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Caribbean Language-The Cadence of Rebellion and He (Read 45 times)
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Caribbean Language-The Cadence of Rebellion and He
Jan 10th, 2004 at 2:13am
 
Caribbean Language
The Cadence of Rebellion and Healing
by Ayanna
December 07 2003

One of the Caribbean's most celebrated poets, Kamau Braithwaite, proposed in his work, Development of Creole Society in Jamaica that "it was in language that the slave was perhaps most successfully imprisoned by his master, and it was in his (mis)- use of it that he perhaps most effectively rebelled" As we attempt to examine this emerging creature that is West Indian poetry, we invariably see that it is language that has been the cornerstone of rebellion. The task of identifying a West Indian sensibility or a West Indian voice has often led us into a quagmire of interpretations. How does one determine, in a society as mongrel and newborn as this, a distinctive and clearly identifiable collective voice?

While Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott has been hailed as the truest son of West Indian literature, it has been argued that his voice is perhaps too tame, too ordered, too like the cadence of the European oppressor to be the shining light of the Caribbean voice. It could also be argued that even the 'oppressor' should have a voice; for he too is part of this multi- layered, complex, post-colonial society. However, when it comes to determining a Caribbean literary voice, one that signals the revolutionary, tumultuous, creative force of these islands, it is language to which we must turn.

The poems, "Turn Thanks to Miss Mirry" By Lorna Goodison and "Mabrak" by Bongo Jerry both show how the unique cadence of Caribbean language has been used as a call to revolution and reconciliation. The apocalyptic death knell of a church bell and the healing cleansing waters of Oshun both emblemize the unique nature of Caribbean language as a heart-wrenching cadence of dislocation and displacement alongside the hopeful attempt to create new life and a new history out of the rubble of an all-too-present past.

To begin such an analysis we must attempt a definition of Caribbean language. Is there any such thing at all? Is it static, limited to folk dialect, defined simply by geography, race and history? Or is it something more dynamic, an attempt, as Carter so eloquently put it, an attempt

"...to shape this passion...
in solid fire"?

While the ability of dialect to express the complex emotions and subtleties of poetry had been routinely questioned, it was only after the 1970's, with the upheaval of Black Power and the bitterness of deferred post-independence dreams that an idea of what constitutes Caribbean language began to emerge. It was then that the concept of 'orality' in poetry began to be given credence, and Brathwaite's concept of nation language began to be explored. For Brathwaite, the 'shape of this passion' in the Anglophone Caribbean was not so much English itself but language; not just the broken English of the slaves and their descendants but the rhythm, cadence and sensibility particular to the region. It was the mode of expression, the turn of phrase, the colour of metaphor; it was a prism of English and the submerged ancestral languages of Africa, a sound that attempted to define the historical, cultural and linguistic space of the Caribbean. It is this particular concept of nation language that we see employed by these poets with the central purpose of revolution, affirmation and healing.

Full article at: http://www.rootswomen.com/ayanna/articles/07122003.html
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