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Feature address by Dr. the Honourable Lincoln Douglas, Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism

On the occasion of the
Prize giving Ceremony for winners of the 16th Annual Emancipation Calypso Competition hosted by the National Action Cultural Committee and National Youth Action Committee

Thursday September 6, 2012
The Audio Visual Room, NALIS
7.00PM
(Reception: 6.00PM)

  

  • Mr. Aiyegoro Ome, Servant Chairman of the National Action Cultural Committee
  • Esteemed Awardees
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is my distinct pleasure this evening to bring greetings to you on behalf of the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism. But first, I must convey sincerest gratitude to your servant Chair, Mr. Aiyegoro Ome, and other distinguished members of the NACC and the NYAC, for extending the invitation to me to attend this special event.

This evening is devoted to celebrating winners and high achievers. It is all about due recognition.

We recognize that you, the young people in particular, continue to play a significant role in the progress of this calypso art form... an art form of which we can be justifiably proud.

It has survived for so many years within the bosom of our people, through the resilience of our African ancestors.

Calypso remains one of our indigenous genres of music here in Trinidad and Tobago and we genuinely welcome the youth involvement we have witnessed in this contest. We look to you, the young people, to take it to even greater heights, bolstered by the path laid out by the elders and the spirit of our forefathers.

In this signal year 2012, there are many things for which we must be grateful; most outstanding among them is the fact that our beloved Trinidad and Tobago is currently celebrating its golden jubilee as an independent nation.

Fifty years ago we bid farewell to the Union Jack and all that it symbolized, in order to launch out on our own; shaping, moulding and forging a new and vibrant identity for ourselves. We stood firm as a nation, boldly taking responsibility for our own growth and development.

And what a tremendous journey it has been! During both the pre- and post-Independence periods, hundreds and hundreds of noble and selfless women and men laboured tirelessly in their respective fields of endeavour.

Ultimately, their actions resulted very frequently in our country being placed on a world stage. The heroes, heroines, elders and icons are too numerous to mention. Thankfully, we already know many of them, though, unfortunately, some may forever remain unsung heroes.

What is critical, however, is that we never, ever allow their legacies to fade into oblivion.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a collective and individual responsibility to tell the stories of the great men and women birthed by this nation, Trinidad and Tobago.

Now more than ever, our children need to be re-directed to the images and narratives surrounding the true architects of this nation, and to all manner of things that contribute to our heritage, our traditions and our culture.

Anything less will render us squarely at risk of not knowing who we are as a people, defined by an unrelenting crisis of identity. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we have assembled here at NALIS this evening to reward outstanding talent. It seems to me rather ironic, therefore, that the sphere of activity appears to be on the decline. I am referring to the art of calypso composition, singing and performance.

Let me hasten to add that by no means am I being dismissive of the unfettered efforts of the National Action Cultural Committee and its various arms. In fact, I highly commend the NACC for the yeoman’s service you continue to provide through sheer love of culture.

Notwithstanding that, however, those of us involved in the business and art of calypso continue to witness the dwindling audiences, coupled with the steady diet of North American hip hop and Jamaican dancehall with which our youth are fed.

How, then, is our music going to survive and thrive?

At the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism we are deeply committed to putting our energies into initiatives and activities that make a difference in the long term – particularly among the youth, who represent the future.

We are interested in projects that leave an enduring legacy by building a strong foundation today, so that people, talents and benefits will flourish in years to come.

Our tangible support of the NACC and junior calypso through funding is but one example of our commitment to “legacy” projects.

Additionally, the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism has developed various products.

The National Registry of Artists and Cultural Workers was conceptualized to provide access and resources to artists of all kinds, as we look towards the creation of viable creative and cultural industries. Members of the private sector also stand to gain from their investment in artists, through tax breaks and other incentives.

The Remember When Institute, part of the Ministry’s Culture Division, is a repository for material which is distinctly Trinbagonian. Its ultimate objective is to engender a deep sense of community and citizenship among us all.

Earlier in my address I mentioned the need to garner more intimate details of our elders and the strengths they brought to bear in shaping our country.

Our initiative entitled “Mentoring by the Masters” allows for that “up close and personal” contact with senior persons in our community who have distinguished themselves over the years.

In facilitating this transfer of knowledge we focused on the areas of dance, theatre, media arts and music, engaging the genius of persons such as Mr. Rajkumar Krishna Persad, Mr. Zeno Constance, Dr. Kim Johnson and Mr. Errol Ince... elders all!

And the list goes on… take note of these initiatives... Seek them out, support them and learn from them!

Ladies and gentlemen, I said before that 2012 is a signal year in our nation’s history… and indeed it is. Many of you are aware that the first instrumental calypso music recording was done in 1912, one hundred years ago, by Lovey’s String Band or Lovey’s Orchestra.

Since that time, calypso has evolved greatly, impacted by many musical influences. Yet the compositions have remained deeply symbolic of the voice of the people... a kind of social conscience, as it were. And that creates balance in any society.

Numerous stalwarts have left their unforgettable mark on the art form and today, though it is threatened somewhat (an you’re free to disagree with me), you young performers are testimony to the fact that there is a great chance of survival for yet another century!

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend congratulations once more to the winners in all categories of the Emancipation Calypso competition.

As much as it feels great emerge at the top of your class, there is merit to simply participating. As such, I would like to acknowledge all participants for your keen spirit of endeavour. Let that same positive spirit spur you on in all your activities as you manifest the greatness that lies within each of you.

Thank you and may God richly bless our nation.