Anansi, Papa Bois and Hyarima
HELEN DRAYTON Sunday, September 2 2012
After the gifts given to us by the Olympic team and jubilee tributes to some of the many outstanding citizens, it is time to celebrate some other famous folks.
We are still in the rainy season, but the weather is not of the typical kind, and could be described as a Trini Convergent Zone. It is a zone where stupidity, ineptitude, inspirational moments, progress, regress and entertaining bacchanal all converge. Almost on a daily basis, and without missing a beat, there’s a new act. The actors swing from jaw dropping episodes to circus antics. Some scenes make excellent comedy, some are confusing, some are worrisome and yet others are just pathetic.
Wait! Think about the trickster, folklore character named Anansi Krokoko – that cunning, quick- witted personality who attempts to dupe people by crafting one scheme after another. Anansi transforms from Spiderman to Superman, to mogul who reincarnates to a humble church mouse, then becomes the prince of peace who commands the moral high ground.
Let not Anansi lull us into a false sense of security in this place that Hyarima and his sons defended to their deaths. This beautiful place where La Diablesse - ah, that devil woman with her zepingue tremblant (trembling pins of gold), who changes her persona to lure people into her trap. Don’t forget Mama Dglo – mother of the water, then there is the Soucouyant – a ball of flame in the wind, and de Ligahoo who trades bush rum and is protected by a giant phantom. All those folksy characters are more active than ever before.
As for Papa Bois, guardian of the forest, he’s angry. We hear his voice. It is the sonorous boom of thunder. He orders the lightning and heavy rains. He is vex about destruction of mountains, and clogged up rivers. Papa Bois said to Hyarima, “For each piece of the ocean taken away, each turtle killed, each tree chopped down, each square feet of agricultural lands turned into concrete foliage, each mountain deforested, and each coconut tree felled for sea fronts of brick and glass, I will cause floods and landslides to bury homes and kill people.”
Hyarima, the Nepuypo of the Carinepogo - Chief of the Caribs. In 1962, his spirit had flown to his beloved land. He had seen when crowned heads bowed to destiny, and birds flew in winged rhythm to Woodford Square: The grackles danced on wires, wattled jacanas wing-waved, brown doves cooed in celebration, mocking birds laughed, colonial warblers chimed warnings, and king corbeaux in gossamer veils gasped.
Into the arms of a great warrior, with dark glasses the colonial masters laid the sceptre, and the flag of Independence fluttered in colours that represented earth, wind and fire – strength and vitality, energy, the sea and purity of aspirations. The inheritors carved new tracks, sowed kernels of promise, and the new nation prospered in the shadow of strained antecedents and tribalism.
On the fiftieth anniversary of Independence, Hyarima returned to take a sip of wine from the chalice that stands on the altar of Laventille Hill, where blood flows from children. He asked his god Tamosi to have mercy on those young ones dragged to the underworld.
He hears the midnight robbers along the corridor mocking pretenders who are killing the people’s dream to rise to the heights of El Tucuche. He sees the sewage that seeps through cracks in the ceiling, so he knows who brings in guns, and who raids the treasury.
Hyarima knows the true believers in his land – citizens who understand the sacrosanctity of their national flag – a symbol of pride, and unity. He winces at the many mutilated ones flying high this Independence and knows these disasters are the folksy characters’ continued mischief.
Now, from his seat on El Tucuche, he looks at the people with love. He laughs when they ramajay, and he smiles at the rhythmic contradictions – celebrations of true excellence … and mediocre excellence. He loves the way they mamaguy and pretend not to see through Anansi’s smoke screens. Hyarima bows his head in sadness when the status of indigenous innovation — Spree’s captivating steelpan, is relegated to standard fare.
He loves the people’s spirit of freedom, which reminds him of a time when he and his sons hunted freely lappe and agouti, and danced the spear in honour of their god. He reflected on the profuse beauty of the twin islands, the warmth of the fun-loving people, and their abundant talents and creativity that will manifest in greater achievements.
He admired their panache, and tenacity. He thought about the many admirable accomplishments since his day. He heard the poets, storytellers, and scintillating sounds of steel. He heard the sweet voices of children singing the national anthem. Hyarima saw hope, and said to Tamosi, “If only I could come back to this life what would I do for them.”