Our history as a Caribbean people has been about dancing to the missed beat, inhabiting the space in between, and we have become masters of the syncopated rhythm. We excel at existing in a shifting reality. It is something our writers understand and live, and the very best of them capture it in their work.
At the 2019 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the ninth successive literary festival in T&T, we acknowledged this moment in time with some of the most glorious writers that our tropical, complex, and often unfathomable islands have produced. Whether they still live at home or now live in the Diaspora or elsewhere, their work is infused with the memory and knowledge of our uniqueness that springs not from one source, but many.
The Bocas Lit Fest is always very excited by the new voices that keep bursting onto the literary stage in fiction, poetry, and literary non-fiction. Their work, and that of the already celebrated, resonates with the issues of contemporary life. In programming the festival, we took our lead from them. The main theme of Border Crossings arose from the pages of the extraordinary books that were available at the 2019 festival and which were our tool for breaking through the walls that separate nations and cultures, in a time of renewed anxiety about immigration, national sovereignty, refugees, identity, class, ethnicity, sexuality, rights, violence, and human dignity.
Other Pasts, Other Futures, another recurring festival theme focused on Caribbean science fiction and fantasy, including folklore and fairy tales; Marlon James and Nalo Hopkinson were genre champions and not to be missed. Family Matters focussed on writing that tackles difficult questions about ancestry, home, inheritance, and other family themes. And, true to our name, in our festival focus on Indigenous Artforms we continued our thoughtful, creative exploration of T&T’s music, performance, and folk art, and interrogated the ways these influence our writers.
The various prizes we have created all took the keen reader to the finest writing in each genre, for whichever age. The winners of the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize, all Trinbagonians for the very first time, were a special treat, all of them must-reads. For those writers yet to be discovered, there were sessions earmarked for their readings, and for those who wanted to enhance their writing, again we took advantage of the massive collective know-how of our festival writers, to offer invaluable workshops. Spoken-word, children’s storytelling, book launches, celebrations of the classics, and literary salons were also in the mix for 2019.