Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 22nd 2017 Contents this year is no exception.
Bocas events have been running since the
start of this month, including the Children's
Storytelling Caravan and CineLit, the Latin
American and Literary Film Festival, but the
core Bocas events begin this Wednesday and
continues through April 30 at the National
Library and other venues in Port-of-Spain.
The festival has become known for its
broad-ranging programme, extending
beyond literature to include current affairs
topics. Bocas 2017 continues that trend with
focus areas that include human rights issues
and tributes to some of T&T's great politi-
cal thinkers, alongside a slate of renowned
poets and fiction writers.
The human rights events at Bocas 2017
---four high-level panels, alongside other
activities---build on a discussion hosted at
last year's festival, which brought public
attention to some key issues before Par-
liament and the courts.
"In 2017, we've decided to dig even deeper
with a series of new books that focus on
human rights," explained festival founder
and director Marina Salandy-Brown at a
press launch in March. The topics at hand
include press freedom, LGBT rights and
activism, and T&T's judicial and prison
system. A fourth panel asks how a broader
agenda for human rights should be shaped
by the specific needs of vulnerable groups in
our society. Chaired by veteran journalists,
the panels promise to be hard-hitting and
frank, bringing together activists, politi-
cians, a judge, a police inspector, and more.
There is also a chance for everyone else
to weigh in, at two special events comple-
menting the human rights panels. Stand Up
for Your Rights is a human-rights-themed
open mic event, where writers and musi-
cians can come to share their pieces and
compete for a prize, judged by Chief Justice
Ivor Archie. And Human, Right? is a simi-
larly themed ole mas competition, open to
individuals and bands, injecting a note of
sly humour and picong into debate about
these serious topics.
On Thursday, April 27, the festival will
present a day-long programme of events
considering the legacy of the late CLR
James, one of the Caribbean's great thinkers,
and how his still radical ideas are relevant
to current realities. It begins with read-
ings from some of James's key writings on
politics and history, along with excerpts
from his classic study of cricket, Beyond a
Boundary, and his novel Minty Alley---de-
livered by former government minister Joan
Yuille-Williams and former Port-of-Spain
mayor Louis Lee Sing alongside artist Jackie
Hinkson, actress Evelyn Caesar-Munroe,
and cricket enthusiast Nigel Camacho.
The focus on James will continue at
a discussion featuring scholars Bridget
Brereton, Kenneth Ramchand, and Aaron
Kamugisha, and labour leader David Abdu-
lah, who will consider the lessons of James's
work for contemporary T&T and the wider
world. Then come the calypsonians: mas-
ters Black Sage and Short Pants will face
off in an Extempo debate, tackling James's
notoriously contentious relationship with
his onetime protégé Dr Eric Williams. A re-
cent documentary film on James's life and
times, Every Cook Can Govern, will round
out the bill.
Different perspectives on Caribbean pol-
itics, past and present, will come from two
events focused on prime ministers from op-
posite ends of the region. On Thursday, April
27, biographer Godfrey Smith will discuss
his biography of the late Jamaican prime
minister Michael Manley with scholar Bar-
bara Lalla, and later that afternoon T&T's
Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, will join
the Bocas programme to talk to Funso Ai-
yejina about his recently published memoir.
This is thought to be the first time a sitting
prime minister has appeared at a Caribbean
literary festival, and reflects the growing
reputation of Bocas as a venue for intel-
ligent, accessible discussion---as a festival
where the Caribbean comes to think.
There is no shortage of literary events
at Bocas 2017, which continues to shine a
spotlight on the diversity of contemporary
Caribbean writing, with a special place for
emerging authors. The lineup of poets at this
year's festival is particularly strong, and a
special event on the evening of Thursday,
April 27, Poetry Forward, celebrates both
recent international recognition and a se-
ries of remarkable new books. Poets Kei
Miller and Vahni Capildeo---both winners
of the prestigious Forward Prize---will read
from and discuss their work, followed by
the debut of new books by writers Andre
Bagoo, Richard Georges, Rosamond S King,
and Shivanee Ramlochan---all writers from
T&T or with local roots.
Another stellar assembly of poets
comes on Sunday, April 30, where three
award-winning writers---Jamaicans Safiya
Sinclair and Ishion Hutchinson, and Guya-
nese-American Rajiv Mohabir---will share
the stage. Elsewhere in the festival, emi-
nent poets Edward Baugh of Jamaica, Nancy
Morejón of Cuba, and David Dabydeen of
Guyana will discuss their work.
Some of T&T's best fiction writers will
be the centre of attention on the evening of
Frida, April 28 at Noir by Night---a special
event dedicated to the thrills of the darker
side. Earl Lovelace, co-editor of the new
anthology Trinidad Noir: The Classics,
will head the bill, alongside Elizabeth
Walcott-Hackshaw, Sharon Millar, Kevin
Jared Hosein and Ayanna Gillian Lloyd. Poet
Anthony Joseph will be a guest poet and
Vaughnette Bigford will open the evening
with her broody jazz singing.
The action-packed Bocas 2017 pro-
gramme of well over 100 events also in-
cludes a live Facebook-streamed poetry
and music session from the Port-of-Spain
prison, the wildly popular First Citizens
National Poetry Slam Finals, the awards
ceremony for the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize,
an entire festival for children, a series of
practical writing workshops, plus the sig-
nature "Stand and Deliver" events, where
budding writers can share their work with
the festival audience.
• Full details of the Bocas 2017 programme
are available online at www.bocaslitfest.com.
guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 22, 2017
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Politics meets poetry at Bocas 2017
Since the NGC Bocas Lit Fest was launched
seven years ago, the annual festival of words,
stories and ideas has transformed the month
of April into a season of literature for T&T and
On April 27, the Bocas Lit fest will present a day-long programme on the legacy of the late
CLR James, one of the Caribbean's great thinkers.
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