The taunt of “coolie” is familiar to any Trinidadian. The act of turning the derogatory appellate into a revolutionary source of pride and defiance, exemplified of course, by the linguistic trajectory of the “n” word, has not taken root among Trinis in the Caribbean as it has in Guyana or within the collapsing boundaries in the diaspora. Indeed, throughout the Caribbean the word has multiple meanings ranging from neutral descriptor to racial slur. The title of Gosine’s solo exhibition, Coolie Coolie Viens, at the McIntosh Gallery, London, subverts the well-known verse used by Indians in the nuanced marking of difference inside the racialized arena of joking and mock-insults among Indians and Africans in Trinidad & Tobago.
PREE was born out of the desire to be part of shaping the new, of providing an experimental, technologically savvy platform to elicit forms of writing emerging from the transformed scapes of the Caribbean, a postcolonial Caribbean not yet fully decolonized but one willing to participate in the global ebbs and flows that sometimes threaten to submerge us. Can we grab a passing wave and ride it with the dexterity and aplomb of the region’s musicians and athletes? Can we show that we are perfectly capable of following in their wake while surfing new Caribbean imaginaries built on the world handed down to us by earlier generations? What does the writerly gaze look like almost two decades into the 21st century? Is new writing illuminating the Creolescapes we occupy? Are there new horizons of readership and writership? Can the archipelago be written? In what tone of voice and in what accents do we write it? Can it be written as it’s spoken? These are some of the questions we hope to answer with each issue.
…j’écris en français pour dire aux Français que je ne suis pas français.
Kateb Yacine, 1966
Crisis life. Life crisis. Crisis of life. Life of crisis. Crisis on life. Life on crisis. Crisis below life. Life below crisis. Crisis in life. Life in crisis. Crisis beyond life. Life beyond crisis.
Because I have always struggled with English prepositions, I make all kinds of propositions. To experiment. To see what works. And what doesn’t. But, above all, to see what flees.
In Puerto Rico we have always been fleeing. But most of our fleeing is not the cool, postmodern kind. It’s tearing apart fleeing. Fleeing that does not come up in the news. Fleeing that does not count as asylum-seeking. Fleeing with citizenship. Fleeing without war. Fleeing from the evidence of our millenary subjugation. Fleeing against and fleeing from the fellow American, but fleeing that cannot be understood as such because those who care insist on the violence of fellowship as much as on the fellowship of violence.
I write this in English because languages escape power, or so I want to believe. At least, I write this sentence willing it to do what it says it will: rip the English language’s power apart. I know full well English is criminal. The thing is, though, Spanish is too. And in Puerto Rico, there is no fleeing such evidence unless you experiment and use the wrong prepositions and disturb fellow Americans with your emancipatory propositions and fellow Spanish-speaking people who say Puerto Ricans are the worst Spanish speakers because we fuck up the Rs. Such is the fleeing I seek, seeing as to the utter intolerability of the life empire made, and continues to make, for us, the colonial subjects.
You might think I am the sacrificial body. But the body of my blood, the flesh of my thought, will never be yours. Nor will they ever be in your debt.
I am not your fellow American. The debt is yours. You owe me.
Such is my emancipatory proposition.
Beatriz Llenín-Figueroa’s research and creative work revolve around Caribbean literatures and philosophies, island and archipelagic studies, gender and queer theory, decoloniality, and street theater and performance. She holds a PhD from Duke University’s Program in Literature and is currently an adjunct professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. She also works as associate editor for the independent publishing house Editora Educación Emergente and is a freelance editor and translator. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Discourse, Caribbean Studiesand Sargasso, while her creative work has been published in digital platforms and magazines such as 80grados, Ahora la turba,Cruce, and Revista penúltiMa. The book Puerto Islas: crónicas, crisis, amor was published in 2018. She is currently at work on a book about archipelagic, decolonial futures for Puerto Rico, which includes a comparative analysis of past Caribbean confederation models. Through her work with the collectives PROTESTAmos and Taller Libertá, she is also an activist in defense of full sovereignty for the archipelago, debt relief and reparations, public education and independent art in Puerto Rico.
Deborah Thomas and Junior Wedderburn
Four Days in West Kingston is an audio-visual essay that uses the 2010 state of emergency in West Kingston, Jamaica – popularly known as the “Tivoli Incursion” – to raise a number of questions: What does it mean to be human in the wake of the plantation? How do people confront the pressures of colonialism and slavery, nationalism and state formation? What forms of community and expectation are produced in and through violence? In what ways can we meaningfully bear witness to these processes?
The audio-visual essay here is a shorter and more abstract version of a longer experimental documentary that features narratives from West Kingston community members who experienced the 2010 state of emergency. Our aim in this project has been to juxtapose visual, oral historical, and narrative archives of state violence in order to get at something about the relationships among the psychic, material, prophetic, and political dimensions of sovereignty – past and present. We have sought to bear witness to these relationships, and to explore the ways particular pairings of sound and image produce affective responses. We have hoped that these responses might generate new kinds of recognition, and might produce meaningful forms of repair.
Repair, for us, is practice-oriented and quotidian; it is non-eventful, and deeply historical and relational. Like its nominal counterpart, repair urges us to interrogate the multiple scales of entanglement that have led us to where we are now. But where reparation seeks justice through the naming of names, the exposure of public secrets, and the articulation of chains of causality, repair also looks for something else. It demands an active listening, a mutual recognizing, an acknowledging of complicity at all levels. It requires a daily practice of recognition and love to destabilize the boundaries between self and other, knowing and feeling, complicity and accountability. Can you feel it?
Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica, and is co-editor of the volume Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Her new book, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Thomas also directed and produced the documentary films Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens, and Four Days in May, and she is the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston, which opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017. Prior to her life as an academic, Thomas was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association.
Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn, Producer and Co-Director, Music Director. Wedderburn is an accomplished percussionist who has performed and recorded with a variety of well-known reggae artistes, and who has also composed percussive scores for dance. His own percussion group, Ancient Vibrations, presents traditional Afro-Jamaican rhythms and chants, the roots of reggae music. Wedderburn has played with The Lion King on Broadway since it began development in 1997. He is also currently at work on a project he is calling “Bush Music,” which seeks to preserve the traditional musical practices associated with Afro-Jamaican rituals, such as Kumina, Nyabinghi, and Coromantee.
Born in 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica, Bernard Hoyes was attracted to art at an early age. Surviving a hard childhood and penurious circumstances in Jamaica, Hoyes migrated to the United States in his teens, gradually finding his feet and developing a thriving art practice in Los Angeles.
Heavily influenced by his early exposure to Revival, Kumina and other Afro-Jamaican religious traditions Hoyes’ work stylizes the harmonies, rhythms and rapture of vernacular Jamaican spirituality. His work has been used on the covers of early books by Kei Miller and his paintings have been collected by noted African-Americans such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. Known today as a master printer and sculptor we hope Hoyes’s work will one day be part of the national collection.
Curated by Gabi Ngcobo with Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba
We will no longer be erased, but we refuse to be seen.
Jota Mombaça, May 2018, handout for the performance We Agreed Not to Die at HAU Hebbel am Ufer for the launch of the new issue of the journal C& (anchor image)
The first artwork you encounter at the entrance of the 10th Berlin Biennale at Kunst-Werke in Berlin is a group portrait taken by São Paulo-based artist Cinthia Marcelle. In her ongoing series Legendaries Marcelle demystifies cultural institutions by taking portraits of several people working behind the scenes of cultural centres. She also selected 14 employees from the history and present of Kunst-Werke—the art institute hosting the Biennale—who are not all considered to be “main players” of the field and whose labour is often invisible. Most immediately, this photograph can be read as a gesture of appreciation of and recognition for invisible labour. But I cannot help but read Marcelle’s photograph of 14 white employees looking back at my own white body as a commentary about politics of accessibility. As a starting point for the Biennale, the introductory photograph captures the institutional whiteness of Kunst-Werke quite beautifully.