Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 1st 2015 Contents 18 UWI TODAY – SUNDAY 1st NOVEMBER, 2015
Caryl Phillips and Robert Antoni, both writers of the
Caribbean diaspora creating innovative historical fiction
and recasting Caribbean-ness, came together for a literary
Professor Phillips, a writer of fiction and non-fiction,
is a Yale professor, who was born in St. Kitts and grew up
in Britain, and has authored 11 novels as well as plays and
essays. He read from his 2015 novel “The Lost Child.”
As he discussed his inspiration for the book, he
mentioned that he has often speculated whether the name
Liverpool crops up throughout the Caribbean as street signs
and other touch-points harking back to England. He grew
up ten miles from where the Brontes had lived. As a youth
someone gave him a line drawing of Emily Bronte and he
always imagined that there was some kind of umbilical
connection between his desk which held this photo and her
home ten miles away.
The biggest question in Emily Bronte studies, said
Phillips, is who was this seven-year-old boy found on the
docks of Liverpool where he grew up and who became
Heathcliff of Bronte’s famous “Wuthering Heights.”
Increasingly, Phillips thought about life growing up in the
shadows of the Yorkshire moors. Out of these musings, “The
Lost Child” was crafted.
“I didn’t start off with the idea or theme or structure. I
started with the idea that has bedeviled scholars for years:
Who on earth was Heathcliff? Who on earth was this
raggedy boy that started on the docks and then became
this romantic figure of canonical literature?” said Phillips.
Yet beyond historical circumstances and cold data,
Phillips wanted to craft a novel that would explore the
humanity integral to and beyond the question of Heathcliff ’s
“I started with this question but then it became and
had to become something more in conversation with the
human heart,” he said.
He had perceived that non-white children growing up
in Britain in his time seemed to echo the Heathcliff story. The
parallel is that the pervasive reading of Heathcliff is as a wild,
passionate and brooding character, dark and mysterious,
and certainly a poor fit into the staid and mannered English
society of that time.
In making this link between fiction and current
realities, between history and present contexts, he noted
that a part of writing fiction is that you are exploring the
landscape and topography of your own life. It isn’t to be
taken lightly. It is a terrific responsibility.
Robert Antoni, similarly a celebrated writer, is an author
whose fiction’s terrain is the British West Indies. He has
written five novels. Antoni read from his novel “As Flies to
Whatless Boys,” which is also a work of historical fiction.
Antoni literally reaches backwards to tell the story of
the Tuckers, a family in his mother’s lineage. Around 1845
inventor John Adolphus Etzler, a Londoner, convinces the
Tuckers to migrate to Trinidad to help form a utopia based
on his machines. The machines were powered by nature
and were supposedly guaranteed to change the Tropics into
a “proper” English garden. The narrator is middle-aged
Willie Tucker who is telling his son how he managed to get
to Trinidad in his teens.
“My problem was how to get all of that research out
of the way and invent the story from scratch,” said Antoni.
At first, he was hesitant to write the story because his
antecedents were estate owners and he knew he would
“have to talk about slavery and did not want to.” However,
he learned that the Tuckers came after emancipation and
“precisely because the slaves had been emancipated.” Etzler
could not condone slavery, he said. Indeed, the inventor and
family arrived in exactly the same year as the first ship of
indentured labourers arrived in Trinidad from India.
“The difference between writing non-fiction or
history and a novel, is a novel can only be personal. A part
of my process is to have these touchstones of personal
and immediate connection that make all the imaginings
anchored and allow me to push ahead,” he said.
“There is always this question of who you are writing
for. Are you writing for an audience? Are you writing for
yourself? You write for the story that’s being told... at least
I do. I have to believe that wherever I take it people will
respond even if they have never heard of Trinidad. And
they do respond.”
In terms of how an audience receives work, Phillips
added that between 1950 and 1970 in Britain, 70 novels by
West Indians were published, and that as writers mounted
the platform to present their work there were probably
pre-conceptions as to what they would say. Now literature
has become more globalized and national and regional
boundaries have become less important. Old conceptions
of what constituted a region’s writing will be questioned and
perhaps changed, he said.
Antoni’s own form of experimentation with regional
writing, of pushing the envelope regarding expectations, is
with the vernacular as he feels the form has to reflect the
“The vernacular is a hybrid language and I am looking
for a hybrid form to reflect a very hybrid West Indian
consciousness and sensibility,” he said. He is not the first to
have done this, but it remains a gamble in the business of
publishing where publishers can be unwilling to have your
book translated for other markets.
Both writers commented on the role of technology
in our mediated lives. Responding to a question from the
and the Text
Technology has changed how we tell stories
BY DARA WILKINSON BOBB
Dara Wilkinson Bobb is a parttime assistant lecturer in the Writing Centre of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, UWI, St. Augustine.
“Part of the great moral purpose of literature is to
imagine yourself into the life of people who are not you.”
SUNDAY 1ST NOVEMBER, 2015 – UWI TODAY 7
Cocoa and chocolate can help diversify the Trinidad and
Tobago economy away from non-renewable “black gold”
to sustainable industries that integrate culture, people and
the environment. A look at the cocoa value chain provides
insight into the prospects behind our country’s “dark gold.”
Ten years ago, none of these brands were on the market.
Enter the World Cocoa and Chocolate Day 2015, and there is
a crush for space. Present are chocolate makers representing
cocoa grown on estates around Trinidad: Cocobel from
Rancho Quemado; Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride
from Tamana; Ortinola from Maracas St Joseph; Olando
out of Tableland and Tobago; Tory Ven from Lopinot; JB
Chocolates from Gran Couva; House of Arendel; Gina’s
Fine Chocolates; Persad’s with beans from Montserrat Co-
operative; and CRC’s Spirit of Chocolate, using beans from
the International Genebank, Trinidad.
It is noticeable that these chocolate makers are
cultivating not just the taste for locally grown and produced
chocolate, but a taste for dark chocolate. “Dark” means
higher percentages of cocoa solids, less sugar, focus on
releasing the flavours of beans grown on single estates, proud
of the “terroir” of the beans, that elusive sensory quality
imbued by sunlight and soil.
Dr Darin Sukha of the Cocoa Research Centre, UWI,
believes that this quality gives Trinidad and Tobago the edge
as a premium cocoa and chocolate producer.
“Our cocoa should be treated in an analogous way
to that of champagne, low volumes, high quality, high
price, high profit and having a growing global demand.
The country’s reputation for this premium crop has been
cemented through its success at the International Cocoa
Awards and the premium price it fetches on the market.”
The World Index of commodity prices (at October 2015)
reports an average price for cocoa beans of US$3160.24 per
metric tonne. Premium beans in Trinidad have been known
to fetch over US$7000 per tonne; and the conservative
international base price for Trinidad’s beans is US$5000.
Further, it is estimated that a tonne of cocoa beans may yield
THE NOBLE BEAN
The Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) located at
The UWI St. Augustine grew out of the Imperial
College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) and is
regarded as the research and science centre
for cocoa growers and chocolate producers
around the world. (http://sta.uwi.edu/cru/)
The newly established Cocoa Development
Company is intended to extend the services of
the Centre to produce innovations along the
entire cocoa value chain. Investors with an
eye on future returns from the world cocoa
economy – now worth some US$83 billion –
are invited to bank on cocoa business. Trinidad
and Tobago is poised to turn the noble bean,
food of the gods, Theobroma cacao L., into gold.
World Cocoa and Chocolate Day 2015
allowed the Trinidad public, including school
children, to meet chocolate makers and to
sample their products. The event in the JFK
Auditorium at The UWI featured some of the
finest chocolate being made in Trinidad and
Tobago, which is to say, among the finest in
the world. The World Cocoa and Chocolate
Day is the brainchild of the International
Cocoa Organisation and the Académie
Française du Chocolat et de la Confiserie to
bring awareness of the living conditions of
cocoa growers’ worldwide in an effort to build
a sustainable cocoa economy. It is celebrated
on October 1, every year since 2011. In Trinidad,
the celebration is coordinated by the Cocoa
Research Centre (CRC) at The UWI St Augustine,
and supported by the Cocoa Development
Company of Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry
of Agriculture, the Tourism Development
Company, InvestTT, The UWI and University of
Trinidad and Tobago.
over a tonne – and as much as 1600 kg – of dark chocolate.
What is dark chocolate worth? The prices at the
Chocolate Day 2015 are still “introductory prices” direct
from producer to consumer. The TT$60 bar of 50gm Spirit
of Chocolate is low by international standards. But consider
this, our good fortune is the affordability of a completely
locally grown, processed and packaged product! And the
conversion of a metric tonne (1000 kg) of cocoa beans has
the potential to gross almost TT$2 million at these local
Here’s the enterprise in economic terms, simple
and rounded but presented for consideration by shrewd
businessmen interested in the development of Trinidad
and Tobago. An estate of say 500 high-yielding cocoa trees
may produce a tonne of beans a year. A tonne of beans may
produce almost two tonnes of chocolate.
Chocolate production is also people intensive, with
specialty skills required in every part of the process. Modern
estate production is facilitated by the development of new
productive clones of Trinitario – the cocoa variety that put
Trinidad on the map around the cocoa-growing world.
Mechanisation for processing cocoa beans is available. In
the chocolate-making shop, skills training, research and
continuous experimentation are encouraged. Innovation
and development of new cocoa products are encouraged:
candles, soaps, beauty products, teas, and of course,
Landowners of old estates are sitting on a fortune.
The older cocoa trees are still to be valued for flavour and
as gene material. Revitalise with new high yielding stock.
Take advantage of the resources that have been cultivated
here for over a hundred years, with intellectual capital
vested in the Cocoa Research Centre at UWI; estate skills
and monitoring services at the Ministry of Agriculture;
and shared experimentation in a new community of cocoa
growers and artisan chocolate makers. What are we waiting
The World Index of commodity prices (at October 2015) reports an average
price for cocoa beans of US$3160.24 per metric tonne. Premium beans
in Trinidad have been known to fetch over US$7000 per tonne; and the
conservative international base price for Trinidad’s beans is US$5000.
From Black Gold to Dark Gold
Cocoa is good business
BY PAT GANASE
Cheering on the muffin eaters.
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