Updated: May 15, 2020
"Miss Lou” of Jamaica, a multi-faceted artiste, brought the native language of Jamaica, patois, to the international stage through her poems, stories and acting roles. She traveled the world lecturing and performing. During her lifetime, she received many awards and accolades including the Order of Merit (OM) for her invaluable and distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture in Jamaica.
(“Miss Lou”), Jamaican folklorist, poet, artiste, and radio and television personality was born September 7, 1919 Kingston, Jamaica and died July 26, 2006, Toronto, Canada. She is regarded by many as the “mother of Jamaican culture.” This was for her efforts to popularize Jamaican patois and to celebrate the lives of ordinary Jamaicans.
From the 1930s Bennett-Coverley wrote and recited dialect poems, and in 1942 she published Dialect Verses, her first poetry collection. In her poems she was able to capture all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans’ joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s. After graduating, she hosted the BBC radio shows Caribbean Carnival and West Indian Night.
Dutty Tuff by Louise Bennett
(Dutty Tuff means times are hard.)
She appeared in leading humorous roles in several Jamaican Pantomimes and television shows. She traveled throughout the World promoting the culture of Jamaica by lecturing and performing. Although her popularity is International, she enjoyed celebrity status in Jamaica.
Her Poetry has been published several times, most notably:
Anancy and Miss Lou- 1979.
Among her many recordings are:
Jamaica Folksongs - Folkways 1953,
Jamaica Singing Games - 1953
Miss Lou’s Views -1967
Listen to Louise -1968
Carifesta Ring Ding -1976
The Honorable Miss Lou -1981
Miss Lou Live-London -1983 and
Yes Me Dear - Island Records.
She was married to Eric Winston Coverley (pre-deceased Miss Lou in 2002) and leaves 1 son and several adopted children.
Louise Bennett- Coverley received numerous awards in her lifetime, both in Jamaica and abroad.
On Jamaica’s Independence Day 2001, the Honorable Mrs. Louise Bennett-Coverley was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) for her invaluable and distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture in Jamaica,
In 1960 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for work in Jamaican literature and theatre. The Government of Jamaica honoured her with the insignia of Order of Jamaica in 1974.
She was also awarded the Norman Manley Award for Excellence in the field of the Arts, the Institute of Jamaica’s Gold Musgrave Medal, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the UWI in 1982.
Colonisation in Reverse by Louise Bennett
(In colonisation, Africans were brought to the West Indians to work the sugar cane plantations. In reverse, African descendants were invited to England to seek opportunities, some opportunities because Britain was short of workers.)
Dr. Basil Bryan, former Consul General of Jamaica, praised Miss Lou as an inspiration to Jamaicans as she "proudly presented the Jamaican language and culture to a wider world and today we are the beneficiaries of that audacity." She was acclaimed by many for her success in establishing the validity of local languages for literary expression.
An important aspect of her writing was its setting in public spaces such as trams, schools and churches allowing readers to see themselves, pre- and post-independence, reflected in her work. Her writing has also been credited with providing a unique viewpoint on the everyday social experiences of working-class.
Please like and share this story.
If you liked this story, join our email list to have the blog delivered to your inbox weekly.
Jacqueline Cameron is a writer with decades of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.