Monday, February 19, 2007

Jamaica: Cultural Superstate

These are just a few reflections on some thoughts that I have had for a very long time now. Over the years, several little events have helped to keep these ideas alive in my mind. The main thread is that Jamaica has so much potential with regards to its culture, but we still have not realised it yet and are still even further away from learning to harness that cultural capital. One of the most memorable took place right here in Germany. I was in Berlin last Easter with my girlfriend and her family. We went out to one of the popular street markets they had, and there I found and purchased a very cheap copy of The Gold Collection by Peter Tosh. When I rejoined the group and showed them my prized possession, two German boys (around 14 years old) looked over my shoulder and said in German: "Peter Tosh! Cool! Where did yo find that?" You should have seen the fire in their eyes. I had expected them like the whole world to know Bob Marley, but that they knew Peter Tosh suggested another level of intimacy with the musical culture. We are great!! Last year when I stood in Rotterdam staring at posters announcing performances by T.O.K. and Buju Banton, the same thoughts invaded my consciousness. As more evidence, the number of on-line discussion boards or fora which focus on Dancehall music and Jamaican culture probably outnumber those on topics such as the war on Iraq.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Culture has recognised this and their latest policy seeks to outline ways in which we can capitalise on this greatness. The policy document is no longer available on the website of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Culture, but can be read here (Towards Jamaica the Cultural Superstate) at the Portal de la Cultura de América Latina y el Caribe. Some people totally misunderstood the Ministry's proposal and objected to the superstate idea. This objection is no doubt influenced by the very bad examples we have had in the last and current centuries of political superstates.

There are millions of people around the world cashing in on Jamaican culture by reproducing and selling Jamaican related products, and Jamaica benefits in no way. I have always believed that if any money should be made from our culture we should be the ones to package, sell and benefit from it, but most Jamaicans have obviously not caught on. What we need is some way of communicating to the ordinary Jamaican, the huge demand for Jamaican culture, even for those things which we think have no value. On that point, I will have to mention Jamaican (Creole), a language with which many Jamaicans have a funny sort of relationship. It's a language they are very intimate with but which they are ashamed to present to the world. But while many Jamaicans continue to question whether Jamaican is a language thousands of people around the world are trying to learn the language from internet fora and websites and dancehall songs. There is definitely a demand!

This reminds me of something which struck me at one of th Fifa concerts which was held in Leipzig, Germany last year during the World Cup. The emcee was using some form of Jamaican Creole and Caribbean English even though he was talking to a multilingual/multinational crowd. The truth is that Jamaica has set the pace for such things as emceeing and people are scrambling to experience every piece of our culture that they can come in contact with.

When will we wake up and smell the coffee?

De Walk-Bout Jamaican Bwoy

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jamiekan Baibl (Jamaican Bible )

Almost a year ago I became interested again in translations of the Bible. As a language scientist I always welcome the production of more language data, and as a Christian I am always happy that someone else has been convinced that people should hear the Gospel in their own tongue, as opposed to being fed the Word through some foreign medium.

Naturally, I have been thinking about the translation of the Bible into Jamaican. The Jamaican chapter of the Bible Society of the West Indies (Bible Society of the West Indies) several years ago did a translation of the Gospels into Jamaican. The project caused quite a stir as many people thought it was a waste of time. Unfortunately, they have not published the entire work, however, they have released a few sections in audio form.

Well, back to me now, and my renewed urge. So almost a year ago I started translating the book of Ruth into Jamaican. Ruth was chosen because it was short. I also considered doing some of the Apocryphal books, since I thought that less people would have a problem with these being translated into Jamaican.

Then not so long ago I discovered that a Jamaican studying theology in Wales, Bertram Gayle, had also done a translation of the book of Ruth. He has a pre-final draft of the translation on his blog (A FI BERCHI SPIEC DIS!). Someday I might post mine, that is unless we decide to work together and prepare one translation.

I am a professional linguist (or on my way to becoming one) with very little training in translation (except what I did at University as a student of Spanish), and no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, so my translation was done from the New King James Version. Bertram translated his from the original language. This seems like a new chapter in the history of the Jamaican language. We'll see how things work out.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Christmas cheer and more

I am sure that my friends have been wondering if I am still alive, and my enemies have been wondering if I am not already dead. To disappoint both groups - yes I am still very much alive, but you have heard it before...I am busy.

This is not to say that there wasn't any fun at all. I ended the old year and started the new one with so much joy. Cornelia came home for the holidays from her exchange programme in Canada and I spent Christmas with her and her family in Berlin. I must thank Roswitha and Dittmar for taking very good care of me - my parents are grateful. It was great moving from home to home eating potatoes, turkey, duck, Rotkohl, cake, chocolate, etc. Why doesn't this holiday come more often?

After the festivities had died down somewhat, I took the picture (above) specifically for this blog so you could see how blessed I was. I got so many presents...everything I wanted!! It is good to have a girlfriend who listens to what you want. If you can't see everything I will help you (yes, I know, I'm like a child with candy): I got chocolate and more chocolate; a USB stick; Lord of the Rings DVDs (extended edition); The Silmarillion; a book of Christmas stories in German; Carl Orff's Carmina Burana; two day-tickets to ride the public transport in Berlin (with Cornelia of course); a mug; and shower gel. My best gift is to my right (in the picture) looking into the camera.

Now I have some backlog work, because I stayed away from the office like the plague in the first and second week of January. It felt good to relax and just enjoy myself. I'm not used to that. By the way, not a lot of snow yet, this winter. We are having unusually high temperatures. Even I am praying for more snow. :-)

De Walk-bout Jamaican Bwoy

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Season's Greetings

You will have noticed that I have not been doing any serious blogging since about September last year. This is the typical case of having access to the technology but not being "with it". Thanks to all those people who kept checking despite the lack of updates. It is good to know that there are people out there who are still interested in what I do.

(The picture to the left was taken by me last winter. In the background is the Institute where I "work". I no longer have to dream of white Christmases. What I have to dream about now are Christmases with sunshine [we can forget the rain])

I have almost a thousand contacts in my inboxes, and so it would be very difficult for me to send everyone personal holiday greetings. Please forgive me for the "mass production" manner in which you are receiving this but it can't be helped with my moving from one activity to the next and one paper or chapter of my dissertation to the next.

As we come to the close of 2006, I have been overcome with just how important the friendships I have made are to me. Thanks to those who continue to pray for me (for whatever reason), and to those who across the Atlantic or any other ocean through their e-mails and e-cards can make me laugh.

If you think that 2006 was great, I hope that at the end of 2007 you will be able to say that 2006 just the start. To all those who had children, got degrees, got new jobs, new posts, started new programmes, met distinguished people, got engaged, got married, fell in love, I am always happy at your successes/milestones.

May God continue to bless you all.

Your friendship means a lot to me.

De Walk-bout Jamaican bwoy

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Aim high

Not ready to write anything yet, so I decided that I would pass on one of those inspirational internet stories:

There once was a man who had nothing for his family to eat. He had an old rifle and three bullets. So, he decided that he would go out hunting and kill some wild game for dinner.

As he went down the road, he saw a rabbit. He shot at the rabbit and missed it. The rabbit ran away. Then he saw a squirrel and fired a shot at the squirrel and missed it. The squirrel disappeared into a hole in a cottonwood tree. As he went further, he saw a large wild "Tom" turkey in the tree, but he had only one bullet remaining.

A voice spoke to him and said, "Pray first, aim high and stay focused." However, at the same time, he saw a deer which was a better kill. He brought the gun down and aimed at the deer. But, then he saw a rattlesnake between his legs about to bite him, so he naturally brought the gun down further to shoot the rattlesnake.

Still, the voice said again to him, "I said 'Pray, Aim high and Stay focused." So, the man decided to listen to God's voice. He prayed, then aimed the gun high up in the tree and shot the wild turkey. The bullet bounced off the turkey and killed the deer. The handle fell off the gun and hit the snake in the head and killed it. And, when the gun had gone off, it knocked him into a pond.

When he stood up to look around, he had fish in all his pockets, a dead deer and a turkey to eat for his family. The snake (Satan) was dead simply because the man listened to God. Moral of the story: Pray first before you do anything, Aim and shoot high in your goals, and stay focused on God. Never let others discourage you concerning your past. The past is exactly that, "the past."

Live every day one day at a time and remember that only God knows our future and that he will not put you through any more than you can bear. Do not look to man for your blessings, but look to the doors that only He has prepared in advance for you in your favor.

Wait, be still and patient: keep God first and everything else will follow. Pass this on in order that someone else might be blessed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Some progress

It is the penultimate day of August and I am trying to take it easy, while I am surrounded by forty-odd books on my desk!! Trying to get a paper done for September so I can do a presentation. Hopefully it will turn into a chapter of the dissertation. We'll see what Silvia has to say about that.

I think I am going to take an early day today and just go and take a walk around town. I have to go home first so I can leave my jingbang and especially so I can leave my debit and credit cards at home. I have been spending far too much and was taken by surprise by my last credit card bill.

Well, with regards to work, I have made some amount of progress and my face lights up every time I find a new or better etymology for a word. Those are MY moments. Still haven't decided how the final dissertation will look, but I will just keep on researching and writing and hopefully by the time I am ready to submit that problem would have worked itself out.

I am planning to do some stuff in September as a way of treating myself after the paper. Time to unleash the party animal...he deserves it. He has been suppressed by the drudge for too long.

Well take care and I wish all of my friends who are going back to school for another academic year a wonderful 2005-2006.

--Knowledge is not something which God holds, it is what He is.

More time
Walk-bout Jamaican bwoy