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Earl Lovelace Cops OCM Bocas Prize 2012

Earl Lovelace accepts Bocas Prize 2012 from Marina Salandy-Brown & Dawn Thomas

Earl Lovelace strode off with the OMC Bocas Prize 2012 for his latest novel Is Just A Movie. The prize was announced on Saturday night, April 28 at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Academy for the Performing Arts at the closing event for the third day of the NGC Bocas Literary Festival.

The OCM Bocas Prize 2012, valued at US$10,000.00 was announced by George Lamming, Chief Judge for the competition. In his speech leading up to the announcement, Lamming spoke of a growing, institutionalized amnesia in the Caribbean as we forget ourselves and important parts of our history. He made immediate reference to the absence of knowledge about the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic as well as the forgetting/ignorance about Walter Rodney among the young, even in Rodney’s homeland Guyana.

George Lamming Speaks at OCM Bocas Prize 2012“We are like a people who do not know the house they live in,” Lamming said. “We are familiar with the rooms we inhabit... but we do not know the collectivity of rooms that define the house we are calling Caribbean.” Lamming further remarked that interconnectivity between the islands of the Caribbean is at the time of greatest peril. He noted that it was therefore in part Is Just A Movie’s treatment of these issues that earned it the 2012 prize.

“Reading is not a very easy art,” Lamming declared as he spoke about the judging process. He noted that as a judge one had to balance “the art of reading” with the “politics of reading”. Lamming explained that where as the “art” was the ability to recognize the ordering of words and understand the complexity of meaning, “politics” brought with it and accumulation of experiences or biases which influence how one looks at a particular text.

In her statement prior to the night’s earlier presentation of the trophy for Fiction, Eilah Allfrey, OBE, described Is Just a Movie as startling. She explained that the qualities that the judges looked for included the quality of prose, voice, evocation of place and literary merit, that is, the lasting impact and relevance to the world.

The shortlist, comprising the winners of the section winners, had included The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman by Loretta Collins Klobah of Puerto Rico, and George Price: A Life Revealed by Godfrey P. Smith of Belize. Collins Klobah earned the prize for poetry while Smith earned the prize for non-fiction.

Lovelace  thanked the Bocas Lit Fest organizers for instituting the prize. He said that despite the presence of other prizes elsewhere in the world, it was important that we develop institutions that are focused on development but are also very conversant with Caribbean identity. The prolific novelist and playwright is no stranger to awards. Lovelace’s  repertoire includes The Schoolmaster, The Dragon Can’t Dance, The Wine of Astonishment and Salt (winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize). He also thanked the people of Trinidad for their continued support even when there was no institutional support, as he attempted to "render their lives, beauty and stupidity."

Marina Salandy-Brown, founder of the Bocas Lit Fest explained that although she had heard comments that the prize should go to emerging writers, she was adamant in retaining its current form where “new talent can go shoulder to shoulder with established greats.

The inaugural OCM Bocas Prize was won by Derek Walcott. Though the prize is only in its second year of existence, it is certainly gaining traction, and shows promise to become a prize of great significance.