Turn Up the Volume

Leniqueca Welcome

“Turn Up the Volume” is an essay containing three digital photo collages, each paired with excerpts from interviews collected during my ethnographic fieldwork. The piece is part of a larger anthropological project that experiments with ways to enlist the visual to unsettle our complacency with spectacular and everyday forms of oppression and violence waged against populations racialized, classed, gendered and sexed as “other”.  However, this work does not merely attend to technologies of dominance and their effects, but also to the quotidian ways people refuse conscription and exceed limits.

The digital photographs I manipulate in these collages were all taken in the Morvant/Laventille area of East Port of Spain, Trinidad (popularly referred to as “Laventille”) in 2106 and 2017.  Laventille is a dynamic geographical region within Trinidad and Tobago. It comprises several intra-related mixed-income communities on the eastern periphery of the capital city Port of Spain. Laventille has had a longstanding history of marginalization. From its inception in the nineteenth century as a refuge for the formerly enslaved and landless, it was racialized as black and marked as a depressed and potentially threatening space.

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The Gait of the Elephant

Sunny Singh

Recently I have been finding myself increasingly bewildered by the clamouring world around me. All distinction between truth and lies seems to have disappeared. For each abhorrent racist statement, there appears to be an industry of those who turn up to tell me I understood wrong, that it is my own fault that I misheard, misread, misunderstood. The gaslighting voices are so loud, so pervasive that at times I fear my hold on any sense of reality.

But in the midst of the fury of inarticulate noises, one image ties me fast to lived realities, to complex histories, to truths that will not be denied: it is the gajagamini, the woman who walks like elephants.

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New Rules

Gerard Johnson

The Caribbean offers a fascinating case study of the benefits and costs of independence. Islands that remained colonies sit side by side with those that opted for independence, or had it thrust upon them.  Islands like Turks & Caicos boast stronger stability, infrastructure and living standards, all guaranteed by the unsevered navel strings connecting them to the colonial mother.

In the 1960s, we, the independent nations of the Caribbean, enjoyed an immediate boom as expansionist policies powered them forward. We were also beneficiaries of the Cold War politics. However, growth soon faltered and almost all faced the eventual consequences of fat public bureaucracies and generous social handouts. There were significant internal political struggles, however, in almost all cases, the economic wakeup call came from shocks hitting us from outside. 

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On Non-Renewable Forms of Energy

K.M. Agard

1. OIL

Raleigh inhaled. There – jet black, viscous, the crudest oil, asphaltum. Eyes rolling back he saw himself as himself – dressed in iron, bowing to this mirror of oil. Metal, all colors, turning the eye as a butterfly’s wing. Black holding iridescence, there the red grain of his hair, the flesh red of human skin, red on the naked apple rose , shining animal and shell, even his white salty beard. Smell sharp, all of life and death, the sun rolling , this brilliant shining morning near the black lake. Had he not wished for the kingdom of gold? Surely this announced it. See the red and brown bodies tending it, not knowing the metal wealth that lay within. With sword and fist, he’d take the black, let it pour this his hands.

Trinidad Oil they would name it.

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Pear Tree Bottom: Land at a Crossroads

DIANA MCCAULAY

During the 1990s, I spent many weekends with friends at an old house on a hill, overlooking the Runaway Bay coastline on Jamaica’s north coast. One of my routines was a sunset walk at a place called Pear Tree Bottom, which by then had already experienced ‘development’ – the coast road had been moved inland, groynes had been built to trap sand, and Jamaicans living on the beach had been removed. There were five small coves with white sand beaches and the waves broke on a reef offshore. Later, I learned the breaking waves marked a spectacular wall dive; that a scuba diver could simply wade into the shallow water at Pear Tree Bottom, swim out to the reef, and then descend to blue depths along a living coral wall.  There was a fresh water marsh on the other side of the north coast road, an expanse of rippling reeds in flowing water, and then the land climbed to the Runaway Bay hills, where there were ordinary houses and tourist villas and a Great House called Belle Aire, which every Jamaican knew, because a long-running local soap opera, Royal Palm Estate, was filmed there. The Pear Tree River came down from the hills and meandered through the marsh to the sea. Every natural science student at the University of the West Indies (UWI) went to Pear Tree Bottom to learn about mangroves, seagrasses, rocky shores and coral reefs, because they existed together in a very small area, unique on the north coast. Pear Tree Bottom was a living university, containing remnants of what the whole north had once looked like.

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State Capture

POLICY DUDE

The limits of the power elite have been exposed in South Africa. Jacob Zuma and his private sector cronies have finally been brought to book. Perhaps they got away with corruption for so long that they thought they were untouchable. In any case, their spectacular demise has put the term ‘state capture’ on the lips of millions of people around the world.

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A Brief History of the Word ‘Pree’

ISIS SEMAJ-HALL

On the face of it, pree is not a Caribbean word. Pree is a Jamaican word. Press play on any dancehall song and you’ll hear a boastful deejay chatting about which ‘hot gyal ah pree him’ or how ‘im a pree di money’ or how ‘im nuh pree badmind people.’ Eavesdrop on any sidewalk conversation, rum shop debate, or single-sided phone call in Kingston and you are likely to hear the word pree often followed by ‘yuh zimme?’ This is because in Jamaica, to pree is to take a long, deliberate look or a careful, focused listen. When someone says pree, it is not a request; it is a gentle command that the listener take notice of something or someone new, important, significant. Listen to a song: ‘pree dis.’ Look at a prospective lover: ‘pree dat.’ Hear this story: ‘pree wah me a seh.’ And when Jamaicans encounter an amazing new online literary magazine: ‘my dawg, yuh affi pree di ting deh’ (OK, that last one nuh set yet, but it will!)

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