I is a long marooned man

Amon Saba Saakana:
Amon Saba Saakana: "My own work as a writer started with the first book on Jamaican popular music, Jah Music, published by Heinemann in 1980 and was later translated into French as Les Racines du Reggae." - BC Pires


My name is Amon Saba Saakana and I’ve been marooned in Barbados since January 10.

To get back home to Trinidad, I need an exemption from the Ministry of National Security. I’ve been assigned an automated number but complete deafness seems to have fallen upon the ministry.

I was born in St James to a Grenadian father and Guyana-born mother, whose grandparents had migrated from Barbados in the 1890s. They had three children, all born in Trinidad.

My wife, the lovely Grenadian-born Seheri, told me, when she was 21, that when I was ready to buy a house, she would put up half the deposit and half the furnishings cost.

In 1987, we moved to our large, semi-detached, four-bedroom house with two living rooms.

We are still resident in the same house after 33 years.

My father never went to a church while I was a boy in Trinidad and I have no concrete memories of my mother attending either.

But we all went to Sunday school.

The crazy Old Testament violence turned me off. So I stopped going to church at 11 (but) I was unconsciously brought up with moral behaviour.

Neither of our parents ever told each of the seven children what they wanted us to be. Whatever profession (we) chose, they supported it. Tony, the footballer, headed a refrigeration engineer floor at 19! Barry worked for the Registrar of Births and Deaths. Ann-Marie became a hotel director, Brian, a clothes designer. Beryl worked as a nanny. My elder brother Brent and I chose to be as independent as our Cocorite-based maternal grand-uncle and aunt, who were proudly never employed by anybody.

As a boy I attended St Agnes’ EC, where I was known to be always in fights.

Where we moved to Kandahar (Upper Bombay Street), a retired civil servant, Mr Birkett, lived opposite, a kind and respectable man who wrote poetry. I too, perhaps inspired by him, took up writing poetry.

Two of our friends, the Bajan Coxes, and my brother Brent, sat atop the hill overlooking the sea and painted what they saw. Our neighbour Roy Small wrote journalistic articles that were never published.

But this artistic environment had a lot to do with my writing career five years later.

Amon Saba Saakana says he has been marooned in Barbados since January 10. That situation is affecting his schedule for publishing his books. - BC Pires

I was hooked on reading at the St James Library on Western Main Road during school lunch time. The librarian would say, “You again!”

I was prepared to take my licks from Mr Wong, our principal, for (going back to school late).

It was here I read James Baldwin at age 14 and had the pleasure of meeting him in London at age 19.

My father and mother migrated to Britain in 1964.

The family carried on as though our parents were with us. Not a complaint from any neighbours.

My eldest sister Beryl, 18, did the household duties while the boys washed dishes, swept the yard and took the rubbish to the dump.

We left for London nine months after my parents.

When the Italian ship stopped at Tenerife, many of the (Trinidadian) males (aboard) wanted, like Sparrow, to taste white meat. We boys chose not to go.

The boat having docked in Genoa, we travelled overland by train through France and were met by our parents in London. Being an independent family and socially libertarian, there was no undue expression of reuniting. We were just happy to be together again.

My sister hated England and cried every day.

I got a job as an apprentice printer with my aunt's husband, who was a foreman.

My father, mother, brother and sister all worked at a factory producing fluorescent bulbs.

After three years (in various jobs), my last as a well-paid postman, I worked as a self-taught freelance journalist, publishing mainly on music for every major music paper in the UK. I wrote the second feature article written on Bob Marley in 1972 in the New Musical Express.

In 1970, (after) a one-year course in screen and playwriting, I wrote the scenario and conducted 50 per cent of the interviews for Reggae, the first documentary on black music in Britain, broadcast by BBC TV in 1970, directed by Trinidadian Horace Ove, who acted like a big, inspiring brother to me since I was 18.

As I started writing professionally at 19, I had the good fortune to meet CLR James in his London flat.

We discussed writing and music but never politics.

When I loaned him a book he would write comments in pencil all over the book.

I also visited (famed Barbadian writer) George Lamming. After I published my book The Colonial Legacy in Caribbean Literature, where I gave him a mild critique, he always pretended not to see me.

At Mountview Theatre School, a young English chap resonated with me on two things: one, he thought our tutor was a failed hack; and two, we both wrote poetry. He introduced me to French symbolist poet Jean Arthur Rimbaud whose stylistic flourishes had an influence on my early work.

One of my early girlfriends, an English hippy, radical philosophy student dropout, introduced me to the radical tradition in European thought, (triggering) my imagination to excavate the radical tradition in African philosophy, which precipitated immense dividends.

Neither of these two early friends I stayed in contact with.

I founded Caribbean Cultural International in 1975 (which became) Karnak House, at first specialising in poetry, winning the Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Guyanese Grace Nichols' I is a Long-Memoried Woman.

My own work as a writer started with the first book on Jamaican popular music, Jah Music, published by Heinemann in 1980 and later translated into French as Les Racines du Reggae.

(Trinidadian writer) Eintou Springer in London (was) a cultural torch for my Trinidad return in 1999.

She was the first person to visit the land I bought in 2001 in rural Caura. I started building slowly in 2002 and moved to Trinidad 13 years ago.

The longer I remain in Barbados the more troublesome my schedule for publishing eight books, seven already at the printer, becomes.

I am being constantly harassed by people anxious to purchase and am trying the patience of my USA and UK distributors.

I have had three PCR negative results in five weeks in Barbados. Only the exemption from the TT Ministry of National Security (prevents me from getting home). You cannot purchase a ticket unless you get the exemption.

Imagine you have a Trinidadian birth certificate and passport and you are being prevented from entering your own country, the only country in the world that has this rule. Racist and former slave and plantation owners, Europe, does not have this dastard policy apparently) designed to keep out nationals!

Most countries for me are lonely places.

I take my family's love as an undying unending embrace. I receive daily phone calls, and under the money-generating scamdemic, people all over are frightened to be in your presence.

Three people took me on guided tours of historic African sites as well as their personal enviously scenic mountain resort.

I find solace in my daily four-mile run on Browne's Beach, where I was befriended by several down-and-outs, who often give me roasted breadfruit and fresh young coconuts, as well as large doses of personal biographies!

A Trinidadian is a very creative and inventive individual. Whose promise is usually fulfilled abroad with few exceptions.

The Trinidad I returned to was self-centred, individualistic and very self-laudatory. I echo the kaisonian who sang, "Bring back the good ole days!”

Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com



"I is a long marooned man"

More in this section