Amidst the calls to prayer and increased policing is the cry of the artistes and artisans to “invest in the arts and provide alternatives to crime”.
The entire world looks at the artistry and diverse culture of T&T and recognises it is a multi-billion dollar industry, but at home our artistes have to beg for financial assistance, community programmes, scholarships, etc. For years the late Pat Bishop fought for the establishment of an arts council to properly oversee the preservation, development and promotion of the various art forms that exist in this country.
The responsibility for keeping our arts and culture alive rests with a few dedicated teachers. They involve the youths who are naturally artistic and train them to be moko jumbies, wire benders, bats, midnight robbers, king sailors, Paramin blue devils and participants in the Ramleela Festival. They give these youths employment for a few short months every year but these traditions —our culture—should be year- round activities.
In the Uk our Trinidad Carnival tradition provides permanent employment for thousands of people. The tradition of mas-making has even received Government funding to be used to train and assist youths on probation from correctional facilities. The established mas bands there have been given warehouses in the old manufacturing districts of east London to store their costumes and house their offices and mas-producing factories. Where are these industries in T&T? Where are these types of institutions?
In view of the serious crime problem that exists here the decision-makers need to focus on providing alternatives to our youth—away from the gangs and their only employment currently provided by the narco-state. The cry of our artistes and artisans needs to be heard!
Michele D Celestine