Sometimes as a writer/artist you are tempted to naively assume that your work does not require any explanation to support its interpretation. Art after all should be freely open to interpretation. In many ways that for me is the beauty of art, compared to science and mathematical disciplines, since it accommodates a broad spectrum of perspectives. It is beautifully imprecise and in so doing does not impose a rigid, singular viewpoint. Yet at the same time it can be frustrating and even hurtful when your ideas are warped and perverted in ways that insidiously misconstrue your intentions. Some of the most famous writers, such as Albert Camus, Emile Zola and Oscar Wilde, have been savagely treated at the hands of literary critics.

As an aspiring author, on the cusp of launching my debut historical fiction novel, Children of the Ocean God, I have no illusions that I’ll be able to evade the critics’ sharp-edged knives and daggers. I am keenly aware and accept without any qualms that there will always be criticism of my work. I will never be able to please everyone. For me, what I primarily focus on is the message that I want to convey. In Children of the Ocean God, I endeavour to give voice to my ancestors (the Garifuna) whose perspective has been negated in the historical record. There is almost no historical account that I could find, despite strenuous efforts, which conveys the cataclysmic effect that European colonization had on the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean region (and Americas as a whole), in their own words. This latter aspect is most crucial. Almost everything that we know about Caribbean history is based on a highly biased Eurocentric perspective, which is tainted with greed and arrogance (bordering on an assumption of innate superiority of Europeans over indigenous people).

The only meagre words that I could find which capture the perspectives of the Amerindians on their fateful collision with Europeans is captured in an engraving in a wall of Fort St. Christian in what is now St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands (which I have included at the start of Part IV of Children of the Ocean God and woven into the narrative):

Tooking ma kanari

Minara tanara manaricou

Kimabouisi cana kivacou.

[English translation:

Destroyed our strength;

myself without birthright, food or weapon.

Without strength my plants, our land and water;

Without weapons I am destroyed.

Our strength is without defences, fortress or land.]

This poetic lament almost bring me to tears every time I (re)read it since it captures so poignantly the traumatic experience of my ancestors and countless other indigenous peoples, from the Yukon territory to the Straits of Magellan. The effects of this catastrophe resound to the present day.

As a writer I endeavour to tap into this groundswell of pain and suffering so that I can raise awareness about this tragedy. This often reminds me of the prophetic words of William Cullen Bryant, “Truth crushed to Earth shall rise again.” I hope at the very least that through my work some “truth” will rise again and make a small difference in this world. Seremein, thank you, for stopping by! 

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this blogpost. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing please consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.

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