Barbadian Writer Amanda Haynes’ Graphic Memoir ‘Talamak’ explores mental health in the Caribbean

Thenublk has had the pleasure of having contributors with fascinating backgrounds. One of our most recent additions to the family has been Amanda Haynes, a writer and critic from Barbados. We spoke with Amanda about her first memoir ‘Talamak’ and the beautiful illustrations featured in the digital publication. The story touches on a subject often swept under the carpet in the Caribbean but which Haynes felt needed highlighting.

Talamak: Dessa Darling’s Memoir is the story of a girl who awakes from a stoned slumber and falls into repressed memories. Its four narratives—Purple Flower, Talamak, Sunsets with Gran-gran, Blood Sisters—are framed by six images, including the cover page, four illustrations, and the end page. The story is set in Barbados, the Caribbean.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.47.02I wrote Dessa’s story with images I mind. My aim was to let the images frame the written narratives, allowing the story to unfold holistically through the words, art and graphic design of the piece. Working with Versia to create the illustrations was kismet.

Versia allowed me to browse a vast collection of landscape stills and characters that she had ‘just lying there’. As it happens, the surreal style and psychological themes of her work seemed made for Dessa’s story. It just worked. That afternoon we put together bits and pieces, from flowers to clouds, to create the whole images. My focus was creating images that expressed the character’s internal reality, connecting with the words via motifs and dense symbolism; especially colour.


First, I had to determine the story told by the collection of images, the story told by each image, and of course, how Dessa should look. The aim was to set the scene of the reflections via the illustrations, with the body of images telling the story of her movement from the beginning to the end of these memories. The first and last illustrations would signify the start and end of the emotional journey- and give insight on her reaction to the events expressed by words.



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I chose to characterise Dessa as a non-human so the focus of the stories would be the emotions evoked. The featherless, cycling ‘thing or swan’ in a patch-work skirt perfectly portrays how Dessa feels inside. In contrast, the bicycle, an everyday mode of transport, connects with the very human, very normal story being told. As the illustrations move from day to night, this ‘thing’ moves from a position of sitting, to standing, to a moment before motion, and finally—despite and because of voicing her story—cycling on.

Writing/Direction by Amanda Haynes, domalene 
Graphic Design by Kimberley St. Hill,
Illustration by Versia Harris,

Published via Fly Books Issuu on Wednesday August 13th, 2014. Released online via Fresh Milk. Press: ARC Magazine