Jamaica’s First Lady of Comedy, Miss Lou, and Mama Lou are some of the cherishable names of the Honorable Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley, O.M. O.J. M.B.E. Dip R.A.D.A., D. Litt (Hon).
She was born in 1919 on September 7th and has indelibly etched her name in Jamaica’s history as a poet, folklorist, writer, comedian, teacher, and activist.
She obtained her early education in Jamaica and furthered her studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. Her natural talent combined with her training paved her way into the history of the Caribbean and the world. (Image credit: caribbean-beat.com)
Louise wrote her first poem when she was 14 years old and attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Upon graduating with her degree she worked with many companies throughout England. Her poems are expressions of her life and the lives of the Jamaican people — they touch on philosophies of life, religion, joys, and sorrows relative to Jamaica's cultural heritage.
When she returned to Jamaica, she fostered in the growth and development of children, youth, and adults. She lectured extensively at the University of the West Indies and social welfare agencies. She also lectured in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Miss Lou was fervent in teaching others about her Jamaican culture and heritage, she believed that her culture should not be kept like a ‘lamp under a bushel’ — it should be shared and spread throughout the nations.
She decided to ‘try her hand’ (explore the world of pantomimes) at the pantomime and in 1943-44 she landed the role ‘Big Sambo Gal’ in the play Soliday and the Wicked Bird.
During her active career she worked with Randolph ‘Ranny’ Williams and others to bring the Jamaican culture to theatre and imparted her wealth of knowledge to the forum. Louise performed in twenty-five pantomimes and contributed the famous Anansi stories and other folk tales which became Jamaican classics, she also co-wrote many plays. (Image Credit: www.flickr.com)
In 1993 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies and 1998, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University (Toronto, Canada) as well as being designated as the Cultural Ambassador for Jamaica.
She received countless other awards including the Norman Manley Award for Excellence, the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the Arts and Culture, and the Order of Jamaica, among others.
She died on the 26th of July 2006, but her legacy will live on for generations. Louise Bennett-Coverley is undoubtedly a cultural icon who has been described by the Jamaica Information Service as, a ‘Living legend’ and, “The only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language.” (Image credit: iamreggaedaily.com )
By: Alexandra Daley