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Leonie Forbes Autobiography Launched
It is only fitting that the launch for the autobiography of one of the Caribbean’s most stellar actresses take place in a theatre. And so the launch of Leonie: Her Autobiography, detailing the life of actress and broadcaster Leonie Forbes found its home on the boards of the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, on Sunday, September 9, 2012.
“I am completely uncovered, laid bare by this autobiography,” Ms. Forbes told the audience when she arrived on the stage to a standing ovation. She explained that she was completely overwhelmed by both all that was said as well as the performances. “Every ounce of me is shaking and I am covered in chicken flesh,” she said.
Along with excerpts from the book, read by three generations of actresses Sakina Deer, Makeda Solomon and Ruth HoShing, the launch event proffered up a combination of music, dance, poetry all of which have played important roles in Forbes’ life.
The event was admirably hosted by Elaine Wint who expressed great admiration for Ms. Forbes, describing her as “Our special lady of the screen and stage and broadcasting”. Wint also brought an unscripted moment of levity to the morning when she arrived with a child’s seat named a Bumbo chair. “Leonie for me supported my liberation,” Wint said. Hoisting the chair high she then offered it up as a symbol of liberation from language in the wake of Kayanne Lamont’s recent murder after her use of the word. Her tribute was greeted with loud laughter and applause.
Humour also came from Forbes’ own writing through poems from her collection Moments With Myself. The witty poems which combined humour and social commentary were dramatically read by Nadean Rawlins and Christopher Daley. The morning also featured Arthur Nicholas’ ‘September’, read by fellow veteran broadcaster, Tony Patel.
Music came from the Jamaica Folk Singers who brought a suite of folk songs as well as Carole Reid and Harold Davis who performed ‘The Prayer’. The fantastic drumming corps from L’Acadco, whose movements are as dramatic and engaging as their drumming itself, filled the theatre with Afro Caribbean rhythms. The drummers followed on the heels of the L’Acadco dancers who delivered ‘Lantech Meets Reggae’.
Forbes collaborated with Professor Mervyn Morris in putting together the biography. “What I have done is arrange and edit her recall,” Professor Morris told the audience. He noted that the book was indeed filled with the words of Leonie Forbes gathered through a series of interviews that took approximately 10 years.
Principal Director of Culture and Entertainment, Mr. Sydney Bartley who brought greetings on behalf of Minister Lisa Hannah, helped to contextualize the importance of the morning. He noted that the island owes a debt of gratitude to her. Those who know her history are aware of this. Forbes was one of the first voices on the now defunct Jamaica Broadcasting System and had helped to hone the skills of those who came after her with elocutionary lessons.
But as Mr. Bartley and Mr. Mike Henry, chairman of LMH Publishing pointed out, the production of the book itself is a valuable thing. Mr. Henry noted, however that publishing industry required support for its development. “Intellectual property rights cannot be exploited, cannot be maintained if you on’t put the structures in place,” He said. He noted that the absence of structure had hampered the development of film and continues to threaten the publishing industry.
Though he did not pledge support for the industry’s development, Mr. Bartley noted the value of the autobiography.
“In this the year of Jamaica’s jubilee, the one thing we should never do is find ourselves in a state of forgetfulness,” he said. “Forgetfulness allows others to fill in the gaps with misinformation and miscommunication,” he said. He therefore commended LMH for publishing the book and therefore ensuring that we continue the important task of telling our own stories.
With her role in the development of theatre and broadcasting in Jamaica, the story of Leonie Forbes is certainly one of those tales which cannot be allowed to fall into the gap of forgetfulness. In her thank you, Ms. Forbes said she hoped that readers would be able to find commonality with her life. “We’re all swimming in life’s pool, using the same strokes,” she said.