Sunday, July 27, 2014

Overwriting the Coup - from the ashes of the 1990 experience

I have never been able to bring myself to love or even look at Disney's  production The Little Mermaid since August 1990.
The light of love that the movie projected had gone out for me on July 27, 1990 and the ensuring days because it came to be associated with the attempted coup. (see Commission's report on 1990 coup here).
I had just left the Guardian's office that Friday afternoon, a rare opportunity to do so while it was still daylight as my friend's dad used to say, as I was not on duty to cover Parliament that day, and was trying to recoup - no pun intended - from the work week, when my landlady pounded on the door to my Picton Street apartment, shouting at me to turn on the television.
I did. The Little Mermaid was running. Why would my land lady want me to look at The Little Mermaid? She walked in, her wrinkled face petrified, as I was about to ask but the question froze on my tongue.
The coup leader flanked by his cohorts came on air, announcing a coup, that the Parliament was under siege as was the television station, and asking people to stay calm!
Stay calm? I called the newspaper office, ready to return to work at the office in Port of Spain.
Yes, the television station and Parliament were under siege. There was also an attempt to enter the Guardian building but the security had warded it off. What could I see at TTT? my editor asked. John, always in control and in command. He transferred that to me. The focus. There was job to do.
My apartment was directly opposite Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) on the parallel street and on the top floor. From the corridor and its rarely accessed roof there was a clear view of TTT. Too clear. Best to stay put and report from there, my editor advised. He was not the only one with that idea.
For the ensuing days, my apartment would become not only the satellite report station on activities in Woodbrook and TTT for the Guardian. By nightfall, the building and the roof was also occupied by soldiers, who had the same idea of monitoring the television station. Unofficial command station. The midnightly rain of gunfire from the Picton Street apartment ricocheted off the rooftop and other vantage points the soldiers had on the TTT building. Sleepless days. Sleepless nights. The sounds, the smell, the taste of determination of the soldiers were all mixed into what exuded out of those moments, burned permanently into memory, like the nauseating reruns of Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid on the television set.
Perhaps thinking it would appease the children, if not adults, the coup perpetrators stuck The Little Mermaid   into the TTT transmitter and it ran ad nauseum over the next few days, interspersed with the occasional 'updates' when the coup perpetrators wanted to interject a message for the public or for the authorities. Instead, it soured a remarkable imaginative story of reconciliation of differences and love: A feeling that would persist to a quarter of a century, until a few weeks ago when I was treated to The Love Movement Choir's reproduction at Queen's Hall. I found myself immersed in the beauty, the story, the production, the vision, the imagination and imaginativeness, the designs, the costumes, the music, the poetry. Love returned for me that night for The Little Mermaid.
Such is the restorative and regenerative power of art.
Thank you Bernadette Scott and the Love Movement Choir.
Sharing here some of the photos from the Love Movement Choir's Facebook Photo Album where more can be seen and hoping that these would help erase the memory of some of the darkest days of our living history and soothe the dark spirits of those behind the attempted coup so they never contemplate a repeat, and so traumatise a nation, ever again.