Tobago Heritage Festival Becomes More Beautiful
  Michael A.T. Stewart
September 2014

The logo for the Tobago Heritage Festival is the image of a black pregnant woman in a semi kneeling/stooping pose with the slogan "She becomes more beautiful."  This annual cultural extravaganza occupies its own space on the calendar of activities of the Island of Tobago. While it is facilitated by the Tobago House of Assembly, it is really a community driven event and falls under the oversight of the Division of Community Development and Culture.


"This is not just a cultural entertainment event, it is an educational opportunity,” said Dr. Denise Tsoi-a fatt Angus, Secretary for Community Development and Culture.  She was referring to the wealth of cultural history that could be learned, exchanged, practised and displayed during and after the period of the festival.


As the Tobago Heritage Festival celebrated its 27th year in 2014, visitors were echoing, "She becomes more beautiful." And indeed she had.  Mid July to August 1st was a splash of colour, flare and art ushered in by indigenous music as the festival went from village to village.

As she becomes more beautiful, acts from other cultures such Africa, Brazil, St. Lucia and Guadeloupe are invited to share in the rich historical replays.  The value of passing on these traditions through the generations cannot be estimated.


The most consistent, and possibly the most favored rendition over the years, is the "Ole time wedding."  It's a sight to behold.  It is curiously mystical to the observer as the procession executes the traditional march through the streets of Moriah dancing the brush back to the sweet and unique sounds from the tambourine.  The groom looks majestic dressed in Top Hat and Scissors tail suit with his bride in arms looking radiant, charming and just simply downright beautiful.  Weddings were a village event and were oftentimes subjected to village gossip.  But let's not go there. Quite admirable is the participation of the youth in these cultural events. It augurs well for succession through generations.


As one follows the various offerings from different villages, the diverse cultural nuances are evident.  According to Dr. Angus, July- August is not enough to express the way of a richly endowed culture.  She has initiated the 'Tobago Heritage Year Round Experience' that has on at least one weekend each month, a heritage community event. In October alone, one can experience Folk Fiesta married to the Blue Food Festival, a calypso exhibition and vintage calypso competition and the launch of the upcoming Tobago Carnival 2015. The Black History Festival launched last year will again occur in November.  These additional opportunities would have positive impact on local and foreign tourism and increase opportunities for local entrepreneurs.  With a smile, Dr. Angus subtly invited visitors to Tobago's Carnival for a "chip and dip." I suspect that she meant come, dance and take a dip in our crystal clear waters.


The Mud Mas is part of the Carnival experience and is like none other.  Masqueraders all plastered with mud, gyrating to rhythmic sounds. The mud is a science of its own. It has to have the right consistency that allows it to adhere to the body of the masquerader and give it its unique shade. It's actually an art. 

Dr. Angus said that the mud mas and queen show are being improved to revive J'ouvert.  Another exciting queen show is the Miss Heritage Personality event that is not only about beauty, though Tobago is not short on that. According to Dr. Angus, it includes poise and intellect. It will be used to increase the available knowledge about Tobago and its heritage.


The various and exciting experiences will make you uncomfortable being a mere observer and tempt you to  become an active participant.  Take the Charlotteville experience for example.  Who can resist taking off their shoes and dancing the cocoa?  At first it takes getting used to, as feeling wet slippery cocoa pods between the toes is a bit unsettling, but after getting the momentum of things, who really cares?


Another "must do" is the blessing of the boat in the village of Black Rock, traditional style.  If you don't know what that is, the villagers will gladly show you how.


Judging from the journey of the Heritage Festival, from its genesis to now, she has grown and continues to mature. She becomes more beautiful.


Paradise Pulse wishes to thank the Tobago House of Assembly for providing the photographs for this feature.






















By: Michael A.T. Stewart | FEATURES | September 2014