Postcolonialism in West Indian Drama Essay

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In this chapter, we would be looking at related data that, in one way or another, have some bearing on the issues of post colonialism in the Caribbean. The chapter also concerns itself with the historical antecedents of the Caribbean and how the corpus of work identifiable as Caribbean Literature came into existence. 2. 1 HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF THE CARIBBEAN The historical antecedents of the Caribbean can be traced back to the days of Christopher Columbus, a voyager, who set forth in the name of King and Queen Isabella of Spain as an explorer to navigate the world in order to discover new places.
It was during the voyage that he got an island close to India but which was not on the map and he named the place the West Indies. Western history therefore has it that Christopher Columbus ?discovered’ the West Indies. This discovery of Columbus is really no discovery in the real sense of it. This is because, as some commentators have remarked in times past, the Caribbean islands and their people had always existed long before Columbus had ever conceived the thought of a voyage. Some of have described his ?discovery’ as a lucky event.
One of such commentators, Colin Martindale (2009) informs us that: “In seeking to solve one problem, a person makes another discovery quite by chance. In seeking a route to India, Columbus discovered America (116). ? (Italics mine). In discovering the West Indies, Christopher Columbus discovered that the land was very rich in mineral and natural resources. At this juncture, it is important to mention that original aborigines of the so-called islands were the Caribs and the Arawaks.
After Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the new world and after his discovery that the land was blessed with mineral resources, Columbus and his men decided to settle in and in no time other European countries like Britain, France, and Portugal began to arrive there for economic advancement. Their arrival meant one thing: that the new found land would have to be tilled and cultivated and so they began to use the aborigines as labourers to work on their own land.
This led to resistance on the part of the original inhabitants, and this generated into a confrontation that resulted in the extermination of the original inhabitants of the land (the aborigines) There was the need for manpower because there was a discovery of sugar. Therefore, the Indians and Chinese were recruited as indentured labourers to work on the plantations on contract basis. Indentured labourers are workers who are made to work for a period of time after an agreement must have been reached between them and their employers.
According to Rickford and Rickford (2000), indentured labour is: the arrangement under which most white servants and laborers (sic) came to America, involved contracted work for a period (often five to ten years), after which the labourer (sic) might receive land and would be free to work for himself or herself. (131) This agreement between white workers and the slave masters just before the days of slavery was a means through which the latter secured labour for their plantations. However, these indentured labourers “ Indians and Chinese “ got stranded on the island because there was breach of contract.
Since these labourers could not provide enough manpower to run the daily expansive work on the tobacco, sugarcane, cotton plantations, there was need for more labour and it was this point that attention was shifted to Africa. Large number of Africans were transported to the New World via slave ships under harrowing and inhuman conditions. This forceful movement of Africans to the new world is just one of the different kinds of migration that Africans have made or been forced to make to the new world in general and to the Caribbean in particular.
Although there were indications that before Christopher Columbus, some Africans had migrated to the Caribbean islands. Historians have continued to identify Columbus’s discovery as one singular that changed the future of Africans. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, Africans were forcefully moved to the Caribbean as slaves. This accounts for their leading numerical figure in the total population of blacks in the Caribbean. It therefore follows that Africans were brought to the new world and the Caribbean islands to do one thing: to bring the land to full cultivation.
The captured Africans who survived the horror and gory experiences of the Middle Passage, unfortunately had to continue horrifying experiences on the various plantations. They had to face squalor, poverty, degradation; and apart from being made to work on the plantations, some of them were used for grave digging and as errand boys; some were employed as beasts of burdens or load-carrying workers. Added to all of these was the fact that quite a number of the female slaves were sexually exploited and abused.
So the lives of blacks were restricted by the use of padlocks, chains, etc. that suggest bondage and imprisonment. So, the life of the black as at the time was one of hopelessness, and there was nothing to ever suggest that there would ever be freedom for the blacks. Unless they revolt or protest, there will never be respite or freedom for the blacks. Often times, those who were involved in rebellion had to pay the price of death. Said (1993) in his book, Culture and Imperialism, tells us that the West justified their actions based on: their descriptions of ?the mysterious East’, as well as the stereotypes about ?the African mind’, the notions about bringing civilization to primitive or barbaric peoples, the disturbingly familiar ideas about flogging or death or extended punishment being required when ?they’ misbehaved or became rebellious, because ?they’ mainly understood force or violence best; ?they’ were not like ?us’, and for that reason deserved to be ruled. (xi “ xii) Said in the quote above tells that the West carried out these acts of cruelty and bestiality with a ?kind’ intent.
To the West, they were doing the blacks a huge favour since they (blacks) were nothing like them, and therefore subhuman. At a point however, slavery became abolished in the early 19th century and the people of the Caribbean began to grapple with a new menace: the evil of colonialism. It must be noted that the colonialism experienced by the people of the Caribbean seemed to be more brutal than those of other places. This is because the Caribbean colonies still smitten from the pains of the slave trade were once again subdued by the white exploiters.
This background has been necessary to show that Caribbean literature developed as a response to the region’s historical antecedent; and so, such concerns as exile, nostalgia, despair, alienation, identity, racism, language etc. continued to mark the collective temper of the literature of this region. The Caribbean society is an interesting one. From the history that we have traced, the Caribbean society is made up of people of different cultural backgrounds. Majority of the people of the Caribbean islands are descendants of Africans who were brought against their will to work as slaves on plantations.
Next to this group are the descendants of the East Indians who came to work as indentured labourers on the same plantation. Political and economic powers were vested in the hands of the few Europeans from the European countries that colonized the Caribbean islands. We have three groups of people who live in the Caribbean. The first group is made up of the descendants of the blacks and indentured labourers. They formed the bulk of the population. They occupy the lower rung of the ladder. The second group houses the descendants of the European captors, slave owners, etc. etween these two groups were the mulattoes who are a product of the two groups. Added to the group of the mulattoes are the educated blacks. The education of the blacks in the group of the mulattoes was European in content and consciously structured and designed to make them lose contact with their culture and the rest of the blacks. The first group was a depressed group that was relegated to the background. The second group consisted of members of a privileged class who were at the apex of the power structure.
They contributed large businesses, legislative power, and were priests and religious leaders of well-established churches. The group of the educated blacks and the mulattoes was an interesting one because members of this group had privilege of European education; they lost contact with the rest of the group without actually being able to concretely identify with the privilege class. They were therefore sandwiched between two cultures which they neither fully understood nor were they fully accepted into.
The history of the development of Caribbean culture and society from its birth in the 1930s to its adolescence in the 1960s is to a large extent a history of the relationships between the three groups highlighted above and the tensions involved in the relationships between them. 2. 2 ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF CARIBBEAN DRAMA The blacks and Indians had brought with them from Asia and India rituals which are developed remarkably, but which could definitely not be labelled as Caribbean drama. The ruling class also had its form of theatrical entertainment but this could not be labelled as truly Caribbean either.
The black peasants participated in many folk activities that were to later have an influence on the development of the Caribbean theatrical style. Tea meetings grew into a strong cultural form in many of the islands. Same was the case with dramatic religious rituals. The islands flourished with the folk culture that was performance-oriented. In the first three decades of the 20th century, the growing middle class of educated blacks and mulattoes, because of their education showed interest in the forms of the theatrical entertainment of the ruling minority even though their ritual inclination was toward the folk culture of the majority.
In the 1930s and in the 1940, these groups seem to have overcome to some extent the excessive bias for European dramatic piece; and they began to produce the first set of plays that could truly be called Caribbean. Playwrights like Una Marson, Tom Redcam, Frank Hill, Roger Mais, Arthur Roberts, C. L. R. James and Wilson Rogers had written and were writing plays with a distinctive Caribbean flavour. They did this in order to repudiate every imprint of imperialism and colonialism; in other words, they wanted a theatre that would have no traces of European influence.
Balme (1992) gives an insight into this as he says: In the 1950s and 60s, as the islands prepared for and moved into independence, so too did the calls for an indigenous Caribbean theatre, free from the taint of colonial influences (181) It was in fact also that this era that saw the birth and growth of such important groups as the Little Theatre Movement in Jamaica, the White Hall Players in Trinidad, the St. Lucia Arts Guide, and other smaller groups throughout the region. In the era, the Walcott brothers: Derek and Roderick emerged. . 3 ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION OF THE CARIBBEAN Caribbean landscape exploitation dates back to the Spanish conquistadors around 1600 who mined the islands for gold which they brought back to Spain. The more significant development came when Christopher Columbus wrote back to Spain that the islands were made for sugar development. The history of Caribbean agricultural dependency is closely linked with European colonialism which altered the financial potential of the region by introducing a plantation system.
Much like the Spanish enslaved indigenous Indians to work in gold mines, the seventeenth century brought a new series of oppressors in the form of the Dutch, the English, and the French. By the middle of the eighteenth century sugar was Britain’s largest import which made the Caribbean that much more important as a colony. Sugar was a luxury in Europe prior to the 18th century. It became widely popular in the 18th century, and then graduated to becoming a necessity in the 19th century.
This evolution of taste and demand for sugar as an essential food ingredient unleashed major economic and social changes. Caribbean islands with plentiful sunshine, abundant rainfalls and no extended frosts were well suited for sugarcane agriculture and sugar factories. Following the emancipation of slaves in 1833 in the United Kingdom, many liberated Africans left their former masters. This created an economic chaos for British owners of Caribbean sugar cane plantations. The hard work in hot, humid farms required a regular, docile and low-waged labour force.
The British looked for cheap labour. This they found initially in China and then mostly in India. The British crafted a new legal system of forced labour, which in many ways resembled enslavement. Instead of calling them slaves, they were called indentured labourers. Indians and Southeast Asians began to replace Africans previously brought as slaves, under this indentured labour scheme to serve on sugarcane plantations across the British Empire. The first ships carrying indentured labourers for sugarcane plantations left India in 1836.
Over the next 70 years, more ships brought indentured labourers to the Caribbean, as cheap and docile labour for harsh inhumane work. The slave labourers and indentured labourers both in millions of people were brought into Caribbean, as in other European colonies throughout the world. The “New World ? plantations were established in order to fulfil the growing needs of the “Old World ?. The sugar plantations were built with the intention of exporting the sugar back to Britain which is why the British did not need to stimulate local demand for the sugar with wages.
A system of slavery was adapted since it allowed the colonizer to have an abundant work force with little worry about declining demands for sugar. In the 19th century wages were finally introduced with the abolition of slavery. The new system in place however was similar to the previous as it was based on white capital and coloured labourer. Large numbers of unskilled workers were hired to perform repeated tasks, which made it very difficult for these workers to ever leave and pursue any non-farming employment.
Unlike other countries, where there was an urban option for finding work, the Caribbean countries had money invested on agriculture and lacked any core industrial base. The cities that did exist offered limited opportunities to citizens and almost none for the unskilled masses who had worked in agriculture their entire lives. The products produced brought in no profits for the countries since they were sold to the colonial occupant buyer who controlled the price the products were sold.
This resulted in extremely low wages with no potential for growth since the occupant nations had no intention of selling the products at a higher price to them. The result of this economic exploitation was a plantation dependence which saw the Caribbean nations possessing a large quantity of unskilled workers capable of performing agricultural tasks and not much else. After many years of colonial rule the nations also saw no profits brought into their country since the sugar production was controlled by the colonial rulers.
This left the Caribbean nations with little capital to invest towards enhancing any future industries unlike European nations which were developing rapidly and separating themselves technologically and economically from most impoverished nations of the world. 2. 4 COLONIALISM IN THE WEST INDIES Soon after the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, both Portuguese and Spanish ships began claiming territories in Central and South America. These colonies brought in gold, and other European powers, most specifically England, the Netherlands, and France, hoped to establish profitable colonies of their own.
Imperial rivalries made the Caribbean a contested area during European wars for centuries. During the first voyage of the explorer Christopher Columbus (mandated by the Spanish crown to conquer), contact was made with the Lucayans in the Bahamas and the TaA­no in Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola, and a few of the native people were taken back to Spain. Small amounts of gold were found in their personal ornaments and other objects such as masks and belts. The Spanish, who came seeking wealth, enslaved the native population and rapidly drove them to near-extinction.
To supplement the Amerindian labour, the Spanish imported African slaves. Although Spain claimed the entire Caribbean, they settled only the larger islands of Hispaniola (1493), Puerto Rico (1508), Jamaica (1509), Cuba (1511), and Trinidad (1530), although the Spanish made an exception in the case of the small ‘pearl islands’ of Cubagua and Margarita off the Venezuelan coast because of their valuable pearl beds which were worked extensively between 1508 and 1530. The other European powers established a presence in the Caribbean after the Spanish Empire declined, partly due to the reduced native population of the area from European diseases.
The Dutch, the French, and the British followed one another to the region and established a long-term presence. They brought with them millions of slaves imported from Africa to support the tropical plantation system that spread through the Caribbean islands. During the first voyage of the explorer Christopher Columbus (mandated by the Spanish crown to conquer) contact was made with the Lucayans in the Bahamas and the TaA­no in Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola, and a few of the native people were taken back to Spain. Small amounts of gold were found in their personal ornaments and other objects such as masks and belts.
The Spanish, who came seeking wealth, enslaved the native population and rapidly drove them to near-extinction. To supplement the Amerindian labour, the Spanish imported African (slavery/slaves) (see also Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies) Although Spain claimed the entire Caribbean, they settled only the larger islands of Hispaniola (1493), Puerto Rico (1508), Jamaica (1509), Cuba (1511), and Trinidad (1530), although the Spanish made an exception in the case of the small ‘pearl islands’ of Cubagua and Margarita off the Venezuelan coast because of their valuable pearl beds which were worked extensively between 1508 and 1530.
The other European powers established a presence in the Caribbean after the Spanish Empire declined, partly due to the reduced native population of the area from European diseases. The Dutch, the French, and the British followed one another to the region and established a long-term presence. They brought with them millions of slaves imported from Africa to support the tropical plantation system that spread through the Caribbean islands. Francis Drake was an English privateer who attacked many Spanish ships and forts in the Caribbean, including San Juan harbour in 1595.
His most celebrated Caribbean exploit was the capture of the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in March, 1573. British colonisation of Bermuda began in 1612. British West Indian colonisation began with St. Kitts in 1623 and Barbados in 1627. The former was used as a base for British colonisation of neighbouring Nevis (1628), Antigua (1632), Montserrat (1632), Anguilla (1650) and Tortola (1672). French colonisation too began on St. Kitts, the British and the French splitting the island amongst themselves in 1625.
It was used as a base to colonise the much larger Guadeloupe (1635) and Martinique (1635), St. Martin (1648), St Barts (1648), and St Croix (1650), but was lost completely to Britain in 1713. From Martinique the French colonised St. Lucia (1643), Grenada (1649), Dominica (1715), and St. Vincent (1719). The English admiral William Penn seized Jamaica in 1655 and it remained under British rule for over 300 years. Piracy in the Caribbean was widespread during the early colonial era, especially between 1640 and 1680. The term “buccaneer” is often used to describe a pirate operating in this region.
In 1625 French buccaneers established a settlement on Tortuga, just to the north of Hispaniola that the Spanish were never able to permanently destroy despite several attempts. The settlement on Tortuga was officially established in 1659 under the commission of King Louis XIV. In 1670 Cap FranA§ois (later Cap FranA§ais, now Cap-HaA?tien) was established on the mainland of Hispaniola. Under the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain officially ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France (Haggerty, 1989). The Dutch took over Saba, Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, CuraA§ao, Bonaire, Aruba, Tobago, St.
Croix, Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Anguilla and a short time Puerto Rico, together called the Dutch West Indies, in the seventeenth century. The Danish first ruled part, then all of the present U. S. Virgin Islands since 1672, selling sovereignty over these Danish West Indies in 1917 to the United States which still administers them. 2. 5 INDEPENDENCE OF THE CARIBBEAN Haiti, the former French colony of Saint-Dominique on Hispaniola, was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence from European powers in 1804.
This followed 13 years of warfare which commenced as a slave uprising in 1791 and quickly became the Haitian Revolution under the leadership of Toussaint l’Ouverture, where the former slaves defeated the French army (twice), the Spanish army, and the British army, before becoming the world’s first and oldest black republic, and also the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. This is additionally notable as being the only successful slave uprising in history. The remaining two-thirds of Hispaniola were conquered by Haitian forces in 1821.
In 1844, the newly formed Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti. The nations bordering the Caribbean in Central America gained independence with the 1821 establishment of the First Mexican Empire – which at that time included the modern states of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The nations bordering the Caribbean in South America also gained independence from Spain in 1821 with the establishment of Gran Colombia – which comprised the modern states of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama.
Cuba and Puerto Rico remained Spanish colonies until the Spanish American War in 1898, after which Cuba attained its independence in 1902, and Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States, being the last of the Greater Antilles under colonial control. Between 1958 and 1962 most of the British-controlled Caribbean was integrated as the new West Indies Federation in an attempt to create a single unified future independent state “ but it failed.
The following former British Caribbean island colonies achieved independence in their own right; Jamaica (1962), Trinidad & Tobago (1962), Barbados (1966), Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Dominica (1978), St. Lucia (1979), St. Vincent (1979), Antigua & Barbuda (1981), St. Kitts & Nevis (1983). In addition British Honduras in Central America became independent as Belize (1981), British Guiana in South America became independent as Guyana (1966), and Dutch Guiana also in South America became independent as Suriname (1975). 2. POST COLONIALISM IN THE WEST INDIES: POSTCOLONIAL MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT The migration of West Indies began in 1838 and the start of the full, legal emancipation of the slaves. The Caribbean, dominated by the labour demands of the plantation and the vagaries of the sugar economy, was characterized by poverty, under and unemployment. Migration represented one of the few avenues for social mobility. Although resisted by the planters, who feared a loss of labour, West Indies, were possible, migrated, primarily to other Caribbean territories.
In 1891, census for Trinidad recorded that in a population of 208,030, 33,071 were immigrants from the British West Indies (of whom 42% – 13,890 “ were from Barbados and a further 1,259 from ?foreign West Indies’). Many of the immigrants stayed permanently but many also travelled back and forth across the islands and the mainland in seasonable employment or, in the case of women, trafficked goods and produce between the islands and the mainland.
For the most part, destinations were limited but in 1904 the American-owned Isthmanian Canal Commission (ICC) re- opened the project to build the Panama Canal and began to recruit actively in the British West Indies. Between 1904 and 1914 between 42,000 to 60,000 Barbadians migrated to the Panama region, along with 91,000 Jamaicans and unknown numbers of migrants from the Eastern Caribbean. Once the floodgates were opened other destinations came on line. Many of those who migrated to Panama, re-migrated, to Costa Rica, to Cuba, to the Dominican Republic or to other destinations in the Caribbean.
Others went to South America to Peru, or Brazil or Venezuela. By 1933, the Colonial Office had estimated that approximately 10,000 British West Indians were resident in Venezuela, ?considerable numbers’ in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, approximately 600 in Brazil, between 300 and 400 in Haiti, between 8,000 and 10,000 in the Dominican Republic and, of the 90,000 ?negroes’ resident still in Panama, approximately 50% were considered of British West Indian, of mainly Jamaican or Barbadian origin. In Cuba, there were sufficient British West Indians to constitute ?a substantial problem. Above all, West Indians went to the United States, sending back remittances and goods, and whenever circumstances permitted, returning for longer, or shorter, periods. By 1890, there were already 19,979 foreign born black people in the United States, by far the majority of whom were West Indians, a figure which had risen to 73,808 by 1920 and 98,620 by 1930. Indeed, between 1899 and 1931, 107,892 Caribbean born people had immigrated to the United States, (where they made an important contribution to the Harlem Renaissance). From 1924, however, legislation effectively closed off the United States as a destination for West Indians.
By the start of the twentieth century it was possible to talk of traditions, if not cultures, of migration, characterized by what Elizabeth Thomas Hope usefully described as ?strategies of adjustment’ which reflected “the deeply rooted significance of migration to the society. ” Family structures, in particular, accommodated, encouraged and often depended on migration to the extent that migration itself , and the expectation to migrate had become not only a component of the culture of the island but, crucially, of the family itself.
Families assisted would be through raising funds for travel and through fostering their children; migrants, in turn, sent back money and goods for family support. In the ?host’ societies migrants ?received’ kin or friends, building up networks and neighbourhoods which often resembled in their demographic composition the villages ?back home’. Post-war migration to Europe must, therefore, be seen in the light of a long migratory history.
Between the wars there had been a small community of West Indians resident in Britain comprised mainly of students, intellectuals and radicals (George Padmore, C. L. R. James, Marcus Garvey were all resident in London, along with Dr. Harold Moody). Some West Indian seamen had also ended up residing in some of the port towns such as Cardiff and Liverpool. West Indians had volunteered for service in the First World War and, again, in the Second World War and, despite initial reluctance by the War Office, many had been posted in Britain and seen active duty.
The West Indies they returned to after the war was, however, as impoverished as when they left it, despite the efforts of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund set up, in the wake of the Moyne Commission (appointed to investigate the causes of the major riots in the 1930s) to improve conditions. In 1948, some of these former servicemen, along with other Jamaicans, decided to return to Britain either to re-enlist in the Royal Air Force, or to assist in the post-war reconstruction of Britain, and booked passages on the S. S. Windrush.
On 22 June 1948, 492 West Indians (mainly Jamaicans) disembarked in Tilbury (London) and were temporarily housed in a former air-raid shelter in Clapham, South London. The nearest employment exchange was in Brixton, and it was from there that they found work, and housing. West Indian migration to Britain was slow at first, but by the early 1950s was gathering momentum. The 1952 McArran-Walter Act in the United States once again cut off the United States as a migrant destination. This, coupled with increasing opportunities for employment in the United Kingdom, helped divert the migration flow to Britain.
The Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1961 which aimed to limit migrants from the ?new’ commonwealth, led to a surge in migration as West Indians attempted to enter Britain before the controls came into force. There was a similar surge before the 1965 Immigration Act. In 1965, however, the United States relaxed its restrictions on migration from the Caribbean and, along with Canada, North America returned on stream as the West Indian migrant destination of choice. The majority of Caribbean peoples who migrated to Britain arrived, therefore, between 1948 and 1965.
The first to arrive were Jamaicans, and they formed the majority of Caribbean migrants, (57 per cent in 1961), although in the 1950s sizeable numbers of Barbadians and Guianese arrived, along with smaller numbers from the Eastern Caribbean. Women migrated, along with men, and most were relatively young “ between eighteen and thirty years of age. Those with children chose, for the most part, to leave them initially with kin in the Caribbean, returning remittances to help support them and the wider family back home.
Most of those who came intended their stay to be temporary, and planned to return within three to five years. In 1961, the Caribbean born population was estimated at 172,877. By 1971, the Caribbean population was thought to beat 548,000. The rapid growth in the population was accounted for by their children born in Britain (an estimated 244,000) and those ?sent for’ to be reunited with a parent. The 2001 census revealed that the current ?black Caribbean’ population stands at 565, 876, of whom the vast majority (79%) have been born in the UK.
The declining numbers of those born in the Caribbean reflected the death and aging of its population but also, significantly, a trend to return to the West Indies. While the Caribbean population fell from 548,000 in 1971 to 495,000 in 1986, the Caribbean born population declined from 330,000 in 1966 to 230,000 in 1986, most of whom had returned to the West Indies. At the same time, the relatively small growth in the black Caribbean population has been more than matched by that of the mixed race population, who comprised approximately 677,117 of the UK population (1. per cent), of whom the majority were the children of white and Caribbean parentage. This basic data necessarily hides important aspects of West Indian migration and important characteristics of that migrant experience. That most of the early migrants assumed their stay would be temporary accorded with models of migration familiar to them. Many of the first generation were the grandchildren of Panama migrants, where the pattern of return or re-migration was well established.
Others had already migrated before, either to the United States as part of an agricultural quota in place during the wartime years, or to work on US bases or in the Dutch oil fields in the Caribbean. Many came with the ambition of seeing the ?Mother Country,’ as they had been taught to believe Great Britain represented. They arrived at a time when Britain itself was engaged in post- war reconstruction of its housing, industrial and transport infra-structure and building up the National Health Service. Britain needed labour.
Reluctant at first to encourage labour from the Commonwealth, Britain finally conceded and from the 1950s promoted herself as a source of employment, actively recruiting in certain key industries. The Barbados government also actively encouraged and facilitated its population to secure training and employment in Britain. What the migrants found in Britain was sharply at variance with what they had been led to expect. Far from welcoming the migrants, British society revealed itself to be racist and hypocritical.
West Indians found themselves discriminated against in employment, housing, leisure, education and in church. They were attacked by gangs of teddy boys and found a police force indifferent to their safety. Riots in Nottingham and in Notting Hill, London, in 1958 and a growing white resentment against West Indian migrants, and those from the Indian sub-continent, led to the passing of the Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1961, the attempt by the then Conservative government to restrict entry and appease popular opinion followed by further acts in 1965 and 1968.
In that year, the Conservative MP, Enoch Powell prophesised in a now notorious speech that should immigration continue, ?rivers of blood’ would flow through British cities. With access to housing, education and other public and private facilities characterised by prejudice (it was not uncommon for landlords to advertise ?No blacks. No Irish. No Dogs’ on their vacant properties), and with a public clamour against ?coloured’ immigrants, West Indians sought their own solutions. In the Caribbean, “meeting turns,” “sous-sous,” “partnering” were all names for the same simple credit circle.
Utilising these as a means of raising capital (no bank or building society was prepared to offer loans to West Indians), they bought properties in the inner cities, renting out rooms to other West Indians; they set up Saturday schools to make good the educational deficit which their children were experiencing; they established markets to import and sell their own food; they set up their own churches for worship along with a host of other self-help organisations and they established book shops and publishing houses.
They also lobbied hard against racial discrimination and in 1965 the first Race Relations Act was passed, followed by tougher legislation in 1968, and 1976. Above all, West Indians found solace in their families.
Although historically and contemporaneously vilified for their “dysfunctional” and “irregular” patterns (Caribbean families in the Caribbean and overseas have been, and remain, characterised by high levels of cohabitation, high levels of single parent mother headed households and relatively low levels of marriage), Caribbean families have emerged as enduring and inclusive institutions which provide robust support for kin and maintain contact across the generations and across the oceans.
Although the Caribbean community in Britain is now in its third and even fourth generations, the links with the Caribbean remain vibrant, even for those of mixed-race ethnicity who more often self-identify as “Black British. ” The trend to return has renewed links with the Caribbean for a new generation, while many British born West Indians are themselves now “returning” to live in the Caribbean. Yet the legacy of early West Indian experience in Britain lingers.
While discrimination is illegal, there are real issues of social exclusion. Second generation African-Caribbeans are more likely to suffer from mental illness; black and mixed race children are more like to be taken into local authority care, and for longer periods than their white counterparts, and black British nationals accounted for eleven per cent of the sentenced population in prison (by far the largest ethnic minority) and thirteen per cent of the remand population.
In terms of education, African-Caribbean boys, particularly, are failing to achieve minimum education targets, the result partly of ?low teacher expectations ¦ and] inadequate levels of positive teacher attention, unfair behaviour management practices, disproportionately high levels of exclusion and an inappropriate curriculum. ‘
The 1999 Macpherson Report (which detailed the failures of the Metropolitan Police in their investigation into the murder of the young Jamaican heritage student, Stephen Lawrence) identified what it termed ?institutional racism’ which, it claimed, permeated London’s Metropolitan Police Service and inhibited the delivery of a fair and equitable service. Certainly, discrimination and racism were one of the central causes of schizophrenia identified by Dinesh Bhugra, and may well be a factor in explaining the alienation of some black youth and the appeal of violent gang culture with its allure of masculinity, status and drugs.
The issues of social exclusion should not crowd out the contributions which Caribbean migrants have given to Britain and to the Caribbean. They were critical to the post-war reconstruction of Britain and in the development of the National Health Service. They have achieved important distinctions in a range of arenas: central government (the current Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, is a migrant from St. Kitts, and there are many West Indians who sit in both Houses of Parliament), local government, in the judiciary, in professions and businesses, as well as in sports, music and the arts.
Moreover, given that West Indians have the largest number of exogamous partnerships of all ethnic minorities, they may be seen to be integrated. The Caribbean orientation of many migrants and their families has had important repercussions for the region. The return of many African Caribbeans has led to relatively high levels of investment in the Caribbean in terms of home ownership, pensions and remittances. Here, the link between diaspora and development is well documented.
Despite the impoverished state which the Caribbean inherited at independence from the British, and the centuries of neglect and abuse which preceded it, the role of migrants in theirs and our development is critical. That the region has produced, in a short period, several Nobel Prize winners, and has continued to enrich the culture of Britain (and the world) through its literature, music and carnival and its values, tolerance and industry is a cause for celebration. 2. 7 POSTCOLONIAL DILEMMA OF THE CARIBBEAN REGION
Today, the postcolonial Caribbean is face to face with such great problems as mentioned above. The Caribbean is “a place with no stable cultural origin ?. Considering this fact, it will not be wrong to argue that West Indians have 8 fragmented postcolonial identities. As Samad points out, the West Indian whose self is a “heterogeneous entity ? has been acting the role given to him/her by “other ?cultures,’ ? and the West Indian has accepted the role “uncritically ?. The new role that the West Indian has assumed is nothing more than a “mimic man”? (Samad 227).
It is this mimicry that makes the West Indian identity “neither one nor the other, but a distinctive fusion of the two?. The fusion of different cultures creates confused minds. About this, Bongie points out that the island can be thought to be “a fragment, ? a non-completed “ex-isle, a loss of the particular ?; hence, the island is the metaphor of an identity “in exile ? and the place of “a double identity ? (Bongie, 1998). It is this legacy of British colonialism that causes the contemporary identity problems in the West Indies.
The exile feels as if he/she belongs to nowhere, as if he/she is a stranger to his/her own country as well as to other people. In the 1950s and 60s, as the “islands prepared for and moved into independence, so too did the calls for an indigenous Caribbean theatre, free from the taint of colonial influences ?. It is obvious that even after gaining their independence, the West Indians of different national and racial origins continued to be influenced by European values and characteristics. The poet and playwright Derek Walcott from Trinidad, in St.
Lucia has become a great literary figure among postcolonial writers. Walcott’s literary work gives us a foretaste of the making of contemporary Caribbean identities, and critical analysis of his writings might help in understanding the struggles in identity-making in a context of a colonial legacy of global socio-economic and political inequalities. Delving into Nobel Prize laureate Derek Walcott’s plays is a dive in the depths of the Caribbean past, present, and futures. Walcott explores in his writing the dilemmas of identity-making in the colonial and postcolonial Caribbean.
Saint-Lucia, a Caribbean island has faced several centuries of colonialism under French and British control and achieves its independence in 1979. The intricate relationships between the colonized and the colonizer and the ways in which the Caribbean is gashed between different places and loyalties are central themes of Walcott’s writing. His works include the Homeric epic poem, Omeros (1990), which many critics view “as Walcott’s major achievement. He has published more than twenty plays, the majority of which have been produced by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and have also been widely staged elsewhere.
Many of them address, either directly or indirectly, the liminal status of the West Indies in the postcolonial period. 2. 8 THE WEST INDIES IN POSTCOLONIAL LITERATURES Western colonization was built upon binary oppositions such as “the colonizer and the colonized, the Occident and the Orient, the civilized and the primitive, the scientific and the superstitious, the developed and the underdeveloped ?. That is to say, the line between the colonizer and the colonized was drawn clearly with many adjectives and stereotyping by the Western world and the colonized were put into a “subaltern ? position, i. . subordinate and inferior. This hierarchical order was created, so as to put Westerners at the top of the colonized, to separate the two culturally different groups as the colonizer and the colonized. (Prakash; 1994).
However, after World War II ended and many colonies became independent, art, literatures and cultures of the indigenous people flourished ; colonial cultures and characteristics mixed with indigenous traditions, myths, and more, ? in the end, giving way to a new type of work, which is called “the postcolonial text. In postcolonial writing, the experience of the once colonized is told again from the point of view of the once colonized “Third World ? people (Mohanram, 1996). As Young notes, postcolonial cultural critique re-examines the colonial history from the “perspectives ? of the ones who experienced its impact and its important role in contemporary social and cultural areas. Postcolonial criticism studies this colonial history that defines the present condition of the postcolonial countries, and postcolonial writers rewrite their own histories.
For example, in Orientalism (1978), Said, like many other postcolonial writers, discusses the condition of “the Oriental ? confronting the West and argues that because of the European colonial discourse, people who were once colonized are still in the margins. He writes: “such locales, regions, geographical sectors as “Orient” and “Occident” are man-made ?. In other words, in order to define the differences between the “East ? and the “West ? more clearly, Westerners created the “Oriental”? as “the other. ” ? Said also emphasizes that Europeans maintain the idea that “the Orient existed for the West. ? Postcolonial theory deals with “doubleness ? in terms of identity and culture, which, as a problematic legacy of colonialism, affects postcolonial peoples. In this diversity and hybridity, the colonized have lost their original selves.
The present condition of the once colonized is nothing more than a fragmented state, which comes to mean that the indigenous people are devoid of a unified self. They do not know exactly who they are and where they belong because they show the characteristics of both their own culture and the western culture. This is what Bhabha (1995) calls the: hird space, the in-between ? where we will find those words with which we can speak of ourselves and others. And by exploring this hybridity, this ?Third Space’, we may elude the politics of polarity. (206) Bhabha in his assertion draws our attention to the idea of the ?in-between space’ which serves as the borderline between the ?double selves’ as far as culture and identity are concerned. It therefore follows that those once colonized are multicultural people, and colonized cultures cannot be considered “pure ?; rather than pure, they are heterogeneous cultures.
Colonialism, even though it is said to have ended, has left its traces in the postcolonial age making the colonized cultures a mixture of Western and indigenous qualities (Brydon, Diana, and Tiffin: 1993). To sum it up, colonialism in the Caribbean has affected the social and cultural realities of the people of that region such that in their attempt to define their present, they can hardly escape their history and their past. This history, one characterized by slavery, is what has shaped the experiences of the Caribbean people living in the region today.

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