Donna P. Hope is a Professor and Socio-Cultural Analyst in the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica.
Over the last two decades, Professor Hope’s research and analysis on popular culture, gender, culture and music has resulted in over forty publications, including four books. Inna di Dancehall, Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica (2006); Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall (2010); International Reggae: Current and Future Trends in Jamaican Popular Music (2013); and Reggae from Yaad: Traditional and Emerging Themes in Jamaican Popular Music (2015). She has engaged in multiple academic and popular discussions on Caribbean popular culture and music, gender and creative industries, in the print and electronic media in the USA, UK, Europe, Latin and South America, and the Caribbean.
A former Director of the Institute of Caribbean Studies from 2012-2015, Professor Hope was the Program Chair of the inaugural Global Reggae Conference in 2008 and organized and chaired three International Reggae Conferences at the University of the West Indies, Mona in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Her key areas of research include popular culture and music, dancehall culture, youth development, black masculinities, black popular culture, cultural/creative industries, media and communication, gender, identity, and power.
Professor Hope’s most recent research mapped best practices in the cultural/creative industries, with specific focus on Jamaica. During her recently-completed Research Fellowship from the University of the West Indies, she pursued research in Europe, Latin and South America on the global spread of Jamaican popular culture and its creation of glocal identity-spaces under the title Dancehall’s Scattered Children.
Her edited collection ReggaeStories: Jamaican Musical Legends and Cultural Legacies is forthcoming (2018) from the University of the West Indies Press.
Diverse and multi-genre, Opal Palmer Adisa, is an exceptional talent, nurtured on cane-sap and the oceanic breeze of Jamaica. Currently the Director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies.
Adisa has lectured and read her work throughout the United States, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Germany, England and Prague, and has performed in Italy and Bosnia. An award-winning poet and prose writer Adisa has over sixteen titles to her credit, including the novel, It Begins With Tears (1997), which Rick Ayers proclaimed as one of the most motivational works for young adults. She has been a resident artist in internationally acclaimed residences such as El Gounda (Egypt), Sacatar Institute (Brazil) and McColl Center (North Carolina) and Headlines Center for the Arts (California, USA). Opal Palmer Adisa's work has been reviewed by Ishmael Reed, Al Young and Alice Walker, who described her work as "solid, visceral, important stories written with integrity and love."
Following in the tradition of African 'griot' Opal Palmer Adisa, an accomplished storyteller, commands the mastery and extraordinary talent of storytelling, exemplary of her predecessors. Through her imaginative characterizations of people, places and things, she is able to transport her listeners to the very wonderlands she creates.
For the last 23 years Opal was a distinguished professor at California College of the Arts. She has been a visiting professor at several universities including, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of the Virgin Islands. Her poetry, stories, essays and articles on a wide range of subjects have been collected in over 400 journals, anthologies and other publications, including Essence Magazine. She has also conducted workshops in elementary through high school, museums, churches and community centers, as well as in prison and juvenile centers.
Her early intellectual upbringing, which started on the plains of Vere in Southern Clarendon, triggered a hunger for learning about things Jamaican which would eventually lead to a lifetime of work for which she is credited with rescuing Jamaican folklore from Eurocentrism. And by April 10, 2013, when she died, Dr. Olive Wilhelmina Lewin had in fact resurrected some of the little-remembered, colourful traditional folk forms which had enriched and informed the cultural landscape of her homeland.
Tomorrow marks the 88th anniversary of the birth of this anthropologist, cultural historian, author and ethno-musicologist who dedicated her life to preserving aspects of the Jamaican heritage so many take for granted today.
Travelling the length and breadth of Jamaica at late hours of the night under very arduous conditions, Lewin spent many hours in many different places talking to thousands of people, recording, as she did, every aspect of traditional life - some unique to certain places, often in remote, isolated communities. It is no wonder then that years after her passing, this pioneering cultural icon's work in collecting and collating aspects of Jamaican folk history remains unparalleled and unlikely to be matched or surpassed.
Rich and Varied
"She wanted us (Jamaicans) to appreciate and understand our culture and the far-reaching impact it had, which should bring us pride rather than us looking to other people's culture because ours is very rich and varied and speaks to the strength of our ancestors and what they went through and how they persevered," Johanna Lewin shared with Arts & Education.
This assessment of her mother's contribution to Jamaican life by an only child is informed by the time spent during those exacting journeys across the country, learning as she did, literally at the feet of the great woman she knew as Mom.
"It was just the two of us. I was her skirt tail. I was very involved in her work because she used to carry me around as baggage when she was going all over the island to collect her folk music, so I was very exposed to it and got a deep appreciation and a wide knowledge, and I thank her for that," Johanna disclosed.
Life on the road was hard, she admitted, but the excitement of new places, meeting new people, learning the different dance moves, work songs, and so on took the edge off the physically demanding task, which she now looks back on with some measure of pride.
"I appreciate her involvement and the research that she did, which brought to light our rich musical cultural heritage, her work with the Memory Bank programme, and also how she got Jamaican traditional folk music into the international arena. She was really talented. Her musical arrangements are amazing, and I really appreciate what she did for us and for me."
It's an appreciation shared by fellow anthropologist and ethno-musicologist Edward Seaga, who put Lewin in charge of the Memory Bank Project at the start of his eight-year tenure as prime minister of Jamaica in 1980. However, their association and collaboration goes back much further to when Seaga took charge of the culture portfolio as a member of independent Jamaica's first Government.
He told Arts & Education: "One of the objectives I had was to raise the consciousness of folk material so that people would know more about our folk history and our folk culture, and that was how the Festival came about because that provided the showcase. But fearing that there could be a lot of material out there in the wild in folk society that had not been collected, I wanted somebody to make the rounds and to collect what had not been collected, and that is where Olive Lewin came in."
Seaga recalls that Lewin came very highly recommended and he thought she would be perfect for the job, and did she deliver!
"She went out there and did a masterful job because she not only collected what had not been collected, but she did recordings on a lot of other areas of folk life, and that brought about the Memory Bank."
Fifty years later, Lewin's work continues to bear fruit, an accomplishment in which Seaga, too, can take pride.
"She created quite a collection on folk life so that people (today) can understand and appreciate and the country can put for its history. Her legacy is definitely the collection of folk music she was able to assemble in keeping with the arrangement that she had with the ministry through me and second, the Memory Bank which she assembled," he said.
"Despite the fact that she was extraordinarily busy with the collection of music and items for the Memory Bank, she found time to train young people in music, and as a result, formed the Jamaica Orchestra for Youth, but that has now been transformed into the Jamaica Youth Orchestra. That brought young people into the sphere of classical and other types of music than what they hear and which broadened and enriched their lives," the former prime minister added.
On the question of what might have fuelled the enthusiasm and dedication which drove Lewin, Seaga offered this answer.
"She just happened to be someone who had a special hearing, a special feeling for folk life, and she would get up out of her bed and go to a spot if she heard that they were having a wake out there, or nine night, or something, just to hear the music, to see if there was anything new. We got along so very well. She was one of my favourite people that I ever worked with."
It was in recognition of this pioneering woman's indefatigable spirit, unswerving commitment and dedication to country that the Government gave her an official funeral and awarded her the Order of Merit, the country's fourth-highest national honour. During her lifetime, Lewin was given membership to the Order of Jamaica and the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander Class.
The State also organised a very spectacular, colourful and very fitting tribute by way of a set-up at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in St Andrew, at which a number of traditional groups and the Jamaica Folk Singers, of which Lewin was founder, performed.
In addition to the many awards, accolades and honours bestowed on her, the Clarendon native had the distinction of being declared an honorary Maroon in 1973, while the Indo-Jamaica Cultural Society in 1985 recognised her with a Certificate of Merit for contribution to the development of the Indian Cultural Heritage of Jamaica.
Ralston Milton "Rex" Nettleford (3 February 1933 - 2 February 2010), was a Jamaican author, academic, activist, choreographer, co- founder of Jamaica's National Dance Theatre Company, and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Early life and education
Born 3 February 1933 in Falmouth, Jamaica, Nettleford attended Unity Primary School in Bunkers Hill, Trelawny, and graduated from Cornwall College in Montego Bay, Jamaica, before going to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to obtain an honours degree in history. As a child he sang and recited in school concerts, sang in the church choir, danced, and began working as a choreographer at the age of eleven with the Worm Chambers Variety Troupe, which helped to fund his studies. At Cornwall College he acted in productions of the college's drama club, and was published as a poet. He was a recipient of the 1957 Rhodes Scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford where he received a postgraduate degree in Politics
He returned to Jamaica in the early 1960s to take up a position at UWI. At UWI he first came to attention as a co-author (with M. G. Smith and Roy Augier) of a groundbreaking study of the Rastafari movement in 1961. In 1962 he founded the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, an ensemble which under his direction did much to incorporate traditional Jamaican music and dance into a formal balletic repertoire.
For over twenty years, Nettleford has also been the artistic director for the University Singers of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus in Jamaica. The combination of Nettleford as artistic director and Noel Dexter as musical director with the University Singers has seen the creation of what is referred to as "choral theatre".
Beginning with the collection of essays, Mirror, Mirror, published in 1969 and his editing and compiling of the speeches and writings of Norman Manley, Manley and the New Jamaica, in 1971, Nettleford established himself as a serious public historian and social critic. In 1968, he took over direction of the School for Continuing Studies at the UWI and then of the Extra-Mural Department. In 1975, the Jamaican state recognized his cultural and scholarly achievements by awarding him the Order of Merit. He also received the Gold Musgrave Medal and thirteen honorary doctorates, including one in Civil Law from Oxford University. In 1996, he became Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, and held that office until 2004, when he was succeeded by E. Nigel Harris.
Honours and awards
Rex Nettleford was the recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community, conferred in 2008.
Death and Legacy
On 27 January 2010, Nettleford was admitted to the intensive-care unit of the George Washington University Hospital, Washington, D.C., after suffering a heart attack at his hotel in the city. He was unconscious and in a coma for several days. On Tuesday, 2 February 2010, Nettleford was pronounced dead at around 8:00pm EST. HE was 76.
The Rex Nettleford Foundation was established after his death. Nettleford's life was the subject of a trilogy of films by Lennie Little-White, commissioned by the foundation.
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf was born in 1970 in Lagos, Nigeria. At thirteen, she was sent to private school in England, and later studied communications and anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She went on to do a masters and a PhD. in gender studies at the University of Warwick. Bakare-Yusuf’s thesis explored cultural preservation and memory with an examination of »embodiment and agency in the black diaspora.« In addition to publishing in numerous trade journals, she is a regular presence at academic conferences, and sits on the editorial board of several influential journals. In 2003, she returned to Nigeria to take up a research fellowship at the Centre for Gender Studies of Obafemi Awolowo University.
Bakare-Yusuf says that writing has been a thread running through her entire life, from faithfully keeping a diary as a girl and young woman, to her participation in writing workshops in London. She cites as a significant source of inspiration the books of Bessie Head, considered Botswana’s most important writer. Bakare-Yusuf read Head’s books in one go and has said in an interview that it was then she realized that it was possible to still the chaos in her thoughts by writing. She said that her interest in the relationship between culture and memory lends itself more to an academic than a literary style. She gave up writing poetry when she realized that there were other poets who could express what she wanted to say better than she ever could, going on to say »so I stopped writing creatively, but intensified my reading of poetry and fiction.« Bakare-Yusuf worked as an advisor to numerous development organizations, including ActionAid, Unifem, and the European Union. In 2006, she co-founded Cassava Republic Press, which has since become one of the leading African publishing houses. A committed feminist, the publisher sees her life’s work as helping to transform African societies with the production of alternative narratives. In keeping with that, Cassava publishes stories by and for Africans at affordable prices, with the goal of fostering African literature, as well as rebuilding a culture of reading and writing on the continent. Some of the books present a subtle challenge to the UN Millennium Development Goals with regard to sex roles, among other issues, and several of them have been incorporated into Nigeria’s school curriculum. Among the authors published by the house are literary heavyweights such as Helon Habila, who won the 2015 Windham Campbell Literary Prize for fiction.
Zachary J. M. Beier is Lecturer in Archaeology. He specializes in the archaeology of the Caribbean with a particular focus on the historical archaeology of British colonial fortifications in the Atlantic world. Before joining the Department, he completed a Fulbright on the Caribbean island of Dominica investigating the material and spatial patterns of enslaved African laborers and soldiers at the Cabrits Garrison. His dissertation, titled All the King's Men: Slavery and Soldiering at the Cabrits Garrison, Dominica (1763-1854), combines this archaeological data with archival research in order to better figure the role of military labor in African-Caribbean society. In 2011, he was a Digital Archaeological Archives of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) Fellow at the International Centre for Jefferson Studies, where he worked on providing public access to research findings that aid in comparative approaches to Atlantic world slavery. He teaches a variety of archaeology courses at the undergraduate level and a graduate course on museums and their respective collections. His most recent projects include the archaeology of Fort Rocky, a British garrison in Kingston, Jamaica, occupied between the late nineteenth-century and first half of the twentieth-century by a mixture of European officers and African-Jamaican militia that in recent years has been used for a variety of contemporary purposes, including the filming of Jamaican dancehall music videos. Additionally, he is supervising archaeological investigations on the UWI Mona campus at the former sugar plantation works yard as well as at the White Marl Taíno settlement, which was one of the largest indigenous villages in Jamaica between c. AD 900 through Spanish contact and colonialism. Finally, he has co-authored an edited volume with Dr. Christopher DeCorse featuring archaeological case studies of fortifications and their associated communities from around the British imperial world (in press for 2018 through the University Press of Florida).
Since the day she became a student, Sonjah Stanley Niaah has never wanted to leave school. It surprised no one in her family that Sonjah, who dreadfully (if a bit oddly) hated weekends and summer holidays because she was not at school, grew to become one of the Caribbean's most prominent scholars. As the first PhD Cultural Studies graduate from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Stanley Niaah is also a cultural activist, writer, blogger and international speaker.
“I used to leave school and go back home to play school in the backyard with the hibiscus bush,” Dr Stanley Niaah laughed. “I remember doing this from when I was nine years old. I'd beat the imaginary children and call out their names and give them homework.”
Her love for school was not the only thing that kept the country girl grounded. Growing up in Sandy Bay, Hanover with her two siblings and both parents, and frequently visiting her merchant grandparents, engendered in her a deep sense of belonging, security and adventure. This, she said, laid the foundation for her to become 'a cosmopolitan and a country girl'.
“The level of security I grew up with is very much founded on the legacy of my maternal grandparents, and the legacy of my father being a policeman,” she noted. “Security, because I grew up in a house where there was a man who was so conscious of security in real terms, but also security in the confidence I grew up with, based on the stability of my parents and my parents' parents.”
Dr Stanley Niaah also learned early the value of healthy competition, and the drive to compete is what led her to discovering the first love in the academic disciplines — geography.
After graduating from Mount Alvernia High School, she went to Montego Bay Community College, and then to The UWI where she read for an undergraduate degree in geography and geology.
“And all of the work that I've done subsequently — at the master's level, and certainly at the PhD level in cultural studies — is very much cultural geography. Geography is my disciplinary home,” Dr Stanley Niaah said.
Dr Stanley Niaah worked in urban planning after graduation, then environmental conservation with Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust. There she nurtured her love for research and decided that she wanted to better equip herself to do more.
“I left Jamaica very shortly after that and spent two years abroad volunteering in environmental conservation organisations, then I returned to Jamaica to go right back into school at UWI. By then I had developed an interest in psychology, so I did social psychology at the graduate level,” she shared.
Adwoa Ntozake Onuora lectures in the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. She is the author of Anansesem: Telling Stories and Storytelling African Maternal Pedagogies.
Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins is Senior Programme Officer at the Quality Assurance Unit, Office of the Board for Undergraduate Studies, The University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters in Jamaica. Dr. Perkins graduated in 2004 with a PhD in Theological Ethics from the Boston College in Massachusetts, USA. Her areas of subject specialization include quality assurance, evaluation and enhancement, business and professional research and theological ethics. She has served as book editior and reviewer for a number of Caribbean publications. She maintains membership in a number of professional associations and was apponted as a member of the UWI COVID-19 Task Force in March 2020.
Ajamu Nangwaya is a former lecturer in the Institute of Caribbean Studies, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. He is co-editor (with Michael Truscello) of Why Don’t the People Rise Up? Organizing the Twenty-First Century Resistance and (with Kali Akuno) of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. She has written extensively on cultural politics in Jamaica. She is the author of Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large (2004); and Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the ‘Vulgar’ Body of Jamaican Popular Culture (1993). She is the editor of Global Reggae (2012), a distinguished collection of essays on the cross-cultural dynamics of Jamaican popular music.
In 1992, Professor Cooper initiated the establishment of the International Reggae Studies Centre at the University of the West Indies, Mona and provided intellectual leadership for the enterprise for a decade and a half. In 2010 she launched her own Global Reggae Studies Centre as a private sector initiative.
Professor Cooper frequently contributes to debates on cultural politics in the local and international media. She currently writes a weekly column for the Sunday Gleaner which she irregularly translates into the Jamaican language for her blog, Jamaican Woman Tongue. Professor Cooper is a public intellectual committed to broadening the audience for vital conversations about culture and identity across the Caribbean region and beyond.
Wycliffe Bennett came to Yale from Jamaica, already a grown man. He was at least 16 years older than the majority of his classmates and had been married for five years to Hazel Bennett, who was to become a noted author and pioneer in the Jamaica Library Service. Wycliffe was a dapper and composed man, perhaps reflecting his relative maturity. He was rarely seen without coat and tie, a sober mien and a lyrically accented, modulated voice. Indeed, when he returned to Jamaica, he became a well-recognized educator in elocution and public speaking. He was a moving force in the field of radio and television broadcasting, eventually becoming the general manager of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). He was one of the original organizers of the National Festival of Arts of Jamaica and became head of the Creative Production and Training Center (CPTC), which was the principal focus of public broadcasting of the arts in the country. In 2007 CPTC renamed their newly reconstructed main television studio the Wycliffe Bennett Television Studio. Other honors included: The Actor Boy Lifetime Achievement Award; the National Order of Distinction; the Silver Musgrave Medal; and the Centenary Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. Wycliffe and his wife, Dr. Hazel Bennett, published the definitive history of theater in the country, Jamaican Theatre: Highlights of the Performing Arts in the Twentieth Century, University of West Indies (ISBN:9789766402266).
Wycliffe died after a prolonged illness at the University Hospital of the West Indies, St. Andrew Parish, County of Surrey, Jamaica, on October 5, 2009. He was 87 years old. He was survived by his wife Hazel; daughter, Dr. Carlene Bennett; and son, Wycliffe Lincoln Bennett.
Dr. Hazel Bennett is a former Head of the Department of Library Science, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and co-author, with Sir Philip Sherlock, of The Story of the Jamaican People. She has been active behind the scenes in myriad theatrical productions in Jamaica and served on a number of National Festival committees.
Mervyn Morris, poet and critic, was born in 1937. He was educated at Munro College , the University of the West Indies and St. Edmund Hall, Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He won an Institute of Race Relations Essay Competition in 1963 with a notable piece entitled, ‘Feeling, Affection, Respect’, and had essays and poems broadcast by the BBC before returning to Jamaica .
His work continued to appear widely in Caribbean , Commonwealth and British publications and since the late 1960s he has built a solid reputation as a literary critic and essayist as well as one of Jamaica’s leading poets. He is widely known throughout the region and much respected as a perceptive contributor to cultural debate and activity as well as a poet with a wide audience and a reputation for moving and original verse. Among his recurrent concerns are sexuality, the delicacy of relationships and the nature of independent thought and feeling, although his range of subjects is wide.
His critical publications include ‘Is English We Speaking’ and Other Essays (1999), Making West Indian Literature (2005) and Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture (2014). His books of poetry include The Pond (revised edition 1997), Shadowboxing (1979), Examination Centre (1992), On Holy Week (1993), I been there, sort of (2006) and, more recently, Peelin Orange (2017), a collection of his work spanning over half a century.
He has taught at Munro College and has worked for the University of the West Indies as an assistant Registrar and as Warden of Taylor Hall.
Professor Morris was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit in 2009 for his distinguished contribution to field of West Indian Literature. He was appointed the Poet Laureate of Jamaica in 2014, the first person to hold the position since Jamaica's Independence in 1962.