You taught me language, and my profit on ‘it is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language. — Caliban in The Tempest, William Shakespeare.
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No tourist guide can give more
comprehensive introduction to nation as LiTTscapes
& Appraisal of LiTTscapes by
Professor Al Creighton, Deputy Vice
Chancellor of the University of Guyana and of the Guyana Prize for Literature
at LiTTribute II – LiTTurgy to the Mainland at Moray House Trust, Georgetown
We are in the presence
this afternoon of a neat kind of confluence.
Guyana at this time is in the middle of celebrating nationhood – the
peak of it is Republic Day one week from now.
The publication being launched in Guyana today is a celebration of
nationhood as it is captured through photography, an explanatory text and the
literature of Trinidad and Tobago. The
easiest way to begin an analysis of this book Littscapes by Kris Rampersad is to describe it – give an idea so
that the audience gets a clear picture of exactly what it is. But that is not the easiest way, because it
is a text that defies easy description.
There are more types that it is than things that it is not.
The publication is Littscapes : Landscapes of Fiction from
Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad, published in St Augustine, Trinidad,
in 2012. The bibliographical details
describe it as “First Edition 2012”, which is not surprising, given its
multi-tasking nature and its wide reach, and this suggests that, also
considering the several things that it seems to set out to cover, there is more
to come in future editions.
It is 200 pages of
written and visual text, presenting the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago in
passages of descriptions, explanations and quotations, very impressively
supported and complemented by hundreds of colour photographs and excerpts from
the literature of the country. Rampersad
always interweaves into her own descriptions, the pieces taken from the
literature, so that one gets pictures of the several varied subjects from the
point of view of the writers and of their fictional characters. These are taken predominantly from works of
fiction covering a range of short stories and novels, but to a lesser extent,
there is reference to poetry and drama.
The idea of
“littscapes” comes from this drawing from the literature to give scenes, views
and visions of landscape and life in clear, colourful, illustrative pictures as
well as snippets of how they are treated in the literature. It is a quite thorough artistic concept. It is a portrait and biography of the nation
of Trinidad and Tobago which actually pays tribute to the Republic in 2012, the
year of its 50th anniversary of Independence. The book is attractively, neatly and
effectively designed, using a recurring motif of the double-T – “TT”, which, of
course, is “Trinidad and Tobago”, but is also “literature” so that there is not
only the visual impact but the tribute to nationhood as reflected in the
various works of literature.
Littscapes is a work of art; but also it is a
documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power. It takes us on a tour of the country, giving
some exposure to almost every aspect of life.
It may be too heavy and too academic to be called a tourist guide, but
no tourist guide can give a better, more comprehensive introduction to
Trinidad. It entices and attracts just
as the glossy tourist literature; it looks a weighty volume, but an important
factor is that it is very easy to read.
Neither is this link to tourism accidental, because one of the
objectives of the book is that it must show the value that literature has in
promoting and presenting the nation. It
must show different uses of literature, encourage new approaches to it and make
it more attractive and interesting. The
book does for literature, what literature does for the country.
Rampersad tours the countryside and highlights
features of it, at the same time exploring the literature to indicate how the
writers treat the subjects, what they or their fictional characters say, and
how they are used in the plots.
Photographs of several sections of Port-of-Spain are accompanied by the
descriptions and literary excerpts: this treatment is given to the capital
city, other towns, streets, urban communities, villages, historic buildings and
places, vegetation, animals, institutions, culture and landscape. There is considerable visual beauty, what
Derek Walcott calls “visual surprise” in his Nobel Lecture; an impressive
coverage of social history, geography, and politics, but also a strong literary
experience. It is a survey of Trinidad’s
landscape and of its literature.
reflects a considerable volume of reading, drawing from as early as Walter Raleigh
at the dawn of Caribbean literature, which adds historical character and depth
to the landscape and culture. The
references include early fiction such as ARF Webber’s Those That Be In Bondage.
The connectedness of nationhood becomes relevant again here, since both
Webber and Raleigh have ties to Guyana as strong if not stronger than those
with Trinidad. Just as the historical
development of the country is reflected in the places and monuments, so it is
in the rise of social realism through the fiction of the 1930s in
Port-of-Spain. Rampersad presents her
subjects through the eyes of CLR James and writers from the Beacon group such
as Alfred Mendes, and has done the painstaking work analogous to that of a
lexicographer, of sorting out their several hundred references to her
This account includes
some memorable passages of real literary criticism, although these are
brief. They include the entries on The Humming Bird Tree by Ian McDonald,
another writer that is more Guyanese than Trinidadian, with instructive
insights into the novel’s title and its meaning. Others are the references to Lion House in
Chaguanas and the Capildeo family which hold great interest for background to
VS Naipaul. He immortalises his mother’s
family in Hanuman House and the Tulsis, and Rampersad provides additional
information about Naipaul’s use of his migratory existence in her discussions
of various parts of Port-of-Spain. There
is also similar enlightenment in the way such locations as San Fernando, Mayaro
and Princes Town accumulate greater meaning when used to treat the work of
novelist Michael Anthony. Yet another
passage of deep criticism is the reference to “girl victims” as they are
treated in the fiction.
There are the entries on politicians, calypsonians and
superstitions, all of which abound in the fiction. This work does so much
already that it might be unfair to judge it on its omissions or reduced
Trinidad is in all respects the major and dominant island, and this is
overwhelmingly reflected in Rampersad’s treatment. She says in her text that Trinidadian writers
on the whole neglect Tobago, treat it as the lesser of two sisters or do not
treat it at all. In this book,
therefore, the imbalance is noted.
In the end, Rampersad’s Littscapes does achieve an innovative
approach to literature in bringing it alive in the description of landscape,
life, culture and people. It encourages
people to take ownership of it, see themselves, their home or familiar places
in it and accept it as a definer of identity.
But the book is as much photography by Rampersad and others as it is
literature, and the pictures help to illustrate, highlight and make the fiction
Above all Littscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from
Trinidad and Tobago has an extremely
powerful sense of place and reinforces what in Rampersad’s words is “the pull
of place on authors”. It may claim to be
an accessory to what she calls “the body of fiction inspired by Trinidad and
Tobago”. It communicates the character
of the country.
No one book can be
everything; no one book can set out to achieve everything that a literature and
a visual text can do for its people and its nation; but whatever you say one
book can’t do, this one almost does it.
Its World Heritage Day.
Come join us and hear about the unique creative potential of the Caribbean cultural connections with the Americas through cultural heritage ,,,,
See article in this Sunday Guardian and explore the link see you tube video
Hear about the food culture, heritage routes, the silk routes, the spice roots and under explored connections with the Americas.
Sunday April 22, 2018 from pm at Lallo’s Restaurant in Lauderhill
Saturday April 21 at South County Civic Centre, Delray Beach, Miami
Book You Copies of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction: Limited Edition
Limited Copies Heirloom publication of our disappearing landscapes and cultures.
click on you tube video links
Find Us on Social Media
KrisRampersad LinkedIn; Instagram:
FaceBook: KrisRampersad1 and LiTTscapes
Anyone know of a local alternative to #Microsoft and some other #software and #hardware technologies and upgrades?
Does sustaining local enterprise mean disconnecting from global technologies?
Those who know me know I do not like shopping and am an advocate to #BuyLocal so I would appreciate info so as to avoid that new #7%Tax in addition to the other taxes already … see more www.kris-rampersad.blogspot.com
Back from odyssey thru d ancient Americas, found source of luck of d Irish. Knowledge of 1000s of varieties of corn n potatoes, developed by Incas, and millennia-old methods of use n prep devised by Mayans r now stored on my hips – intangible heritage evolved into tangible proportions. Letters To Lizzie back on track. 2 b released soon. Order now! More …
On behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO welcome to this Pan Caribbean consultative workshop on UNESCO Memory of the World initiative. While we are a national commission with essentially a national mandate, we also take very seriously our role as a member of the Caribbean community and the wider UNESCO region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
As we mark this year the 21st anniversary of the Memory of the World programme and 13th anniversary of the Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is perhaps timely for us to reflect on where we have reached with the programme.
In the short 13 years since, eight countries from the Commonwealth Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Kitts, Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, and the Bahamas) have inscribed 21 collections of documentary heritage on the International Memory of the World Register and twenty five collections on the Regional Register.
We tend to think of the University of the West Indies and Cricket as two main elements I am sure you will agree that this has offered us an opportunity to collaborate as a region in the 13 joint nominations submitted among several of our countries – and these by four national committees in Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and certainly I want to particularly recognise the work of the Trinidad and Tobago National Memory of the World Committee under the stewardship of Mrs Joan Osborne.
But much work still to be done in public engagement and to draw out private collectors and archivists to present their work for consideration so we can have broad representation of the diversity of cultures, languages and heritage.
Last year’s meeting underscored the need for greater involvement by countries in the Caribbean, and to support each other. Through the work of the Trinidad and Tobago national memory of the world committee we have enlisted:
The Derek Walcott Collection
The Eric Williams Collection
The C.L.R. James Collection
Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean
Records of Indian Indentured Labourersof Trinidad and Tobago
The Constantine Collection
The Donald ‘Jackie’ Hinkson Collection
The Carlisle Chang Collection
The Digital Pan Archive
Records of Indian Indentured Labourers of Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917
The Samuel Selvon Collection
At the MOWLAC meeting in Port of Spain 2012 the concern was raised of the involvement of countries in the region in the programme and how to encourage the creation of national committees and the number of nominations coming from the region. It was found that there was greater need for collaboration since in some countries the MOW programme was not visible and professionals and owners of collections did not know how to complete the nomination forms.
We should also recognise that much of the critical documentary heritage reside not only within the region but also in internationally-based institutions.
We hope this workshop will meet with similar success of preceding workshops in which nine inscriptions followed the 2009 workshop in Barbados, for example.
We note among the objectives of this is to strengthen the memory of the world programme through greater awareness, to increase nominations at the national, regional and international levels; and to develop an action agenda and a CARICOM MOW action plan for 2013- 2015.
I suggest that among the latter you also take a look at the current draft CARICOM-UNESCO memorandum of agreement and suggest any alternations you may need to make to the text relevant to accommodate the region’s outlook for the memory of the world programme within that MOU to be signed between Caricom and UNESCO at the General Assembly in November.
We know there are many, many areas in which we need to focus the heritage and I’d like to also stir attention away from the printed heritage which we all know limits us to the last few hundred years to other elements of record also recognised by the memory of the world register – to also consider other forms of documentation – items on stone, craft, recordings, visuals.
As we know, UNESCO established theMemory of the WorldProgramme in 1992 from a growing awareness of the poor state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world – looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered.So a core element is to raise public awareness and mobilise communities to capture and preserve and promote respect and understanding.
In the region, we need to move quickly to secure our endangered archives – and I draw attention to the invaluable collections of the military history museum in Chaguaramas that contains information on the connections between our islands and South America, unrecorded elsewhere, and which can further expand the recent inscriptions by Cuba of the Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara, and Columbia’s of Francisco De Miranda and Simon Bolivar and it may be useful to supplement that with the archives of Mr Gaylord Kelshall of the Military History Museum who has researched and written extensively about this period which though recent, has still not been injected into teachings on our history and as the Minister of Education is here with us I’d like to recommend that we look at this immense UNESCO resource and work to revising the materials in the school curriculum – in history, social studies, civics, visual and performing arts, among others. This presents us with an opportunity to revise our textbooks using new research and information s there is need to establish critical synergies between archiving and education soWebiste is not just fossilised – and consider utilising this model of engagement between ministry of education, archive and library and the school system.
I’d also like to suggest that you consider how we may establish a facility to resource and fund acquisition and maintenance of public and private collections: like those of the Chaguaramas Military History Museum, and dozens of others in private collections and establish linkages with these.
And we also need to place some emphasis on capture yet undocumented heritage and utilise digitisation and engage the enthusiasm of our young people to collate data from disappearing knowledge holders.
The news of the pending eviction of the Chaguaramas Military History Museum by the Chaguaramas Development Authority is a mere reflection of the continued mindless approach to heritage and development. Is there any interest in integrated development, and to understand that one needs not be done at the expense of the other and each can rather enhance benefits to all concern? Without a national vision for heritage that are integrated into development plans we will continue to have this kind of idiocy cropping up. The Military History Museum is a national treasure and represent the invaluable work of an individual and his supporters and that that individual no longer has the energy to fight for it does not mean it should be raised. It is one of the few real substantial heritage institutions that exists in its own right in T&T, struggling and succeeding where better resourced national museums are dismally deficient. They can well take a page out of the kind of commitment it takes to sustaining an institution like this.The Chaguramas Development Authority will do well to note that its current location makes it ideal for inttegrating it into its upgrade plans for the district, apart form the fact of the historic-on-several fronts district of Chaguaramas which speak to our existence from prehistory, through colonialism, independence and beyond, is iconic as part of marine, underwater, built, natural, political, social and historical evolution, and really, a boardwalk (!!??, and the Chaguaramas Development Authority’s development (!!??) plans??? And where does that coincide or depart from “national” development plans? Gaylord Kelshall is a decorated national hero, who even wthout the decorations, and his history in the navy has through his work at the museum, the model club, outdoor war game activities and others has been an inspiration to many young and old. The hobby club actively gave participants an outlet for any trigger-happiness in a craetive, constructive and safe manner that the millions misdirected funding in being poured into short sighted projects in South East POS could do well to learn from on how to effectively empower young people into constructive activties. I sat at Kelshall’s feet many times as a young reporter, initiating the Discover Trinidad and Tobago series which later also inspired AVM Television’s winning series Cross Country and my writigns of this series, as he filled the blanks in my knowledge of local history and connections that neither primary, nor secondary not tertiary level education provided then, nor now. In editing and writing the introduction to his book, The Gateway To South America (http://openlibrary.org/books/OL23185567M/The_gateway_to_South_America), how humbled I felt, and priviliged to be so close to knowledge of the pivotal role Trinidad played in the revolutionar movements towards Independence of so many of the countries of Latin America and how the South American heroes as Simon Bolivar and others were as much ours as theirs – an element that is glarngly absense in our education system. It was knowledge that, categorically, no one else holds! CDA should be looking to capture that rather than start a new war. As his health fails, the knowledge Kelshall has projected and transferred into the museum is an irreplaceable legacy. The CDA should see the Chaguaramas Military History Museum as a monument to this exemplary citizen as well as the story of not only the Trinidad and Tobago and the region, not try to tuck it out of site.
Louis Homer met me at the gate to the church where his funeral service was in progress against the backdrop of the island’s oldest natural monument – Naparima Hill.
“Whey you doing out here, Louis?” I was about to ask, “shouldn’t you be in there?”
He wore his normal cheeky twinkle, as if to say, ‘You were always somewhere else when I did my field visits, but I knew you would come today. I have to go back inside now. Over to you.’ An immediate rebutt was already on my lips: ‘Whey yuh chain?’ He would understand that I meant the paraphernalia folkloric lagahoos are reputed to drag in the afterlife, since he had now migrated to the other side. Picong was always part of our discourse.
Inside the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church on Harris Promenade, San Fernando, a bouquet of red roses draped a coffin in which Louis’ body was being prepared for send off. Eulogists were recalling his life, his incessant energy, his annoying persistence, his long list of interests and skills, his relentless spirit, his passion for history and heritage.
The usher to his funeral service at the church door invited me to sign the condolence book which had one dotted line for memories of Louis. Louis and I were colleagues in two areas: journalism and heritage, and then some. Journalists may not be the most liked of persons; chroniclers of history are perhaps more appreciated especially by the direct communities they touch. Our society finds a way to isolate each sentiment and express its love or dis-love accordingly. The not-too-packed church reflected this ambivalence.
I looked around for the man who met me at the gate but he was nowhere in sight. It couldn’t have been Louis. Louis would never allow me, nor anyone else, the last word. On the Tourism Heritage Committee, everyone else had to compete with Louis for air time. His last words to me were: “is now you and Eintou (Springer).” It took me a while to realise he was referring to our contributions on the committee – we were two of the most vocal and he annoyingly unceremoniously cut into anything one was trying to say. That was at the meeting that preceded the most recent one which was the day when his heart failed.
It brought back another heart failure two years earlier, and the sound of the dull thud as the body fell from the chair to the floor, her words echoing with the thud, ‘I am tired. I have no more words.’
Pat Bishop’s heart gave up at the emotive meeting of the Expert Committee on Culture and Heritage met at the Twin Towers. Two days earlier she had echoed similar sentiments when she, along with Peter Minshall, Jackie Hinkson, Hans Hanomansingh and a couple others met in lagahoo session with me at the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO. Our blue print for propelling culture and heritage into viable creative industries, drawn from demonstrated successes and knowledge and understanding of the sector, were being stymied by myopic interpretations. They wanted to brainstorm a strategy for the meeting carded two days away that would transform the thinking of those charged as change agents but still steeped in old outlooks and older bad habits.
A Highway to Nowhere
I had grown up in South Trinidad, I told Peter Harris, in our last conversation. I fully lived the daily frustrations of waiting for hours for a taxi, or any vehicle for the matter out of my village because vehicles refused to come through the unkempt, potholed roads. As a cub reporter just cutting my journalistic tooth in South Trinidad, my duties were the vague ‘covering the South’ – which the deskbound north editors saw as a dot on the map so I still have the first freelancer’s monthly pay check of TT$120 (no, there is no missing zeros there!) which my mom and sister, to their horror, had to supplement for several mre months, despite the fact that I was out of school and now a ‘working woman’ as it didn’t even cover even travel expenses, much less any other expenses. Covering the South meant traversing the entire southern peninsula, for the most parts inaccessible. Drivers just would not risk the damages to their vehicles to enter a district in flood prone Penal/Barrackpore, the precarious pitch-growing paths of La Brea districts or dirt tracks of other districts in San Francique, Siparia. No one can deny what new transit networks could do to lift access and opportunities to the South.
But does it have to be done by razing of the assets that present the most potential for any success at diversification we may have if we were to break through into the new golden economies – culture, heritage, tourism, agriculture – the renewable industries that would endure long after the oil dried up? What a golden opportunity we have to demonstrated how the some 200 years of industrial
development of the district could coincide with exploration in other dimensions – to help us complete the story of our civilisation. How could the planners even fathom the potential when the bases of their planning were still steeped in economics of convenience – tourism seen as cruise shipping; heritage as flag waving; a highway to who knows where.
It was a long conversation. Peter and I discussed some of the many options that were available – that would allow the rural south to have its access routes and the communities to have the assets by which they could grow localised self-initiated, self-supported endeavours that spring from their own talents, and skills and fill the development that the oil and gas and other industries in the area have never been able to.
But as in every other area as we have been witnessing in national life, it is an inconvenient truth that even the greatest advocates of change are nervous of shifting hardened stances. That inflexibility does not only exist in the public service. It is part of our culture. Changing the mindset, transforming orientation and outlooks, should form a substantive part of national budgets if such budgets envisioned change.
As much as the need for diversification is recognised, the baby steps taken to move in that direction becomes only rhetoric to the potential of these unrecognised assets that could ricochet diversification beyond expectations in productive activities that will allow individuals and communities to draw on their own resourcefulness, talents and skills with fulfilling self-sustained livelihoods which exist among us in abundance. Some still cling to the antiquated vision of our grandsires for their children to be doctors and lawyers (as if we really need more lawyers, though perhaps I would haveto eat those words by the end of this article!)
As Keshorn and more recently Jehue have articulated, our young are not as dazzled with escaping to foreign as previous generations were, especially, too, as opportunities abroad are already experiencing global warming, as they are, and drying up. Most youths around me give no thought to migrating and several abroad I know want to return; many would like to be able to stay here and build their lives with opportunities that can fulfil their intelligence and qualifications, not in hyped up exaggerated employment figures that mask underemployment that leave many in the population with a restless, unfulfilled, nervousness. As with Keshorn and Jehue, when they succeed we expect them to embrace heaps of accolades and goodies that they could have done better with in their years of struggle to success.
It is easy to tout change; it is more difficult to effect change, particularly as it requires changes in one’s own outlook in the first instance.
Planners dazzled by the flames of production of petroleum and its by products as the key drivers of economy, tout diversification, while pursuing actions that could destroying the very bases by which we may be able to achieve such diversification – invaluable, irreplaceable natural and cultural assets of the South Trinidad. Naparima Hill stands a living testimony to that.
The bulldozers of the road pavers could in seconds destroy millennia of valuable evidence of our prehistory the potential livelihoods of communities and leave them even more impoverished if these areas so rich in natural and cultural ecosystems were to be destroyed. We would essentially then have a highway to nowhere.
Finding the balance between development and conservation has always been a challenge for planners, but balance, it has been proven already in many areas, is attainable. It takes imagination – of which we have plenty unused, as Pat and Louis might say – and will – which might be in short supply. It is a matter of not just thinking, but acting too, outside the accustomed paths to progress – even the IMF and the World Bank recognise that now!
In that last conversation Peter and I discussed some of the many best practice compromises the plans for a highway could draw on, fulfilling the need for access to remote areas and at the same time protecting a fragile and super-sensitive cultural and natural landscapes which are already in their own right a world heritage – though we would not take the time to put the nuts and bolts in place that would facilitate formal recognition as such. A marriage of the unique industrial heritage and industries in the area with the communities for the model kind of sustainable development that is on everyone’s lips. is not a pipe dream.
I shared with Peter my unfolding research and jaw dropping body of evidence I was accumulating, supported by visits to sites in South America and elsewhere and in comparison with others across the globe, that suggest the broader significance of not just Peter’s pet site, but the entire district of that southern peninsula that stretches from La Brea and Cedros on the Caribbean Sea coast and its connections to South America, to the Atlantic Ocean. As with diversification, national budgets over the last decade have been delivering rhetoric about a knowledge driven economy, and diversification through culture, heritage, tourism and agriculture, but fall short of the actions to effect the shifts that will allow for such development, while at the same time offer and allow us to hold up a more wholesome vision of ourselves that overshadows the trials of the middle passage and extend to, be comparable to, and connect with the antiquity of other civilisations. We have been content to accept it as the district Raleigh discovered – so far from the truth – and apart from a few individual piecemeal efforts, not much of significance had been done to expand our knowledge and understanding of the district in the context of all the new research and activities that is being done elsewhere.
‘You still a baby in this. I have seen this many times over. I am too old now. Is over to you now child. I am too tired,’ Pat had said. Shortly after her death, Peter Minshall called me expressing similar distress, hoplessness, frustration, and despondence, and exhaustion too! more recently, along smilar lines, Hanomansingh. It is a cross no one wants to bear.
And then there’s Peter, the other Peter. A few months before his heart gave up, earlier this year, archaeologist Peter Harris called seeking support in a desperate bid to save his life’s work – the Banwari site – presumably the oldest known human skeletal remains in this hemisphere which he had discovered forty-odd years ago, though not many were any wiser.
We exchanged knowledge. I told him of sites I had visited – the area where Indonesia’s Java man was discovered was an expansive protected landscape, with museum and research institute; here all we were seeing was a grave site, not the bigger picture – of a time that was still challenging scientists trying to reconstruct and reconnect the missing links. He was preparing a report and wanted to consult with me on the accepted international standards for protection. That was Peter – quiet, soft spoken diplomacy to the end despite his extreme agitation of possibly having to watch his life’s work erased. The proposed highway to Point Fortin would pass dangerously close to the site, and the construction activity threatened to overwhelm whatever additional evidence may still be present, not to mention the quarter acre the myopic planners saw as ‘the site’.
Current custodians are happy to just focus on the few square feet of the skeletal site itself with no consideration given to its larger contexts and the surrounding districts. Industry – oil, gas, asphalt – shy away like the quick-fix politicians – from any substantive actions on how the rich harvests of the district
could also help support exploration of new initiatives that could only add value to the area, and give the span of communities there a different view of themselves, of their place in the scheme of things, while directly opening them up to a whole host of new economic self generated individual-driven cultural and heritage employment opportunities and activities that function complementary to the technical skills of the district’s traditional industries that if at all, only indirectly filter down to them. Planning for the area, or lack thereof, has given no thought to these significant dimensions that could springboard the long neglected districts into 21st century relevance.
Louis, Peter and Pat – three heritage soldiers whose life stories and interests might be different, but whose focus were very similar to each other. They summoned their creative energies to negate the similar frustrations: dinosaur institutions, individuals touting change, but unwilling to take the necessary actions to effect them, then falling into their comfort zone only to replicate bad habits.
Louis, Peter and Pat – three lagahoos – sleepless, tireless explorers and proponents of heritage as essential to endowing the next generation with a sense of place and identity, but also sustainable sources of livelihood from the self initiative, innovation and creativity that spring so naturally from our communities.
Peter was a discoverer, of heritage. He tried to lodge his findings with institutions which reduced their significance to the narrow confines of the myopic limitations these institutions impose on themselves – post independence notwithstanding.
Louis was a hoarder of heritage. His anxiety that they would be lost to the ignorant, or the marauding development bulldozers, meant he was often only-too-willingness to cut, sometime dangerous, corners, as I had pointed out to him in relation to the Ganteaume tombstones in Mayaro which we subsequently found out were in his museum and several other issues that arose on the committee.
Pat Bishop was a creator of heritage.
‘T&T is a place that if you wanted to listen to a concert, you have to create one,’ she would say, and she created concert after concert. Louis wanted a place where our history and heritage could be preserved so he created a museum. I got the message: if I wanted people to read my books, to read local authors, I should create my own literacy and literary movement – and that means, in the absence of accessible systems to do so, inspire literary appreciation, educate, research, write, publish, market, distribute, promote, cajole, lobby, etc; that, and expect potential heart failure.
That is our social culture. It is a cultural norm that we do not acknowledge. In not acknowledging it we cannot address it. The story of inertia in the heritage, culture and tourism sectors – still largely viewed as cruise ships and flag waving – while our frustrated youths, seeing the unfulfilled potential around them, take up arms. It is not much different for any of our other sectors and the systems in the functions and attitudes that govern them.
That is also in our political culture: if you want changes in governance, create a political party. If that party falls short, you create another one. It is the same dynamics that have generated the mushrooming of more than 7000 civil society organisations across the country – a CSO/NGO each for less than three quarters of a square kilometre if one wants to get statistical, each championing a cause seen more relevant to the several others it may be duplicating.
Inflexibility and the absence of commitment to transform, change, and evolve; the lack of proper mechanisms, infrastructure and facilities for national assets that will ensure adequate protection of our national assets, including heritage assets encourage citizens to take actions in our own hands. That void is adequate breeding ground for vigilantes.
When state systems fall down civic-minded citizens are left to take up the slack, until even the state begins to support corner-cutting, because it fulfils its agenda for politically expedient quick fixes, while the preparation of the substantive mechanisms and infrastructures are put on hold. By whatever name one wants to call it, it is vigilante action, fostered because the existing institutions charged with those responsibilities show little interest, understanding or willingness to take the necessary actions to transform themselves to become more relevant to evolving and dynamic social changes and expectations. The vigilantes become heroes. That’s what happens on this side of the fence, of those like Louis, Pat and Peter, who worked to protect, secure, build a future in villages and communities for other generations.
It is not rocket science, if we connect the dots. It is no different and just as much the cultural norm of what happens on the other side of the fence: those other community leaders, gang leaders, those propagating another kind of laga-hoodlumism, the other kind of vigilante justice…
The race is on and the bets may be already fixed on who’s going to win the war; and who will die trying!
If only we knew ourselves…
R.I.P. Louis. Peter. Pat. Happy Independence! From those of us independent, but still dragging lagahoo shackles on this side!
Found missing DNA link to my blue blood Jahaji Bhai #Prince Harry and William and Bahin Kate. Complete ClandestineConfessions in #LetterstoLizzie: Scandalous liaisons, concocted birth certificates and fabricated blood ties in our bloodline when our ancestors came west through Amenia from India via #EastIndiaCompany, a perilous and fatal journey for Jahaji Bahin, #Princess Diana, and Bahut Aajis great gran mamas Eliza Kewart and Katherine Scott…In Letters to Lizzie coming soon…
I am a bastard. The name I carry is not the one I was born with. And I do not refer only to the truncated byline that accompanies this article. See also prince-williams-indian-connections
(That was the Guardian’s doing. Days into what would turn out to be a career, not many moons ago, a dashing sub-editor faced me with the ultimatum of truncating my name or run the risk of not being credited for my articles. My given name would take up an entire paragraph, and space was a valuable newspaper asset, he argued, rather convincingly. I acquiesced. It reincarnated into Kris, his option over Krissy – that one had come in the late years of primary school, so christened by a teacher from “town,” fresh out of Training College.) For years I harboured clandestine thoughts that I was a bastard. In times when I wanted to disown my family, I convinced myself I was orphaned; on better days I savoured my secret – that I was a love child. While I combed her hair, made wavy from decades of plaiting, or massaged her back, I would smilingly indulge in this little secret I shared with my ma. She groaned approvingly every time I massaged an ache out. I dread to think what her real reaction would have been had I voiced my thoughts…But it was not just my imagination running wild. My bastardisation was the doing of the State. It began when I discovered my birth certificate a few weeks before sitting the Common Entrance examination. Under the column “Father’s name” there was a dash. Nothing else. A dash, then blank. Everyone assumed I was Rampersad because my many, many brothers and sisters carried one of my father’s names, and when you’re number 10 on the list you can’t really choose your name, or so they thought. I’d disprove it trice. Though all my official records made me his, his name was not on the birth certificate. Instead, that carefully rolled, still crisp but yellowing piece of paper ma kept in her secret place stated I was a Sookraj. Even when Rampersad went to the Red House in Port-of-Spain to swear I was his, I reserved the option of being Sookraj when I wanted. Really, I should be Kris (blank) or Kris — (dash). Three years ago, I again saw Sookraj named on paper. One then long-unknown cousin, Nelson Ramdeen, was tracing his maternal ancestors and it led him to my mother. He jotted down all our names, and the names of the children of my siblings, and the names of ma’s siblings, and their children, and her mother’s name, and her father’s name: Sookraj, a grandpa I had never known. Her unregistered Hindu marriage to my father not being recognised by law, not even 10 children later, I was stuck with her father’s name, her maiden name, hence her love child, and my romanticised bastard status. So Rampersad is the name that defines my place in a place that didn’t recognise my parents’ cultural relationships – an oral culture – but placed emphasis on things written. Writing made things real. In that way too, Moneah became real. From Ramdeen’s research, she popped to life. He traced my mother’s lineage to this faceless woman, who, for whatever reason, at age 22, from Dinapore village in Patna, India, packed her husband, Ramchurn, and her Jahaji bundle; boarded the Hougoumont on October 13, 1870; braved four months of treacherous, unfamiliar kala pani, to arrive in Trinidad four months, two days later – on February 15, 1871, one day after what would come to be known as Valentine’s Day. Thus began her love affair with Trinidad, which would outlive two husbands, spawn 10 (known) children, some 50 grandchildren (and counting, some blanks still exist); each of those had on average 40 grandchildren; each of those some 30 grands. Five generations later, I need a better capacity for math than I now possess to calculate Moneah’s contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s voting and working population and to the Trinidad diaspora in North America, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean, which a rough estimate places beyond 5,000 human souls in various professions. (All except politics, the family jokes, and on the agenda is a motion to disown from Moneah’s lineage any who enters that profession at the next clan gathering – the first was three years ago, 130 years after Moneah’s arrival, so the next might not be until another century or so.) Moneah now lives: In the faces and the mannerisms and quirks of character of the some 3,000 women who can trace a bloodline to her. From what I know of some of those women in her lineage, I could see her, on Ramchurn’s death two and a half years after their landing, pulling her widowed orhini over her head and shrugging off considerations of becoming Suti and dying with her husband, saying, “Sati who? Mere nam, Moneah” (Meh name’s Moneah). She would mourn him properly in the traditionally defined ways, and two years later consort with our grandsire, Shewpersad, who said farewell to his cows and his village Semaie in Boodha, Gorukhpur, boarded the Brechin Castle (ship) on December 26, 1874, to Trinidad and 25 years of Moneah. Those two would seed Trinidad soil with cane and cabbages, pumpkins and pawpaws, and offspring like peas. Though only one of her sons, one great grandaughter, and two great, great grandsons would demonstrably exceed her level of fertility, the average offspring of each of the descendants over five generations stands around six. Several have inherited her genes of outliving husbands. They include beef-eating Hindus, pork-eating Muslims, bhajan-singing Christians; through their veins have flowed T&T’s coconut water and Carib, French wine, Scottish whisky, Japanese sake, India’s lassi, and whatever other beverages rage in the places they have settled and spawned their own dynasties – in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and India. A solid bridge now stretches seven generations – each step boldly labelled – towards Moneah. Because we know her name.
LiTTribute to LondonTTown is the next stop in our literary odyssey to recognise and underscore the global character and relevance of fiction, even those from small islands like Trinidad and Tobago. It will take place on July 15, 2013 and will feature readings and presentations inspired by LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago. High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Garvin Nicholas said: “The Trinidad and Tobago High Commission looks forward to showcasing the work of one of our talented local authors. In ‘Littscapes’, Dr. Rampersad has brought to light Trinidad and Tobago’s rich literary tradition and unique heritage. This event will provide an important platform for highlighting the complex history and fascinating social landscape of Trinidad and Tobago to a British audience”. As with other LiTTributes held earlier this year – to the Mainland in Guyana and to the Antilles in Antigua– this will encouragerethinking how we may better engage with and utilise the rich literary outpourings as represented in LiTTscapes to develop synergies with the international community for social and economic development in film, music, entertainment and education sectors.
Jean Ramjohn Richards, First Lady (former) and author Kris Rampersad at LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2012. It preceded LiTTribute to the Mainland held in Guyana and LiTTribute to the Antilles in Antigua earlier this year, part of a series of connecting the Caribbean heritage and creative sectors, through the literary arts, with the diaspora. Photo courtesy Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago (http://www.thepresident.tt/events_and_ceremonies.php?mid=189&eid=1002).
It is well established that the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Europe, particularly the British Empire, has been the primary axis from which all of our written literature has emerged. This is evident even in books that do not engage directly with the colonial condition in the effects and influences of the English language, literature, education, and political and social systems and institutions. LiTTscapes represents this relationship from the earliest writings of Sir Walter Raleigh to the current day among the 100-plus works by more than 60 writers, including those who made London their home such as Naipaul, Selvon, Lakshmi Seetaram-Persaud and others. LiTTscapes has been acclaimed as a groundbreaking pictoral yet encyclopaedic compendium of the lifestyles, landscapes, architecture, cultures, festivals and institutions in its full colour easy reading documentary/travelogue/biography representation of Trinidad and Tobago and its fiction as represented in more than 100 fictional works by some 60 writers.It is available at bookshops or email email@example.com. LiTTribute to LondonTTown follows on the recent LiTTribute to the Antilles staged in Antigua in March, LiTTurgy to the Mainland in Guyana in February, and LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, hosted by the First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards and Dr Rampersad in September 2012. LiTTscapes was launched at White Hall – one of Trinidad and Tobago’s Magnificent Seven buildings as part of the islands 50th anniversary of independence in August 2012. Persons wishing to get involved and For invitations and details Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See: https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal;facebook.com/kris.rampersad1LiTTscapes, LiTtributes, LiTTour Album Facebook .