Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Ananse SoundSplash 2023 launched

Published:Monday | September 18, 2023 | 12:08 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks at the launch of Ananse Soundsplash 2023 at The Mico University College.
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks at the launch of Ananse Soundsplash 2023 at The Mico University College.

Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks answered with passion when she was asked this question on Saturday: “Why should Jamaicans be interested in our own storytelling when we have all sorts of online entertainment from all over the world?”

“First, you have to know yourself,” she responded. “Our traditional stories represent your memories, which signify that you have lived, that this life you are living now is older than the period of time since you were born. Storytelling is a tool for ‘re-membering’ (re-assembling) our scattered parts.

“At a presentation I did on Marcus Garvey just yesterday, I spoke of the many people who were influenced by Garvey, and in a group of 26, only five people had heard of [Jamaican author and poet] Claude McKay. These were students in a tertiary institution. When I went to (primary) school, every child knew a Claude McKay poem.”

She then launched into a dramatic recitation of McKay’s children’s poem Lovely, Dainty Spanish Needle. As if to prove her point, the adults in the audience joined in.

This happened at the launch of the 11th Ananse SoundSplash Storytelling Conference and Festival at The Mico University College, in St Andrew, on Saturday afternoon. The conference and festival will be held from Sunday, November 12 to Monday, November 20.

The launch took place in a room which Blackwood Meeks, who spearheaded the first storytelling festival 25 years ago, said was a loan from The Mico University College to be the home of the Ntukuma Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica, which Blackwood Meeks initiated. The room is on the third floor of the Renford Shirley Building.

Sponsors of the 2023 event are HEART/NSTA Trust and the Jamaica Library Service. The Ministry of Education and Youth is also a major supporter of the event.

Blackwood Meeks explained that November is the month chosen for the conference and festival (which at one time was held in May, Child Month) because in November there are several celebrations that have a bearing on storytelling. One is National Storytelling Day, November 20.

And it was because cultural icons McKay, Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett-Coverley and poet Michael ‘Mikey’ Smith have associations with September, Blackwood Meeks said, that she chose to launch the conference and festival this month.

She said that she considered Garvey not only Jamaica’s first international statesman, but our “Minister of Culture”. He was an advocate for and the producer of numerous cultural events, and at Edelweiss Park he put on several cultural events, one being a play by another cultural icon, Ranny Williams.

“We celebrate those cultural icons and pledge to carry on their work with integrity,” Blackwood Meeks declared. She then asked Ntukuma Foundation members Damian Herridge, A-dZiko Simba Gegele and Gwyneth Harold Davidson to read pieces by Smith, Miss Lou and McKay, respectively.

Blackwood Meeks said that Miss Lou’s teacher gave her a book with McKay’s poems when she learnt that Miss Lou loved poetry. McKay was one of the earliest writers in the Jamaican language, Blackwood Meeks said. Referring to the ‘First Peoples’ theme of this year’s conference and festival, Blackwood Meeks said that the pioneering work of those mentioned qualified them as “first peoples”.

‘First Peoples of Jamaica’ is the name of an exhibition curated for the duration of the festival in the Eli Matalon Hall at Mico.