Sunday, September 30, 2007

Save Our Savannah

August 1999 was a part of a difficult time for me, I was awaiting the start of the law term and the date for my divorce hearing while trying to come to terms with how suddenly my life had changed. I had gone from being a long married, creative "arty" type, in the blink of an eye to someone who had no roots and very few references. At the time, I was employed at the Tourism agency and moving to my first post marriage apartment..with not a whole lot of anything.

August proved to be one of those times when a lot of my beliefs and I were put to the test. One morning I came to find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with many of my colleqagues and friends from the environmental movement. A not unfamiliar stance given our history of protests but this was particularly poignant, my ex husband was one of the people who had made the placards and the entity we were protesting against was my employer.

The sun was hot that day, and I was wearing business wear and high heels; standing in between Adele, also in four inch heels and Eden Shand. Clearly the two of us had not planned on being on a building site, far less in the midst of the Savannah. That day there were several Government employees there with a lot to lose, including Adele, Val, Rudy and myself. What it came down to was us standing up for our principles. The paving had been conducted at the behest of a Government Minister in the dead of night. Our network had seen the trucks rolling in and we'd spent the night working the phones, the call to action came early the next morning in the light of day. I was already at my desk. My "boss" had stipulated that we were not to be seen participating at any protest but damn the bridges, I had been doing this a long time and it was important!

The Queen's Park Savannah had long been on our list of things to preserve for future generations. For years incursions had been made on the city's green jewel and we stood to lose one of the most beautiful things we had in our capital. Over the years I have written many stories about the Savannah and environs, including at least a dozen for the tourism website and brochures both before and since that day. Ironic don't you think.

That August morning the trucks started to roll as we chanted and I called various media houses from my mobile phone. The TV6 crew showed up just about when the first dumpster started to pour gravel on the protesters. AS I looked up at the tray rising into the air, loads of gravel slowly and then esclating in speed emptied out the back, we were in the way. My fellow men and the media called out to the driver to stop, there were people under there. I recall the malicious grin on his face in the side mirror as he blithely went on as Adele and I, younger and fitter than Eden, scrambled to get out of the way, our feet and legs bruised and scratched from the effort. Val and Adele's John D students leapt to our rescue and tried to help us out of the way. They were the ones who dug Eden out when the dust settled, another generation of environmentalists was cemented in that moment.

Photographers snapped pictures, people waved their signs and the word came that the Minister had declared a stop, if only for the moment. That day I learnt about myself and my fellow man. I realised that regardless of personal cost, I would uphold my beliefs and do what I considered to be right. At the end of every relationship, if it was worth anything, you find that ground to keep going. That a lot of peoole shared our views but were too afraid of retaliation or paralysed by fear to DO anything. A lot of these people came afterward to share their thoughts or congratulate us on our bravery.

It isn't about being brave, I have fears just like the next person but I believe unless you are willing to do something, you lose your voice and sometimes even your rights. In the eight years since that protest, I have continued to live my life with personal integrity, no job is worth losing yourself and your self respect. To this day, we continue to fight for the survival of the Savannah. I marvel that politicians who fight to distinguish themselves from each other are in fact really all the same for the most part. When will we learn?

Would I do it again? In a hearbeat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tomorrow never comes

Why is it that we always put our lives on hold for the stupidest of reasons? Every excuse to not live is trotted out, usually most prominent, work. If I knew twenty years ago what I know now, would I do it again? Yes, maybe I would spend 18 hours a day shooting, editing and making TV programmes but I would do it very differently.

I would have enjoyed it a lot more! I would not have felt so conflicted at doing what I loved, but I also would not have given up so much of myself to living up to other people's expectations or needs. Frankly, I would have tried harder to avoid those people who were interested n holding me back. Yes, even my own family. People do many things out of love, but we also do them out of fear.

Life is too short to spend each moment agonising. So instead of dwelling on the negatives, try to take the learning from them and move on to the things that make you healthy and whole. It took me almost forty years to understand that!

So today I stand here and look at my life. Yes I have accomplished many things, but I acknowledge that maybe the time has arrived for me to take the lessons, acknowledge the possibilities and let go. Life is made to be lived. Let no one steal your joy!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Talk yuh talk

I started this blog because it seemed at the time, a good idea. I always have a lot to say, or so you would think if you heard me in full cry. It became glaringly obvious that I didn't have that much to write once I got going.

Okay, that's not really true. Writing is my preferred medium though it's harder to be a showman. You have to write the visual cues that would otherwise be obvious in facial and body expressions. I also realised that since I spent my day essentially talking, the curse of Corporate Communications, that I didn't want to talk at all or by extension write. At least about any of my own experiences. So I started to contribute to a couple of blogs written by friends, artists who bless their hearts, gave me a forum for my own expressions.

Maybe it's a lack of coffee, I haven't had any since Saturday and then it was only one cup of instant which really does not count! I feel duller somehow, like my brain wants to fire but has decided to take a day off. I should really take the advice of novelist Earl Lovelace who, at the outset of my career told me to "write every day", no matter what. You can always edit after. So now to discipline myself, to write, no matter what.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Arrverderci Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti

Tenor, Luciano Pavarotti is the “rock star” of the opera world. He brought opera to mainstream culture with his affable personality, joie de vivre and incredible voice. A baker’s son from Modena, his career spanned forty years and hundreds of performances.

Unlike many of his operatic contemporaries, he performed for not only the opera house crowd but too his music outside singing at public concerts Hyde Park, London, Central Park, New York, in front of the Eiffel Tower and three World Cup tournaments. A philanthropist he has not only lent his voice but also his money and his time to various causes around the world.

Many words will be expended on Mr. Pavarotti in the coming days celebrating h is life and work. Though I have never had the privilege of hearing him live, two performances stand out. At the first three tenors concert, Pavarotti was hitting his high note and his colleagues, Domingo and Carreras exchanged a wry look and patted each other on the shoulder comically as if to say, okay Luciano, did you have to show off. The other was his rendition of his trademark Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot at the opening of the Turin Winter Olympics. It was the highlight of the ceremony and he received the longest ovation.

I have listened to countless of his operatic recordings and I have no favorite. It’s opera, sometimes you love it, sometimes you cannot bear it. The world has lost an incredible talent, arrvederci, grazie I Godspeed e voi signore.

Carlisle Chang - mentor/friend

Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation forty-five years ago this last month. In the supplements put out by various newspapers there was information about the flag, coat of arms and other symbols of our independence. The creator of the previously mentioned was credited as the “Government Art Officer” or some such title. That would have been the late Carlisle Chang.

Chang had been part of the early Art Society movement with Amy Leong Pang, Hugh Stollmeyer and Sybil Atteck though he was their junior. From an early age, his fascination with the art world was ably encouraged by his mother and his older sister Beryl and he was to distinguish himself receiving art scholarships to study in Britain and Italy. Despite his brilliance, he returned home to live the life of the artist. Chang was a profound influence on many people, author included but the value of his contribution to our very Trinidadianess cannot be discounted. Though a noted painter who generally sold work off his easel, he gave up the brush in 1967 to explore public works of art in the form of large sculptures.

In 1958, he designed the Coat of Arms for the West Indian Federation. This at a time when Caribbean personalities abounded, Norman Manley, Eric Williams, Grantley Adams, it is instructive to observe that the honour did not go to Edna Manley, herself a noted artist but to Chang. He went on to design the TnT Coat of Arms, itself a painstaking experience with meticulous research in heraldry and symbols. Always a scrupulous researcher and even more so when it came to his work, his design is not only correct in terms of heraldic protocol it is reflective of the time and his own sense of nationality.

Incidentally, he was also a member of the committee that was responsible for the flag and insignia, though he never said publicly, he was the driving force of the committee and it is probably Carlisle that we have to thank for our beautiful red, black and white. Chang was also to sculpt some of the most influential works of public art in Trinidad and Tobago, his murals, “The Inherent Nobility of Man”, “Conquerabia” and a host of others at the Central Bank, City Hall and Textel. He pioneered the use of fiberglass as a sculpture material and left behind a legacy that has never been matched.

Through his long life, he received many awards and was recognized in several areas but Chang’s greatest contribution to Trinidad and Tobago was his independence work and the support that he gave to several generations of artists. For this alone his name should be mentioned in the textbooks.