The Caribbean Writers Series welcomed director, writer and producer Lisa Harewood to Marillac Hall auditorium on Monday, April 10, where she discussed the complexities of migration in the Caribbean.
The lecture, entitled “You’re Better Off Here,” was preceded by a showing of “Auntie,” a 2013 short film directed by Harewood, which tells the complex story of the emotional bond between a child and her temporary caretaker.
Harewood, who is from Barbados, has previously directed the award-winning film “A Hand Full of Dirt,” released in 2010.
“Parents generally will migrate and often leave their children behind, or wait until they get settled to send for their kids. But what happens in between, what happens to the people who are left behind?” Harewood said at the beginning of the lecture, elaborating on the moralization of parents’ decisions to leave their children in the care of relatives and friends as they establish new lives in foreign countries such as the U.S. and England.
Harewood discussed the cultural significance of “the barrel child,” a term coined by Dr. Claudette Crawford-Brown of the University of the West Indies, which describes those children in the Caribbean who are financially supported by an absent parent or family member abroad. The family member will often send care packages back home in the form of barrels, stuffed with goods from the country they have immigrated to.
Harewood said she sees the barrels as ghosts, as they can also serve as reminders of absent family members.
“I was really interested in the film, especially because I’m familiar with the barrel stories myself. My mom and I are currently working on a barrel to send to Trinidad.” Leeann Dabydeen, a senior environmental major, said. “The short film combined with [Harewood] explaining the background of it, all the social connections…I found that it was very intricately connected to me, myself, and from childhood up, things that I couldn’t communicate,” she added.
Harewood also brought attention to an ongoing project she is heading, called “Barrel Stories,” an oral history archive which aims to tell the stories of Caribbean people who have lived the consequences of migration. Harewood said she has grown to see her project as giving people who may otherwise never discuss these sensitive topics both an outlet and a voice. Harewood played a few clips of previous interviewees, one in which a woman discussed her experience of being sent for by a parent she had become unfamiliar with, as well as adjusting to life in a country she had never known before.
Harewood also touched on the experience of filming, relaying anecdotes about first-time actress Che-Annika Mayers’ efforts to get into the character of Kera. She ended the presentation by inviting students who want to share their own barrel stories to sign up.