TT’s traditional art forms are centre stage at the ongoing NGC Bocas Lit Fest, registering an intensified investment in local cultural arts.
Key partnerships with the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, and the Port of Spain City Corporation Downtown Carnival Committee, as well as the National Carnival Commission (NCC), have helped to foreground this cultural engagement.
Ole mas is one of the core components of the festival’s Talk Yuh Talk events that span several days of the festival (April 25-29), starting with today’s extempo debate, Island Life. In that showdown, extempo masters Black Sage and Myron B debate the pros and cons of life in a small island country, and the future it faces.
Talk Yuh Talk culminates in the second annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest Ole Mas Competition on Saturday. This year’s theme, I-Land State of Mind, draws on a major focus of the overall festival, Island Futures and channels the concerns of climate change, the world economy, migration, and small-island sustainability into their presentations.
Other Talk Yuh Talk events include today’s Robber Talk a celebration of the Midnight Robber; tomorrow’s Calypso and the World? –a documentary screening and discussion; and also Pan, Present and Future, a panel discussion on the state of the national instrument. Talk Yuh Talk is also incorporated into the Bocas workshops on Saturday, when Short Pants and Myron B lead an extempo masterclass.
NGC Bocas Lit Fest director Marina Salandy-Brown is clear about the link between Bocas’ work and the role of cultural forms. “At its core Bocas is concerned with how we use language to reflect who we are. We recognise that our various traditional forms have always done that work and we want to help integrate these forms into cultural spaces and platforms beyond Carnival,” Salandy-Brown said in a media release.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Attillah Springer expressed the vital importance of collaborations between state and NGO bodies in support of culture, “As we look forward to a clearer understanding of what culture means not just to our communities but also to our economy, collaborations like this become crucial to creating the reach and opportunity for all our stakeholders. Culture is everything about us, so working together, partnering with both public– and private-sector organisations is not just desirable, it is essential,” Springer said in the release.
She emphasised the nexus between traditional art forms and contemporary popular culture in TT, saying, “If, for example, we look at meme culture, we see the same foundations of word play, picong and extempo manifesting themselves in this very raw and immediate contemporary expression. Our traditional mas characters were the original memes: the midnight robber, the pierrot, the sailor – templates on which we create immediate responses to what is going on in the society right now. Our traditional forms are a template, a foundation on which we can build so much.”
Events take place at the National Library (Nalis) in downtown Port of Spain and adjoining Old Fire Station on Abercromby Street. With the exception of the extempo masterclass and ole mas competition fee of $100, all events are free. Workshop participants must register in advance, via the Bocas Lit Fest website www.bocaslitfest.com.