THREE of Tobago’s late cultural stalwarts were among 20 people honoured by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on Tuesday during Emancipation celebrations on the island.
Chief Secretary Farley Augustine presented plaques posthumously to the family members of musician/songwriter Sherwin Cunningham, cultural activist and former Senate vice-president Rawle “Ax Back” Titus and musicologist Michael Duncan during a concert titled Footprints to Freedom at the Store Bay Heritage Park.
Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris and assistant secretary in the division Megan Morrison were also on hand to congratulate the family members of the awardees, who were recognised for their contribution to the preservation and development of Tobago’s heritage.
The event brought the curtain down on this year’s Tobago Heritage Festival, which was titled, Homage: Paying Tribute to All Ah We and All Ah Who Awwe Be.
Among the other recipients were veteran entertainer Michael Baker; calypsonian Prince Unique (Jeffrey Thomas); Marie Toby, captain, Redemption Sound Setters; George Leacock, managing director, Radio Tambrin; dancer Eunice Adams and former tourism secretary George Stanley Baird.
The concert culminated a colourful procession from the Colosseum in Crown Point to the heritage park. Led by flagman David Nelson, the procession featured moko jumbies, traditional characters and several cultural groups from across the island.
The participants, most of whom were dressed the African-inspired clothing, danced to recordings of songs by Ella Andall and others. Minister of Sports and Community Development and Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe was among those enjoying the celebration.
In his address, Augustine urged the audience to pay close attention to what he described as an “awakening” taking place in Africa.
“You are seeing some coups happening in some places. You are seeing some people calling for the expulsion of the French from their territories. You are seeing battle lines being drawn in the continent between the neo-colonialists and the people of Africa. And I am just saying that we ought to pay attention and we ought to be prepared to support those efforts of our brothers and sisters, particularly in West Africa as they fight against neo-colonialism,” he said.
Augustine said while he was pleased with the support the event received, “the celebration must go beyond what we do now and ensure that we give support to each-other within the African diaspora.”
He saluted the awardees, whom he said, contributed immensely toward ensuring that African cultures within Tobago are sustained.
Burris, in her remarks, reflected on this year’s heritage festival theme.
“Homage is not just about recognising our elders. It is not just about thanking persons for their contribution but it is also about recognising how far we have come and how far we still have to go,” she said.
Burris said all of the awardees were deserving of their accolades.
“Some of them have never been honoured by a THA before and I think it would be remiss of us if we did not take the opportunity while they were alive to be able to show them that we appreciate them.”
She extended kudos to Morrison and her staff at the department of culture.
“They did a tremendous job in my view to pull off this year’s heritage festival despite all of the challenges, despite all of the setbacks. They stretched themselves.
“They took all the comments in stride. They made sure and they checked in with one-another and I have to say they did an excellent job bringing us here to the end of our heritage this year.”
Burris also thanked all of those who contributed to this year’s event. Morrison also spoke.
Among those performing in the concert were Tobago Heritage Monarch Garve Sandy, Charlotteville Heritage Folk Performers, Uptown Fascinators, Encore Dance Theatre and Zante Unique Touch.