Saturday, 27 September 2014


Photo: cropped film still from Tara Wyllie's Adeola Dewis Re-presenting Ourselves - Assembly Creatives

I was invited to be part of an Assembly. Assemblies are creative, interactive forums that are based on engaging with the ways in which the arts can be used within the community to highlight/address real issues. This Assembly was about connecting with Cardiff-based Caribbean elders who have specific links to the Butetown community. The aim was to use the arts to encourage these elders to remember and begin to talk about different aspects of their life and experiences in Wales. As a group we sang, recited poetry and prose, danced and enacted scenes in order to invoke memories. We ended up with an evening that was full of conversation and sharing. My specific contribution was called Making Something out of Nothing. I consider myself to be a relatively recent immigrant having lived in Cardiff for 11 years and as a result, I was interested in the ways in which my experiences could potentially connect and be relevant to others within this diasporic space that is the UK. It is relatively easy to make blanket statements about groups of people, which is often the case when addressing Caribbean presence in the UK. The more I speak and engage with groups within the community, the more I come to realize that these groups are not homogenous. Yet, without intending to contradict myself, there are several aspects of home experiences that sometimes become significant when transposed to new spaces, such as the importance of being able to cook our traditional food, preservation of accents and indulging in certain cultural manifestations of our heritage – reminiscing through festival music, hymns and social commentary.

When I think of home, I think mainly of family and Carnival among other aspects like food and social sites. The specific traits that epitomize many of the Caribbean spaces that I have encountered include a sense of resilience and agency. I am thinking specifically of the art manifested in places like Haiti and Cuba and how the notion of a Caribbean identity has been forged throughout the region by disparate peoples. Trinidad Carnival is a unique combination of ritual and spectacle, free abandon and an activity concerned with serious social visibility. The Carnival is a creative space within which modes of self-empowerment can be accessed through masking and performance. Historically performances such as these permitted a re-presentation of self. This capacity for re-presentation and re-invention within new places and the ability to make a space within a place are in my view, key considerations of a Caribbean diasporic identity.

I chose to work with a traditional Carnival character called Dame Lorraine. The Dame Lorraine comes from a Trinidad Carnival masking form that involves exaggerated body features. A male or female masquerader can play the Dame Lorraine and this character can have both exaggerated breasts and derriere. The first part of my performance entailed transforming into this character using old clothes, a pillow, stockings, talcum powder and a small blanket. The idea was about making a character out of scraps – something out of nothing. The second part of the performance involved repeating a single movement for a length of time in an effort to access a more transitory state of performance that can potentially connect to an altered state of consciousness, as another method of transformation and form of re-presenting self.

Temporary transformations via mask and/or performance and the making of these spaces for transformation and re-invention articulate some of the ways in which Caribbean people coped in the diaspora. We play within our multiple identities, acting through the self that needs to be dominant within a specific place. In doing so, we maneuver between home and here, making out of our bits and pieces, something, somewhere, someone resilient.  

Sunday, 7 September 2014


My name is Adeola and I am an artist. I was born and raised in Trinidad (although I spent some of my early years in Jamaica). I now live in Wales with my husband and 3 sons. The idea of being Caribbean in Cardiff is part of my everyday life here and occasionally I encounter scenarios that allow me to actively consider that reality. I am grateful for my Caribbean upbringing and often I feel as if I am in-transit. Even in Trinidad, my sisters and I often felt a sense of ‘otherness’ because our accent and the way we spoke were slightly different from the other children in the playground. When I had my first son I remember thinking of my Trinidadian legacy and how many typical Trinidadian things I did not know how to do – play the steelpan, cook roti, bakes, saltfish, pelau and Christmastime pastels. As my experience of motherhood developed I became increasingly aware that the panic to be hyper-Trinidadian was unnecessary and that essentially being Adeola with my inherent passion towards my home country meant that I can foster love and appreciation and learning. I continue to learn about my home even as I open myself up to discovering Wales. I have also become aware that the home I represent is not necessarily the same home as another Trinidadian living in Cardiff. That is, there are both general and specific characteristics that define me as Trinidadian and Caribbean. I adhere to some stereotypes of representation and I am also, often the exception to some stereotypical rules. The point is that we are informed by the experiences that make us – cultural, social and personal.

The workshop with the elder Caribbean women from ACES highlighted to me some of the ways in which, even as unique individuals we have shared mechanisms for coping. I observed that church/finding community and being able to share and talk about ‘home’ were important for these women, as well as being able to re-create aspects of ‘home’ through bits and pieces. I had wrongly anticipated that generating conversations with these elders would potentially be challenging due to generational, religious, class/cultural blocks and the usual physical barriers incurred by the process of aging (loss of hearing and so on). On the contrary, these Caribbean women were full of energy and laughter and voice. They were beautiful and I felt an immediate connection with them. They hailed from different Caribbean islands and settled in Wales for different reasons. The question for the workshop was “What animal are you?” They each responded with an animal and described why this animal was significant to the way they perceived themselves. Musician and songwriter Keith Murrell then converted their ideas into words that rhymed. The ACES women each sang their stanza and further facilitated by Keith, created a song that was meaningful and specific to their presentation of themselves.

What I represent as a diasporic Caribbean woman is identifiable in many Caribbean people – the way we make space out of a place or sometimes out of not-much-place at all. The way we make a meal to feed a family or a masquerade, essentially again and again we utilize this creative energy of re-creation, re-imagination, re-presentation.

I am very excited to be a part of this Assembly and this BLOG highlights some of the key aspects of my contribution so far.

Saturday, 6 September 2014


Making Something out of Nothing

Bits and pieces, that’s what we had –
We could make something out of nothing…
anything anything
out of the bits and pieces.

Making a meal from leftovers, a masquerade from scraps, a musical instrument from an old oil drum.
We Caribbean people embrace Ananci as our natural response –
seeking the power to define … for ourselves.
Ananci, the spider-god who crossed the Atlantic with us from Africa,
creatively weaving tricks, using cunning for survival.
That’s what we’ve done, that’s what we do
that’s what we do
Making something out of nothing.
This kind of art is not about looking pretty or just about making a nice sound.
It’s about the inside coming out
doing it for ourselves, doing it for ourselves.
claiming ownership
the power to choose to do or not do
to be our own narrator
honoring ourselves

protecting ourselves,
maintaining a self                                        
becoming who I am
becoming who you are

Bits and pieces, that’s what we had –           
We could make something out of nothing…
anything anything
out of the bits and pieces.

grandpa felt the rhythm when they hit him with the whip 
the smile behind the pain
the pain behind the smile
playing fool to catch the wise
masking to reveal
dancing Dame Lorraine
exaggeration grotesque
excess excess excess
mimicking  the elite?
Yes, but so much more
the dance moves from the character to the play
a dance
from the inside from the inside
creating a space within

Bits and pieces, that’s what we had –
We could make something out of nothing…
Anything, anything

out of the bits and pieces.