On October 17th of this year I will reach by 64th year in this world. I was born a Caymanian but economic necessities compounded by social and racial discrimination within our colonial educational system compelled by brave and hard working parents to take me from the Cayman Islands to a land of opportunities.
My parents’ visionary decision and move created for me unimaginable educational opportunities and space for personal, political and cultural advancement. However upon returning to my native land in 1977, I realised that learning about myself, my history, my culture and taking what I had learnt seriously would be a lifelong curse in a colony sickened by its colonial condition.
A couple days ago while travelling in the beautiful country of Nicaragua, I received a message from a friend in Cuba, saying that the first half of my latest play Death of a Dream would be performed at the House of Cultural, in Bejucal, Cuba, on the 19th of October.
What a birthday present, I thought, then realised that a small cultural group in Cuba was doing for me what the Cultural Foundation that I helped to establish by forming with three others the Inn Theatre Company in 1978, would or could not do for me. The group in Cuba translated Death of a Dream to Spanish free of cost and will now present it to their public.
This tells me that it is not that I am not a writer worth hearing from why my plays are not being produced in my native land. My plays are not being produced because they do not reinforce the fantasy that we are first world people with no ties to an African past.
A few weeks ago while in Nicaragua I visited the beautiful Corn Islands and rejoiced that they were celebrating Emancipation Day 171 years after the liberation of the slaves of those islands. Yet when we mention Caymanian slavery the powers that be and the people, poor and black as they might be, want to eat our heads off. What in the world has really caused the Caymanian people to hide and reject their identity to the point of having to ridicule and condemn women and men such as myself for having an interest in our truthful past, present and future? I ask the question but I think we all know that I have long ago found what I believe to be some of the answers.
It was always my ambition to be a writer and to dive deep into the subconscious of my country and my generation but in the Cayman Islands there is no place for ideas that do not produce money and the false consciousness, which comes with upward socio-economic mobility. Here there is no place for the artist, in fact the artist is mocked and ridiculed and is seen as mad or bad.
At 64 I will still not be comfortable with the expression of my ideas on or off stage in my country of birth and I am convinced there is very little more I can share with my fellow Caymanians artistically. I am sad that this is so but the intellectual insanity and confusion of our colonised existence tortures each and all of us that are wired to our colonial condition and our acceptance of everything that is not Caymanian.
I have looked into the mirror and I have not only found distortions of myself; I have found the distortions of my native land that was once beautiful; but now a land that does not nourish or comfort its own; a land that no longer nurtures its identity or any profound attempt to discover its past in any meaningful way.
Any people that are as disrespectful to their ancestors as to erase their struggles and stories from their present and future is a lost people. And it is sad to say, but must be said that we are paying daily for this horrible neglect and disrespect and yet we do not acknowledge the cause for our confusion and lack of direction as we face our present and future storms. We stand poised to change again our leaders because not one man or woman among us is good enough or deserving of our trust; yet we refuse to look at ourselves in the mirror or fault ourselves for some of the shortcomings of our nation. True art and true politics are at least cousins and my mistake may have been that I served my cousin the politician before I served myself the artist because for me it was difficult if not impossible to draw the line between the two.
Death of a Dream says a lot about my own personal confusion and my own struggle, doubts and fears, my art, my politics and my dreams. Perhaps one day I will let it be performed here but that day will be far into the future because I will never again allow myself to be undressed emotionally in this colony without snow; where the practice of African religious beliefs is a crime and where one must have the permission of the government to play music or dance in a public place; a colony where the descendents of proud Africans must get a license to play music or dance publicly.
A colony where it is unlawful for me to listen to music after 12 on a Saturday midnight and if I do play music or dance the police can carry me off to jail, for they are well paid and must find something to do. I reject their constant humiliation of our youth for listening to music after midnight and I charge our politicians with the crime of being afraid that if we dance after midnight on Saturday we will turn into savage criminals that will destroy religious freedom.
These are beautiful Caribbean islands but they have been turned into plantations that are policed by persons that do not care about us; they care only about their pay but it is said that if you don’t like it leave it, so I guess this applies to me also.
But I must ask Caymanians again, why do we allow foreigners wearing our police uniforms to act out their resentment against our lower income communities in the name of peace and order? And if this is because we are afraid of ourselves and afraid of our cultural roots, so must so that we employ policemen from overseas to socially control us in the hope that we will never discover who we are. Franz Fannon, a noted anti-colonial writer and activist from the French Caribbean, wrote a book entitled Dying Colonialism, but if colonialism died then it must be its ghost which frightens us.