The Vitriol of Trolls

Can anybody tell mih
What going to happen
What going to happen
What going to happen
When the music stop?
Nobody knows
Nobody knows

Wham Bam, David Rudder

The kind of bad mind required to walk past and slash paintings is not an uncommon state for Trinbagonians. It is the casual stroll to your car to retrieve a cutlass to planass an old man buying doubles. It is the vitriol of trolls who can think of no better way to spend their days than posting insults on the internet. It is the bad drivers who cut you off for no reason on the streets and curse your mother if you put the Gods out of your thoughts to complain.

That everyday Trinbagonian brutality that we don’t think is part of our national personality, us being such a laid-back fun-loving bunch. It’s the glib acceptance of barbarism that breeds that kind of contempt for self. But it’s no different to the Government bypassing the calls of artists for the past 40 years to put certain things in place and instead aiming to create a super company designed to maximise profits instead of maximising artistic expression.

I can’t say that I ever understood the replication of artwork in plastic and sticking it on walls. I mean, why not pay the artists to create new works in public places? Why not invest in reconfiguring how we see our art? Why not put artists in classrooms so that there is a consciousness of art built into our children?

I guess it is much more visible and immediately rewarding to the ego to put up these public displays. And it would be easy for those of us who are lovers of art to stand back and shake our heads and say that we are a nation of Philistines. Poor us.

It’s far deeper than that. It has to do with that never-ending conversation about what is legitimate art and who are the legitimate artists. Like everything else in this country, it comes down to who has access. Who takes ownership of these terms and what has a right to go up on which walls. And if all art is what goes on walls. And if you are a wire bender do you still count as an artist.

It’s as deep as the fact that we have no national steelpan theatre. Although steelpan yards across this country are important incubators of musical talent. Although we like to boast about steelpan, there really is no national focus or plan for its development and inclusion in the lives of our children so that they actually take ownership of it.

It’s as deep as those who say that we are more than Carnival and wining and pan. It’s as deep as realising we are so much more than those things but we still haven’t found a way to acknowledge their significance to us, outside of corporate entities forcing us to prostitute our arts for title sponsorship. For a few girls in the dance in shiny shorts and imported feathers giving out alcoholic shots.

This is our culture. Denial of who we are. Non-validation of indigenous knowledge and creativity. This is why we must slash anything that doesn’t fit that template. This is why it is a Carnival of brands and logos rather than a Carnival of expression and freedom.
In the face of dying arts and artists.

In the face of an under-articulated arts-based curriculum and the elevation of the fluffiest manifestations of our true selves and full representations of who we are. In the face of all this, we slash paintings and it’s no big thing when you think that some of us are slashing each other. Some of us are casually cutting our brothers and sisters and women down. Like paintings on the Oval wall. Pixelated replicas of our more true beautiful selves.

It is the same slashing motion that cuts us to the core of who we are. Looking shiny and nice on the Oval wall. Until someone passes by and reveals the concrete underneath. The lack of depth and the lack of feeling. We have no insides to fall out. We are hollow and forgetful. And we get not-so-subtle clues everyday that everything isn’t okay. We get not-so-subtle clues everyday, not just from high up. That there is a callous lack of interest in humanity taking over. Or maybe it never left.

Maybe we were always this barbaric. Maybe we were always this petty and uncomfortable with anything too beautiful. We have permission to mash up the place. To slash the parts of ourselves that don’t seem relevant. We will play another mas of great beauty. Until it is time to go back to being our regular selves again. Bare walls and empty souls. The owners of beauty and those who brand us with their marks of money keeping us wanting until the next time.

Published in Trinidad Guardian – December 29, 2012

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