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