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Keith’s cocoyea

Monday, June 23, 2014
Tobago Peeps

While waiting in the shed, surrounded by car parts and tools of the auto-straightening and rebuilding trade, I notice a pile of cocoyea brooms resting quietly on a surface. My mind flits to the multitude of leaves and bougainvillea flowers that fall and gather daily on the terrace of the house where I live. I envision the dry flora being deftly swept away by the sharp swish swish of this traditional broom, which reminds me visually of a stiff horse or donkey tail flicking away flies.


Keith, an auto-rebuilder with his own garage set up in front of his home along Shirvan Road near Buccoo, returns to the shed. “How come you have all these cocoyea brooms?” I ask him. “I make them in my spare time,”he says. “To sell?” He has never been inclined to sell them publicly, simply seeing them as a constructive, relaxing way to spend downtime—but people who come to the garage do buy on occasion. “I’ll buy one,” I say.


Keith steps away and returns shortly after with a large cocoyea broom—my first ever. There is something almost magical about holding one, moving it quickly from side to side and seeing dust and light debris disappear. About two weeks after my purchase, I return one morning to chat with Keith, curious about how a busy auto-rebuilder came to be making these brooms with such devotion. It is 6 am and the sun is inching up through the trees as Keith pulls two chairs for us into the shed and begins his story.