Book Review of seven (7) books Researched and Written by Elombe Elton Deighton Mottley
By Neville C. Duncan
- 1. Identities Book One in the chronicles of 20th Century Barbados, Fat Pork Ten-Ten Productions, edited by Carol A. Pitt and Yejide Maynard, Kingston, Jamaica, 2003
- 2. Identities Book Two in the chronicles of 20th Century Barbados, Fat Pork Ten-Ten Productions, edited by Carol A. Pitt and Yejide Maynard, Kingston, Jamaica, 2003
Professor Ian Boxill in the foreword to the two volume Chronicles above essentially said Elombe has presented a mirror equal to famous Barbadian authors and novelists. Having lived in Barbados for 291/2 years from 1970 to January 2000, to me these books brought the real Black Barbadian to me in a fullness of perspective and with an intensity that was awesome for me to experience. These feelings caused me to swell with the deepest sense of pride, although of course I am a born Jamaican. Indeed, having also resident status in Barbados, allowed me to claim more certainly that I am a Jamaican/Barbadian and by extension totally West Indian.
I lived there when Elombe established Yoruba House as a true venue for cultural and socio-political expressions of black Barbadians and as a venue for serious and fun-loving expressions of Barbadian life hardly expressed in book and other recorded formats. I was there at the Yoruba House at almost every event because these activities represented a massive portrayal of all that was and is good about the Black Barbadian C/culture. My initial Jamaican cultural snobbery was rapidly dissipated and I became at one with those Bajans that overcame white superiority from the British colonisers and the domestic 'dominant' white population which still dominated most of corporate ownership of the country. So this was not merely a mirror but real exposure to every aspect of Bajan life.
Elombe Mottley needs to be fully recognised by the Barbados Government as its mightiest cultural scholar deserving of its highest non-British derived honour and by the University of the West Indies as Dr of Letters, Honoris Causa. I am briefly reviewing only 7 of his publications here but I have also read with absolute amazement, in addition, several of his manuscripts, soon to be published I hope, and wish each former British Colony has someone of his powerful investigative and interpretative skills to record authentically their true folk history and lived experiences of everyday life and amusements up to present time, beyond, of course, anancy stories and proverbs and other such story telling. These publications will obviously enable Jamaicans to see exceptional similarities, as well as differences, which ought to inspire similar undertakings here.
The table of contents reveals a series of newspapers articles categorised under headings such as The Bearded Fig Tree; Down Taw, Nuh Brush; Frothing Pee; Blue Skies and Pasovers; Duppies Spirits and Ancestors; Black Night: Footsteps in Front, When Banja Play, People Come; Let me hear the feet; and Saturday Night Fish Fry. All these articles are must read and you will come to truly understand and admire Bajan culture! This is only in Volume One! Indeed, Volume Two is just as effervescent with headings such as Star Boy cyan dead; Barbados Inc.; Bullcow Cow and Chicken; Why Not Us; The Pondside conundrum; A cap with the red peak behind; Check yuh spoilage and improve yuh quality; and Mekking Sport done. Of course Jamaica came in for much mention. The Bajan vernacular is easily understood in the context of the chapters and produces a musicality when the words are understood. Joy to the discerning reader! The Chronicles continue with Volume 3:
3. Cover Down You Bucket: the Story of Stick-licking in Barbados
The story starts with the tradition and stick-lickers of great success earning great reputation was told with vigour and energy! Relevant people were actually interviewed and their stories are there for their families and for posterity. In this way ordinary Bajans were truly honoured as extraordinary contributors to true Bajan culture. Like me you will be swept along by the competitions and the excitement surrounding them. Indeed this volume was, inadvertently, an instruction manual about stick-licking.
Volumes 4 and 5: 4. Night Songs 5. De City
These contain powerful poetic evocations truly worthy of being experiences of places and peoples including some Jazz greats.
6. Better Must Come; Volume one
It is a book about social, political and cultural activities in Barbados from around the 1950s onwards. It is chockful also of relevant persons who made significant contributions, including the author himself. To me this is an exceptional way of presenting Barbados and most of the persons who were still alive when I went to work in Barbados were well-known to me. It highlights controversial topics (race relations and challenges to corporate Barbados, rate case hearings, black nationalist issues and the experiences of E. D. Mottley and black businesses), and significant cultural, social and economic developments (including his tenure Director of Culture at the National Cultural Foundation) occurring in Barbados. It was and is a vital chronicling of a growing and maturing Barbados. This is also compulsory reading. For me it was more than a refresher course as I had experienced in real and sometimes involved way in an important part of this period. The political, social and cultural efflorescence of Barbados was on show. It noticeably grew before my eyes into a modern country. It was a critical period and the leaders in all areas are a permanent part of its history.
Volume 7: Better Must Come; Volume Two:
The story is further told and Elombe's contributions were more fully added to his contributions stated in Volume One. Themes such as race, colour and class; kith and kin; ownership of businesses; what about the sprats; emancipation from mental and cultural slavery; were added to the discourse in further depth. The scope included more about Barbados in the Caribbean and wider world. All this is living history to me and those of my age. It is just incredible not only to have these events recalled but to be interpreted through the clear and consistent lenses of ELOMBE Elton Deighton Mottley
No other author has written Chronicles of such depth, range of issues, intensity and quality and thereby presenting the true progressive development of her/his country. This is just outstanding genuine work on how Barbadians have contributed increasingly to the growth and redefinition of the country and redefined the country's place in the globe. I have never ever read a compilation so compelling and so penetrative. I vouch for these volumes and assure you that they will help you to re-think much about Jamaican history, culture and global presence. Reading these volumes will joyfully absorb your attention and encourage you to do "an Elombe" on Jamaica or encourage such a deep assessment. This man, Elombe Mottley, is truly a Barbadian and Caribbean treasure deserving of the highest recognition.
And the truth is he is still actively engaged in other publications such as writing a complete cultural history of Barbados, and he already has several manuscripts to publish shortly. He is absolutely prolific as a writer and activist and completely relevant to this contemporary age. It is an honour to have read your various works Elombe, interacted with you in many ways when I was in Barbados and I wish for all people to read your publications so that they can genuinely join me in recognising an important non-institutional Caribbean Scholar, without an equal!
Neville C. Duncan
Professor Emeritus, UWI,
Currently Businessman in the Beekeeping and Honey Production Business