The stage is Janine’s home

From 2006, when 29-year-old Janine White first entered the National Independence Festival Of Creative Arts (NIFCA), the spoken word artist has been leaving audiences all across Barbados begging for more.

Her comical poems, which always come with an underlying serious message, are what leave the audiences captivated and in stitches. And for Janine, all this  comes naturally.

“I have never actually studied drama. This is all a hobby and natural talent so far,” she explains.

It was during her days at the Barbados Community College that she realized this talent; and she was encouraged by friends to pursue it seriously.

Janine told Bajan Vibes that at that time her most famous poem was Dear Diary that spoke to all the happenings at school in those days.

“It was not necessarily an area I wanted to get into; but I was always the child who loved English, and would prefer a book and dictionary instead of a toy. I would always love comprehensions and compositions. So naturally then I was inclined to write stuff. So then the poetry and drama and plays just came naturally.

“I was always the very outgoing and bubbly person. So my friends at Community College would always tell me, ‘Let’s hear that poem that you wrote’. I would always read a really big poem that I had –– Dear Diary at the time. It was about everything that happened at school: fights, love affairs, relationships, what class was boring –– everything that happened.

“Through the reading of that poem was how I really started to get into performing arts,” Janine said.

But it was hearing the advertisements on radio and television for NIFCA that really prompted Janine to showcase her talent with the wider Bajan population.

“. . . And I just said I would give it a shot. That was my first year; but I was writing poetry and drama for a very long time. So, I just took some poems from the leaves of my notepads and just showcased them through NIFCA,” the down to earth artiste said.

And after entering NIFCA just four times, Janine already has four medals under her belt, including the coveted NIFCA Gold, and even won the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award in 2012 for her piece This Body
Ain’t Mine

“The first time I entered I got a bronze. The second time I entered was in 2011. I got a silver. My third year in NIFCA was in 2012, and I finally got a gold and the Prime Minister’s Scholarship.

“It was not a long time in NIFCA, but I did feel the progression. Then I took a break in 2013. No particular reason. I just thought I would regroup and enjoy my NIFCA Gold. But then I found I was being abused left and right by the Barbadian public . . . asking me why I was not in NIFCA. So I had to come back this year,” she said.

This year, Janine was awarded two silver awards for her pieces The Red Hibiscus and Isa Bajan, which were both very well received by NIFCA audiences. She also wrote and directed a piece for seven-year-old Tahirah Gibbons entitled A Tribute To Vi, which won a junior gold.

Janine White performing The Red Hibiscus.
Janine White performing The Red Hibiscus.
Janine White performing Isa Bajan at NIFCA 2104.
Janine White performing Isa Bajan at NIFCA 2104.
Janine White with little Tahirah Gibbons for whom she wrote Tribute To Vi.
Janine White with little Tahirah Gibbons for whom she wrote Tribute To Vi.

“It was a great experience working with Tahirah this year, and it was a lot of fun. She was a joy to work with. She was really committed to it. I would love to continue working with children next year.

“The piece was a tribute to my grandmother Viola Bovell, and was about remembering her selling and being a hawker in Queen’s Street, Speightstown. So the piece was written to commemorate her death.

“Tahirah was excellent in the piece; she got gold and was also nominated for many awards,” the writer said.

Janine is now looking to take her talents even further. She already got the chance to showcase her talents overseas with the touring Laugh It Off crew in July; and she admitted to Bajan Vibes that she was excited to tour some more.

“I had the opportunity to take my drama beyond the shores of Barbados last year. I was a part of Laugh It Off. I toured with them to Fort Lauderdale in July this year. That was a great experience. As a part of the script I did my NIFCA 2012 piece This Body Is Not Mine.

“And that was a wonderful experience working with that team and doing one of my very own pieces. I’m also with the team next year, and we have some wonderful places to visit. So it should be a wonderful experience again.”

Janine is even looking to further her studies in drama and take advantage of her Prime Minister’s Scholarship.

“There are so many things I would love to do! For sure, I want to develop my studies in performing arts. I would have been awarded the Prime Minister’s Scholarship in 2012; I’m yet to use that. So I’m looking to start those studies very soon,” she said excitedly.

NIFCA and being on stage have definitely been whirlwind progress for Janine –– and she has not looked back since. For her, being on stage is “home”.

“I would consider going into drama full-time. It’s really an amazing feeling being onstage. It’s a rush onstage –– everyone looking at you. I just let loose and go into character. For me it’s an escape from the real world and the humdrum of it all –– that time onstage or writing poetry,” Janine explained.

And for all those who missed her dynamic Isa Bajan, you have one more chance to see her this season at the NIFCA Gala on Sunday night at The Gym of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Wildey.


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