Nothing's Mat

144.95 BBD

This story is told by a black British teenager u aeevery black girlAE u for she has no name until the very last chapters when she is teasingly called aePrincessAE by her husband. Somewhere in the 1950s Princess, London-based, is allowed to complete her 6th form final exams by writing a long paper on the aeWest Indian familyAE instead of sitting an exam. She thinks this a aegod-sendAE and that all she has to do is to interview her parents. Her father tries to help her with his side but they both find that their kin will not fit into the standard anthropological template. Her father thinks it a good time for her to go to Jamaica and meet her grandparents who can better help her with her study. Her mother thinks the change would be good for her health for she is asthmatic and it is the time of the year when London fog makes her ill. In Jamaica, much as her grandparents, middle class black Jamaicans and her parents in England, might not have liked it, Princess meets and spends time with her obscure Cousin Nothing, called Conut. She introduces her to the flora of Jamaica and in particular, to one plant which obeys certain divine principles and which is available to humans to make artifacts for their comfort. Accordingly they begin to make a mat and as they twist straw and bend it into intricate shapes, Conut tells her the family history so that their creation becomes for her a mat of anthropological template. The resulting shape presented to her teacher, earns her an aeAAE and the comment that she has managed to project the West Indian family as a fractal rather than fractured as the published literature sees it. aeEvery girlAE gets a scholarship to a London University but asks to be allowed to take it up in Jamaica. Here she completes graduate work and gets an assistant lectureship but more, she inherits an old house from Conut, from which she commutes to the university in Kingston. Under-stimulated by the academy, she chooses to continue the family study which she had done as her end of high school project and to do so by crafting the information into the mat, which mat becomes for her a shield against spiritual and physical evil. Making the mat of ancestors takes her into the history of young English men kidnapped and transported to Jamaica for illicit sexual activity, of Jamaican women launderers in Panama, of a African Jamaican/African American marriage in Panama which produces children brought up in Virginia USA, and who become aethe first Negroes toaAE; of two females who escape Governor EyreAEs violence in Morant Bay and re-settle in a aefree villageAE in St Ann. This work is not only a fictional family history but is also a comment on anthropological methodology, and African systems of thought.