On a brisk fall-like evening downtown Toronto in the historic Brigantine Room, acclaimed academic Dr. Afua Cooper, novelist Kwame Dawes, poet Ishion Hutchinson and theatre writer Honor Ford-Smith gathered to discuss Jamaican contemporary literature. The event was the last in the series of literary events hosted in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence.
The hall was packed and the discussion flowed easily, sparked by images aroused by Ishion’s readings at the beginning of the event.Taken from his collection entitled ‘Far District’, the poems were refreshingly raw, honest, lyrical and illustrious; clearly evoking images of lived experience and snapshots of the Jamaican landscape.
The ensuing discussion surrounded topics such as how class, color (skin tone), caste, geographical location (town/country) are deployed in Jamaican literature; the influence of reggae music, the concept of ‘diaspora’ and the notion of theatre as a not so serious second cousin of ‘pure literature’ among others.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Cooper; scholar, published author and poet. Dr. Cooper skillfully engaged both the panel and the audience to shape a discourse relevant to both the event and highlighting the progression of Jamaican literature over the past fifty years.
The AfroCanadaViews team; Trisha Mitchell (writer), Carlos Ferguson (photographer) and Esery Mondesir (videographer) were on hand to capture the event as part of our efforts to create a realistic portrait of the life and work of this feisty pioneer. Dr. Cooper’s work on documenting the enslavement of black people in Canada has had far reaching effects and is critically acclaimed. It is for this reason that she has been selected as our first ‘Giant’ on this journey to document and paint an intimate portrait of the African-Canadians on whose shoulders we stand.