Ideas Matter

by Ian Boyne

Kingston, Jamaica

Why We Love Miss Lou Published : Sunday | August 13, 2006

It is important that we carefully analyse the meaning of Louise Bennett-Coverley. Why does she inspire such cult-like affection, such worshipful adoration, such unbridled love?

Jamaicans were united, for a change, last week as we celebrated the life and work of the First Lady of Culture and the Mother of the Nation. Miss Lou was more than just a folklorist,

a dramatist, a poet, a broadcaster - she is far more that what she used to do. She was not defined by her professional role. There is something deeper, more archetypal about Miss Lou. Miss Lou is the quintessential Jamaican.

Ole Time Jamaica.

She is embodiment of all the goodness of Jamaica. She represents a long-lost Jamaica of civility, courtesy, and generosity of spirit, non-partisanship, resilience, resourcefulness and optimism. One misguided letter writer from Brooklyn, Sherman Escoffrey, opines that Miss Lou is great but ... He says Miss Lou should no more be made a National Heroine than Alan Magnus or Dennis Hall.

Mistaken notion

Perhaps it is because so many people who pay tribute to Miss Lou have focused on her work and professional activities why there is this mistaken notion that she is loved simply for her work. Others could have been equally brilliant in expression; equally innovative, path-breaking and trailblazing without having the impact of Louise Bennett-Coverley.

It is not just that she was the person to make us respect patois. It is not just that she was the one who brought the people’s language to the paper of the ruling class, The Gleaner. It was not just that she accepted us, loved us and celebrated us. Others have done so and could have done that without generating the adulation, the devotion, the intense loyalty. There was just something about Miss Lou, and it was not just in her work…