Hopscotch—Spotlight on Dominica’s Youth

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Hopscotch-Ophelia Olivacce’-Marie-Author

When Ophelia Olivacce’-Marie—Lady O, as I affectionately refer to her—reached out to me for some guidance about publishing a book, I did not have to think twice about helping her. Ophelia and I go back a long way; first when she was a teacher at the Convent High School, then as a co-worker at the Youth Development Division and co-producer of the Youth Radio Program, Search (the forerunner to Youth Vibes)- and then as a friend.

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Marcia Baptiste-Miss Dominica 2010

I know Ophelia as a singer—La Grande Dame de Chanson de la Caribe—not as a writer, but I did not think about questioning her. I believed, with her experience and knowledge, she was quite capable of writing on anything she wanted. She is smart, quick witted and very friendly and outgoing and I was sure she was capable of writing a book.

However, after reading through Hopscotch, I believe my perception was right. I read the book within a day because I was very enthralled by the profiles of the fifty young persons she highlighted. I wanted to stay in the moment, so to speak. It was very refreshing reading about what these young people have achieved through hard work, dedication, love of community and love of country. These are the people who will one day be our cultural, artistic, social, religious and political leaders and yes, there are many more, but these  in some way, have stood out and Ophelia has been impressed with what they’ve been doing.

Hopscotch is a refreshing look at what young Dominicans have been able to achieve in various aspects of life and with various challenges. It is a heartwarming collection of perseverance, faith, personal sacrifice, imagination and dedication of young people who each represent a number of young people like themselves, throughout Dominica. Yet, as young people they will need our guidance and role models and what better person to start with than others like themselves and undoubtedly, also Ophelia; a community minded individual. A national icon-I dare say who has been at the front, leading in all that’s good for this country from the time she’s been singing.

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Ian “Linton” St. Louis

It is said so many times that we highlight the bad sides of our youth, and yes it does happen, but I must give all the kudos to Ophelia for going out there and bringing the stories of young people to the fore; telling their story; sharing their hopes and dreams and aspirations; their highs and lows; their faith in what is good. Hopscotch is a symbol of hope for Dominica.

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Karessa-2015 Calypso King

As I read the book it brought back my own cry for something to be done about preserving the memory of those who have made sacrifices to elevate the cultural heritage of this country in all aspects. I would again like to see the responsible parties take the initiative and allow our famed historian, Dr. Lenox Honychurch to write a book for use in all our schools detailing the activities of some of the people that these young entrepreneurs; the young artistes and future leaders have noted as being their “heroes:” The people who helped lay the groundwork for them and assisted them along the way.

I thank and applaud Ophelia for taking that step in regard to our youth. She has done a splendid job and though I am sure that there are others just like those she profiled, it is a testimony of what our young people can achieve with guidance, faith in themselves and their abilities and the confidence to do the things they want. I hope the authorities will follow her lead and do the same for the elders who have blazed the trail for our young, dedicated and patriotic Dominicans.

Well done Lady-O.

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The Need for a National Arts Center in Dominica

There has been the suggestion, by a few individuals, about the establishment of what in effect would be a National Arts Center in Dominica. I, too, would like to lend my voice to the establishment of such an institution in Dominica. It would be a center, where the work of national artistes, could be displayed and viewed by nationals, as well as tourists to Dominica. It would be a place where school children could visit and learn to appreciate, from an early age, the work of our local artistic “masters.”

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Old Mill Cultural Center

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Roseau Public Library

I am aware that we have the museum on the bay front (the Old Post Office building) in Roseau; the Old Mill Cultural Center in Canefield, and the Arawak House of Culture in Roseau. However, what I am referring to would be a building that would encompass all the art forms in one central location and where the work of our artistes can be shown on  screens, in videos, or performed or read at certain periods.

We have seen and heard of notable artistes throughout the years, but sadly their legacies have disappeared and in some cases we are at a loss to identify or name the ones who paved the way for our dancers, painters, playwrights: people like Darius David, Mabel-Cissy Cauderion, Jean Lawrence, Lord Tokyo, Lord Solo, and Gaylords, to name a few.

Our artistic creativity, in all forms, is unique. Some may say that painters and writers do not have a unique craft, but the topics and the scenes that they paint or which inspire their craft, are quite different from what are present in many others countries. Our music and dance and speech are indeed unique.

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The Museum on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard

We have seen many artistes of promise blossom before our very eyes: Alex Bruno, Earl Ettiene, Steve Hyacinth, Arnold Toulon, Alick Lazare, Glenford John, Dave Wilson, Ophelia Olivacce’-Marie, Gramacks and the list goes on and on, but we need to have a facility where we can proudly present and conserve the work of those talented individuals and groups as a united body, not as individual artistes lost in the art doldrums of Dominica. Maybe that would be a way for all of our artistes to put their heads together and use all available resources that would help improve the standard of their work.

I recently read a post on Facebook by a fellow artiste; a very talented one at that too; about the fear of us losing one of our musical creations – bouyon music – and we know this is a possibility. But what steps do we take or have taken to preserve our own from being copied, modified or pirated? Is there a real national front present to help preserve all our art forms?

We have to get away from the sometimish attitude: local calypsos during carnival season and then packed away to collect dust till the next year while we give airplay to calypsos from other islands; local folk songs and poetry and dance during the period leading up to and during independence celebrations; and plays, just every now and then. It is time we create a culture of oneness.

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Dominica’s Lady of Song-Ophelia

Some may argue; Why waste money on arts? But our artistic talents and uniqueness identify us as a people. They are what we are…from the Kalinago weaving their craft to a fisherman making fish pots, to the quadrille group from Paix Bouche gracefully performing their pieces; this is our artistic make-up or DNA, if I may say so. Many countries have gone to lengths to preserve theirs and I don’t need to spell it out; but is there anything wrong if we do this for ours?

We have made some mistakes in terms of preserving and saving some of our cultural heritage; our symbols and our language and we must not allow this to happen again. The staging of the WCMF (though not fully of Dominican participation) has placed us in the musical limelight. The establishment of the Literary Arts Festival is another superb creation that can only continue to grow and become a really national event. Some of the greatest Caribbean authors are now gracing our shores with their presence and we have shown that we are able to hold our own within the sphere of Caribbean Literature.

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Dr. Lennox Honychurch

I also believe that our radio stations and television stations should devote more programming time to sensitizing Dominicans about the work of their own, rather than the imported American programs. Spend more time letting the people of the island appreciate what is theirs rather than spending so much time and money on programs that create divisiveness, anger and poor national morale. Our cultural and artistic development, are dependent on many aspects and they all need to be highlighted to allow our people to have the greatest appreciation for what is ours, year-round.

In the event that we do see the construction of a new building to replace the existing Roseau Public Library, one which is now long overdue, this may be one aspect that can be incorporated into the layout and functions of that building. One that may well complement what the library should be all about.

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Dr. Alwin Bully

The accolades that have been bestowed on Drs. Lennox Honychurch and Alwin Bully, protectors and promoters of our creativity, speak volumes, and in their own humble way, these two talented sons of the soil, have etched the written and spoken words in our minds — I dare say, hopefully, for a long time to come. Yet, wouldn’t it be nice if we could see Streak or Nite Box shown on national TV or videos highlighting the plays? These plays were performed at very special times in our history, but where are they in terms of being regarded as such? What about listening to recorded pieces by Dr. Honychurch about the island’s history and about its people? Or  maybe a tape recording of Lawrence Brumant narrating some of his contes?

Creating an institution that can keep the works of the artistes of this land alive for generations to come is, in my opinion, dearly needed. We need to give our artistes the incentive to want to continue painting, writing, performing and narrating their stories; not only in February-March or October and November, but year round. In this way we can give the young ones the belief that they too can step in and fall in line or stand side by side with our artistic and cultural heroes and we can have the belief that when we decide to “hang our boots” there will be capable artistes filling our spots.

I hope that this can be a reality some day in Dominica. There are and will be obstacles but if we are determined and focused, I believe we can achieve such a goal. Time will tell, though!