The soul of this nation is at stake and it is the arts and culture that will save Trinidad and Tobago.
So said Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas during a prize-giving ceremony in Marabella on Saturday for artistes who entered the Marabella Unemployment and Welfare Committee’s calypso competition.
“As Minster of the Arts and Multiculturalism, I have very high regard for the arts and the culture in Trinidad and Tobago. Culture for me is more than just calypso, steelband or mas. I understand culture to be the very foundation of our lives.
“I understand that the soul of this nation is at stake and I believe that it is arts and culture that will save this country because the artistes and the musicians and the poets, they are our prophets, they are our shamans, they are our gurus, our soothsayers, they are our truth-speakers. They are the ones who look into the culture and speak about the future (and) what is happening and they look into the past and the present and they say this is what should not be happening.”
Douglas thanked the artistes for their compositions and encouraged them to take the artform seriously and present it creatively.
“Do not just make songs because you feel, well, they having a competition, let me see if I could win that $5,000. Nothing’s wrong with winning the money, but think about what you have to say to this nation and to say to the world.”
The minister explained that art is the expression of the culture, while multiculturalism is about how we live together though we are different.
“The art is something we create that marks our time, that tells the history about what we’re doing, the art tells the story... So what we are trying to do in Trinidad and Tobago is create a project that teaches our people how to live meaningfully so that the songs we sing, the mas we play, the dances we create and the music we play should say to future generations that great people walked this earth and they have created majestic things.”
Culture, he said, “gives you a story to organise yourself in the world. It tells you why you are here, what is your purpose for being, how to think about yourself, how to understand your relationships... So I really believe culture is the most important project of any government and of any country.”
Douglas said a person does not have a culture that can give answers, he or she will turn elsewhere.
He encouraged the organisers to “keep working for the culture, keep speaking to the culture so we could a have a much better place to live”.
Marabella Unemployment and Welfare Committee chairman Junior Calliste apologised to the performers for the length of time it had taken for the distribution of prizes.
Six months ago, Rosemary Mitchell topped the 31 senior calypsonians and Ronaldo London won among the 13 junior contestants in the competition.