On Friday August 31, 2012, Trinidad and Tobago marked its 50thanniversary of Independence…an auspicious and momentous milestone. Surely, an accomplishment to be proud of…one that sent Trinidad and Tobago into a frenzy for the two months leading up to the anniversary. The government hurriedly sought to show its recognition of this achievement with a host of anniversary events that all seemed to have been put together overnight. The celebrations ranged from small concerts and street performances to a Twenty20 for 50 Cricket Festival and culminated in grand festivities. These included a Gala concert on Independence eve followed by the re-enactment of the raising of the first national flag at midnight on Independence Day.
For us, Trinidad and Tobago’s anniversary activities glaringly stood out against those of Caribbean neighbour, Jamaica, who also boasts a golden jubilee. I dare say the Jamaicans accomplished a celebration of global proportions that has thrown them into the international spotlight with coverage in the Rolling Stone magazine and from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). Strategically branded, Jamaica 50, concerts and functions showcasing the talent and culture of these resilient people were held in major cities from Toronto to New York to London. Through all of their initiatives, a clear well-thought out mission was evident…most of all what rings home is the energy, dedication and planning that was ever present.
Jamaica’s was a strategy that was inclusive, cleverly incorporating their Olympic marketing and public relations initiatives to successfully put Jamaica on the tips of the tongues of the global masses. The synchronicity and consistency in their approach could only have been achieved with a year or more of planning. Through it all Jamaica owned its culture and proudly displayed who they are to the world…no apologies and no expenses spared. Of note was the impressive London unveiling of the Jamaica Olympic wardrobe by designer Cedella Marley, the Jamaica Olympic Association and Puma; the grandiose six-day entertainment and cultural village, Jamaica 50 Grand Jubilee Village, that hosted live music performances, plays, movie screenings, a fashion show and dance competition; and the painstakingly produced rendition, On A Mission, featuring some of the country’s top talent including Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, Tarrus Riley and Tessanne Chin.
The Jamaican government made a bold statement that they are willing to invest in their creative industries. With fashion, sports, music, art, dance and theatre shining as their most valuable assets, the icons of Jamaican culture – Marcus Garvey, the Marleys, Grace Jones, Usain Bolt – stand tall through it all.
At a time when the identity of Trinidadians and Tobagonians is at the fore, the arts and culture of the nation’s spaces take centre stage. And rightfully so…nothing speaks to identity more than the culture of a people. So as we look back on the development of Trinidad and Tobago…what is their culture? Their culture truly is Noble Douglas who has shone as an icon of the arts both in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. The co-founder of the twin-isle’s leading children’s theatre company, Lilliput Children’s Theatre, the founder of the premier contemporary modern dance company, the Noble Douglas Dance Company Inc. (NDDCI) and a recipient of the nation’s second highest award, the Hummingbird Medal – Gold, Douglas’s work has been celebrated by many. Most recently, The Guardian Media group named her as one of the country’s 50 Most Influential People. For us though, Noble Douglas’s most noteworthy achievement is the social contribution that she continues to make to the lives of countless of Trinidad and Tobago’s youth.
Aunty Noble as she is fondly called by her Lilliputians, is not merely a teacher and choreographer…she is an inspiration. She has stood strong with an unyielding commitment to her vision to use the performing arts as a medium to stimulate young people’s creative energy and to build their character, self-confidence and self-esteem. She has held firm to her life’s mission and through the years her commitment has been unwavering and unapologetic…never afraid to speak her mind and have her opinion be known. Lilliput Children’s Theatre under her artistic direction is a reflection of her resilience and stubborn defiance.
Productions such as Smelly, The Changing of the Guard and anansi and the world wide web have challenged Trinidad and Tobago’s audiences, media and policy-makers to countenance alternative views politically, socially and culturally. She is both a cultural force for change and a force for cultural progress…her story reflects her personal journey of independence from societal and cultural norms that hold us in bondage…hers is a reflection of true independence.
artIS3LIVE raises its glass in salute and celebration of Aunty Noble…cheers! Noble Douglas is our symbol of truth…love…freedom…the power of Creativity. Happy 50th Jubilee of Independence Trinidad and Tobago. 50 down…now #on2aProudEternityTandT.