High on a hillside overlooking the vast sprawl of the Caribbean’s largest city, Kingston, Jamaica, an eclectic gathering of artists assembles. A warm, gentle breeze rustles the leaves, fruits and flowers of the passion fruit vine that shades the windows and doorway of the house. Inside, a petite, cocoa-skinned Rasta woman strikes a note on the keyboard, announcing that she is about to do a new, unfamiliar poem. “I am a pum pum poet,” she decisively declares, opening a piece that covers the gamut of societal ills that afflict women, to the proud legacy of Queen Nanny of the Maroons, a legendary fierce warrior from Jamaican history and the only female National Hero. A trio of singers harmonizes on the chorus in high, angelic, slightly mournful voices, “My ancestral grandmothers are talking through me … your ancestral grandmothers are talking through me … our ancestral grandmothers are talking through me…”
The artists gathered are members of the Pum Pum Posse, a controversial poetry group comprised of the singers and a violinist, centered around two dreadlocked Rasta women who just happen to be mother and daughter. The Pum Pum Posse took its name from a “distinctly Jamaican euphemism for the vagina,” often considered derogatory in Jamaican vernacular. But, according to Sajoya, the term “pum pum” is simply used to describe that body part to little children and is used more colloquially in Jamaica than “punany,” which found its way into the American vocabulary via music lyrics.
In the philosophy of the poets, Pum Pum (the “pathway to heaven”) is used as an acronym of sorts for the concept of “Power Uniting Man (through Female Empowerment).” And the empowerment of all women globally is the ultimate goal of the poets, whose work ranges from graphically titillating erotica to cries against the abuses women face universally, and in Jamaica in particular.
The mother, Sandra Joy Alcott, known artistically as Sajoya (Empress Erotica), has another persona on the island. As a veteran lawyer, she is also the founder of the Jamaican Association for Female Artists (JAFA), an advocacy group for the underrepresented women entertainers who constantly battle a male-dominated and misogynistic Jamaican music industry.
“Pum Pum poetry is the evolution of my life’s work, and my daughter’s as well,” she said.
Her daughter, Chandis (Poetic Princess), also has a reputation on the island famous not only for its cultural icons in music but in the visual arts as well. Known as a prolific painter, she began writing poetry in England, where she lived as a teenager. After returning to Jamaica to attend the prestigious Edna Manley School for the Arts, Chandis made her mark as a visual artist, concentrating her artworks ma
Excerpted from “Pum Pum Speak,” by Chandis
Pum Pum speak
Dark colored coils of allegory
My bush is divine
Lush, natural, carpeting my
Bejeweled and perfumed
With ganjah leaves on curves like Venus
Inviting you to do
The coitus dance with me
Honor me sweetly
Pum Pum speak lucidly
Pum Pum dreaming into being
Passion infinite as universe sky
My bush menstruation
Bathing naked men in
Rivers of promise…