Embracing our story and our culture

This is the first ever article I wrote for the Trinidad Guardian, back when I was an intern. I’m very grateful to Carol Quash for giving me the opportunity to be published, since I was still very wet behind the ears.

The picture below is a screen cap of the article as it appeared in the paper. I don’t have a digital link unfortunately as the Guardian hasn’t digitized that far back.

Embracing story, culture article

Caribbean people should share, cherish and understand all aspects of their story. This was the message of the third TEDx UWI event, themed “The Caribbean Story, held on Saturday March 17 at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. TEDx UWI licence holder, Joshua Hamlet, said that the event was in keeping with TEDx’s 2011 theme “The Art of Storytelling”. The six speakers at the event each emphasized a different aspect of the Caribbean story.
Christopher Castagne said that Caribbean people don’t value our culture because our artistry and food, such as the steelpan and oxtail, are made from discarded materials, so we see them as being expendable and valueless. He also said that since Caribbean people only have two degrees of separation between themselves and everyone else, they take the talent surrounding them for granted. Castagne is a musician and music festival organizer.
Ian Royer, executive producer of Caribbean’s Next Top Model, spoke about branding the Caribbean. His company, which specializes in new media, has developed a new “lovemark”, a next-level brand, for the Caribbean which reads “Caribbean – where your own story awaits”. Royer said he decided on this because “Caribbean people accept everyone for who they are”.
Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, Head of the Cocoa Research Unit, asked “Can small island developing States in the Caribbean become competitive” on a global scale? Professor Umaharan stated that we could overcome the problems facing the Caribbean by concentrating on unique high value products. For example, since the scorpion pepper from Trinidad is the hottest in the world, we can export not only the peppers, but also jams, jellies, pickles and other products.
Rudylynn De Four Roberts of Citizens for Conservation said that the architecture we live in is also part of our culture. This includes not only the Magnificent Seven and similar buildings, but also the tapia houses and other structures where we ate, lived and prayed. Roberts said we should preserve, restore and rehabilitate examples of these structures so that they can be used to teach future generations.
Joanna Sewlal, the Caribbean’s only arachnologist, said that of the 150 types of spiders found worldwide, 52 can be found in Trinidad and Tobago. She explained that spiders are important because they kill pests and indicate how healthy the environment is.
Errol Fabien, the final speaker, talked about his struggle to overcome addiction and his love of all things cultural. He stated that he wants to be able to see local television in Trinidad and Tobago as he has seen it worldwide and spoke of his struggles to maintain Gayelle the Channel. He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Performances at the event highlighted local talent. These included a poem entitled “Canboulay Riots Part II” by spoken word poet Gary Acosta, an interpretive dance piece by the Dance Collective and the song “Do What You Have to Do” by local band Invictus 7, who used tabla drums, a cuatro and a steelpan to accompany the lead singer.

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