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Mango Festival, St. Peter’s Day and Film Screening: Find out what makes Trinidad and Tobago so special!

The majority of the population comprises of the people of African and Indian descent, with people of mixed race, that adds to the diversity of the ethnic mix of the country

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Trinidad and Tobago. Image source: truenomads.com

The Twin island country, Trinidad and Tobago is full of surprises! Located in South America, the Trinidad and Tobago’s population stands at 1,328,019. The majority of the population comprises of the people of African and Indian descent, with people of mixed race, European, Chinese as well as Middle Eastern ancestry that add to the diversity of the ethnic mix of the country.

Three events that make Trinidad and Tobago full of surprises and special are listed below:

  • Mango Festival, Macoya Market

To celebrate the goodness of Mango, Trinidad and Tobago Mango Festival was held on Sunday,  July 3, 2016, at the National Marketing Development Corporation’s Market in Macoya. This annual mango festival showcases a wide variety of locally-grown mangoes as well as mango products and is organised by the Network of Rural Women Producers of Trinidad and Tobago. This year, in 2016, marked the 21 years of service to rural women and hence the celebration was done on a grand scale.

Mango Festival Trinidad. Image Source: nrwptt.net

The idea of the festival is to pay tribute to the economic potential and diversity of mangoes, that is considered as the king of tropical fruits by the people of Trinidad and Tobago. The festival will feature the fun-filled themes of various mango varieties and will also showcase the various products made from Mangoes.

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The objectives of the festival included to make people aware of the benefits of eating mangoes, positive effects of Mango on health, to support enrollment of women in mango industry, to showcase the benefits of mango industry, to reveal the exploitation of mango fruit and to create awareness and educate people about the potential and growth of Mango festival in attracting large number of tourists.

Different products made up of mango. Image Source: news.co.tt
Mango Festival, Macoya Market. Photo: Kumar Mahabir

The festival is one of the largest local food events in the city and attracts a large number of people across the globe. Several delegates also took part in the event and there were activities for children as well, which made it a fun event for people of all ages.

  • St. Peter’s Day in the coastal village of Carenage

The celebration of the birthday of the Biblical fisherman, Saint Peter on June 29 is known as St. Peter’s Day. This day is widely celebrated by all the fishermen across the globe. To make this day special and to mark this day, a special service in the church  is organised as well as a market fair in the churchyard. There is more to this festival, the highlight is a street procession leading to the blessing of the boats and the fishermen by a Roman Catholic priest in the sea.

Saint Peter is an important figure in Christianity and is of great significance for Christians, especially for Roman Catholicism. The festival is regarded as a historical occasion and is centred on the sea, fish, and fisherman in particular. This is so because, according to the biblical story, St. Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles and also a fisherman.

St Peter's Day celebrations. Image source: Kumar Mahabir
St Peter’s Day celebrations. Photo: Kumar Mahabir

The day begins with a traditional 8 a.m. church service at the St. Peter’s R.C. Church in Carenag, that is conducted by local Archbishop Edward Gilbert. The church is filled with churchgoers who come to celebrate the ritual celebration with family as well as friends. They are also entertained by costumed girls in Caribbean wear with baskets in hands.

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St Peter's Day celebrations. Image source: Kumar Mahavir
St Peter’s Day celebrations. Photo: Kumar Mahabir

Also, many young people leave the procession in between at the fishing centre to join the fishermen riding on their boats for the blessing for their boats. It was followed by silent prayers by the adults.

In the evening, the roads get crowded with merry making and people dancing marked the end of the festival and the villagers return to their respective towns on the last day of the event.

Film screening at UWI Film Programme Building

Directed by Gideon Hanoomansingh, “Calcutta To The Caribbean- An Indian Journey” is a documentary film tells the history of Indians who went to the Caribbean and how the abolition of slavery brought these workers to the sugar plantations.

In 1845, on May 30, a small sailing ship weighing 415 tonnes, the Fatel Rozack, was tied up at the lighthouse jetty in Port of Spain, Trinidad. After almost a 3 months and 6-days voyage from Kolkata (then Calcutta), around the southern tip of Africa and across the southern Atlantic, it came to Trinidad.

Film screening at UWI Film Programme Building, Image source: Kumar Mahabir
Film screening at UWI Film Programme Building, Image source: Kumar Mahabir

The details mentioned here are just mere glimpses of their lives, the documentary holds in it much more. One has to watch it, to get closer to the lives of these Indian labourers, share their struggle and unsaid pain. One journey that doomed their lives forever! Their experiences were akin to slavery.

The film was screened on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at Film Programme, UWI, #12 Carmody St., St. Augustine. This was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival, this year in 2016.

 

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‘Trinidad Express’ Editor Accused of Discriminating Against Indian Writers for their Weekly Columns

A letter, written by Kumar Mahabir who is an Assistant Professor at University of Trinidad & Tobago, explains the accusation in detail

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Kumar Mahabir
Trinidad & Tobago flag. Wikimedia

Trinidad, August 28, 2017: The Editor of a Trinidad & Tobago based newspaper called ‘Trinidad Express’ is accused of discriminating against Indian writers for their weekly columns.

A letter, written by Kumar Mahabir who is an Assistant Professor at University of Trinidad & Tobago, explains the accusation in detail.

As of now, there has been no response from Trinidad Express Editor Ms. Omatie Lyder. Kumar Mahabir’s letter can be read below-

The Secretary, Board of Directors
One Caribbean Media (OCM) Limited
Express House
35 Independence Square
Port of Spain
August 25, 2017
Dear Sir/Madam,
Bias against Indians by Express Editor, Ms Omatie Lyder
In keeping with its “national” mandate, the Express editor should be fair, balanced, diverse and objective.
Editor Ms Omatie Lutchman Lyder has been giving space to three Afro-centric columnists: Professor Selwyn Cudjoe, Keith Subero and Raffique Shah – the same three (3) Afro-centric columnists every single week.
She often provides space to a fourth Afro-centric writer, this time as a guest columnist – Professor Theodore Lewis. Ms. Omatie published Part 1 and Part 2 of his articles entitled “Kamal Persad trivialising history.” She published his two guest columns four days apart on August 11th 2017 and on August 15th 2017.
Ms. Omatie often publishes long letters by another Afro-centric writer, NJAC Chairman, Aiyegoro Ome.
Indo-oriented writers like myself (Dr. Kumar Mahabir), Kamal Persad, Dool Hanomansingh, et al. are not assured of a weekly space in the Express.
Is it time that we call for Indians to boycott sales and advertising in the Express?
If we are not given a complementary weekly space in the Express, a delegation of us plan to meet the Board of Directors of OCM to provide empirical evidence of the bias by Ms. Omatie against Indian writers with Indian perspectives.
Sincerely,
Dr Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor
University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
2011 National Award (Silver) recipient for education
Chairman, Chakra Publishing House Ltd (CPH)
Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC)
Vice-Chairman, Indian Caribbean Museum
10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road
San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 674-6008
Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707
Mobile (868) 756-4961
E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com

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The Invisible Coolie Shines in ‘The Cutlass’ (Comment: Special to Newsgram)

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The Cutlass
Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Aug 21, 2017: “Coolie” is the name of the character played by Narad Mahabir in the play directed by Errol Hill titled Man Better Man.

The local play was performed at NAPA in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in June and an excerpt was staged in August during the premiere of the CARIFESTA festival. Mahabir was given a minor role as the lone Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) villager in the musical which was laced with humorous dialogue, Kalinda dances and calypso songs.

Except for recent plays written and directed by Indians like Victor Edwards, Seeta Persad and Walid Baksh, Indian actors and actresses have been given minor roles or none at all (“invisible”) in “national” theatre and cinema. In this context, The Cutlass is a movie with a difference. And indeed, the tagline of the movie on the cinema poster is “A breakthrough in Caribbean Cinema.”

Surprisingly, Arnold Goindhan is given the lead role (by the non-Indian TeneilleNewallo) as of the kidnapper named “Al” in The Cutlass. Paradoxically, he is given only a fleeting presence in the film’s trailerHe is the only Indian actor and the only character who is Indian, in a movie that is based on crime, race and class.

As a villain, Al is portrayed as an evil Indian Hindu. A calendar painting of the anthropomorphic Hindu god, Lord Hanuman (The Remover of Obstacles) is captured fleetingly on the wall of Al’s forest camp. In the film world of poetic justice The Cutlass, light must overcome darkness, whiteness must overwhelm blackness, and Christianity must conquer Hinduism. The pendant of Virgin Mary in the hands of the white kidnapped victim must overpower Hanuman.

Goindhan is a full-time Indian actor from Malick in Barataria who also sings and plays music. The “Island Movie Blog” on August 11 noted that when Goindhan “keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines.” The July/August edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine stated that The Cutlass has delivered “compelling performances” to audiences.

The kidnap movie premiered to a sold-out audience at the T&T Film Festival in 2016 received rave reviews. It copped the T&T Film Festival’s Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature Film and People’s Choice awards. The Cutlass was also screened at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Mart at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The last time an Indian was chosen for a major role in a local feature film was 43 years ago in 1974. That film was titled Bim which featured Ralph (Anglicised from Rabindranath) Maraj playing the role of Bim/Bheem Sing. Bim was based on the composite life of a notorious assassin, Boysie Singh, and aggressive trade unionist and Hindu leader, Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

As an actor, Ralph Maraj was preceded by Basdeo Panday who became the first Indian in the Caribbean to appear on a big screen in Nine Hours to Rama (1963). The movie was about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Panday also acted in two other British cinematic movies: Man in the Middle (1964) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).

But the Indo-Caribbean actor who has earned the honour of starring in the most movies – Hollywood included – is Errol Sitahal. He acted in Tommy Boy (1995), A Little Princess (1995) and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004).

Valmike Rampersadand Dinesh (“Dino”) Maharaj is rising stars to watch. Originally from Cedros, Dinesh is the lead actor in Moko Jumbie, a new feature film by Indo-Trinidadian-American Vashti Anderson. Moko Jumbie was selected for screening at the 2017 LA Film Festival.

Dinesh acted in the local television series, Westwood Park (1997–2004). His cinematic film credits include portrayals in Klash (1996), The Mystic Masseur (2001) and Jeffrey’s Calypso (2005).

Nadia Nisha Kandhai is the lead actress in the upcoming screen adaptation of the novel, Green Days by the River.

There is a real danger in marginalising Indians in theatre and film when they are in fact the largest ethnic group in T&T according to the 2011 CSO census data. Cultivation theory states that images in the media strongly influence perceptions of the real-world. This theory was developed by communication researchers George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania in 1976.

The Cutlass can transmit the following wrong perceptions of reality: (1) Hinduism is evil, (2) Indians are one percent of the population, (3) there are few Indian actors, (4) Indians constitute the majority of kidnappers, and (5) the majority of kidnapped victims are white.

I presented a research paper in 2005 based on 40 cases of kidnapping in T&T. My findings revealed that 78% of the victims were Indians, and according to the survivors, the overwhelming majority of the kidnappers were Afro ex-police and army strongmen.

Watch Trailer: The Cutlass

 

The Writer is an anthropologist who has published 11 books


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Dr. Kumar Mahabir intends to Sue Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Culture for Discrimination against Hindus

Mahabir says Trinidad's Culture Ministry promotes Christianity and discriminates against Hindus

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Trinidad & Tobago
The Calendar launched by Ministry of Culture has no Indian oriented event.
  • The Ministry of Culture of Trinidad and Tobago has been taken to court for discriminating against the country’s Hindu and Muslim culture
  • The complaint comes after the Ministry omits 11 important Indo-Trinidadian cultural events from its 2016 cultural calendar
  • The complaint also alleges that not one Indian oriented event was included in the Ministry’s calendar

Trinidad and Tobago, August 06, 2017: The Ministry of Culture for Trinidad & Tobago has been blamed for discriminating against its Hindu and Muslim culture. A prominent Indian activist Dr Kumar Mahabir has threatened to slap a court case on the Ministry.

The complaint submitted to Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) by the leagl team of Dr. Mahabir alleges that the Ministry did not include even a single event that is Indian oriented in its 2016 calendar. It says that the Ministry was clearly discriminating against Indian and Hindu organizations citing the names of Institute of Indian Knowledge, Tank Sound Company, The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Trinidad & Tobago Yatra Committee Inc, Karma: The Band, Missy & R Promotions, The Hindu Prachaar Kendra, International Day of Yoga Committee, Caroni Hindu Mandir, Casanova Productions, and UWI’s Film Programme Department.

Also Read: Stop Blaming Indians for the Black Crisis in Trinidad and Tobago

In the Ministry’s 2016 calendar, these 11 important Indo-Trinidadian events were omitted. Furthermore, the calendar also missed the inclusion of several Indian Arrival Day celebrations that were held in the country after the national holiday. The Ministry of Development, Culture, and Arts has failed to include these major events which exposes the larger problem; the failure to incorporate the Indian culture in its society.

This exposure has raised many other questions. One very crucial implication is that the Ministry will not be funding these organizations. Dr. Mahabir raises the question, “Is there ethnic equity in the top hierarchy of the Ministry’s staff?

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On the other hand, the Ministry of Culture is a big promoter of Christian Church organized events. It is interesting to note that at 35%, Indo-Trinidadians comprise the largest ethnic group in the society.

Dr. Kumar Mahabir had highlighted the exclusion of these several Indian events in a letter that was published regional as well as the international newspaper called ‘World Hindu News’. Dr. Mahabir, an Indo-Trinidadian himself, filed a complaint of discrimination against the Ministry.

The complaint has been launched under the discrimination category with respect to “provision of goods and services”

With ample evidence, Dr. Mahabir also claimed that Hindu and Muslim communities have suffered less favorable treatment as compared to other communities, based simply on culture and religion.

In his complaint letter, Dr. Mahabir demanded an apology by the Ministry to the communities. Further, he also demanded an explanation for the omission. However, the Ministry did not reply, the result of which has been the initiation of a legal inquiry.

– by a Staff Writer of NewsGram