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  • Jamal Gerald

Trinidad

Hey you, how’s it going? I’m currently in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago in residence at Alice Yard. For my second week, I will then head off to Arima to be residence at EAST YARD. I’m here researching slavery within the Caribbean and learning about the differences and similarities between the colonial powers. Also, focusing on the experiences of the house and field slaves, getting a better understanding of what life was like working on plantations. This is all going towards my new show ‘Complexion’, which will be premiering at Transform 19. I plan on using pop culture and celebrities as a metaphor for slavery and slaves, to explore themes such as colourism, anti-blackness and internalised racism. These are things that I believe come from the impact of slavery and colonialism. I want to showcase how the impact is still there and hasn’t suddenly vanished as some people may believe. This is mostly due to the fact that slavery ended in the British Caribbean on 1st August, 1834, therefore there’s no way it still affects society today, right? Wrong! It does and I plan on showcasing that.


Why do research in the Caribbean? That’s because I am of Caribbean descent. I am first generation of Montserratian parents. Why not go to Montserrat? Believe me, I wanted to, but I couldn’t get a place out there that could host me for a particular time or at all. But, I found places in Trinidad that could. So, now I’m here. And whilst being here I’ve learnt things about Montserrat during slavery and other islands within the Caribbean too. I believe that the more I know, the better.


In my first few days here in Port of Spain, I have realised how privileged I am to live in the UK.

I was already aware of this, but sometimes you have to really see and experience things to fully understand. I’ve been writing down notes of things that I have seen and heard whilst being in Trinidad. And I will continue to do so until the end of the trip. I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, which I believe is a positive. It’s important to see many different sides of a place when coming as a tourist.


Here’s a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. I have lots of mosquito bites and I am currently getting bitten as I type. I have seen a homeless man with one eye, who I believe lost his eye whilst being homeless. I’m still thinking about him and want to see if he’s okay. I kind of just want to go back and take care of him. I was told that Jesus Christ loves me. My taxi driver assumed that I wouldn’t know anything about Soca and Calypso because I was born in the US. I sat and ate mango with some strangers. A black man with tied up grey dreadlocks whistled whilst walking down Roberts Street. I’ve been asked if I’m making a documentary, twice. I have also been asked if I’m writing a song because I’ve been walking around with my notebook. I have seen Indians speak in an Indian accent and then go back into speaking in patois. It’s so trippy! I was completely ignored by an Indian woman, she looked at me and kept walking, lol. Many people keep telling me to stay safe and to be careful, both in Trinidad and abroad. I’ve heard gunshots. I assumed a Rastafarian man would be homophobic, but yet, he was so lovely. A black woman was happy to give me directions, even though she wasn’t sure where the place was. I've been playing spot the white person. There’s a security guard in the supermarket with a gun. I made a friend called Christopher on the plane.


So yeah, there’s a mixture of things that I’ve seen, heard and experienced so far. And I know there’s going to be so much more. But, I really look forward to more experiences. During my time at Alice Yard, I will spend two days this week doing my one-to-one ‘You See…’ with the locals, which is really exciting. This will enable me to get a better understanding of people’s experiences here in Trinidad and to see how they differ to the UK. But, this also gives them more of an insight into my practice. I am also working with writer and performance artist, Arielle John, who will be helping me with my research. I first met Arielle at Brave New Voices, which is an international poetry slam festival in the USA. She’s dope! I will also be in Trinidad for their Emancipation Day, which I’m really happy about. This is a national holiday in Trinidad to basically celebrate the abolition of slavery.


Just wanted to give a bit of an update of what’s been going on. I’m so happy to be here!

I’ve learnt so much in such a short space of time. I will be doing more blog posts, of course. Special thanks to Transform, Arts Council England and the British Council for helping to make this happen. Peace, Love & Harmony!


J xxx

© 2019 Jamal Gerald

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