St. John Film Society (SJFS) will host the St. John premiere of “Yurumein: Homeland” on Tuesday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. at St. John School of the Arts in Cruz Bay. Director and producer Andrea E. Leland will be present to discuss the film.
“Yurumein” (your-o-mein), a 2014 documentary, is an important, untold story of Carib/Garifuna resistance against slavery that deserves its place in the annals of the African Diaspora. The film recounts the painful past of the Caribs of St. Vincent and the extermination of scores of their ancestors at the hands of the British, while building an intimate portrait of Garifuna culture in-transition today. We are given firsthand accounts from both Carib descendants who remain on the island of St Vincent and voices of returning descendants whose ancestors were exiled to Central America — where Garifuna traditional culture was able to survive and flourish.
When members of the Diaspora are first reunited and make a collective pilgrimage to the sacred site of Balliceaux (where the genocide occurred) the film reveals the beginnings of a movement among Garifuna people to revitalize traditional language, music, dance, and ritual. This scene features the Garifuna National Folkloric Ballet of Honduras.
While post-colonial stories of re-identification and cultural retrieval among indigenous people — particularly in North America — have captured broader public interest in recent decades, the story of Garifuna, or “Black Carib” people, and their homeland of St. Vincent, has largely been untold.
Garifuna culture, dating back to the Pre-Columbian Caribbean, has been revitalized in Central America and other parts of the Carib Diaspora, however, little of it remains on the formerly colonized homeland. Few, if any Carib descendants who presently live on St. Vincent can speak their native language.
While there are some traditions that remain (and a noticeable absence of Western tourism), few Caribs remaining on the island intimately understand their traditional music, food, and spiritual practices.
However, this is beginning to change. In 2001, UNESCO awarded the Garifuna community the title: “Proclamation of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
“In 2005, I was invited to screen my film ‘The Garifuna Journey’ (1998), on the island of St. Vincent,” Leland said. “The film focuses on the living culture of the descendants of the Caribs/ Garifuna who were exiled to Central America and now live in Belize. While the film played, the local audience was very moved by the story told in the film. As they watched the descendants of exiled Garifuna on screen, they realized that Garifuna culture, language and spirituality had flourished in the Diaspora. The Garifuna who had been living on St. Vincent became even more conscious of the disconnect between their own lives and the history and ways of their ancestors.”
“This was a transformative experience for me,” LeLand contined. “I realized then that my film only told half of the story. What was missing were the voices of the descendants of the Caribs who were not exiled and who grew up on St. Vincent. Their ancestors have lived under very repressive British colonial rule for the past 200 years. The story of ‘Yurumein’ began that very day.”
Andrea E. Leland is an independent filmmaker and visual artist. Her documentary work focuses on Caribbean and Latin American culture. In Haiti, Belize, Chiapas, and several Caribbean islands, she has worked collaboratively with community members providing a forum to voice their untold stories, personal challenges and compelling triumphs. Social, artistic or political actions are placed within context of their culture, imploring the viewer to confront old myths and discover a new perspective. Leland’s documentaries have proved to be successful tools for cultural preservation. She is a member of New Day Films, has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, and is the program director of the St. John Film Society, a film/video forum presented monthly on St. John.
Opening the evening will be two shorts by local filmmakers, Janet Cook-Rutnik and Bill Stelzer.
SJFS would like to thank Elaine Estern of Coconut Coast Gallery for the screenings raffle prize donation.
There is a suggested donation of $5.
SJFS is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Virgin Island Council on the Arts and St John Community Foundation. For more information contact St John Film Society email@example.com or www.stjohnfilm.com or visit www.yurumeinproject.com.