When the Cockpit Country was threatened by bauxite mining in 2006, Jamaicans were quick to express their opposition to any activity that might damage this symbol of struggle, triumph and sanctuary to all Jamaicans. However, despite this high level of concern for the Cockpit Country, few have actually seen and experienced this area as it remains largely inaccessible. Those who live in the Cockpit Country are generally found in the towns and villages along its periphery.
A new film, Cockpit Country is Our Home, produced by Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa for Windsor Research Centre through a grant from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will premiere today, the International Day for Biodiversity.
The premiere takes place at Redbones Blues Café tonight.
Cockpit Country is Our Home contains never-before-seen footage of the rugged terrain and the extraordinary plants and animals that live there.
The 28-minute film is made specifically for a Jamaican audience and can be appreciated by all ages. The on-camera experts are Lorna Williams-Christie and Wayne Francis, both of whom were born and raised in the Cockpit Country and have intimate knowledge of the plants and animals, and biologist Susan Koenig of Windsor Research Centre, a leading expert on Jamaica's birds and bats.
In Cockpit Country is Our Home, the Cockpit Country and the animals that live there have their own voices and personalities as they explain to the audience what makes them special and express their desire to have Jamaicans appreciate their value.
All but one of the voices are residents of Cockpit Country, and range in ages from 10 to 66.
The voice of Cockpit Country is Asberger Harwood, a native of Cockpit Country. In the film, she says, "I am rugged, I have been a sanctuary to many."
A refuge for all
The Cockpit Country remains a refuge, not only for rare plants and animals found there and nowhere else, but also to plants and animals once common in Jamaica, but now threatened by deforestation and degradation of the environment.
"The first film I made upon returning, in 2006, to live in Jamaica, was Cockpit Country: Voices from Jamaica's Heart. This was part of a successful campaign to stop bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to return to the Cockpit Country to work again with Mike and Susan of Windsor Research Centre, to create a film that reminds all Jamaicans how precious the Cockpit Country truly is," said Figueroa.
Living in the Cockpit Country can make for some wild visitors, biologist Koenig notes with amusement.
"Nature zips-and-zooms, buzzes, and clambers around. Sit quietly, don't trouble the animals and they'll go about their business, eating insect-pests, pollinating flowers, dispersing seeds ... it's humbling to think how easily Cockpit Country animals share their wild home with me. Protecting them is the least I can do for the invaluable services they provide in keeping the ecosystem healthy."