Tag Archives: Kreyol

A Black Brit Hangs with Matinitje aka Martinicans

Madinina, as Martinique is known to locals, is a beautiful place.  It’s very easy, on any random day, to take a picture lifted out of a stereotypically stunning postcard version of Caribbean topography on an average mobile phone.

The Flower Isle

I’ve not done any empirical research on this, but it seems sometimes as if every Caribbean island’s name has a subtitle; Dominica is the Nature Island, St Lucia is Simply Beautiful, Grenada is the Spice Island, Madinina is the Flower Island.

Can you imagine how many flowers you have to be able to see, how frequently, how many varieties and how lovely they have to be for an island to end up nicknamed ‘the flower island’?  Combine the overflow of beautiful flowers in all manner of species and colours, with a terrain of peaks, valleys and more peaks, rivers and waterfalls, a fabulous coastline, rainforest and incredible landscapes.  And that’s just the land mass.

Les Gens

As much as I love walking across the beach after work, or watching the sun dip behind the horizon line spectacularly at dusk, what I really love are the people.  Unfortunately, they have a distorted vision of themselves.  I never knew any one people to be so convinced of their own worthlessness.  And I’m black.  Nothing gets Matinitje (pronounced Mat-in-it-che) more frenzied than talking about the wotlessness of other Martiniquais (pronounced Mar-ti-nee-kay)*.  Seriously.  But I always find the display somewhere between alarming, amusing and disturbing because it has not been my experience at all.

The greatest gift that Africa, with its traditional culture of ubuntu, the Biko quote goes, would give to the world, is a more human face.  Without getting overly sentimental, that’s kinda how I feel about moun matinitje aka Martinican people.  For me, this is an unconditionally giving people.  They give of themselves very naturally and very generously. Continue reading

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A Black Brit Goes to Haiti

You may recall that a couple of months ago I was bursting with excitement about going to Haiti.  If you were following closely, you may have noticed that I wrote very little about that trip.  If not, well, now you know.  The truth is, as holidays go, it was an extremely intense, thought-provoking experience.  I couldn’t write in part because I didn’t know what to say.  There was so much to say! But I also had A LOT of questions.  Last night I saw a film, The Agronomist, which provided a lot of answers.

A Film For You

indexThe film highlighted the quest of Haitians to secure participative democracy in the twentieth century.  The documentary examines the life’s work of Jean Dominique, a journalist, broadcaster and Haitian activist over four decades and exiled twice.  Fearless, hope-filled, passionate and patriotic, under him Radio Haiti was the first station to broadcast in Kréyol, the first language of 90% of Haitians.

I won’t lie, it was a Hotel Rwanda moment for me.  Perhaps because I had such beautiful recent memories, the flagrantly deliberate man-made suffering of one people just broke my heart.  I had never quite got my head round this Aristide chap who seemed to pop in and out of power in Haiti.  Never felt the full fear inspired by the Tonton Macoutes, never understood why the UN are still in Haiti.   Now it all makes horrifying, chilling sense.

I’m not talking heartbreak based on pity.  It’s the weeping that comes after the rage.  Made by American film-maker Jonathan Demme (Silence of The Lambs, The Crying Game, Philadelphia), I watched it as part of an event called Voir Haiti Autrement (See Haiti Differently) organised by a community organisation here called Jamais Deux Sans Trois.   You should DEFINITELY see The Agronomist.  Whether you’re slightly sceptical about the sincerity of American foreign policy and its commitment to democracy, are into inspiring social justice-themed documentaries, or just enjoy a good story, it’s for you.  If you’re in Martinique, you should definitely check out the association.  C’était une soirée géniale. Continue reading

ROFL!! : When Teaching History Meets Colonialism in Martinique

I love Martinique.  Love it!  Why?  Because I catch the most jokes here.  I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling.  This place is nuts.  It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.  Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy.  Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’.  Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.

But I digress.

What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it?  Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique?  Or perhaps both?  I’ll let you decide.

First off, I was not alone.  The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean.  We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday.  His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history.  There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story).  Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading

Caribbean woman from London? Or Londoner from the Caribbean? How the identity/location shuffle made my head spin

The Early Years

I am a South London girl born and raised and proud of it. Forest Hill, Brockley, Crofton Park, Catford and Lewisham made me the woman I am today.   I had a relatively happy childhood there, and made lifelong friends in those schools and on those streets.  Growing up as young black girl there, it was fairly normal to be asked ‘where you’re from’ as my thick South London accent and use of Multicultural London English quickly gave me away as a local. I therefore grew up describing myself as ‘from Barbados and St Lucia’ and had loads of friends who were Chinese, Ghanaian, Turkish, Jamaican, Trinidadian, also Bajan or St Lucian, Dominican, Montserratians, Greek Cypriot, Sri Lankan, Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, from the Indian diaspora (you know, East African, South African, Trinidadian/Guyanese Indians rather than Indian Indians) when you asked, but sounded as English as I did, and were also born in the local hospital.

We were all Londoners, but we were from somewhere else too and the only time there was any tension was during the cricket (well there wasn’t any really, no one except our parents really followed cricket, although all the black kids learned to chant 375 and 501 at appropriate and inappropriate occasions).  And again, no one considered it disloyal to back whichever black team made it to the World Cup, be it the Reggae Boyz, Soca Warriors or more recently, the Black Stars. And Brazil cos they had Pele from back in the day.   It was expected.  Football was where the last vestiges of Pan-Africanism could be found when I was growing up.  This was before the 2002 World Cup, when black players en masse got picked for the English national squad; before that it was Paul Ince, Ian Wright and Sol Campbell only*.  We repped them, but not the team.  But I digress, I was from Barbados and St Lucia growing up, until A-Level Sociology.  There, a friend and I decided to embrace our full identities as Non-Practising Afro-Caribbeans and Black Marxist Feminists. I kid you not.  It was a bit of a mouthful, but we finally had a title which reflected our Caribbean roots, and London-based lives.  And then I moved to Thailand. Continue reading

Christmas Carol Singing – Caribbean stylee!

As a recent emigré, this time of year has the potential to be the hardest.  Despite subjection to some notoriously painful Christmas do’s with colleagues, I love the Christmas season.  Christmas spirit for me is all about quality time, ideally spent at Christmas dinners, drinks and parties; with friends, family, food, laughter and good vibes, all in huge quantities.  A good few thousand miles away from home however, forgive me if I was more than a little slower than usual in getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  Thankfully, round here the Christmas vibes are no different even if the unchanged climate seems unsettling at first.  I definitely enjoy the party; it’s called chanté nwèl, literally ‘singing Christmas’, which conveys the idea of a vibrant, musical personified Christmas perfectly.

Chanté nwèl, is basically carol singing. But that doesn’t do it justice.  Continue reading