The Trinidad economy will get a big boost from the annual Carnival festival. The Trinidad tourism industry and the tourism related service industries will be the major beneficiaries from the influx of the thousands of foreign visitors for the festival.
There can be no argument that there is no other time in the year which attracts as much visitors to Trinidad as during the carnival season.
Hotels and guest houses will be packed to capacity with escalated rental fees in United State dollars. Food and drink services, transport and entertainment businesses will all benefit from the influx of visitors for carnival. Not only in Trinidad but also in many cities around the world and other Caribbean islands, huge dollars are made from carnival events which are hosted in these places.
While we in Tobago get the leftovers from Trinidad carnival visitor arrivals, we do not acquire the massive carnival dollars which Trinidad and other places in the world get. This is so because the Tobago carnival date is still the same as that of Trinidad. When the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Gypsy Peters made the call for a second Tobago carnival, he was roundly condemned by the THA for intruding on their space.
Frankly, it is the view of yours truly that the THA response to Minister Gypsy was like throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Under the THA Act, the THA has responsibility for culture in Tobago. However, with Gypsy being the Minister of Culture in Trinidad and Tobago, surely he must have views on all aspects of culture and arts throughout the nation. Even if the THA leaders did not agree with how he pronounced the concept of a separate Tobago carnival, that was no excuse to smash the idea. By smashing the idea, they have smashed an opportunity for all areas of the Tobago tourism industry to experience a lucrative boom time in their business operations which could boost their financial intake at a time when most are struggling to survive.
At present, the THA is following in the footsteps of the former free spending CLICO in promoting jazz festivals with astronomical sums of taxpayers' money. One of the arguments for promoting such events is that they boost the visitor arrivals to the island. The jazz festival concept in Tobago was copied from the St Lucian jazz festival.
However, some time ago the St Lucian tourism minister said, it was the St Lucia carnival which has the most potential to impact on visitor arrivals to that island rather than the jazz festival. The truth is that the carnival arts such as calypso, soca, steelband, mas making, limbo and stick fighting are far more powerful and attractive to foreign visitors. It seems that we in Tobago are still brainwashed by the imposed concepts of a bygone era which projected our cultural form as inferior to those from foreign. Also, another relic of the past which has linked our cultural forms to evil and the devil still seem to persist in the minds of unconscious individuals.
Some have said the churches do not want another carnival in Tobago. All those who profess to know or be close to God more than others must know that God is in every culture on Planet Earth. Could Sparrow, Kitchener, Shadow, Rose or Bunji Garlin create the music they do without the spiritual power vested in them? Certainly not!
Therefore, to use the flawed position of a few flock leaders whose commitment to true spiritual values can be questioned to prevent a people from expressing their creative talents is tantamount to playing a dangerous game with the power of the true God. It is a fact that most of the basic artistry from which our carnival has emerged came from the traditions of our African ancestors. Through the years there have been changes and innovations in the carnival arts but the basics have remained. The steelband, for example, is a direct descendant from the African drums. Calypso came with our African ancestors from Africa, while mas making is also an ancient African tradition. As is now firmly established, the idea of spirituality and the one God concept originated on the African continent. Therefore, the artistic traditions of Africans are rooted in a deep sense of spirituality. What western religions have sought to do for centuries is denigrate the religious, spiritual and cultural traditions of other peoples in order to impose and perpetuate their domination. This was why the steelpan was branded a noisy instrument by the former colonial masters and many of the early pan pioneers were jailed. It was for this very reason, why calypso music was once banned in the Lenten period.
The time has surely come for us as an independent and free people to appreciate the value of our artistic traditions and be united in our support for festivals which seek to promote our creative arts.
Opoku Ware is
a freelance writer