ELIZABETH GONZALES AND YVONNE WEBB
CULTURAL stakeholders remain optimistic about a revitalised and revolutionised cultural sector, particularly for the next Carnival celebrations – whenever it may be – as the government accelerates its national vaccination programme.
Though the sector remained stagnant for the last year, discussions on Carnival events re-emerged on Wednesday night after Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi predicted that next Carnival will be “the mother of all Carnivals.”
In almost three months, since the start of the national vaccination programme in April, over 90,000 people received their first dose of the vaccine.
On Thursday, Al-Rawi told Newsday he was careful not to commit to a date for the next hosting of the national festival, saying he envisaged the next Carnival could be the “mother of all Carnivals” if TT behaved itself.
“I never said next year,” he added.
President of the Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) Rosalind Gabriel said what Al-Rawi said on Wednesday was “nothing new.” She said the association took it as a plea “to hold strong a little longer through these difficult times.
“The TTCBA is in close contact with Minister Mitchell (Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts ) and our expectations are not necessarily for a Carnival 2022, but a Carnival after covid19 when it’s safe to have one. We are pleased to dream of a better Trinidad and Tobago where the ‘mother of all Carnivals’ will be real, successful, and downright enjoyable.”
Band leader Aaron Kalicharan told Newsday while the AG’s comments would bring hope for the cultural sector, it is critically important to weigh the pros and cons.
“We will be looking at deaths. The loss of life is something I don’t think any other factor should take precedent over.”
He said his band Kalicharan Carnival is yet to decide if it will participate in other Carnivals.
For now, Kalicharan believes the best option to resurrect the cultural sector is to host what he describes as a “localised Carnival event.”
Chair of the Tobago Festivals Commission, Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus applauded the government for the move to allow artistes to travel to keep the industry alive while TT’s entertainment sector is under restrictions.
She encouraged those in Tobago’s cultural sector to take advantage of the opportunity once it presents itself. “We have not been approached by any of the cultural artists to assist them, whether it be to travel or to get vaccinated… I think that is admirable and. And I hope that many of the artists would take advantage of it. You know, given the fact that it allows them to earn some money.” Tobago is currently discussing plans to host its Carnival post-covid19.
TUCO president Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba told Newsday as the country anticipates a post-covid19 era, the government must use this time to identify and resolve the existing obstacles within the sector to move artistes away from being heavily dependent on the government.
Already, Cabinet has approved Mitchell’s proposal to prioritise artistes for vaccines and grant them exemptions to travel to other countries to participate in entertainment events and festivals.
Some artistes have already signalled their intentions to attend New York’s Labour Day celebrations, Miami’s Carnival and Vincy Mas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In a release, the ministry said event managers, bandleaders, artistes, and pan men will benefit from this exemption.
“This initiative gives the sector the ability to recover by accepting bookings and comfortably taking advantage of work opportunities in various overseas markets.”
After discussions with stakeholders, the ministry has submitted close to 200 names for vaccinations to travel for cultural events.
Application forms can be accessed online at www.tourism.gov.tt or emailed to email@example.com. Those interested can also call the ministry at 624-1403.