To be Beautiful: Transmutation through Bois!

Oli Day Ou wah!

From de day ah hold me bois!

From de day ah hold me bois

Me mamma say I’m a warrior!

Oli Day Ou wah!

From de day ah hold me bois!

I have never felt more alive knowing that any misstep could cause blood to spill (which it did) or lead to death (mine or my opponent’s). The doo doop dop, doo doop doping of the drum, beating with the rhythm of my heart, brings forth the imagery of a galloping warhorse riding into battle. The Chantwell and the chorus takes up the lavway sending vibrations into my spirit connecting me with my bois and my ancestors simultaneously. Although I was merely an actor in a play, with each new song my opponent and I got lost in the siren call of the lavways; the drums quicken somethings inside of us that seduced us into being locked within our imagined gayelle, our own ‘magic circle‘. The clacks, paks and poxes heard after each exchanged blow and braix (parrying) with our bois transformed us into our characters more easily than  prescribed acting methods could. During the stickfighting scene we both felt something magical awaken, something beautiful.

“To be beautiful in the face of death, to be excellent in the face of the impossible…” (Bois Academy of Trinidad and Tobago – The Stickfighter’s Code)

It is said  that when a boisman enters a gayelle, he does so with a prayer to become his best self. The four-road junction (traditionally used to create a gayelle/ fighter’s ring) becomes the altar where dance, song and blood are offered up for his transformation/ his transmutation into the golden status of king-hood. The lavways call out challenges; warns against danger; but most importantly,  with the help of the drums, it quickens his spirit thereby allowing him to display beauty and create magic.

When a stickfighter/ boisman is faithful to his inner beauty and acts perfectly in the face of death he unlocks some magical place inside of himself 

(Rondel Bemjamin). During a stickfighting/kalinda training session with Bois AcademyRondel Benjamin shared the notion that “magic is [possibly] science that we don’t understand”, and that the gayelle is [perhaps] a magical circle, where one can be transformed into something more (a Lawah/ King) with the assistance of one’s wand (bois). This metaphor gives insight which helps paint a picture of Kalinda that I never consciously considered before, but felt in my body and spirit while sparring with Keegan Taylor during a workshop and during the performance of a play called “The Dolls’ House”. The transmutative process can also be seen in the music video for the song “Busshead”.

Source/ /dialoguewithacaribbeanthespian.

by Simeon Moodoo

Simeon Chris Moodoo is a national and regional award winning Trinbagonian and Caribbean playwright and director; an actor; a community drama practitioner; an educator; a review writer; and a production/stage manager. A student of Kalinda and Rope Jab, his interest lies in the facilitation of learning and in the positive growth and development of Trinbagonian and by extension Caribbean Society.

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