LIVELY drumming, singing and dancing heralded the start of Charlotteville’s 2022 heritage presentation, Natural Treasures, on Monday.
After an absence of two years, the fishing village returned to the festival, presenting a captivating re-enactment of the wake and bongo, which were synonymous with the community many decades ago.
Before the procession, Roman Catholic priest Fr Leslie Tang Kai offered prayers at historic Fort Campbleton, which offers a breathtaking view of the village and its environs. THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine also gave a brief address.
Under brilliant sunshine and with bamboo in hand, Augustine and other THA assemblymen and councillors, led the procession from the fort into the village.
They were accompanied by a tamboo bamboo band, members of the Charlotteville Heritage Folk Performers, Police Youth Club, Tobago Festivals Commission, Tobago Performing Arts Company and scores of participants.
During the procession, participants were invited to stop at various points to learn about Charlotteville’s traditions.
The first stop was the “dead bed,” a ritual in which the dirty clothing of the deceased is removed from the home and taken to the river to be washed and dried. The clothes are then taken back to the home in neatly-packed basins.
The washerwomen, who often passed the time with gossip, also protect themselves from the spirits of the deceased by washing their beds and faces with alcohol.
A brief African dance at the corner of Campbleton and Roads later gave way to a presentation on Charlotteville’s once thriving cocoa industry.
The participants, who learnt about the art of preparing the cocoa, also visited one of the few remaining cocoa houses in Charlotteville.
Several THA assemblymen, including Augustine, Niall George and Megan Morrison, also danced the cocoa to the delight of the gathering.
At the cocoa house, people also enjoyed a range of foods and drinks, including roast bake and saltfish, roast breadfruit, authentic chocolate tea and freshly-made fruit punch and passion fruit.
The next stop was the coal pit.
Augustine was asked to display the art of churning the coals to get the best results. He was joined later by television host Deryck Braithwaite, who also attempted to show how the procedure was done.
Speaking to Newsday at the site of the village bakery, Augustine said Natural Treasures Day at Charlotteville was all about gratitude.
“It is all about being locked down and locked out for two years (owing to covid19). And after two years, people are able to be outside again, able to interact more intimately again and be able to celebrate our natural treasures,” he said.
“What we see in Charlotteville every year is a celebration of a community that lives in harmony with its environment, a community that has lived sustainably all its existence.”
He said most of what the world is thriving for currently, Charlotteville and most of Tobago already enjoy.
“So it is just a celebration of our foreparents, who have been able to take very little and be innovative by creating solutions in the river for the washing of clothes, solutions for the processing of the cocoa beans into chocolate, solutions about making the coal in a pit underground, solutions of making rhythm and music out of bamboo, solutions about how to process and juice sugar cane without having an electric juicer.”
Augustine added, “All of these things remind us that there once was a time when Tobago did not have access to the kinds of technologies that we have now and we found a way to get things done.”
With all of the advances in technology, he said, the sky’s the limit.
Tobago Festivals Commission CEO John Arnold also weighed in on Charlotteville’s presentation, describing it as “totally exciting.”
He said the visitors in particular again got a truly authentic, rustic experience.
“I think we see Charlotteville, Les Couteaux, Moriah, we see them like that (having rustic appeal) – the expectation is that.”
Arnold observed the storylines, though familiar to some, still exuded a freshness.
“The storylines are similar but it is nice to see that they are able to re-enact all of the various event elements. You could feel the energy in the place.”
Describing Charlotteville as “a nice outing,” Arnold said, “People always take it in and they learn.”
He said he looked forward to all of the other heritage presentations.