‘Mi Have Sinting Fi Tell Yuh’ - Dr Dawn Lemonius recaptures childhood in riddles, proverbs, and Anansi stories
As a child, human resource and training professional Dr Dawn Lemonius was not allowed to speak Patois at home. In that era, children were led to believe that the native tongue was crude, and speaking the Queen’s English was both appropriate and polished.
However, on the limited occasions that she was exposed to Patois, such as at the Thursday ‘penny concerts’ at her primary school, where children would sing folk songs and reel off colourful Anansi stories in the native tongue, Lemonius became enthralled by the laughter-inducing language.
“When I heard folk songs at the penny concerts, Patois came alive,” said Lemonius. “At home, we spoke standard English, and, like most Jamaican households, children were not ‘allowed’ to speak Patois. Once I left home, I was more exposed to the deeper part of Jamaican culture.”
Therefore, it should be no surprise that, after spending 23 years in the tourism sector as a cultural ambassador, Lemonius has become so proficient in Patois that, when she decided to use the COVID-19 lockdown to write a book, she decided to tell the beautiful stories of her childhood in the Patois she has found so fascinating.
According to Lemonius, the book – Mi Have Sinting Fi Tell Yuh – is her way of helping Jamaicans who grew up enjoying beautiful stories in Patois to relive their childhood by jogging their memories through riddles, proverbs, Anansi stories, and everyday expressions, told in the traditional way to invoke laughter and compel the reader to reminisce about situations and events they have experienced as a result of their Jamaican roots.
“It is seasoned with Patois and, in true Jamaican style, gifted with ‘Brawta’ in the form of puzzles that challenge our knowledge of Jamaican life,” said Lemonius.
SENSE OF PRIDE
In seeking to instil a sense of pride and appreciation in the country’s oral traditions through her book, Lemonius recalls the stories she is bringing to life primarily from her parents, who told her about their past life, and from her rich primary school experiences.
“ Mi Have Sinting Fi Tell Yuh is a tribute to our oral traditions and is designed to whet your appetite, to jog your memory, to rekindle the love for our country and culture, and to expose our culture to the world,” explained Lemonius.
While her book, which is widely distributed in Jamaica as well as on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com, is catching fairly good traction with readers, cognisant of the fact that Patois is more impactful in the spoken word, Lemonius is planning to release an audio version of the book.
“Patois is more impactful in the spoken word and I believe doing an audio version as a Jamaican with the Jamaican accent will be epic,” explained Lemonius, who was quite an avid reader as a child and still carries fond memories of the Bobbsey Twins series.
It should be interesting to note that, prior to COVID-19 creating the platform for her to write, persons who have been exposed to her history and culture presentation in her job as a cultural ambassador in tourism have always been encouraging her to write a book about Jamaica’s history and culture.
“During the lockdown, the inspiration came to me to write so that the world can learn from me,” said Lemonius, who is harbouring intentions of writing other books. “You see, over the years, it’s only my small audiences who really know me and know my work. Being an author has given me the opportunity to share my knowledge and passion with the world and leave my footprint on the world.”
It should be no wonder that the Ulster Spring Primary School in Trelawny, where many of Lemonius’ childhood experiences were fermented, is now one of the institutions that have her book as a part of their library.