An evening in Guanima is a treasury of folktales from the Bahamas that was written by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
Lateisha Pratt LI42
Friday 25th May, 2012
An evening in Guanima is a treasury of folktales from the Bahamas that was written by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas, a fellow Bahamian from Cat Island, Bahamas. This book consists of many short stories that contain Bahamian customs. Some Bahamian customs originate from our African ancestors and are still used today. Two stories that widely show an abundance of Bahamian customs are “Miss Annie” and “The Gaulin Wife”. In these two stories there are things such as lifestyle, foods, dialect, places, songs, proverbs, obeah, transportation, celebrations and plants that can be seen as Bahamian customs.
The short story “Miss Annie” was taken place in Cat Island. I can tell because the author identifies the setting as “Port Howe” which is in Cat Island. There are places such as Society Hall, St.Peter’s Church and Zion Baptist that can also be traced back to the Bahamian island known as Cat Island. There is also mention of the blue holes which are found in Andros.
There are also some plants mentioned in this story that are found in The Bahamas, such as, croton, bougainvillaea and allamanda. The allamanda and bougainvillea plants can be found almost anywhere on the islands because they are the most common of three listed.
One of the most common Bahamian customs found in both stories is the food. There were a whole lot of Bahamian dishes listed in the short story “Miss Annie” such as steamed chicken, peas and rice, fried plantains, roast potatoes, coconut tart, potato bread and limeade. Some classical Bahamian pastries or treats were listed in “The Gaulin Wife” such as benne, johnny, coconut and peanut cakes.
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The use of proverbs is another Bahamian tradition that was used a lot back in the old days. Mostly old Bahamians recited them. There are examples of them in both stories such as “jumped the broom” which meant to get married. That custom was adapted from our African ancestors. “Once fish on hook, man don’ need no bait” meant that once whatever you desired was yours, you wouldn’t have to try anymore to keep it. “Listen boy, you guh pick ‘til you pick needle wit’ out eye”meant that the boy will pick and pick until he messes with the wrong person. “Crossing the river” was another proverb used by old folks to say that they were dying and going to heaven.
In the story “Miss Annie” there is some instances that portray the lifestyles of Bahamians. The drawing of water from the well, washing to rock pools by the sea, and the assembling of a fire with pigeon plum sticks and stopper wood are some customs carried out by Bahamians. In “The Gaulin Wife” there are Bahamian lifestyles portrayed as well, such as, the plaiting of straw hats madewith brown coconut straw, the harvesting of corn to make grits, working on fields and the use of smouldering lime kiln as a primer for the walls of homes.
The celebrations of Bahamians are fairly linked to these stories as well. Especially in “The Gaulin Wife” where Easter Sunday and Empire day was celebrated. The traditional plaiting of the maypole was carried out on Empire Day. Maypole plaiting is still continued in the Bahamas. It is mostly seen happening on Fox Hill Day.
The main form of transportation used in “Miss Annie” is the use of horses and carriages which is still widely used in The Bahamas. They are used to carry around tourists and fellow Bahamians. In “The Gaulin Wife” the transport stated there was the use of the mail boat which is still seen today but it carries mostly mail to the family islands nowadays.
There are some marine and land creatures that are found in The Bahamas that are also mentioned in both stories such as the conch, crawfish, flamingos, fish such as snapper, and crabs. The flamingo is the national bird of The Bahamas.
Also, there are the use songs in the book that can be identified as Bahamian. There is one used in “The Gaulin Wife” and it says:
“When de pond, plonga, plonga.
Meetee B’er Sea Crab, plonga, plonga,
Meetee B’er Gaulin, plonga, plonga”
There is also a Bahamian song by D Mac based on this short story. The name of the song is called “I Nearly Married the Gaulin”.
There is also use of Obeah in “The Gaulin Wife”. In this story, the Obeah woman needed strands of hair from this young man’s wife’s hair and some threads from a frequently worn dress then when she got the items, she filled a drinking glass with water and then she added a mixture of shredded leaves and brown powder then a pipe was pulled out of her pocket and she filled it with dried bay geranium, sprinkled nutmeg and lighted the mixture. Then she said, “Yanday, Yanday, turra day, oh!” After this the lady remained silent and motionless to the point where one thought she was dead then she started singing and then the water in the glass started to boil and cloud over and an image of a great ugly bird was revealed. The young man was told that he married a Gaulin and was given a length of string tied into sever knots in which she looped under the young man’s shirt on his waist.
The local obeah woman told the man to sprinkle salt around his wife’s bed when she’s sleeping and he was also given bay rum to pour on the wife and mother but he couldn’t tale off the knot from around his waist. She said if he did “dog guh be better dan you.” This was one of the processes carried out by obeah people and it originated from the African slave trade where they use to practice these things.
The final Bahamian custom and that I found after reading this book is the dialect. This is in fact the most widely used custom throughout the book. While reading the short stories “Miss Annie” and “The Gaulin Wife”, you can find many examples of dialect, such as, “Wha kinda business dis is?”, “”Who you gat comin’ to dis place?”, “Can’ gi’e dese woman-dem no ideas. Dey always get beside dey se’f, when yuh too nice”, “You outdo yuhse’f wit’ dis potato bread, gal.” Those examples were taken from “Miss Annie”. There were also some found in “The Gaulin Wife” such as, “Her hair too picky. She musse bu’n it out with too much lard an’ hot comb”, “What I wan’ wit’ dis big, hard foot gal. You could see she ain’ use to nuttin but runnin’ over sea rock an’ workin’ fiel’.” and “Wit’ dem pop eye she gat, her ma musse pity frog or google-eye fish.” There are all examples of Bahamian dialect used in the stories. Bahamian dialect is still used extensively today.
After reading both books, I came to like “The Gaulin Wife” better because of all the hidden lessons and messages behind it. From this story, I learned to never rush into a marriage and judge a book by its cover. I also learned that I should listen to my elders because they speak truth and wisdom. The Golden rule can also be identified in this story as well. The young man was very arrogant and cocky and was uncaring to other people’s feelings. He was very mean to the girls and at the end, the young man ended up getting what he deserved. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” can be a lesson learnt from the story. This is why I preferred this particular story over the other.