What really matters…
Last week Wednesday the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) launched The Guild of Masters under the patronage of President Prof George Maxwell Richards with the unveiling of a 30-foot Cedros hosay tadjah at OWTU on Henry Street. The guild is an institution created to rescue disappearing traditional local skill in a period where we’re experiencing the death of our Golden Age generation.
We’ve lost more than 18,000 of 20,000 genius elders in the last 10 years. Because our political leadership hasn’t seen it fit to document, collect, curate, and transmit T&T’s legacy, dozens of traditions disappeared in the last decade.
ACTT estimates there are 144 traditions in danger of disappearing. These include skills like the engineering behind the best carnival King and Queen costumes pre-1985. There’re about four artisans who have that knowledge left. A casual glance at the quality of our current king and queens is evidence of the collapse — not only in imagination but artisan skill. This is a direct result from our nation’s refusal to institutionalise Legacy.
The 30-foot tadjah is the first artifact to be re-created. Our idea of the guild is: master elder artisans working with master apprentices re-creating masterworks whilst the entire process is recorded and codified.
Each part of that equation is important. It must be a ‘master artisan’- holder of local classical skill. It must be ‘master apprentices’ — practitioners already versed in the craft or parallel skills — beginners cannot absorb, replicate, or be trusted to sustain age-old practices. It must be ‘recreated masterpieces’ because these contain remarkable coded processes and subtleties. The nation also benefits by acquiring phenomenal artifacts for contemplation and for exploitation as heritage. The last part is critical: the entire process must be recorded and codified faithfully. ACTT now has in its possession a university course worth of information about the construction of Cedros-style 30-foot tadjahs.
ACTT won the guild in the first two People’s Partnership budgets. It wasn’t implemented. In that period numerous prospective Guild leaders — and their multi-million dollar projects- died: Geraldine Connor; JaJah Onilu; Sullivan Walker; Bertie Marshall; Aldwyn Chow Lin On; Ralph Mac Donald; Wayne Berkley; Geraldo Vierra; and others. The cost of not passing on skill will be massive. In five years this country will witness the collapse and disappearance of many pillars of our collective identity…
These budget initiatives vanished in Budget 2012 — replaced by the unilateral shadowy creation of a Creative Industries Company (CIC) formed by the wrapping up of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, T&T Entertainment Company, the National Theatre Company, and the Fashion board. I revealed two weeks ago the board members’ names: chairman Derek Chin of MovieTowne; Joe Pires of Caribbean Chemicals; Donna Chin Lee of the Normandie; and others. Only one person with knowledge of the sector is on the board — Christopher Laird of Banyan. Since making noise I’ve been offered a position…
The CIC is the wrong institutional model for this stage of our development. T&T requires more specialist agencies — not generalist ones. We require sector specialists in charge of boards, as CEOs, and in line-staff. Does Government appoint Black Stalin to head oil/gas boards? Then why appoint businessmen to creative boards?
The concept of a CIC was roundly rejected for Budget 2011 by the expert panel. It was the item which Pat Bishop gave her life fighting against. What this sector needs is the implementation of the 129 line-items from budgets 2010 and 2011. These were arrived at through consultation and provide the enablers to launch our sector into the modern age. This is based on a three-point programme: consolidation of heritage; incubation of artist and products; enabling entrepreneurial expansion.
We don’t need a company clustering disparate things together — like dance and film — under the guise of entrepreneurship! That makes no sense! We need an agency to coordinate the entire span of processes- from heritage, incubation, to entrepreneurship — that understands how these pieces work together to fit into an industrial and spiritual whole.
We need boards that understand creativity as an organic personal act, as a collective communal one, and as a manifestation of national soul. And understands how individuals, communities, and nations have converted these impulses into economised product — with integrity. What this nation needs is not a CIC — but an Arts Council.
The Arts Council was approved in the first two Budgets as the vehicle for the roll-out of the 129 line-items to convert our annual 1.9 Billion dollar earning sector into a $6 billion earner in four short years. Thousands of citizens will migrate from the lower to middle class; many will become millionaires. There’ll not be the obscene pre-meditated concentration of wealth, property, and control in the hands of a few — as many see as the CIC plan.
ACTT is calling on the Prime Minister to abort the CIC: put the diversification agenda of the nation back on-track with the roll-out of the Arts Council and Budget 2010 and 2011 proposals. Let’s put the travesty of the CIC behind us, and get back to what matters.