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Wednesday 13 December 2017
Local

Yao: Stop exclusion from arts

Robert Yao Ramesar

“Let us unleash this beast,” urged veteran local film-maker Robert “Yao” Ramesar, “taking all this nascent energy and opening the sector up to everyone.” He spoke of the potential of Trinidad and Tobago’s creative sector to generate valuable revenues here and overseas, at a panel discussion funded by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain yesterday on the topic, “Creative industries and the orange economy.”

Ramesar lamented that too much of the local creative sector exists in cliques of friends – largely based on geography and class – to the exclusion of others. Saying that film-making is not the exclusive preserve of the young, he keenly noted that one of TT’s current emerging film-makers is a retired public servant.

Urging everyone to break the chains around culture, Ramesar urged, “If you want to get the best film and stories that are out there, you’ve got to spread your net wide.” He noted that Jamaican reggae icon, the late Bob Marley, was born in an obscure little village, Nine Miles, even as it was later noted that TT’s Nobel Laureate author Earl Lovelace lived in far-flung Toco.

Ramesar said that patriotism is not about buying a red, white and black flag, but about respecting all of your fellow citizens and affording them an opportunity. Animation pioneer Camille Selvon Abraham said her field offers opportunities for autistic students some of whom have already proven themselves in that field.

If institutional support is given, she saw huge potential for animation, saying it would generate many job opportunities for designers, storytellers, musicians and comedians. Dr Marielle Barrow, a social entrepreneur of the group “Caribbean In Transit” and “This Is Me”, spoke of the challenges she’d faced in helping youngsters from a wide range of backgrounds in the region to be trained in the arts including its business side.

Saying such training also involves a life-skills component for vulnerable youngsters, she said that one must deal with these social issues such as poverty so as to help them reach to a higher level artistically. Phase II ace pannist Yohan Chuckaree asked guests to raise their hands if they knew where to buy a steelpan.

He surmised, “In a roomful of Trinidadians, only five people know where to buy the national instrument.” However on a positive note he said his firm has begun digitally recording samples of local people playing acoustic instruments, including the Laventille Rhythm Section. “A guy sitting on the Eastern Main Road, Laventille is now being used by a music producer in California, or in Asia.”

However Chuckaree said the creative sector needs a roadmap, saying, “Export TT wants to help us but doesn’t know where to start.” He said it is a challenge to deal with banks who do not understand how local creators are using e-commerce to sell their innovations overseas.

“We and the corporate sector must start believing in ourselves. Our culture can stand up on the world stage.” In the question session, Costa Rica Ambassador Lilly Edgerton Picado said TT’s abundance of talent is mind-blowing but she said creative personalities must also face up to the realities of business, such as crafting a business plan and properly pitching the price of their works.

Rudolph Hanamji of the Calabash Foundation asked all present to consider what is the advocacy gap that is preventing long-espoused ideas from bearing fruit?

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