Here’s a reflection piece on the wonderful Visiting Fellowship activities undertaken earlier this year at the University of Birmingham by Dr Jean Antoine-Dunne of the University of the West Indies – it includes a link to Jean’s fantastic guest lecture at the bottom!
These activities were generously funded by the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London, with additional support from the University of Birmingham.
The events included a public film screening of Jamaican reggae classic The Harder They Come at Mockingbird Cinema in Digbeth’s Custard Factory, followed by a brilliant Q&A session with Jean, in which the public had a chance to discuss the film with her. Mockingbird publicised the event widely via social media, and feedback on this event was excellent.
The programme also included campus screenings of extremely rare Caribbean films in English and Dutch. Screenings were all well attended by graduate students, who had the chance to ask Jean questions in special Q&A sessions after each screening.
These films were: Ava and Gabriel, directed by Felix de Rooy (1990). Set in Curacao in the 1940s, Ava & Gabriel: A Love Story tells of the painter Gabriel Goedbloed, who arrives from Holland to paint a mural of the Virgin Mary in a local church. Gabriel is black, originally from Surinam. The colonial Antillean society proves less than tolerant towards him, especially after he chooses as his model a young Black teacher, Ava; I is a Long Memoried Woman by Frances-Anne Solomon, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day. Solomon’s film explores women’s experiences of suffering, resistance and freedom. Out of the abusive conditions of the new world sugar plantations, this unforgettable 1990 film of the African Diaspora offers a powerful rendering of female slavery and defiance, survival and strength, in dance-drama performance. The film presents a young African-Caribbean woman’s quest for survival and freedom in evocative dance, griotte-style monologue & song. Inter-segments present readings and commentary by Grace Nichols, on whose award-winning poetry the film is based. I is a Long-Memoried Woman, published in 1983 (London: Karnak House), was Nichols’ first collection of poetry, and won Nichols the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. The film adaptation was a Gold Award winner at the International Film and Television Festival of New York.
Jean also gave a fascinating Guest Lecture, ‘Tracking Signposts to a Caribbean Cinema Aesthetic’. This special guest lecture, in English, explored Caribbean cinema across a range of languages (English, French, Spanish and Dutch). Jean presented an engaging overview of important developments – narrative and aesthetic – in Caribbean cinema over the last few decades, as well as addressing the challenging question of what makes a ‘Caribbean’ film.
All events were publicised on campus and online, using the international Society for Caribbean Studies mailing list, this established project blog (www.josephzobel.wordpress.com) and its related established Twitter feed, @zobelproject https://twitter.com/ZobelProject Colleagues unable to attend in person skyped in from elsewhere in the UK, and were also able to ask questions!
As a lasting legacy of the project, a video of Jean’s guest lecture is now available online at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/news/2017/jean-antoine-dunne-guest-lecture.aspx