Barbados writer recognised for powerful literature – While George Lamming awarded in Havana; Derek Walcott wins in Trinidad

In less than one month in 2011, it appears that an unprecedented number of literary prizes were awarded to major Caribbean writers in their own region.

On May 6, the distinguished author George Lamming was awarded the Caribbean Hibiscus Prize in Cuba, according to his HNP publisher.

The Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) awarded Lamming the prize, which “acknowledges the lifetime’s work of Caribbean writers, artists and groups,” said HNP publisher Lasana M. Sekou.

In this rare photo two legendary Caribbean authors (L-R) George Lamming and Derek Walcott. (© George Lamming/For use only with OES article. Saltwater Collection)

The Barbadian writer “expressed his appreciation for the honors received in Cuba, because the concept of culture on the island is not decorative like in most countries of the region, since Cubans believe that culture is a weapon to defend the Revolution,” reported ACN news service.

In addition to its regional significance, UNEAC president Miguel Barnet said the prize aims at spreading more awareness about Cuban culture and the institution’s work.

During the award ceremony, Cuban poet Nancy Morejon pointed out that the Hibiscus Prize is named after a flower common to Caribbean nations, and that “Lamming was selected to receive this first edition of the prize because when you read his works you can understand Nature and the regional spirit better,” reported RCA radio (FM 105.3). Culture Minister Abel Prieto attended the ceremony, held at the UNEAC.

Long hailed as one of the “academic fathers” of Caribbean Literature, Lamming’s newest book of essays, Sovereignty of the Imagination, was published in St. Martin by HNP, said Sekou. Sovereignty and Lamming’s Western Education & The Caribbean Intellectual, also from HNP, are available at Van Dorp and other bookstores and libraries in the region, and other online stores.

On April 29, it was the Nobel Laureate Sir Derek Walcott who was honored. The acclaimed St. Lucian author, whose mother’s family hails from St. Martin, received the first edition of the OCM Bocas Prize in Trinidad for White Egrets, his latest poetry collection. The volume has already won the prestigious TS Eliot Prize.

The Bocas Prize to Walcott included an award of US$10,000. Tiphanie Yanique won the Bocas Fiction category for her debut novel, How To Escape From a Leper Colony. The much-celebrated Edwidge Danticat won the Non-Fiction category.

In a year with what appears to be an unprecedented appearance of literary prizes with regional projection, Guadeloupe took center stage from April 6 – 9, with its 2nd International Congress of Caribbean Writers.

The first edition of the congress’s Grand Prize of Caribbean Literature went to the Trinidadian Earl Lovelace for his new novel, Is Just a Movie. The prize included a financial award of Euros 10,000, probably the highest monetary prize for literature in the region to date.

The oldest and most prestigious award for literature in the region remains the Casa de Las Americas prize.

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