I come from country people.
We are resilient, kind, and most of all—resourceful. Creativity is a way of life, right down our style of dress. If you couldn’t buy it, you made it. If it was overpriced, you grew it yourself. In my veins run the blood of a country boy from Jamaica and a pretty brown girl from Guyana. Their caribbean experience was drenched in long-standing culture and pride. Each knew what it was to fetch water for baths. There were no street lights. Roads weren’t paved. Everyone raised fowl and cows. Your neighbor would spank your butt if she caught you misbehaving, then, mom would give you another cut-tail just for good measure. For fun, children would steal morsels of meat and herbs for an outdoor “bush-cook.”
It’s not uncommon to see a pastoral, Caribbean person clad in what I affectionately refer to a “getup.” It’s the ultimate creative play on vintage wear born out of instinctive resourcefulness. These outfits originated from not always having access to fully coordinated—or even store-bought—clothing. The end result is a mix of floral prints with stripes, polka-dot frocks with flip-flops and denim tops layered with mesh tanks. When it’s party time, they’d wear lime-green pants and an orange shirt. It’s what they had. So, it’s what they wore. And you couldn’t tell them they weren’t fly. You see, it’s all in how you rock it.
My rural West Indian heritage has afforded me many strong qualities, among those, a deep appreciation for creativity and style. On some McGuyver-type levels, country people know how to work with what they’ve got. From scraping together a good meal to getting dolled-up for a wedding, they do what they gotta do, and somehow, the end result is amazingly wonderful. From Queens to Kingston, Cha-Am to Berbice, and everywhere in between, my travels have afforded me the great privilege of observing the most interestingly basic human instincts of survival and creativity that bond us all. It’s so primal and so lovely.
Though decades removed from my mother’s experience of living in a mud house in the Corentyne, she made sure to instill in me her culture of resourcefulness. Now, a successful account manager at one of New York’s top real estate firms (and a fellow travel junkie), I owe her infinite gratitude for the creative spin I put on my own survival…and style! Growing up in a house full of country folk taught me how to “make it work,” and I’m having tons of fun doing it. Wanna be stylishly inspired? Pay some bush-folk a visit on your next trip to a far away land.
Shouts to my country people. Big up unnuh self!
Nikiesha McLennon was born in Germany and raised in Queens. Artist, culturalist, and computer nerd, she's visited more countries than there are subway lines. This Guyanese/Jamaican mix likes her food spicy and her beach water clear. Currently resides in Brooklyn and loves window seats.