Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards believes that it is the duty of citizens to preserve this country's historic buildings, lest we become "poor imitations of foreign places, while features of our history crumble around us". Occasion was the LiTTribute to the Republic Tea with the wife of President George Maxwell Richards held last Saturday at Knowsley, Queen's Park West.
The event, hosted by author Kris Rampersad, under the patronage of Richards, was an evening of readings and performances inspired by Rampersad's recently released LiTTscapes, a book that maps the living experiences of famous characters in fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.
In her appraisal of LiTTscapes, national poet laureate Eintou Pearl Springer said our literature is not merely confined to pages in books, but to our kaiso, our pichakaree, chutney, stick fight lavways, our Traditional Mas speeches, midnight robber, pierrot, Black Indian, warao; our great variety of drum beats, folk songs, chants.
She said she has been using our literature, the poetry, plays storytelling, music, to impact and refashion negative behaviours since the mid 80s in the UK, the US and other Caribbean islands.
"I have seen positive improvements in grades, sense of self, values. Our curricula still entrench the notion of our invisibility in our own nation space.
"Most of it and certainly the manner of teaching bear doubtful relevance to the needs of our children and youth. We are cursed with leadership in many facets of this society which is dangerously culturally illiterate. As we celebrate our jubilee year we have not properly celebrated our writers, our musicians, our artistes, the poetry of our patriotic calypsoes, our literature is what records, carries the wisdom of our ancestors, the pains of the then and now and possibilities for the future.
"Our literatures reflect and can reshape the soul of the nation. Surely, we have produced more than Machel Montano, wonderful as he may be. How can we as a nation be satisfied with the crass mediocrity?"
Richards, in her celebration of LiTTscapes, said much of who and what we are is lying dormant or tucked away in the memories of some of the nation's elders.
"The files containing so much that is important to our future development must be dusted off and become an effective instrument for shaping a better time and a better place."
LiTTscapes, she said, provides a "most useful beachhead for stirring or buttressing a programme of self-discovery, local and foreign tourism and entrepreneurship, among a number of other avenues for sustainable development in our country."
Guests included Works Minister Emmanuel George, Richards' daughter Maxine Richards and author/historian Michael Anthony.
Entertainment was provided by the Chibale Drumming Ensemble made up of Springer's grandchildren including Ajani and Shomari Healy, Shanaya Springer and five- year-old Ire Charles — a little boy with a big voice, Andre Mangatal accompanied by Fitzroy Inniss who performed Anthony's love song "Rose of Mayaro", much to the writer's delight.
Five-year-old Saiesh Rampersad, in his role of the Mystic Masseur introduced his "aunty Kris" to the podium.
Rampersad said she was inspired to host the literary evening by the people, the recent celebration of Independence and the upcoming Republic Day anniversary "and all the other preceding anniversaries of us being here and making this land home".
"It was also a literary tribute — to reclaim and refocus attention on the amazing mass of expression — oral and written — and the connections between them.
"We have in many ways come to speak with the same voice as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago though often we are so absorbed with our own little corner. With jostling for space, that we do not seem to hear that our neighbour is saying the same thing."
Her book, excerpts of which were read at the tea party, is merely an accessory she said, "to encourage readings, to encourage appreciation of local literature, to promote national self-appreciation, to help us re-envision who we are, and to emphasis the connections between us".