First and most importantly- ignore all those idiots who say girls/women can’t/shouldn’t climb trees (esp when menstruating) because they’re too weak/it’s unfeminine/will blight the tree. Start early- as close to sunrise as possible, and make sure you empty your bowels before you get airborne. Wrap up, plait, or otherwise contain your hair if it’s long and liable to get in your eyes or caught on some branch. Kick off all footwear- bare feet is the ONLY way to tree climb. Make sure you say a loud good morning to your neighbours from your perch, just in case you have an unexpected descent and need their assistance. Wear a bright colored shirt and comfortable pants and doan vex if it get lil holes and tree branches tear it up more so your belly/bubby/batty show and ketch the eye of the people passing on the road- dis is one time when you WANT people to watch you- again, in case of untimely descents and you need assistance beyond what the dogs and cats can provide. Tuck your cheap, durable, and reliable mango-pelter phone in your pocket in case you have to call for help. Make sure you have credit and friends who won’t laugh at you if you call them with a “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” message. Deep breaths and slow careful movements are your aim- this is not a race and you don’t have to show off; your very existence hangs in the balance. Pause often and scan carefully for marabunta and wasp nests- remember they have the wings and stings, not you, and unless you have a face mask and bodysuit like dem bee men, you need to exercise mucho caution. Examine and test each branch b4 you step on it- the last thing you want is a dead branch giving away underfoot.. It helps to talk to the tree as you climb it- trust me. You can’t tree climb if you’re afraid of ants, lizards, or other creepy crawlies, or afraid period. Remember- you are a primate and our ancestors climbed trees for generations; we have the genes still, so u got this! Enjoy the view and air up there, and the sensation of hugging a really rooted living entity that’s working every day to provide the thing you need to survive. Don’t be afraid to really lean on those branches and hug the trunk as tight as you want. Let all your cares and stresses out. Don’t peek into your neighbours bedroom windows though! If you’re climbing to pick fruit, walk with a cloth bag or bucket. Descend before you feel too tired/hungry/thirsty as that’s when your concentration and balance are liable to waver. Again, remember the location of all those wasp and marabunta nests and watch where you put your feet. Don’t jump to the ground from too far a distance. Give thanks when you land without any stings, sprains, broken bones, or other major injuries. Scrapes are par for the course and not worth mentioning. Last and most importantly- repeat often! 😉
I am very pleased to be able to publish this photo essay by Errol Ross Brewster, as a first post on his work. It will be followed by a two-part interview with him (click here for part I).
“BEWARE THE PROMISE TODAY” is a photo essay about the demise in Guyana, in the early 1970s, of the very first trains to be introduced in all of South America in 1846, and the impact on the Guyanese people – in particular the poor and vulnerable, of a peculiar political culture that arose in that time and has continually plagued the country until now.
It is offered as symbolic caution, and a reminder of how the placing of party politics (The Paramountcy of the Party was a much touted doctrine of the ruling party at that time) above country led to ruin then, and could likely, without extreme vigilance, now and in…
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Here is the first part of a two part conversation with Errol Ross Brewster.
Errol Brewster is a Caribbean artist from Guyana, living in the United States. With more than four decades of a Caribbean-wide, multimedia imaging practice, he has participated in multiple CARIFESTA’s; the EU’s Centro Cultural Cariforo, “Between the Lines”, travelling exhibition, 2000; the First International Triennial of Caribbean Art, 2010; and the Inter-American Development Bank’s “Sidewalks of the Americas” installation, 2018.
Veerle Poupeye: – You were born and raised in Guyana. Tell me about your family background there and how your early years put you on track to become an artist. Was your decision to become an artist supported by your family? And do you have any other artists in your family, then or now?
– I’m the last of 4 children, born in 1953, in…
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“..there will be a time when some of our region’s islands will simply produce refugees. What is our plan for this reality?”
The impact of devastation in the Bahamas gets more disturbing as the days wear on. I’ve moved from fear for our Caribbean neighbours while watching the storm crawl over the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama to horror and sadness at what’s left of people’s lives.
Hope lies in all the immediate assistance with supplies for survival, but reading back to Dominica, Barbuda and Puerto Rico suggests that recovery will take far longer than our attention may sustain.
This is one of the challenges of disaster recovery, despite road maps for long-term response. All the Caribbean countries decimated by hurricanes in the past three years have families who remain living under tarpaulin, areas with long-term loss of electricity, risks from water contamination, and aid dependence. Grenada recovered from Ivan in 2004, but sits in the Caribbean Sea just as vulnerable as it was then.
Whole economies are reduced…
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“Heard that one of your Red Thread women died..” This from my brother and then my father- two coolie/ PPP-friendly Guyanese men now living in the diaspora. My mother, sister, and sister-in-law are still blissfully unaware, consumed as they are by child minding and related duties more than politricks and news from the homeland. I can just imagine what she would say about this..
People older than me called her aunt, but not me. She was not like any aunt I ever had or knew; she was in a league all her own. I still have only an inkling of all that she did during her life, but I know enough to know that when around her, I was in the presence of greatness. Brilliant, bold, hilarious, provocative- when she talked, you listened. And learned. About meaning and words and language and power. About commitment and solidarity, politricks and principles. About men, mothers, and madness, love, loss, self, and struggle. About revolution- then, now, and the ones still to come. Words were important to her- meaningful, but action equally- if not more, so.
It’s hard for me now, one week after her passing, to find the exact words to explain how I felt around her- somewhat intimidated, immensely grateful, always stimulated and supported, encouraged when working on an issue together, challenged to keep on going when I might have wanted to call it quits. She understood when I had to cuss or leave the room or meeting before imploding, or take refuge in a cold Guinness. She was shero, mentor, friend.
We first met at Red Thread and then later at her home, after her physical challenges multiplied. Sometimes there would be email and phone calls- “Can you come now?” I stupsed to myself at first, then grinned and went. That was the only possible response; I couldn’t tell her no, never wanted to. It always felt like an honor and privilege to be in the same room with her. To be a quarter as bold, an aspiration.
Not that she demanded worship or anything like that- you were free to disagree, to be yourself. She welcomed and invited the sharing of ideas and opinions, especially from younger people. Her dry humor was especially awesome to witness- especially when it wasn’t aimed at you. I know people who quailed just hearing her voice over the telephone. I soon learnt not to ask her how she was doing; she preferred to spend the time and energy she had on the work that still needed to be done. Earlier this year, we worked on a solidarity statement for sistren pushing for the decriminalization of abortion in Jamaica. Although I consider myself a passionate pro-choice advocate, the statement I drafted paled in comparison to hers. As always, the voices and experiences of grassroots women shone through- her commitment to those who make up the bedrock of society crystal clear and unwavering.
Two Decembers in a row she tasked me with book buying for the children in her life. It was something I looked forward to- browsing in Austin’s for books that showcased brown and black characters, instead of the pink and blond images she and I had been fed during our childhoods. It felt like winning to present her with these treasures which she would then gift to the lucky children. She bought my own minor literary offerings and urged me time and time again to write more.
Eighteen months ago, at a time of immense personal turmoil, she was one of a few, precious handful of people whose counsel I sought. Her response restored my calm and sense of self and sanity, something for which I will be eternally grateful. Weeks later, when we spoke again, after yet another unexpected turn of the Universe, her empathy lit up the then dark night of my soul.
I am better for having known her. She was and will forever remain an inspiration and role model.
Keep resisting, keep organizing. A luta continua. Rise in power, Andaiye!
Please use the comment section at the bottom of this page to share your remembrance/tribute/thoughts. If you are on the “Tributes” page, please comment at the bottom of the “Remembering page.” http://andaiye1942-2019.com/2019/06/02/remembering/
* These are mostly weeds/wildflowers I noticed around the place this past week. I remembered her liking a picture I had shared a couple of years ago of the flower of a weed I’d seen in the yard in Lusignan..
Inside and out is gray and dreary, cold; light weak as a used teabag. Busy chainsaw and woodchipper rent the soundscape. We gaze upwards, willing the sun to life. If only. The petals are tightly furled. I watch and wait. When will they open? The abomination of force ripening chemicals aside, Pachamama cannot and should not be rushed. But.. I watch his chest heave up and down, hear his labored breathing. His greenish yellow eyes are dulling, but still piercing. When will he go? To assist or not- that is the great debate raging. I remember my aunt with uterine cancer, begging her Gods to take her. They remember lining up with teaspoons of water to drop into their aji’s wasted mouth. Dis time nah like lang time, I snap. You would want euthanize us too, when we get sick- accuses my oft delusional mother. Mercy upon us all. Mohamed, more realistic, negotiates for one instead of ten more days. Day after day. I watch and wait. One breath at a time. These are the last days. Of Blackie and us all. Spend them well. I watch and I wait and I learn. All that for a cat! Some scoff. But love is love; it’s either scarce or abundant- you get to decide. Om.
[Intelligence, they say, flows from the personal to the personal, it is known, experienced and lived through the personal, and enacted through the personal. It goes from this elephant, to that tree, to that bird, to that valley, to that river, to this land, to this sea. It is deeply personal to each of my white blood cells, to each of the trillions of bacteria in every gut, to every vein in every body, every enzyme in every gut, every tree in every forest, and every star in every galaxy.
Intelligence, they say, in fact, requires the personal, the beloved, and the rooted. It requires you and me.
The last thing we need to do, in this last hour, is prove or measure or debate it or put dollar values on it, or bottle it up for posterity. Just listen to your body.]
So I inadvertently wore some bloodstained pants to town today. Not bloodstained from killing some of the many people I does fantasize about killing.. Ha. Nah- just a lil menstrual blood from last month. My mental health doan be good all di time, see- I does go long long without cleaning di house, washing clothes, etc, esp since I aint got no washing machine and does have to do it by hand. So I wore these pants today, forgetting they were bloodstained and bopped all round town until my big woman fren from Berbice alerted me and told me I had to ketch house. But I din finish doing all that I come to town to do, I tell her. Nevermind- you got to go home! I din bother fight up with her, just said bye and hit the road. Out of her sight, I cracked up at the big bad power of di lil spot of blood on my bamzee. I mean, I’ve had paper cuts that bled more. Nosebleeds. Hangnails. But I guess because that blood came from my VAGINA it was somehow bigger and badder than all the other blood in my body. Lol. Nevermind that 50+% of the human population is female and menstruates/bleeds on a regular basis- without which, btw, the human species would go extinct/cease to exist, just fyi. But noooo, is still some shhhhhhecret apparently. Lol. I know a lot of people- girls to big women- have no clue about what’s happening when they menstruate. Hello inadequate sexual and reproductive health education! But even when you know, is still stress dealing with the fukkin patriarchy and respectability politricks that polices the shit out of what women wear, say, and do with our lives- esp/worse when the ‘police’ are other women/“sisters”. Luckily, the older and wiser I get, the less I’m giving a fuk. So I kept on bopping around town- went to buy food for my 4 legged chirren (thank the goddesses these are the only ones I have to deal with), then had a couple cold ones in celebration of my trans brother who just had a birthday. Because it’s just a lil dry blood and not like I killed anybody. #surviving. #thriving. Party on 😉
No, it’s not a style; is jus how my hair stay. NO- i’m not dyeing it. what’s that- you don’t like it? that’s not my problem 🙂 From now on, only small children will get polite answers from me about my gray hair. everyone else- beware!
world poetry day..
Guyana-born Courtney Crum-Ewing
Political activist assassinated in Guyana on March 10, 2015
Like the other poems in her poetry collection My Finer Steel Will Grow, published in 1982, “My Final Gift to Life” was written at a time of civil rebellion in Guyana, culminating in the assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney, co-founder of the Working People’s Alliance of which Mahadai Das was a staunch supporter. Her awareness of the risk of overtly opposing the then autocratic government is evident in the opening lines of the poem.
Death would be my final gift to life.
Then: if I must die, I must.
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