Letters to the Editor

The arts, culture and patois

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The pull-out, BookEnds, in the Sunday Observer of November 18, published a profound and useful poem in the English language on patois. Perhaps these impeccable verses were the poet's contribution to the recent resurrection of the patois debate. The publication of this poem ought to be repeated because many people may not have read it, and it is not because it is about patios, but due to the quality of its artistic articulation that is in the superlative.

I could not locate a copy of the published poem at the time of writing this letter, but I will interpret the work. It began in a setting of post-natural disaster setting in which electricity and its 'accomplices' were severely affected. This situation, of course, was a complex one; these youth speaking the language of his youth as they were repairing the disrupted electrical system. They were having a good time with the ease of patois in communication. He magnifies that experience nationwide and transitions into questions posed to him about their ability to philosophise, and whether they had knowledge of leading physicists.

The writer responded that they talked and worked, and in the end when the repair was completed, and connection was made, they laughed as they departed in merriment relishing their success. They may not have had the knowledge, at this point, about the complex level of thinking (philosophy) and also the understanding the complexities of the work of scientists, but they could apply themselves to solve simple and complex problems in their everyday-lived experience — a fantastic story and lesson.

This poem has implications of debates of the white supremacists and leading philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment on very early perceptions of black people. In the everyday-lived experience some of those perceptions have been internalised by black people hindering the process of the debriefing process from the slavery and plantation experience, and also obstructing the setting and experience of what it is to be free as black people.

This poem emerges at a time when there is need for the assertion of the role of arts and culture in community-building and national development in an age when popular culture, by and large, has a failing grade. The situation in Jamaica defies the basic meaning of democracy in which the language of the oppressors and of the minority is the only official language in that former slave and plantation territory.

From time to time, we need to remind ourselves where we are coming from so we do not make the mistakes that will lead us into the past.

Louis E A Moyston, PhD


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