Culture is complex and often full of contradiction…
Days before I was asked to make remarks in support of Gene Carson’s Landship Dance Technique presented to an audience of dance colleagues, friends and supporters at the Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre Auditorium on Saturday November 12, 2016, I saw a video clip of a controversial street sensation, ‘Bashment Landship’, as it was performed by a group of young adult Barbadians. (See link below.) On the surface, there seemed that an ‘anti-mony’ (a clash between cultures with no resolution in sight) was created (Cooper). A street performance, with its sexually suggestive and highly controversial rendering of “Man Overboard”, seemed to invoke descriptions often used to separate ‘C’ulture and ‘c’ulture (Williams). However, beyond these binaries/boundaries, what else could be happening here? What would be the appeal in this controversial interpretation of a struggling Barbadian indigenous cultural form?
I propose that perceptions about wukking up and Bashment Landship may be reflections of the ways various sectors of society engage information about Afrocentric indigenous Barbadian cultural forms in the contemporary. Both deserve reflection, as such occurrences seem to resonate with a “bubbling in the underbelly” (Hunte). It seems to be moving towards a “unity is submarine”, a unity that may be finding its way to the surface of how Barbadians imagine, produce and consume identity, if we take Kamau’s theory concept of creolization seriously. (Brathwaite).
Even as the Barbados Landship moves toward 156 years as an officially established indigenous cultural icon, Bashment Landship, in the flow of fluid and changing dynamics that characterizes culture, deserves some consideration. A significant aspect of Bashment Landship, the sexual suggestive interpretation of “Man Overboard”, complete with the Nurse reviving her captain by doing ‘wangolo’ over his face to revive his from his ‘comatose’ state, has become a contentious issue.
Beyond the ‘bashment’, I invite critical dialogue. Beyond the moral code, what else might be taking place?
I perceive narratives of the path of life, the crossing into death, travelling over the body and the resurrection of rebirth using the female energy. These rituals resonate with other events and tales found in other African, creolized and indigenous cultures throughout the Caribbean. During a visit to Haiti in 2015, I witnessed the symbolic limbo or passing over the body of a fallen male character by a female dancer as symbolic of his resurrection. Subject to more research, these concepts reflect narratives that occur during death rituals in the vodun faith.
Has blurring the constructs of ‘sacred’, ‘secular’ and ‘profane’ revealed images and memories to shore up narratives that predate Columbus and Christianity in the Caribbean? Do we dare deconstruct our biases, face our discomfort and remove the colonial shackles from our consciousness? Do we dare to accept that other ways of being and knowing may have always been here in our grasp, just beyond our conditioning? Something to think about.
Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte.