Grenada Mourns its Greatest Storyteller

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - December 15, 2011

By Lincoln Depradine

Grenada is mourning the loss of national icon Aunty Tek Phillip, a renowned folklorist who died yesterday at the age of 85.

“The death of Aunty Tek is a monumental loss to our cultural community,” said Sen. Arley Gill, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism. “Aunty Tek has been an immeasurable treasure to culture, not just in Grenada, but also in the Caribbean.”

Tek’s death came less than two months after the passing of fellow Grenadian icon Anthony “Jericho” Greenidge.

Born Thelma Ermintrude Knights, Aunty Tek took the name Phillip after marriage.

A long time resident of Belmont in St George, Aunty Tek as a pioneer among women in Grenada, breaking long-held stereotypes — from being among the first women to own and drive a car on the island, to a career as a teacher and principal.

But it was folk tales that truly defined her career — as a raconteur, she was said to be rivaled only by the late Jamaican folklorist Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley and Trinidad-born and Grenada-raised Paul Keens-Douglas.

Her brother Richardo has followed in the tradition and is among the leading storytellers in Grenada.

Aunty Tek was honored with a special award at the inaugural Spice Word Festival last year, which has been renamed in her honour.

“While we mourn the passing of Aunty Tek, we are pleased that we are able to honour her by naming the Spice Word festival after her,” Gill said. “She was very appreciative of the honour.”

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