Cultural activist Jesse Taylor has applauded the involvement of young people in this year’s Tobago Heritage Festival.
After an absence of two years, the festival, titled Reflect, Rebirth, Rejoice: Reigniting The Flames of Our Legacy, returned to an in-person format.
But it was not the usual two-week cultural extravaganza.
This year’s event ran from July 22-August 1 and featured just four village presentations from Charlotteville, Les Coteaux, Pembroke;,and Moriah.
Other events included the Miss Heritage Personality competition, Heritage Calypso Monarch and Extempo competition and the Emancipation Day procession and concert, which drew the curtain on this year’s festivities.
Taylor, a cultural officer II, THA Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation, told Newsday: “It was lovely to see the resurgence of what I would call the native spirit. And this was evident by the way the youth gravitated to what was over the years, not a usual practice.
“It was more about the senior folks. I think the message is getting there and it was a joy for me to see overall the youths following and embracing their culture.”
He said this augurs well for the preservation of Tobago’s heritage.
“Certainly, I would encourage the push for the junior heritage festival, because we see where this is heading.
“To me, we have already missed a generation between Annette Nicholson-Alfred, Cynthia Alfred, Rawle Titus and others like Miriam Scott, Elvis Radgman.”
Taylor believes the festival could be better packaged for regional and international audiences.
“I feel we need to plan earlier so that there can be a dedicated effort to put the heritage where it can truly be absorbed not just by our locals on the island, but regionally and internationally as well.”
“I think we also need to translate what we say in our dialect, because I had guests who were here from the region and internationally who could not understand even when they were at home, looking at it via other media."
Taylor, who performed in Pembroke’s Salaka Feast, said significant sums of money are spent on costuming and hosting events, “But I don’t know that we have effectively used those things to our advantage.”
For example, he believes the Emancipation Day street parade could be incorporated into the island’s domestic, regional and international marketing plan.
“I took delight in the fact that the parade route was shortened so we got more of the parade, because it was more compact, and we utilised a space that I have now discovered can be used for many other things on the island.”
Taylor also welcomed the shortened version of the festival.
“I especially liked the way in which the calendar of events was done. It is a good way to go. You don’t have to do many villages.”