Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Know your country

This was a programme produced by the late Dale Kolasingh back in the day before we got all sophisticated and only watched foreign programming. The cameraman and a tech journeyed to all parts of Trinidad and came back with all these gems. Banyan, before they were Gayelle TV also did a similar thing. Trinis got to see themselves up close and personal. I cannot count how many hours I wandered with various crews around the backwoods of Trinidad discovering places like the First and Last Cafe where the best stewed chicken and hops could be had for the princely sum of $2.50. There were the pools in the Pitch Lake, the water warm and slightly sulfurous smelling. If it were hot you sank a little with every step. Myriad Orisha and Hindu festivals; a jovert covered in mud but still working; ballroom dancing at SWWTU Hall with all the ladies in their shiny dresses, huge coiffed hair and high heels daintily stepping around the room; life on a fishing pirougue; crab racing in Tobago. I think I'm really lucky to have seen all of this and more.

My family had a tradition of these country excursions and I've shot miles of footage on festivals, villages, customs, weddings, people, all manner of things. In ten years of writing for TIDCO's tourism website I learned a lot more about Trinidad and Tobago and the things that make us so unique. My time in the Conservation movement (of which I'm still a member though not as active as I should be) has only added to the experience. There are lots of things to be proud of and yet, we cannot see it.

As we build more buildings around the waterfront, none of which reflect a Caribbean ethic, these could be buildings anywhere really, we deny our people the right to our waterfront. Where is the boardwalk and the local restaurants? We often scoff at the Magnificent Seven around the Queen's Park Savannah, elegant, beautiful buildings left to moulder. But did you know that the limestone bricks used in Killarney, aka Stollmeyer's Castle, were quarried in Laventille, hand-cut by stonemasons who were allowed to choose the pattern they were placed in. Before anyone starts going on about oppression and slavery, know your history, the Seven were built at the turn of the twentieth century long after the abolition of slavery and it was a badge of honour for local craftsmen to showcase their work which is world class. The workmen were also paid. The beauty of these buildings have stood the test of time in a way that the blue glass monster across the road from QRC never will.

One day all these things that set us apart will have disappeared under our current culture of neglect and small mindedness. No wonder our children behave the way they do, we've not given them any reason to have pride in us because we tear down the very things that were made by local hands in favour of some elusive ideal that is not reflective of us.

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