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CULTURE MINISTRY’S EXCLUSION OF INDIAN CULTURAL EVENTS

Dr Kumar Mahabir

The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts of Trinidad and Tobago placed a full-page, full-colour advertisement in the daily newspapers (e.g. Guardian June 14, 2016. Page A43). A similar version of the notice was posted on the Ministry’s website (see attached). The advertisement was captioned “Our Calendar of Arts, Culture and Community Events” for June, 2016.

The dates included events organized by the Emancipation Support Committee (Annual Yoruba Village Drum Festival, Launch of the Kwame Ture Memorial Lecture Series), Renaissance Productions - G2G (Gospel Concerts), Culture Division (Two Choices: A play by Victor Questel, 3 Band Gallery Hop), The Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago (Mad Hatters Tea Party) and The Faith Christian Fellowship Church (Children’s Free Concert).

The Ministry’s June cultural calendar included seventeen (17) events organised by seven (7) organisations.

Missing in the calendar for the same month of June were the following major Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) cultural events:

 

1.      June 5: BVS Annual Mela [Fair] 2016 in Aranguez. Organised by Bharatiya Vidya Sansthhaan (BVS) [Institute of Indian Knowledge]

 

2.      June 11: Kumar Sanu Concert at the Centre of Excellence. Organised by TANK Sound Co.

 

3.      June 11-12: Baal Vikaas in St. Augustine – The largest school music festival in Trinidad and Tobago. Organised by the Maha Sabha

 

4.      June 12: Devi Bhajan Mala [Garland of Hymns] at the Divali Nagar. Organised by Trinidad & Tobago Yatra Committee Inc.

 

5.      June 18: Enchanted - Ravi B's Fathers’ Day Spectacular in New Grant. Organised by Karma: The Band

 

6.      June 18: 5th Annual Fathers’ Day Concert in Chaguanas led by Raymond Ramnarine and Dil-e-Nadan. Organised by Missy & R Promotions

 

7.      June 19: Ganga Dhaara in Marianne River, Blanchissusse Kendra - The continuation of an ancient river festival venerating the sanctity of natural water. Organised by   the Hindu Prachaar Kendra

 

8.      June 19: Yoga on the Boardwalk in Chaguaramas in commemoration of the UN’s declaration of International Yoga Day. Organised mainly by the High Commission of India.

 

9.      June 26: Krishna Leela Dance Drama Procession in Caroni reverence to Surya Narayaan [The Supreme Sun]. Organised by Caroni Hindu Mandir.

 

10.  June 26-27: Summer Thumakda Cooler Cruise led by Kavita Maharaj. Organised by Casanova Productions

 

11.  June 30: Launch of the documentary film, Calcutta to the Caribbean – An Indian Journey, at UWI. Organised by the High Commission of India & UWI’s Film Programme Department.

The omission of eleven (11) major Indo-Trinidadian cultural events is a damning exposé of the narrow conscience/ness of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts. The revelation opens a can of worms about the practices and policies of the Ministry. The failure to recognise these events is also an indication that the Ministry is not likely to provide funding to them. The disclosure in the calendar raises a number of critical questions. For example, is there ethnic equity in the top hierarchy of the Ministry’s staff?

Also absent in the June calendar were several Indian Arrival Day celebrations held just after the national holiday on May 30th. The calendar also announced: “Throughout the month of June: The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition.” Since the Ministry is promoting events organised by Christian churches, it would not have been inconsistent to announce that throughout the month of Ramadan (June 6 – July 5), free community dinners [iftar] were being offered daily by Muslims at every mosque to break fast.

Not a single Indian-oriented cultural event was included in the Ministry’s cultural calendar. This form of ethnic discrimination can be the discussion of an entire chapter in view of the fact that Indo-Trinidadians comprise the largest ethnic group in the cosmopolitan society (35%, 2011 CSO data).

Writing on “Indian News and Views” (Guardian June 15, 2016), cultural critic Dr. Raymond Ramcharitar stated: “… between 1956 and 1986, Indians fell off the national map. If you look through the newspapers of the 1960s, you’ll barely see a sign of the community. You will see a list of rhetoric about steelpan and nationalism, and Carnival and Black Power.”

It is significant to note that the current Afro-dominated governing People’s National Movement (PNM) came into power in 1956, and was defeated in 1986 by the NAR party. It seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same, or even get worse.

See attachment for the digital version of the Ministry’s calendar.

 

Sincerely,

 Dr Kumar Mahabir, Anthropologist

Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC)

10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road

San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago

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