Cultural Production in Trinidad and Tobago
By Shaun Ajamu
Sunday, 20 December 2015
Human culture has never been static. As with any region in the world, in the Caribbean the genesis and evolution and development of cultural life has no start or end
date. It’s infinite.
One thing is
without any doubt however. That is that Caribbean culture did not emerge when
Europeans arrived in the archipelago. It was long preceded by the ancient
cultures of the indigenous peoples of the islands of the Caribbean, and the
land mass known now as Central America and South America. Grafted on to this
foundation are centuries long cultural practices derived from the indigenous
people’s resistance to colonisation, the struggle against enslavement and the
efforts to establish independent nations.
The culture and
traditions of Africa, the Indian sub-continent, China and West Asia [commonly
referred to as the Middle East] are significant. Equally the languages and
mores of whichever European power was ascendant in the battle to establish
supremacy in the Caribbean also played a vital and crucial role. French,
Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English [including the obscure Courlanders in
Tobago] – all have history in the region.
examples and artefacts are seen in the Fort George Museum], previously in
Leacock’s Culture House and the long closed Historical/Heritage Café and Arnos
Vale Watermill Restaurant. However,
whilst the many military forts around the island are well documented the Sugar
Mills dotted around the island [to this writer’s knowledge anyway] remain
culture generally, and Tobagonian/Trinbagonian culture in particular, didn’t
begin in the 1960s and it’s a process which has not concluded.
Many of these
issues were discussion points at a Scarborough Library Facility event organised
recently by MUSE TOBAGO. Two subjects
predominated at the vigorous dialogue. Firstly, the necessity of continuously
exploring Tobago’s solid cultural heritage and, secondly, devising methods to
ensure the islands diverse cultural practices can be nourished, cultivated and
groomed. Many of these issues were described in MUSE TOBAGO’s magazine, fliers
and leaflets displayed at an information table where the genres of creativity outlined
included agriculture, food and drink, visual arts and crafts, technology,
literature and writing, photography, performing arts, research and documentary,
videography and film, fabrication and design and fashion.
only touched the surface though and debate revealed that any survey of cultural
forms in Tobago would include exploration of music production [contemporary and
traditional], drumming, culinary arts, fashion, traditional and heritage
activities, drama, theatre, sculpture, painting, fine art, literature/creative
writing, blogs, vlogs, poetry and spoken word, speech band, folk music and
popular music, folktales and oral/storytelling traditions, Moko Jumbie/stiltwalking,
kite making, stick fighting, Kalinda, tamboo bamboo bands, steel pan, Kaiso,
Calypso tents, Steel Bands, ol’ time wedding, Bele dance, Speech Bands,
drumming, crab and goat races and , and probably countless other cultural
MUSE TOBAGO has
the ambitious programme of  strengthening the diversity of ideas in Tobago,
 initiating and maintaining a forum to share the creative interests of the
island’s cultural practitioners [rather than keep it to themselves], 
exploring mechanisms to enhance and strengthen the work and inspiration of Tobago’s creatives,  forming
collaborative links between MUSE TOBAGO and the corporate world,  becoming
the conduit between creatives and the Intellectual Property Office [IPO] of
Trinidad and Tobago,  cultivating the latent creativity within Tobagonians
and nourishing entrepreneurial habits,  promoting awareness of the value of
intellectual property and encouraging and facilitating IPO registrations
locally and abroad to guarantee registrations actually benefit creative people,
 ensuring that Tobago is recognised as a leader in creativity, innovation
and intellectual property exchange.
In this sense then it is crystal clear that cultural expression in Tobago is strong and consolidated. Nevertheless, all human practice requires constant attention and renewal to ensure it retains freshness and serves a useful purpose to humanity. MUSE TOBAGO have started an important discussion.
Of the many issues identified which spark further discussion and solutions a start could be made by addressing
How is MUSE TOBAGO to
facilitate cultural development in Tobago – practically, socially,
What is the role of
culture in society, culture in social form is an issue here – social in form,
national in character? Development of educated, literate and cultured people
Tobago culture, how
expressed? What is culture/art in Tobago?
Culture – what is it?
what is creativity? define – difficult to define precisely but could be
encapsulated in how humans express ourselves, represents individual identity
but also our place in a collective with human thought, knowledge and history
reflecting that - as diverse as grains of sand on a beach but it wouldn’t be a
beach if not bound together…
Tobago culture in
context of TnT culture and culture of the Caribbean and the world
Is there a database of
artists in Tobago – or Trinidad?
How do creatives
[renowned and otherwise] in TnT collaborate and co-ordinate?
How to mobilise the
Tobagonian cultural practitioners so they have a unified voice?
What are challenges and
issues in nurturing creativity and its corollary cultural work in Tobago?
The value of labour is scientifically
defined by its social necessity – but currently an unregulated, manipulated
market in which neither workers nor artists have any say rules.
How to facilitate
expression of culture in order that professional artists are acknowledged and
Developing the cultural
work/practices and mobilising the cultural workers to establish a unified
voice, get appropriate recognition for their work and to get paid according to
the value of their work
globalisation is a factor world culture is diverse and multi-faceted – not
homogenised, heterogeneity is a good thing.
V/bloggers simple but
effective action can promote and facilitate their work
By Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson
Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is a Caribbean/London based arts
editor, writer and journalist for www.thenewblackmagazine.com.
He writes about political, social and cultural issues.