On Sunday April 15, 2008 I travelled with a friend to Somerset Falls in Portland, Jamaica to attend the Fi Wi Sinting event. I heard about this festival when Pauline Petinaud (aka Sista P) was being interviewed on Junior Jawara Blake’s 93.5 wvip radio program. I was so impressed by what I was hearing that I made a promise to attend the culturama in Jamaica.
What intrigued me most was the fact that this was a woman who left New York to settle in rural Jamaica making a change in the lives of her community, by teaching the people and rekindling a sense of their rich cultural heritage. Sista P’s passion is documenting and giving life to the connection between African and Jamaican culture and promoting the similarities. Through her school founded in the rural parish of Content, Fi Wi Sinting was born out of the need to fund the school. Celebrating its 19th year, I was privileged to attend this event.
From my approach, my heart filled with pride as all around me I saw my people, every shade of black – heads held high, smiling, laughing and looking so beautiful in amazing
The venue this year was moved to Somerset Falls in Portland, the verdant cool vista was conducive to this large outdoor gathering. The space was divided into sections. On entering to the left was the performing stage, to the right a small area given over to story telling, where children and adults alike sat captivated listening to Anansi stories and other traditional folktales. Walking deeper into the park, my senses were assaulted by the items for sale, love beads, exquisite jewels made from semi-precious stones, clothes, pictures and the food – all traditional, all natural. The food that I sampled was delicious. I especially loved the mouth-watering sweet potato pudding. Mutabaruka was in charge of the African Dance Party, a huge area in the round where people were freely expressing the movement of Jah people. No one had inhibitions as more and more people entered the circle to boogie down with the conscious sounds.
The Jonkonuu band was fierce, the pregnant woman, the devil, an alien looking reveler took me back to my childhood days when I was afraid of these awful looking creatures who were intent on scaring the living daylights out of children and some adults!
I stood in awe watching the mento band produce music from everyday household items, a grater, whisk, washboard and upturned buckets. I was captivated by the Kumina players, my feet started moving to the incessant drumbeat and a group of other folks and I danced round and round, it was an almost spiritual experience as I felt myself being transported to the motherland. Joyful hoops and hollerin’ were quickly taken up by others as the drummers played faster and faster.
Celebrities abounded, Capleton, Mutabaruka, Prof. Caroline Cooper were just some of the names that come to mind. My only disappointment was that while I was vibzing to the music of Dennis, Taurus and Bob, I missed the main event – the tribute to the ancestors with the launching of the Ancestral Raft.
The celebration was such a joyous event, culture abounding as families came together, old friends were reunited and the hot Jamaican sun put an approving seal on the whole affair. Thank you Sister P – you’ve found a new fan and I’ll be telling everyone I know that attendance at Fi Wi Sinting is our new annual pilgrimage to Jamaica.