Friday, July 24, 2015

The Nutmeg Princess Now Lives Underwater in Grenada (& A Brief Discussion of 'Story Forensics')

You've likely seen some of the incredible sculptures from this underwater park in Grenada around the place. The statues have been designed to promote coral growth and are now ecosystems themselves, in fact it would be accurate to say the statues together are a living, artificial reef. (If you visit and dive to see them, please don't touch! Just pose and selfie. ;)

It should be noted that the diver and artist-sculptor who creates these eco-encouraging art pieces (and is doing amazing things to battle our rapidly disappearing coral reef systems around the world), is specifically attuned to both the historical and the folkloric aspects of "Spice Isle', in fact, he calls those topics a 'passion':
Known as Caribbean’s ‘Spice Isle’, Grenada has much to offer its visitors, especially seagoing tourists, from amazing forest reserves to picturesque waterfalls to a vast array of gorgeous white sandy beaches to name but a few. But what draws more and more visitors from every part of the globe year after year is the stunning-and-unique-of-its-kind Underwater Sculpture Park –the newest attraction of the island’s beautiful shallow waters, based on the original sculptures of the famous British sculptor and diver Jason De Caires Taylor, who has a special passion for creating fantastic pieces of work showcasing Grenada’s history and folklore. (Travelvivi)
I couldn't resist showcasing some examples. Click on the images to see them full size:



The newest sculpture was just, um, 'planted', less than a month ago and now that the dust, er, sand, has settled and the local sea life is becoming acclimated, these beautiful photos are starting to appear online.

Nutmeg Princess almost ready to be 'put to bed'
From Travel Weekly:
The Nutmeg Princess statue has been added to Grenada's Underwater Sculpture Park at Moliniere Bay, just north of the capital of St. George's on the southwest coast of the island.
The 11-foot-tall statue joins 100 sculptures at the park that opened in 2007 and serves as an artificial reef that forms a substrata for the growth of marine life.
...The Nutmeg Princess depicts Grenada’s first fairy tale princess emerging from a large nutmeg pod and reaching to the heavens with a handful of the spice Grenada is known for.
This is not from a traditional tale - well, not exactly anyway. The Nutmeg Princess is a 'well-loved classic' folktale written in 1992 (yes, very recently!).

The story goes like this:
The idea for the story was the result of a school visit where a little girl put up her hand and asked if (author, playwright and storyteller) Keens-Douglas knew a story about a black princess. At the time, he didn't, but it was all he needed to inspire him. 
You can go debate about whether it's possible to write a 'real' 'new fairy tale' or not, but for the record, I'm on the side of 'absolutely it's possible - rare, very rare, but possible'. Almost always the ones that stick are grown out of older stories, with the storytellers/writers well-rooted in folklore and tales, and while most 'new' tales are really just variations, I do believe that sometimes, there might just be a new one...

I don't know enough of the pattern markers to 'measure' how old a specific tale really might be (whether the writer knew that or not) and I don't have a 'story-forensics* & lexicology' database that casts a wide enough net to track it either in the multiple classification types, but there are 'tells'. For instance, at a quick read through, this tale feels like a repurposed myth, but I've also read a range of Caribbean tales and know the boundaries between myth and fairy tale are a little more blurry in this part of the world than we're used to.

Does that mean it's not new? Although unlikely, the answer really is 'No'. Because there's that sliver of possibility that it just might be. New-but-familiar is that extraordinarily elusive combination that many artists, from writers to musicians, strive for, with many never knowing whether or not their 'successes' are truly new or not!

What a brain stretcher. I'd like to hand this over to a PhD candidate please!

In the meantime, all those who would like to join me in cross-checking the story-forensics database, please put on your geek gear, ink your tattoos, bring your uber-hack skills and wear boots and your ATU credentials. I'll meet you in the lab, where the cool soundtrack is. (Note: We do accept tweed if you can 'bring it'.) Oh yes - and be prepared for lively debates... ;)

Note: I now have a yen to re-read Seanan McGuire's Indexing... man I wish that series had kept on going! Just adore the concept and have a feeling it was just a teensy bit ahead of its time.

*Yes - forensics: you can't tell me you haven't thought how people use and twist fairy tales can't be considered a crime from time to time! ;)

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