(PRESS RELEASE) – The Monsignor Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre (FRC) joins the world in mourning the loss of an irreplaceable Caribbean Icon, Edward Kamau Brathwaite. Brathwaite is the acclaimed father of ‘nation language’, who in all his work – creative, critical, historical – instilled in his people a sense of dignity and pride to walk upright.
Teacher, Historian, Caribbean Nationalist and International poet, Kamau blazed the trail along with such other notables as George Lamming, Austin Clarke, Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Jean Rhys, Roger Mais, Earl Lovelace, Una Marson, Paule Marshall, Phyllis Shand Allfrey, Elma Napier, Louise Bennet, to place the literature of this region on its pedestal where it sits today. In addition, Brathwaite’s work on nation languages gave some additional legitimacy to Kwéyòl as the Saint Lucian nation language, which stands side by side with other nation languages such as Jamaican Patwa, Bajan, and Sranan Tongo.
As a poet, Kamau was an adventurer in the classic sense who broke down established structures in syntax and barriers to our mother tongues to expose a unique colour of saying that is Caribbean in texture. He disjoined the present from past and weaved them back seamlessly together again. From his first collection “Rights of Passage” (Oxford University Press 1967) he displayed the dexterity of seeing the world in two lights; 1) through the colonizer’s educational style and 2), through the eyes of his island people.
Brathwaite also served as Resident Tutor of UWI Extra Mural Department, Saint Lucia from 1962-1963. While there he edited the journal Iouanaloa: recent writing from St. Lucia (June 1963) which was dedicated to Sir Arthur Lewis. It contained articles by Harold Simmons, Dunstan St. Omer, Fr. Charles Jesse, Patricia Charles, Denis Dabreo and Brathwaite himself. Simmons’ seminal article “Notes on folklore in St. Lucia” was first published there.
The FRC also pays tribute to Brathwaite’s work on the survival of African cultural forms in the Caribbean which has continued to inspire the work the Caribbean creative, artistic and academic community as well as organizations like the Msgr. Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre. Kamau Brathwaite supported and encouraged the work of the FRC and made frequent enquiries about our progress. He was saddened by the 2018 fire that destroyed the headquarters at Mount Pleasant and its library holdings.
Along with our other Caribbean groups and nations, in particular Barbados, the FRC extends heartfelt sympathies to the wife and family of Mr. Brathwaite.