A community betrayed is a community undone. It is a neverending story of the human condition played out in Trinidad and Tobago’s own often brutal history, at endless moments when communities have made attempts to stand against injustice. In the absence of armed struggle, right to recall, effective or enforced environmental laws, and other forms of justice for communities, we laugh through our anger and frustration — and beat a bobolee instead.
Like so many other cultural forms in Trinidad and Tobago, the Good Friday bobolee — usually made of simple household materials — is a piece of performance art that goes much deeper than its ragged clothes. A bobolee is a public shaming of those who think that title, position, or social status are any protection from the wrath of the people.
Read the original article in the Current Issue of Caribbean Beat here:
Can anybody tell mih
What going to happen
What going to happen
What going to happen
When the music stop?
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
We are a collective of women of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are gathering to add our voices to the international call.
Trinidad and Tobago is a wealthy small island developing nation rich in oil and natural gas. But we are also seeing the damaging effects of aggressive industrialisation on our islands.
This is an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard.
Our event centres around a smoke ceremony from the most forgotten voice of indigenous women of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are asking all women to come to the Queen’s Park Savannah wearing white. We are asking men to come and lend their voices in support at 3.50 p.m.
We will make the 350 with our bodies, in this way, we all take responsibility for making 350 a reality.
We all have a part to play and Saturday is a call to arms for women from all communities to begin to be conscious of climate change and how it will affect the lives of all islanders.
New video from the very very long awaited new album from one of the best bands to come out of Trinidad since 3 Canal. And yes, I’m very biased. If you’re in Trini come out and check them, they’re performing at Corner Bar tonight at 10.
Been doing a lot of backing up and adding and deleting tonight. Listening to favourite songs and some songs I haven’t listened to in ages. Brings back really wonderful memories of my life and times, trodding through creation, meeting some wonderful people and maintaining ties with some lovely old friends. Some songs I can’t listen to anymore because they are so full of memories…some of them bring back a time when life was less complicated. But I am thankful for them all. I guess I’m documenting them in the unfortunate event that I forget how much these pieces of music and the times and the places and the people mean to me.
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson Early 1980’s George Lamming was staying at our house, working on something or another. My sister had just got a copy of the Thriller album and we set about playing it over and over. Uncle George declares to our great shock and horror ‘Who is this Jackson person?’ So of course we had to put on a whole concert for him, including Didi doing the moonwalk across the living room. At the end of the song, Uncle George declares ‘This is a funny sort of house’.
Inglan is a Bitch – Linton Kwesi Johnson – 1987 London The mother took me to an LKJ concert in London somewhere. I don’t remember the details because I slept through most of it, but at some point in the night I remember waking up to see this little black guy prancing around the stage singing in the roughest, loveliest voice I’ve ever heard ‘Hinglan is a beeetch’. Been in love with him ever since.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears – 1986 Watford. I was standing at the bus stop outside Woolworths with my sisters on the way to school. I was standing there minding my own business when this woman comes up and punches me in the face. Dry so!! Buss my lip and everyting. Not pleasant. This is the song that was playing on the radio when the Babylon came to question me about the woman after school.
Natty Dread – Bob Marley and the Wailers May 2000 Kingston. Went down to Trench Town to do some volunteer work at a community centre. They didn’t cater for the vegetarians so we wandered across the street looking for a vendor. Happened to wander straight into the yard where Bob used to live with his mother and Bunny Wailer. We sat in the shade of giant ganja trees and reasoned with rasta elders who gave us fruits and coconut water to eat. Bliss!
He Loves Me – Jill Scott – Winter 2003 England – Road Trip to Stone Henge with my very good sister friends Tonni, Tamara, BinghiNya and Gab. Nya was driving us to Bath and then she started to sing this song. I am so very thankful to have these womyn in my life!!
Here and Now- Andre Tanker – Winter 2003, China. I didn’t find out that Andre died a whole three days after… That day Tonni and I took a trip to the sea off Qinhuangdao. It was cold and the water grey. But it was good to be by the sea and I was glad to have a moment to whisper my goodbyes into the waves.
Fools Die – Peter Tosh- New Years Day 2004 London. Passed out at Skateboard Pete’s New Years Party, woke up at 6 am and this is the song Svenn was playing. A melancholy way to start a bizarre year that I was very glad to see the end of!
Shanti Om – Lord Shorty – Jouvay 2004 Trinidad We were just coming out of the Savannah. I think Shel Shok was the DJ. The sun was just coming up and they drop this song! Ooooh gouud…I was never so happy to be home as in that moment. By Ash Wednesday I was cured of that, though.
Natural Roots – Jah Shaka – Summer 2004 Me and Empress Jo in Finsbury Park at an all day Dub festival. The house in Turnpike Lane with the Hairy Fairies and food and reasonings and energy balls and falling asleep standing up in all night Jah Shaka dances in the Rocket in Holloway. The N29! D&G ginger beers and the best 24 hour snack shop in Trafalgar Square. Primrose Hill and vegan Thai buffet paradise for stoners. Sundays in Spitalfields market. Cheesy reggae Saturday nights in Camden! And that lovely Ethiopian bredrin, Yohannes was his name?
Water No Get Enemy – Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Autumn 2004 London – Svenn used to play this song at least twice a day. I don’t know why it became such an anthem for us, given that we were living in the middle of Chelsea with Ralph Lauren as our corner store, ha! Walking down to King’s Road we would spontaneously start singing the song together. Our merriment was frequently cut short by a burst of running to catch the Number 19.
One Day – Mungal featuring 3 Canal – New Years Day 2005 London – Me, Kassie and Nya talking about all our hopes and dreams and fears on the brink of a new day.
Zion – Maximus Dan – Summer 2005 – I was living in Zürich and getting rather fat. So every morning I would go for a run in a vineyard near the lake. It was mostly uphill and I would never really think I could make it. But just as I got to the top of the hill this song would come on and I would practically fly down the hill towards home, smiling maniacally with my hair flapping about in the breeze. Needless to say the neighbours stared at me like I just landed from another planet….
Anisiedad – Daisy Voisin Christmas 2005 Trinidad. I hadn’t been home since my grandmother died in 2003. The mother was in the kitchen making black cake and then this song came on and it made me think of my Ida and the fact that she was the original black cakist. That I would never again have the pleasure of her boofs, her smiles, her sarcasm, her pakchoi and rice! I hadn’t had a chance to cry for her in almost two years of travelling, working, loving, moving again, running away and trying to figure out where home was. But then Daisy came on and I got a full appreciation of all that I was missing and all that I had missed.
Live Good – Burning Spear- Carnival 2006 Chatham …the first time I went down to Chatham and met the women of the community and was so impressed by the concern and commitment that I was motivated to get involved in their struggle against Alcoa. When the meeting was finished we ate with them and then Samantha, the 8 year old daughter of our hosts, took my hand and walked with me around her yard. She pointed out all the different trees: mango, pomerac, zaboca, fig. And then she looked me in the eye and said ‘if Alcoa comes I not going to have this anymore’. Part of the reason I never went back to Switzerland…
Ee wa Obakoso – Ella Andall – Summer 2007 Iceland – We were driving up to Husavik right at the northernmost point of Iceland. At about 1 am it was still light and my anarchist friends decided that that was a good time to go check out a crater. It was so windy and cold I ran all the way. Got to the top out of breath with the wind howling in my ears and the crater’s gravel crunching under my hiking boots. I don’t know if I was crying because I was so cold or because I was so overwhelmed to be where I was for the reason that I was there. I had never felt so far from home and yet so close to myself. The wind blew my tears away and then everything got very still.
Naturally – Slow Train – Rainy Season 2008, Trinidad. Me and Kassie, joined by Jacob on a road trip to Toco. We practically wore a hole into that cd replaying that song speeding through the north coast.
Even After All- Finley Quaye- Many Many Nights 2008 The Republic. After party cleaning up. Svenn bepping on the day bed. Sheli listening to every note. Keshav singing and washing dishes. Makeda cooking, again. Me playing ten last songs. Daddy O recounting Amel’s birth. Lemongrass and ginger tea, chocolate tea and pongkin choka. Enamel cups and loud laughter.
Okay I’m going to stop there before this gets too cheesy….