Blog Archives

THE MARDI GRAS, THE CANBOULAY, & THE PERSISTENCE OF AFRICA

untitled-1

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

Advertisements

East Port of Spain reborn

epos-planEvery muscle of our society is straining. The murders are just the most graphic shudders indicating something is deeply wrong with the body of the Republic. Every right-minded citizen must engage in the repair. “Do not go gentle into that good night./ Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

East Port of Spain is ground zero. Over the last decade over 1,000 black boys were killed by other black boys. Thousands of American, Israeli, and Russian-made guns entered the community along with hundreds of millions in drugs from Latin America. The community is collapsing dangerously. The murders are becoming more shocking, gruesome, and all-inclusive. And we’ve not hit bottom yet…I’ve written at length about the causes of gang-formation before: This is about solutions.

The tragedy is not just the hellish bloodletting—but the response of our leaders. When our political leaders speak about solutions it’s as if 150 years of human scholarship in sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology, and urban planning never happened. As if humans haven’t found reasons or solutions for urban collapse and youth violence in 200 years. What terrifies is the primary-school level solutions—more police, bigger guns, cable cars… It’s clear we cannot let politicians lead the actions for repair of East Port of Spain (EPOS).
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

Dear Minister Tewarie

Dear Minister Tewarie, greetings from the local cultural community! This message meets you on the day the canny Mayans earmarked as the End of Ages—so either this missive meets you throat-deep in water, avoiding the flames, or experiencing the molecular re-alignment of harmonic convergence. However the day meets you, may my message reach you, too!

How did we reach this pass? How can the country of CLR James, Beryl, Sundar, Carlisle Chang, Attila, Spoiler, Kitchener, Bailey, Constantine, Butler, Rienzi, and so many warriors and artisans of Light lie so ruined? So far off-course? So bereft of Hope and Dream? How did we become such a dirty, harried, mangy shadow of ourself? And in particular—how have the dreams of artists who slaved so hard for this place been so completely betrayed with such bloodless ruthlessness by politicians? Of course I’m talking about your Cabinet kicking off the boat the 129 line-items which embodied the dreams of artists, to then smuggle on-board the “Creative Industries Company (TTCIC)”, with its cargo of businessmen and hidden party-financier agendas.

The great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca delivered our own Minshall’s favourite quote about the role of Art, “The poem, the song, the picture is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink—and in drinking, understand themselves.” The phrase at centre that resonates for me is: “the people”. The people… It’s always “the people”. If you destroy “the artist”, you destroy “the people”… Read the rest of this entry

Tightening circles

Every day this Government is finding itself with less legitimate room to manoeuvre. The citizenry is creating ever tightening circles, restricting the movement of agendas detrimental to our nation. Many say the reason Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens don’t mobilise against crimes committed against us by political and capital elites is because we’ve never fought a war for Independence. Nobody ever spilt any blood… We never had to organise an army to battle for the soul of our Republic. Because of this we’ve never been invested with the passion, sweat, sacrifice and organising principles that come with knowing the enemy will not grant us freedom until somebody in this gayelle is dead…

I’m saying this country has now arrived at that place. That in the last 12 years we’ve been fighting the war for our Independence—and are now possibly approaching the climactic battles…

Wayne Kublalsingh’s incredible hunger strike marks the second time I’m witnessing a citizen put their life on the line for this nation. The first was Pat Bishop—who paid the ultimate price in defence of our country. Read the rest of this entry