Edward Kamau Brathwaite

Kamau Brathwaite

Edward Kamau Brathwaite (born May 11, 1930) is one of the major voices in the Caribbean literary canon. Brathwaite is the 2006 International Winner of the Sixth Annual Griffin Poetry Prize. His recent volume of poetry, Born to Slow Horses, was the work recognized for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

A holder of a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex and co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM), Brathwaite's name is seminal for a literary critic, scholar, or student concerned with Caribbean Literature, History and Culture. He has received both the Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, to cite only two of many other notable fellowships. Winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Américas Prize, and the Charity Randall Prize for Performance and Written Poetry, Brathwaite has painstakingly established himself as a tour-de-force in not only the literary arts arena but also in the arena of historical and cultural studies.

Brathwaite is noted for his studies of Black cultural life both in Africa and throughout the African diasporas of the world in works such as Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica; The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820; Contradictory Omens; Afternoon of the Status Crow; and History of the Voice.


Kamau Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite, May 11, 1930 in the capital city of Barbados, Bridgetown. In 1945 he attended school at the Harrison College in Barbados and in 1949 he won the Barbados Scholarship and attended Cambridge University. In 1953, Brathwaite went on to receive an honors B.A. at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and he also began his association with the BBC's Caribbean Voices Program in London. In 1954, he received a Diploma of Education from Pembroke College, Cambridge; the year 1955 found Brathwaite working as an Education Officer on the Gold Coast/Ghana with the Ministry of Education. It was in 1960 that Brathwaite married the Guyanese Doris Monica Wellcome Guyana, in Guyana, while he was on leave from Ghana.

While in Ghana, Brathwaite's writing flowered with Odale's Choice (a play) premiering in Ghana at Mfantisman Secondary School. A full production of the play was later taken to Accra. In 1962-63, Brathwaite crossed the waters again and found himself as Resident Tutor in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies in St. Lucia. And, later in 1963, he made his journey to the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica to teach in the History Department.

In 1966, Brathwaite spearheaded, as Co-founder and Secretary, the organization of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) from London. In the year 2002, the University of Sussex presented Kamau Brathwaite with an Honorary Doctorate.

The year 1971 he launched Savacou, a journal of CAM, at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. That year Brathwaite, born Lawson Edward Brathwaite received the name Kamau from N'gugi wa Thiong'o's grandmother at Limuru, Kenya, while on a City of Nairobi Fellowship to the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

During the years of 1997-2000, Kamau Brathwaite spent three self-financed "Maroon Years" at "Cow Pasture," his now famous and, then, "post-hurricane" home in Barbados. During this period he married Beverley Reid, a Jamaican.

Kamau Brathwaite is currently Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, a position he has held since 1991.

Selected works

Selected works of Brathwaite and the year of publication follow:

  • Four Plays for Primary Schools (1964)
  • Odale's Choice (1967)
  • Rights of Passage (1967)
  • Masks (1968)
  • Islands (1969)
  • Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica (1970)
  • The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820 (1971)
  • The Arrivants (1973)
  • Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean (1974)
  • Other Exiles (1975)
  • Days & Nights (1975)
  • Black + Blues (1976)
  • Mother Poem (1977)
  • Soweto (1979)
  • History of the Voice (1979)
  • Jamaica Poetry (1979)
  • Barbados Poetry (1979)
  • Sun Poem (1982)
  • Afternoon of the Status Crow (1982)
  • Gods of the Middle Passage (1982)
  • Third World Poems (1983)
  • History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry (1984)
  • Jah Music (1986)
  • X/Self (1987)
  • Sappho Sakyi's Meditations (1989)
  • Shar (1992)
  • Middle Passages (1992)
  • Zea Mexican Diary (1993)
  • Trenchtown Rock (1993)
  • Barabajan Poems (1994)
  • Dream Stories (1994)
  • Words Need Love Too (2000)
  • Ancestors (2001)
  • Magical Realism (2002)
  • Golokwati (2002)
  • Born to Slow Horses (2005) (winner of the 2006 International Griffin Poetry Prize)
  • "Limbo" As published in Oxford AQA GCSE English Anthology 2005

Critical Writing About Brathwaite

External links

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