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The familiar chant of “pay the devil” that often comes with blue devil performances in Trinidad’s Carnival is the source of inspiration for the title of a forthcoming book of photographs called Pay! Kevin Browne, a photographer, poet and assistant professor of rhetoric and writing at Syracuse University, New York, will show his images from the book today in Paramin, at an event called Seeing Blue. Browne, who is from T&T, has been researching the Redhead Devils, a band of blue devils who competed in this year’s Carnival. His photographs are tangible outcomes of his visual exploration of the traditions, rituals and practices of the group. Pay! constitutes part of his scholarly focus on the subject of Caribbean rhetoric.
The term rhetoric refers to the study of the features, motives and uses of a range of expressive forms in both offline and online spaces—including written works, spoken language, images and musical performances. Rhetoric considers how these forms organise groups in society, affect behaviour, construct meanings and identities, bring about power and resistance and produce change. Browne sees what he calls the Caribbean Carnivalesque—actions with the intention of display rather than concealment, in other words, with the aim of being seen and heard—as the overarching feature or framework that guides all Caribbean expressions. Pay! puts emphasis on the blue devil performance as one example of a Caribbean activity that is propelled by Browne’s concept of the Caribbean carnivalesque.
Along with the exhibition, Browne will give a brief talk on the aesthetic and rhetorical dynamics of visual display among the Redhead Devils. Limited copies of Browne’s work Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture and the Anglophone Caribbean, published in 2013 by Pittsburgh University Press, will also be available for purchase. At the end of today’s event, Browne will present the photographs, at no cost, to the performers who are the subjects of his work. “It is crucial that the performers have the opportunity not only to see how they were being seen, but also to have their payment, as it were, be in the form of fine art that is appreciable, collectible, and consistent with the complexities of their performance,” he said.
Browne will also recreate the exhibition online for a period of two weeks, at www.kevinbrownephd.com/Pay. Seeing Blue takes place today from 5-8 pm at Kool Breeze Bar, Saut d’Eau Road, Paramin. The event is free and open to the public. More info: 737-8934.
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