October 10, 2008


by Michelle SPRINGER

October 10, 2008

" Annalee Davis' documentary On The Map succeeds for its subject matter in as much as it does for its aesthetic composition, resulting in a product that is not only informative, but also an intriguing watch.

The film's narrative poignantly questions the fidelity of Caribbean leaders to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as it relates to Article 45 and 46 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the beleaguered clauses which address the freedom of movement and labour for CARICOM nationals.

Understandably, the film's July showing in Barbados at Solidarity House, Harmony Hall, St Michael was an occasion steeped in tension. Those who attended heard first hand the testimonies of Guyanese immigrants - documented and undocumented - at the hands of local law enforcement officials and unscrupulous employers.

Their voices tell another side of the story and the spectator is left to ponder on the possible culpability of the State and entrepreneurs - including those perpetuating human trafficking - who relegate Guyanese settlers to an underclass devoid
of human rights.

The perspectives of those interviewed notwithstanding, the 32-minute film works just as potently as a visual narrative.

With Davis' background in the visual arts, the film's narrative is at once a composite stitching of multiple genres, textures and voices.

Interviews the artist conducted with migrants, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and members of the general public interleave seamlessly with excerpts highlighting the ethnically diverse ancestry of renowned Guyanese storyteller Ken Crosbie and dramatist/playwright Michael Gilkes in first

person narratives.

Their voices segue with the narrator's who traces the complex histories of the Caribbean as well as voices in verse, notably of Kamau Brathwaite's Genesis and Davis' self-penned Creole Chant.

This chorus could be read as a metaphor

for the plural nature of Caribbean societies giving different accounts of their shared colonial legacy resulting from migration.

Colonial histories

Accompanying the chorus is an album, of sorts, which comprises images of Barbados' and Guyana's colonial histories.

They include panoramic shots of Lord Nelson's statue and the Parliament buildings in Bridgetown and of the Stabroek Market and Parliament in Georgetown.

At first glance, the images remind viewers of the intricate and complex relationship these two societies had with European colonists. On a deeper level they allude to those who initially planted the seeds of xenophobia and race profiling currently pervading contemporary Caribbean societies.

These roving shots are balanced with black and white stills (photography) of migrants in canoes and of the late radical Guyanese historian Walter Rodney, who authored among many texts, a paper entitled Barbadian Immigration Into British Guiana 1863-1924. They suggest two fields of thought concerning the official and unofficial 'reports' of data locked away in the annals of the region's migration histories.

That these images are articulated using water sources as a connective force is symbolic.

Water was the very medium that facilitated movement by the different nations of people to the New World and the same body of matter dividing each of the territories with vested interest in the success of CSME.

While other schooled voices from Barbados' ethnic spectrum on the issue were notably absent, as were those opposing intra-regional migration, that the documentary opens up the discourse is to be lauded.

Asked what inspired her to make the film, Davis told GROOVE:

"I have been very interested in the notion of home, who belongs where, who fits in.

I often reference Lloyd Best's statement about Caribbean people needing to found a community and find a home. CSME, to me, is about building a home but the foundation seems to be made of sand. On the Map is my back chat to the state and my form of agitation which says, this is not good enough, we deserve better."

Published originally in The Nation News

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