Oil Paintings, Photos and Books by Giftus R. John

Mesye Kwik! Kwak!

“Mesyé Kwik!”
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this exchange between a story-teller and his audience as he stood on stage at one of the conte competitions in Dominica, West Indies. This exchange established a bond between the story-teller and the audience. “Mesyé Kwik!” could well be translated, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you some fiction!” “Kwak!” could then be translated, “Yes, it is fiction!” or “Fine, let me hear it!” Indeed, the “Kwik-Kwak” relationship has become so ingrained in Dominican culture that when one’s friends determine that he is exaggerating about a particular event, rather than using the brash admonition, “You are lying!” the friends gently say, “Man, you making Kwik!”

After all, to “make a Kwik” or “tell a Kwik” is not something too bad. To do so would be to follow in the tradition of the conte-tellers, those men and women who, with much bravado and gusto, recount tales of Dominican folklore: tales of the soucouyan, la diabless and lougarou, and of cunning animals out-foxing their timid four-legged relatives—and even some humans, too. What tales those story-tellers tell!

In Mesyé Kwik! Kwak!, Giftus John does not tell stories of cunning rabbits and wily spiders. He does not recount tales of soucouyans flying at night or of la diabless with goat’s feet. Still, his stories reflect the richness of Dominica’s folklore. Correction: the stories reflect the richness of West Indian folklore. At the same time, the stories also deliver some potent messages, messages that extol the virtues of faith, hope and determination and, in a not-too-subtle manner, call for socio-economic and political change in Dominica and the rest of the Caribbean.
Extracted from the Foreword written by Edward "King Shakey" Vaughn James.


Dominica is an island rich in culture and with a history that encompasses various forms of the country's transformation from colonialism to independence. African slaves, brought to the island to work on the British plantations, carried with them their various myths, beliefs, languages and art forms and these have passed down through the generations. Today they are still an integral part of this country's heritage.The characters in Mesye Kwik! Kwak! are used to portray some of these and other aspects of Dominican life which still have their bearing from years past. The young boys in The Stone and in The Pilgrim introduce us to the belief of Dominicans in evil spirits, the lougarou and la diabless, and the power of religion. Grandpa Was in America shows us Dominica's fixation to the American way of life and in A Father's Hope we see the widening gap between generations in the country-and there's more.So read along with me as I tell my story.

Meesssye Kwik! Kwaaak!