by Susan Mains
You have heard of talking drums, right? With allusions to Africa, and communication and heritage, it is a term loosely thrown around.
I have to tell you, even with a short trip to Ghana in Africa, even with enjoying many performances by the tried and true Tivoli Drummers or Veni Way La Grenade, even with listening to Asher Mains practice for hours on end when he was a teenager with his young group Makofi, I have NEVER heard drums talking like I did last night at the Waving Art Gallery at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) with Godfrey Luke and the Ashanti Footprints.
Godfrey Luke seems to be a bit of a grassroots magician. First, he paints and sculpts wood like a master. Then he creates incredibly detailed vehicles from discarded wire, plastics, and computer parts, into fascinating rides of fantasy. Then he sits down to beat traditional African drums with a group of youngsters he mentors. Youngsters, not one of them over 16. Most of them travelled to the south of the island to perform from St Patrick and St Andrew. There were little guys who barely competed with the size of the drum. Magic ensued.
Joining the well-orchestrated melee are dancers, encouraged by Judy Antoine. Young girls in pretty costumes perform traditional African moves with great abandon and great smiles on their faces. Then when all is finished, and the watchers call for more, Judy herself gives way to the rhythm and just in her street clothes, with none of the vulgarity that is often called for by those wanting to see a “Caribbean” pappyshow, she dances with the sense of intimate knowledge of the authentic. Cleverly, with gentle persuasion, and a smile, she pulls in audience members to match her moves. The mood is light and happy — excited.
The rhythms are recognisable, we have heard many of them before. But then underlying comes a melody and the voice of the drums singing that is far more than we anticipated. It is a celebration of life, a care for the environment, a recognition that he not only shapes wood and wire, but that he is shaping the lives of these young people.
The Waving Art Gallery was the scene on Friday evening, and the host was Tamika Gilbert, PRO of the Grenada Arts Council (GAC). In the past year the GAC has staged 8 exhibitions at the airport in this special upstairs space and shown over 40 local artists. This has been the first opportunity for many young artists to have their work exhibited. A combined effort, the Grenada Airports Authority provides the space free of rent, and the Grenada Arts Council provides the artists.
To top off the evening, delightful refreshments were provided by the parents of Ashanti Footprints, and The Belmont Estate in St Patrick. There was even some of their award-winning dark chocolate to enjoy.
You can visit the Godfrey Luke Exhibition at the Waving Art Gallery every day at Maurice Bishop International Airport. Just step up the stairs where you wave goodbye to the planes. The exhibition continues through the end of January, and admission is free.