I can still hear poet Kwame Dawes saying, “born at de right time,” in his smooth Jamaican accent. He opened his craft talk with a brief biographical sketch: born in Ghana where he heard stories of glorious Jamaica from his father. When he moved with his family to the island, he discovered a far different place and culture than he had imagined. “I was trying to find home,” he said. Was he a Jamaican living in Africa or an African living in Jamaica?
Questions surfaced regarding the search for self in art. How do we fit into the works created by authors in other lands, other cultures? How does their writing define our own culture? Or how do we place ourselves in art that does not typically include people like us or cultures like ours?
I did not realize at the time that Kwame’s book on the lyrics of Bob Marley is the most authoritative text on the subject. Kwame spoke of how Marley wrote the narrative of Jamaica and the culture through reggae. It was a “present music” including both the collective history and the events of the day. We were left with a reminder to “be engaged in what makes the times what they are.”