AL­LIANCE FRANçAISE HOSTS ANNIUS-LEE BOOK LAUNCH

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - ---Keryn Nel­son

As the Oc­to­ber full moon hov­ered over the Cas­tries har­bour on Wednes­day Oc­to­ber 24, guests trick­led through the open doors of Al­liance Française to take their seats. The oc­ca­sion was the launch of an­other one of Jacintha Annius-Lee's lit­er­ary con­tri­bu­tions. The au­thor was hard to miss, as she stood out in madras, in her way re­mind­ing one and all it was the sea­son of Jounen Kweyol. Ms Annius-Lee is a well-known pro­moter of lo­cal cul­ture. Her most re­cent work, a col­lec­tion of lo­cal folk tales, is ti­tled 'Once Upon a Time in Saint Lu­cia'.

Bam­boo Pro­duc­tions, a col­lec­tive of young Saint Lu­cian ac­tors, kicked off Wednes­day's launch with a hearty short play ren­di­tion of “The Great Won­ders of Obeah”—one of the sto­ries fea­tured in Annius-Lee's lat­est book.

In at­ten­dance were the Al­liance Française Saint Lu­cia Di­rec­tor, Eve­lyne Gasse; Mr. Stephane Dovert from the French Em­bassy, and OECS Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Di­da­cus Jules—all of whom share an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of sto­ry­telling. Ac­cord­ing to Di­rec­tor Gasse, Al­liance Française con­sid­ered it an hon­our to host the launch. “I al­ways say a place with­out books is a place with­out soul,” Gasse told the au­di­ence, be­fore an­nounc­ing that next year the AF would open a li­brary called 'Ti Ma­mai' ded­i­cated to French, English and Cre­ole chil­dren's books.

Mr. Stephane Dovert treated ev­ery­one to a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of his about an old folk tale. As a young boy, he re­called, he en­joyed read­ing a par­tic­u­lar chil­dren's book, which ex­plored themes of alien­ation and iden­tity. Years later, he would serve as a cul­tural at­taché in Viet­nam, where he vis­ited a li­brary in a re­mote lo­ca­tion. Among the books at the beat-up li­brary he came upon the novel from his child­hood. “I was so emo­tional to have re­dis­cov­ered this book. This should tell you how im­por­tant these books are, you never know what role they will play in a child's life.”

Dr. Di­da­cus Jules, on the other hand, touched on what the ab­sence of cul­tural pre­servers can do to a so­ci­ety. “Cul­tural am­ne­sia is a so­ci­o­log­i­cal process that is of­ten ac­cel­er­ated by the pres­sures of mod­ern­iza­tion and the forces of glob­al­iza­tion,” he said. “Caught in this vor­tex, the so­ci­eties that are re­ferred to as prim­i­tive can eas­ily dis­ap­pear as the gap be­tween their level of tech­nol­ogy and sci­en­tific de­vel­op­ment and that of the wider world is too wide a chasm to bridge. Caught in this vor­tex as well, our so­ci­ety may in­stead suf­fer the fate of the spir­i­tual di­as­pora. As small is­landers, we may lose con­vic­tion of our own ca­pac­i­ties to nav­i­gate the global cur­rents. We seek in­di­vid­ual mo­bil­ity in wider for­eign pas­tures and this too of­ten hap­pens at the ex­pense of our orig­i­nal iden­tity. We as­sim­i­late while shed­ding the bag­gage of orig­i­nal iden­tity.”

Dr. Jules en­cour­aged ideas that seek to pre­serve and pass on tra­di­tion and her­itage. He of­fered as an ex­am­ple Nina Comp­ton's use of Saint Lu­cia's fa­mous folk char­ac­ter Com­père Lapin, af­ter whom she named her renowned Louisiana restau­rant. Of course, the pop­u­lar char­ac­ter fea­tures in Annius-Lee's lat­est work.

When fi­nally she made it to the podium, Ms Lee thanked all who had con­trib­uted to the pub­li­ca­tion, in­clud­ing its il­lus­tra­tor, lo­cal artist Naja Simeon, her ed­i­tors, her daugh­ters Dav­ina Lee and Es­ther Lee-Leach. She also an­nounced that she will be work­ing with Al­liance Française to trans­late 'Once Upon A Time in Saint Lu­cia' into French. The book is now avail­able at the Al­liance Française in Pointe Seraphine and at ama­zon.com.

Au­thor Jacintha Annius-Lee (right) with “Once Upon a Time in Saint Lu­cia” il­lus­tra­tor Na­jah Simeon at the book's of­fi­cial launch.

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