ORAL TRADITION IN SAINT LUCIA: BENEFICIARY AND ADVOCATE OF CULTURAL RIGHTS

Interview by Kannelle Hughes

In the Caribbean, particularly in Saint Lucia, the oral tradition plays an essential role in the dissemination of common values, the enhancement of heritage, the historical narrative and the conception of society. Tales and legends fit perfectly into this dynamic and allow the promotion of local culture and the Creole language.


Jacintha Annius-Lee was born in Laborie, Saint Lucia. She began her career in the education sector by completing a Bachelor degree in Education at the University of the West Indies. She subsequently obtained a degree in Communications from the same institution. Jacintha has conducted extensive research in the cultural field with a particular focus on the oral tradition of Saint Lucia. She is currently working on a written biography of Sir John Compton, the island’s first Prime Minister.

🔵 How important is the storytelling tradition in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean in general?

Because of our oral tradition, storytelling makes it possible to share our history and culture with younger generations. We are rooted in the oral tradition. One of the means of oral storytelling is the Calypso, which is music genre that is very popular among Caribbean people. Storytelling and narration preserve our cultures.

🔵 How does the telling of stories and legends promote and advocate for cultural rights?

As mentioned earlier, we are deeply attached to the oral tradition and through storytelling it becomes easier to communicate certain topics to the population. Storytelling and narration can be used as a mean to deliver important messages and educate the public in general.

🔵 To what extent does storytelling allow for diversity of expression and how does its Creole character affect this diversity?

Given our diversity, it is sometimes difficult to get a message accepted by all and to reach all parts of society. Nevertheless, this knowledge should allow a message to be conveyed in a more inclusive way.

🔵 What are some of the challenges the sector is currently facing? Is the sector supported and recognised by the public/government?

Barriers included the ability to preserve core messages and stories. However, with the advent of social networks, it is easier to share and preserve these narratives. In terms of public and government recognition, this has increased with the recent focus on the creative arts.

🔵 What impact do cultural or educational public policies have on storytelling and vice versa? How would you describe the relationship between public officials and cultural actors?

Storytelling has an impact on cultural or educational public policies. It is a privileged way of delivering messages. Storytelling also allows cultural actors to intervene and relay important information and thus act as influencers. Cultural actors rely on rich experiences within the different communities and are sensitive to the needs of the population.

As such, they are in a prime position to work collaboratively with public officials to recommend the best approach to reach a wide range of audiences.

🔵 Does storytelling enable bridges and connections between islands? If so, how? If not, what role could it play in cultural cooperation?

Storytelling is used extensively in Calypso, Soca and more recently in what is known in St Lucia as The Dennery Segment. These genres enjoy great popularity in most Caribbean islands. Furthermore, the messages that are relayed through these genres are simple, entertaining and thus can be very powerful.

The connection between the islands is historical and cultural. The various musical and cultural festivals staged in these territories give cultural actors the opportunity to share their creativity without hindrance. There are similarities between the tales and legends of the various islands even if the main characters may differ.

🔵 What are your aspirations and wishes for the future of storytelling in Saint Lucia but also in the entire Caribbean?

The use of cartoons needs to be explored. It would be a real feat to see our stories, especially those from popular folklore, taken up by Disney. Our children love cartoons so why not have the stories of Compère Lapin, Compère Tigre and other folklore characters featured internationally? There is a big Caribbean absence in the international film industry. Using cartoons to share our stories would highlight the rich culture of Saint Lucia and the Caribbean.

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