The strength of a mother

Dara E Healy -
Dara E Healy -

Culture Matters


Never treat your mother bad, never make her sad

Make your mother happy and glad, she'll never wish you bad

– Sundar Popo

If you are lucky and you still have your mummy

Remember what Sparrow say

Forget them jagabats and all them jezebel

And make sure your mummy okay

– Mighty Sparrow

IN FULFILMENT of our ancient rituals, we may offer molasses and beautiful flowers to Yemoja, the ocean goddess, also honoured as mother to the Orisas. Or, we may sing praises to Ganga Mai, sacred waters which provide life, protect our loved ones and serve as a source of spiritual comfort. Across the ancient world from the Egyptians to the Maya and the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, the word mother is a powerful one. Certainly, among the indigenous communities in TT, we know that women hold an honoured place, given the respect paid to the position of queen in both the Nepuyo and Warao communities.

Tomorrow we celebrate mothers. Amidst the turmoil of our world we have an opportunity to pause for a brief moment and reflect on the significance of this day. In the Caribbean, many of our communities rely on matriarchal and extended families. Well documented by our novelists and playwrights in works such as VS Naipaul’s House for Mr Biswas, Crick Crack Monkey by Merle Hodge or In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming, though they are not perfect, women and mothers are a source of knowledge and wisdom.

Calypsonians also pay homage to mothers. Proverbs, Mighty Bomber’s brilliantly hilarious piece, explores the wisdom of his grandmother who shared her knowledge through local sayings, only to be misunderstood by Bomber when he attempts to follow her advice. In the song, according to the wisdom of his great-great-grandmother, he should have faith because “Good things does come to those who wait.” Unfortunately, after making a date with a nice lady to meet at the Strand, eventually, “…she and she sweet

man walk up to me/She say, Bomber, my dear, I am so sorry/She man pull out a bullpistle/Tell me, ‘Run fast!’/After waiting so long, I get a good cut ar–.”

In the world of calypso, the power and significance of the mother are well recognised. I was surprised to find there are several songs called A Mother’s Love. In his version, Mighty Sparrow pours scorn on sons who disrespect their mothers, insisting that mothers should be celebrated every day. He warns, “You treated her crude and for your ingratitude/Someday you will have to pay/Because retribution meets every man/Who treats his mammy that way.”

Mighty Destroyer also makes it clear that vengeance will come from the very heavens against people who ill-treat their mother. “Children your mother you must consider/Try and be moderate in your behaviour/You must be loving and generous/And your days will be prosperous/…Don’t give her any back chat or insolence/Boy you would be punished by the omnipotent.”

The Mother’s Day that we commemorate in May was started in the United States in the early 1900s. It was meant to honour the work of women and mothers in keeping families together and to help women achieve better maternal health. Eventually, Ann Jarvis, the woman who fought so hard for this day, lobbied to stop it due to extreme commercialisation of the celebration.

It is not difficult to understand her disappointment. In many ways, women and mothers continue to struggle. As far back as the 1940s, Lord Invader in Rum and Coca-Cola commented on the social challenges faced by “mothers and daughters working for the Yankee dollar.” By the 1970s, women calypsonians began to speak out about female freedom. Singing Francine sent a message to women that “you could run away too,” and later, Calypso Rose embodied that sense of independence with Leave Me Alone.

In 2022, the celebration of Mother’s Day is tinged by increasing family violence, trafficking and exploitation of women and girls. This is exacerbated by persistent inequities in vulnerable communities, which often impact women more severely. Mighty Destroyer referred to mothers as “the master key of this world” because they hold the answers to our survival.

In our ancient traditions we recognise the value of Mother Earth, Ma Ile or Prithvi Mata. We understand now that ill-treating her will end in catastrophe for us all. Similarly, this Mother’s Day, let us remember the value of our mothers. Pour libations and make offerings for their sacrifices, their lives and their love. Give thanks for mothers and aunties and grandmothers. Give thanks.

Dara E Healy is a performance artist and founder of the Indigenous Creative Arts Network – ICAN


"The strength of a mother"

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