Thursday, August 30, 2012

LettersToLizzie#16 We IS Trini

Permission pls, yuh Majesty, to mash up yuh language, to break up the Queen's English 'cause We IS Trini. True, it would be another 50 years before your Great Britain would understand how We, the many, can become a singular Trini verb. We is Trini, free to write and sing in we own diverse idioms. In fifty years, Lizzie, we would be helping you to become one; we will show you, how, out of many disparate people, you too can create one nation, because We IS Trini, Lizzie. I hoist meh national flag to you ....details of the feting and the liming in Letters to Lizzzie coming to a bookshop near you, soon... krisrampersadglobal books

LettersToLizzie15 Out With the Old In With?

Dear Lizzie, 
I am sitting here at the Premier's desk at White Hall penning what I will say to my people tonight as we claim this our National Coat of Arms; as we hoist this red white and black flag for the first time. I am listening to what would become our National Anthem, with boundless faith; what would I say? Almost like a true Trini, you couldn't come, so you sent your sister.  Do you feel the significance of this day, the burden of responsibility; the springboard of hope....Read all about it in Letters To Lizzie, coming soon... about Letters to Lizzie and much more

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LettersToLizzie#14Rainy Season Washout

Dear Lizzie,
I felt such a sense of accomplishment today as I put out the garbage. For 50 years it had accumulated not in corners and creases but in films of growing thickness that were beginning to suffocate, and that, of course, after more than two centuries of build up of other muck, untl the rains came in torrents and began, drop by drop to wash away ....only a matter of time when Letters to Lizzie will be in a bookshop near you see   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Diversity and culture of Ministries

(Part II)

Whereas we can learn a thing or two from the structures and systems the developed world has evolved for arts infrastructure, education, support and patronage, when it comes to culture, and indeed multiculturalism, few, if any, can hold a candle to us. Our confidence in this fact that usually only surfaces through chest-thumping pierrot grenades or robber-type talk have not found full expression because of justifiable dissatisfaction with the state of the arts, and the unholy alignment of arts and culture in our governance system.

Just as growth and development of our arts and recognition of their universality have been overshadowed in the jostle for ethnic and cultural space, our appreciation and confidence in the diversity and multiculturalism we have evolved since we joined the indigenous peoples in this land have been curtailed from full independent flight.

The former Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, during our sitting at the international heritage meeting in Bali last December, asked my opinion on the place of legislation in culture, reflecting the doubts all his predecessors have shown on this subject—similar to the question posed from the global floor to the now erstwhile T&T UN ambassador, oblivious to the new international awakening and probing on this subject.

This unease that has plagued culture ministries of yore stem from nervousness about legislation and policy pronouncements on our culture. In general definition, culture is “our way of life” that includes, but is not contained in, just the arts of music, dance, performance, painting etc to include elements as cuisine, fashion, walk, talk, religious practices—any number of traits that identify a people who have evolved in a particular environment. I have presented extensively abroad (Sans Humanite Sans Policy in relation to the Carnival Creative Arts (Turkey); Trini Lime Time: Attitudes to Cultural Policy in Rebel Cultures (France) among them—on the rebel nature of our cultural heritage and beliefs held, even by some judges, that the law has no place in culture.

The roots and raison d’etre of our cultural evolution—defying explorers, buccaneers, slave masters, police, schoolmasters, privateers, any authority figure—as the also erstwhile Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs would have oh too painfully, shockingly, recently discovered—inhibits surrender to any (even just perceived) impositions of structure, rules/codes.

The inability of our governance to date to grasp this; its significance; the need to fully appreciate and understand it, is couched in the last regime’s “situational analysis” on culture on the Vision 2020 Committee Report:
• Attitudes of selfishness, lawlessness, greed, dishonesty, indifference to others.
• Violent manifestations in the home, community, workplace, language of leadership, music.
• Tendency to describe ourselves through notorious deeds.
• Negative “languaging” of our space.

The visionaries therein seemed oblivious to their own negative imaging of what is essentially our sense of freedom and the inherent liberating effect this has had on our culture that is quintessential to who and what we are. Furthermore, the drive to urbanise our cultures and make them “economically viable” (duh?), through instruments like the European Union-Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement, for instance, loses its sense of direction about the nature of culture in a society in mad-hatter pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Herein is the national, regional, international contexts for a Ministry of Diversity and Social Inclusion which itself incorporates the multiculturalism mandate—hence my recommendation that this word be dropped and a Ministry of the Arts exist in its own right, just as a Ministry of Multiculturalism/Diversity and Social Inclusion can exist in its own right; as other appendages to the once Ministry of Arts and Culture—Sports, Women/Gender, Community/Social Affairs et al—have evolved identities and mandates of their own towards a more people-centred approach to governance.

In a culture-centred approach to development, there is more than enough for such an infrastructure with a diversity mandate to: harness our substantial experiences of multiculturalism for the benefit of a world reeling from escalating impacts of new migrations; build confidence in this experience and knowledge to benefit us and the international community; reverse the hurts and dissatisfaction of having our cultural selves forcefitted into the corsets of alien governance models and administrations. It seems opportune, then, that in this the jubilee year of self-rule, we begin to redress this so every creed and race can find an equal place in a substantive and pragmatic way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Liberating the Arts from Culture

The creation of a Ministry of Diversity and Social Inclusion in the recent realignment of portfolios of ministers caught many, including it seems the named officeholder, somewhat agape. This, alongside a Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism, has justifiably created some room for confusion. Though much of the criticisms that have greeted the advent of these two ministries to date have hardly gone beyond mere soundings of bafflement and bewilderment, there are indeed some opaque areas that can benefit from better streamlining. “Multiculturalism and diversity” are reflections of each other, while “arts and multiculturalism” has a different resonance to the stock association of “arts and culture.” If one was to flash back a bit, since the 2010 announcement of Cabinet portfolios, there was an uneasiness surrounding the appending of “multi” to a ministry that has traditionally carried the title of “culture” and to which was often appended “arts.” A Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism was a novelty to us. It was a title that did not sit well, even with the previous officeholder of the ministerial portfolio of Arts and Multiculturalism himself one who would be defined as an artist and a cultural practitioner. 
Yet, having multiculturalism as a ministerial portfolio was highly commended by some societies still coming to terms with their multiculturalism, and where such a portfolio is becoming a norm. 
Whether in departments/divisions/ministries of governments, policy making and administration units—corporations as well—this has been a response of the international community to a phenomenon arising from globalisation, heightened movements and migrations of people with easier access to travel, all of which are changing the ethnic and cultural composition of populations and overturning age-old status quos. To flash back to even earlier times, in T&T, the portfolio of arts and culture has been traditionally unquestioningly lumped together since self-government, and, in previous reincarnations, has also been appended to portfolios of women, youth, sport, community/social development and various other perceived “soft” portfolios. In recent times, societies as Canada, Australia and Great Britain that have appended culture/multiculturalism to their arts administration portfolios are recognising the challenge of this combination. T&T has a long history, experiences of dysfunctionality in this, too, except we have not tried to analyse nor learn from them. 
It is borne out in the loud noises that often emanate from various quarters, interest groups, districts, ethnicities and cultural corners surrounding inefficiencies and patronising approaches to our arts and culture and perceived lack of delivery of successive Ministries of Arts and Culture—a name which itself presupposes a common national culture in a society where has coalesced various cultural streams and strands. The nervous unease that has plagued cultural governance since self-government, and stymied cultural development—eg still no cultural policy though it has been 47 years in the making; or the regular distress about “whey pan dey;” laments over the lack of promotion of the Carnival arts—stem from lack of clarity in conceptualising and visioning the specific roles of the arts in development and the roles of our cultures in development. No one can deny that our arts have suffered from competition for cultural space, and in the competition for ethnic space. Alignment of the arts to ethnicity has prohibited their blossoming and restricted recognition of their universal value and universal appeal.
If liberated from culture or multiculturalism, the arts, which has been deprived, shrouded in, and overshadowed by the politicisation of culture over the decades, can be allowed to blossom in their own right and take advantage of the range of opportunities for their development into viable creative industries. It will also help to accentuate their intrinsic aesthetics for recognition beyond parochial ethnic or cultural contexts, for their inherent universal values. Separation of the arts from the culture portfolio can allow T&T arts, whether drawn from ancestral communities or fashioned from our multicultural milieu—from the classical arts to our indigenous arts—to receive the kind of substantive focus of which they have so far been deprived and from which has stemmed the sense of disconnect and the continuous cries of discontent, of lack of appreciation and of lack of support. A Ministry of Arts can exist in its own and substantive right, and allow for a clearer vision of the role of a Ministry of Diversity and Social Inclusion.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Launch of LiTTscapes ADDRESS BY SENATOR DR. BHOENDRADATT TEWARIE Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development

Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development

Chairman 50TH Anniversary Of
Independence Interministerial Committee

Dr. Kris Rampersad, Friends and Associates
Special Jubilee Commemorative Book Launch of LiTTscapes

August 4, 2012
50th logo.JPGWhite Hall, Queen’s Park Savannah West

Ÿ     Cabinet Colleagues
Ÿ     Members of the Diplomatic Corp
o   High Commissioner to India
o   High Commissioner to Canada
Ÿ     Permanent Secretaries
Ÿ     Head of UNDP (Acting) – Harry Morand
Ÿ     Guests of Honour
o   Michael Antony
o   Earl Lovelace
Ÿ     All other distinguished guests
Ÿ     Ladies and Gentlemen

This book derives out of the literature of Trinidad and Tobago and the inspiration that our land, our people, our culture and our heritage have provided to our writers.  What has inspired them and what has given context to the work of writers of Trinidad and Tobago have in turn inspired this book which is a valuable addition to our literature and meaningful guide to our literature and our literary landscape.  This is a book worth reading.  It is a book worth having.

This book can be a stimulus to readers and reading, an encouragement to literacy and literacy development, to empowerment of our people and our culture and can facilitate business and employment.

It also demonstrates how one publication can make a big difference to the publishing industry and be a bridge to other sectors of the creative economy and the wider economy as well.  One book such as this one can involve 100 people in various activities – printing, research, writing, photography, design, marketing, administration, quality control, copy editing, proof reading, IT services, legal/copyright, advisory services.

Event surrounding the launch – art, craft, banners, t-shirt, drama, staging, organizing, managing, light sound cameras, music, after event cleaning and other requirements.

Linkages – music, film, animation, design, tourism, education, community development, product development related to tourism, tours, knowledge services.

The people of this country have not yet begun to appreciate the extent to which our culture, our heritage and our creative products are linked to the creation of a knowledge economy to the expansion of dimensions of the services sector, to economic diversification and to mind intensive and labour intensive industries that are homegrown and have international appeal and global interest.’

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is happy to support the publication of this book LiTTscapes – focused on landscapes of fiction in Trinidad and Tobago as a book worthy of publication at time of celebration of our 50th Anniversary of Independence.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has supported two other publications – one by Hansib covering the evolution of our country over the last fifty years and looking to the future and the other by First Magazine which takes a look at life, culture and development in Trinidad and Tobago today.  The Government also supported the Bocas Literary Festival.

We are pleased to be associated with these publications and we are pleased with the publication of LiTTscapes which is a totally local effort from start to finish.

LiTTscapes is a wonderful book to introduce young people to literature and to help them to discover their country.  It is also a great introduction of Trinidad and Tobago and our literary output and cultural heritage to the rest of the world.  There is a lot of potential in this little book.

I am sorry that I was not able to make the literary this afternoon.  But given the nature of this book literary tours are a natural and I am sure that several tours will be crafted with positive impact.

The celebration of fifty years of Independence has been a good opportunity for reflection and celebration of ourselves and a good opportunity too to think about our future and prospects for that future.

We have created so much in this country.  Not just calypso and chutney and soca; not just steelpan and steel orchestras and great athletes, all of which we continue to share with the world; but we have also given the world great writers, thinkers, intellectuals and creative artists.

So many of you are present here today and so many of our creative citizens are living abroad.  It is wonderful to be launching a book which is derived from what so many have created and which is likely to be stimulus to other imaginative possibilities.

We must begin to truly cherish who we are and what we have been able to create.  We must begin to believe more deeply in our people and to have stronger faith in what we can do in the future.  We must learn to respect ourselves and each other in a way that strengthens our dignity as a people and we must develop the bigheartedness to celebrate the achievements and victories of others and cultivate the humility to share our own achievements and triumphs.

Let us together celebrate this effort of Dr. Kris Rampersad and the publication of LiTTscapes.  It celebrates our literary genius and our great country, which in spite of our perpetual complaints, is a source of inspiration to all of us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Dear Lizzie The clock ticks, tick toc, my grandfather’s or my own newborn one? In a matter of days, they say, I will be born. So what am I now, the unborn? If not a nation, a notion? Is my millennia of existence to evaporate the moment I emerge from your shadow, my birth declared ...while my grandfather’s clock tic tocks …yeahLettersToLizzie the book overshadowed by LiTTscapes - Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago only temporarily...soon you too will celebrate it's birthday!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mapping the Literary Imagination

Mapping the literary imagination

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Little, if any, of local landscape and culture is omitted from Kris Rampersad’s LiTTscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago. Building on a bibliography of more than 60 authors and 100 literary works, with nearly 300 photographs, Rampersad draws readers to the real-life landscapes, landmarks and cultural institutions that forged the literary imagination of local authors. As Rampersad describes it in the postscript, “LiTTscapes is a kind of GPS of the writer’s imagination; a map of the journey from place to page as much as it is about specifics in terms of location and experiences.” 
Rampersad bridges the gap between fiction and reality, painstakingly mapping the spaces in which characters in classic novels such as V S Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas and Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance were imagined, and the spaces where those characters were written into existence.
However, unlike an actual atlas, LiTTscapes does not merely locate places of importance, but contextualises them for readers. Rampersad includes more than 30 pages of guidelines for LiTTours: detailed directions for walking and driving tours based on literary works. The book and the tours were launched on August 4 with a reception at Whitehall, referred to in the chapter LiTTerary Houses as the foremost of the Magnificent Seven buildings lining the Queen’s Park Savannah. Probably the most endearing aspect of LiTTscapes is the thoroughness of the text, which does not focus only on stalwarts like Nobel laureates Naipaul and Derek Walcott, but on the sometimes less well-known author. Rampersad’s section on Carnival, in the chapter FesTTscapes, certainly includes excerpts from and analysis of Lovelace’s Dragon, but for the description of the jab-jab she turns to Isaiah James Boodhoo’s Between Two Seasons. References to the fancy sailor are sourced from the short stories of Willi Chen and Seepersad Naipaul. But it is Lovelace in the final analysis who is credited with “the most passionate and intense effort at defining Carnival.”
The Dragon, one of the more abstract tour guides included in LiTTscapes, requires you to “feel Aldrick’s tallness and pride as he contemplates ‘the guts of the people’” and to “drag yourself to the corner of Calvary Hill and Observatory Street” at the end of Carnival. More concrete guides direct readers to go to Woodford Square and lean against the wall like Lavern from Lawrence Scott’s Witchbroom, followed by a walk to Our Lady of Sorrows in the Laventille Hills. Rampersad aptly characterises Laventille and the challenge it poses to authors. “The hill is a metaphor. It is the ultimate example of life, the business of living, people being that challenges many a Trinidadian writer to capture its essence... Earl Lovelace opens While Gods are Falling with a contrasting (view) of the poverty and wealth of the city, as do virtually all the writers when (contemplating) the city from the hill or the hill from the city.” Most likely this understanding of characterisation, in addition to thoroughness, is what led Rampersad to include the village shop and rumshop in the chapter on cultural institutions.
Yet, for a text attempting to make concrete some of the most notable spaces of T&T’s vast literary imagination, the accompanying photos did not seem to submerge the reader into the spaces, and a higher resolution might have helped some photos. Still, LiTTscapes successfully charters a path towards deeper understanding of not only the literary works that define us, but also the authors and their multifaceted inspiration. In the final chapter, Global MovemenTTs, Rampersad alludes to the fact that maps are not only for pinpointing your locale, but discovering how that locale relates to the rest of the country and the world. Excerpts from writers writing away from home, such as Shani Mootoo and Ramabai Espinet, demonstrate that their contribution is just as vital to the local imagination as those who remain on the island. “The Trinbagonians out of the wider diaspora of London, Toronto, the USA, India and Africa, complete and at the same time continue the circle and cycle of migrations that characterises the progress of world civilisations”. LiTTscapes is available at Metropolitan Book Suppliers.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Revolution through Reading - A Literary Journey

Address by The Author, Dr KRIS RAMPERSAD at the launch of the book LiTTScapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Kris Rampersad, August 4, 2012, at White Hall, 29 Maraval Road, Port of Spain

You have seen what some very amateur children from age three can do for our creative enterprises – the children of the Leaves of Life of LiTTscapes – the Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago. 
Given a chance, we can make every child explore and recognise and build a life around his or her creative potential – outside the classroom which we know is educating it out of them.
What you have heard about the children stories of cultures and festivals and ecology and prehistory are to come – and yes, we hope that proceeds from this one will go towards those and more reading matter for preschool to adult to complement the range of interactive events we have planned.
They form part of this vision and are being prepared in our Leaves of Life Catalogue to go public shortly with its range of children’s home grown creative reading and activities, young adult poetry and fiction, research like this one packaged for specific user communities in accessible forms, animations/yes cartoon and films that you and only a few others have been privy to so far – but first this one.
I’m not sure there’s much left for me to say except please read the book, and visit the places and show your children this island, this world that belongs to them.
The journey to here may sound, at times, like a tragedy – the computer crashes, the software seizures, the false starts, the press stalls; or maybe a comedy – well finding the humour in the moment has sometimes been the only way to keep sane; and sometimes a drama.
But in truth and in fact, it has been a romance … a life long love affair to rival all love affairs, with reading, with writing, with our writers and writers in general, and with Trinidad and Tobago.
One memory emerges from the past. It is the twilight zone - between writing the common entrance examination and awaiting the results – and not much older than the children of LiTTscapes here. I am in front of a wooden bookshelf hanging above the bed. I have gone through the bookshelf that housed the textbooks of my nine elder siblings – geography, history, chemistry, agriculture literature – textbooks all because other reading material would be a luxury my farming parents could ill afford. I have read them all and am jumping up and down on the bed under the bookshelf in frustration. What does one do with all this time – and two months of vacation at age eleven can seem like a lot of time – not many books, little else to do.
The prospect of picking worms off the ground, adding them to hooks strung on thread and throwing them into the nearby pond – which my younger brother and nephew were doing - was not very attractive – though in literature is appears to be so exotic an activity.
“Storybooks” was taboo in the house, but literature books were not. Along with the history of the people who came which were in my sister’s book bag, and agriscience texts that many years later, I found out were written by my uncle – I was in awe – really, someone in my family had written and printed a book and it was in schools? It could be done.
I had read from my sisters’ schoolbags – Michael Anthony’s Cricket in the Road and heard the cross talk of us village children playing cricket in someone’s yard; Samuel Selvon’s Ways of Sunlight lent a different texture to light in the cane fields and vegetable garden my parents insisted we help out in.
The first thing to do when I had a chance to walk the short distant from the post common entrance school was to detour from catching the taxi home and join the Princes Town library.
It opened up a whole new world and a new world of the historical novel, the romance history, peoples and places I could not even imagine in my village upbringing. It was only a matter of time before I had covered most of the material on its shelves.
Compare that – to the world of a virtual unlimited access to knowledge in which we now function - what a long way we have come in a short decade - or two…
The books were only a forerunner to participate more fully in that world and - like the first writers, feeling the pull and call of what’s beyond the frontiers of our imagination - going there too and then writing about that to – and so to be an active participant in the evolving global village.
If I may recall, my first journey outside of Trinidad and Tobago – to take up a one month fellowship through the government of Japan and striking up a conversation with the stranger sitting in the plane seat next to me who when he heard I was a journalist, leaned over, opened a magazine he was reading and by some tremendous coincidence it happened to be a quote that read:
Writing is like Prostitution
First you do it for the love of it
Then you do it for a few friends
And then you do it for the money.

I confess that while I have been trying to do it for the latter and trying to cull an environment where other writers and creators, like myself, can also confidently do it for the money, it has often turned out to be more for peanuts, because for writers, and many of the creators, the first two – the love of it, and for a few friends and demanding and voracious readers like these young ones here, always take precedence and it is indeed they who have been pressuring me to put the stories I write in a book, because they keep them in a folder that seems like a book but not as attractive as the packed seven shelves of his own fully illustrated, hard cover bound reading matter has already accumulated.
There is a common thread that comes through starkly and poignantly through all the writings represented in this book – and which this book does not really capture (there I go, the eternal critic, critiquing my own work even, so I do not reserve that critical mind and tongue only for politicians, believe me).
That thread is a sense of sterility of the literary environment in which our writers believe they function and from which many of them flee - to write from more literate friendly and more receptive societies and that in itself makes almost everything written by our expatriate writers an indictment on Trinidad Tobago. Two exceptions to those who have left to write are before us Michael Anthony and Earl Lovelace who have stayed here and in itself takes a lot of courage and for that I have asked that they be my special guest here today.
Yes, the environment has evolved and it is changing, indeed, since the only outlet for our earliest men and women of letters were through personal letters to family and friends, and later through letters to the editors of newspapers or at best as a writer for a newspaper which was a springboard for several of our early writers – the subject of my first book, Finding a Place.
Even the newspapers only grudgingly allowing space for creative writing – well-documented in fact and in fiction – the most famous of which is of course, Mr Biswas  - the journalist Seepersad Naipaul of VS’ Magnum Opus, A House for Mr Biswas; but also in the writings of Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, CLR James all of whom were a part of that environment.
I do not use the example of the newspapers because of a pet peeve, but as an example – as an industry that relies on and whose base raw materials are writings to highlight the degree of disconnection the sectors of society have with the processes of its own development. Writings are the basic raw materials by which all sectors must function – and it now has been endowed with that glamorous title of The Knowledge Economy.
But we continue to be consumers of the processes rather than producers – think of our television stations – how many of them now, at last count about nine - dishing out cheaply bought sitcoms and imported programmes, or drifting into really cheap, cheap, cheap talk at the expense of culling an environment and promoting activities that can impact the level of discourse in the society, of creative expression, and by extension our development.
There are countless examples of a similar kind of disconnect in all other sectors – agriculture and processing for instance – what CLR James and Lloyd Best and Eric Williams and Naipaul and Walcott and Lovelace couch within the colonial system that have made us consumers rather than producers.
Except, when it come to writings, we seem to be more producers rather than consumers.
This effort, LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago which started out to be just an attempt at a creative capture of the fictional imagination that came out of Trinidad and Tobago. Now, even before birth, it is assuming larger-than-life dimensions that is awesome and awe-inspiring, and I am humbled by that.
When I pitched this – the book - to Sonja Wong who initially came on board as the graphic designer, but has evolved into so much more – as a mother of three very creatively talented children – two of whom you have heard today – the third, one of our most promising poets, will be among an open house to showcase the work of young writers we hope to hold here, at the White Hall, as one of the activities planned for this period of celebrations. Sonja and her family have supported and shared and added to that vision of where this can go, and shared all the numerous sleepless nights too - as so many of you have since and the parents who leant their children to today’s event, at such short notice and going beyond the call of parental duty – Denise and Mr Ali; Mr and Mrs Newton, the Rajcoomars; my sister in law, Radha; niece Sunita – because they recognise that rather than just lament about an ineffective education system that is actually stifling and stamping out the creativity and talent among us – as we have been doing for decades – take Sparrow’s Dan is the Man, for instance that tells of how a formal education system borrowed from elsewhere can never speak to our needs or who we are as a people. So rather than just lament and throw picong, we are trying to actually do something about it – to effect the kind of change and create the kind of society we want this to be.
The members of my team have taken this up as a personal responsibility, in the awareness that change can only start with oneself – not in waiting for someone else to set the ball rolling – and then hope that fate shines on us – so while the book has been in the making for the greater part of a decade – and we refused to compromise its vision by printing a condensed version or a black and white version – yes, the chief factor was costs – when Dr Tewarie and his interministerial committee on the 50th anniversary celebrations were looking for something that celebrates the essence of us as part of its outputs, we could have said, ‘here, we have something, and now it was not just a book; we had a whole vision, a master plan, a business plan, a prototype of a network that will incorporate all of us working together, all sectors – government, private sector, creators, NGOS and communities – parents and childen – in a way that all feel included, not excluded and so we start addressing the social ennui, the boredom, the disconnect, the discontent.    
To redress this sense that did not start with independence; it has been cultivated from the time the first Europeans landed here and began massacring the native peoples – and even with those who landed feeling like rejects from Europe that has made this into a kind of hostile environment where we view each other with suspicion and everyone seems to be wlking around with a sense of exclusion, alienation and disempowerment that is gripping not just writers but so many of our people, even the ones whom we think have power.
And hence we present LiTTscapes, to celebrate writers and ourselves and too,  and LiTTours – the journeys through the landscapes of Trinidad and Tobago where we meet and greet and explore for ourselves too – and participate, become a part of, claim, belong!
Thus continues this journey to self hood which our writers have been trying to carve for us, by picking at sometimes our ugliest features and holding them up to scrutiny so intense that we wince.
We all seem to be throwing up our hands at what we call the crime situation – but what are we really doing about. The politicians feel disempowered; the policemen feel disempowered, the local authorities feel disempowered which give criminals the ammunition to disempower our people.
Reclaiming ourselves can also reclaim our land from the criminals. I have seen how this has energised young people who would otherwise be thought of as lazy, listless, witless and yes, wotless – kept them focused and driven and that is a solution to crime. Here’s a resolution. Let’s start the revolution!
From here begins a journey  - over this jubilee month and beyond.
We will show how education does not only happen in a classroom nor does it stop at the university. We will engage children and adults, readers and writers, creators and consumers and through Leaves of Life (LOL) – a kind of supportive administrative umbrella because we envision that such a stimulus needs form and structure and finance along with passion and ideas and energy.

Look at what we have done on an almost zero budget! Think of what we can do with the education budget, the security and crime prevention budget, the infrastructure and public utilities budget, the environment, the agriculture and food security budgets, the transport and communications and information and culture and youth and women and community and local government budgets.
We need each other to do it.
We as citizens who pass by the Magnificent Seven everyday; we have even have stopped noticing them, or their magnificence, because they conjure up only a lament – not just the painful past of colonialism, but the sad testimony of the state – or lack thereof, of our development; to disguise our pain that we have allowed them to deteriorate into oblivion. But are we not all responsible in some way for this – it’s not just someone elses’ fault. It has to start with what am I not doing?  
So Minister Emmanuel George’s enthusiastic support when I presented him with the notion of using this building; of giving me a chance; giving us a chance to show what can be done if we open up these buildings to the public to capture the creative synergies they can exude, so our people can appreciate them as part of the public patrimony; as part of the inheritance of the blood, sweat and tears of history, and of our spirit of survivalism that neither slavery nor indentureship nor alien rule could defeat. What little tweaks we need towards cultivating a sense of social inclusion  and to combat the anomie – with animae; to animate ourselves and what we do.
And there is no dollar value to that … or there could be, if you weigh it against the costs of war and strife and instability.
The Minister of Transport agreed to allow us use of a PTSC bus today for the inaugural tour but we are to show dollars and cents of continuation; and a request for use of the ferry which sits idle on weekends is on the brink of being shelved because, I am told, just running it as it is, it is already heavily subsidised.
Then, May I suggest, let us make that subsidisation have some other value – social value – the value of knowledge, of creative stimulus, of leisure and entertainment activity that can – and I say that with much confidence because I have seen it in the young people around me – that can provide an alternative to lives of crime. Weigh the dollars and sense of that!.
We need to inject some creative vision into the national balance sheet; weigh in the social factors – I am sure you will find it worth your while. So I retable to this the 2012 -2013 budget a request to providethe facilitationthat can only come from Government and we will do our part as creators and in engaging the public sectors and NGOs and communities. To in the first instance allow us the use of the Port of Spain to San Fernando Ferry to present Trinidad and Tobago from a different perspective. We promise that the results will be a generation of youngsters with a different outlook on their past, their present and their future.
We appeal to you to look at the larger picture, to factor in the social balance sheet and I can pull together a team of experts who can show you how the social picture can add up to the numbers you are looking for. Rethink our approach to heritage – a heritage-driven economy is one where all find a place and has a sense of a share of the national pie because it speaks to selfhood.
Thanks to Dr Tewarie and his interministerial committee for immediately recognising the vision and the potential of this; and we hope he will share with his team the interconnectedness that is required if it is to succeed – the public sector, yes, but the private and NGO and community sectors too.  
Some you must have seen, read, heard, my sometimes-rejoiner to the cliché that came out of the poem by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Donne that No Man Is An Island - but Woman Is.New Bok LiTTscapes now in stores
In truth and in fact, we cannot be an island when we contain the cultures and the creative capacity of all the continents of the world. 
 We are not an island – we need each other. We will be reaching our arms out to all departments of government – law, education, utilities, tourism, culture, education to do what needs be done to build the national infrastructure if we are to accommodate the international audience – the tourists and returning citizens and others.
We have also asked that our Government and Minister of Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Trade and Investments address the prohibitive tax regime that immediately makes us uncompetitive in the much touted e-books market – a 30 percent tax imposed by the US government on ebooks sales after the 50 percent demanded of Amazon.
 That, among other tweaks and creation of an enabling environment by Goernment that continue to make us unable to compete in the global market place; and investment by the corporate sector that can help springboard the range of activities and actions we have planned, and we have a business plan developed in conjunction with some of the best in the business in T&T.
And there is something else we need to do. Get with the times…. It does not take 3 years to get a plan moving, the wheels of the world are now revolving around microseconds – if we cannot quicken our pace to match that, and I say to match that, to be in the moment as is demanded of us, then we are already in a losing game. It cannot take months and months of pounding and pounding on one door to get action. That is a thing of the past.
All of us, all of us in this room, and all of us outside, are what it will take for this revolution to succeed. We need to not just look for other ways to do it – to do education, to do leisure, to do finance and planning, and policy making, and crime fighting and road laying – in new ways.
It is no longer my book, or this project by Sonja and I; or Sonja and these few parents and children, and writers and creators and conservationists and I - this is a revolution for all of us.
Let us begin it, by reading, and by writing the world as we want it to be. And that is the sum total of LiTTscapes – the Landscapes of our Fiction from our imagination, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
I thank you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

White Hall opens doors to launch book on TT Literary Heritage

LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction of Trinidad and Tobago, a new book on the literary heritage of Trinidad and Tobago will be launched at White Hall this week.
The book is written and published by Dr Kris Rampersad, a journalist, educator and media, cultural and literary consultant with designs by Sonja Wong.
Part of the official 50th anniversary of Independence activities, the launch will also incorporate the inauguration of LiTTours – Journeys Through the Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago which is one of the highlights of the book which encourages interactive engagement between writers, their communities and the society, according to Dr Rampersad. It features some 100 works by some 60 writers against the backdrop of some 300 full colour photographs featuring poignant commentaries, presentations, representations and analyses by writers through fiction of the experiences of invasion, migration, colonialism and settlement that has brought Trinidad and Tobago to its current point in development.
Rampersad noted that LiTTscapes is meant to advance conversations and synergies between and among the creative sectors, heritage and tourism. The official launch will be followed by a series of interactive events including readings, promotion of the works of new writers, tours and other activities for the rest of 2012 marking part of the observances of the 50th Anniversary of Independence.
Rampersad explained that the launch at White Hall, through permission from the Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Emmanuel George and the Ministry’s Historical Restoration Unit, is in pursuit of a vision to open up public heritage spaces for public use, especially with Government’s thrust to promote the creative industries sector.
White Hall is featured in several works of fiction in itself and in context as one of the Magnificent Seven Heritage buildings.
Minister of Planning and the Economy, Dr Bhoendradatt will deliver the keynote address at the launch.
LiTTscapes is an easy-ready, coffee-table styled full-colour celebratory photographic compendium of the representations of Trinidad & Tobago in its rich repertoire of fiction from earliest writers to modern times, including both award winning Nobel laureates and others, as well as our lesser known writers.
Key Features
Ø  Full colour, easy reading, coffee table-style
Ø  Features some 100 works by some 60 writers
Ø  More than 300 photographs of more than 500 scapes of fiction from Trinidad and Tobago
Ø  Captures intimate real life and fictional details of island life
Ø  Details exciting literary moments, literary heritage walking tours & cross country excursions
Ø  Represents the works of most fiction writers, famous and little known of Trinidad & Tobago
Ø  Essential for literary heritage tourism, students, policy makers, academics, lay readers
The book’s broad-based target readership include the lay public as well as students, academics, schools and policy makers among others nationally and internationally, and has been identified as a key elements of stimulating the knowledge economy of Trinidad and Tobago. 
In the making for nearly a decade, Rampersad believes it embraces the vision to stimulate the knowledge economy and towards develop a niche literary heritage tourism market and our downstream cultural and other industries.
She holds a PhD in Literature from the University of the West Indies. Rampersad is also the author of Through the Political Glass Ceiling and Finding a Place.
For information and orders contact: or call (1 868) 623 3462 or or (1 868) 377 0326.