Discussions, Performances, Street Parade for 2018 Ogun Festival October 5-7

A new play written by Eintou Pearl Springer on the Orisa Ogun will be part of the programme for this year’s Ogun Festival, a three day festival celebration of the Yoruba deity Ogun at the Ile Isokan compound Niles Trace Febeau Village, Lower Santa Cruz from October 5-7, 2018.

The Festival, which has been running since 2006, explores ancient and contemporary meanings of the Orisa Ogun.
Originally revered as the warrior, hunter and blacksmith in Nigeria,  that understanding has expanded to include responsibility for roads, forms of transport and technology, while in Trinidad Ogun is also regarded as the patron Orisa of the steelpan.
‘The play tells the story of how Ogun was the only Orisa given the power to transform minerals in the earth into metal and connects also to the evolution of the steelpan from the discarded oil drum. Ogun’s warrior energy is embedded in this instrument of spirit and resistance,’ explained playwright Eintou Pearl Springer.
The Festival begins at 6 p.m. on Friday October 5 with a discussion on ‘Manifestation’ in Trinidad  Orisa practice and features local Ifa/Orisa priests and practitioners.
On Saturday, the play will be preceded by storytelling from 3.30 p.m. led by Eintou Springer and graduates of the Mentoring by the Masters programme, who will also perform the play at 6 p.m.
This will be followed by a discourse on Manifestation in Nigeria led by Araba Olatunji Somorin of Ketus Ifa Academy which is spearheading a more studied approach to the discussion of African spiritual practice with an Ifa/Orisa focus.
Known as ‘catching power’ or ‘manifestation’, possession trance is described as a temporary alteration of one’s normal identity by an ancestral spirit or deity. The experience of being “possessed” holds different meanings in different cultures – from Christianity to Sufism to Hinduism – but is most commonly locally associated with African spiritual practice. The discourse will reveal some of the deeper social meanings of energy manifestation and how this affects our emotions, work interests and creative impulses.
‘The Festival comes to a close on Sunday with a street procession which serves as a celebration of Ogun as owner of the road and also appeals for protection of the community.’ said Oloye Ogunrinola Ogunbowale, head of Ile Isokan. Sunday’s closing celebration will also include steelpan and drumming.
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Inside the healing house

After the 2010 earthquake a small house was made out of rubble, wood and glass bottles. There is an altar and the sun filtered through the walls of blue, green bottles bathes the inside of the house in silence and light. The healing house is an important part of the post-earthquake recovery. It is a reminder that natural disasters require not just reconstruction of buildings but reconstruction of emotional, spiritual, mental stability. I’ve been thinking a lot about Haiti in these days following our own earthquake encounter. Like everyone else here I’ve made jokes while freaking out silently. Haiti we know has more than 200 years of staring war, tragedy, devastation and disaster in the face and managing somehow to emerge and find ways to keep going. I’m not so sure about T&T. We continue to fool ourselves that God is a Trini and that absolves us from adopting a more proactive stance on many things. It also means we take a lax approach to the mental health implications of natural and human disasters. In addition to being mindful of our building codes, we also need to be aware that humans will need to be checked for cracks and damage too.

Help Haitians, not the Disaster Capitalists

Disaster time again, for our sisters and brothers in Haiti. Already the vultures circle, using this tragedy as another opportunity to take advantage or worse, to engage in the pornography of suffering black bodies.

Now is not the time for tears, hand-wringing, there are lots of organisations that are quietly doing good work in Haiti that does not line the pockets of multinational aid corporations,  or continue to fatten the Port au Prince elite.

The following is a list I’ve compiled thanks to friends in Haiti and its diaspora.  Please do your own research on the organisations listed below. I’ll keep updating it as more info emerges.

Donations in Trinidad 

A group of citizens are doing a non-organisational collection of items from Monday 10th October. Collection/Drop-off point will be at the Veni Mangé Restaurant 67A Ariapita Ave, Woodbrook.

ITNAC Trinidad based organisation sending volunteers soon to Haiti asking for donations of  food/clothing/shoes/women’s sanitary wear/insect repellent as well as urgent cash donations in any currency.

Haitian led NGOs

Konbit Mizik   a NYC based non-profit using music to educate, empower and uplift Haiti’s vulnerable youth.

Haiti Communitiere   Donations go directly to help communities gain access to the resources, knowledge and skills they need to rebuild.

  Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC)  is an arts based non-profit organization created for the personal growth, empowerment, and education of children in need in Jacmel, Haiti.

Sakala  provides a safe space in the heart of Haiti’s largest underdeveloped area, where youth come together to grow, learn, and play.

Soil Haiti  eco sanitation service organisation

Volontariat pour le Développement d’Haïti  focusing on young people’s development

Lambi Fund  working on economic justice and alternative sustainable development.

MADRE LGBTQI friendly organisation doing gender discrimination and violence work.

Sowaseed Sustainable change and support for orphans

Konbit Solèy Leve Participation, Solidarity, Reciprocity

Haitian American Caucus  Brooklyn based young professionals organisation

PRODEV Education access in under-served communities.

Ayiti Se NOU Working on various projects around education, health, environment, entrepreneurship and culture/sports.

International NGOs 

Roots of Development  community led development projects

Partners in Health  Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais

Nova Hope for Haiti  community medical care

Crowd-funding appeals

Fondation Aquin Solidarite (FAS)  is a non-profit organization, founded in 2005, to provide educational, cultural, sports and economic support and mentoring to the city and the people of Aquin, located 117kms southwest of Port-au-Prince.

Hurricane Matthew Relief in Abricots Support for cacao farmers in Abricots organised by dance scholar Dasha Chapman.

Donations in NYC

Flatbush-YMCA at 1401 Flatbush; the Multicultural Bridge Project at 1894 Flatbush Ave.; and the Haitian Family Resource Center at 1783 Flatbush Ave.

Quiescere Resource Center (516-205-9035) is also accepting donations, as is the Fernande Valme Ministries (718-284-1809).

Donations in Florida Click image for details

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Western Union is offering toll free transfers to Haiti from United States, Canada , France, Chile, Brazil and the Caribbean at participating outlets, on their website and on mobile Western Union, where available.

The Vengeance of Moko

Dear Mr. Eustace
In 2015 I had the opportunity to work with Trini/British artist Zak Ové to install two eight foot moko jumbie sculptures in the Great Court of the British Museum.
It was the culmination of years of negotiations with the museum, which had nothing in their vast collection to reflect Caribbean civilisation.
It was thought that the masquerade traditions of Trinidad and Tobago would be the ultimate symbol of the survival of African culture in the Caribbean.
In writing about moko jumbies and traditional mas for the museum I had to do extensive research. It’s what anyone who values their work should do. Read, read, read and write and talk to people who know better.
You clearly have done none of these. Your comments showed such a shocking lack of knowledge and were delivered with such hubris I wondered who had died and made you an authority on anything else but how to drag an ugly lump of shiny empty nothingness across the Savannah stage.
I read things about masquerade that the likes of you would probably never see because apparently you don’t know that the moko jumbie is in fact one of the most ubiquitous forms of African masquerade on the continent.
Every single time we encountered someone from either the continent or the African diaspora they gave another explanation of what the mas meant to them. Masquerade is of course a central part of the lives of people all over the continent, as it is to us, in case you didn’t know.
I stood and watched hundreds, thousands of people from all over the world express wonder at this mas.
Additionally we had a day of performances which included Stephanie Kanhai, the 2015 Queen of Carnival doing her moko jumbie portrayal.
Full disclosure, Mr. Uncle Minsh’s presentation was not my favourite in his long and amazing career of mas making. I have also since wondered why we always need to see non-Western artforms through a Western prism to fully appreciate their beauty and value.
But the fact that it has made the impact that it has is an indication that you and your cohorts have done absolutely nothing to advance the artform in the past ten years since there was last a Minshall King in the competition. Nobody cares about the mas you make, it is trite, dated, and about as interesting as the Soca Drome. That’s why the stands are empty Mr. Eustace. That’s your fault.
Big and shiny does not a mas make, Mr. Eustace. Your lack of understanding of that is shocking and the ignorance you have for the tradition you inherited is more ugly than that contraption that I had the misfortune to have seen being dragged across the stage on Tuesday. Luckily it was not memorable enough for me to have to consider it beyond the next couple days.
I hope next year every single band plays moko jumbie to trample not just your blinding ignorance but also your pyrotechnic kings under their stilts. That was one of the mythological functions of the moko jumbie – to seek out those in the community who harbour not just evil deeds but evil thoughts. Don’t call down the vengeance of moko on yourself Mr. Eustace. Trust me, you have neither the intelligence nor the humility to deal with that.

Araba of Osogbo Ifayemi Elebuibon to speak at Trinidad and Tobago Isese Festival

Orisa devotees from around Trinidad and Tobago will gather on September 24, Republic Day to observe the first annual Isese Festival – a celebration of this country’s African spiritual traditions.

The gathering takes place at Centre of Excellence in Macoya and starts at 10.30 a.m.

Isese is a Yoruba word meaning Tradition. In recent years there has been a global push to reconnect with non-Western ideas of spirituality, and Trinidad and Tobago has been a leading part of that conversation through scholarly works and cultural exchange between Nigeria, Ghana, Cuba, the United States of America, Brazil and parts of Europe – all of which have seen increased interest and participation in African Spiritual traditions, specifically Ifa/Orisa.

Currently the local Orisa community is in a state of evolution. As the popularity of Ifa spreads, there are concerns about how this will affect our own traditions that have existed for over a century and have informed many social and cultural forms in Trinidad and Tobago.

This is a unique opportunity to interact with practitioners from around country, with a view to strengthening cultural and spiritual ties.

The morning session will include workshops in dance and drumming and a special panel to address questions that people have about Ifa/Orisa beliefs.

The afternoon session includes performances from Wasafoli, The Trinidad and Tobago Orisa Performing Arts Company and pannist Noel La Pierre.

The feature address will be delivered by Ifayemi Elebuibon, Araba of Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria.

Special tribute will also be paid to Elders of the Orisa community both living and passed on.

The event is hosted by the Council of Orisha Elders in collaboration with the Afrikan Heritage Village Committee and Afrika House.

Entry is free of charge.

Obeah and other Political Tools

A couple of weeks ago I saw a tasteless attack on Hinduism expressing some vaguely articulated fundamentalist Christian desire to return Trinidad and Tobago to ‘God fearing ways’.

Forgetting of course that it was the church that Patrick Manning was building with his ‘Prophetess’ that was part of what hastened his being voted out.

This week they, whoever ‘they’ are took a turn behind African spirituality, aping the same divisive colonialist madness that was used to keep Indians and Africans afraid of each other since the first ship landed here in 1845.

The only reason anybody would put the Gods out of their thoughts, waste time and resources to make an ‘Obeah’ ad is because they/we remain mired by this Christian colonisation of our spiritual choices. We remain complicit in the contempt the society has for African spirituality and any other belief system that doesn’t subscribe to a Judaeo-Christian idea of who or what God is.

‘Obeah’ was used as a general term that lumped together all African spiritual practice and anything else that could be vaguely construed as a threat against colonial authorities.

The fact that many of the spiritual practices of Orisa and Hindu and Indigenous devotees have clear and evident similarities will never be highlighted in any political advertisement.

Go back and ask Iyalorisa Melvina Rodney why she had a big picture of Lord Shiva in her inner sanctum. Go back and ask Babalorisa Sam Phils how he knew so much Sanskrit. Go Enterprise and ask my Uncle Raviji why he invites Babalawos to his Mandir.

Hinduism and Orisa and Indigenous beliefs have and will continue to coexist here. Regardless of the racist and misinformed backwardness that gets peddled as political rhetoric.

Most PNM people also don’t know that the balisier has a wider meaning in the world of Orisa practice of the Caribbean.
Last year when I went to Cuba I found out that they call the balisier ‘Sword of Shango’. I saw the balisier flower all over the shrines of Santeria practitioners.

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Shango was and continues to be a popular Orisa in Trinidad for a very specific reason.
Many of the Yoruba people who were brought here after Emancipation were from Oyo, where Shango was a 13th century King of that large and ancient Empire. It was because of that longstanding connection to Oyo that they used to call all Orisa devotees ‘Shango people’. Go up to the hundred year old Orisa shrine on Upper St. Francois Valley Road and you will hear songs about Ibadan to this day.
Y’all think Eric Williams didn’t know these things?

Read more about Shango from eminent Trinidad born scholar Maureen Warner-Lewis’ Trinidad Yoruba : From Mother Tongue to Memory.
If you need more information on Caribbean anti-obeah laws read this paper from Jerome Handler:

Anti-Obeah Laws of the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760s to 2010

CLR James said in Black Jacobins ‘voodoo was the medium of conspiracy’. It was the Vodun ceremony held at Bwa Kayiman on August 14, 1791 that was the catalyst of the Haitian Revolution.
If it wasn’t for obeah, Vodun, secret societies, ancestral rituals, masking traditions, Ogun manifesting in the steel pan we would not have survived the Middle Passage or enslavement or colonialism or the continued attempts to deny us the fullness of who we are.

All of the born again Africans and Afro-Saxons waving their Swords of Shango, I ask you what the PNM is doing to protect you at the core of your spiritual beliefs?

Beauty of the Battle

The learning is not just in the training, the hours spent memorising the lavways and the steps and the pain that comes when you lose concentration and you get hit with a stick on your little finger. The journeys to the gayelles are full of songs and anecdotes of past battles. Acid sings into the night, to dark roads that disappear suddenly off crumbling precipices: “Ah living alone, ah living alone in the jungle.”

Bois season is a time of fasting, from alcohol and meat and conjugal relations. From anything that distracts from the battle. The battle is waged in the mind long before the stickfighter enters the ring.

From a piece I wrote for the January 2015 issue of Caribbean Beat Magazine.
Read the original article here: http://caribbean-beat.com/issue-131/word-of-mouth#ixzz3OKgtUeuD

The NCC Regional Carnival Committee’s 2015 Stickfight Competition dates are as follows:

23rd Jan – Biche
30th Jan – Cedros
11th Feb – Skinner Park
To book workshops and demos for schools and clubs with the Bois Academy of Trinidad and Tobago call Rondel Benjamin at 498-2609
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