Fifty-two-year-old David Dabydeen is a Guyanese national. He is best known as the award-winning author of more than 24 books of poetry and fiction and academic studies of literature, history and public affairs. He has two other books forthcoming presently. Prof Dabydeen has been hailed as a colossus, a Titan. One person writing in the British press about his most recent book, The Oxford Companion to Black British History, said, “Every student in the country should read it.”
Prof Dabydeen won a Commonwealth Prize for Poetry with his first book, Slave Song (published in 1984). He went on to win the Guyana Prize for Literature for his novel The Intended, in 1992, for A Harlot’s Progress, in 2000, and for Our Lady of Demerara, in 2004. Other honours include:
1978: Quiller-Couch Prize for Creative Writing, University of Cambridge
1982: Resident Fellowship, Yale University’s Centre for British Art
1983: Postdoctoral research fellowship, Oxford University
2004: Wordsworth McAndrew Award, the Guyanaa Cultural Association, New York
2004: Raja Rao Award for Literature, Government of India
2007: The Hind Rattan Award (Jewel of India), Non-Resident Indian Society, India.
He was director of the highly influential Centre for Caribbean Studies, Warwick University, UK, from 1993-1997, and was responsible for the inclusion of Caribbean and Guyanese titles on the Warwick reading list, and instrumental in creating avenues for Caribbean students to finance their studies there through bursaries, fellowships and scholarships. He is currently course convenor for the Master of Arts degree in Colonial and Postcolonial Literature in English there.
His academic publications include:
• The Black Presence in English Literature (1985);
• A Reader’s Guide to West Indian and Black British Literature (1987);
• Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in 18th Century English Art (1987);
• India in the Caribbean (1987);
• Handbook for Teaching Caribbean Literature (1988);
• Black Writers in Britain (1991);
• The Oxford Companion to Black British History (2007).
Prof Dabydeen is known as a facilitator and supporter of other Caribbean artists and scholars. He contributed to the establishment of the Dido Press and Derek Walcott Press, and raised funds to keep the Dangaroo Press open. These institutions are instrumental in publishing Caribbean works.
He has held readings and symposia on the works of Wilson Harris, Martin Carter, VS Naipaul, Derek Walcott. He was instrumental in the republication of Guyana’s first novel, Lutchmee & Dilloo, and conceptualized and pioneered the Guyana Classics project which will reprint new editions of 30 volumes of rare and out of print Guyanese literature and history texts for free distribution to Guyanese schools.
He is Guyana’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, a job he does voluntarily. He has held a number of international positions of leadership, including:
• Member, Executive board, UNESCO (1993-97)
• Member, Literature panel, Arts Council of Great Britain (1986-1990)
• Ambassador-at-Large, Government of Guyana (since 1993)
• Member, board of Intergovernmental Programme for the Development of Communication, UN.
Prof Dabydeen was instrumental in the production of three documentary films for the BBC, Indentureship in Mauritius, South Africa and Guyana; Trouble in Paradise; and British System of Slavery. His one-hour documentary Painting the People was broadcast by the BBC as The Forgotten Colony.