Month: May 2013
Bulldozing of Mayan temple condemned
Countries dozing off on heritage education and bio-cultural sustainable development planning
With a population about the size of Tobago’s, Belize, a former British colony might be said to be perhaps one of the least pressured countries of the region in terms of the intensity of competition for land space for development. Tobago can itself fit into Belize about 75 times; Jamaica, the largest of the English-speaking Caribbean islands, can fit twice, and Trinidad four times.
Last week’s bulldozing by a construction company of what was visibly a temple and part of a complex to turn the rubble into – of all things – gravel for a road (from the comments on the internet I am not the only aghast at the sheer idiocy of this) is testimony to some of the challenges for heritage preservation facing the region.
Proper land use planning with concurrent resourcing, execution and implementation may be one element of a solution, but without a focussed awareness building and formal and informal education that inject heritage consciousness from the cradle through adulthood, it is a tragedy that is certain to be repeated.
For instance, the Mayas are still described and treated in the past tense in much of our history and standard educational material – part of historic misrepresentations of all the civilisations that comprise our region – although very vibrant Mayan communities live across South/Central America and not unlike with other regional ethnic groups, function in active regional diasporas across the globe.
They were also in significant numbers in our heritage training sessions in Belize last year, eating, breathing, talking, exchanging ideas, reciting, playing music, dancing, living, as indeed it was a astounding to discover the numbers of Mayan building complexes that existed in this small land space, most of them heavily silted over through the millennia, overgrown with full fledged trees and overrun with wildlife.
A significant element of the tragedy of the bulldozing at the Noh Mul complex is that it was visible and known to exist, not like Altun Ha where allegedly it wasn’t and it when the blasting revealed the complex it was stopped. This is part of one of the documented temple complex in the Orange Walk district where there is a significant population of Mayan descent. It is not one of the hundreds of other architectural complexes across Belize and South/Central America that have been overgrown, covered over by silt and which now support huge forest and other ecosystems and so indistinguishable from the natural landscape. That in itself might provide an excuse to a bulldozer purportedly innocently quarrying what is believed to be a hill, but only in the absence of proper environmental assessment, which is a mandatory requirement for any development project.
The site of the hundreds of temple complexes across Belize which nature has reclaimed and camouflaged over millennia is enough of an experience to make one want to kneel down and worship the inherent nobility of the people who in their times created this, as much as nature’s resilience and restorative capacity if undisturbed.
As I discovered on a visit last year, Belize is an awesome example of the sheer magnitude of the Mayan civilisation from the numbers of still standing temples, many indiscernible as with centuries of overgrowth they appear as innocent hillocks that support dense forest ecosystems. And while the ruins might point to the historical past tense, the vivacity of the people I met and the friends I made is testimony to a vibrant living heritage.
I could not have asked for a better induction than to have expert guides in Drs Nigel Encalada and Allan Moore of the Belize Institute of Technology, who are part of the National Institute of Culture and History of Belize, on a one day cross-country drive to the Mayan mountains.
It whet my appetite that before I left I made time to explore three more sites with local Mayan guides at Altun Ha, Lamanai and Xuantunich – who incidentally took pride and the time to put into context the deliberately distorted and misrepresented for hype the end of calendar/doomsday story. In fact, these sites have been only partly unearthed of the hundreds of other complexes.
To some degree, Belize has legal and institutional mechanisms: an Act, laws, oversight institutions which may be challenged by shortage of human resource and other capacity, but those are also largely reactive mechanisms, as important as they are, to net culprits after the fact of a bulldoze, for example, rather than sustainable pre-emptive mechanisms which are where the focus should be.What could have stopped the company from issuing the order or the guy himself driving the bulldozer to halt and think twice?
If we cannot build consciousness and recognise the value these elements of our heritage, hold to the sense of self and esteem that could prevent the next trigger happy youngster from bulldozing his own life – value beyond commercial value, beyond the next access road and the next high rise and the next exploration for an oil well – which incidentally is another impending threat to Belize where recent interests in exploitation for petroleum can become the next international heritage disaster story.
The bulldozer mentality will stay with us unless mechanisms are built into our budgeting and physical and mental spatial development planning, as in all other development plans so we present and project that physical, social and educational planning not separate silos and never the twain shall meet, but as a seamless and essentially integrated system that depend on and support each other.
Is that being taken into account in the current land use planning for sustainable development currently being undertaken in Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the region? Where are the efforts to factor and integrate sustainable heritage consciousness into all of this, other than the flag waving mentality? Where are the plans to factor in heritage in the planning for sustainable development and the strategic educational interventions into that process that move beyond a few Kodak advertising moments?
Lost, surely in the cliched excuse about the jostle for space for industry and agriculture and shelter in the name of development.
Development does not have to be at the expense of heritage or vice versa. There are enough successful models of this that can make us confident that we can find the right balance between feeding ourselves, living with all the modern comforts that one may desire and at the same time showing respect and pride in the legacy and inheritances that are ours.
The alternative is the next regional bulldozer story – while Belize becomes a footnote, as McLoed house in South Trinidad already has – this is the potential fate of other sites in the region; like the Banwari and other related sites in Trinidad; or the Pitons in St Lucia or the maroon and other distinctive heritage of Jamaica’s majestic Blue Mountains and others across the region can soon become. Sustainable development requires sustainable planning and sustainable education and awareness activities.
Archeological survey of T&T
Bones beneath Red House, heritage consultant calls for…
Wadadli Pen 2013 Winners Revealed
|Kris Rampersad presents prize of LiTTscapes
– Landscapes of Fictionfrom Trinidad & Tobago
to Wadadli Pen Prize’s Joanne Hilhouse
The Awards ceremony at which these writers and all finalists were recognized was held Sunday afternoon at the St. Mary’s Street store of long time WadadliPen partner The Best of Books.
The other big announcement of the day was the US$500 worth of books each to be gifted by Hands across the Sea to Antigua Girls High School and St John’s Catholic Primary for most submissions.
Wadadli Pen’s organizers are also pleased to recognize and express gratitude for theShoul, and the Cushion Club. Shout outs are also due to Art at the Ridge, Barbuda Express, Jane Seagull, Pamela Arthurton, Bayhouse Restaurant, Keyonna Beach, Heavenly Java 2 Go, Raw Island Products, Silver Lining supermarket, and KorenNorton. Several writers contributed copies of their books: namely Antiguan andBarbudan writers Dorbrene O’Marde, Althea Prince, Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis, and Marie Elena John; Jamaican writers Diana McCaulay and Diane Browne; Trinidadian writer Kris Rampersad; Kittitian-Nevisian writer Carol Mitchell; and British writer Elaine Spires. There is one other major patron who wishes to remain anonymous. Gratitude also to Wadadli Pen’s media partners, especially Antiguanice.com and 365Antigua.com both of which maintain WadadliPen pages on their popular online hubs.
support of regular patrons like Conrad Luke, Stephen B.
Wadadli Pen partners and writers in their own right Brenda Lee Browne, Barbara Arrindell, Floree Williams, and Joanne C. Hillhouse, who founded theWadadli Youth Pen Prize back in 2004, have added to the prize pool: two spots in Browne’s Just Write Writers Retreat, and copies of Arrindell’s Legend of Batman’s Cave and Other Stories, Williams’ Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses, andHillhouse’s Oh Gad!
Taking their portion of these prizes are writers Jamila Salankey, Vega Armstrong,Chammaiah Ambrose, and Michaela Harris; and art winners Avecia James,Dennika Bascom, Jamika Nedd, and Gavin Jeffrey Benjamin. Other shortlisted writers were Juliet Browne, Rhea Watkins, Isheba Simon, Danielle M. Benjamin,Latoya Aretha Honoré, Arati Jagdeo, and Latisha Walker-Jacobs.
Hillhouse reminds that Wadadli Pen’s purpose is to nurture and showcaseAntiguan and Barbudan youthful literary talent. As such the top stories are returned to the writers with the editors’ notes for revision. In time, she hopes with funding and support to conduct workshops in schools and community.
For the full breakdown o f2013 winners and prizes, and the project’s history visit http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com To support future activities email firstname.lastname@example.org. Links to the winning entries can be found here http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/who-won-in-2013/.
NEWS AND SPECIALS
|Back to Wadadli Youth Pen Prize|
Thursday 4th April 2013
The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize has, since 2004, been a platform for the latent literary talent of our young people; a space without judgment or censure where they can grapple in imaginative ways with real life. We’ve seen former winners continue to write, whether in creative or journalistic spaces; and hope that, for those not seeking a literary path, the programme has in some small way helped them to find their voice as well.
We want to continue to be that space where the writing exists for its own sake, its only agenda to encourage the unique yet distinctively Caribbean voice of our young Creatives, especially writers, and to help nurture and showcase their talent.
As Wadadli Pen’s primary activity at this time is a writing challenge, the development of craft is paramount. The selected stories are rarely perfect, there is always room to grow; but they show a spark of possibility that needs to be encouraged. In evaluating the stories and providing constructive criticism to the best of the lot, we hope to encourage our young scribes to embrace the opportunity to grow. We feel there is more outreach yet to be done in this regard and hope to do literary arts workshops in our schools and communities, if we can access the financial and technical support to do so.
The most promising stories and writers to emerge from this year’s Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge will be revealed and recognized this Sunday 7th April, 4 p.m., at the Best of Books. The event will be a joint awards ceremony and book launch (A Certain Paradise which has been receiving positive early notice from readers for its “uncannily accurate” depiction of island life). This year, we can report, that the standout writers hail from all age categories 12 and younger, 13 to 17, 18 to 35, and their themes as usual run the gamut, from fun and fantasy to serious social issues.
As noted, this couldn’t be done without the assistance of individuals, businesses and community groups, and as such I must take the time to thank Barbara Arrindell, Brenda Lee Browne, Floree Williams, Linisa George, Devra Thomas, the Best of Books, Hands Across the Sea, Conrad Luke, Barbuda Express, Stephen B. Shoul, Pamela Arthurton, Art at the Ridge, Diana McCaulay, Diane Browne, Keyonna Beach, Dorbrene O’Marde, Bayhouse Restaurant, Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis, Jane Seagull, Marie Elena John, Carol Mitchell, Elaine Spires, the Cushion Club, Koren Norton, Heavenly Java 2 Go, Althea Prince, Kris Rampersad, and one other anonymous donor.
For more, visit http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com Take some time to explore and see what else we’ve been doing and maybe support. You can reach us at email@example.com