THE Emancipation Support Committee will celebrate Baba Bertrand Bakar (aka Skatie) and Jafar Howe at its Yoruba Village Drum Festival tomorrow.
The Keeper of the Tradition Award will be presented to Bakar (aka Skatie) who is a spiritual diviner, healer, singer and drummer, while Howe will receive an award in recognition of the UN International Day of the African Child.
The presentations will be made at the Yoruba Village Drum Festival, which takes place at the Yoruba Village Square, Piccadilly Street, Port of Spain, opposite the new Besson Street Police Station and the Deliverance Temple.
The drum festival is held annually the day before Father's Day, in tribute to the fathers of the community and in recognition of the Yoruba people, who are the ancestors of the community, the ESCTT said in a media release. The Yoruba, who were rescued from the ships of British, France and Spanish plunderers, after the abolition of the slave trade, were brought to that part of the city of Port of Spain, where they lived as free men and women.
They came originally, mainly from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Togo. Today the only semblance of the town’s history and existence is the Yoruba Village Square. The ESCTT said, "However, in spite of the persistent, calculated and prolonged efforts to deculturalise the community, many of the rich customs and tradition of the Yoruba, remain in the Yoruba Village, which is synonymous with what is called East Port of Spain and include, Belmont, Gonzales, Morvant and Laventille. Indeed it is from within the bowels of this community of highly spiritual and inventive Yoruba people that the steelband, calypso and many other aspects of our cultural traditions originated."
The Keeper of the Tradition Award is presented annually to someone who has worked diligently to preserve and develop African cultural traditions in the community. Bakar has been a keeper of the spiritual tradition of Ifa/Orisa within the Yoruba Village Community, the ECSTT said.
Bakar was born into the tradition, which he can trace back to his great-grandparents, who brought the spiritual practice with them from Africa. His late mother, Monica Baker, led a shrine at their home at Pelican Extension Road, Upper Pashley Street, Laventille. Bakar has continued the tradition, as he now functions as the head of Sango Oba Koso Mercy House at Upper Pashley Street, Laventille, the spiritual home of more than 100 Ifa/Orisa worshippers.
As a spiritual diviner and healer, he has not only assisted many practitioners of the tradition but also very many people outside of the Ifa/Orisa community. Bakar is also an accomplished singer and drummer and has passed on his skills to many within his community. As a Baba, he has assisted other Ifa / Orisa shrines across Trinidad, by officiating at their feasts, thanksgiving and naming ceremonies.
Bakar although not enjoying the best of health at the moment, is fully supported by his wife, children and grandchildren and he is confident that the Ifa/ Orisa tradition which he has helped to grow and develop in his community will continue to be a major part of the spiritual landscape of TT.
Jafar Howe attended Sacred Heart Boys’ RC School, where he was a member of the choir, performed monologues and joined the school’s swimming team. After his success at the SEA he attended St Mary’s College, where he excelled academically and achieved nine grade ones in his CXC examinations and seven distinctions in CAPE. While in sixth form, he started tutoring students in forms three and five.
Howe represented his school as a member of the school’s swimming team and as the main goalkeeper on the water polo team, both teams winning many championships over the years. Howe also became a member of the TT under-16 water polo team, which won a gold medal at the 2014 Carifta Games in Curacao.
After leaving St Mary’s College, Howe wanted tertiary education outside TT, and did the SAT examination. He applied to multiple universities in the United States while selling popcorn at his alma mater to raise funds for his education and reduce the burden on his parents.
Howe was eventually accepted by Howard University, the University of Miami, Dartmouth and Princeton, but decided he wanted to attend Princeton to study engineering. However, he needed US$20,000 to meet his expenses. After Howe’s inspiring story was revealed by the media, he was successful in raising the funds and now looks forward to going to Princeton.
The drum festival will also include performances by drumming groups and dancers including Wasafoli, St James Police Youth Club, 2nd Freeport Sea Scouts, St James Cultural Artisans, Frontline Drummers, Egbe Omo Oni Isese, Daffodils and Persistent Drummers, Drum Line with Sista Ava, San Juan South Cultural Organisation, Sankofa Cultural Organisation, United Cultural Beacons, Chaguanas Women and Youth Group, Ancestors Beyond and the Claxton Bay Tamboo Bamboo Performing Group.
Also performing will be rapso and reggae artistes, including Nefta, Oba Dread, Curious Ringo, Mc Meo, Gillian Gould, Soul Fyah, Wise One, Knocker, King Solomon and Butcha, Wolde Wyatt and Jah Disciple, backed by the Black Beat International Band.