Global storytelling Jamaican style

June 2021

Storytelling has been in Annette Pateman’s family for generations. In fact, you could say it’s in her blood.

“My father was a great oral storyteller,” says Pateman of her dad. “My Jamaican heritage has gifted me with an appreciation for storytelling and folklore, and it’s something that I aim to bring into my work. It has informed some of my poetry and stories, and most notably in my children’s picture book Anancy and The Turtle.”

Published in December 2020, Anancy and The Turtle is one of Pateman’s recent literary endeavors. She began her publishing journey in 1996 with a story called ‘Funky Dread Woman’ in the anthology, Woman to Woman, published by Pyramid Press, UK. While she’s always been writing in one form or another, she began to focus on short stories, poetry and performance.

“At times poetry comes most easily,” she says. “And at other times short story writing comes most easily. It is really dependent on the day, circumstance and time. It isn’t something I necessarily plan.” She grins knowingly. “All writing is a challenge in some form.”

With an impressive and growing body of work, Pateman moved from the UK to Canada in 2012, all the while continuing to explore relationships and heritage through a global lens.

“My work focuses on issues of identity, race and relationships and how they intersect,” she says. “Our relationship to nature and the environment. Relationships in love, dating, loneliness. Relationships in times of pandemic, relationship breakdowns, family relationships with mother, brother and sister, etc. My book, Lover Lines, deals with all of these. It came out in January 2021 and is available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.”

Pateman’s work also explores the imaginative, often lyrical world of Jamaican folklore and musical traditions. Her father played piano, accordion and mouth organ so she had a lot of music in her home growing up. Drums are also a very important part of Jamaican music, and she has used percussion instruments in her performance poetry. The instruments support the oral storytelling and she successfully sought to replicate the rhythms of her culture in her work.

“My Jamaican heritage has a strong effect on my writing,” Pateman affirms. “It informs my poetry and writing on identity and race. Poems in my first collection of poetry Spectrum, published in May 2020 during the pandemic, feature poems such as ‘Skin’ and ‘Hair.’ Poems such as ‘Yes, I am Black,’ ‘Slave,’ ‘Taino Dreams,’ and ‘Black People,’ which is a poem I wrote for Black History Month – these reflect my Jamaican heritage, which has enabled me to share my personal experiences about identity and race with readers from around the world.’

Two of these poems have been featured in the outdoor installment, Northern Diaries, at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, and it’s clear Pateman’s star is rising. Our city is lucky to have secured this multitalented artist as the current Writer-In-Residence at the Thunder Bay Public Library.

“I applied to the Ontario Arts Council for a grant for this program,” says Pateman. “And I’m happy to say that my application was successful! I am now working with TBPL for six months in a creative residency. There, I’ll create short stories and poetry which I will share with the public through online means.”

With such a diverse and prolific portfolio, I asked Pateman about her literary goals.

“I love sharing my work with children and young people,” she says with a smile. “Covid has complicated things, but I’ve read Anancy and The Turtle online with a kindergarten class in the UK. I’d love to share the book in more schools. I was also asked to read it by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education in Halifax, along with some of my poems from Spectrum that reference identity. The aim was to enable Zoom attendees to discuss anti-racism and culture as it relates to the workplace. It was a great experience and I hope to use my work to further the discussion on anti-racism.”

From London to Thunder Bay, Annette Pateman is truly a global storyteller. With roots in a storied past, her writing is the wings that will carry her and her work into the future.

You can follow Annette on Facebook at
Her books, Spectrum, Anancy and The Turtle, and Lover Lines, can be found on Amazon.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

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