Pic of the Week: Smokers at De Elf’s Place, Grand Bay, Dominica

Photo by Martei Korley
Words by Jesse Serwer
grand-bay-dominica-smokers-at-de-elf

Pic of the Week was one of the original LargeUp features: A series of dispatches from co-founder, creative director and chief photographer Martei Korley. Now, we’re bringing it back. Each Friday morning, we’ll share a different image illuminating the richness of the Caribbean experience. Expect culture, music, tradition, food, family, fashion, agriculture — the full breadth of things.

Known on the map as Berekua and, colloquially as “Sout’ City,” Grand Bay is considered the culture capital of Dominica. This town of about 3,000 on the Nature Island’s south coast has produced many of the country’s most significant figures in music, art and politics. Somewhat isolated from other parts of the the island, it’s also a place with a history of rebellion. Even within a country as small as Dominica, it’s got its own, distinctive vibe.

It was there several Octobers ago, while in Dominica for the World Creole Music Festival, that we found ourselves at the home of De Elf.

De Elf is Cyrille Henderson, a Dominican calypsonian and artisan whose home on the Unity Block of Lallay, the town’s main boulevard, doubles as a liming spot and meeting place in the heart of town. There, he lives a bohemian lifestyle surrounded by his artwork, wood carvings, hand-made instruments, and other crafts of his creation, many of which he sells. A gregarious, welcoming figure, his porch welcomes a regular flow of visitors including, on this particular afternoon, the LargeUp crew.

We were in Grand Bay to meet two of the area’s favorite sons: Asa Bantan, the current top don in Dominica’s bouyon genre, and Phillip “Chubby” Mark of the Midnight Groovers, kings and pioneers of Dominca’s cadence sound. The shade of De Elf’s porch presented itself as a venue for both meetings, and eventually we were treated to a stirring jam session inside the house.

De Elf himself isn’t in this photo, but his presence certainly is. While the eclectic decor projects a sense of freedom, a drawing on the wall — two men with dreadlocks and sizable spliffs about to be busted by a cop — is a reminder that living freely can have its consequences. Undeterred by the colorful warning on the wall, however, the subjects of our photo are comfortably enjoying their greens.

Not many visitors to Dominica make it to Grand Bay. If you’re on the island for this year’s World Creole Music Festival — performers at which include Asa Bantan Chubby and the Midnight Groovers — we suggest taking a drive to the town where these performers learned their craft. When you get there, ask for De Elf.

See more Pic of the Week features here.