There are few sounds from Guyana that I remember so well as the call of the kiskadee. Its shrill song resonated in the background as it flitted from branch to post, from wire to fence, calling out cheerfully and untiringly as its bright eyes gleaned a snippet of news from every yard. The story goes that the French interpreted the kiskadee’s cry as “Qu’est-ce qu’il dit?” – “What is he saying?” Do you want to know? My ladies and I will tell you on the new page and the stories will be continued under the tab here on this website.
Like the kiskadee, my “ladies” were always around. They too saw and heard most things. Collectively they exuded grace, kindness, warmth and good humour as they blended into the colourful blur of the background. They were no strangers to hard work and sacrifice and with a sigh of “Wha’ yuh gun do?”, they got on with life as best they could.
I have written about food for several years. Not just recipes, but also from a social and cultural perspective. My books, essays and articles have been published around the world and I even managed to pick up a few awards along the way. I travelled extensively for research, made many new friends and taught people on several continents how to make things like paratha roti and dal puri as well as Sachertorte and speculaas.
After my fifth book, I decided that it was time to look for a new interest and turned to ceramics. I started out with bowls, plates and cake stands until a chance visit to an African museum inspired me to start making figurines. I posted photos of my creations along with little narratives on my private Facebook page, to entertain my friends and family. I turned it into a game, encouraging them to make up suitable names for the ladies. Happy memories flooded back and my friends soon started plying me with suggestions for new ladies.
My ladies mainly depict themes from village life as it used to be in the late colonial and post-colonial period of our childhood – a vanished era waveringly kept alive in our memories. The ladies are all lovingly created from high-quality materials and each one takes weeks to finish. The clay is hand-shaped, pre-fired, glazed and re-fired at a very high temperature to make women with soul and attitude. Unless otherwise stated, the portraits of the ladies are the work of my talented photographer friend Jonathan Knights, whose childhood they also reflect.
Like my food writing, my ladies also have a social and cultural context. It goes without saying that my cultural perspective may not be the same as yours. Share your thoughts and experiences. A simple comment can finish up as a satisfying bottomhouse gyaaf with many participants adding their two cents to the conversation. These ladies tend to talk Creolese and those from the Corentyne speak quite differently from the Demerara ones. Feel free to comment in proper English or Creolese, as the mood takes you. Write in Dutch, Spanish or French if you prefer. All I ask is that we keep it respectful and free of racism.
You will find the new page at: https://www.facebook.com/kiskadeedays