understand this and give me space when needed.

Trinidadian multi-media artist Marinna Shareef has completed her Fine Arts degree at the University of the West Indies and has exhibited in the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago in the ‘UWI Degree Show,’  and in the “Emerging Artists” exhibition during Carifesta in 2019.

Waving Gallery

Kelley-Ann Lindo

 From a very young age I would always go to the waving gallery at the airport to see my family off. I would watch as they went to board the plane and I would try to get their attention by waving and jumping frantically up and down screaming their names. I would shout until they stood at the stairs and waved goodbye signaling their departure. And as the plane doors closed, the feeling of isolation and yet anticipation crept in. And that is how I began to see that space – the open and closed, the happy and sad, the love me and leave me. It became this ritual that ultimately ended. 

Home carries with it many meanings. Home triggers memories, sometimes reminding us of painful or happy moments. My ongoing body of work seeks to establish a conversation around the dynamics surrounding home and its meaning – and how absence within that space alters its meaning. My previous investigations explored the dynamics surrounding the barrel children syndrome within the Caribbean culture — a term referring to children who have been left behind by one or both parents who have migrated. The term also reflects the parent’s need to disguise their absence with the provision of material goods and remittance for the children. This body of work raises questions about migration, Caribbean family structure, and material relationships between experience, memory, story and identity. 

The material explorations have been a continued range of mixed media from drawing, printing and installation with found objects and video to expand the discourse. My choice of various unconventional mediums have allowed for more expansive exploration of language and image making. Through abstraction, I have absorbed the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice as an act of catharsis. The works reference recognizable form deconstructed to the extent that, meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted. 

Kelley-Ann Lindo has been educated at the Edna College of the Visual and Performing Art (BFA in Painting, 2015). She worked as a gallery assistant at the CAGE Gallery, and as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery of Jamaica all in Kingston, Jamaica. She lectured at the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University under a Fulbright Scholarship. She has been artist-in-residence at Alice Yard, Port of Spain, Trinidad (2016), at NLS, Kingston, Jamaica (2017) and at Blaqmango Consultancy, Kingston, Jamaica (2018). Her work has also been exhibited at the Barbados Museum & Historical Society (Arrivants Exhibition, 2018), the National Gallery of Jamaica (Jamaica Biennial 2017), Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts (Final Year exhibition, 2015), and the College’s CAG[e] Gallery (2014). Lindo produces large, mixed media installations, but also works in drawing and print media, and in video.

Sublimating the body

Laurent Bayly 

This series was born from my personal research but also from a commission by a psychology and personal development event — the Feminine Masculine festival — held in Guadeloupe from November 29th to December 1st, 2019, organized by psychologist Valérie Scala. The exhibition is titled “Feminine-Masculine, Sublimated Beauty”.

Every day we expose our bodies or parts of our body (including our faces) to the eyes of the world. Selfies, videos and photos of us engaged in activities, doing sports, attesting to the swelling of a particular muscle after hours of effort, showing ourselves in special outfits, with carefully manicured hairstyles, makeup, and accessories, showcasing ourselves, enhancing our femininity or our virility. We expose ourselves on social networks thereby giving others  the right to dispose of our image, to modify it as a new voluntary servitude. With the recent popularity of FaceApp we allow individuals deep within Russia to distort the image of our face to imagine our future aged appearance.

Today we offer pictures of ourselves to the worship of ‘likes’, a virtual thumbs up on social networks. What do they reflect if not our inner emptiness? We deceive with filters and software, but it only reflects our laborious obsession with appearance, responding to our lack of self-esteem through external, social validation. In some ways, we conform to stereotypes that can only satisfy ourselves in the short term, just a few hours on Snapchat and a few days at most on Facebook.

This general submission to stereotypes and the fundamental question of self-esteem of course follows a particular declension in the Caribbean. The injunction is global including through the imagery of the tourism industry.  However, we cannot ignore the impact of colonial and slavery trauma in our part of the world. We have been the field of the creation of racist stereotypes: classifications according to the proportion of “black blood”, scientific justifications of races and their hierarchization. In photography, J. T Zealy’s daguerrotypes for Louis Agassiz (1850) aimed to prove the inferiority of blacks. The models posed in the studio, shirtless against a black background, staring at the lens, everything is very clear, as an object of scientific study should be and the humanity of the models is (at least) questioned in a kind of pornographic matrix. The recent book Sex, Race and Colonies shows well the strong link between colonial domination, racism and pornography — pornography that until today has ignored shallow depths of field.

Taking into account these parameters I have attempted to reach some complexity as a response to the stereotypes.

Complexity is not fragmentation or juxtaposition. The Caribbean in many ways is a fragmented space, politically, economically and socially. It has been so since its “invention” by Europeans who have divided the islands and territories, established separations and hierarchies within the indigenous populations and imported others. In many ways there is also a cultural and linguistic fragmentation, of identity in particular, because population flows in the Caribbean are intense and incessant. Saint Martin, where I live and work is a caricature. More than 60 nationalities are present with strong wealth inequalities. In addition, the destruction and psychological consequences of Hurricane Irma in 2017 may have accentuated the sense of fragmentation.

Of course, globalisation is at work too. Therefore, we can see ourselves as fragmented beings.

It is also now proven that trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation through epigenetics. In my view, Caribbean photography and visual arts account for this fragmentation and the importance of historic legacies. I think of the special part played by collage or photo montage (Holly Bynoe of St Vincent, Terry Boddie of Nevis, Ebony G Patterson of Jamaica or Florence Poirier N’kpa of Saint Martin).

My subjective response to this fragmentation and juxtaposition is to complexify the images by aiming for a kind of unity. Complexity for me is the combination or rearrangement into a single artistic object of the elements, legacies, and influences of all the flows that cross the Caribbean. In my work, the diffusions, diffractions and irregularities obtained by the plexiglass screen and the spread water, create a kind of material that unifies the plastic space of the photograph. The differences in focus and the different densities of multiple exposures add to this effect as well as the play of colours, hues, white balance. All this aims to signal a distancing from the visible reality. I would then speak of representing a personal reality as the interaction between the body (mine, the model’s), the spirit (mine, the model’s) and the « activity of the universe ». It is a simultaneous experiment, an intermittent flow of sensations, of perceptions, of thoughts, of experiences. It is impermanent and elusive unless you take a picture. And yet we only catch a moment.

In photography (to photograph means to write with light), the light and therefore the colour unify. The link between colour and the spiritual is well known (Kandinsky, Concerning the spiritual in art, 1910). So I try to integrate a spiritual reality beyond the simple bodies represented by the processes I have already mentioned and the references that can be seen in the figures of angels or Hindu goddesses, animist fetishes and even the Christ.

Finally, I like to think that my photography seeks to achieve complexity through poetry. This quote from the poet Jane Hirshfield comes to my mind:

Poems (and may I add photographs) can bring comfort. They let us know . . . that we are not alone (…) but they also unseat us and make us more susceptible, larger, elastic. They foment revolutions of awareness and allow the complex, uncertain, actual world to enter.

Thus a photograph can make us irreducible to any categorization, any stereotyped simplification.

I am a self taught photographer born in1971 in Kingston upon Thames, UK (French mother , British father). I have been living and working  in Saint Martin since 2008. I have been taking pictures for more than 20 years but started to show them only in  2015. I was a member of St Martin based artists group « Headmade Factory » between 2015 and 2018. I did several exhibitions in Saint Martin and recently in Guadeloupe. I try to remain versatile in my work including subjective pictures from everyday wandering to photo reports for news papers (such as le Monde) and making connections with other visual arts (mainly painting). I also write texts to go with my pictures.My personal web site : www.laurentbayly.com