Carnival Without Culture? A Trinidad and Tobago Perspective on Contradictions in (Multi)Cultural Policy Directions in UNESCO Conventions
Based on the experiences of multicultural Trinidad & Tobago,this paper interrogates inbuilt presumptions, assumptions, contradictions and misconceptions in the diversity discourse including those fed by the UNESCO Conventions (Paris 2003, 2005. that presents:
“Culture” that is changeable, dynamic, and flexible in terms of “policy” that is static and timebound;
Culture as equivalent to the forms of cultural expressions; and cultural/creative endeavour is synonymous with entrepreneurial endeavour;
Cultural diversity as fragile and endangered; and that minority/dominated cultures will be swallowed up by better funded cultures;
Cultural survival as hinging on the existence of active cultural policies within countries.
With special focus on the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and its vibrant cultural repertoire in song (calypso, soca), music (steelband), craft, costume-making, display and spectacle, it examines the tensions and conflicts so created in the process of arriving at a national cultural policy, especially given the roots of the culture in resistance and violence, anti-authoritarianism and rebellion. The paper is framed against the analogy of the lime, a Trini cultural attitude and the Sans Humanite refrain, from the labweh (lament songs) from which evolved Trinidad and Tobago calypso. They reflect the unregularised, almost lawless, chaotic attitudes and behaviours associated with the Trinidad Carnival, and are analogous to the haphazard development of vibrant and delicate balance of expressions of multiculturalism in Trinidad and Tobago – from back-yard alleys, underworld street clashes, protests and protestations - without policy!
Keywords: Trinidad Carnival, Multiculturalism, Cultural Resistance, UNESCO Conventions, Cultural Policy
Dr. Kris Rampersad
Director, Regional and International Relations, Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women