|‘Len’ Hand’ takes centre stage |
KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY Monday, July 17 2017
An eager and approving audience packed the auditorium of the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday evening to witness the flamboyant and artistic opening night gala of the Tobago Heritage Festival 2017.
With more than 30 performers, the 2017 edition of the festival opened in fine-style under the theme, ‘Bring Back de Ole Time Days – Len’ Hand’.
The programme opened with a threesome rendition of the national anthem by vocalists Sharon Phillips and Kay Alleyne as well as Kashiff Wilson on the guitar.
In addressing the official opening, Chairman of the Heritage Committee, George Leacock welcomed all gathered as he encouraged them to ‘come and see’. And with the recent merging of the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary of the Division, Councillor Nadine Stewart-Phillips in her remarks commended the merge, noting that this development is indeed significant.
“The Heritage Festival is a frontrunner among the destination’s tourism products and the Division is committed to packaging and showcasing Tobago’s most unique and cherished traits; our culture to the rest of the world. And so, it is in the spirit of this dual role that we gather here to officially commence the 2017 edition of the Tobago Heritage Festival,” she said.
She encouraged the persons gathered to use every opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what is being illustrated, as according to her, there is no doubt that as the world progresses, modernization dictates the way forward for all societies, including Tobago and so, it is quite easy for persons to lose touch with their roots.
She went further indicating that progress is necessary to drive the island forward but it is equally important that persons hold on to what is dear, what is real and what belongs exclusively to them.
“So, as we embrace the gifts of the present, and look forward to the innovations of the future, it is all the more important for us to hold on to, celebrate, and uplift the treasures of the past. We cannot take it for granted that within every family there exists a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle who will take up the mantle and pass on the legacy of our art and customs to the next generation.
We are therefore duty bound to ensure that the island’s youth are able to not only witness, but carry on our traditions, through an event such as this, that covers all areas of our very rich and dynamic history. On that note, I urge us all to invest the time and energy into learning about the beautiful things that set us apart; the things that make Tobago, Tobago,” she advised.
At the same time, Stewart Phillips called on all to become cultural ambassadors, since according to her ‘the fact remains that cultural or heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing niche markets in the global tourism industry’.
“Today’s traveller is seeking rich experiences which are indigenous to their destination; they want to be exposed to the people and they want to be immersed in the language, customs, the food and activities that differentiate communities and countries from one another. So while we may take for granted the intricate steps of the brushback, keep in mind there are scores of visitors who would consider mastering this dance, the highlight of their trip. And, while we may overlook the symbolism of each character within the old time wedding, there is a blogger who could write an entire post on this production.
Make no mistake – our culture is a precious asset to be preserved and shared in its purest and most authentic form,” she said.
With regards the theme, Len’ Hand, she expounded, indicating that it is a practice that has built communities.
“When we speak of Len’ Hand, we speak of that spirit of offering assistance with no expectation of reward. You ‘lend a hand’ because you knew it was the right thing to do and because you understood that if and when your turn came, you could count on your community to be there for you as well.
Len’ Hand is a practice that has built communities, supported families and fostered unbreakable bonds and this year the decision was made to emphasize this element of our heritage because in these trying economic times, this tradition of offering a helping hand is certainly something we must strive to preserve,” Stewart Phillips stated.
While, in declaring the two-week festival open, Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles urged all to embrace the heritage of the island. “The official opening of the Tobago Heritage Festival provides us with the opportunity to recommit and to rededicate ourselves to the value which defines and makes us Tobagonians, values of thrift, industry, honesty, volunteerism and patriotism,” he said.
The festival continued over the weekend with the Moriah Old Time Wedding on Saturday and the Roxborough Sport and Seafood Festival on Sunday