“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
A thorough portrait and celebration of nationhood captured in photography, text and exploration of fiction. That’s how head of the Guyana Prize for Literature, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Guyana Prof Al Creighton described LiTTscapes—Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad.
“No one book can set out to achieve everything that a literature and a visual text can do for its people and its nation; but whatever you say one book can’t do, this one almost does it,” said Creighton to attendees at LiTTribute II–LiTTurgy to the Mainland. Rampersad was hosted by Moray House Trust and the Guyana Prize for Literature.
The event follows last August’s launch of LiTTscapes at White Hall in Port-of-Spain as part of T&T’s 50th independence festivities. The Theatre Guild of Guyana, under the direction of Cacique award-winner, Dr Paloma Mohammed, treated the audience to performances and readings inspired by LiTTscapes.
Stating that LiTTscapes, though easy to read, is not easy to describe “given its multi-tasking nature and its wide reach,” Creighton called it “a work of art…a documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power.”
He said, “It is a quite thorough artistic concept…a portrait and biography of the nation of Trinidad and…is attractively, neatly and effectively designed.” He noted that it reflects “a considerable volume of reading ranging from…the dawn of Caribbean literature” in such early writings as of Walter Raleigh, through the 1930s period of literary awakening with the Beacon group, Alfred Mendes, CLR James and others, to present.
“It takes us on a tour of the country, giving some exposure to almost every aspect of life…no tourist guide can give a better, more comprehensive introduction to Trinidad. It entices and attracts just as the glossy tourist literature.
“Photographs of several sections of Port-of-Spain are accompanied by the descriptions and literary excerpts: this treatment is given to the capital city, other towns, streets, urban communities, villages, historic buildings and places, vegetation, animals, institutions, culture and landscape. There is considerable visual beauty, what Derek Walcott calls “visual surprise” in his Nobel Lecture; an impressive coverage of social history, geography, and politics, but also a strong literary experience. It is a survey of Trinidad’s landscape and of its literature.”
Creighton noted Rampersad “has done the painstaking work analogous to that of a lexicographer, of sorting out their several hundred references to her subjects…. with memorable passages of real literary criticism” capturing the writings of VS Naipaul, Ian McDonald, Michael Anthony and others.
He said, “Rampersad’s Littscapes does achieve an innovative approach to literature in bringing it alive in the description of landscape, life, culture and people. It encourages people to take ownership of it, see themselves, their home or familiar places in it and accept it as a definer of identity.” LiTTscapes is available at local bookshops. For details see kris-rampersad.blogsopt.com
Rampersad chides: Don’t push our children to migrate
LiTTscapes author Dr Kris Rampersad has chided the region to stop pushing out its children to seek opportunities elsewhere, but instead to create conditions that will help them make their fortunes right here. Speaking at LiTTribute II–LiTTurgy to the Mainland in Guyana hosted by the Guyana Prize for Literature and Moray House Trust, Rampersad said, “Our writers have been our visionaries but we have remained blind to the enormous possibilities and potentials of ourselves with which they have been presenting us. Instead we spend so much time, energy and money in telling our children that they should look elsewhere ‘to make something of themselves’.
It is this kind of reawakening that I am hoping of LiTTscapes– what I called at its launch last year, “a revolution through reading; a revolution to re-envision ourselves; how we look at our world; and how we look at the rest of the world and our place in it. “That is our challenge: to lift ourselves above and beyond the self-derision and self-negation with which we have been hinged, and discover too, our beauty. And hence, this is a liturgy a praise song, to us.”