Held Sunday February 5, at the tail end of the 2017 Nobel Laureate Festival, the 2nd edition of the Vieux Fort Nobel Laureate Literary Night was an event of high quality that definitely met the goals of the organizers of staging activities in Vieux Fort to match national calendar events that meet and exceed international standards. The event was officially opened with remarks by the recently appointed mayor of Vieux Fort, The Honorable Orricia Denbow-Bullen. Besides the mayor, the occasion was graced by the presence of such dignitaries as former minister and ambassador, Mr. Cassius Elias; former ambassador and mayor and First Lady of Vieux Fort, Mr. and Mrs. Winall Joshua; and District Reps Mr. Moses Jn Baptiste and Mr. Alva Baptiste.
In terms of performances, songstress and pianist, Shan Lucien, accompanying her singing on keyboards, displayed the exquisite talent that has made her a multiple Youth-Fest award-wining artists. Not to be outdone, songstress, Omega Alexander, thrilled the audience with her signature cover of Sessene Descarte’s “Ė Oui Sa Vwé”, forcing the audience to demand an encore to which she gladly submitted. Arguably, the performances of these two young ladies represented just about the best singing on offer on the island.
Vladimir Lucien’s poetry reading, which brought joy and laughter to the audience, explained why his debut collection of poetry, Sounding Ground, was the winner of the Caribbean’s major literary prize for English literature, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature , making him the youngest ever winner of the prize, and pronouncing him a rising star in Caribbean literature.
Dressed all in black like a black panther but no way as menacing, teen dancer, Kermani Richard of the MOS Dance Group, gave a lithe, sublime, fluid, poetic dance, that defied bodily limitations, and that left the audience gasping in disbelief. Another teen, steelpan soloist and arranger, Mc. Allister Hunt, unveiled a couple of his recent pan compositions that both entertained and inspired.
Seyans, Vieux Fort’s very own folk choir, enchanted the audience with several folk songs, while the District Rep of Vieux Fort North and former minister of agriculture, Moses “Musa” Jn Baptiste, thrilled the audience with a mixer of poetry, drumming, folk story telling that reminded and educated the audience of authentic folk culture, the way it used to be in the days of no television, internet, and rural electricity, when wakes were truly cultural expressions.
The audience was also thrilled by a quartet of dancehall, hip-hop and reggae artists, including the smooth operator, hiphop artist Oswald “OZ” Montoute; Adrian “Drii Notes” Klien, multiple Caribbean Youthfest award winner, winner of the 2014 National Arts Festival People’s Choice poetry award, and second place winner of the 2013 Word Alive Poetry Festival; Alleyne “Ally Kyatt” Collymore, considered a folk hero, a cult figure, and St. Lucia’s dancehall King, whose lyrics present a compelling brew of creole, comedy, and grass roots culture; and Sylvester “Itoobaa” Peter, the veteran multiple award-wining reggae artist, who entertained with his reggae composition, Do Good in Your Neighborhood, a cogent and timely song, given the recent spate of murders and rapes that is plaguing the country.
Notwithstanding the performances, perhaps the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Jako Prize, established by Jako Productions, and awarded to a Vieux Fort artist (author, visual artist, musician, drama, dance, fashion) who has produced the most compelling art during (preferably) the previous year. The nominees for the award included Sherwin Brice (music), Edward Harris (literature), Janice Samuel (visual art), and Imani Models (fashion/performance art).
Sherwinn Brice has continued to pleasantly surprise and impress with a string of compelling songs (accompanied with music videos) culminating in his debut album, 3D. Businessman and writer, Edward Harris, has published over 400 newspaper and magazine articles and his latest book, Winning Strategies for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, was published in December last year. Janice Samuel is a string art artist who employs strings and such local woods as mahogany, blue mahaut and laurier cannel to create exquisite and original pieces of art that have won her several M&C fine arts awards. Her latest works include Map of St Lucia, created as a gift for the mayor of Vauclin, Martinique, highlighting the Maria Islets, St. Lucian beaches and Vieux-Fort’s fishing community. Founded in 1993, and led by Urmain Gray, Imani Models is one of the island’s premiere and longest lasting modeling agencies. The agency both designs and models fashion. Their models have graced the catwalks of fashion shows across the island and were perennial performers at the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival’s HOT COUTURE fashion show. Last year and running into this year they performed at the Vieux Fort Street Theatre, Arts, and Cultural Exposé, Caribbean YouthFest, Vieux Fort Assou Square, and are expected to perform at Vieux Fort’s St. Lucia Independence celebrations.
The nominees for the first Jako Prize were introduced by a video presentation highlighting their work and accomplishments.
The 2nd edition of the Vieux Fort Nobel Laureate literary Night culminated with the Mayor of Vieux Fort presenting the Jako Prize, which entailed a cash prize of $500 and a glass trophy inscripted with the logo of Jako Productions and the following: 2017 / Jako Prize / Awarded to / Sherwinn Brice / for / 3D Album. Sherwinn, who is on tour overseas, wasn’t on hand to receive the prize, so fellow artist, Mc. Allister Hunt, who performed earlier in the evening, received the prize on his behalf.
Few would disagree that as a songster, songwriter, and producer, Sherwinn Brice is well disserved of the inaugural Jako Prize. His irresistible and accessible music and his compelling videos, among the best the island has produced, have made him a household name. As a Vieux Fort and St. Lucian artist, Sherwinn is breaking new ground as he embarks on taking his catchy brand of pop reggae, often compared to the likes of Bruno Mars and Wyclef Jean, to the world. His soon to be released 3D album, that features such Caribbean hits as Guilty, should go a long way to paving his path to international success.
For his part, Dr. Anderson Reynolds, managing director of Jako Productions, has often lamented that even when with almost no nurturing and institutional support an artist miraculously emerges on the St. Lucian scene, full of talent and promise, seemingly as good as or better than what obtains internationally, the artist doesn’t get very far in fulfilling their promise because the structure to take them further is not in place. So after a few years of excitement little is heard of the artist. Therefore, with Jako Production’s stated mission of encouraging the artistic expression of St. Lucian culture and promoting that culture worldwide, Dr. Reynolds views the establishment of the Jako Prize as another means of supporting and encouraging St. Lucian artists and promoting and advancing St. Lucian culture.