The Studio has been quiet these past few weeks as my sister and my niece were visiting. They timed their visit to coincide with the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) race meeting in Tampa, Florida, as my niece, aka, Miss. Kim, is a dragon boat racer/paddler. We are a family with roots that spread across all five continents.
Legend has it, that my grandfather Howai (Miss. Kim's great-grandfather) left Guangdong Province in southern China, the birth place of dragon boat racing, on a ship bound for Trinidad. He was only 14. He started working for the Chinese Association in San Fernando as a cook and then married my grandmother, the daughter of a white English overseer on the Caroni Estate and a mulatto woman. Five children were born of that union, my father Robert Man Choy Howai was one of them.
China was once called Middle Kingdom and it is said that if you have one drop of Chinese blood you will always belong to Middle Kingdom. Is it this "drop" that now pulls Howai's great-granddaughter to the wonderful tradition of dragon boat racing?
Dragon boat racing is part of the annual celebration of the summer solstice which coincides with the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month and the veneration of the water deity which dates back almost 2,000 years. The Chinese dragons are believed to be the rulers of water, i.e. rivers, lakes, seas; so too do they dominate the clouds, mists and rain. Veneration of the dragon water deity sought protection from drought and disease due to a lack of rainfall and water. One other legend commemorates the suicide of the great Chinese poet, Qu Yuan whose odes expressing his love for his country can be found in Chuci or "Songs of the South".