From all appearances, Trinidad and Tobago's
presentation to CARIFESTA VIII in Suriname will be an Afro-Trinidadian
cultural representation. Trinidadians and Tobagonian is doing grave
injustice to the theme of CARIFESTA which is "Many Cultures:
The Essence of Togetherness, the Spirit of the Caribbean."
It seems that tickets were handed out mainly to one section of the
society. The premier show at Queen's Hall last Friday night [15/8/03]
essentially reflected this.
From the title of the play, "Golden Masquerade," at the
opening, it was expected that the Indian performing artistes had
to fall in line and footwork with carnival rhythms. If they wanted
a free plane ride to Suriname with free hotel accommodation, they
had to shed their ethnic identity and absorb the culture of Creole
Carnival. Golden Masquerade was more about Creole Carnival than
about multi-ethnic Trinbago; the dramatic performance not only marginalized
the Indian cultural presence, but also integrated it to the point
of a cultural calaloo. Non-Indians actors in fact dominated the
cast with a few fringe Indian dancing to the beat of bongo drums
and kalinda songs.
One main character included Anansi. He could have easily been complemented
with the Indian folklore figure of Satchuli or Birbal. After all,
the theme of CARIFESTA VIII is "Many Cultures: The Spirit of
Togetherness." The motifs of J'Ouvert were evoked in the absence
of Divali, Ramlila and Hosay. The tamboo bamoo was more audible
that the dhantal - a metal percussion instrument played by the lone
Sagar Sookraj. The dholak drum - the national symbol of Suriname
- suffered the same fate in the country performance of "all
ah we is one."
When Guyana's dictator Forbes Burnham first thought of CARIFESTA
in 1972, he envisioned a meeting point for kindred spirits, a blending
of creative forces bringing together the cream of the artists in
the region and providing them with a stage. The aim of CARIFESTA
today remains the same as yesterday - it is to create, develop and
foster further unity within the CARICOM countries via cultural exchanges.
This year the Trinidad and Tobago is spending about ten (10) million
dollars and chartering a BWIA airplane to take a local contingent
to Suriname. All expenses are being paid by the Government such
as airfare, hotel accommodation, meals and insurance for all delegates.
For many on the trip, it will be a joy ride to a foreign country
for a free holiday. Sitting in first class will be Selwyn Cudjoe,
a Trinidadian visitor with US citizenship.
There are only two (2) Indian-based cultural organizations out
of fifteen (15) in the Trinidad and Tobago organizing committee
for CARIFESTA. These two organizations are Chutney Foundation of
Trinidad and Tobago (CFTT) represented by Dr Vijay Ramlal, and the
National Cultural Council for Indian Culture (NCIC) represented
by Ms Rosemarie Dipnarine. By its very mandate, the CFTT can only
represent chutney artists at the show. It was therefore expected
that the all-embracing NCIC would have sent a more vocal and assertive
spokesperson to the meeting to represent the various forms of Indian
culture in Trinidad. Yet the NCIC selected a non-performing representative
to go to Suriname. Role of two Indian groups is to help organize
the Trinidad contingent - in particular sourcing an Indian cultural
artists, ornaments, photographs, paintings, and instruments. The
role of these two organizations has been relegated to curry-dressing.
Why is one of two Indian organizing groups being discriminating
against? Why is one of fifteen groups not selected to go to Suriname?
Where is the substance and support for the rhetoric of "many
cultures" and "cultural diversity" and "one
people"? Why has Cabinet selected only two Indian cultural
groups as part of the country's organizing committee? What criteria
were used in the selection?
Why was the Maha Sabha's Baal Vikaas representative left out? For
those who do not know, Baal Vikaas is a grand children's cultural
showcase staged since 1983. It has been organized and presented
on a scale larger than Best Village to this day without any Government
funding. It is indeed a sight to behold to see ancient oral texts
being rolled out from the mouths of babes, and songs and dances
being performed by children of the future.
It is unpardonable that the National Phagwa Council and the National
Ramleela Committee has been left out of the organizing committee.
The dholak [drum] is a central piece of musical instrument in the
chowtal ensemble, and it is the national symbol - like our steelband
is to us - of Suriname! It is a national grief and disgrace to know
that our national dholak champion is not going to Surniname. The
largest ethnic group in Suriname are Indians (called Hindustanis),
and the largest religious following are Hindus.
We must ask the Cabinet, Ministry of Culture's Mr Efebo Wilkinson
and CARIFESTA's Director Mr. Eric Butler where is the Hosay, Ramleela
or Pichakaaree representative on the organizing committee? On the
organizing committee, and going to Suriname, or sending a representative
are members of the Emancipation Support Committee, Trinidad Art
Society, Prime Minister's Best Village Committee, TIDCO, the Calypsonians
Association (TUCO), Carnival Commission (NCBA), Dance Association
(NDATT), National Museum, National Library (NALIS), Philatelic Society,
Jacqui House of Fashion, Horticultural Society, Parang Association,
Tobago House of Assembly, Santa Rosa Carib Society, and such myriad
groups. Why isn't a cultural ambassador and promoter like Mr Ajeet
Praimsingh on the organizing committee? Where is the spokesman for
the annual road show, Mere Desh? Where is the representative of
the enduring Mastana Bahar?