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RIP George Lamming

Following is a statement from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley on the passing of George Lamming

 “Sadly, it seems now that almost weekly, we are forced to say goodbye to one of our national icons.

“Today, it is our internationally recognized and respected novelist, essayist, and poet, George Lamming who, without doubt, stood for decades at the apex of our island’s pantheon of writers. Indeed, George Lamming must be considered one of the most famous writers this region has produced.

“Notwithstanding the fact that he passed away today, four days shy of his 95th birthday, I still declare that he has left us all too soon. In fact, only this morning I discussed with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Dr. Shantal Munro Knight, my desire to have arrangements made to visit him on Wednesday to celebrate his birthday with him.

“Unfortunately, we will now have to switch to a national celebration via an official funeral for a man who has given so much to his country, his people, his region and the world.

“George Lamming was the quintessential Bajan, born in as traditional a district as you can get — Carrington Village, on the outskirts of Bridgetown. And his education was as authentically Bajan as one could possibly acquire — Roebuck Boys’ School and Combermere.

Perhaps even more critical to the literary giant he grew into, was the fortune he had of being schooled at the feet of yet another Barbadian great, Frank Collymore.

“But as Bajan as he was, he still distinguished himself as a world scholar: teaching first at a boarding school in Trinidad, before emigrating to England, where he became a broadcaster with the BBC’s Colonial Service. This was followed by positions that included, writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University, and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania, and Australia.

“Wherever George Lamming went, he epitomized that voice and spirit that screamed Barbados and Caribbean. And while he has written several novels and received many accolades, none of his works touches the Barbadian psyche like his first — In The Castle of My Skin, written back in 1953, but which today ought still to be required reading for every Caribbean boy and girl.

“Barbados will miss George Lamming — his voice, his pen, and, of course, his signature hairstyle — but I pray that the consciousness of who we are that he preached in all that he wrote will never fade from our thoughts.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados I extend the deepest sympathy to the Lamming family. May his soul rest in peace.”

“Professor George Lamming, Caribbean and global literary luminary, Philosopher King of Postcolonialism, and social justice activist, transitioned in his native Barbados—the castle of his skin—on Saturday June 4, 2022 at age 94.

The news punctured the peace of mind of the academic community at The UWI, where he was Professor in Residence at the Cave Hill Campus.

It was there in his office at the George Lamming Pedagogical Centre, that we last met and occupied ourselves for a few hours with one of Miles Davis’ last statements: that time is never enough to exhaust the ever giving, producing, creative imagination of the dedicated intellect.

George was a phenomenal philosopher who erupted in the literary world early in life with the publication in 1953 of a classic novel of anti-colonial consciousness—In The Castle Of My Skin—written during his 23rd year of life.

From his Bridgetown Village, he traversed the intellectual universe and provided it with a pedagogy of liberation that underpinned Pan-Africanism, socialism, and a 20th century humanism that included feminism, dialectical materialism, and the Caribbean cultural revolution. His embrace of Cuban socialism became a template for his support of Maurice Bishop and Walter Rodney in their quests to detach the neo-colonial region from the scaffold of rejected imperialism.

As a craftsman of literary forms, his citizenship within The UWI community was celebrated as an expression of Caribbean civilization at its finest. He was a brother within the hood, and a comrade in the intellectual struggle to win our freedom with dignity and self-determination.

A fierce but gentle and subtle debater and conversationalist, our hero was all too human in his love of humour and the culture of laughter. Always with a twinkle in his eyes, he communicated a deep compassion for sincere friendship and solidarity with those in the struggle.

His special love of The University of the West Indies for its mandate and role as a regional freedom vehicle, drove him to offer constant critical insights into its contradictory omens and at times its torn and tortured realities and identities.

He was in this sense the quintessential Caribbean progressive intellectual who transcended theory and grounded his existential engagements within the masses at the grassroots. He was a soldier of the Caribbean soul, forever building solidarities wherever liberation circumstances were erupting.

Within this context, our crusading citizen would expect of us to soldier on in his physical absence without fear or doubt about the future. For decades he illuminated the progressive paths with his papers and speeches. We know he will be there at the rendezvous of the Caribbean victory. His life was dedicated to no other cause. He knew no other world. Until then, I simply say, “Bye George”, from all of us at your University of the West Indies.” (BGIS)

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