Heritage festival can boost Tobago economy

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 Zante folk performers display the dance of Salaka Feast at the opening of Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park on Friday.
Zante folk performers display the dance of Salaka Feast at the opening of Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park on Friday.

Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles on Friday urged Tobagonians to see the Tobago Heritage Festival as not simply an annual exposition of their culture and way of life but as talents that can contribute significantly to the development of the island’s economy.

Addressing the opening of the 2019 Tobago Heritage Festival at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Charles reflected on this year’s theme, An Authentic Educational Experience, urging Tobagonians to see their talents as assets that can be transformed into competitive, creative industries.

“These industries are widely considered the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, highly-transformative in terms of job creation, income generation and trade. Their power extends beyond economic worth as they also contribute to the holistic well-being of individuals and by extension, societies,” he told an audience, which included Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Senate vice-president Nigel De Freitas and Tobago MPs Ayanna Webster-Roy and Shamfa Cudjoe.

Charles said in light of the growing significance of creative industries, important linkages with tourism are also being forged.

“The Tobago Heritage Festival can serve as shining example, which embodies a piece of both. It is a culturally-rooted extravaganza that also encourages festival and community tourism. This event remains, therefore, a frontrunner among the island’s tourism products with culture and creativity as its driving engines.”

However, Charles warned increased globalisation has the potential to undermine such opportunities and encouraged Tobagonians to redouble their efforts at preserving their heritage.

“We reflect yearly to better understand our essence and our identity as a people, to attain greater knowledge of self and to encourage the search into our collective history. As we continue to navigate an ever increasing globalised world, the search and the preservation of such knowledge should not be viewed as mere routine.

“The Tobago Heritage Festival is our sacred space, a spotlight which continues to shine brightly on the values and nuances associated with Tobago. It is a consistent reminder of our stock and lineage.”

Charles, who is also the Secretary for Education, Innovation and Energy, said an awareness of the island’s heritage ought to make Tobagonians more passionate about safeguarding their legacy “so that when provocateurs emerge to publicly denigrate the Tobagonian identity we can be resolute that we, as a people, are pregnant with purpose and promise.”

He said since the inception of the festival in 1987, Tobagonians were given the responsibility to find innovative ways to mould the event to ensure its growth, relevance and longevity.

Mason Hall folk performers perform as a speech band at the opening of Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park on Friday. PHOTOS BY DAVID REID

In this regard, he criticised those who continue to speak disparagingly about the festival without even attempting to become involved.

“Some of us criticise this cultural treasure while refusing to contribute but I am sure you have heard in true Tobagonian style: Bed water cyah boil cow skin. If you really want to see the Tobago Heritage Festival continue to grow, then you cannot remain on the sidelines. You have to find a way to get actively involved.”


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