CO-ORDINATORS of the TT-Cuba Educational and Cultural Exchange (TTCEC) programme met with performers and students for a gift-giving ceremony at City Hall, San Fernando, yesterday.
Among those who received tokens and gifts from TTCEC were mayor Junia Regrello, and deputy mayor Vidya Mungal-Bissessar. Dance tutors Michele Dowrich (St George's Convent), Beverly Hinds (Naparima Girls; College), Torrence Mohammed (Arawak Dance Company) and Elliot Mohammed also received tokens.
TTCEC began with the cultural exchange between the two countries, which started in 2015 when a group of students from Success Laventille was invited to play pan in Cuba. One of the directors of TTCEC and principal of Success Laventille Secondary School, Hamida Baksh, said through the years the countries have strengthened cultural ties through exchange programmes.
"Having returned from a trip to Cuba in 2015, I was so impressed with the Cubans and their cultural grasp of art, that I felt I had to do something like that in my own school.”
Baksh said she wanted to improve the visual and performing arts at her school and so she searched for a teacher to do dance.
“Students were eventually showing interest in becoming professional dancers, and hence the reason why the Cubans were invited this year.”
In January the Cubans were back here with singers, musicians, and dancers. The Havana Compass Dance performed in both north and south TT to an appreciative audience. All forms of dance in TT were explored by both the locals and the Cubans, she said. Sat Balkaransingh brought in the ancient form of Kathak dance to the stage and the Cubans saw limbo as well as bele dance for the first time.
“It was our turn to shine and show the Cubans our styles and we were able to teach them our styles to take back to their country,” Baksh said.
Project co-ordinator of TTCEC Nicholas Cumberbatch said his visit to Cuba in 2015 was a memorable one.
“We spent ten magnificent days in Cuba and we were taken back by the humility and to the extent to which they take culture seriously.”
In 2017, the Cubans performers were invited to TT, Cumberbatch said and made their mark here, leading workshops and performing throughout the country.
TTCEC is now working on a documentary, Cumberbatch said, on the exchange programmes since 2015. This will be aired on local television in due course.