Alliouagana Festival of the Word

Alliouagana Festival of the Word

I’ve never been to Alliouagana, but it has a special place in my heart, and indeed, in Irish history.

Alliouagana is the native name for the island of Montserrat which was originally inhabited by Tainos (Arawaks) moving north from South America along the eastern chain of Caribbean islands, and subsequently occupied by the Kaliganu people (Caribs) prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1493.
Caribbean American Research Foundation

I spent a long time reading and thinking about this island when I was writing my novel The Fisher Child, as its middle section is principally set in Montserrat, an island largely dominated by Irish slave plantation owners and their descendants in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries

Columbus, of course, named Montserrat, (ie Sawn, or Jagged Mountain), after the mountain of the same name in Catalonia, which, as it happens, I visited at least once when I lived in Barcelona in the seventies. The Monastery of Montserrat, located near the top of the 4,000-foot mountain, is famous for its statue of the Black Madonna, (La Moreneta). Have a look at Sacred Destinations for its history and pictures.

One of my working methods is to discover the Indian names for the Caribbean islands before they were colonized, and this was how I came across the Alliouagana Festival of the World.

Its featured artists are

Funso Aiyejina | Austin Clarke
Carolyn Cooper | Howard Fergus
Merle Hodge | Marie-Elena John
Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust)
Earl Lovelace | Rachel Manley
Pauline Melville | Gordon Rohlehr
A-dZiko Simba | Yvonne Weekes
Edgar Nkosi White and others.

See their biographies and photos here
I don’t know why this makes me happy but it does. Perhaps it’s because Montserrat has been so ravaged by its volcano, and to see it now host a literary festival is yet one more testament to the human spirit.

I was delighted to make contact with the wonderful Chair of the litfest Steering Committee, Gracelyn Cassell. Contact her on the Alliouagana Festival of the World website.

I can’t go, but I hope someone who reads this can, or at least support the festival in some way. I’m having trouble uploading the pdf that Ms Cassell sent me but you can see the festival program here