Secretary for Culture, Tourism and Transportation Nadine Stewart-Phillips says Tobagonians must be wary of the potential harmful effects of technology on the island's rich cultural heritage.
"As the world progresses and modernisation dictates the way forward for all societies, including ours, it is quite easy for us to lose touch with our roots," Stewart-Phillips said on Friday night.
"As technology draws us to the viral videos and memes, it threatens to take us further away from the art of storytelling as modern artforms excite us with flashy dance moves and sometimes shallow depictions, they have the potential to distract us from traditional dance and drama and as constantly changing trends vie for our attention, the risks exists that we begin to lose an appreciation for indigenous attire. Of all these things, ladies and gentlemen, we must be mindful."
She was addressing the opening of the 32nd annual Tobago Heritage Festival at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex. Theme of this year's event is An Authentic Educational Experience.
Stewart-Phillips said Tobagonians must not take the festival and what it symbolises lightly.
"Since its inception in 1987, this festival has served as a symbol of our determination to preserve our very distinctly Tobagonian culture. It has undoubtedly evoked deep feelings across the island and our diaspora."
Stewart-Phillips said she expects the villages' presentations over the next two weeks, will generate renewed interest in the island's authentic, cultural heritage and further stimulate greater participation in community activities.
She urged locals and tourists alike to not only witness but partake in the presentations.
"Most of the presentations by communities encourage participation by patrons and you must get involved. Pull the sail in Black Rock. Dance the cocoa in Charlotteville or simply support your community representative at the Miss Heritage Personality contest."
Stewart-Phillips said the stalwarts and visionaries who moulded and ensured the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation must be commended and saluted.
"We must all become cultural ambassadors, proud of the resilience, creativity, pride and sheer genius that are all responsible for us standing today."
In his remarks, executive chairman of the Tobago Festivals Commission George Leacock gave a brief history of the early years of the festival, noting reigning NYC youth poet laureate Camryn Bruno is one of its success stories.
"She is now internationally-acclaimed as a junior poet laureate in New York," he said, adding the festival continues to play its role in developing individuals to their fullest potential.
This year's event featured a production depicting an American couple visiting Tobago for the first time. The couple was befriended by two two guides who exposed them to elements of the island's culture, some of which will be presented over the next two weeks. The production was directed by Olimall Gordon-Holder.