Pauline Petinaud keeping 'Fi Wi Sinting' going
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
Next Sunday, much love is going to be in the air, well at least at Somerset Falls, Hope Bay, Portland. But forget it if you are thinking it's about Valentine's Day, roses, chocolate and that fictitious Cupid and his little bow and arrow. Hearts will be fluttering, yes, but for the love of all things African, as Fi Wi Sinting takes the spotlight from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Now in its 20th year, this celebration of African heritage is produced by Kingston-born Pauline (Sista P) Petinaud who, for some time, lived in Los Angeles, California, and Brooklyn, New York, where she learned to embrace her African identity. Her return to Jamaica was fraught with mixed emotions, since the rural community she returned to had retentions of African traditions, yet not much was going on in the wider society to celebrate the African heritage.
There was a vacuum and sister P was bent on filling it, so she started Content Model School, in the hills of Portland, to give students an African-centred education. To raise funds for the school, which has now made a name for itself internationally, Fi Wi Sinting was conceptualised in 1991.
appreciation for culture
"When we first started in the tiny, deep-rural community of Content, Portland, we had no idea that Fi Wi Sinting would have grown to this size. I was continually reminded that without a sound system playing the latest music, and without an artiste, very few persons would attend. I was confident that like myself there were others who had an appreciation for that aspect of our culture which was brought from Africa," Petinaud recalled.
From approximately 30 patrons who attended the first event, the numbers have swollen to more than 4000. Yet, despite the growth and significance of Fi Wi Sinting, major sponsors are yet to jump on to the heritage wagon.
"Other than for Irie FM, corporate Jamaica has totally ignored our requests for sponsorship. It seems so hypocritical that there are so many complaints about the level of entertainment being offered, and yet an event such as Fi Wi Sinting, which provides wholesome family entertainment and which keeps so many youths grounded through their heritage, is unable to attract sponsorship," Petinaud lamented. But, she has been pressing on, in more ways than one.
In 1995, Petinaud was Jamaica's representative and board member for PANAFEST (a pan-African historical theatre festival), the biggest event of its kind in Africa, and which is held biennially in Ghana. The Nayamka Drummers under her guidance was the 2001 overall winners at the World Championships of the Performing Arts held in Los Angeles, California. She has also represented Jamaica overseas on many occasions including collaborating with the Jamaica Tourist Board at the Rototom Reggae Sunsplash in Italy.
Petinaud is not alone in her efforts, however, as her daughter, Subira Gordon, recipient of the 2000 Prime Minister's National Youth Award for excellence in the performing arts, is intimately involved. Gordon, too, has journeyed to and performed in Ghana many times. Remaining close to her roots in rural Jamaica, she has contributed immensely to the large outpouring of young persons who are involved in the production.
"Youths are an integral part of Fi Wi Sinting and are given various areas of responsibility in recognition of their role as the next generation of standard-bearers for the preservation of our culture," Sista P said. "It is heartening to see the increasing number of young persons, especially college students, in attendance and persons from overseas, many of whom return each year."
Petinaud has received numerous awards locally and internationally for her work in uniting black people.
Fi Wi Sinting, arguably the biggest one-day Black History Month event in Jamaica, will showcase all things African among the semi-tropical rainforest setting of Somerset Falls. The family event comprises a marketplace for garments, books, jewellery, art and craft and other miscellaneous items depicting the cultures of the black diaspora.
Feasting on traditional fare, such as dookunnu, pudding, fish and bammy, vegetarian and Rasta dishes, will be complemented by entertainment from kumina and mento bands, jonkonnu revellers, an African dance party hosted by Mutabaruka with his diverse catalogue of rhythms from Africa and Nyah Binghi chanting.
The spoken word should be well represented by well-known storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks, along with resident poets Royal African Soldiers and an open mic session for patrons to express themselves. Then, at sunset, homage is paid to the ancestors for whom offerings are placed onto the 'Ancestral Raft' before it is sent on its way into the Caribbean Sea.
To help remind us of who we are and where we are from, Pauline 'Sista P' Petinuad has been tirelessly preserving Fi Wi Sinting and that's why she's this week's keeper of the heritage. Petinaud can be contacted at P.O. Box 9, Hope Bay PO, Portland; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.