Calabash's spirit exceeds the stage
The Calabash International Literary Festival is famous for a few things, although for some persons, it rarely brings to mind anything other than poetry and prose. The waves against the shore, the gusto of the aspiring poets who impulsively line up for open mic, a bookshop well stocked with the works of authors throughout the Caribbean, the organic ambiance of the venue, Jakes in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, and, of course, the authentic Jamaican menu at Jack Sprat Bar and Restaurant, although all tantalising, were barely half of the attractions for the diverse audience at this year's staging last weekend.
Booths with colourful Afrocentric jewellery, red, green and gold clothing, and natural products for the body welcomed the guests upon arrival. The words of a long list of esteemed, award-winning authors like Lorna Goodison, Akala, and Safiya Sinclair, among many others, made tears, laughter, and thought ignite on the faces of the listeners, who mostly sat under the open-air tent with eyes and ears peeled to the poet's platform. It attracted individuals from as far as the far north and south of the globe.
The performance stage 'lit up' with artwork from the book spines of popular Caribbean and international writers such as the collection of poems selected by Professor Mervyn Morris In This Breadfruit Kingdom, Colin Channer's prose selection Iron Balloons, and Secrets We Kept by Krystal Sital from Trinidad had passers-by preoccupied with getting the right photo captured in front of it.
Poet, mixed media artist, and loyal Calabash attendee Nancy 'Inansi' Burke's face became bright as she summed up the festival. "It has been a great experience, especially for me. I have been supporting the festival from its early stages," said Inansi.
According to her, it started with approximately 20 persons at Jakes, and an event staged for 10 successive years before changing to every other year has not only grown in the number of writers and readers, but the types of activities - and with good reason. There was little room for disorganisation or disruption. The three-day festival moved like a well-oiled machine, sticking with the scheduled time. Always close by, Calabash co-founder Kwame Dawes and producer Justine Henzell monitored the presentations, being tactful to remind authors and guests of their assigned time to speak.
The live reggae show on Friday's opening night, though, outfitted with proper security, was open to every and anybody without prior registration or ticket system for those in attendance. Sunday was the day to wind down, and Calabash 2018 ended with the soothing sounds of live acoustic performances.