Editorial

Cover

This seventh Volume of The Arts Journal deepens its focus on the arts with a more nuanced approach to studying the multiple strands of Caribbean society. It brings fresh perspectives to neglected areas of what has gradually emerged as a complex and unique heritage. There is no one label that can fit the distinctive cultural and historical experiences of Caribbean peoples and in some territories there is evidence of a plural society unfolding. This notion underlines many of the discussions in the issue. Samuel Selvon has been a seminal writer of what has been broadly labeled "the West Indian experience" both in Trinidad and in London during the exodus of Caribbean peoples to Britain at mid-century. Professor Kenneth Ramchand's opening article, "The Other Selvons" critically examines Selvon's early books and argues that Selvon’s reputation has been based too absolutely upon A Brighter Sun (1952) and Lonely Londoners (1956), seen as part of a "Moses trilogy". Selvon's writings before 1952 and the neglected An Island is a World (1955) show a meditative Selvon and a poet of love and loss, and they disclose a temperament that seems to be erased in the popular image of a happy-go-lucky perpetrator of dialect stories. An understanding of "the other Selvons" to be found in his less—read works can lead to a reassessment of the whole oeuvre, to a clearer sense of what happens in his later fictions, and to that "other" world that is intrinsic to the "West Indian experience". Mariam Pirbhai continues in this vein with "From Shinebourne to Gunraj: Tracing the Emerging Tradition of Indo-Guyanese Women's Fiction", a useful survey of the novel genre that includes the work of writers who are identified, or partly identified, as Indo-Guyanese, such as, Jan Shinebourne, Narmala Shewcharan, Oonya Kempadoo, Ryhaan Shah, Marina Budhos and Andrea Gunraj. This article reminds us that not so long ago everything written about the Indian Caribbean woman was written by men but in the last three decades women are increasingly telling their stories in their own voices. All of the writers examined in this survey share a preoccupation with the post- indenture to the post-independence period of Guyanese history (from colonization to militarization) but, essentially they offer unique perspectives on the centrality of Indian—Guyanese female experience. This reality is often overlooked, seen in the larger Caribbean context as a minority strand, and subsumed in the broader culture. In "Indigenisation in Rooplall Monar`s "Janjhat" Professor Frank Birbalsingh considers the subtle change taking place in the society among plantation workers and its effect on family life during the 1950s and '60s. This essay examines the impact of the creolization process on Indian sugar workers who had hitherto lived in logie enclaves on sugar estates before moving to nearby villages, a move that matches the establishment of similar villages by Africans after Emancipation. The essay suggests that adaptation and assimilation of other "arrivals" have not produced a melting pot, or a unitary culture. There is enough evidence of the emergence of a distinctive Indian Creole culture characteristic of a plural society. The novel clearly announces the pluralistic nature of Guyanese society so that Janjhat could well point a way to the future for other post-colonial societies. Professor Bridget Brereton offers a perspective on the image projected of Indians in the plural society of post-Independence Trinidad & Tobago where several competing narratives of the national past have emerged, from different ethnic, class or regional groups. This critical analysis considers the "Indo—centric narrative" of the country's history, articulated by spokespersons of the country's large South Asian descended community. It explores its evolution and meanings, and examines its place in the plural society where history is often a site of contestation. Two rich short stories, one entitled "Welcoming Mr. Anang" by Cyril Dabydeen, and the other, "Drupatie's Vanishing Hopes" by Lomarsh Roopnarine, serve to complement the discussion of the multi-layered cultural experience in Guyana and the Diaspora. Another facet of Caribbean society that is not sufficiently treated in mainstream criticism is the Chinese presence in the West Indies even though Chinese grocery shops, restaurants, laundries, gambling dens and a range of activities proliferate in the region and in the Diaspora and every class, colour and race interacts with people of Chinese extract. Out of this struggle for social mobility among a numerically slim strand of society has evolved a strong Chinese intellectual tradition. At an (long- overdue) International Conference held recently at Ryerson University Dr. Keith Lowe delivered a poignant keynote address that we are fortunate to be able to record for you. Two extracts from ]an Shinebourne's latest novel, Chinese Women, lay bare, among other things, the generalized hostility towards this section of society while a previously published short story by Willi Chen entitled "Return to Guangdong" convinces us of the indifference and serves as a reminder that Chinese experience in the West Indies needs to be better acknowledged and documented. In the Visual Arts section of this issue, Rupert Roopnarine's Catalogue essay on the exhibition, "Shadows Move Among Them 11: New Paintings by Stanley Greaves" will be very useful to students of art who are interested not only in the formal elements of the artist’s work but also in decoding its meaning. The title of this exhibition was inspired by the title of an Edgar Mittelholzer novel but whereas Mittelholzer uses shadows more for supernatural effect in a Gothic setting in his novel, Shadows Move Among Them, Greaves’s iconographic shadow images speak to the more metaphysical dimensions/dilemma of existence and interrogate the stereotypical "Caribbean" notions and vocabulary pervasive in the Caribbean. Volume 3. 1 & 2 (2007) of The Arts Journal is entirely devoted to articles that throw fresh light on the Trans—Atlantic Trade in Africans on the 200th anniversary of its Abolition. Volume 7. 1 & 2 (2011) now attempts to contribute to the promotion of greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage and culture of the African. Professor Verene Shepherd comments on the condition of women during slavery and their undermining of the pernicious system "with an efficacy equaling that of more insurrectionary forms of resistance. Indeed, the ability of the black enslaved woman to defy the enslaver in the face of punishment, maintain cultural identity circumnavigate the economic and social restrictions of enslavement, take on various authoritative roles and ultimately secure her freedom is the true embodiment of resistance". An examination of Earl Lovelace's The Wine of Astonishment by Ameena Gafoor illuminates the struggle of a community of blacks in Trinidad for the right to worship in a religious form that is culturally meaningful to them. This article reflects on the affinity of Orisha worship with the form of Baptist worship in the New World. Lovelace focuses on the restrictions placed on Baptist worship, the erasure of the religio-cultural legacy of the worshippers and the persecution they experienced in the post-War era for 34 years until the Prohibition was lifted in the island. Stephanie Bowry's short story entitled "Coffee Watch" vividly recaptures a slice of the brutal slavery experience and reinforces the point made in Shepherd's article about the subtle forms of resistance to slavery. Dr. Paloma Mohamed, in "Of Moderate Company" — The Survival of The Creole (1856 to 1907): Guyana's Second Coloured Newspaper", outlines the determination of a group of individuals to present "another" perspective in newspaper publishing which was then firmly in the hands of the plantocracy. Mohamed's preliminary article attempts to analyze extant copies of The Creole newspaper itself as well as other supporting historical documents to understand all the factors that enabled the paper to survive for 50 long years and represent black and coloured perspectives in a fiercely hostile, white—controlled publishing and political climate, again a site of contestation at a time when the voice of the majority is marginalized and suppressed. A suite of poems by Cyril Dabydeen and the incisive reviews of two significant publications, one a scholarly study/overview of Art in the Caribbean: An Introduction, edited by Anne Walmsley and Stanley Greaves, and reviewed by Akima McPherson, and the other a Guyana prize-winning novel by Ryhaan Shah, A Silent Life, reviewed by Bernadette Persaud, cap this issue. This issue has offered qualitative views and insights into the experiences of communities of peoples of diverse ethnicities who entered the West Indies at different stages of colonization and who have all contributed variously to the shaping of a culturally rich, multi-layered society. Ameena Gafoor