By Drexwell Seymour
I personally believe that one of the priorities of any government is to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in its people and to encourage those that live with us to assimilate with us and to appreciate and respect the local culture and heritage.
With that said, let me first recognize and commend the current Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) premier, Hon. Sharlene Robinson, who introduced the Private Member’s motion in 2000 when the Department of Culture was created under the Tourist Board. I also wish to applaud the former Premier Rufus Ewing for dedicating the entire month of October as National Heritage Month in 2014. While many countries use the anniversary of their Independence Day to celebrate their culture, we have the entire month to do so.
Continue the Celebration – Ludwina and Team
Last year, we did not have any National Heritage activities and my understanding was that it was due to the impact that Hurricanes Irma and Maria had on the islands. However, this year was perhaps the biggest and longest celebrations of activities for National Heritage Month and this certainly made up for last year and this year.
Therefore, I must take this opportunity publicly to thank Ms Ludwina Fulford and her team for an excellent job in promoting our culture and heritage this year. I encourage them to continue with what they are doing. We must always celebrate the heritage of TCI no matter how many of us remain in the country or no matter if storms are coming. In fact, when storms are coming, the best thing for us to do is for us to be together as one big family and one way to draw us together is the celebration of our culture and heritage together.
This year, every island participated in one way or another in the national heritage activities. However, as we exit the month of October, let us not be idle and forget our culture and heritage until next year October. I am confident that Ludwina and her team will continue to promote the preservation of our culture in TCI throughout the year. However, all of us have to play our part as well in keeping our culture alive.
I am encouraging the residents to be proud of your heritage. Get your national costumes, promote the local music and musicians, and tell stories to your children about your heritage. Maintain TCI paraphernalia at your home, your business, your vehicle. Show the world that you are proud of your heritage.
Given that we are not one landmass, one of the major drawbacks in promoting our culture and heritage is lack of funding. However, it seems this year that funding was not an issue, based on all the activities that took place this month.
I encourage the current government and subsequent governments to continue to invest in the Department of Culture so that we can keep our culture alive.
National Trust – Ethlyn Gibbs
Another aspect of our culture and heritage is the National Trust, which is headed by Ethlyn Gibbs, and of course a board headed by Carlos Simons. The goal of National Trust is to promote the historic and cultural heritage of the TCI. I want to commend the team for doing a great job despite the limited funding. With this, I want encourage residents to become members of the National Trust so that they can continue with the maintenance of our heritage.
Turks and Caicos Sailing Association
With this article I also want to recognize the Turks and Caicos Sailing Association, whose goal is to preserve, honour and enhance our heritage of the Caicos Sloop. In doing so, they will be promoting the boat building so that it can be passed on to future generations. According to the Association, the Caicos Sloop was the backbone of the TCI economy and it wants to ensure that knowledge is passed from one generation to another. I salute the Association team, namely, David Ward, Matt Gorvin, Goldstone Williams (the master boat builder), Will Gibson, John Ward and Elry Lightbourne.
Document Our Heritage and Teach it in Our Schools
I encourage the Department to document the culture and heritage of these beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. Too many people are dying without the history being told and, when it is retold many times, major details are omitted. Candy Herwin does a very good job in interviewing and documenting the elderly folks from the various islands.
I must make mention of a book written by Mr H.E. Sadler called the Turks Islands Landfall. I encourage the Department to see if they can get this book back in circulation. It has a wealth of information. There is also another book written by Dr Carl Mills that we need to keep in circulation and should be taught at all schools in TCI. Joan Astwood also has authored a number of text books and work books on our history. I encourage the Dept of Education to use Joan’s books to teach everyone about our history and geography. Finally, I want to recognize Mr Glen Misick for the video documentaries.
Promote our local dishes and local songs and stories
Promote our local dishes and local songs. I wish someone can document all our local songs and stories in a book and pass it on from generation to generation. Maybe next year we have a day set aside just for Turks and Caicos local foods.
I know masquerade was a major part of our culture growing up especially on the island of South Caicos where I was born. We now have a festival called Maskanoo, which supposed to be a combination of mas’ and the Bahamian junkanoo. While I agree with many that maskanoo is not part of culture but mas’ is, so I think we should use the opportunity of the annual maskanoo to celebrate our heritage.
I think we need to encourage groups from various islands to participate in a mas’ event. However, we will need to offer cash as an incentive. Too many times you go to the Maskanoo there are not many groups participating and very little depiction of our culture. Perhaps the government can assist by offering cash prizes through the Department of Culture. I know the Bahamas government spends a significant amount of money investing in Carnival and Junkanoo.
I think next year, at the National Heritage Awards Ceremony, we should encourage all winners of the awards, along with the government officials and other visitors, to wear the National Costume at this event. While we did not have a costume growing up, the idea of a national costume certainly depicts our culture representing the various islands in our country.
Therefore, I cannot end this article without thanking the former director of culture, Mr David Bowen, for his contribution in bringing more awareness about our culture and heritage. In fact, it was David that designed the National Costume.
I personally believe when we travel overseas on official business for Turks and Caicos, we should wear our national costume. Showcase the Turks and Caicos wherever we go.
Perhaps we can consider next year to set aside a day called National Costume Day where everyone is encouraged to wear the TCI National Costume.
It seems that we can easily adapt and appreciate other people’s culture such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and even their accents. We also love international artistes, which is evident on the radio stations and other events that are held in the TCI. It is time we embrace our local artistes and people and celebrate our culture proudly everywhere and anywhere.
Too many times, we tend to forget where we came from or we want to forget where we came from and we become very arrogant, especially if we are considered to be very important in society. However, many times, it is because of what you went through that perhaps propels you to be where you are today. Therefore, this article is to encourage us to keep our culture and heritage alive and to recognize other organizations and individuals that are doing their best to ensure that our heritage is passed on from generation to generation.