FROM CARIFESTA XIV to India. That is the journey being mapped out for the local play Temple in the Sea and producer Iere Theatre Productions.
The play was written in 1995 by students of UWI’s Department of Creative and Festival Arts, under the directorship of Rawle Gibbons, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Indian arrival.
Under the direction of playwright Victor Edwards, Iere mounted the play in 2002, 2012, 2018 and will do so again on August 22 at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain, as part of Carifesta XIV.
Edwards said he is very excited to have received a call from the Ministry of Culture to stage the play at the arts festival.
“I think it is significant and a recognition of the quality of work we have been doing for the past nine years. Next year we celebrate our first decade, and this is a good way to start that celebration by being asked to perform in this big Caribbean festival.”
He said he is not certain why this play was selected. Fortuitously, the Princes Town production house has been having discussions with the Indian High Commissioner on staging the play in India. Edwards said the Indian High Commissioner’s interest was piqued when he saw the play at the Divali Nagar site last September.
He said proposals are being prepared to take to the high commission for the play to be staged in India and also in Mauritius and Fiji.
Edwards said the story explores the ultimate triumph of Siewdass Sadhu, a devout Hindu and indentured labourer from India, who found his space in the Trinidad landscape in spite of challenges from the colonials and modern-day politicians to keep the promise he made to God to build a mandir.
Because there were no temples in TT at the time, Sadhu often travelled to India to pray. However, on one of these arduous journeys, when his life was threatened and saved, he promised God to build a temple in TT.
Sadhu began to build the temple by the seashore in 1945. Using a bucket and a bicycle to transport material, he completed the dream amidst mockery and ridicule from those who could not identify with his vision.
Years later, the owners of the site ordered him to demolish the structure and did it themselves when he refused. His refusal landed him in jail and a fine. But a commitment to purpose saw this simple, quiet man using the lessons learnt in the Ramayana to rebuild, this time, 500 feet into the sea on reclaimed land.
Edwards notes, “This is really a story of perseverance and commitment to purpose and the sacrifices made. The play demonstrates his knowledge of the Ramayana and how Sadhu is able to use the knowledge to apply to his situation.”
He said the play is a demonstration of how East Indians who were transported from their native land have adapted their lives in many aspects to suit this new environment in which they currently exist.
TT will host the 14th edition of Carifesta between August 16 and 25, with over 200 events scheduled across the country.
A release from the arts and culture ministry said audiences will be immersed in the dance, theatre, film, food, visual and literary arts as well as music of the region from the TT delegates and representatives from 20 other countries.