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THE PARADISE BRIDGE (1813-2013): TELLING STORIES IN STONE

Caldwell Taylor

The Paradise Bridge (consecrated two hundred years ago) is one of the most recognisable architectural landmarks in Grenada. This masonry arch structure straddles the “Great River” at Paradise just north of Grenville, the Island’s second largest town: At Paradise the river changes its rhythm and its mood as a noisy speed eases into a pensive laziness. But Paradise people never speak of a Paradise River. The shrivelled water is the Fun day vo (Fond des faultes), reminding of Derek Walcott’s “The River”: “... it thinks like the peasantry.”

Fond des Faultes (place, bed of faults)

“However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source”

-Yoruba proverb.

The name (Fond des faultes) reaches back many decades to the time when the river was a village’s laundry, and when “cornstick” (corn cob) –wielding women scrubbed their rags and” washed” their “dirty mouths” on their neighbours’ faults; and when skirls of sinful laughter shredded the innocence of the soapy stream. Fond des faultes was then a place to broadcast faults. A place to make movay lang (mauvais langue)*

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water!
-Negro Spiritual

The river heard everything. It saw everything: It saw Bathing, Fishing, Baptisms and appeals to a congregation of African water deities including Oshun, a Yoruba goddess in a liberation theology of the African dispersal in the Caribbean and the Americas. Oshun (Oxum in Brazil) is the fish-tailed bringer of fertility, progress and prosperity; she is the “Merrymaid” (mermaid) in Grenadian lore. Canute Emmanuel Caliste (1914-2005), the internationally acclaimed “folk artist”, told of how he took up painting on the morning of an encounter with the Mamaglo (Mother of the Water). Ma Femme (Mother of Women), the Africa-born Grenadian priestess left her home in Munich “to sit on the waters” of the Grand Etang Lake; some such sittings were sustained over several days- Ma Femme sat until Mama Watta “manifested”.

I have known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers
My soul has grown deep like rivers.

-Langston Hughes, The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Clermiel (Vodu water goddess) came to Paradise. Apan Napat came: back in the late Sixties the Indian pundit (from Trinidad) came to Font des faultes to meet this Hindu goddess of the streams. And there were many sightings of Idemili, the Ibo goddess who followed her people to Grenada. Out of the bulrushes came Alpheus; he chased after the chaste Arethusa.

Font des faultes fed material and spiritual life. This body of living water created and nourished certain mentalities (borrowing the word and a certain view from the works of Marc Bloch (1886-1944), Lucien Lebvre, Fernand Braudel (1902-1985), and the French Annalistes who discovered great truths in the little things of life.

A fragment from a longer work: The Bridge will be celebrated in July/August

           

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