PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Take back schools and communities from so-called community leaders, chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Kris Rampersad told educators last week.
She was addressing the closing ceremony of a joint initiative by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education in Port of Spain for pilot training of some 125 principals, school supervisors and teachers.
“For too long our children have been kidnapped and our society has been hijacked and held to ransom by bandits and criminals who are held up as community leaders and to whom, tragically, the society now seems to be turning for advice to address the very problems they create. You are the community leaders,” Rampersad told the graduates, before they were presented certificates of completion of the course, Leading for Literacy Now!
LiTTribute to LondonTTown is the next stop in our literary odyssey to recognise and underscore the global character and relevance of fiction, even those from small islands like Trinidad and Tobago.
It will take place on July 15, 2013 and will feature readings and presentations inspired by LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Garvin Nicholas said: “The Trinidad and Tobago High Commission looks forward to showcasing the work of one of our talented local authors. In ‘Littscapes’, Dr. Rampersad has brought to light Trinidad and Tobago’s rich literary tradition and unique heritage. This event will provide an important platform for highlighting the complex history and fascinating social landscape of Trinidad and Tobago to a British audience”.
As with other LiTTributes held earlier this year – to the Mainland in Guyana and to the Antilles in Antigua – this will encourage rethinking how we may better engage with and utilise the rich literary outpourings as represented in LiTTscapes to develop synergies with the international community for social and economic development in film, music, entertainment and education sectors.
|Jean Ramjohn Richards, First Lady (former) and author Kris Rampersad at LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2012. It preceded LiTTribute to the Mainland held in Guyana and LiTTribute to the Antilles in Antigua earlier this year, part of a series of connecting the Caribbean heritage and creative sectors, through the literary arts, with the diaspora. Photo courtesy Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago (http://www.thepresident.tt/events_and_ceremonies.php?mid=189&eid=1002).|
It is well established that the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Europe, particularly the British Empire, has been the primary axis from which all of our written literature has emerged. This is evident even in books that do not engage directly with the colonial condition in the effects and influences of the English language, literature, education, and political and social systems and institutions.
LiTTscapes represents this relationship from the earliest writings of Sir Walter Raleigh to the current day among the 100-plus works by more than 60 writers, including those who made London their home such as Naipaul, Selvon, Lakshmi Seetaram-Persaud and others.
LiTTscapes has been acclaimed as a groundbreaking pictoral yet encyclopaedic compendium of the lifestyles, landscapes, architecture, cultures, festivals and institutions in its full colour easy reading documentary/travelogue/biography representation of Trinidad and Tobago and its fiction as represented in more than 100 fictional works by some 60 writers. It is available at bookshops or email email@example.com.
LiTTribute to LondonTTown follows on the recent LiTTribute to the Antilles staged in Antigua in March, LiTTurgy to the Mainland in Guyana in February, and LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, hosted by the First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards and Dr Rampersad in September 2012. LiTTscapes was launched at White Hall – one of Trinidad and Tobago’s Magnificent Seven buildings as part of the islands 50th anniversary of independence in August 2012.
Persons wishing to get involved and For invitations and details Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See: https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal; facebook.com/kris.rampersad1LiTTscapes, LiTtributes, LiTTour Album Facebook .
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.