Jamaican writer A-dZiko Gegele was awarded the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature 2014 at Friday night’s inaugural celebrations held at the Old Fire Station in Port of Spain. The gala award ceremony was part of the Bocas Lit Fest week-long celebration of books, writing and writers. Gegele was among six Caribbean writers who were short-listed for the award who were recognised for their contributions in the region’s literary landscape.
President Anthony Carmona, during his feature address, lauded the writers’ efforts. However he said while human progress has allowed us to benefit from much advancement in technology such progress has come at a price. He noted that humanity is under siege. “Human progress has allowed the world to benefit from many advances in technology. It has contributed to social growth and connectivity on an unprecedented scale. Our ability to instantaneously communicate across oceanic divide has brought us closer together and created a global community spanning the majority of the settled world, however, progress has come at a price. Despite our ability to connect our humanity is under siege; we have lost the human touch,” Carmona said.
Carmona said digital tools including digital books are to be blamed for the void in humanity. “We sometimes do not have the time or the inclination to speak to each other, to exchange a simple greeting, to acknowledge each other’s presence. Technology has allowed us to become critically closer to each other while remaining emotionally distant. We no rely on our senses sight and hearing to experience life we no longer touch our ways of learning have also changed how many of us read for the love of the word? Today there are electronic books but they no longer project the same tactile.
“The reading of a book is a full sensory experience today there are electronic books which is just as good content wise but it no longer projects the same texture. None-the-less people are still reading and initiatives like the Bocas Lit Fest are strengthening the movement to continue the joy of reading. Reading not only develops literacy, our sensitivity to emotions and vocabulary are developed as well and the ability to extract information. When you read to a child you entertain, educate, develop and bond with that child sometimes for a night sometimes forever such is the power of the word,” Carmona said
Burt Award chief juror, Mala Morton Gittens said all six of the shortlisted books are worthwhile Caribbean literature. She noted however that of the 30 submissions received some were very disappointing. “A text had to be of good literary merit and it had to be engaging. To make our list, books also had to express the Caribbean spirit explicitly. Some of these submissions were disappointing with regard to elements of prose fiction and reader appeal. Young adult readers desire exciting plots with modern challenges. We urge our aspiring writers to investigate the reading population for whom they wish to write. All six books are worthwhile Caribbean literature that can be recommended throughout the region some are delightful, some of the writers also took risks with narrative structure and voice which is very encouraging,” Morton-Gittens said.
Winner of the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, A-dZiko Gegele’s fiction “All Over Again” received high praises from Morton-Gittens. Also topping the awards were Joanne Hillhouse from Antigua and Barbuda whose book, “Musical Youth” placed second and Colleen Smith-Dennis whose novel “Inner City Girl” placed third.
Young writers were also celebrated. Thalia Khan emerged winner of the Allen Prize for Young Writers which recognises young writers between the ages of 12 to 19. Khan also won Junior Poetry writer of the year.