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Abstract

Derek Walcott’s three hour pageant, Drums and Colours, commissioned to celebrate the inauguration of the West Indian Federation was first performed at the West Indian Festival, April 25 – May 1, 1958. Some feel that the nationalist and didactic thrust of this early drama blunted it value as art. It is, however, the opinion of this paper that this play provides one of the earliest conceptual maps for Walcott’s orchestration of key thematic occupations such as the quarrel with history, racial and cultural syncretism and the evolution of a distinctive West Indian theatre style. Fifty years after the breakup of the Federation led to nationhood for the various territories beginning with Jamaica and Trinidad, the play is still a relevant gauge of Walcott’s conceptual evolution on issues as diverse as the role of the artist in West Indian society, his thesis on historical amnesia and the benefit of the proto-Christian virtues of compassion and forgiveness in the fashioning of modern Caribbean societies.

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