A long time ago, when the Caribbean was a new tourist destiNATION, postcards portraying our home as exotic, yet domesticated, were sold to happy holidayers. Such images transmitted deceptively idyllic scenes to the outside world with designers and photographers carefully editing out electricity and telephone wires—modern clutter—from the landscape.
What is the Caribbean beyond the visage it presents to the world? The hyper-hospitality zone fringing each island, frantically signaling ‘come hither’ messages to mostly white visitors is rarely as hospitable to its own citizens. ‘Just another day in paradise,’ sings David Rudder in a cynical moment. But it’s a valid point: for whom does the Bird of Paradise bloom?
How do those born here view the Caribbean when they look back at it? We’re talking about second and third generation immigrants who yearn for their country—the-real-place—as identity and ancestral home, sometimes with nostalgia for a place that never existed (not a real place); sometimes with dislike and fear and a need to focus on events and partial realities that confirm they did the right thing by leaving.
#TheCaribbeanIsNotARealPlace also feeds our subconscious insistence on self-mockery, picong and old talk. It pairs well with our own (sometimes personal and biased) feeling that this place is not real in the manner of urban metropolises. Mostly though, the theme might say: It is not YOUR real place. YOU are anyone who has not lived this reality: painful, harsh, dismissive, ineffectual, self-defeating, joyous, resilient, creative, weird, surviving.
We share jokes via Whatsapp and social media every day. But how are jokes about corruption, abuse, crime, and madness even funny? The great talent in our best humourists comes in the delivery of clever punch-lines that temporarily dissolve our anxieties and shame. They set us free in fits and bursts. As many of our best writers, musicians and critics tell us, this is ‘serious joke’.
This third issue of PREE seeks to expand how Caribbean writing critiques reality in order to cope. Kincaid, Ladoo, Winkler, Selvon and even Kei Miller’s FB posts amuse us as we navigate the grotesque absurdities of the Caribbean, its pathologies of paradise. Can we also write about the Caribbean as place, as myth, as imagination? We’re using the text of prose and poetry or the word captions of a meme; we’re scripting the voice of a West Indian dubbed classic movie or a YouTube viral video. PREE is inviting submissions that will tell a story of how we live in the surreal/unreal/hyper-real home we call the Caribbean.
We are grateful to Adam Patterson for allowing us to reproduce his ‘soft-shell urchin soaking in the sun’, a concept sculpture for the performance, Bikkel, 2018.
Issue 3 is being rolled out gradually with the table of contents being updated as we do so. Do check in regularly to read the latest items!
A-dZiko Simba Gegele
Nausea & Nostalgia
Small Days is Still on Me Mind
Is joke you joking?
An Incursion into a Real Place
Concerning Bucks and Bacchanal
It is Not the Sea that Binds Us
Nancy Anne Miller
Land We Love
Berkshire Road, Coordinates Unknown
Constitution for the Republic of Outside Men
Here where blossoms the Night
From the Wilderness, with love
Monologue of a Garbage Heap in Havana
Jose Antonio Michelena