Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just saying...

Burton Sankeralli’s Of Obeah and Modernity is an interesting read. While on one level thick with the drivel of a mind saturated with philosophy it can as well be seen as a rich dark brownie: every nibble if explored reveals a soluble morsel comprising the bitter and the sweet.

The title Of Obeah and Modernity sets up a juxtaposition of the value of tradition lodged in a far away place with the immediacy of the material world as forged by Westerners. Its not that black and white though as an understanding of the world is the work of any who has the time to embark on it.

The oral tradition of Africans which holds the wisdom of the people inward is measured against the trope of the printing press leading to technological developments that in his reading leave the world in no better a place.

For him it all begins with a journey to the start of it all. One obscured by history itself which he suggests is a process and not a product. South Asia as well figures quite prominently and is implicitly placed as an influential and even parallel reality.

While the book does require some knowledge of African and Indian religion it as well acknowledges the hegemony that has denied many this knowledge.

He becomes a suitable griot as he is as well clearly of this time and in his style provides enough of the irreverence and whimsy that is the result of the overload of modernity that underscores the importance of the text.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


If he’d gone out tonight he’d have heard what he didn’t want to hear and not been able to say what he wanted. He would have spent what he didn’t want to and have nothing to show for it. Its election season on a Caribbean island and he was over the politics and wishing to be elsewhere before it all started.

It made him feel bad to decide to come home, and ironically because he felt selfish, the same thing that keeps him here, him knowing himself to be as well selfish. Such was the nature of definition, though, finite but too without substance.

So he writes, to no one, for no one but that secret lover in himself. The one who would care to hear what he has to say, to whom he was comfortable expressing anything, always there at his fingertips, who trusted him to push his buttons cause they were there for that and responded in a way that made them both feel as if they were right for each other.

He sits at his keyboard, of black and white conjuring colors beyond their polarity. Wild and rich and yet controlled…by his fingers. As his mind wondered his fingers held fast to his imaginings. Delete, backspace, cut and paste in a world of monolithic history and inescapable memories, those functions helped him function.

Caught between the two he could for the minutes that it lasted feel in control. Even as he wrote, he thought of being there, to face the impending fate that not even his challenges to fundamentalism could lead him to think would not be there: if not now then.

The same question could be asked, though, what of the night out, or the night in, pushing buttons that evoked emotions, of so many colors amidst another polarity, that of the sexes.

Regret soon sets in and its him again, caught between his history that some say is gone and memories of consequence for being selfish and he senses a tear as he sits at his keyboard unable to type another word.

Fashionably Late

There is a thinking that life in the Caribbean moves at a slower pace. Not wanting to buck that trend-of-thought, it is some months later that I get around to writing on Fashion Week Trinidad and Tobago 2010.

The five day event, held at the end of May presented hot looks and equally hot controversy, all indicative of the state of the industry.

Before the curtain raised on FWTT, Meiling had declared what was described as a boycott.

Meiling, who got her formal training at the Lucie Clayton School of Design in the 60’s, and two of her protégés were announced as showing at a precursor event to the collective FWTT.

Her collection, Noir, was part of a night hosted by Tyson Beckford which was part of a weekend of activities dubbed “Be” held at the recently built boutique Carlton Savannah Hotel which was home to Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

Not much local coverage of the showing was seen but Au Courant Daily said of Noir “…the origami-inspired collection in black organdy fell short, and the pieces seemed safe and predictable.”

FWTT 2010 was themed “Magenta” which had some designers seeing red, rumored to be among them, Meiling.

No mention was made of her menswear collection by Anthony Reid, which usually sells out within days, or Anya Ayoung Chee’s, debut of Rogue.

Anya, Miss Trinidad and Tobgao 2008 came back from the Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam, uncrowned, but with connections, fans and a sex tape that made its way to the internet. It featured Anya allegedly with another delegate of the pageant and Anya’s then boyfriend, photographer Wyatt Gallery.

Her Pilar line was among the highlights of FWTT 2010.

Inspired by military and school uniforms, Miz Ayoung Chee, a trained graphic and interior designer, in her own words, set out to change the approach of young women to dressing.

It may have suffered slightly for styling but her sophomore collection, provided options for daring females wanting substance, at least in concept.

More controversy came as the industry, which usually caters to graduates seeking gowns and those on the Christmas in to Carnival party circuit, for the first time had live bloggers reacting as fast as they registered their disgust to its offerings. Not wholly true but there was a feeling that much of the commentary, albeit negative, was reactionary, uniformed and without merit.

Fashion in Trinidad and Tobago has been dominated by the same names for the last three decades. What my friend Chuck Amos would call the RSTLN and E’s, think Wheel of Fortune.

Among the ususal suspects, Robert Young of The Cloth, Claudia Pegus and Heather Jones. While known for amazing work they were in the main this year seen as doing more of the same.

I say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, while some say it reflected a lack of creativity.

Not true though, Young showed his now signature appliqué pieces interspersed with enough novelty to catch the open eye. In his usual palette he did one piece jumpsuits that would be a welcomed addition to the wardrobes of his faithful clientele.

He further departed from his men’s looks with collared shirts that married, shotgun-wedding style, tropical decals and African prints and a section of washed out silk-screened tee shirts which were obscure but worth having.

Miz Pegus, in her CPFS collection, created for life between the beach and the pool with her usual flair that distinguished her be-sequined silk tunics and kaftans accessorized with over sized sunglasses and flowing head-wraps.

Also noted for her glamorous resort looks was, Sandra Hordatt with her bath-suits that again spoke to that woman with anytime access to an infinity-pool and a yacht.

Ms Pegus would close the week of presentations with her signature collection again heavily embellished and ultra glamorous. Accessories this time too strengthened her message, what she is made of was evident.

Heather Jones gave more of the unmistakable floral prints that have aided in defining her Miami-cum-Caribbean looks and earned her much acclaim and reward.

The collections of Saleem and Mario Lewis were also strong.

Saleem branded his line in the colors of the country’s flag, Red, White and Black with enough of a twist to take it beyond a nationalist statement.

Christian Boucaud must also be applauded for repping Brand T & T with such style that it excited even the likes of this disenchanted soul.

Mr Lewis showed a very wearable collection in eco-conscious fabrics. There was nothing evidently intrinsically or inherently indigenous about the design but it is now an option for those wanting to buy local conscientiously.

A small but strong menswear line from Ecliff Elie put him alongside Millhouse, this year again quite strong with a villainous collection tailored and designed with stealth and inspired by the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal.

Suits and formalwear in considered shapes in hues that harked to another era while transcending tradition.

I was told the shin-length black hooded jumpsuit that punctuated sections of the presentation could be taken to production.

Elie, inspired by our Amerindian heritage showed a contemporary collection which considered consumers in temperate climates.

Imagine Crocodile Dundee in a Caribbean located Arizona.

Reptilian vertebrae graphics on silk shirts and wide-waist, light tan, leather pants held up by suspenders tapering at the leg. This was not where it ended.

Brown Sugar out of St Kitts was universally elegant.

Trained as an architect Judith Rawlins brings her commitment to all that she is to bare in an aptly named line, a sweet, conscious and enjoyable accent.

Avark of Barbados showed memorable accessories.

Based in organic philosophy the creations use natural materials juxtaposed with decidedly symmetrical designs which never lose locale.

One of my favorites, First Chapter Adam, made a comeback after almost two decades of dormancy.

Matte black accented by Rastafarian colors in avant-garde shapes in a nod to fundamentalism made for a whimsical but edgy presentation that coupled with nostalgia excited and disturbed.

My memories of what was then a design duo comprising the late Junior Assevero and Gregory Singh moved me to tears as I sat watching the delightful pieces making their way down the catwalk.

New York based Donna Dove and Francis Hendy showcased their brand of ‘new world meets first world’ designs, not that it’s a bad thing but different enough to acknowledge that working outside of the region can influence work and perception.

Writing from memory does not do justice to the parade of albeit, myriad expression. It is important for me to note though that while many of the looks would never see the pages of publications from elsewhere or even those that appeal to an International market, Fashion Week TT represents the expression of local and regional artists and designers.

There was a litany of complaints about poor organization and seating but for those wanting to see the beauty and ingenuity of local designers that din drowned, hopefully not in the same way for those responsible for the event, the noisy wheel gets the grease.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The falcon takes a gander

Mark Ronson has not yet committed to working in a particular genre as a producer. If Pop music means only a shortened form of “Popular” then that is where he can be found. A deeper reading might suggest: that he is influenced by so much that he cant help but create, for want of a better term, hybrids, or he allows the artiste he is working with creative control.

In coming to know mark as a DJ in New York in the 90’s, he was always able to select a cross-section of music that spanned decades, continents and styles to the satisfaction of motley throngs.

I bought Everybody Got Their Something out of equal amounts of support, and curiosity. For me it lacked a certain stickiness that some of his later work is not short of. However, I believe it showed his willingness as a producer to take a chance with not a popular but experienced singer, Nikka Costa.

The sounds of Lily Allen’s Smile, the only single I heard off her album and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black too, were different. I liked!

Not being hardcore into rap I found myself on the outside of Here Comes The Fuzz.

His latest offering so far draws on familiar elements fused with so much more that it makes it again difficult for me to place it in a box.

Now going as Mark Ronson and The Business Intl. the singles I have heard so far are a warm mix of the outré and the contemporary. Nice to hear and see Boy George too!

While this selection has shades of Talking Heads' Naked and Exile's I Wanna Kiss You All Over it is a welcomed listen that brings a smile to my face when I think of it.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Its a city that changes but i refuse to let it. I hold in my mind, not frozen but hot like a Guyanese Pepperpot, stewing, hot, flavor melting more and more into one, with spice and a watchful eye. The Pepperpot never ends, new meats added sitting next to a piece that was there from day one.
Its my New York that I love, no one else's. Eight million stories in the naked city and I chose mine. She knows me well, that city. I as naked as she. Both afraid of what we see.
She once New Amsterdam, made a whore of me. Bitten from, like Africa after slavery.
That's our problem, history, pain, perspective, things that dont change like a stuborn bitch!
They say you can leave and return to find most things where you left them. Some things had changed. I ignored some of them.
Its a place a mark is always being made. So what of yours? I miss mine. That's another thing, she spoils you on meaningless treats feed your ego and eat your soul. I could be wrong. It could be the other way around.
But yeah, my muse is there now. I am here, lost for a way to get there.
Its so selfish of me to say muse, what I mean is I love you. New York.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the... day of Christmas...

My true love remains undiscovered. Its not writing, I feel as if I abuse the right. It's not life, I feel as if I don't understand it. Its not Christmas, at least not yet this year. Is true love everlasting though?

I consider change and how much of it I feel pressured to do. Change the curtains, paint the walls, clean the house, be merry...some would say oh what a Scrooge! But really what is Christmas?

While living in New York I worked until midnight Christmas Eve, many years. The pretty snow turned to slush except for on the Christmas cards and the television and in the movies. Never a cozy fire with any of the trimmings, gift under a tree, cider or hot chocolate.

I refuse to shelve what is year round a generally problematic existence to herald the arrival of one of the most conflicted of my beliefs, Jesus Christ.

It helps to get drunk, but that usually helps everything, except the morning after.

The struggle for freedom, no allusions to European hegemony intended, continues. Even as I try to accept Christmas on my own terms, it is not without conflict.

In recent times I have had good times at Christmas, liming and eating with friends, which we do year round but I guess for the sake of the Christ Child, its special when it happens around this time of year.

I have come to resent, despite them being lodged comfortably in my mind, Winter Wonderland, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas and the others that just make no sense while sung in this locale.

In Trinidad and Tobago we have developed our own brand of Yuletide music which is at times irreverent, no judgment attached, and too brutally honest, the name escapes me but one recent addition to the selections basically said, just give me the cash.

No idealist but definitely at a loss as to what to feel apart from pressure. I have to get the tree up, shop, clean, feel merry....oh yeah I listed those already.

Could it be that clearing up the truth about the celebration would help. Businesses say, Ey! Is year end and we milking you'll! Christian churches say without this hoopla we have not a leg to stand on. Children say thanks for the time off and the more the merrier! America say OK! We still rule the hemisphere! Yet to hear an English Carol or have someone offer me some goose!

Its my fault, I know, I could not identify as Christian, but then what? I'll try and find the answer for that in a subsequent posting.

Its a good time to get stuff done yeah, like cleaning and gift giving and getting together. On the issue of celebrating the birth of Christ I don't know. The only reason He saves me from sins is because He made me a sinner, did I really need that?

Not sure why we treat Paganism as we do but its also the date of a festival marking the ascension of the Sun in the Western Hemisphere or something like that. Isn't that why we have so few Amerindians, because they were sun-worshipers?

Not to make a joke of Jesus but I do sometimes wish he would just return and clear up the mess in my mind.

Now mind you, I'm in it eh, rant and all, just not sure I'm still of it.

And a partridge in a pear tree.