Piece titled: Granny Old House Size: 100 x 100 cm Medium: Acrylic on canvas Artist: Tricia Trotman-Maraj
The Chattel House is common throughout the Caribbean even though many have been replaced by more modern concrete dwellings. It dates back to the days of slavery and was considered posh dwelling houses for ex-slaves who had previously occupied barracks or thatched houses for most of their lives. To us this was was simply, granny old house in the country. We loved spending our school vacations there despite the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing. It was an adventure waking up to the cock's crow every morning and the sound of older cousins, whose permanent dwelling this was, sweeping the yard with the cocoyea broom and filling up water in barrels and buckets from the nearby stand pipe. This water was used to bathe and wash and cook. You could never sleep late in Granny's house because if you 'let the sun rise on you' you would be 'blight for life with a lazy jumbie'. Women and girls had to be the first ones to use the outside bathroom as you dare not enter granny's kitchen without washing your 'mokumflau'. Days were spent in the garden picking pommeracs, pommecythere, mangoes, and plums some of which we would stew with sugar over an open fire. These were our snacks as nothing was bought from the store. Despite the fun times we had the nights were always filled with dread especially after being told Nancy Stories about la diablesse, phantom, soucouyant, papa bois and douen. As a child the douen was the scariest of the jumbies mainly because it could easily pass for one of us. The douen was said to be a child who had died without being christened. Their feet were turned backwards and they would wear a straw 'chinese-like' hat to hide their featureless faces. They would eat baby corn and lure children deep into the forest with sweet songs and games and then disappear as soon as the children were lost. No one knows what happened to these lost children but we knew for sure that we were afraid of them. With the one pitch-oil (kerosene) lamp on granny's dressing table emitting a soft glow shadows would dance in the far corners of the room sending our imaginations wild. Strange sounds of things moving in the bush outside and an intermittent plump from some living thing falling on the galvanise roof would keep us huddled together for most of the night and until we fell asleep. There is one night that remains clear in my mind even until this day. It was the night I saw the tall fiery man in granny's living-room. Little did I know that this would have such a significant impact on my life as an adult. Enjoy my piece, ' Granny Old house'.
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Kids show off their creative versions of the douen, la diablesse and soucouyant below after the caribArt Kids Folklore Experience. Register for 2017/2018 caribArt workshops at Elizabeth James Gallery, London.