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Calabash 2014 Unleashes a 'Globalishus' Line Up

Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell, give the line-up for Calabash 2014

The Calabash Literary festival has announced a juggernaut of a line-up for the 2014 installation of the festival, which will be staged under the theme Globalishus. The festival organizers have snagged a list of writers who can certainly do justice to the word which invokes ideas of the global, the greedy (from the Jamaican word gravalicious) and even the delicious. 

Now changed to a biennial event in this its 12th staging, the 2014 event will take over the black sands by Jakes in Treasure Beach from Friday, May 30 to Sunday, June 1, providing three days of literature by the sea. 

With a roster of readers which includes Kenya’s iconic novelist, essayist and playwright Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, Decolonizing the Mind and In The House of the Interpreter), novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight's Children), Zadie Smith (White Teeth, Autobiography Man, On Beauty), Jamaica Kincaid (A Small Place, Lucy, Annie John), and Paul Muldoon (Moy Sand and Gravel, The Annals of Chile) Calabash 2014 is certainly set to be all the things, connoted by Globalishus. 

William Mahfood reads from Anthony Winkler's The Annihilation of Fish and Other StoriesThe 2014 event will also include a hearty serving of regional writers. Friday night’s event opens with three Jamaicans Beverly East (Reaper of Souls, Batmitzvah Girl), A-dZiko Simba Gegele (All Over Again) and Roland Watson-Grant (Sketcher). Saturday morning brings a return of the ‘yardies’ this time via poetry with Millicent Graham (The Damp in Things, The Way Home), Ann Margaret Lim (The Festival of Wild Orchid) and Velma Pollard (Shame Trees Don't Grow Here, The Best Philosophers I Know Can't Read). 

The festival will also feature Andrea Stuart and Karen Lord, two writers hailing from Barbados as well as Trinidad’s Robert Antoni. Stuart, who currently resides in the UK, is a biographer and the author of the highly acclaimed Sugar in the Blood. Lord is a two-time winner of the Frank Collymore Literary Award for her novels Redemption in Indigo and The Best of All Possible Worlds. Antoni is the author of As Flies to Whatless Boys and the Commonwealth Award winning novel Divina Trace.Amina Blackwood Meeks

The festival was launched at Redbones the Blues Cafe, Kingston on Thursday, March 20, 2014, in a laid-back event, which echoed the feel of the festival. Several of the speakers, mainly representatives of event sponsors as well as the ghost of the festival’s co-founder Colin Channer - at least according to festival director Kwame Dawes.

However, rather than giving standard speeches, most of the speakers decided to tune into the nature of the event and unleash a little creativity. So it was that Essie Gardner of the Jamaica Tourist Board delivered an ‘Ode to Calabash’ while Pamela Coke Hamilton, Executive Director of Caribbean Export made a poetic speech on the power of the creative industries.

“Welcome to the Calabash, burst it open. Create,” Ms. Coke Hamilton encouraged. “Words do for us what we cannot do for ourselves,” Coke Hamilton said, noting that where words fail, music and film take over. She explained that the creative sector not only captures the imagination, but offers the region great developmental potential and Carib Export is committed to excavating this. 

“We are dedicated to realizing that vision,” Coke Hamilton said. “The world has already embraced our writers.”

When it was his turn at the podium, William Mahfood turned to the words of Anthony Winkler to express his Calabash memories.

“First I am not going to speak about Wata and or sponsorship or Schweppes and our sponsorship," Mahfood said with a laugh before explaining how he found Winkler's work resonating with the Jamaican experience and going on to read from ‘The Annihilation of Fish and Other Stories.

“From the early years, nobody would have thought that it [Calabash] ever would be what it is now,” Mahfood said. 

Principal Director of Culture, Dahlia HarrisPrincipal Director of Culture, Dahlia Harris also had her say, invoking her memories of Calabash as well as the value of the event. 

“I started overdoing it before we even got there," Harris admitted, and went on with a witty anecdote of the long journey to Calabash her first time there.  

“I was excited to see the foreign ones but I was very very excited to see the Jamaicans," Harris said. “And I looked and I thought, how lucky we are to create an experience like this."

Amina Blackwood Meeks wound up series of high praise for the event, segueing between World Storytelling Day, World Poetry Day and the significant value of Calabash to the landscape. 

Xiomara Fortuna of the Dominican Republic closes the show“World Poetry Day (March 21) is a very official day, UNESCO say so,” Blackwood Meeks said. “World Storytelling Day (March 20) is not, is just some people up in Norway decide to have a world storytelling day and invite the world."

Yet the story she unravelled was a riveting and revealing one. “Calabash is something we create and name and the world can’t wait for us to send it come,” Blackwood Meeks said. She described the festival as a story as well as an “inspirience” 

The night closed with the engaging performance by Xiomara, a artist from the Dominican Republic whose diverse musical style ranging from jazz to light dancehall underscored the theme, highlighting that Calabash 2014 will indeed by, Globalishus!

Note: Edited March 21, to include mention of Salman Rusdie

Further edited on March 30 to correct spellings of names (Paul Muldoon & Karen Lord) and to adjust the number of stagings of Calabash to the 12th year)