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‘Send out you hand,’ by Dorbrene E. O’Marde

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On Saturday, October 19, Antiguan-Vincentian Dorbrene O’Marde, more familiarly known as “Fatz”, launched two books at the UWI Open Campus as part of the Literary Fair held jointly with the SVG Writers and Artists Association. The two books are King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me -The Life and Times of Sir MacLean Emmanuel and Send Out You Hand. For those who might not know, “Fatz” is a calypso aficionado; he is calypso writer, judge and analyst, so his book on Short Shirt is very much welcome.{{more}}

“Fatz” has done what is greatly needed for other countries of the Eastern Caribbean, a chronicling of the work and contribution of our calypso artistes. This is particularly so in SVG where our young people are in a long drawn out divorce battle with calypso. It was good to have seen, at least three representatives of the Calypso Association present, although I was told that they had some other activity on that day. I make this point because “Fatz” brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, not only about calypso in Antigua and Barbuda, but throughout the region and it is important that our young calypsonians get exposure not only to their local seniors, but also to others who are practising and writing about that art form in the rest of the region. I have not read “King Short Shirt” as yet, but based on the review of the book and his own commentary and readings, the reader will be in for a treat.

I have, however, read Send Out You Hand. This is the author’s first novel. Among his other cultural activities “Fatz” is a playwright and has written and directed plays and also written poems. But as a first novel, he has to get a good score and I give him an A. The book, as described, is “A contemporary Caribbean political love story”, with ‘Caribbean’ being the operative word here, because it is set in six different Caribbean countries, including his homeland Antigua, which in the novel is called Oualaldi, the aboriginal name for Antigua. What is most interesting about the novel is that the author has brought all of himself to bear on this book: his wide involvement in the cultural art form, his understanding of the Caribbean, his involvement in public matters, analyst of political affairs and other public issues.

The central theme of his book is about a new vision for regional unity. It is also a manifesto geared to achieving the promised vision and a love story, in that underlying all of this is a love for the Caribbean. But it also explores love in its different dimensions, including love as we know it best, involving male-female relationships and encounters. Its search for this new vision and new Caribbean reality involves a critique and lampooning of political culture as we act it out and as it is manifested in the behaviour of our people and political actors.

The main characters represent different Caribbean countries and are determined to move beyond the narrow nationalistic posturing and tendencies and embrace something that is beyond the individual Caribbean entities. As the author takes us from country to country he highlights the sceneries, the personalities, the ole talk, sex, religion, rum, cricket, with the new talking points being about reparations and the legalising of marijuana – (“Fatz” is the head of the Reparations Committee in Antigua and Barbuda.) If we didn’t know this before, we will be forced to realize that there is a special oneness in the Caribbean about living. There are discussions about who is the best batsman produced in the Caribbean. Is it Sir Gary, Sir Viv or Lara the prince of Trinidad? A taxi driver even makes the point that once Lara sees a carnival costume, he forgets about runs. And so the Caribbean talking points are present. The personalities around whom the novel is built embody the spirit and culture not only of the Caribbean, but also of the individual units. So, the author associates Trinidad with fun, humour and “shit talk,” stating that “shit talk” is the national pastime of Trinidad. The character from Trinidad, while chairing one of the sessions, proceeded to give a joke about Caribbean politicians. This is not only about breaking the ice, but is part of Trinidadian and Caribbean humour and ole talk.

Four politicians who realise that their only saviour would be a divine one wanted to phone heaven. The Jamaican Prime Minister had to pay the operator J$45,000; the Barbadian PM $4,000, the Antiguan PM bribed the operator and had to pay only $800 while the Trinidadian PM was only required to pay 25cents. When he is challenged on this he explains to them that in Trinidad heaven is a local call! So throughout the book, there are stories like this, but it represents more than ole talk because behind these kinds of jokes and stories is an exposure of our political culture, and a critique of Caribbean political life. Those involved in leading the quest for a new Caribbean are warned that there should be no womanising or excessive rum drinking. This of course presents a challenge for some of the characters but their mission involves working their way out of things that our political culture have taught us to accept and provided legitimacy. The Rastafarians have a prominent place in this quest for a new Caribbean reality and are not just people on the margins looking on.

Send Out You Hand is a must read because in all its humour and ole talk it provides a new vision that could see us charting a new direction as we develop our understanding of the Caribbean and its political culture.

Four politicians who realize that their only saviour would be a divine one wanted to phone heaven. The Jamaican Prime Minister had to pay the operator J$45,000; the Barbadian PM $4,000, the Antiguan PM bribed the operator and had to pay only $800, while the Trinidadian PM was only required to pay 25 cents. When he is challenged on this, he explains to them that in Trinidad heaven is a local call! So, throughout the book, there are stories like this, but it represents more than ole talk, because behind these kinds of jokes and stories is an exposure of our political culture, and a critique of Caribbean political life. Those involved in leading the quest for a new Caribbean are warned that there should be no womanising or excessive rum drinking. This, of course, presents a challenge for some of the characters, but their mission involves working their way out of things that our political culture have taught us to accept and provided legitimacy. The Rastafarians have a prominent place in this quest for a new Caribbean reality and are not just people on the margins looking on.

Send Out You Hand is a must read, because in all its humour and ole talk, it provides a new vision that could see us charting a new direction, as we develop our understanding of the Caribbean and its political culture.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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