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The thing is this: West to Central Africa- from Guinea to Nigeria, to Ghana, to Congo, to Sudan- is the seat of masquerade culture on planet Earth. It is where masquerade exists in an infinity of forms in terms of types of costume, headpieces, and dances- but moreover, it is where ‘the living principle of masquerade as a way of life’ is most powerful and continues to persist. It has persisted in West/Central African people and their descendants in the diaspora in a way that has died out in other peoples for hundreds of years. West/Central Africans remember the immortal connection with the cosmic- with Spirit, with Ancestors, with sun, earth, water, sea, wind, and sky. It is what has made African music traditions the verb that drives ALL popular music on the planet. It has made dancing to Black drum-music the principle form of social leisure on the planet, and has made the Trinidad Carnival one of the most popular festivals in the world… Read the rest of this entry

PSIP submission for the developmental spend for the Sector

psip2013In the last 3 years ACTT has been able to win major National Budget battles by going straight to the Ministry of Finance and by bypassing our line-Ministry (the Ministry of Arts) who seemed never interested in the progressive agendas of the Sector. ACTT was able to convince the Finance Minister and his technocrats- and other allies in government we would canvas- of the validity of our programmes. That’s how for the first 2 PPG Budgets ACTT was able to win 75%+ of the progressive agenda for the Sector in the Budgets- gains the Sector had not been able to win since Independence. The problem was that there was no implementation of these agendas. For a number of reasons.

One big reason was because the Sector’s implementing arm—the Ministry of Arts—was never on-board the Sector’s vision. ACTT’s president Rubadiri Victor accepted an appointment as Advisor to the Minister of Arts because it came with the express mission of Implementation of the Progressive Agenda. This means that the opportunity exists- for the first time in the history of the Sector- for the vision of the Sector to also become the vision of the Minister and Ministry! This of course is easier said than done, but the process has now been engaged.

The most important outcome of this has been the thrust by Rubadiri to get the Ministry to adopt ACTT’s and the Sector’s progressive agenda as its own. This is a developmental agenda meant to retool the sector from a $1.7 billion earner annually to becoming a $6- $7 billion earner annually within 4 years. This transformation is possible by the creating of an enabling ecosystem of legislation, institutions, policies, and enabling fiscal programmes which are international Best Practice. The fail-safe for implementation is the creation of an Arts Council based on the renowned Canadian and British Best Practice models as the vehicle for implementation.

This document is the full Budget document for the 2013/14 PSIP. On Budget Day September 9th 2013 the sector and the nation will see if government has heeded the Sector’s warnings and adopted the Sector’s vision.

Emancipation, Carnival and our festivals

This article continues exploring the stakeholder masterplan for the Creative Sector—plans to grow it from a $1.9 billion annual earner to a $7 billion one in four short years. These interventions were submitted to Cabinet for inclusion in the 2013/14 Budget. Festivals earn about $1.3 billion annually. Carnival earns the lion’s share. Festivals can earn $3 billion annually. Here’s how.

In my last article I said it’s our Gift that we’re ‘the Festival Nation’. Somehow the ‘festival tribes’ of the races of the world ended up here—and created a nation where every month we re-initiate ourselves with sacred and secular festivals. Unlike other places in the world we’ve made these festivals public, national, and inclusive. The entire island feels ownership and belonging to the narrative of these festivals to some degree. Few other people open their ethnic festivals to outsiders. This coming together of festival tribes from Amerindian, Africa, Europe, and Asia created the mother Festival of Trinidad’s Carnival.

In many festivals with an East Indian component we’re past 100 years of celebration. In Carnival we’re moving into 180 years. Other festivals are into their 50th year… These ages are important because we’ve not built the institutions to document, analyse, and pass on our Festival Legacy. This failure to create institutions to support our civilisation—like proper Academies and Universities, proper Museums or Heritage Sites, or proper Historical Societies and Guilds—means we’ve left the responsibility of recording and transmitting tradition to practitioners themselves.

The age of our festivals is important because traditions collapse after the fourth generation if the central institution has fallen or been weakened. Twenty years is a generational cycle. This means most of our traditions are past their fourth generation… Read the rest of this entry

Not different things

A Trini friend was a writer for the Wall Street Journal. I asked him about returning home to give back. He replied, “Rubadiri, you know how I love my country and business- but I can’t come back to a country whose leaders don’t understand that there’re people in this world who’re hundred-millionaires because they can skateboard! They don’t have a clue how the world works!”

I’ve been in meetings these last few weeks where it’s clear our leaders believe that “humanity” and “business” are two different things. The split comes in many forms. They believe they must choose between “culture” or “profitability”, “heritage” or “progress”, “people” or “development’. Not for a second seeing that these are not different things. That actually culture—even in its pure form—is profitable—that Bunyol- a small Spanish town- attracts 50,000 tourists annually for a tomato-throwing festival! Bunyol begun charging participants US$13 to throw. Do the math! This festival began as a re-enactment of a fight between youths- and is now a multi-million dollar earner. They haven’t changed an essential thing about how it works. They honoured its origins.

Phagwa in India, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, Macy’s Thanksgiving in New York, Brazil’s and Venice’s carnivals, bull-running in Pamplona, Oktoberfest in Germany, and many other festivals are multi-million dollar economies that don’t sacrifice origins, native-crafts, and ritual to earn money. And they’re more successful than us. They use the rhythms of their rituals to provide opportunities for earning- but understand the sanctity of the ritual that provides the attraction. The magnetism of authenticity… Read the rest of this entry