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What are the main tenets of my Jamaican Patois in the Six Archive?




I’m starting to flesh out my mandate for my archive and here are my initial thoughts.


At the centre of my archive from the way items are collated, described, displayed, and activated is:


CELEBRATION & REFUSAL


Zakiya Collier and Tonia Sutherland’s Black Archival Practice brilliantly showcases the various ideas that can be behind the practice of archiving. Some tenets are more practical like the format of archives whilst some speak to the treatment of the history within a wider context. Including: 


  • Care

  • Crisis

  • Embodiment 

  • Forgetting

  • Home

  • Labour

  • Legibility 

  • Repair


I was drawn to celebration and refusal as it perfectly demonstrated how I wanted to celebrate Jamaican Patois and Jamaican culture. I want to celebrate a language born out of a melting point of enslaved people and indentured labourers. I want to celebrate the archival process and how healing it can be for myself, my future community panel, and those who engage with the archive as we validate our history, culture, and language amongst ourselves. 


I want to celebrate the refusal of conformity and assimilation. I want to refuse English being the main language in my archive, especially with descriptions. I want to refuse the notion that Jamaican Patois isn’t a real language and I want to refuse the stereotypical audience and people working in heritage, history, and archives. We need diversity of thought and lived experiences so hidden histories can be advocated. I want to refuse the separation between the archive and community work and instead demand the need for this constant relationship otherwise archives stay unactivated, unknown, and stagnant. I want to refuse whiteness and Western ideas of respect, decorum, and loudness. 


How will I ensure these tenets are weaved through the Black Archival Practice?


CELEBRATION


COLLATION 


Jamaican Patois is animation.

It’s expression. It’s life.

It’s the spirit of your ancestors, their voices, their mannerisms permeating through you that allows us to take up space.

It’s something you’ll always be able to tap into - no matter when you start to learn. 


In my source collation process, I will collate items that speak to the dynamism of Jamaican Patois. I especially want to source recorded materials of Jamaican Patois being used to also capture expressions alongside. I want to collate items that showcase how Jamaican Patois is a constantly living and evolving language. I will collate a dictionary of Jamaican Patois words alongside Toronto slang words to see how Jamaican Patois appear in the lexicon of Toronto. 


Celebration doesn’t mean not addressing the trauma the Jamaican community has felt around Jamaican Patois. It’s key to understand the multiplicity of real-life experiences and the resilience that emerges from them.  In my oral history interviews, I will look into the personal relationship people have with Jamaican Patois to understand the turning points, institutions, and ideologies that promoted or stalled celebration. From receiving inadequate health care due to translation issues to people rejecting Jamaican Patois due to being ridiculed at school, it’s important to know how to direct future campaigns toward the validation of Jamaican Patois.


DESCRIBED


Archival descriptions need to be clear, accurate, and accessible.

Jamaican Patois simplifies sounds, words, and phrases and would be the perfect language for the main descriptions in the archive with English translations. By centering Jamaican Patois, I make my intended main audience very clear - Jamaican Patois speakers and readers.  There needs to be greater work done to make Black people feel like the archives are for them. When I see collections around Jamaica, I go in with the mindset that it’ll probably be about missionaries and if not and it’s actually about Jamaican people that would be a very rare happy accident. This mindset needs to cease. By also having English translations, it’s clear the archive is also for English speakers.


DISPLAYED 


I will use a website for those who prefer online archives. I will use Instagram to allow people to stumble across it more easily. I will transform some of the histories from the archival process and theatre-making process into an e-Book so it’s an informational resource for schools, organisations, individuals, and community groups. I will display the history of Jamaican Patois in the Six alongside the history of Jamaican Patois in London Town. 


ACTIVATED


I think through workshops the archive could be activated in an exciting and informative way. Workshop about Jamaican culture and Black culture can draw people into the archive through the tangible skills they’ll foster. In the past, I’ve organised braiding for beginners, time-capsule making and carnival costume-making to activate a creative response to history lessons. This is also a beautiful way to pass down skills and knowledge and celebrate the history and talent of our culture. Working with a cohort of Caribbean teenagers on my second iteration of “I’NA SUIT YOU” will activate their interest in their local history into written poetic monologues. I want the learning experience to be celebrated and appreciated. 


REFUSAL


COLLATED 


I refused any items not wanted by the community panel. I refuse to engage with whiteness if it's not made clear the role it played as an oppressor. Jamaican Patois has permeated into the mainstream with slang but this is a history of Jamaican Patois, not white boys from the suburbs who say "wag one".


DESCRIBED 


I refuse to allow a language barrier to stop Jamaican Patois speakers and understanders from accessing the archive. Not everyone has the privilege to be able to read and understand English.


DISPLAYED


I refuse to publicly display the work in mainstream institutions that haven’t committed to putting in the work for audience development of Black communities. I refuse our history becoming tokenistic when we have spaces for ourselves and when we have BEEN doing the work ourselves from our personal photo albums to Nia Centre of Arts. 


ACTIVATED 


I refuse non-substantial, short-term activation with community workers on an ad-hoc basis. To maintain engagement and continued growth of the archive we need people getting inspired by the archive through activated community work. This will promote a cycle of understanding and growing our shared diasporic history. 


For this archive, celebration, and refusal are needed to combat hundreds of years of systemic oppression, othering, and cultural suppression making our history, language, and culture feel less important. It’s Black history but we need to remember it’s also Canadian history and we can no longer justify why it’s being hidden.


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