Being uncertain whether the appointment of glory Gary as Commissioner of Police, will make a difference, I am referring to some of our steadily growing international successes in arts and culture in an attempt to relieve the murderous gloom.
This sector holds the key to diversification of the economy, despite the indifference of those who still believe that wining, a sea bath and a bake and shark is all that Trinidad and Tobago has or needs to market to the world.
Within the month of July 2018 alone, recent international successes were reported. Another Trinidadian author, Kevin Jared Hosein, won the Commonwealth Short Story title—one of the world’s most global literary prizes—having been preceded by Ingrid Persad as well as Sharon Millar (jointly) and in the regional category by Barbara Jenkins.
In the spoken word, now a significant export product, the Kalenda Poets, coached by Brendon O’Brien, placed second at the International Poetry Slam event in Houston and Che Lovelace received notice for exhibiting his paintings in Paris.
I have been increasing my exposure to areas outside of the steel orchestra and dance. The morning that news of Hosein’s success was reported, I paid a second visit to a photography exhibition at Chi Gallery.
It came as no surprise that some of the exhibitors at Chi had already gained recognition abroad and had also deployed their skill abroad, like Christine Norton’s photographs from Varanasi, an 11th Century city on the banks of the Ganges. At the launch, one of the exhibitors was wearing James Hackett, as a reminder of the indigenous fashion design business.
I also found out that another exhibitor, Stacey Williams, as one of 21 finalists, had received commendation at the 2017 International Garden Photographer of the Year for a photograph selected out of many thousands of submissions from across the world.
The subject matter of the photograph is a germinating seed on the forest floor in the Bush Bush Wild Life Sanctuary in the Nariva Swamp. This work—with the Trinidad and Tobago label firmly on it—entitled The Birth of a Tree, was subsequently on display in Europe.
A varied cultural and artistic performance infrastructure on which economic activity and the marketing of Trinidad and Tobago can ride is already firmly in place and recognised internationally. These endeavours are the single light of hope discernible in the darkness of rampant criminal blood-shedding.
Many successes have sprung from the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Prestigious bodies seek out links with the Bocas Lit Fest. For example, the Man Booker Prize, Arvon, and Windham send enquiries to Trinidad and Tobago about Caribbean authors and arrange reciprocal visits of writers.
Trinidad and Tobago films have received international recognition. Play The Devil has premiered in places as diverse as Los Angeles, Kolkata, Stockholm and Havana, Cuba. Cutlass and Trafficked were also reportedly seen at film festivals abroad and our films make international digital distribution deals.
At the 2018 Film Festival, September coming, a film about the life of Ulric Cross—a real life Caribbean and Pan African hero—with a likely global reach, will be premiered.
On the negative side, within the dysfunctional system of State funding even when funds are allocated for an artistic project, the delay in having the funds released causes major artistic opportunities to be lost.
In May, it was reported that, 21 years later, Danielle Dieffenthaler’s TV series Westwood Park is still drawing audiences outside of Trinidad and Tobago. However, in respect of a film of hers showing another side of our country, Plain Sight, only half the allocated funds were ever disbursed causing the film to be unfinished.
The film is likely to employ 1,000 persons and a Canadian distributor is clamouring for it. Perhaps, it can receive attention in the budget for next year’s Carifesta in Trinidad.
There is so much that I have not touched upon; but when will we co-ordinate the promotion, funding and marketing of this sector and so grasp the brand TT advantage inherent in the sector for our beleaguered country—not to mention the peace dividend that can be harvested from it?