Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said that she had planned to visit the author on his 95th birthday, just four days away. She observed:
— Wesley Gibbings (@wgibbings) June 5, 2022
In truth, Lamming was well known and loved across the region. His acclaimed first novel, “In the Castle of My Skin” (1953), written in England at the age of 23, was well known to Caribbean readers, many of whom studied it in high school. In an interview, Lamming described his poignant coming-of-age novel as beyond a “Barbados theme,” describing a childhood and adolescence shaped by a “colonial imperial formation” that took place across the English-speaking Caribbean and was “determined that it will turn you into this particular project.”
Young Jamaican economist Keenan Falconer shared:
Oh no. RIP George Lamming. In the Castle of my Skin is still one of my favourite books to this day. https://t.co/GWBuQ1dd6b
— Keenan Falconer (@keenanfalconer) June 4, 2022
One Trinidadian writer observed that Lamming was not afraid to comment on regional politics:
Some writers ran away from politics and expanding their knowledge of the context of development. George Lamming went towards it, even cautioning the young revolutionaries in Grenada. Salute 👑 pic.twitter.com/C9sRm7dvID
— Amílcar Sanatan (@AmilcarSanatan) June 4, 2022
Jamaican social commentator and activist Carol Narcisse also paid tribute to Lamming's influence:
A colossus has left us. Ululation. Salute to George Lamming and his generation of Caribbean creators, thought leaders, identity shapers, and truth speakers. Gratitude, respect and thanksgiving. https://t.co/U6Mn69J2mZ
— Carol Narcisse (@CarolNarcisse) June 5, 2022
She included a link to Lamming's Citation for the Order of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2008, which concludes:
In conferring on George William Lamming the Order of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM is honouring fifty-five years of extraordinary engagement with the responsibility of illuminating Caribbean identities, healing the wounds of erasure and fragmentation, envisioning possibilities, transcending inherited limitations. In recognizing this son and ancestor, CARICOM is applauding intellectual energy, constancy of vision, and an unswerving dedication to the ideals of freedom and sovereignty.
That same year, the George Lamming Primary School in Barbados was named after him.
CARICOM Secretary General Carla Barnett shared:
— CARICOM Secretary General (@SG_CARICOM) June 5, 2022
Writers and academics paid tribute to Lamming on social media. In a Facebook post, Guyana-born historian Richard Drayton shared a moving video from 2017, with the message:
I just received the sad news that George Lamming today left us to join the ancestors. George was part of my life from the earliest childhood, and after my parents I can’t think of anyone who made a greater impact on me. His contributions to Barbados, the Caribbean, the Caribbean diaspora in Britain, and the world are measureless. He lived and struggled with such grace and generosity
Rest in power George
The ceremony of souls is never at an end
Trinidadian poet, playwright and cultural activist Eintou Pearl Springer, a former colleague of Lamming, posted a sad video tribute on Facebook and poured a libation for him:
Moments before my presentation this evening, I got the news that my dear friend and mentor George Lamming had transitioned. Thanks to Jouvayfest Caribbean Heritage Month for giving me the time to pour a libation to this giant of literary and revolutionary work in our region.
Interestingly, “In the Castle of My Skin” is included in the “Big Jubilee Read” reading list of 70 books from across the Commonwealth, created by BBC Arts and The Reading Agency to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee Year. The list was compiled by librarians, booksellers and literature experts based on readers’ recommendations from 31 countries. It is one of five Caribbean novels representing the first decade of the Queen's reign (1952-1961).
For a writer so acutely aware and sensitive to the multiple layers of colonialism's legacy in the Caribbean that he examined through his writing and teaching, this may seem ironic. However, Lamming was an inspiration to future Caribbean generations in many ways. A young St. Lucian writer tweeted a quote from “The West Indian People” of 1966, an inspiring challenge that still seems relevant:
The architecture of our future is not only unfinished; the scaffolding has hardly gone up.
– George Lamming 🕊
— Rehani (@RehaniWrites) June 5, 2022