Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Art of the Peoples

Shirin Tobie-Paul of Tupah & Pohtay meets
Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy
I’ve had my heart broken by being an Artist of the Peoples, aka, a crafter. I went to college in the UK to a place that was as confused about what craft was as the worst person in the street: they taught us it was art, but even though it can be, it wasn’t, not the way they conveyed it. They neither taught us technique nor art, but rather something between, something largely homeless. So I left there wondering if I’d missed something. Well maybe I had, but I think most of all, they had. They’d missed the gift of being mentors and instead made the stereotype of ‘those who can’t, teach’ something that you really began to wonder may be true. I have since had my best moments in life being a teacher and a mentor - I never cease to be grateful I can.

I also left there convinced that the uppity snobby world of pretension that pissed on Art of the Peoples, was not a place for me - I wanted what I made to be inspiring to everyday people. Something to light up smiles on the faces of my friends, my dentist, the random worn out parent of a child whose eye passing by, caught the colours. (Thank you my dentist Azmina Long, for meeting me at the supermarket Friday and reminding me that you thought my art was beautiful and urging me to get back to it)

I've been a 'crafter' for many, many years and miss it immensely now my energies are used up at a desk-job, but those years also left a bitter taste in my mouth and scarred my path in life in ways that only other creatives may understand: the public that 'loves' your craft that pops hundreds on some foreign imported piece of crap and turns straight to your face and says 'bondye...give me a little break can give it to me for less, you know the pockets empty?' (and what do you think mine are, you lash back in your head while struggling to maintain a semblance of a smile on your outside) Or turns away with a half-cheups, saying nothing at all to you but mumbling to others "I doh know why these artists don't make their prices reasonable...' as they turn to go and waste good money on some other 300% marked up plastic status symbol they deem more worthy. 

And while I'll be the first to teach that you have to know and cater for your market, I now make no apologies to also teach that 1) these people probably aren't your market and you need to avoid trying to make them until 2) development of the market has reached a place where people understand the value of what we make, what we artists do. 3) Don't give in. Find your market, find the one, two or handful that do understand and let them lift you up. 4) Practice what you preach - buy from your fellow artists, speak kindly to them and inspire them as you want for yourself.

So it was with an energy on an endorphin high that I spent my last two days at the Saint Lucia Taiwan Trade Fair where I began to believe that Saint Lucia might be, might, just, be, on the cusp of coming out of the dark ages where art – of the intellectuals and the peoples – has been a bad word, a road to debt, a highway to crazy where good people full of light, fade and dust and dry rot. Maybe, just maybe we are coming close to a long-closed door being recognized for what it is, what it has always been; the path to freedom.

Heart-to-heart talks, frank caring critiques from creative to creative, art of the peoples touched, bought and ready to be gifted at Christmas…The Ministry of Commerce having included a 'Voucher Scheme' where exhibitors could exchange vouchers to 'buy' each other's goods. The unbridled joy of primary school kids playing, singing and dancing our traditional songs; their teacher’s face a story of love. The adults testing the strength of the stage-boards leaping, pouring sweat, lost in the love of dances rooted in African pasts long foreign except in places that oceans cannot touch. This is my world, this is what I love. I will be back there today and I hope many more will be too. This is the true backbone of the nation, the Arts – of all shapes and forms. The works of expression that enable us to be.

I am hopeful.

See my photos HERE More to come, so please subscribe to my blog (make me feel good!!! TIA :)  and 'Like' the Cultural Development Foundation's Facebook page  - click to get Notifications also and you'll be kept in touch with all that we are doing (that's my day-job)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge

The night of Friday 13th November 2015 saw awful terror attacks in Paris and today, Facebook gradually turned into 3 colours as people expressed their solidarity with France and the people of France in the face of this tragedy. 

I chose not to. 

Yes, I feel deep empathy for the victims – especially in this case, where it would seem there was no particular effort to take revenge against any specific people who angered the attackers (edit. 15.11 Ok, maybe it turns out, this is not quite the case as authorities indicate the Bataclan club is well-known for pro-israili activities but what about the others?). I understand that Paris is a place of familiarity for so many people, even if they have never been there - it is the city of our romantic dreams, of many movies, a country of western partnership. They are friends and family.

But for me, the message I want to send and I would love to see people emanating themselves is not that of National Colours. National colours, National borders, flags, are demarcations that help divide us. Underneath it all we are all the same – all human – all God’s children as so, so many believe. There are warring people in every country and innocent victims in every country.  In many countries – not least in the west, it is an institutionalised part of governments and of the economy. There exists a strong sickly incestual  relationship: Fear, war, money earned from war, fear earned from war, power, influence, money; hunger, desperation, fear, war.....

So today, just like any other day, I really don’t particularly empathise with France. France, like many nations, does some pretty shitty things. The people who died, their families – yes, I empathise very much with them, these casualties of wars fought by their governments and all the too numerous armies of the world and those of religious fundamentalism.  I empathise with all ordinary people who are just trying to live a reasonably decent life.  I especially empathise with people trying to be peaceful.

And I understand the frustration of those that expressed outrage that people will turn their statuses blue, white and red today but barely make a comment when 157 were killed in Kenya or Lebanon, or…

Let’s be real, there are many awful deaths of innocents around the world on a unfairly constant basis. Yes, news agencies do cover these too, but sadly yes, also, ‘we’ do not jump on the hashtag, status image bandwagon anywhere near as much as when it is white western ‘civilization’ that is affected, and the news coverage is hardly ever of a similar scope, emotion or longevity. This I believe is sadly reality.
Many of my friend’s argue that people pointing this out, are clouding the issue and that there is no reason why this Paris tragedy should not stand alone as an act of atrocity. It is indeed an act of atrocity and of much sadness and one well worthy of us standing up in solidarity against. But it does not stand alone. Not at all. These things are happening all around us to all colours, nations, religions. We all are in this together as humanity; as one world.  

This tragedy is a part and parcel of a much wider (w)hole.So yes, I don't think the issue we should be focusing on is supporting one Nation or one Nation's people. We should be supporting something that moves us away from division. Finding a place where we can build peace.

So when I saw the tricolor taking over today, my thoughts went to my favourite t-shirt that I bought one early Saturday morning at our local Flea Market – it has a tree dripping with peace-sign fruits and says simply ‘Grow Peace’. So I made my status image a version of tha.

This is the strong desire days like this cause in me and I do hope more and more people will understand that we must make time and look deeper. There is only one way out of this, and it is togetherness, common humanity – standing together as one world, one people, in peace.

 #1world1people   #growpeace

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Do you worship the Devil then?

'God Light' Or maybe just inspiring
I just read an article about a study of kids carried out across a fairly diverse range of countries - the study’s results showed that non-religious children are more altruistic and show more empathy than religious children. Well blow me down with a feather! Are you as shocked as I am?
Ok, well, no, I am not shocked.  Except maybe that apparently we don’t already know this to be a fact.

So of course I posted it to Facebook with a little introduction sharing my thoughts that I was glad, at least, to have one study backing up something I already knew to be true – but one of my friend’s response gave me the title, and motivation to write this post. She identifies as an atheist and commented
"I too am non religious, atheist actually, and have three non religious boys (now men) who have good strong morals and ethics and have empathy and compassion for fellow beings and creatures. It irks me when people who are religious perceive my non religiousnesstherefore having no morals or a code of ethics...and therefore evil. Someone actually asked me if I worship the devil because I am an atheist"

I’d like to laugh. It has happened to me also (though I don't think I am quite athiest)  but this way of thinking,  I believe, is one of the most destructive forces we have in our little earth these days (and  past): the misleading of people away from our common humanity, in the guise of religion. Not faith – which is also commonly confused as the same as religion, I’m talking about the more and more commonplace extreme Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so on, that so many people seem hell-bent on practicing. The 'I'm righteous and if you don't believe what I believe, you worship the devil and deserve persecution or even to die' line of rationalization.

Those of you who have read my posts over the years would know I am not religious and that my lack of faith in faith became evident during my school years when I could not help but realize that much of what we were told to be ‘fact’ was, to say the least, highly questionable as fact and indeed, took a leap of faith to accept as fact. A leap, I have to say, I never had in me. No religion gene here.

So, to the core of the matter – what is our motivation to care about others and to be empathetic and altruistic? I do it because I can hardly help myself –it’s in me and it makes me feel good to boot. 

What is a religious person’s reason for doing ‘right’? To be highly favoured perhaps; to be accepted in the Kingdom of Heaven? To be one of the numbered? To avoid going to Hell? Be canonised? Have people in Church recognize them as righteous? Or maybe just because ‘God sees everything'. Perhaps all, perhaps one or two and of course, in some cases, there may be no more motivation than it feels good or they can hardly help themselves – but that is the core motivation of good humans and does not, in any way, shape or form, need religion to exist.

By its very nature, religion relates doing good to receiving a reward. And in so doing, I think, sadly, the very nature of doing good, is sullied. 

Then there is the inherent issue that religion necessitates one group being right and all others, wrong. Granted, some religions place less emphasis on this, but increasingly, far too many make it a central part of their dogma. How then can empathy exist – empathy which requires a certain level of being able to identify with another’s problem in a way that leads to commonality?How can altruism flourish when a one-off assistance granted to someone may be ok to render, but if you are to keep blessing anyone with your help, they can’t be non-believers.

Without this external motivation of reward or wrath from On High, surely those of us who do good just for the sake of it have indeed a better grasp on what altruism and empathy are and indeed, demonstrate good strong ethics and morals. This is, indeed, the deepest level of free will you will ever be able to attain.

I am not saying there is no place for faith and I know many people whose faith is indeed beautiful to me; I do not need to feel the same as them to be able to see the beauty. But religion is another matter. And the extreme practices religion all too often shepherds people into – there is no empathy, altruism or moral ethics down that slippery path to hell.

 What do you think? What are your experiences and what motivates you to be altruistic, to judge or accept? And what guides your morals and ethics?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Viv Lawoz! Vive La Rose - Saint Lucia Flower Festival Hits Rodney Bay

The Queen is revived by the scent of the Rose

Last night I attended a first in history event - the Lawoz Seance - a part of a tradition that dates back to Colonial Times, came to Rodney Bay - right between the two malls - Baywalk and JQ Rodney Bay Mall.

I was working - taking photographs for the Cultural Development Foundation where I work. Well, that is the kind of work I really enjoy! The atmosphere, as you'll see in the photos, was just fantastic!

Young, Teen, Moms, Dads and Grandparents all enjoying the drama and fun.

This is the first time I've been at a Seance - which is basically an event that each Lawoz group holds in their own communities to raise funds and have  a lot of fun doing so!

The Lawoz and the Magewit (Marguerite) are what we call the Flower Festivals - they have their origin as a parody of the Colonials but also as friendly societies for 'ordinary' people of Saint Lucia. They traditionally 'war' with each other by competing with songs that make fun of and deride each other. Members of the groups take on various roles such as nurses, doctors, police, magistrates, army, princesses and princes and each year a Lawoz (La Rose) Queen and King are crowned - La Wa and La Wen

Many Saint Lucian's don't actually know much about these beautiful and fun traditions or about their more serious history, so the CDF through the creative persuasions of our Director of Events and Production Drenia Frederick, has now brought the celebration to Rodney Bay for 2 years. The reception by the public is nothing short of raptuous - crowds gather and stay transfixed by the merriment and dramatic occurrences, such as persons being arrested for stealing sweeties or wearing the wrong colours: Lawoz colours are pink, red and might get away with some other colours thrown in but don't wear blue or purple whatever you do! That's Magewit's colours and its sure to end you up before the Magistwa (Magistrate) paying a fine!

A few pictures here - please do take a look at the full album on flickr and feel free to repost with credit to the photographer and preferably a link back to flickr or here

Viv La Rose!
'Put a little something on it' Eager patron of the Lawoz Food Stalls
Members of Mamai la Caye
The Percussion section
Well known writer, poet, carnival band leader and artist Adrian Augier pays his fine for wearing the wrong colours

The Policewomand dances with a lovely Lawoz patron
Young Boy grins - not sure if he was arrested for wearing blue or stealing sweets...or both!
The Doctor is called in to revive a fallen reveller
One of the young Chantwelles
One of the older beauties
another of the young Chantwelles
Dennery King and Choiseul Queen celebrating

Viv Lawoz! the youngest patron dancing away!

Dance Class led by Calypsonian, Dancer, educator 'Batchelor'

Calypsonian and Traditional singer 'Ready'
Young and Young at Heart enjoy the evening
How to 'tief a sweetie right in front of the Police!
Please take a look at the full set of photos here: Lawoz Album

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Decadent Sweet Potato Mango – Carambola Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

So, I thought I'd see if I could do another variation of these cakes...then I realized I had no fruit - well, I had a Mammee Apple, but it's not ripe enough, I had about 7 windfall mangoes but only one was ripe enough and that wasn't enough fruit...dig, dig, dig in the fridge....currents and 2 small sweet Carambola...YaY! Baking time!

So for this one, this is how I did it:

Use 2 silicone loaf pans
Preheat oven to 350F

I pre-roasted some sweet potato in its skin – then sliced up the potato (removing skin) and roasted again so it was half dry – half moist. I put this through the blender so it was in smallish soft chunks. To this I added about a half cup of toasted dessicated coconut that had also been blended into a fairly fine crumb. Added about a ¼ cup brown rice flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 1Tablespoon cinnamon and ½ tsp nutmeg. Set that aside
Cream 3-4 oz Butter with a Tablespoon of Olive Oil and  2/3 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy. Dice 1 small medium-ripe mango (about 1/2 cup), mix with 2/3 cup currant and mix into creamed butter and sugar

Spread into bottom of pan and Sprinkle on about 1/3 cup chocolate chips (semi sweet dark is what I used)

Slice 2 small sweet Carambola and layer on top of all this

Chop about 1/3 cup roasted cashew nuts and sprinkle on top

Now chop up some unsweetened dark baking chocolate – about 3 squares and sprinkle on top 

Now I beat together 1 eggs, 1/3 cup oil and ½ cup brown sugar until well blended and fluffy
I added about a 1/3 cup plain yogurt to this and mixed it in. Then I mixed this with the sweet potato and flour mix -This is now spread on top of all the layers and sprinkled with a little left over toasted dessicated coconut

Pop in the oven and cook for about 30-40 mins
Let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so before turning out on to a plate.
 It tastes goooooooooood :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Decadent Upside Down Cake

Inspired by this recipe 

Sunday's are for baking something to get you through the 5 days of the work-week! I always try to mess around with someone's recipe...sometimes it isn't exactly a result that makes you drool but then there are days like today! Yummy!!!

Decadent Upside Down Cake

Line a 10” pan with parchment paper or use a silicone baking dish
Preheat oven to 350F

Now get baking

Cream 6-8 oz Butter with 2/3 - 3/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy
Spread into bottom of pan

Dice 1 ripe mango (about a cup), mix with ½ cup raisins, ½ cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips, 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts and 1/3 cup chopped cashew nuts – mix together
Sprinkle on top of the creamed butter and sugar

Beat together 2 eggs, ¼ cup oil and 2/3-3/4 cup brown sugar until well blended and fluffy
Beat in ¾ cup each boiled mashed sweet potato and pumpkin (total 1 ½ cups)

Mix the following dry ingredients together then mix into the eggs, sweet potato and pumpkin mix
1 cup coconut flour or finely blended toasted coconut
½ cup rice flour
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Spread this on top of the first two layers

Pop in the oven and cook for about 30-40 mins
Let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so before turning out on to a plate. Let cool before eating (or not… ;)

Not a great photograph..but it tastes good!!!
 If you bake a version of this, why not share it here!?