30 Year Anniversary of the first book on Caribbean Women Writers

By: Staff,  Africana Studies & Research Center
April 19, 2021

A virtual celebration was held on March 27, 2021 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the first book on Caribbean Women Writers, Out of the KUMBLA, a groundbreaking collection of writings on Caribbean women’s literature. The event also honored Sylvia Wynter, Jamaican novelist, dramatist, critic, philosopher, and essayist.

The event featured greetings, poetry, and statements from writers and scholars including  NourbeSe, Abena P.A. Busia, Carolyn Cooper, Sandra Messinger Cypess, Pamela Mordecai, Elizabeth Wilson, Nancy Morejon, Evelyn O'Callaghan,  Sandra Messinger Cypess, Janice Liddell and Giovanna Covi – all of whom contributed to this landmark field-founding collection being honored -- as well as those who were influenced by its publication such as Giselle Anatol (ACWWS President),  Rinaldo Walcott, Opal Palmer Adisa, Thomas Glave, Donna Aza Weir Soley, Myriam Moise, Meredith Gadsby, Anu Lakhan, Ramabai Espinet, Erica Johnson and  Yomaira Figueroa.  One of the closing highlights was a special video-statement of support  from renowned writer Edwidge Danticat.

Out of KUMBLA book cover

Edited by Carole Boyce Davies, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, and Elaine Savory Fido, this first collection of critical essays on Caribbean women’s literature created a field of literary criticism which engaged the absence of women writers from the Caribbean literary canon as it established the presence of these writers historically. One of its signature lasting contributions was Sylvia Wynter's first major essay for a U.S. publication, "Beyond Miranda's Meanings: Un/Silencing the Demonic Ground of Caliban's Woman," which has since become a theoretical staple in several fields. One of the sections of its introduction, “The Critical Context for a Caribbean Feminist Poetics,” examined these issues theoretically as it raised some critical questions and spurred the development of a continued and sustained intellectual debate.

Out of the Kumbla revitalized Caribbean literature and criticism as it expanded the narrow terms of Western feminist discourse. Using the metaphor of the “Kumbla” or “calabash” used to protect precious objects, first used by writer Erna Brodber, coming “out of the Kumbla” then signified a movement from confinement to visibility, articulation, process which allowed for a multiplicity of moves, exteriorized, no longer contained and protected or dominated, according to Boyce Davies. She notes that since its publication thirty years ago, Out of the Kumbla has witnessed an amazing flowering of Caribbean women's writing and its criticism all over the world.

This celebration was presented in collaboration with The New School Department of Literary Studies & the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars.

You can watch the recording of the event at https://ecornell.cornell.edu/keynotes/view/K032721/ This will be a link to the recording.

Professor Carole Boyce Davies