Last Wednesday, a lecture was given by the Anthropologist Dr Kumar Mahabir at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings where he urged the state to assist the continuous existence of the Indian Caribbean museum via government grants. Trinidad and Tobago is known for having the only Indian Caribbean museum in the world.
92-year-old San Juan resident Andrew Richardson, Chairman of the National Trust Valerie Taylor was present along with Sunday Express columnist Lennox Grant and conservationist James Telfer.
Dr Kumar said, “The largest number of arrivals (at the museum) took place in May. It gets 65 per cent domestic tourists and 35 per cent foreigners. We need to ensure it is preserved for posterity.”
“The Indian Caribbean museum was the only one of its kind in the world. There is an Indian diaspora museum in Belize, Central America, but that is opened only for private viewing and strictly by appointment. This museum in Waterloo is dedicated to the preservation of artifacts on the material history of indentured immigrants in the Caribbean. It is open to the public free of charge from Wednesdays to Sundays,” Mahabir said.
While addressing people present in the conference room, Mahabir shared vignettes on the historical archives, with kitchen utensils such as tawah (flat, round cast-iron griddle), a bilnah (rolling pin) as well as mortar and pestle. There were also rare documents, thematic paintings and documentary films on indentureship. Through this, it was found that the process by which East Indians travelled to the Caribbean from India and worked on sugar cane plantations on a contractual basis.
This museum is present in Waterloo as it falls under a group of tourist attractions such as the 84-foot Hanuman Murti, Temple in the Sea that is 84 feet in height, was built by Siewdass Sadhu and in the vicinity of the traditional clay potters (deyas).
Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations, a National Geographic publication has featured this museum.
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- Need for State funding
It is unfortunate that the museum operates through donations from visitors and doesn’t receive any annual subvention or a monthly stipend from the governments- both People’s National Movement (PNM) and People’s Partnership. The state needs to intervene in the matter and show accountability as tourism has the potential to branch out the economy.
“It is even more important since there is an economic slowdown. We need to adopt a more serious attitude like countries like the United Kingdom (referring to the Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare town) and France (Mona Lisa),” he said.
Dr Kumar informed that they were about to conduct interviews with people over 90 years old to document their life experiences.
“Again the State could intervene and assist historians and researchers financially. These elderly folk are valuable sources of oral history. They would have lived through two World Wars… They have witnessed significant milestones in Trinidad and Tobago’s history, such as Independence and the (Tubal Uriah) Butler riots,” he added.
Last year, in 2015, the India Caribbean museum at Waterloo, Carapichaima has attracted about 5,500 domestic as well as international visitors and has been operating for a decade now.
(Inputs from Daily Express)