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A Literary Work Of Art

EDITOR, The Tribune.

In response to Carnival of Love by Ernestia M Fraser

AND I thought it was only Marion and me and Nicolette, Angela Palacious, Angelique Nixon, Patti Glinton-Meicholas, Lynn Sweeting, Asha Rahming, Pat Rahming, Keith Russell, Ian Strachan, Helen Klonaris, Sonia Farmer, Christian Campbell and a few others of us who were engaged in making Bahamian Literature at dizzying heights – at the loftiest level, but, OMG, where has Ernestia Frazer been hiding – from where exactly has she emerged and how did she come to be writing prose no less wonderfully than Alice Walker?

Who has not read Alice Walker’s book of essays, In Search of My Mother’s Garden, definitely should. Who has not read Ernestia Fraser’s Carnival of Love, definitely should. It is one of the most beautiful, most well written books in the world.

It is a novel of Bahamian life or a collection of Bahamian short stories. It is, artistically, a glorious event. I know no Bahamian artist in any genre whose work is finer than this book E M Fraser has written and published.

I am exactly in the middle of reading it, here where I am in Kisii, in Kenya, in Africa. At times I get goose bumps. At times, briefly, I sob. A while ago, reading, Ernestia concluded a chapter or a story, so deliciously, I drooled upon the floor before I was able to prevent it happening.

My God, to see Bahamian life so divinely structured is such a joy. It gives me so much pleasure. Paradoxically, she holds together with language as she writes about what is coming apart.

Look to our writers, I say. Look to our artists. It is through these persons – through these sources that light is entering the world – our society of islands - like light enters cathedrals through stained-glass windows.

Yes, this work of Ernestia Frazer is a holy event indeed. How did it come about? How did she come about? I am mystified by the quality of this writing – by the ability of this author who is a poet – who writes poetry as well.

Bahamians, look to your authors – your poets and artists. Embrace them and love them. What they are doing has to be added to what are the loftiest achievements in our Bahamas experience – especially since our experiment with independence commenced. It is time we begin to cherish our authors and artists. It is time they were celebrated.

It is this sentence that follows that inspired me abruptly to shift from reading to writing this endorsement that Ernestia Fraser humbly requested:

“In fact, Goddie Frida became twice as beautiful when she grinned, her big lips piercing her black rosy cheeks.”

That, you see, is really quite magical and Carnival of Love is full of such wonderful literary inventions. This sentence above is on page 64.

Almost from the point I commenced reading this book I have been wondering: Endorsement – and from me – why ever is one necessary? This book could have been painted upon the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is indeed a lofty work of art.

Ernestia Fraser teaches Literature at Aquinas College, on New Providence, in The Bahamas. I met her and discovered her work in May of this year. What I find and found strange is that I was previously unaware of this author/poet or her work.

By our not knowing of Ernestia Fraser, she is robbed and we are robbed. Can you imagine being Bahamian and never having heard of guava duff or okra soup, conch fritters or conch salad? This author’s work is as vital and as enjoyable as Junkanoo or our family island regattas.

Carnival of Love is a Bahamian event I invite you to attend. You’d be amazed. You’d be edified. You’d be happy you came. You’d be happy to have been a part of it.

“If you don’t know my name,” wrote James Baldwin, “you don’t know your own.” Ernestia Fraser’s story is our story, exquisitely well crafted – well structured – well told.

It equals in import, relevance and beauty, our Clement Bethel’s “Sammy Swain” or our Winston Saunders’ “You Can Lead A Horse to Water”. I invite you to drink of – to drink in – to drink down this work of art as well. It is yours. It is ours. It belongs in the world. It belongs to the world.

OBEDIAH SMITH

East Africa,

August 11, 2014.

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