The unique aspects of Indo-Trinidadian culture need to be branded and marketed to promote tourism and thereby achieve economic growth and development, said an expert at an event here to mark the 170th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Indians in Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is a need to market (our) food, rituals, festivals and heritage from the perspective of selling the unique experiences as part of a tourism product,” said economist, playwright, dancer and choreographer Satnarine Balkaransingh at a seminar organised on Wednesday by the National Council of Indian Culture in Divali Nagar, Charlieville, Chaguanas.
Balkaransingh said plastic arts could be used “to document and tell our stories, market our rituals and festivals without sacrificing or compromising their sacredness”.
Underlining the contributions made by Indian migrants in nation building, he said: “We are the successors of a migrant society. Our ancestors improved the economy and fostered national development. The attitudes and values inherent in the Indo-Trinidadian culture, now in its 170th year of existence, has contributed to this national development.”
The East Indian diaspora was sourced from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917. They were brought here by the then colonial government to rescue the dying agricultural economy following the end of slavery by the British Parliament in 1834.
The first batch of East Indians was the beginning of several journeys amounting to approximately 148,000 East Indians. They brought with them new cuisine, habits, traditions, customs and Hinduism.
Balkaransingh pointed out that major public events that Indians brought to Trinidad and Tobago were now national events such as Diwali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Ram Lila, Phagwa and Hosay.
“The promotion of Indo-Trinidadian culture must not be done with arrogance and insensitivity to the detriment of other culture,” he said, adding that “we must ensure fruitful coexistence and harmony”.
Pandita Indrani Rampersad, the first official woman priest in Trinidad, said the Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago is an identity. “This identity is passed on from one generation to the next but it is not static, and to remain relevant, culture changes with time and space.”
A series of programmes have been planned for the Indian Heritage Month this year to mark the 170th Indian Arrival Day, which is celebrated on May 30.
The first ship carrying Indian immigrants reached Trinidad and Tobago on May 30, 1845.
The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has organised an art exhibition with the theme “Drawing from our heritage – Colours of our East Indian culture”.
“This exhibition aims to create a space for the public to reflect on our nation’s East Indian heritage and to continue to envision a beautifully diverse and harmonious multicultural future,” the bank’s governor Jwala Rambarran said in a message.