“DEAD Country”! What a name for a book and what a fitting description for a country that is, by all measures, in a state of comatose!
One of the first signs that we were dying was when History became a non-mandatory subject in our school curricular. As the saying goes, “those who do not understand their history are doomed to repeat it.”
When at the Central Library, Author, Mr Melchoir Henry, the Executive Director of the Cultural Development Foundation, delivered to a small (dead country) audience last Tuesday night at the Laureate’s Chair organized by the Saint Lucia Writers Forum, I recognized a similarity in his story and that of Honourable Derek Walcott; the story of tutorage. Mr Henry spoke of a group of five of them being taken under the tutelage of one Mervin Williams. Walcott in the evolution of his artistic skills tells of a story of five of them being taken under the tutelage of Harold Simmons and as they saying goes, the rest is history. The members of the Forum would be happy if the featured writers did not just see the opportunity to present at the Laureate’s Chair as a badge of privilege but would attend their regular meetings as well, to impart some of their knowledge, skills and experiences to a younger generation trying to find their way.
Mr Henry did not speak favourably of our batch upon batch of university graduates, who are doing little more than drawing a big salary at public expense and adding little to the development of country beyond mere bricks and stones.
The question was asked how do you move a country forward, whose people are 63% illiterate, that does not have a culture of reading and who glory in being an oral society? A question that I have asked before in a past article was also raised: Why write when people do not read? The presenter lamented that anyone who is considering writing as a profession better give no second thought to having a supplementary occupation.
It is also lamentable that there was no press coverage of the proceedings (dead country). In the 20 month history of the Laureate’s Chair not one newspaper reporter has come to write a review of the proceedings. I am thankful for the television stations who have covered us in the past and am greatly disappointed that the NTN was not on hand to document the proceedings. A dead country, I suppose is only interested in the salacious stories.
The conversation continued after the presentation, as it usually does. The resounding consensus was that the people in charge of the Arts here in Saint Lucia have no passion for the Arts, from the Minister down. We lamented what passed for an Independence showcase of the best talent here in Saint Lucia was not representative both in administration and delivery. But them again, what am I talking about? This is a dead country.
Dead Country, the book, is politically charged, and still speaks hard truths to the present society, even if it was written almost four decades ago. The hope is that the book is republished, relaunch and made available for sale through 758 Books, who like Sunshine Bookstore (deceased) is keen on pushing local literature. And by the way, Mr Henry, I want my copy from the old stock and thank you so much for taking the time to grace us with your time and sharing with us you experience. Who need poets any way? We do.