Archive for the ‘trini’ Category

The Carnival Body

September 13, 2011

“Big ting, small ting, I winin’ up on all ting. . .”

Hot on the heels of New York’s West Indian Day Parade celebrations, I saw two people I know, bemoaning online about the “rights” of women with certain body types to wear carnival costumes. It’s not the first time that the ever annoying body conscious, bodycentric undercurrent currently running rampant in Trinidad’s carnival for a while now, rears its ugly head. The increasingly body conscious aesthetic of Trinidad carnival has been steadily frustrating to me, personally, because of the way in which it enables people to feel free to police the expression of women (always women), with a range of body types who choose to take to the streets for these festivals.

All this “who she feel she is” and, “why she think she could go in de road looking like that,” which is to say: not toned, flat-bellied and slim is both reductive and silly. (Also referred to at times, allegedly, as the “Brazilianising” of Trinidad Carnival. Apologies to our South American neighbours who may, or may not, feel unfairly maligned).

Plus, it bothers me that some of these people are constantly acting as though it personally affronts them — these women who might even *gasp* have the audacity to not choose a whole suit. As though women outside of a certain size range have no business in a revealing costume, effectively engineering an oppressive space for women who don’t fit a certain mould, in a supposedly ‘free’ space, while nothing of the sort happens for men inside that same space.

Yes, men can be fit for carnival and choose to be — or they can not choose to be and you will hardly hear as many people either thrashing viral carnival pictures online and the like, complaining fervently how men with pot-bellies and or less than stellar bodies, have no right to be shirtless or in a carnival costume offending your eyes. Respectability politics practically never seem to come in to play for men’s bodies inside of carnival culture. And the discourse has shifted; from back when I played my first adult mas and if I am re-thinking carnivals past, from my parents’ generation and snatches of conversation I heard back then: the looming issues were always one of cost, and things like design, functionability, colour and themes of costumes seemed to matter more.

The whole point of carnival (if one can whittle down a complex sociocultural, historical expression of resistance, music, dance and revelry to a single point) is precisely that — that these women, and everyone else can have to ‘freedom’ as it were, to participate in these spaces and wield their bodies to the rhythm, however they see fit, and wearing whatever they desire. Why can’t you wine down the road in a two-piece if your stomach has soft folds or your thighs love to kiss one another?

It’s more than just simply fat phobia too, because Trinidad like many parts of the Caribbean and the diaspora, do accept possibilities for a beauty aesthetic that makes way for “thickness” (and I don’t just mean like Beyonce-thick) — to a certain point, so to speak, depending on one’s purview. If I think back to my school days and among people I know for instance, girls and women lauded as beautiful and desirable were never exclusively skinny, or flat-bellied with stereotypical modelesque figures. (Not to mention, considerable levels of sexiness is constantly meted out and lauded in the curvaceous figures of soca women like Alison Hinds, Destra Garcia, Denise Belfon, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez and Tanzania “Tizzy” Sebastian to name just a few).

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Two Parts Hard Wine, One part Guinness

August 15, 2011

Passing time on The Island, drinking lots of Hard Wine, musing on love, daily julie mangoes and being pleasantly surprised by the grace of corbeaux.

(Try the recipe-title for “hard bull”: I hear it will real lash. Once again, you can thank me later).

How not to write a love poem

July 17, 2011

“Only the shallow know themselves.” Oscar Wilde.

First, you need an absence of love—or anything close to it. Second, you need to resist the fact that this is in fact, your reality.

I tried to write a love poem about someone, this week and failed. Also, I’m not even sure that I’m all that good at love poetry. There really wasn’t any love to speak of. There were postulations, fictive projections of what I wanted to see taking place. And more than enough stretches of credibility: well, what really happened then was this and this is what it means. Denying and or reinscribing one’s reality is a hard habit to break. I am working on paring down my penchant for over-analysis and taking what people say as the gospel—making them Christ and Allah (or whomsoever) of their own self spaces.

If people say they are simple, I’ll let them be. How dare I doubt that and give myself the extra work of deciphering what they really mean or what their true intentions are because I suspect there are other things underneath the surface. (There usually always is though and people are rarely as simple as they make themselves out to be, aren’t they?) and this leaves one in a semi-constant state of looking over one’s shoulder (or theirs), constantly on the look-out for an abyss, some darkness, some cruel consternation that you know is hiding just behind their irises.

Who’s Laughing? (and Why?): Race and Identity in Trini slap chop

February 3, 2011

OK, the problem with “Buhwamoder” isn’t that  he’s not funny, allegedly, to many people — it’s what makes him  funny that’s interesting to unpack. (And for the record, I personally don’t think Buhwamoder is all that hilarious — must be my off sense of humour — but clearly, hordes of people do think so).

“Buhwamoder Latchmanerpersadsingh” is a hugely popular alternate persona enacted by a one, Dominique Elias hailing from out of Trinidad. Rocking his get-up of ultra-dark shades, (“ah darkers”) and a wig that’s often perched low onto his head — sometimes a link chain slung around the neck  — completes the final look.

The wig, a cross between “janx” (aka starter locks) and small box-plaits or partially done twists, morphs Elias into “Buhwamoder” — a fast-talking, self-professed lover of “shit” (talk, that is); Trini slang dropping, jokey-catch-phrase-making-entity who easily climbed to the highest heights of internet and local notoriety with his now infamous slap chop parody video. Then came the Jamaican answer. Then came the video where the two (the Jamaican and the Trini) negotiate a mock war of sorts, over the rights to claim best originality for their respective vids — which further propelled the internet cult following of their videos.  (Inciting a real cyber war in the comments section meanwhile, but oh wait — it’s Youtube, West Indians inter-argue on there all the damn time just for so. Re: ‘my island better, no, MY island better!’)

In the midst of all this are two white West Indians spoofing race at the same time that they grow more (in)famous and race is a huge component of the way in which their “humour” hits the mark in many, many ways. In fact, in the “Jamaica Trini war” video, Buhwamoder specifically (and ironically) calls “madwhiteJamaican” out as a Jamaican who is “ah white boy” who doesn’t even “smoke weed”. In the original videos, race is the unspoken subtext — the underlying context underscoring not only some of the “punchlines” but acting as a main ingredient in their presentation of (alternate)self and identity and this is revealed as soon as their identities almost simultaneously became increasingly public.

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To All the Books I’ve Loved Before

November 22, 2010

One of my friends tagged me  in a note on Facebook, a while ago, encouraging me to post a response considering “The Rules: Don’t take too long to think  about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List…” I didn’t reply in kind but I did think about it for a good while after and I found myself contemplating how a significant chunk of like, the first ten books or so (or more), involve things that I’ve read growing up. I have a serious soft spot for comfort reads — like spaghetti, banana bread, guava jam and a good slab of macaroni pie — which take me back to growing up. I love that feeling. Not unlike that of comfort food, which you get from tucking into a familiar, well-worn book that you loved as a teenager or child.

I read The Velveteen Rabbit inside of a thrift store a few months ago, and felt the same way. I love, love, love that description of the boy’s love for his stuffed rabbit: “he loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off.” Damn if love isn’t a lot like that. I grew up believing in fairies and angels, Santa Claus, mal yeux, walking in the house backward after midnight, wishes on wish bones or one-cent coins in a fountain, that my toys could come alive (and not in a creepy, my-cabbage-patch-doll-will-stab-me-in-the-head-once-I’m-asleep-type alive) so of course I loved this story when I first read it.

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Race, Politricks & Crime in Trinidad & Tobago’s Electoral Debate

May 23, 2010

It’s election time in Trinidad and Tobago right now and it’s been very, very interesting so far, taking stock of the two contending parties. That being said, of course, I have to make the requisite elections post—‘the mother of all elections‘ even, says the Jamaica Observer.

It’s all so fascinating. Pondering all the main issues. The concerns. The relevant “wajang” behaviour newspaper headlines. The discussions being had with and amongst friends and family of mine. The fascinating facebook notes written by friends, popping up in my mini-feed. People in my mini-feed liking Patrick Manning’s latest insipid status updates. The person who did the wack photo edits on certain profile pics on this Kamla Persad Bissessar page in the neck area. I peeped her page the other day and thought, seriously? The woman looks fine, just as she is and the tweaked texture of her chin and neck are not preferable.

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Truth is stranger than everything else

May 18, 2010

The Bluest Eye by Dan Ramey

Yesterday on facebook, a girl I know posted a status update about watching the first part of the premier of Anderson Cooper’s pilot study revisiting the “doll test,” showing how young children (black and white) start to internalize racialized identities and negative ideas about others of different races (or their very own). A mini convo follows on girl’s facebook page with a few other folks chiming in about also watching said special.  

Then this black guy who I do not know comments, pondering on whether the black and white children’s negative assumptions about people of color–especially the linkages of black people–to crime and fear were in fact justified. He then proceeds to link this outta timing* theory to slavery because since we as black people HAD to be rebellious to become free, maybe it is kind of socially and genetically encoded in us and that’s why black people tend to be criminals, therefore people will assume as much.

Buh wha’ de jail is dis I hearin’? 

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a vintage ting dat

April 13, 2010

So I love old photos in general. I always wonder about the people inside of them who may be long gone. I wonder who they were. What was their story. What kind of history is locked into their eyes staring back at me.

And I especially love old Trinidad and Tobago images. So I was excited to find this wonderful online collection of beautiful and iconic vintage Trinidad (as well as Tobago) postcard images including,

old Frederick Street

the cocoa estates

the cane fields

a formidable mighty samaan

old QRC

the land and its people

and many, many more.

Below: vintage Trinidad postcard showing an East Indian lady 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is that Who I think it is?: Passing Porn & Notes on Life in a Small Place

March 12, 2010

“I say the whole worl’ is only a dam’ little morsel of a place. Besides Trinidad is a smaller place even. It all close up on itself, an’ you have to look out fo’ that with the bigges’ eyes you have.”– Old Boss, The Humming Bird Tree (1969)

One of the things I aimed to do in the new year was to write more about things I had wanted to  talk about before—but hadn’t had the time or gumption to do before. A prime example of that would be the Anya Ayoung-Chee episode and so, here I go, talking about it now. Now, when Anya’s porn tape/s got “leaked”–one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole debacle to me, were the ways in which certain people immediately closed ranks around the issue (and her) and grew a moral spinal cord, refusing to pass on the footage.

Sometimes, the same people who were passing Sampson Nanton footage left, right and center (for anyone who remembers that episode, for anyone who hasn’t the foggiest idea—ask a Trinbagonian) not to mention, other sundry videos/stills. So I couldn’t figure out if some of the Trinbagonians I knew, on a whole, had just evolved to the point where the moral high ground on which they stood just got loftier and markedly higher, or what the heck was going on. Or whether Nanton, being a man, made it easier for folks to engage in the passage of pornographic footage of him. Either way, both are/were relatively public Trinbagonian figures whose sexual interludes ended up, being unfortunately broadcast for the public through the medium of the internet.

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The Girl I was: or Me, Revisited

March 10, 2010
Diary

My dusty old diary and its rusty key!

Yesterday, late last night and just into the early morn, I went looking for, unearthed, deep in my closet— then perused an old diary of mine. I recall that I didn’t leave it in Trinidad for fear of it falling into the wrong hands—whoever that may be! Hey, you never know. To be safe, I packed it with me as I set off for university. It covers my thoughts and life, during the years, ages 13-15. I haven’t peeped in it in many, many years but I knew it was here somewhere. It is this rainbow-and-neon hued Lisa Frank diary.

It was as though I sat down to catch an inner glimpse into my teenaged self from my older self’s vantage point. I eventually christen the diary “Lisa-Anne” after Anne Frank and Lisa Frank, the namesake of the Stuart Hall Co.’s then uber-popular stationery line. My entries start as “Dear Lisa” then morph into “Dear Lisa-Anne.” I had read the Diary of Anne Frank and enjoyed and loved it tremendously as a girl. Admittedly, without any sense of irony at all, this—my diary—without a doubt, is one of the most compelling things—out of anything—that I have read in a long time. What a strange, brooding, angsty teen I was. Good Lord.

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