A Rada Community in Trinidad by Andrew Carr

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Rada

Certain books exist as unfading snapshots of Trinidad and Tobago’s yesteryear, presenting historical and social structures as they were, without the gloss of nostalgia. We’re thrilled to have recently restocked some original copies of one such book: Andrew Carr’s A Rada Community in Trinidad. Issued by Paria Publishing in 1989, the work documents Carr’s research and findings, during time spent with the Antoine family, at their Belmont Valley compound. Carr’s documentation principally takes the form of well-structured, factual narrative, and the text is favourably augmented with some pictoral data. (Most stunning among these is the author’s full-colour sketch of the Rada Compound, indicating the positions of buildings, shrines and a private cemetery.)

Belmont’s Rada community is still in existence — online forays are useful in learning more about the close-knit familial civilization’s customs. Carr’s work, originally published in 1955, is a blueprint denoting some of the earliest, formally-recorded insights into Rada compound life. The book is subdivided into categories on the settlement’s geographical layout; Rada religion; ceremonies; musical instruments; dancers and other elements that are certain to captivate the interest of historians and anthropologists.

Steering clear of a sentimental treatment, A Rada Community in Trinidad showcases Carr’s sensitive interpretation of his findings, highlighting the late cultural icon’s concerns for the compound’s sustainability. “No longer does the Elegba shrine exist as earth mound and effigy,” Carr writes. “The impact of western ideas, and misunderstandings by a growing population alien to African customs have been responsible for its disappearance.”

The book contains two forewords, one by the author’s daughter, Joslynne Carr Sealey, the other by Paria Publishing chairman, Gerard Besson, who opines that the Rada “as they have existed in Trinidad have contributed significantly to our overall character and heritage.” Every estimation of Carr’s bears this exact conclusion out, in readable and cogent prose, making A Rada Community in Trinidad indispensable to the library of any local historian or cultural researcher.

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What Things Are True by Jackie Hinkson

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Published in 2012, the year in which Jackie Hinkson celebrated his 70th birthday, What Things Are True reflects far more than a book title: it’s the author’s attempt to answer a lifelong question, one to which he knows there may be no swift recourse. Hinkson’s memoir reveals the interiority of some of his most highly generative years in the world of art. The narrative focuses on segments of the artist’s life in chapters that are both beautifully and simply titled (“Dreaming of an Old House”; “A Boy in Cobo Town”; “Autumn Blues In Paris”). Indeed, much of Hinkson’s reflections transmute what is seemingly ordinary — a childhood schoolyard scuffle; a series of ruminations on an old house; a sea voyage to an unfamiliar country — into reflections that are ornate with the weight of memory, coloured in by a mind attuned to perceptions of light, darkness and the countless variations betwixt those two states.

A Paria Publishing Title, What Things Are True has been described by historian Bridget Brereton (in her Trinidad Express review of the book) as containing a “rich social history in Hinkson’s finely written” prose. Brereton draws attention to the author’s numerous pen portraits that intersperse the chapters, adorning written recollections with visual hearkenings to buildings, portraits of family members. These illustrations serve to flesh out and deepen the ways in which the reader appreciates Hinkson’s artistic journeys.

Teeming with myriad reflections of a vanished age; of both the pleasures and perils inherent in the working creative’s existence; of the rewards bestowed by family and the dangerous allure of critical fame, Hinkson’s memoir is, perhaps above all else, the opposite of a full stop. It’s a declaration of intent: a promise of a continued life in the visual arts, marked with as much attentiveness and sensibility as shines through in these pages.