The repeating Trinbago moment
There is a global “Trinidad and Tobago” moment here again. This moment has been created by gifted Trini practitioners who’ve carved international mainstream spaces for themselves and who now make it possible for genius locals to have access to global platforms upon which to operate.
This moment has been here before. The only time we’ve capitalised was during our Golden Age from the 1930s to the ’50s when people like CLR James, our panmen, calypsonians, cricketers and others strode across the world like they owned it. They walked straight from Laventille into Manhattan and into history. Straight from Tunapuna into the Russian Kremlin and into African nations battling for Independence. Straight from San Fernando into London where they changed Europe. During this period there was facilitation by all classes. Educated Trinis like Lennox Pierre joined hands with the working class to make opportunities. Artists and sportsmen collaborated. We’ve not seized these moments since. And they’ve been many.
There was the Billy Ocean moment. The moment with three Trinis on Fresh Prince of Bel Air (Tatiana Ali, Alphonso Rebeiro, Nia Long). The Trini sporting moment where over 20 of our athletes were ranked in the world top ten and/or held world records… They were many more. Our leaders messed up all…
At the moment there’re hosts of Trini talents in global mainstream spaces who’ve embraced and broadcasted their Trinbagonianess creating a buzz around our brand. Once again it’s our artistes and sportsmen creating this space for us—along with oil and gas professionals. This is an opportunity not only for sports and arts—but for Trini business, cuisine and ideas.
We all know of Nicki Minaj—holder of music industry records and one of the most popular female artistes on earth. Her video for “Pound the Alarm” soaked itself in Trini Carnival and introduced us to the world—again. With 81 million viewers, it introduced a number of our elements to the world as distinctive: the Trinidad Carnival; “bikini and beads”; the music trucks; the revelry; the moko jumbies; the T&T flag; the colours red, white, and black; our beaches; pan; climate; and beautiful people—especially our women. Joining her, reinforcing these brands is $2 million Def Jam artiste Trinidad James, with the visually stunning “Females Welcome” video which journeys to the gritty streets of East Port of Spain—the birthplace of Carnival—and introduces the Blue Devil in one of the most stunning uses of our iconography ever.
Director Mannion explores elements of the landscape in more iconic and loaded ways making each image resonate—whether it be the T&T map mural of heroes in NJAC, the St James gates or the sensuality of Ms T&T Athaliah Samuel… The video raises eyebrows—along with James’s controversial persona and lyrics—but is certain to make people more curious. It is our job to satisfy their curiosity—and make them connect the dots.
And what dots there are of our stars across the sky!… Other points of light include: Theophilus London hip-hop star signed with Warner; Tatiana Ali enjoying a second-wind career with “The Other Wayans”. Local-boy KMC has his mega-recording deal with Lady Gaga’s people, while Project Runway winner Anya Ayoung-Chee still makes waves. Shelton Alexis “the Orgasmic Chef” has a rising international culinary brand, while model Angel Ross and other Trini models are exciting the fashion industry. Marry this to our current international sporting stars like Keshorn, Njisane, Thompson and Bovell, and the generation of genius just before them like Dwight, Ato, Shaka and Lara who still have potent brands… This is not an exhaustive list. This is the tip of the sunberg. The list includes authors, dancers, designers, art directors, animators, stylists, coaches, executives, curators, institutional administrators, choreographers, film and theatre directors, and more!
To take advantage of this moment requires sensitivity and intelligence. Not things our leaders have shown they possess. They spectacularly destroyed the opportunities presented by the 50th Independence anniversary and the London Olympics—one flinches in horror over what they could with this. This is why the Artists’ Coalition will lead a multi-institutional citizen-led initiative to make this moment make sense to us all. We hope Government listens and facilitates when it can—and does the work here at home. From Independence to the ’80s, two generations of our practitioners came back after having international careers. In the ’90s, that returning ceased. Trini geniuses abroad now refuse to come back unless we get our act in order. They’re tired of the fact that we’re 45 years behind the world in our cultural enabling environment.
T&T needs to pass the 50 per cent-local-content-quotas legislation so we can liberate our music, film, TV, fashion and theatre industries. This strategy has been used by dozens of nations with no failures. We need to convert CNMG into a PBS, BBC or Channel 4-Britain-type channel. We need to establish our National Arts Council immediately so it can implement the progressive artist agenda. The council is the key to preparing this country to finally take advantage of our call to the global stage…