art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Big ideas for C'bean's biggest lit fest

The program for the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest was unveiled last week, and a hearty serving of brain food is on the menu.

PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley is expected; the poetry slam prize has almost tripled; and tribute will be paid to Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott - but these are not the only big things at this year's NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

The festival program, which was unveiled by founder and festival director Marina Salandy-Brown last Wednesday at the National Library, Port of Spain, is set to be dominated by big ideas. Discussion panels and events are to be held on diverse issues such as the rights of LGBTI people all over the Caribbean, the importance of a free press, the problems dogging the criminal justice system and violence against women.

"From the start, Bocas has not just been a festival of literature but also a festival of ideas," Salandy-Brown said. Noting last year's program triggered nationwide debate on the child marriage statutes - which has culminated in a reform bill being tabled in Parliament - she added, "Don't ever think that a literature festival can't change the world."

Salandy-Brown also paid tribute to Walcott, whose funeral was yesterday. With tears welling in her eyes, she said Walcott served the region, "not just with his poems but with his burning devotion to literature and why it matters". Walcott was the recipient of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2011 in its inaugural year.

NGC Bocas Lit Fest founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown at lat week's media launch.

The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts was announced as a new sponsor of the festival. The finalists of Code's 2017 Burt Award were unveiled: Lisa Allen-Agostini (Trinidad & Tobago); Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago) and Viviana Prado-Nunez (Puerto Rico/USA). Joan Dayal of the Paper Based Bookshop - which is marking its 30th anniversary this year - will receive the Henry Swanzy Award for distinguished service to Caribbean letters.

On the doubling of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam prize purse to $50,000, Jason Julien, FCB deputy CEO, said, "we are putting our money where our mouth is. For the next generation of Sir Dereks out there, we encourage you."

Vahni Capildeo and Kei Miller, winners of the Forward Prize, as well as Ishion Hutchinson, who recently took home the National Book Critics Circle Award for his poetry collection House of Lords and Commons, Safiya Sinclair, Rosamund King, Jennifer Rahim and Rajiv Mohabir will be among the poets in attendance.

The National Library. Photo by Andre Bagoo.

For a second year, there will be a special project involving the prison system, led Debbie Jacob, but this time also including Anya Ayoung Chee.

"If this intervention in our nation's prisons can help just one or two inmates then it is worth it, " Salandy-Brown said.

In addition to Walcott, tribute will be paid to the late literature scholar and journalist Giselle Rampaul, and writer Angelo Bissessarsingh. The festival will also serve a hearty portion of brain food, taking a look at the legacy of CLR James, including his relationship to figures such as Eric Williams, Rudranath Capildeo, and Albert Gomes. There will be an examination of the ideas of Lloyd Best, as well as an event featuring acclaimed essayist Eliot Weinberger.

"Bocas is a full month of activities making April a season of literature for TT," Salandy-Brown said. "Never let it be said that Trinidadians do not love literature."

You can check out the full Bocas program at the festival website here.

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