Sculptor Roger Burnett Creates Amazing ‘Works from Life’ in his Studio/Gallery in Dominica!

The Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio is located on the edge of the rainforest , off of the Imperial Road near Springfield, Dominica.

The Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio is located on the edge of the rainforest , just off of the Imperial Road below Springfield, Dominica.

On a steamy Sunday afternoon during Dominica’s dry season, Jenny and I headed to the mountains for a little

Sculptor/Painter Roger Burnett latest exhibition is entitled 'Working from Life', and he creates what he says!

Sculptor/Painter Roger Burnett’s latest exhibition is entitled ‘Working from Life’, and he creates what he says!

change of scenery.  But this time, we did not don our hiking boots.  Instead, we walked down a shady lane on the edge of the rainforest to spend some time appreciating the eclectic art works  in the gallery of renowned sculptor, Roger Burnett.

While I had visited Roger’s gallery several years ago, I was eager to refresh my memory  about his past works and see what he had created in the mean time.  Jenny, a volunteer with Dominica’s Mountain Chicken Frog Project is an art aficionada as well, and it was actually she who expressed initial interest in viewing the Sculpture Studio.  When Roger recently distributed a flyer announcing his exhibition of “50 years of capturing Caribbean people and places” in over 150  paintings, sketches and sculptures, I immediately decided that I couldn’t wait a moment longer to pay him a visit!

It's a pretty walk down a short lane  from the Imperial Road to the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio. You can drive in and park beside it, if you like.

It’s a pretty walk down a short lane from the Imperial Road to the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio. You can drive in and park beside it, if you like.

I had called ahead and booked our appointment, so that when we promptly arrived at 2 p.m., Roger was there to greet us at the door.  We didn’t even have to ring the bell!  The first thing that struck me as he took us through the breeze-way on the way to the gallery, was his effervescent and passionate enthusiasm about art and creating it from  real life.  His zest for his work infected us with an immediate admiration for this profound devotion to his craft.  We were instantly transfixed with Roger’s spellbinding stories about how his creations came into being.  I kept telling him that I wished I had brought my voice recorder – to which he replied that probably would have reduced his spontaneity!

Roger Burnett enthralls Jenny with one his stories about creating art from life.

Roger Burnett enthralled Jenny with one his stories about creating art from life.

However, I did tell him I would be writing a blog post about my visit with him and his studio.  That is when he clearly informed me that he had difficulty with the word ‘blog’, and instead referred to such personal writings as a ‘diary’.  I certainly respect his opinion, and I guess I could use the two words interchangeably, in my case.  But if you’d like to take a look at Roger’s  personal writings, which disclose considerable background about his fascinating  life, as well as details about his art, you must click right here.

The lively septuagenarian told us that he was, at that time, more occupied with the mechanical side of his artistic capabilities.When it came to be known in Dominica that he could repair different kinds of machines, he was highly sought after for that additional talent.  He comes by that aptitude honestly, as he began his career in engineering design, which then naturally morphed into artistic design.

Roger's popular books of his Caribbean art work have been reprinted.  He was also featured in the August 2011 issue of Maco, a glossy Caribbean magazine

Roger’s popular books of his Caribbean art work have been reprinted. He was also featured in the August 2011 issue of Maco, a glossy Caribbean magazine.

Roger and his wife Denise, who is originally from Grenada, relocated to Dominica from England about 10 years ago. The British expatriate had spent

Roger's Sculpture Studio displays his amazing creations, each of which has a story attached to it!

Roger’s Sculpture Studio displays his amazing creations, each of which has a story attached to it!

considerable time in the Caribbean over a span of 50 years, and had always been captivated by the beauty of the West Indies and its people.  Therefore, he commenced expressing his love for these tropical countries at a young age through his creative abilities.  Unsurprisingly, his closest companion, Denise has  often been  the subject of his sculptures and paintings. As well, he has sculpted from other life models, both in Dominica and the U.K. For Roger, it’s got to be the real thing.  No imitations, such as photos, for his creations!

This 'Daughter of the Caribbean Sun' sculpture, which overlooks teh gardens at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio features someone with whom Roger is well acquainted!

This ‘Daughter of the Caribbean Sun’ sculpture, which overlooks the gardens at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio features someone with whom Roger is well acquainted!

As I studied the busts and bodies of those who had ‘modeled’ for him, I gained further insight into the beauty of the human form.  It made we realize that we

The story behind the bust of Mr. Bearder is a fascinating one.  While he is now deceased,  he has every reason to smile in the hereafter.  you've just got to ask Roger about that!

The story behind the bust of Mr. Bearder is a fascinating one. While he is now deceased, he has every reason to smile in the hereafter. You’ve just got to ask Roger about that – or go to the Studio and see for yourself!

should celebrate our uniqueness and differences, as I believe that the Almighty Creator would want us to do so.

Roger's '5-minute' sketch' portrays a lovely form and 50 years of experience!

Roger’s ‘5-minute’ sketch’ portrays a lovely form and 50 years of experience!

I was further astonished when Roger showed us a sketch that he had created in five minutes for a group of students.  When he was asked how he could possibly do that in such a short time, he replied that it had taken him 50 years to be able to do that now!

His water-colours have a dreamy island feel, and I was drawn to them as they evoked feelings of tranquility in me.  I could easily identify with the tropical hues in blues and greens, which made me think of the relaxed Caribbean way-of-life.

At the end of our two-hour session, my mind was filled with sensory delights, both visual and auditory, from seeing and hearing about Roger’s interpretation and adoration of all forms of natural beauty in the West Indies.

This painting depicts Mero Beach on an Easter Monday - busy day by the sea!

This painting depicts Mero Beach on an Easter Monday – a busy day by the sea!

But I would be remiss if I did not mention that Roger is very desirous of sharing and teaching his knowledge to others who have an aptitude in this artistic genre.  While the students have been slow to emerge, he is encouraged and delighted  to be able to inspire or motivate even one potential artist.  In the mean time, he continues with his mechanical projects while he formulates his next artistic plan.

Roger is an artist who loves to express his ideas about life and art.

Roger is an artist who loves to express his ideas about life and art.

I feel particularly proud to report that the morning after our visit, I received this  response to my thank-you email, from Roger:

“Likewise, my thanks to you and Jenny.  I really enjoyed having you along.  And you know what, I think you brought me some good luck, for this morning I started work with an inspirational new model.  I’ll keep you in touch with progress.”

Roger, there is no doubt that you definitely work from life, for life!  I look forward to viewing your next creation.

To get in touch with Sculptor Roger Burnett at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio and Art Gallery in Dominica, call or email, as follows:

Telephone: (767) 449-2550; Text: (767) 225-5470/615-5010; Email: sculptor@cwdom.dm

 

 

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Cuisine and Culture*

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains and dasheen puffs and farine balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mild Creole sauce gives the protne that makes a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains, dasheen puffs and farine  (from cassava flour and avocado) balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mildly seasoned Creole sauce gives the protein for a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

After the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique spent a busy June weekend touring major sites in Dominica: Indian River; Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley; Emerald Pool; The Carib Territory and its Kalinago Barana Aute ( Carib Model Village), they dragged themselves into the classroom on Monday morning looking collectively exhausted! We were concentrating on Creole foods that day.  Fortunately, there are many of the same and similar recipes  in the ‘French Islands’, so the vocabulary lesson was not especially difficult!

Because we were not in a cooking class, I offered the students the following video clips about Dominican cooking:

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island.  Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower.  It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island. Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower. It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

1. How to Cook – Dominica Style

2. Tropical Vegetable and Fruit Garden Dominica

3. Cassava Bread Making in Dominica

4. Dominica Food for the Soul

I could not emphasize enough the proliferation of crops that thrive in Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil.  Some people say that you can plant practically anything on the Nature Island; You just have to stick it in the soil and watch it grow! Some farmers may disagree with me, but I suspect there are numerous places to till the soil!  There is no need to artificially season one’s recipe when cooking on Dominica:  celery, chives, green onions, peppers, parsley and thyme are a few of the herbs that thrive here.  There are also many starchy root vegetables which are traditionally called provisions : tannias, dasheen, cassava, cush-cush, sweet potatoes, yams.  There are others that grow on trees and are considered essential staples: green bananas, plantains, breadfruits, to name a few.,

We went through all the standard cooking terminology, but the class was definitely more drawn to the similarities in meals with their own country, Martinique.  We talked about callaloo soup, which is made from the leaves of the dasheen plant. It’s a popular dish around the Independence season in October and November. Some people like to add crab to their soup when they can be hunted at that time of year.  Sancoche is another tasty dish, if you like  the smoked flavour of codfish or chicken.  It is sometimes available at Cartwheel Cafe  on the Bayfront in Roseau during the year .Souse (pickled pig, cow or chicken)  delights many Dominicans.  There is also black (blood) pudding (like sausage) which can be found in Roseau and villages, largely  on weekends. On Friday nights, many little snackettes and little shops offer customers goat, fish or chattoo (octopus) water, which is a tasty seasoned broth containing these meats. Titiri are little river fish that are seasoned and fried in a batter for a filling snack called accras.  They can be found in various smaller establishments, such as Marvo’s Snackette on Independence Street (near King George V Street intersection).  There is so much more: fig pie is actually a small banana which is cooked, mashed and then baked with a fish such as tuna in a cheesy or creamy sauce.  I love it! Everyone has their own version of Creole sauce, which frequently adorns fish and chicken plates.  It contains many of the above-mentioned seasonings and usually has a tomato base.

And there are so many fruits. I wonder if anyone has an exact count of the different types.  Some of the more exotic/unfamiliar (to my hearing and/or taste) are; sapadilla; apricot (it’s huge!); carambola; pommerac; pomme citaine (golden apple); gooseberry; fwaise ( like a strawberry); canip;  tamarind;guava; papaya; cherry; passionfruit; pineapple; banana; all the citrus varieties; and that’s only naming a few! (Please excuse any incorrect Creole spellings!)

I didn’t get a chance to talk about sweets in the class – but I’ll save that fort another post!  The students made it through that day and were rewarded with a soothing soak at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs that afternoon to regain their vitality!

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

On the last morning of class, the students looked much more refreshed, and as this was the day we would cover vocabulary about Dominica’s culture, I offered them a surprise when I asked them to stand  up straight away.  Their eyes opened wide when I sang the first verse of Dominica’s National Anthem for them.  Then they performed a few songs for me, such as Frère Jacques, which we sang as a traditional round.  What a great way to start this day!

We then jumped into having a look at Dominica’s motto, Apres bondie, c’est la ter (After God, it’s the land).  The students were most intrigued that Dominica’s endangered Sisserou Parrot is a national symbol which features prominently on both the Flag and the Coat of Arms.  They were further awed when they observed that Dominica’s critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog has a place of honour on the Coat of Arms as well.  They had just been learning about these creatures in the previous class on Flora and Fauna.

Again,  as with foods, there were many similarities in terms of traditional dress and language, as the mix of European and West African cultural practises are also evident on the French islands.   As well,  Dominica is home to the Kalinago people, who paddled up to Dominica over 1,000 years ago from South America and called the  mountainous island ‘Waitukubuli’, which means “tall is her body.”  It was Christopher Columbus who named her Dominica, as he sighted her on a Sunday  on his second voyage in 1493.

The Creole language does reflect the influence of English, French and Kalinago words, mixed with African grammatical speech syntax.  The Martiniquais students could easily understand Dominican Creole, so they were cautioned by me to only speak English when out and about on the Nature Island, as that was the point of their visit.  They assured me that they stuck to their immersion experience except when they were really confused.  I hope that wasn’t too often!

Creole wear is sometimes worn in the French islands too.  I have seen ladies at the produce markets in both Guadeloupe and Martinique sporting the colourful

Contemporary desingers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a 'chapeau paix' (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear in Dominica.

Contemporary designers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a ‘chapeau de paille’ (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear on Dominica.

madras cloth in traditional styles as such as the Wob Douillette, which is fashioned after French styles of the 17 and 18th centuries.  Heavy gold jewelry frequently complements the outfit, and is said to

A type of "Wob' (dress) which is worn by Madame Wob during the Independence season in 2012.

A type of “Wob’ (dress) which was worn by the ‘Madame Wob’ competition winner during Dominica’s Independence season in 2012.

have  been inspired by African traditions. The same thing can be said for dance styles of old on the Nature Island.  There are competitions all over the country that acknowledge this art form during the Independence season. As examples, the French inspired Mazouk looks like this.  A very African type of dance, called the Bélé, looks like this.  And there were English types of dance too, such as the ‘heel and toe’!

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are  big part of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are big parts of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Carnival is another area of Dominica’s culture with strong ties to African and European traditions.  The students said that while they do celebrate Carnival in Martinique, it didn’t seem to be anything like what Dominica has to offer.  I hope they will come back to find out during the next one! I have always described Mas Domnik as being original, traditional and fun!   I am certain that most Dominicans will agree with me.  It is celebrated in Dominica and the French Islands on the two days preceding Lent in the Catholic faith.

We also talked about the other festivities that draw large crowds from near and far –  around the time of Independence in November and the World Creole Music Festival in October.  It seems to me that there are always celebrations on the Nature Island – be

Dominica's friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. She is also a repeat regional winner now too.  You go, girl! XO

Dominica’s friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants wearing their traditional costumes, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. This exceptionally talented young lady is a repeat regional winner now too. You go, girl!

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival are rooted in African traditions.

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival parades are rooted in African traditions.

it Hike Fest, Nature Island Literary Festival, DOMFESTA, Dive Fest, Emancipation and more.  Further details about these events can be found here.

Internationally-renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

Internationally renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

The last hour of the  class was given over to a special guest, who knows culture through and through.  The Cultural

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess's instruction about culture in Dominica

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess’s instruction about culture in Dominica.

Division’s Gregory Rabess   is a Creole specialist, poet and musician.  He elaborated dramatically on the bits and pieces of cultural history and subsequent  vocabulary that I had offered the group.  They hung on to his every word!

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

We were all especially delighted when he closed the session with one of his own Creole compositions that required active class participation in the refrain.  It was in Creole language of course, so the only person who perhaps missed some of its meaning was me!

Although I was extremely tired after the four English immersion classes, I did thoroughly enjoy my short and sweet teaching stint.  I wish the students of Ludicademi in Martinique the best of luck with their continuing studies of the English language and their English-speaking neighbour , Dominica.  I hope I will see them again sometime on the Nature Island.

Reference: Africa and Dominica by Lennox Honychurch, PhD.

*This mini English immersion course was organized by Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries, Roseau Dominica.  Thanks for having me along, Tina!

Theatre Director Alwin Bully Stages ‘A Tempest’ in Roseau Dominica

The Dominican production of Aime Cesaire's 'A Tempest' was directed by Alwin Bully and starred J. Grimner and Prospero and Haxey Emmanuel Salamant as Caliban.

The Dominican production of Aime Cesaire’s ‘A Tempest’ was directed by Alwin Bully and starred J. Grimner (l) as Prospero and  Emanuel Haxey Salamat as Caliban.

As DOMFESTA  2013 arts activities concluded on the Nature Island, I attended its final theatrical  production, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It consisted  of  the late Martinican  playwright Aimé Césaire‘s ‘A Tempest‘ (1969), which was held at the Alliance Française de la Dominique   from June 14 -16. Renowned Caribbean cultural icon and son-of-the-soil Dr. Alwin Bully directed this ambitious representation with a seasoned cast of actors from locally based theatre troupe La Cour Des Arts de la Dominique.  This play’s familiar title, characters’ names and plot-line do intentionally resemble Shakespeare’s well-known work called ‘The Tempest, with some unique twists.

As I had not previously studied or taught this Shakespearian play, I was glad that I had a chance to read the synopsis before going to the production. I also  looked up Césaire’s adaptation to get a feel for  his dramatic style and what could possibly happen on the stage. In March, I did have the privilege of seeing famous French actor Jacques Martial portray the sentiments of  Césaire’s  poem Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939) at the Arawak house of Culture in Roseau.   Also,  Gildas Lefèvre, my French conversation instructor at Alliance Franςaise gave me a bit of background about Césaire’s  exceptional life (1913-2008) and recurrent themes in his artistic and political endeavors.

Césaire was a contemporary poet, playwright and a political and social activist.  He  cleverly adapted Shakespeare’s timeless dramatic work so that it incorporated themes such as colonialism, slavery, loss of identity and racism. According to the performance’s playbill, “He was the first activist to claim the rights of Black People in the French colonies, calling on them to recognize and be proud of their history, culture and values.”  He even created a concept called “Negritude“, which refers to  taking pride in one’s African origins and rejecting assimilation into European or colonial culture.

Even before the play formally began, the actors mulled about on or near the simple stage, chatted among themselves and even talked to

Before the play began, the actors came onto or around the stage, which created an intimate  andinformal rapport with the audience.

Before the play began, the actors came onto or around the stage, which created an intimate and casual rapport with the audience.

members of the audience.  At first, I was surprised by this activity, but then I realised that it enhanced the intimacy of this intense presentation.  The almost “theatre-in-the-round’ arrangement of the seats on either side and in front of the stage also enabled the onlookers to feel as if they were a part of the action.  I could sense the energy emanating from all the

Caliban portrayed his role as the rebellious slave very convincingly. Stephano is in the background..  Stephano is

Caliban portrayed his powerful role as the rebellious slave very convincingly. Stephano is in the background.

characters in the Prologue, when they were  ‘given their masks’ (parts) by Ashworth Simon, who acted as the Master of Ceremonies.

From the first scene,  where a fierce storm shipwrecks a group of people on an island, the audience was spellbound.  The little boy sitting behind me  was so drawn in that he grabbed the back of my chair (and sometimes me!) in suspense.  From that point, the lines between the characters with the colonial ‘attitude’ and the resistant slaves were well articulated through powerful dialogue and precise movements from on the stage, in front or near it and occasionally in the aisles directly beside  members of the audience!

Caliban (l) faces Prospero his oppressor  with courage, if not results!

Caliban (l) faces Prospero, his oppressor with courage and conviction.

The two protagonists were absolutely outstanding in the portrayal of their roles: Prospero, the typical colonial stereotype played by J. Grimner and Caliban, the angry and  rebellious slave played by  Emanuel Haxey Salamat were completely believable in  words and actions.  They certainly created considerable dramatic tension as they railed at each other with their divergent opinions on slavery and human rights. At the same time, Grimner’s part permitted comic relief through his deployment of ‘magic’ and acerbic wit.  With superb diction and powerful voices, these  two well-known Dominican performers

\J. Grimner as Prospero was completely in character as a conniving colonial in this demanding role.

J. Grimner as Prospero was always in character as an European colonialist in this demanding lead role.

The engagement and  marriage of Prospero's daughter Miranda, played by Justina Worrell to Prince Ferdinand, played by Cornell Linton was a delightful sub-plot.

The engagement  of Prospero’s daughter Miranda, played by Justina Worrell to Prince Ferdinand, played by Cornell Linton was a delightful sub-plot.

presented the issues that concerned playwright Césaire  through the point-of-view of Caliban.

The subservient slave Ariel (r) always did as Prospero commanded.  His character, played by Lester Guye, was in complete contrat to the rebellious Caliban.

The subservient slave Ariel (r) always did as Prospero commanded. His character, played by Lester Guye, was in complete contrast to the rebellious Caliban.

Additionally,  I understand that Director Bully also ensured that the actors had a  firm grasp of the above-mentioned complex themes that arise in A Tempest.  Throughout the play, this sombre subject was  often seasoned with humor.  While the title alone was suggestive of the mood that permeated the play, there were a number of comic scenes that kept the audience laughing while “reading between the lines’.

It was obvious that many hours of rehearsal and preparation time were devoted to bringing this play to life.  All 21 actors appeared to be DLP (dead-letter-perfect) in the execution of their lines.  They seemed to assume their roles very naturally, which I know only comes with extensive preparation and practise. I also appreciated the extra artistic touches:  dramatic and colourful stage make-up; graceful dances and other  smoothly choreographed movements; wonderful musical accompaniment from guitarist Tyson Johnson and African drummer Ras Algie; lighting which accentuated the action on stage; and songs that reinforced the themes  with repeated melodies.

Sonia Riviere (l)played a trouser-role as the sensible Gonzalo. The drunken French colonialist Stephano played by Steve Williams delighted the audience with his comical character.

Sonia Riviere (l)played a trouser-role as the sensible Gonzalo. The drunken French colonialist Stephano played by Curtis Clarendon delighted the audience with his comical character.

The final scene of 'A Tempest' had the complete cast on stage.

The complete cast was on stage  to take their bows at the play’s conclusion.

When the show ended about three hours after it began, it was obvious that the audience was well entertained and instructed by this high-calibre production.  Congratulations to Director Alwin Bully, as well as the entire cast and crew of  A Tempest for a superb performance of this challenging play.  Aimé Césaire (RIP) would be proud.

Master of Ceremonies Ashworth Simon also played the role of Esha, who made some fearful pronouncements.

Master of Ceremonies Ashworth Simon (front) also played the role of Esha, who made some notable pronouncements.