We Kind ah People by Ray Funk

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Blurb, 2014.

Welcome to the 2015 Paper Based Advent Book Blog! Revellers and rambunctious fêters, those who sigh wistfully in remembering what they deem T & T carnival’s golden days, will sound a vuvuzela of delight over our Day Ten selection: Ray Funk’s We Kind ah People, with photography by George Tang.

A presentation on the Carnival bands of Stephen Lee Heung, which spanned an artistic legacy of fifty years, Funk’s text accompanies Tang’s photographs with seamless reportage and faithful commentary. These lovingly shot images, which focus on the evident wonder and merriment on bandgoers’ faces and the spirit within their chipping, swaying bodies, were previously shared exclusively within private and family circles. Their presence in this chronicle of Lee Heung’s innovation and design imagination is in itself a gift, one Funk describes in lavish but never overshadowing detail.

Carlisle Chang’s fantastical inventions; Peter Minshall’s trailblazing magic; Wayne Berkeley’s distinctive flair; the Eustace family’s cadre of lavish thematic concoctions: all the designers beneath Lee Heung’s banner are afforded full-colour spreads of their presentations, sorted by year. Of Minshall’s paradigm-altering 1976 Paradise Lost, Funk quotes Nicholas Laughlin’s awed assessment from Caribbean Beat:

“As the band flowed through the streets and across the Savannah, a grand narrative unfolded. Thousands of onlookers were astounded. Carnival would never be the same.”

All-inclusive in his depiction of five decades of mas production, Funk summons the voices of other Carnival scholars and writers, including Michael Anthony and a then-Trinidad Guardian arts reporter, Derek Walcott. The Carnival annuals of Roy Boyke are also featured, along with a timeline of Lee Heung’s bands, a biographical essay on the mas pioneer, and photo galleries worth hours’ of animated porings, discussions and lively “do you remember whens”. Whether you jumped up beneath the Stephen Lee Heung banner, or are a younger maswoman curious about the origins of T & T Carnival’s spectacle, animation and band history, We Kind ah People is a devoted ode to a time when there were far fewer bikinis, but not an ounce less bacchanal, boldness or bravery in our Carnival Mondays and Tuesdays.

We recommend it for: culture, sociology and theatre scholars, students and researchers; curators of the evolving Carnival experience; Minshall devotees who want to relive, or newly experience the mas maestro’s first festival-revolutionizing triumph.

Caliebirri by Luis Blanco

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Origin stories — those tales that tell us the fascinating and legendary sources of our history — have long illuminated the world of children’s literature. There are scores of picture books devoted to the making of the world by a Creator’s hand, and it would not be inaccurate to add Caliebirri to the ranks of such imaginative folklore. However, what makes this simple, spellbinding narrative doubly effective is that it suits both young and adult palates. This enchanting, whimsical myth sheds light on a creation parable sacred to the Hivi/Guahibo peoples of Colombia and Venezuela. It is in Venezuela that this story is set — in the village of Cuideido (now called Santa Rita), in a time when “all the people were animals, because in the beginning, people were animals and the animals behaved like human beings.”

Using unornamented yet vivid text from Luis Blanco (translated by Bunty O’Connor), and incorporating black and white illustrations by Alfredo Almeida, Caliebirri is equal parts captivating and educational. It’s easy to see why Caribbean lifestyle blog, Designer Island Life, signalled this handbound gem as one of their 2013 Christmas List picks: they heralded it as nothing less than “a labour of love.”

Each book comes with a gorgeous, unique macaw feather-bookmark (painlessly donated by their avian owners!)

We at Paper Based agree: there’s something undeniably special about going on this adventure, about holding this string-bound marvel of a story in one’s hands while reading it aloud to wide-eyed toddlers, or savouring it privately. As you share in the wonder of discovering the remarkable, multiple-fruit bearing Caliebirri tree, alongside these intrepid forest creatures, you will be reminded of the power, and permanence, of so many ancestral fables. This is why we’re especially glad it’s our first book spotlight of 2014!

The Caribbean in Sepia by Michael Ayre

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Published by Ian Randle, 2013.

This meticulously researched and curated visual assemblage, subtitled A History in Photographs 1840-1900, reveals itself as a superior photographic presentation. It’s not simply because of the vast cross-section of images on display, the majority of which are rare and otherwise difficult to access, but because of Ayre’s keenly seeing interpretation of the history represented in these pictures. Ayre’s interwoven passions of photography and economy come elegantly to bear on The Caribbean in Sepia‘s trajectory, one that spans sixty years of the lives of 19th century Caribbean citizenry. The author’s commentary explores the intricacies of their social systems while examining the persistent effects created by the difficult legacies of slavery and the sugar plantation system.

Solidly praised by historian Pedro Welch as a “treasure trove of resources that will provide data for analysis by historians for quite some time to come”, representing “a unique contribution to the historiography of the Caribbean”, this title promises hours of intelligent introspection, both a visual and text-based meditation on a distinctive period in the region.  Providing that elusive marriage of perspicaciously-shot imagery subjected to rigorous, cogent analysis, The Caribbean in Sepia displays some of the best sociocultural commentary on the fortunes and failures of 19th c. Caribbean society to have appeared in publication.

Transcommunality by Laura Anderson Barbata

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Transcommunality

Laura Anderson Barbata, a visual artist based in New York and Mexico City, began her interactions with stiltwalking communities in Cocorite, Trinidad, at the ‘Dragon’ Keylemanjahro School of Art & Culture. There, she witnessed children and teenagers being inculcated in the practice and art of the Moko Jumbie repertoire. Barbata’s creative engagements with groups of stiltwalkers took her to New York (The Brooklyn Jumbies) and Oaxaca (Los Zancudos de Zaachila) as well. Transcommunality, a visually arresting, monographic treatment, published by Turner Books in 2012, represents Barbata’s numerous years of collaboration with these three linked, yet markedly disparate performance collectives.

The compendium is clothbound and replete with high-definition imagery from photographers such as Stefan Falke (Moko Jumbies, 2004); Frank Veronsky (whose image is featured on the cover art) and Stefan Hagen (photographer for several Bloomsbury USA children’s titles), among others. Through this captivating presentation, Barbata’s pronouncements on the public spectacle of performance art emerge: here are treasures to be unearthed on the power of indigenous modes of revelry, meeting a fusion of sociocultural mores, creating stiltwalking installations that are dynamic, spellbinding, utterly new.

Transcommunality explores the power of ritual and the significance of costuming in bold, visionary strokes, melding both imagery and critical analysis, including a conversation with the artist that explores the impetus and evolution of the work she has created with, alongside and for these stiltwalking societies.

Trinidad & Tobago: A Caribbean Expression of Colourful Diversity by Edison Boodoosingh

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

A Plain Vision Publishing production (2012), Trinidad & Tobago: A Caribbean Expression of Cultural Diversity showcases the photographs of prolific freelance photographer for publications such as Caribbean Beat and the Trinidad Guardian, Edison Boodoosingh. The glossy-paged, coffee-table title sets itself the herculean task of providing as panoramic a series of perspectives on Trinbagonian culture as possible. The frequently breathtaking shots presented by Boodoosingh represent more than six years of curating, colour composition and journeys throughout the republic. In the book’s preface, Boodoosingh expresses his desire to showcase more than just the inarguable splendour of T & T’s Carnival.

Close-up of a blue-crowned motmot bird, from the Land of the Double Chaconia subsection of the Eco-Systems and Natural Wonders segment.

Close-up of a blue-crowned motmot bird, from the Land of the Double Chaconia subsection of the Eco-Systems and Natural Wonders segment.

He explains that he draws inspiration for his photographs from the full flourish of the islands’ many observances: “the captivating fusion of the drums of Hosay; the duelling of the Kalinda Stick Fighters; the colours of Phagwa,” and numerous other festivities. The photographer’s images are accompanied by text from Emmanuel Guadeloupe. In seven sections: People & Culture; Architecture & Monuments; National Festivals & Observances; Eco-Systems & Natural Wonders; Commerce & Industry; Sights & Scenes, and The Ever Evolving Faces of the Races, the vistas of Trinbagonian people embracing various aspects of their ample cultural legacies are given generous room to unfold.

Nrityanjali's production, "Shiva the Cosmic Dancer", in the East Indian Cultural Dance subsection of People & Culture.

Nrityanjali’s production, “Shiva the Cosmic Dancer”, in the East Indian Cultural Dance subsection of People & Culture.

Guadeloupe’s written descriptions are informative and suitably vibrant, complementing Boodoosingh’s artistic vision in each arm of the book’s explorations of T & T’s beauty and multiplicity. Transcending the typical expectations for a standard coffee table conversation piece, Trinidad & Tobago: A Caribbean Expression of Colourful Diversity marks an indispensable addition to any solidly patriotic Trinbagonian’s bookshelf, as well as to anyone even casually interested in joining Boodoosingh on an unforgettable tour of two islands in vivid, compelling captures.

Bolero by Luise Kimme

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Bolero

“Luise Kimme came amongst us and saw deep in us things, bold truths, great strength, nobility and beauty, that we are too close to ourselves to see, and she set about her task, chiselling, carving and sculpting our best-kept small-island secrets, giving us back to ourselves and celebrating us big to the world.”

– Peter Minshall, quoted in Bolero (2009)

What Minshall says about Kimme here is illustrative; what Kimme says about herself, and the process of creating art in Tobago, is equally telling: in Bolero, a Prospect Press published work, with photographs by Stefan Falke, Kimme declares, “I started making figurative carvings from whole trees in Tobago, where I am free to do what I like.” The statement continues, explaining the distinction, for Kimme, between working in the Caribbean and Europe. The Caribbean became the place in which the sculptress’ full range of expression could take flight: her influences took root in the magical everydayness of Tobago living, as well as the religious and spiritual resonances of Cuban culture.

In a tribute piece, honouring Kimme’s life and work, ARC Magazine reissued a piece by Marsha Pearce, originally published in the Trinidad Guardian’s Sunday Arts section. Pearce reports on Kimme’s March 2013 exhibition, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, contextualizing the exhibition’s title as offering the society

“a meaningful way in which to consider the art Kimme has been making for many years. A rainbow is symbolic of a bridge. Through her sculptures and drawings, Luise Kimme creates a bridge or link across which a spirit of place and people – a spirit of Tobago in particular – can traverse and take on physical, material form. With each sculptural piece and creative rendering on paper, Kimme reaches over the rainbow, and pulls what lies somewhere within us and brings it into a tangible manifestation. What she finds in us and carves into visible being is a powerful, indefatigable beauty.”

Luise Kimme passed away on April 19th, 2013. Paper Based Bookshop joins every fellow celebrant of Kimme’s outstanding legacy, in honouring her contributions to the Caribbean artistic and cultural landscape.

10 by Alex Smailes

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

The invitation to Smailes’ 10 exhibit, held at the Medulla Art Gallery from the 22nd November to the 6th December, 2012.

The front cover of 10

10, Alex Smailes’ new photobook, shows that a collection of photographs can mean many things. At first glance, it doesn’t fit the bill for one’s expectations of a coffee table publication of glossy, high-definition stills. Perhaps this is entirely the point. Encased in a sturdy, neat cardboard box, and bound with a present-wrapped length of twine, 10 must have appeared an unlikely, intriguing Christmas gift beneath some trees this year.

Upon unwrapping, 24 sheets of newsprint emerge, bearing a decade of Smailes’ work in the Caribbean: ten years of images, a carefully curated 167 illustrations in colour. Each still shot demands attention, consideration — this is no sheaf of papers to be hastily fumbled through. Quite the opposite, in fact, for there are photos in here to summon your sadness and anger; (Haitian coup of 2004) your sombre reflection; (Kaleem “Billy” Danglade’s funeral in Morvant, Trinidad) the resurgence of your childlike wonder (Mayan children at play in Belize), and a whole host of other emotions.

Alex Smailes, holding 10. Photo by Steve Hernandez.

Alex Smailes, holding 10. Photo by Steve Hernandez.

These remarkable photographs signal new ways of seeing, while simultaneously honouring the traditions of a quickly vanishing era. Lost children, shoemakers, dapper old gentlemen and proud, gun-toting youth: all these faces stare up at you from 10, not mere statistics, but members of a whole regional conversation of which you, the viewer of these pictures, are a part. 10 deserves a prized place of ownership in your collection for many reasons, but this reason is my favourite: Smailes encourages us, with every image, to join the Caribbean dialogue, in whichever ways feel and seem most natural to us. No subject is unworthy of the lens, and this, one feels instinctively, is 10‘s crowning glory.