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Use Memory of the World resource to transform education curriculum

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Remarks, Dr Kris Rampersad,
Chair, Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO at the Opening of UNESCO Pan-Caribbean Consultative Workshop on Memory of the World
Port of Spain, Trinidad, 25-27 September 2013
On behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO welcome to this Pan Caribbean consultative workshop on UNESCO Memory of the World initiative. While we are a national commission with essentially a national mandate, we also take very seriously our role as a member of the Caribbean community and the wider UNESCO region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
As we mark this year the 21st anniversary of the Memory of the World programme and 13th anniversary of the Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is perhaps timely for us to reflect on where we have reached with the programme.
In the short 13 years since, eight countries from the Commonwealth Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Kitts, Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, and the Bahamas) have inscribed 21 collections of documentary heritage on the International Memory of the World Register and twenty five collections on the Regional Register.
We tend to think of the University of the West Indies and Cricket as two main elements I am sure you will agree that this has offered us an opportunity to collaborate as a region in the 13 joint nominations submitted among several of our countries – and these by four national committees in Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and certainly I want to particularly recognise the work of the Trinidad and Tobago National Memory of the World Committee under the stewardship of Mrs Joan Osborne.
But much work still to be done in public engagement and to draw out private collectors and archivists to present their work for consideration so we can have broad representation of the diversity of cultures, languages and heritage.
Last year’s meeting underscored the need for greater involvement by countries in the Caribbean, and to support each other. Through the work of the Trinidad and Tobago national memory of the world committee we have enlisted:
—  The Derek Walcott Collection
—  The Eric Williams Collection
—  The C.L.R. James Collection
—  Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean
—  Records of Indian Indentured Labourersof Trinidad and Tobago
—  The Constantine Collection
—  The Donald ‘Jackie’ Hinkson Collection
—  The Carlisle Chang Collection
—  The Digital Pan Archive
—  Records of Indian Indentured Labourers of Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917
—  The Samuel Selvon Collection
At the MOWLAC meeting in Port of Spain 2012 the concern was raised of the involvement of countries in the region in the programme and how to encourage the creation of national committees and the number of nominations coming from the region. It was found that there was greater need for collaboration since in some countries the MOW programme was not visible and professionals and owners of collections did not know how to complete the nomination forms.
We should also recognise that much of the critical documentary heritage reside not only within the region but also in internationally-based institutions.
We hope this workshop will meet with similar success of preceding workshops in which nine inscriptions followed the 2009 workshop in Barbados, for example.
We note among the objectives of this is to strengthen the memory of the world programme through greater awareness, to increase nominations at the national, regional and international levels; and to develop an action agenda and a CARICOM MOW action plan for 2013- 2015.
I suggest that among the latter you also take a look at the current draft CARICOM-UNESCO memorandum of agreement and suggest any alternations you may need to make to the text relevant to accommodate the region’s outlook for the memory of the world programme within that MOU to be signed between Caricom and UNESCO at the General Assembly in November.
We know there are many, many areas in which we need to focus the heritage and I’d like to also stir attention away from the printed heritage which we all know limits us to the last few hundred years to other elements of record also recognised by the memory of the world register – to also consider other forms of documentation – items on stone, craft, recordings, visuals.
As we know, UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 from a growing awareness of the poor state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world – looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered. So a core element is to raise public awareness and mobilise communities to capture and preserve and promote respect and understanding.
In the region, we need to move quickly to secure our endangered archives – and I draw attention to the invaluable collections of the military history museum in Chaguaramas that contains information on the connections between our islands and South America, unrecorded elsewhere, and which can further expand  the recent inscriptions by Cuba of the  Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara, and Columbia’s of Francisco De Miranda and Simon Bolivar and it may be useful to supplement that with the archives of Mr Gaylord Kelshall of the Military History Museum who has researched and written extensively about this period which though recent, has still not been injected into teachings on our history and as the Minister of Education is here with us I’d like to recommend that we look at this immense UNESCO resource and work to revising the materials in the school curriculum – in history, social studies, civics, visual and performing arts, among others. This presents us with an opportunity to revise our textbooks using new research and information s there is need to establish critical synergies between archiving and education soWebiste is not just fossilised – and consider utilising this model of engagement between ministry of education, archive and library and the school system.
I’d also like to suggest that you consider how we may establish a facility to resource and fund acquisition and maintenance of public and private collections: like those of the Chaguaramas Military History Museum, and dozens of others in private collections and establish linkages with these.

And we also need to place some emphasis on capture yet undocumented heritage and utilise digitisation and engage the enthusiasm of our young people to collate data from disappearing knowledge holders.
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An innovative approach to literature and landscapes – Stabroek News – Georgetown, Guyana

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An innovative approach to literature and landscapes – Stabroek News – Georgetown, Guyana

Professor Al Creighton presents LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad in Stabroek News ….

An innovative approach to literature and landscapes

Arts on Sunday

(Kris Rampersad, Littscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago, St Augustine, Trinidad, 2012 : 200 p.)
20110807artsonsundayIn reading this work we find a neat kind of confluence.  Guyana at this time is in the middle of celebrating nationhood – the peak of it was Republic Day yesterday. The publication which was launched in Guyana a week ago is a celebration of nationhood as it is captured through photography, an explanatory text and the literature of Trinidad and Tobago.  The easiest way to begin an analysis of this book Littscapes by Kris Rampersad is to describe it – give an idea so that the audience gets a clear picture of exactly what it is.  But that is not the easiest way, because it is a text that defies easy description.  There are more types that it is, than things that it is not.
Kris Rampersad

Kris Rampersad
The publication is Littscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad, published in St Augustine, Trinidad, in 2012.  The bibliographical details describe it as “First Edition 2012”, which is not surprising, given its multi-tasking nature and its wide reach, and this suggests also, that considering the several things that it seems to set out to cover, there is more to come in future editions.
It is 200 pages of written and visual text, presenting the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago in passages of descriptions, explanations and quotations, very impressively supported and complemented by hundreds of colour photographs and excerpts from the literature of the country.  Rampersad always interweaves into her own descriptions, the pieces taken from the literature, so that one gets pictures of the several varied subjects from the point of view of the writers and of their fictional characters. These are taken predominantly from works of fiction covering a range of short stories and novels, but to a lesser extent, there is reference to poetry and drama.
The idea of “littscapes” comes from drawing from the literature to give scenes, views and visions of landscape and life in clear, colourful, illustrative pictures as well as snippets of how they are treated in the literature.  It is a quite thorough artistic concept.  It is a portrait and biography of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago which actually pays tribute to the Repub-lic in 2012, the year of its 50th anniversary of Independence.  The book is attractively, neatly and effectively designed, using a recurring motif of the double-T – “TT”, which, of course, is “Trinidad and Tobago”, but is also “literature” so that there is not only the visual impact but the tribute to nationhood as reflected in the various works of literature.
Littscapes is a work of art; but also it is a documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power.  It takes us on a tour of the country, giving some exposure to almost every aspect of life.  It may be too heavy and too academic to be called a tourist guide, but no tourist guide can give a better, more comprehensive introduction to Trinidad. It entices and attracts just as the other glossy tourist literature does; it looks like a weighty volume, but an important factor is that it is very easy to read.  Neither is this link to tourism accidental, because one of the objectives of the book is that it must show the value that literature has in promoting and presenting and selling the nation. It must show different uses of literature, encourage new approaches to it and make it more attractive and interesting.  The book does for literature, what literature does for the country.
Rampersad tours the countryside and highlights features of it, at the same time exploring the literature to indicate how the writers treat the subjects, what they or their fictional characters say, and how they are used in the plots.  Photographs of several sections of Port of Spain are accompanied by the descriptions and literary excerpts; this treatment is given to the capital city, other towns, streets, urban communities, villages, historic buildings and places, vegetation, animals, institutions, culture and landscape.  There is considerable visual beauty, what Derek Walcott calls “visual surprise” in his Nobel Lecture (1992); an impressive coverage of social history, geography, and politics, but also a strong literary experience.  It is a survey of Trinidad’s landscape and of its literature.
The publication reflects a considerable volume of reading, drawing from as early as Walter Ralegh at the dawn of Caribbean literature, which adds historical character and depth to the landscape and culture.  The references include early fiction such as ARF Webber’s Those That Be In Bondage. The connectedness of nationhood becomes relevant again here, since both Webber and Ralegh have ties to Guyana as strong, if not stronger than those with Trinidad.  The relevance of this literature to the building of Guyanese nationhood is similar to the case of Trinidad here. Just as the historical development of the country is reflected in the places and monuments, so it is in the rise of social realism through the fiction of the 1930s in Port of Spain. Rampersad presents her subjects through the eyes of CLR James and writers from the Beacon group such as Alfred Mendes, and has done the painstaking work analogous to that of a lexicographer, of sorting out their several hundred references to her subjects.
This account includes some memorable passages of real literary criticism, although these are very brief. They include the entries on The Humming Bird Tree by Ian McDonald, another writer that is more Guyanese than Trinidadian, with instructive insights into the novel’s title and its meaning.  Others are the references to Lion House in Chaguanas and the Capildeo family which hold great interest for background to VS Naipaul.  Naipaul immortalises his mother’s family in Hanuman House and the Tulsis, and Rampersad provides additional information about Naipaul’s use of his migratory existence in her discussions of various parts of Port of Spain. There is also similar enlightenment in the way such locations as San Fernando, Mayaro and Princes Town accumulate greater meaning when used to treat the work of novelist Michael Anthony.  Yet another passage of deep criticism is the brief reference to “girl victims” as they are treated in the fiction.
The other side of that has to do with omissions and reductions.  There are many topics that appear undersubscribed.  There was not much information or there were hardly any literary references, even in places where it is known that the subjects were well treated in the literature.  Examples of these are the entries on politicians, calypsonians and superstitions, all of which abound in the fiction but are not sufficiently handled in Littscapes.  However, while that is noticeable, it could never be a requirement that the book must cover everything – as indeed, it cannot.  Were it a dictionary, one would fault the lexicographer on important omissions, but this work does so much already that it might be unfair to judge it on its omissions or reduced treatments.
Then there are the odd segments in which the publication does in fact behave like a tourist guide without the usual strength of literary material.  Added to this are the errors which are typographical as well as where some details of literary texts are concerned, such as characters, names and titles.  One or two authors are claimed as Trinidadian who might well be claimed by other islands.  Walcott has produced quite a lot of Trinidadian literature, but many references to his work in this book really belong to St Lucia, and not Trinidad.  Then there is the Tobago question.  Trinidad is in all respects the major and dominant island, and this is overwhelmingly reflected in Rampersad’s treatment.  She says in her text that Trinidadian writers on the whole neglect Tobago, treat it as the lesser of two sisters or do not treat it at all.  In this book, therefore, the imbalance is noted.
In the end, Rampersad’s Littscapes does achieve an innovative approach to literature in bringing it alive in the description of landscape, life, culture and people.  It encourages people to take ownership of it, see themselves, their home or familiar places in it and accept it as a definer of identity.  But the book is as much photography by Rampersad and others as it is literature, and the pictures help to illustrate, highlight and make the fiction real.
Above all Littscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago has an extremely powerful sense of place and reinforces what in Rampersad’s words is “the pull of place on authors”.  It may claim to be an accessory to what she calls “the body of fiction inspired by Trinidad and Tobago”.  It communicates the character of the country.
No one book can be everything; no one book can set out to achieve everything that a literature and a visual text can do for its people and its nation; but whatever you say one book can’t do, this one almost does it.