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Nothing funny in 'bad wud' - Blakka Ellis avoids childhood trauma in comedy

Published:Thursday | July 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Owen 'Blakka' Ellis
Owen 'Blakka' Ellis (left) and Winston 'Bello' Bell.
Owen 'Blakka' Ellis

While there are comedians who will gleefully let a Jamaican curse word - or two, or more - rip during a performance, Owen 'Blakka' Ellis is not one of them. And that was his stance even before his public statement of being a Christian earlier this year.

Ellis's attitude to the fabric of Jamaican curse words - commonly called 'bad wud' - comes from his general environment during childhood and, more specifically, the personal trauma from often being on the receiving end of the harsh tongue of a relative who raised him.

"Mi born an grow a Trench Town an mi know bad wud," Ellis said. In addition to that, though, Ellis said he was raised by an aunt who used expletives repeatedly, and it is something that still affects him.

So, he said, his decision not to use expletives is "because of my personal relationship with bad wud."

In addition, Ellis said he is capable of expressing himself without using curse words, utilising his command of language.

The traumatic relationship with his aunt and, through her, curse words, is captured in Ellis's poem At Aunty's Funeral, from his collection Riddim & Riddles (Blouse & Skirt Books). When the poem, laden with 'bad wud' was read by comedian and actor Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks, there were gales of laughter. However, when Ellis gave it a much quieter reading at an event held at the UWI, Mona, where he and Dr Michael Abrahams discussed their lives, it was much quieter and the effect more sad than humorous.

At that event in April 2015, Fun and Joke Aside, both Ellis and Abrahams spoke candidly about the sombre parts of their lives, which are not revealed when they are on stage entertaining others.

"Comedy has always been, for me, an escape," Ellis said, pointing out that escapism is not necessarily bad. "If you living in prison, escape is a good thing," he said.