Thursday, April 27, 2017

Keep Angelo’s legacy alive


Last month, we laid to rest my friend, history enthusiast Angelo Bissessarsingh. When Angelo created the Virtual Museum of Trinidad and Tobago and started sharing stories of our country's past, he never anticipa­ted the lasting interest and popularity. Angelo convin­cingly debunked the myth that Trinbagonians do not care about their heritage.

Angelo was able to demystify those two common phrases which indicate our love of ourselves, “Trini to de bone”, and everybody loving us, “God is a Trini”, our food, our genuine warmth and innate hospitality, our party persona, our celebration of festivals and our accent.

What Angelo did when he recounted our history in an easily readable fashion was he helped us understand why we are so loveable and loved. In this tiny dot of a place, we embrace all cultures, all creeds and the descendants of all great civilisations. We are the global example that the greatest love is born out of tolerance, understanding, respect and acceptance.

In his books and writings, Angelo traverses our blessed homeland and identifies the historic sites, explaining their significance and why those tangible links to our past must be preserved. Now he is gone and we are left with the task of preserving them, something that seems to evade our greatest of intellects although it is done so effortlessly everywhere else in the world.

Much is already being done to get his books into our school system so that our love of our heritage continues, but we have to address an even greater issue, which is the actual preservation of the historic sites to which his texts refer.

I, personally, do not intend to rest until the requisite political action is taken to establish the mechanisms for the seamless funding of the pre­servation of our historic sites. All over the world, this funding is sourced from their national lotteries and private sector, why have we not done the same here? What is the hold-up?

The piecemeal efforts of the past, which could take place only when the oil price is sufficiently high, must stop. It has not worked and we have lost too many of our precious heritage assets already.

Once there is a continuous stream of funding from a lottery in place, the private sector can also become involved. We must be able to look to a register of qualified restoration architects to ensure that our restoration efforts are not botched. Similarly, our qua­lified art historians and curators must ensure that our heritage displays are authentic and relevant.

Our country has sufficient heritage assets to create the most outstanding heritage tourism product, which will ensure not only that our heritage is valued but that it can generate jobs and diversify our economy.

We must stop paying lip service and get the job done to keep Angelo's legacy alive. There can be no turning back or faltering now.