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BOSOMTWA: The sacred and profane in Kwame Dawes’ Prophets

Written by Vladimir Lucien for Poetry International on Friday, June 17, 2016

I am thinking of the word ‘sacred’. A word whose etymology is one of deep and at times troubling ambiguity. The original term, found in ancient Roman religion, sacer, is incongruent with the meaning it took on in Christianity. According to some, the original term more convincingly coheres with the term haram in Islam. A person or thing that is ‘set apart’, which encompasses something at once ‘sacred’ and ‘cursed’. This shift is more seismic than one may think especially for the spiritual life of Caribbean people. Instead what obtains is a more simplified notion of the sacred as being symbolic of all that is ‘good’ and ‘God’. This is of course compounded by a static concept of what is ‘good’—a bigoted sense of it in fact, which scarcely veils its cultural bias. It also completely delimits human experience within an entirely moral framework. Kwame Dawes’ work constitutes an intervention of sorts into the stodgy definition of the sacred and its hegemonic status in the Caribbean and beyond.

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