If there’s one thing the annual Kingston Book Festival proves, it’s that Jamaica is a nation of book lovers and readers.
Psst, did you know that Jamaica has the Guinness World Record for the most books donated to charity in a seven-day period?
On Saturday, March 7, the Devon House grounds welcomed these bibliophiles of all ages to not only buy books, but to also meet emerging and seasoned authors, listen to book readings, and enjoy the range of this year’s Kingston Book Fair activities. Like the last one I attended, the day was bright and sunshiny, a boon for any outdoor event.
Some of the Booths, and more!
Kenia Mattis, the brainchild of Listen Mi News, a show that reports real news to a Dancehall beat, is a co-author of a really cool Caribbean comic book and educational app, League of the Maroons. Her sound engineer, Donald ‘Icon’ Medder shared my sentiment that Jamaican and Caribbean children need to see themselves represented in literature, hence the creation of the animated book and its supplementary app.
“It’s an adventure in education,” Medder said.
At Mattis’ encouragement, one of the boys tried to blow the abeng, which is an important part of Maroon culture, and also featured in League of the Maroons. It’s not an easy feat. On a visit to a Maroon village some years ago, I got goosebumps when I heard it blown in a demonstration.
A new feature of the Book Fair was the Young Adult Hangout, coordinated by Jamaican YA author Gwyneth Harold Davidson. I’m a huge fan of YA literature, so I was keen on listening to the readings by three emerging teen writers. Two of the authors are twins, Jonada and Jhada Martin, who co-wrote their fantasy novel, the first in a series.
The high calibre of these young women’s writing impressed me, as well as the confident manner with which they read excerpts from their novels. It was a heartwarming experience that made me feel proud of our young people and their abilities.
I tend to get excited about bookish things, especially creative designs that feature old book pages. This kind of artwork is Marissa Laing’s specialty.
Roy Lumsden, a self-taught artist, was just passing through, when I glimpsed his painting. At first, he balked at having me take a photo of his artwork, but I persuaded him that someone might read this post and express an interest in buying his paintings. He saw my point and eventually agreed.
Not only does Roy create all forms of artwork, except craft items, but he also writes poetry and short stories.
If you’re acquainted with Jamaican culture, you’ll know that jerk dishes are high on our list of favourites. Chef and caterer Jeremy Taylor knows this, and was on hand to whet appetites and sate hungry bellies. Before I even neared him, the aroma from his food greeted me. I should’ve asked him if he had any jerk fish.
Body art is so cool. So when I saw Zillardo’s painted face, I decided that the next time an opportunity arose, I would get mine done.
He was happy to have his photo taken, but I made sure to get his mother’s permission first.
Zhara had me reminiscing about the days I used to kin pupalick*. I would never dare to try it now, though. I can almost see the disaster waiting to happen.
When I asked her if I could take her photo, she broke into the sweetest smile and went into a handstand immediately, without having to think about it, it seemed. In fact, she moved between backbends and cartwheels so rapidly that I missed several shots. I see a future in gymnastics for her.
Guess which one of these men won the ska dancing contest.
I met these two young ladies, and we had a lively conversation, which ranged from ‘locks (Janiqua was curious about mine), to blogging (Shelly-Ann’s passion is food, so I gave her some tips), to writing (Janiqua wants to be a writer (YAY!), so I also gave her tips, and encouraged her), to Chris Brown (Um, yeah).
When I saw the back of this young woman’s T-shirt, I couldn’t resist asking her if I could snap it.
Well-known Jamaican broadcaster, Paula-Anne Porter Jones came over to the Bookland booth with her friend, saw me browsing, and recommended the books I was looking at. I told her I wanted Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women, which the booth didn’t have, unfortunately. Her face lit up like a thousand peenywallies*.
“It’s gooood,” she said, and then showed me the back of her forearm, the skin pebbly with goosebumps.
So, I told her the story behind one of his books (I’m not sure if it’s the same one I want), one that Latoya West-Blackwood of iPublish Jamaica had shared the day before.
Before Marlon James, a Jamaican novelist, became an award-winning author, he burnt his manuscript after it was rejected 30 times. Later, a publisher contacted him with an interest in publishing it. He had to call his friend, who, luckily, had a copy, so that he could submit it.
How awesome is that!
And I’m thrilled with my purchases, based on Mrs. Porter Jones’ thumbs-up recommendation.
Not only did I buy them at a discounted price, but I also got brawta*, in the form of one of my favourite magazines.
I went home a happy camper, especially after waxing off* a Devon House’s I Scream double scoop, Crunchie-Munchie ice cream cone.
* (Glossary of Jamaican Terms)
Brawta – extra; something one gets for free as a bonus.
Kin pupalick – to somersault, flip, or turn cartwheels.
Peenywallies – fireflies.
To wax off – usually used in relation to food; to devour completely.
If you wish to contact any of the following creatives whom I’ve mentioned, their information is below. I’m sharing it freely, with no benefit whatsoever to myself.
Roy Lumsden, Worx of Art
Kenia Mattis / Donald ‘Icon’ Medder
(876) 322-4760 / 420-4526