Communication and Representation

culture and representation

The Caribbean, Communication and its representation

There are several academic definitions of communication.  However, the one that resonates with me is from Anderson (1959) which states that “communication is the process by which we understand others and in turn endeavor to be understood by them.  It is dynamic, constantly changing and shifting in response to the total situation”.

Communication and representation are intertwined as they can be no communication without representation and vice versa.  This is to say how and when we communicate is a representation of a meaning that has been assigned culturally.  This brings to mind a conversation I was having with my colleagues about a baker shop and some of the tasty treats which can be purchased.  One of them asked the other if they had ever tried the “‘bulla” cakes to which everyone chuckled as a joke was made in the Bajan vernacular as to what is “bulla” cake.  Bulla cakes is a rich Jamaican cake.  Its ingredient include flour, molasses, ginger, sugar, butter and spices.  In researching the ingredients the lady made reference to “bulla” recipes.  This gives more meaning to this point as the word “bulla” in Barbados is a derogatory term used to describe a homosexual male.  Hence, a Bajan who is not aware of a Jamaican “bulla” cake may be aroused with humiliation, anger or amusement according to the phase or context the word is used.  By the same token the same can hold true to a Jamaican reference to a homosexual man as a “fish”.  So when Queen Ifrica makes reference to “A don’t want no fish inna me ital dish” is not a representation of protein but her use of language to denounce homosexual activity.

Representation therefore is the meaning that is assigned to a code, symbol or language which is used and how there are communicated in the Caribbean.  Many of them are rooted in a historical context.  The meanings are socially constructed.  Therefore, our expression, music, dress and language is a total representation of our communication.  These representations can be identified in Caribbean music, dance and festivals.   For example, lots of colour in dress, hairstyle, jewelry and makeup, and explicit lyrics as well as sexual overtones in dance is observed in Jamaican music videos.  Even though this is slowly creeping into other Caribbean societies, Barbadians were known for their circular gyration of the waist and Trinidadian for chipping to the beat of music during their celebrations.   On the other hand, a gospel song or video would have a different representation and it would be more conservative.

There can be no communication without representation and no representation without communication.


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