Archive for the 'Trinidad and Tobago' Category

09
Jan
09

In Memory of Dr. Roi Kwabena

Today is the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Roi Kwabena, someone whose presence in my own work and evolution was fundamental, a mentor and guide, a great example of a publicly engaged anthropologist — completely public, in the sense of not being tied to any academic position, and inspiring some to call themselves and see themselves as “cultural anthropologists” even without the formal “disciplining” meted out by a university program. I will not write another eulogy. I will instead quote his own words from one of his great spoken word pieces, Whether or Not: “We still thinkin’ ’bout yuh.” And by we, I mean we, since today we collaborated to set up a special ring of commemoration, between myself, Blackgirl on Mars, and Guanaguanare (and on Guacara Dreamtime), all of our lives having been touched directly by you Roi, each of us remembering you in our own way on our respective blogs. As some already know, this blog is dedicated to your memory.

The video below is an animation I made many months ago of one of Roi’s longer hybrid productions as featured on his Y42K album, part spoken word poem, part story, part melody. I was reserving featuring this video on this blog until I was ready for the next installment of (Video) Notes from the Indian Diaspora, which I began and then interrupted several months ago (see here, here, and here). Not to delay further, and to have something to commemorate Roi’s work, I present it now.

This is Sour Chutney, a story whose content is sadly like many that were told of the pains suffered personally and communally as part of the social ruptures of Indian indentureship in Trinidad. It is a story of the ardent defense of tradition and male domination in face of new realities, and the violence that is visited upon one “unlucky” young bride. Most chilling for me was the appearance of the “sin eater,” and the whole piece raised the many hairs on my back.

On this day last year, Dr. Roi Kwabena passed away from lung cancer, just one day after it was diagnosed. He had been hospitalized for suspected pneumonia. His loss weighed deeply on me, but today we celebrate his work, we don’t mourn his passing. Thank you so much Roi, for all you have done, and all you have inspired to be done in the future. You live on!

These are some surviving links to his work, still online:

Also see, Dr. Roi Kwabena: Indigenous & African Heritages, when I first had the pleasure to introduce our friendship to readers online.

Advertisements
25
Dec
08

Christmas in Trinidad

Thanks to Guanaguanare for sharing so much of the wonderful Trinidadian and Venezuelan Christmas:

  1. Paramin

  2. Chinee Parang

  3. Fuego Al Canon

  4. El Gavilan

  5. Un Feliz Año Pa’ Ti

  6. Sereno, Sereno

  7. Trini Christmas Is The Best

  8. Hurray, Hurray, Hurrah!

  9. Eat Something Before You Go

  10. Father Christmas

  11. It’s Christmas

  12. De Whole Hog

  13. Bring Drinks

  14. De Parang Now Start

  15. Aunque

  16. Bottle And Spoon

  17. Soca Santa

  18. Homemade Wine

  19. Ansiedad

  20. Alumbra Luna

  21. Alma Llanera

  22. Alegría

  23. All I Want For Christmas IS My Two Front Teeth

  24. Mi Burrito Sabanero

03
Nov
08

Russians in Venezuela? More on the U.S. Marines in Trinidad

Preposterous. Either the Captain of the U.S.S. Kearsarge is being foolishly sarcastic in an interview with the Trinidadian media, or he is outright lying and hoping his audience consists of dumb natives (see the post on Guanaguanare). What is interesting is that Captain Ponds needed to reply in that manner, since it confirms what we knew: the so-called “humanitarian” mission of the Marines (when not razing Iraqi cities and firing white phosphorous into schools, they like to scrape the plaque off of a Trinidadian vagrant’s tooth) is in fact a geopolitical exercise in containment and espionage, a mere seven miles from the Venezuelan coast, as Russian naval exercises are about to begin there.

Sphere Related Content

30
Oct
08

The End of Progress

I have been working and thinking about this particular project, featured below, for a while now. It is my newest “open source music video” featuring a Trinidadian calypso by King Austin (Austin Lewis), from 1980. I owe King Austin an enormous debt. I first heard this song in the pub of the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad, one afternoon in mid-August of 1990. It sucked the wind out of me from the very first time, and the song has stayed in my head ever since then. It shaped my approach to the study of international relations, specifically critiques of the Eurocentricity of international developmentalism, as propagated then by Dr. Herb Addo at UWI. It was further fed by the works of George Aseneiro and then Ashis Nandy. Layered with these extra readings and schools of thought, it eventually formed part of the basis for me to enter anthropology (although it was almost literally a toss up between anthropology and sociology that would make my final choice).

The song is a critique of the ideology and practice of progress, from the vantage points of environmental unsustainability, exploitation, inequality, and the resultant social strife. At least part of the vision is inspired by Christian teaching. Yet, his vision is one that has come to be strongly supported by recent scientific research. Indeed, in the days leading up to my concluding work on this video, a striking item was published by the BBC: “Earth on Course for ‘Eco-Crunch’.” It seems that we will need two planets to sustain our current level of consumption, environmental degradation, and growth in population.

Austin Lewis is a modest, unassuming man, who has made the most and very best of the learning made available to him. He says in an interview, “I love every human being very much. It doesn’t matter where you are from. I love all the people and I want to tell them, God bless and have a happy new year.” King Austin asks, as you will hear, some of the primary questions of philosophical importance in what has become an urgent project of utopistics. You can read the complete transcription of the lyrics, as usual, at Guanaguanare’s site, where she also links the message of the song to Steel Pulse’s “Earth Crisis” (you can see the video there, or in my vodpod).

Enough from me, or at least enough text:

27
Oct
08

U.S. Marines in Trinidad & Tobago

This Sea Stallion helicopter, attached to the United States Marines, currently on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, scouts out the area over Barataria yesterday.

This Sea Stallion helicopter, attached to the United States Marines, currently on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, scouts out the area over Barataria yesterday.

From one of Trinidad’s news dailies, Newsday, this very disappointing piece from Sunday, 26 October, 2008:

US Marines in TT

Sunday, October 26 2008

Members of the public in Laventille, Curepe, certain parts of the East and Central were jolted out of their beds early yesterday by the roaring sounds of two marine helicopters flying over their homes.

Some of the concerned persons even telephoned Sunday Newsday to ascertain if the United States Marine Corps were carrying out an exercise in the country.

One man said, “the noise from the engines was so powerful that I was awakened from sleep and when I looked out of my house the two helicopters were flying over my house, and I could see the US Marine officers inside,” he said.

Yesterday, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Edmund Dillon sought to clear the air on the matter.

He said members of the US Marine Corps are in Trinidad to carry out a number of humanitarian ventures. These include repairs to the Cyril Ross and St Jude’s Home for Girls.

The officers will also provide medical assistance to persons at the Arima and Couva hospitals.

On Monday, the US Marines will formally make public their mission in Trinidad [known] during a ceremony to mark their presence in the country.

Patrick Manning and George W. Bush, 2007

Patrick Manning and George W. Bush, 2007

This is obviously occurring with the consent of the regime of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of the ruling “People’s National Movement” (an ironic name if ever there was one). The presence of the Marines is of no benefit to Trinidad — as if this industrialized, petroleum exporting nation could not repair a school — and is instead done to facilitate deeper U.S. military penetration. This is a means of positioning U.S. forces closer to Venezuela, a mere seven miles away. Indeed, Manning has been trying to serve as a counterweight to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (Manning stands as a featherweight in comparison). Chavez has spent vast amounts on health and development programs in the Caribbean and provided discounted oil. Manning, unwilling to address poverty at home, has tried to create an illusion of alleviating it among his neighbours, as if in a desperate competition with Chavez. One can wonder whether Manning has been put up to this effort by the same forces now rearing their ugly heads in Marine helicopters.

Patrick Manning and Ariel Sharon

Patrick Manning and Ariel Sharon

This effort clearly brings into being the U.S. plans discussed in previous posts there and there.

In a situation of growing global economic crisis, there seems to be nothing less opportune than further imperial overstretch and increased militarization of the planet, save for the fact that U.S. regimes have committed themselves to war corporatism.

On the website of the Office of the Prime Minister, the only statement that exists for this date concerns the presence of “US Chiefs of Mission” for a HIV/AIDS conference. “Coincidentally,” in February of 2007 the U.S. military had a presence in Trinidad, to train 53 local military officers in HIV/AIDS awareness, as if local resources for the purposes did not exist.

Good luck to Trinidad’s anti-imperialist strugglers in getting rid of these dogs of war.

For more discussion online, see the Open Question at Yahoo!: “DO YOU THINK USA MARINES ARE IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO TO HELP TRINIDAD OR TO SPY ON VENEZUELA?

29
Sep
08

The Shadows in the Dark are Blue Devils: Turning the World Upside Down

This is Ataklan again, with more video of Trinidad of a quality and nature that I could only hope to make myself. We have heard from Ataklan before on this blog, with “The Sun Starts to Rise,” which came around the time of the summer solstice, by lucky chance. Now as we enter into a darker fall, today we have “A Shadow in the Dark.” As is often the case with Trinidadian songs and videos that I like to feature here, my comrade Guanaguanare has posted this on her blog a while back, and transcribed it: see her post here.

More in a moment, but first here is the video:

I like the video for its messages of humility, tactical restraint, its suspicion and critique of dominant power, and the daily grind of those placed and held in the gutters of society:


Man, I’d rather be a shadow in the dark,
Than a big fool in spotlight.
I’d rather be a dog without a bark,
Than a loud dog without a bite.

It’s 3 Canal time again, with a video of Blue Devils dancing, classic figures from the pre-dawn J’ouvert of the Trinidadian carnival. There are many reasons why 3 Canal is the featured musical inspiration of this blog, not least of which is their rescuing of the potent political symbolism of carnival-as-resistance, their consistent critiques of capitalism and hegemony, their philosophical dwelling in the working class street, and of course their hybrid musical inventions.

Today Washington crooks cook up a transfer of public wealth into the mismanaging hands of the super wealthy, because otherwise the failure of “capitalism that works” (we have been fed a diet of propaganda of how capitalism is the best possible system, the only system that works, no viable alternatives) might have caused some “shock” to people in growing tent cities, in jobless lines, people losing their homes? Those realities of dispossession and loss will continue regardless of Wall Street’s improved health, and indeed, because of it.

This is a “world turned upside down” in another sense than the one intended by 3 canal — this is Americans’ much hated “socialism” (public funds wielded by an interventionist state) coming to the rescue of capitalism. And they will pay for it very dearly. In the meantime, John McCain entertains fantasies of no new spending on social programs, but lots of new spending on national security — an aspiring “war president” of perverse proportions, who thinks you can run an army without an economy, presumably because he is confident that China and the Gulf States will continue lending the U.S. money for its imperial adventurism? McCain looks more like an old guard figure of the declining USSR, a war-a-holic headed for the same exit, coincidentally also stuck up his melanoma in Afghan sand.

  • Public financed private wealth
  • State bailouts for the “free market”
  • A national war economy funded by foreign lenders
  • Securing economic health (for the dwellers of the tent cities?)
  • An aspiring VP Palin, who thinks the bailout is about health care…

Enjoy it, it’s your state sanctioned madness.

3 CANAL

Sphere Related Content

01
Sep
08

Independence, Nationalism, Indigeneity: Pride in Patrimony or Prostrate before Princes?

A few “random” thoughts for today, August 31, 2008, Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago, some of which revolve around the symbolized, emblematic figure of the Amerindian in the development of a national sense of identity (something that I wrote a lot about in Ruins of Absence, Presence of Caribs. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005). I can start by saying that at least Trinidad has an “independence” day, a potentially subversive thought from where I sit here in the neo-colony/neo-colonizer that is Canada, that still celebrates “Victoria Day” and still conquers indigenous land.

Memory as a Medal

For at least the past several years there has been public debate in Trinidad around the coloniality of the “Trinity Cross” as the national medal awarded to distinguished citizens. Many felt that it symbolized Christianity, and thus stood as an act of discrimination against Trinidad’s other major faiths, notably Hindus and Muslims. Some defenders suggested that the Trinity in this case referred to Trinidad — they mean the same thing, the first in English, the second in Spanish. Perhaps this is another case where different values are attached to the same word in different languages: “Black” is better than “Negro,” even if Black is the translation of Negro. In comes the new order: the Order of the Republic of the Society of Distinguished Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and Other Distinguished Persons, or, just simply the Order of Trinidad and Tobago. This is now almost official and there is little reason to doubt that it will be finalized.

Previously, two separate discussions that appear on this blog touched on some of the themes involved in creating this new order, so to speak. One concerned Trinidadian debates about Eurocentrism and indigeneity, and the bifocal nature of the official meanings of “indigenous” in Trinidad: one side referring to descendants of pre-colonial first nations, the other referring to anything “born” in Trinidad. Amerindians are indigenous people, and steelpan, on the other hand, is the indigenous instrument. The second relevant post asked the question of whether the state of Trinidad and Tobago really recognizes indigenous people in the country. My argument is that through subtle, circuitous means, no the state does not. So while the state “recognizes” a tiny fragment of possibility, the small, formally organized Santa Rosa Carib Community in Arima, it has so far refused all other nationals the opportunity to formally self-identify as indigenous, by excluding the category from the national census, even when pressed to do otherwise by the United Nations.

What the state does do is engage in a shadow play of symbolic veils, creating a sense of nation and locality when so many of its citizens have fled, and so many non-citizens have rushed in to buy up valuable natural resources, creating a sense of place just as the place is gutted and tossed into the non-place of capitalist globalization. As a result, one ends up with the conscious cultivation of tokens, to placate in the absence of lived reality — remember the past, because the present looks pretty grim. And one ends up with the following decoration:


Serving as a crown at the top of the medal is a feathered headdress:

The crest is represented by a familiar aboriginal symbol, the feathered headdress of an Amerindian chief….(i) The First Peoples: The design seeks to acknowledge the contribution of the autochthonous (or first) inhabitants of our land embodied in the crest surmounting the medallion.

And yet the medal is made of gold, more than just symbolic of the conquest, expropriation, and exploitation of the same indigenous people. I have no solution to the medal created by committee with all of its differing elements juxtaposed, and I am not one who normally thinks in terms of preferred nationalist symbols. What I think is a problem is the shallowness of recognition of indigeneity in the name of an inwardly squeezed, outwardly opened nationalism.

Show Some Pride, a Prince is Looking!

The other ambivalent display of indigeneity, this one directly involving members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community at one point, came when the “Prince of Wales, Charles Philip Arthur George and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, paid a visit to the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, on Wednesday 5th March, 2008, as part of their tour of Trinidad and Tobago to promote environmentalism and to reinforce British ties with former colonies” (see: “Royal Visit to UWI Highlights Lingering Colonialism“). One can see images of the visit starting here. Trinicenter.com lays bare the ghastly display of subservience to which Charles and Camilla were treated:

The scene was reminiscent of when the Queen of England had visited the country in February 1966, four years after the country’s Independence from Britain. Speaking with a gentleman who as a child witnessed the event, recalled that children lined the streets with flags in hand in the hot sun singing, “God save the Queen!” He reminded me that homage was being paid to former slave masters by a newly “Independent” nation with citizens calling on God to bless and save the royals. Today, the atmosphere was not much different with children and adults scrambling to get a touch of the royals’ hands. “I will never wash my hand again,” was what one female intimated.

The spectacle reflected the wider societal historical neglect, with the University of the West Indies at the helm of the education system sustaining the colonial mindset. Of course, true thinking individuals would know that the university is still an agent of imperialism and colonial conformity with their statues of European figures lining the third floor university library and places such as the JFK Quadrangle and auditorium named after an American president. There is no prominent symbolism that I am aware of in the University to cause appreciation of our African and Indian past.

Yesterday we witnessed children being encouraged by their teachers to touch the royals, seemingly without knowledge of Britain’s historical legacy, or even with their complicity in the mass-murder of millions in recent history. Certainly, this is an indictment against the teachers (among others) who refuse to challenge bogus history and continue to feed young minds with a self-debasing concept of history.

UWI’s Centre for Creative and Festival Arts did a skit about climate change. Unaware of the significance of symbolic actions, their continuous prostrating in front of the royals looked like a reconfirmation of colonialist attitudes and the idea of White power and supremacy over Black subordinates.

Without explaining the history of the Steelpan and reminding all that the Steelpan was developed in resistance to colonialism, the royals were allowed to play the Steelpan like children with toys. This came over as a mockery of the instrument. The royals should have been reminded that the Steelpan was born in resistance to their drive to suppress African forms of expression.

Marvin George, artistic director of “Arts in Action” posted a critique of this criticism on Facebook, on March 23, 2008, arguing that its “Offering Earth” ceremony, commissioned by the British High Commission, was meant to display pride in Trinidad’s indigenous heritage. The fact that the performers stayed low to the ground, worshiping the earth, could only be mistaken as lying prostrate in front of “the Royals.” Instead, it was meant as an “Amerindian allegory” — and Arts in Action consulted available scholarly texts on indigenous peoples in Trinidad (all except mine of course, which would have been difficult to read and apply for producing a show for elites).

It would seem that Arts in Action really bungled things, producing the opposite reaction from that intended. While disclaiming that this was a minstrel show, the fact is that they went to pay their respects to “the Royals” at the “invitation” of the British High Commission. That they readily agreed, even more than the troubled aesthetics, is what I find troubling. Why was indifference not an option? Why the greed for attention?

“Independence” remains a promise, if one chooses to take the time to reflect on what it could mean.

Happy Independence Day…from Kobo Town

SING OUT, SHOUT OUT


forty years ago today
independence came our way
welcomed by our struggling songs
it came but would not stay
and we, wanting to believe,
let ourselves be deceived
by the well-groomed speech of ambitious men
who time proved to be thieves
but the years went by and nothing came
new flag, new name, same old game
where the lucky laugh and the poor endure
having lost the will to fight again

Chorus
I remember when we were young
and hope was strong
and we had waited long
to hear the midnight bell
that would dispel
the age that kept us down
I recall when we would bleed
’cause we believed
freedom was in reach
of those who seized the day
but freedom came and faded like a dream

children of a passing age
remnants of a dying rage
whose anthems swept across this land
proclaiming a new day
and we waited patiently
for the elusive decree
that would rub away the scars we bore
and set our voices free
but the years wore on and nothing came
tyrants just bore different names
while the official line promised brighter times
we knew all things remained the same

independence, what an elusive dream
things are never ever what they seem
marchin’ hand in hand awaitin’ the command
of the liberator, soon to be the henchman
people’s vanguard, propaganda ministry
freedom fighters fillin’ the ranks of the secret police
while the tale on the times told in obituary lines
we offer our resistance with these humble rhymes

sing out, shout out, the dream never dies….

Speeches: Jawarhalal Nehru, August 15th, 1947, On India’s Independence; Milton Obote, October 9th, 1962, On the Independence of Uganda; Winston Churchill, June 18th, 1940, Address to House of Commons.




1D4TW

EVERY DAY FUH T'IEF,
ONE DAY FUH WATCHMAN

feed de devil



FOLLOW ME ON

FOLLOW ME ON

FOLLOW ME ON

kalinda

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

ENEMY

de ark-hive

STATE

JUMBIE ON THE WALL

GOOD PEOPLE

FIST

EYE

allyuh can borrow but yuh cyar steal or sell de t’ing

Creative Commons License

pay de devil

trinidad street graffiti images courtesy of thumbprints.co.tt; all other photos courtesy of caribbeanfreephoto, under Creative Commons licenses.

BLUE DEVIL RED WALL

allyuh care about is numba

  • 44,663 hits since long time, nah

CARIBBEAN GRUNGE

subscribe by email

Progressive Bloggers