Title Savacou: a journal of the Caribbean Artists Movement
Location Kingston, Jamaica
Publisher Caribbean Artists Movement, Kingston & London
Periodicity Irregular
ISSN n/a
URL Savacou Worldcat
Published Since 1970-1989
Indexed Holdings 1970-1989


Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, Harvard College Library, Cambridge, MA; ccindex office

Periodical's Overview

Savacou is a Journal of the Caribbean Artists Movement. Its purpose is to bring together the work of creative writers, academics and theoretical thinkers and to provide a forum for artistic expression and thought in the Caribbean today.”

"Savacou’s General Aims:

  • 1. To present the work of creative writers— established, unknown, in exile or at home.
  • 2. To examine and assess the significance of artistic expression through slavery and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with a view to recognizing continuities and submerged or ‘lost’ traditions.
  • 3. To help towards the recognition of the whole Caribbean area as a meaningful historical and cultural entity.”[1]

Selected Subject Headings

  • Avant-garde (aesthetics) - West Indies
  • Barbadian poetry
  • Calypso (music) - history and criticism
  • Caribbean Artists Movement
  • Carnival - West Indies
  • Class struggle - Jamaica
  • Creolization
  • Dub poetry - Jamaica
  • Free blacks - Jamaica
  • Guyana - intellectual life
  • Jamaican poetry - 20th century
  • Literature and society - West Indies
  • Negritude (literary movement) - Caribbean Area
  • Racism in the press - Great Britain
  • Rastafarians - Jamaica
  • Slave insurrections - West Indies, British
  • West Indian poetry (English)
  • Women and socialism - Caribbean Area


Published in June 1970, Savacou’s first issue represented the crystallization of a long trajectory; subtitled A journal of the Caribbean Artists Movement, the publication was published from Kingston, Jamaica, and based at the University of West Indies, Mona; but the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) had been founded in 1966 in London, and yet again, CAM was another crystallization of a longer historical trajectory, one responsive to a shifting, and increasingly challenging, environment.

In Anne Walmsley’s sweeping book on CAM, The Caribbean Arts Movement, 1966-1972: a literary & cultural history, this trajectory is described as one that spans the 20th century, reflecting the back & forth movement of artists, academics, intellectuals and writers born in the West Indies and their experience in England before and after the British Nationality Act 1948, which granted British citizenship to all people living in Commonwealth countries, of which the West Indies were then part.

According to Walmsley, in the early 20th century “going to Britain was the only option for ambitious young men from black middle-class homes and the best colonial secondary schools.”[2] In this particular case, she’s referring to artist Ronald Moody, and writer, political activist and intellectual C.L.R. James; Moody arriving from Jamaica in 1923, James, from Trinidad in 1932, but the number of middle-class migrants to the metropolis continued to increase during and after WWII; it is only after the 1948 Act and with the momentous arrival of the ocean liner Empire Windrush to the Port of Tilbury on June 22nd that a full spectrum of West Indian society was able to travel freely to the metropolis, igniting a wave of migration from the Caribbean to the UK as a population with elementary schooling and from a working-class background moved to England in search of opportunities, their labor needed after the ravages of the war.

Thus, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the West Indian intellectual life in England was one of high hopes for a new life in the metropolis, while an ongoing exchange between those who migrated and those who remained in the Caribbean continued. Moody and James were joined in England by writers like Wilson Harris, George Lamming, John La Rose, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, or V.S. Naipaul, artists like Aubrey Williams, and academics and intellectuals like Stuart Hall, Sylvia Wynter, or Elsa Goveia. A thriving West Indian cultural life took place during those years; art was exhibited, plays were produced, novels were published, and their output was diffused via the influential BBC World Service radio broadcast Caribbean Voices or the newspaper The West Indian Gazette.

As years passed, endemic British racism and the West Indies’ anti-imperialist struggle for independence from the UK shifted how this new population was perceived and received, prompting a disenchantment with England, but also, a further politicization of some of these emigres; for example, in 1960 Stuart Hall became the first editor-in-chief of the journal The New Left Review, coming out from Birmingham; the West Indian Students Centre became an active node in London, and African-American civil right leaders like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X visited the UK during that decade, relaying similar African diasporic struggles in the United States.[3] In addition, after the West Indies regained independence, the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act limited the range of the Caribbean population able to travel freely to students and children.

We are now in 1966, when the Caribbean Artists Movement is founded in London by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, John La Rose, and Andrew Salkey, a preeminent writer well connected in London's cultural life; CAM was created in part as an attempt to provide a forum for Caribbean writers, artists and intellectuals, but also, to occupy the void left by the demise of a discontinued Caribbean Voices and the folding of The West Indian Gazette. CAM’s became publicly active in 1967, publishing a newsletter, hosting art exhibitions, performances, film screenings, and talks, which given the late 1960s societal turmoil, became increasingly politicized; as an example, Stokely Carmichael was invited to give a talk--Black eyes, Black voices, Black power--hosted by CAM at the Round House in London, a talk that prompted his banning from Britain by the British Labour Government.

It is only when Kamau Brathwaite moves back to Jamaica to teach at UWI, Mona, that the long-held idea of creating a journal to provide a venue to CAM’s many voices becomes concrete with Savacou.

The first issues reflected the interest of its initial editors, Brathwaite, Salkey and Kenneth Ramchand. Walmsley writes: “Savacou was a forum for much of the new interdisciplinary, Caribbean-centered research and writing in Jamaica in the 1970s; equally, it was a platform for the new creative writing, particularly by young urban blacks and by women, much of which used forms, rhythm and language drawn from the oral tradition.”[4]

With a colorful cover design by Pat Bishop, and a logo by Moody based on his eponym sculpture located on the UWI, Mona campus, the journal’s run was one of thematic issues; the first one, dedicated to slavery, included an introduction by Goveia, essays by Brathwaite, and Ramchand, and reviews of C.L.R. James’ Black Jacobins, and Alejo Carpentier’s El reino de este mundo. The second issue published papers from CAM’s First Conference and other internal documents; it also included autobiographical texts by Derek Walcott and C.L.R. James, and an essay on the "Mighty" Sparrow and the language of calypso.

It is in Savacou’s third issue where creative writing by Caribbean authors is given full attention; Brathwaite writes in its introduction, “We now have a mature contributing audience who demand to share in the artistic exploration of our terrain. Not you and me, but us. Not what is happening there, but here.”[5] Hence, this special double issue not only included established authors like George Lamming, Walcott, Anthony McNeill, or Nicolás Guillén in translation from Spanish, but it also featured the voice of the “black, dispossessed, youth of the Caribbean;”[6] the inclusion of poetry and prose from these authors--Bongo Jerry, Kind Audvil, Ras Dizzy--and their reliance on creole and orality proved to be controversial in academic circles; most likely, it represented Brathwaite’s wish to include the voices of a population that continued to grow restless given the ineffectiveness of the government to address their social predicament after ten years of independence, but also, to account for the continued importance of Rastafarianism for a vast number of the Jamaican population.

Savacou’s no. 5 was a return to a more academic format, this time dedicated to creolization, and among others, it included essays by Sylvia Wynter and Ramschad, who was the issue’s editor; no. 6 changed format, was subtitled New Poets Series, and it was dedicated to a collection of poems by Anthony McNeill, Reel from “The life movie.” Issue 7/8 was an homage to Frank Collymore, who was the editor of another influential literary journal published in Barbados, Bim. This special issue included remembrances of Collymore’s role as an early advocate for Caribbean writing, as well as reprinted poems and fiction previously published in Bim, and new writing by writers associated with the Barbadian journal’s history.

The rest of Savacou’s issues were dedicated to the following themes: Writing away from home (no. 9-10), Caribbean Studies (no. 11/12), Caribbean Women (no. 13), and New Poets from Jamaica (no. 14/15). Caribbean Women was edited by Lucille Mathurin Mair, published in Gemini 1977, and its significance resides in being the first Caribbean publication to publish both academic papers and new creative writing, all by women. After a ten years’ hiatus, Savacou’s last issue, no. 16, was published in 1989 as a monograph dedicated to Brathwaite’s Sappho Saky’s Meditations.

A remarkable cultural endeavor, Savacou’s influence was and has been felt for generations of Caribbean creative and intellectual life, not just in the West Indies, but also in the UK and the United States, where so many of its voices were and are to be found, a project not dissimilar to the current and ongoing Small axe.

No matter if Savacou’s represents a later phase of CAM and that it continued after the movement dissolved, what is of significance is that the project could serve as an essential trace of a short century of Caribbean thought and creativity, responsive to a changing historical context; C.L.R. James, Aubrey Williams, Orlando Patterson, Sylvia Wynter, George Lamming, Elsa Goveia, Derek Walcott, Stuart Hall, Wilson Harris, all featured in the journal’s pages, among many other Caribbean voices.

In the introduction to his edited issue dedicated to creative writing, Brathwaite writes: “We write out of—some of us as a result of—a fragmented society. True. But every artist’s work tries to create a world and he writes towards what he conceives to be a common future of wholeness. There will be, must be, should be, differences.”[7]

To those differences, and the rich histories, knowledge, experiences, and perceptions these open up, Savacou’s pages are dedicated.

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[1]Taken from Savacou’s “Preliminary Brochure, Limited Circulation,” in Ann Walmsley. The Caribbean Arts Movement, 1966-1972: a literary & cultural history. London; Port of Spain: New Beacon, 1992, pp. 202-203.

[2]Ibid., p. 1.

[3]In Horace Ové’s noteworthy film Baldwin’s Nigger (1969), we witness one such event at the West Indian Students Centre. Taking place a year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the film documents James Baldwin's lecture at the Centre, and how he engages in lively and heated conversation with students about the African diasporic population's predicament in the U.S. and around the world. Dick Gregory, seated with Baldwin, has also some news to relay to the students.

[4] Walmsley, p. 282.

[5] Kamau Brathwaite, “Foreward,” Savacou (Kingston, Jamaica), no. 3-4 (December 1970-March 1971), p. 5.

[6] Walmsley, p. 262.

[7] Brathwaite, p. 5.