Ras Algie: The Conqueror
(April 8, 1947 – October 21, 2018). A brief Tribute by Alex Bruno
He lived for giving and died caring; conquering the hearts and minds of those who got to know him.
Algernon 'Ras Algie' Adams was among a group of brave and progressive young Dominicans who became part of a major conscious movement in the 1970s.
Born in the west coast community of St Joseph in 1947 and being exposed to revolutionary spirit and influences of the times, young Algernon got swept up in the Rasta livity and surrendered to a life of love for nature and care for the good of humanity.
Algie's consciousness came in phases. He received some formal 'education' in the capital city, Roseau, but his uncuffed imagination led him onto a painting track. Algie began conceptualizing sceneries even before he began painting, and by the time he was a young adult, Algie's paintings were already well ahead of his time. From 1971 to the time he breathed his last on September 21 2018, Algie painted several thousand pieces, with each one being his favorite – according to him.
Algie experimented with hand crafting, utilizing coconut shell and wood to carve inspiring images beginning in the mid-1970s. He then experimented with silk screen images - the precursor to computerized imaging technology - towards the late 70s. Proficiency in these forms gave Algie the foundation and unparalleled perspective for a life of visual interpretation through art, sketching and painting.
Drumming naturally followed, giving Algie the fullness of rhythm and connecting him to his Afrocentric ancestral artistry. His rhythmic creativity blossomed in the era that his country (Dominica) received political independence in 1978. Algie first expressed his skills with Group I along with Ras Mo. Together they took drumming throughout Dominica and across its boundaries to the neighboring French territories and elsewhere.
Algie's passion for the children was seen and felt after hurricane David, in 1979, when he personally established a school - King David Pre-School - for the more vulnerable children, nourishing them through an arts-based curriculum. But Algie did not only concentrate on practical art teaching; he also worked with the school for the deaf and hearing impaired and was always willing to listen.
In the 80s, Ras Algie, Ras Mo and co. took drumming to more intense levels through the DSAP ensemble; tours to Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago also took place during that time. What is probably most noteworthy, however, is that Algie provided drumming accompaniment to several individuals as well as cultural groups, poets, singers, performers and even musical groups. Algie was an exceptional drummer and percussionist; his heartbeat drove his drumbeat and vice versa.
The evolution of the arts rolled into the 21st century and by then Algie had become immersed into staged theatre. He worked with all the drama entities from the People's Action Theatre in the 1970s to the New Dimension Theatre in the 1990s and Téyat Pawòl beginning from the 2000s. It is with the latter that Algie invested most of his talents: designing, drawing and painting the scenery for each of the group's 19 sets up until the most recent play – 'The Fire of 1963' which was staged on May 25, 2017. Algie was a mentor, trainer, drummer, actor and senior counselor with his Téyat Pawòl family, especially when the group travelled out of Dominica. In that light, Algie toured on at least ten occasions with Téyat Pawòl which includes a landmark visit to the Cameroon, Africa, in 2008.
Algie's most resounding role, according to him, was 'ZOMBI,' a character in the play, 'Neg Mawon,' who was born in Africa: one of the cultural activists on the main land, Africa, before being transported to the Caribbean as part of the European concept of enslavement. The character, which Algie had so aptly embodied, espoused peculiar looks and demeanor – he was ghostly even in his human manifestation. I can attest that the spirit visited with me shortly after Algie's mortal escape.
Algie earned the Golden Drum - Special Recognition Award which is presented to those who have made special contributions in culture over a ten year period, and who have achieved notable successes in a particular field of arts and culture. This award was given by the government of Dominica through the National Cultural Council (NCC) and the Cultural Division for performance and visual arts on July 30, 2014.
Glowing praises are generally heaped on individuals following their death, but Ras Algie was indeed a chief practitioner of herbal cures; he was a naturalist, humanist, healer, Rasta and member of the House of Nyahbinghi. He was a drummer, poet, painter, artiste, artist, dramatist, visionary, cultural enthusiast, a peace maker, visual arts creator, spiritual interventionist and passionate patriot. He was a believer in Pan Africanism, a dancer, singer, performer, writer, innovator, entrepreneur; he was a father, brother and friend. Yes, these are real achievements including being the first Dominica ever to be charged by the state with possession of Marijuana, the natural and 'Blessed Sacrament' of his Rasta order, in 1970/71.
Algie's intentions were noble although his every action did not line up to with peoples' expectation of him (especially by those who misoverstood his ways). During his time on earth, Algie was a true warrior; now that his spirit is set loose, he is indeed a conqueror of motility. Algie's remains will be interred on October 19, 2018 follow the burial rights to be performed by the Dominica House of Nyahbinghi.