The array of talent locked away behind the walls of HMP Dodds was on full display last Saturday night during the fifth semifinal of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA).
The inmates all but took over the Major Noot Hall at the Combermere School and brought it alive, performing nine of the 21 pieces on offer that night.
They offered captivating pieces in the disciplines of music and theatre, all of which were well received. By the sound of the cheers, the audience was glad to welcome the prisoners back to the NIFCA stage after a one-year hiatus.
The first performance from the HMP group came in the form of a theatrical piece from the Social Engineers titled The Boss Big-Big Cheifa. This 45-minute piece presented a real life look at what happens on ‘blocks’ in Barbados and the associated dangers.
Though lengthy, the piece captivated the audience and the actors had them hanging on to their every word. This piece was definitely one of the standouts on the night and should land the performers a spot in the finals.
The second performance from the HMP group involved an original music piece from Shane Jordan. The song, To See a Change, was dedicated to family and friends encouraging them to turn their lives around. Dwayne Neal was up next. This original entitled A Story of Old spoke of things past and present goings on in Barbados.
Another inmate who used the NIFCA stage to portray a positive message, was Rohan Arthur. His original song, School Girls, spoke specifically to school children, encouraging them to make wise use of their time and get a good education.
Eli Anthony Bryon was the next HMP group member to grace the stage. His emotional piece Hold On, also an original, definitely tugged at the heart strings of those in the audience. It was dedicated to his mother encouraging her to ‘just hold on’ while he was incarcerated. He repeatedly assured her through his song, “when I get home, everything will be fine”.
A 26-year-old Jamaican inmate, Ann Lisa Thomas, gave what could be considered one of the best performances of the night. In what appeared to be a portrayal of a real life experience, she presented a piece titled Mi should leff di phone.
Thomas walked the audience through the events that led to incarceration. She cautioned all in ear shot that anything which comes easy is not always good and that the choices they make could cause long lasting effects.
However, Thomas offered some words of advice to those who could possibly be going through a similar situation or facing tough times. She urged them to hold on to Jesus and ride out the storm.
Though humorous, the serious message was not to be missed. Just like this piece, all the HMP pieces presented real life experiences, comical yes, but sent a strong message.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jornella Boland was the next member of the HMP group on stage with another original music piece, Battle Scars. Her song encouraged all to never give up striving for what they believed in.
The Social Engineers then returned with another captivating theatre piece titled Confessions. It was ‘sweet, sweet, sweet’ and the cast consisted of 13 inmates and one prison officer. It spoke to the discrimination experienced by persons with HIV and why it should be stopped. The crowd really loved this one.
The final piece from the HMP Dodds group came from Ronneisha Carter who sang a cover of Like I’m Going to Lose You. She dedicated the performance to her family, some of whom were in the audience.
Apart from the HMP group, there were many other noteworthy performances that night. One came from Dancin’ Africa, which presented a dance piece titled #LifeInLeggins. It highlighted a social movement which has been the topic of much discussion across the island.
The movement is pushing for women to be respected at all times and not be subjected to harassment and abuse because of how they choose to dress. Dancin’ Africa ended the piece by repeating “I am not your sexy friend” over and over. This line was quite prominent during the Life in Leggings march through Bridgetown a few months ago.
Another well-executed dance piece came from the group L’Muvv which was entered in the semi-professional category. Other performances came from Tavon Boyce, Deacon’s Primary School, Praise Academy of Dance, Louise Woodvine Dance Academy, C.S Cloud 9, Pehnyo Dance Centre, and the Multifarious Dance Group.
They should all be commended for a job well done.