Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Soca Warriors, Amerindian Masking

While Italy's dubious "victory" over France in Sunday's World Cup Final helped to immediately forestall any possible nostalgia for the end of what was otherwise an often exciting month of play, I have to confess that I will sorely miss seeing those beloved Soca Warrior fans singing and dancing in the stadiums of Germany.

I collected a number of images from various sources, each of which reinforces the theme that the Soca Warriors (I don't mean just the team here, I mean the fans especially) conceived of themselves as Native Indian warriors, a theme that has run through the length of Trinidad's Carnival, from the mid-1800s.

The Santa Rosa Carib Community, whose members ardently cheered the Soca Warriors, once had a research officer by the name of Elma Reyes who insisted that the Native Indian figure in Trinidad's Carnival was not just some carbon copy of images imported from North America, but that there was also an indigenous Trinidadian-Venezuelan input behind the figures of Indians becoming and remaining prevalent in Trinidad's Carnival. Her attempt to "reclaim" the Indian of Carnival finds some support in the following research article which even observes that many of these Indian costumes were worn by individuals who in cases were themselves Amerindians of the region:

"Amerindian Masking in Trinidad's Carnival: The House of Black Elk in San Fernando", by Helene Bellour and Samuel Kinser, in The Drama Review, Vol. 42, No. 3, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival (Autumn, 1998), pp. 147-169.

Others have in the past observed that the national colours of Trinidad and Tobago--red, black and white--also mimic the natural body dyes and chalk used by Amerindians to paint their faces, as noted by a number of chroniclers in the Caribbean region. Some pottery styles also used red and black, or red and white, as decorative colours. Thus the appearance of individuals in the images that follow can seem more stunning to some of us than the reader might have expected.

For my part, as a tribute to both this theme, the team I long to see in action again, and the many wonderful fans, I offer this small collage (which can be enlarged by clicking on this link):

Until South Africa 2010!

The UN's Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

It has taken me a couple of weeks to begin to assimilate the news concerning the recent vote at the United Nations concerning a draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the mixed reactions, and the uncertain outcomes.

First, it is important to note that the UN as such has not adopted the charter, yet. The declaration that was passed, which calls on states to grant a range of rights to indigenous communities around the globe, won 30 votes in the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, with 12 abstentions. It is still to go to a vote before the General Assembly.

Second, even if passed by the General Assembly, there is nothing to force member states, themselves some of the guiltiest parties in trampling on their indigenous communities, to adopt the declaration as law in their own countries. Speaking with The Washington Post, a representative of one of the current leading opponents to the draft declaration, Canada, stated the declaration would have "no legal effect" in his country, which in the past seemed to rally in support of the declaration. Indeed, Canada's representative, along with that of the Russian Federation, voted against the declaration. According to a Reuters report from June 29, 2006:

"Canada argued that several of the articles would violate the national constitution or even prevent the country's armed forces from taking measures necessary for its defense. Indigenous coalition representatives say they believe the big power opposition was largely driven by concern over the potential loss of state control over how natural resources, like oil, gas and timber, are exploited."

Canada had asked for a three-month delay for the vote, without a clear indication as to how the further delay, after two decades of debate, would resolve the Canadian government's "concerns." Readers can obtain some of the official documents, and recorded reactions of state delegates to the Human Rights Council, by following this link.

Third, it is not at all clear that either the passage or obstruction of the declaration was, is, or might be of universal interest and relevance to all indigenous communities. Besides the "disconnect" that sometimes obtains between indigenous delegates to the UN and members of communities back home, the often obscure and formalistic language of the documents produced at the UN, there is also extreme suspicion in some quarters that the UN, as a body, is a neo-colonial pontoon supporting the interests of imperial states (e.g., Canada, Russia, the USA, Australia). In this regard, writers for the Mohawk Nation News provide one example of some very staunch criticism of the elitism and imperialism embodied in UN efforts to control, contain and overtly assuage indigenous populations with watered-down and non-binding declarations.

At the end of it all, even assuming the declaration passes a vote at the General Assembly in September, it is not clear what will have been won, who will have won, and what practical effect will be had by its passage. On the other hand, I am sure most will agree that the debates that transpired over the past two decades were at least better than complete silence.



We are pleased to announce that there is a new book on the market that you may wish to add to your collection. It is edited by Dr. Baldwin King, Dr. Kenneth John and Cheryl L. A. King. The book, Search for Identity: Essays on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was published in April 2006 by KINGS-SVG Publishers.

The book is essentially a re-publication of essays and commentaries on the social, economic and political life of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that appeared in the local Flambeau magazine up to 1968. The authors are all Vincentian-born except for two invited contributors. The editors believe that many of the essays still have such relevance to today's Vincentian society that re-publication is entirely appropriate. For example, Clem Iton's "Of Color of Skin and St. Vincent" is as topical today as it was in 1965. Kenneth John's "The Political Crisis in St. Vincent" is quite insightful. Wallace Dear's "Constitutional Development of St. Vincent" is a "must read" in the context of the Constitutional Review which is taking place right now. So, many of the essays provide a benchmark against which to judge the progress that has been made over the last forty years in Vincentian society. As such, it should be fascinating reading, not only for the "old-timers", but also for the young people of this generation.

The retail cost of the book (paperback, 303 pages) is US$29.95 plus US$5.50 for shipping in the US, US$7.50 for shipping to Canada and US $11.00 for shipping to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, by airmail. If you would like to have your book signed, just send the relevant information. To order, please send your name, address and payment-check or money order payable to Baldwin King to:

Dr. B. King,
P.O.Box 702,
Madison, NJ 07940,
U.S.A .



Baldwin King received his B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in physical/inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught Applied Chemistry at U.W.I. Mona and currently teaches Physical Chemistry at Drew University, New Jersey, USA where he is Professor of Chemistry. His research interests include neurochemistry and neuro-oncology. He is the author of Introduction to Chemistry and the Environment as well as a number of peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals.

Kenneth John received his B.Sc. in Government from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in Government from Manchester University. He is also trained as a barrister-at-law. He entered politics briefly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a candidate of the Democratic Freedom Movement. He writes a weekly column in the Vincentian newspaper. He also practices law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cheryl King received her B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, her Diploma in Education (Teaching of English) from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and her M.A. in Political Science from the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York, New York. She is the author of "Michael Manley and Democratic Socialism." She currently works in the Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey, USA.

Garifuna leader forced at gunpoint to yield community land

Please read:

Garifuna School Supply Drive and Fundraiser

1. Operation LaBugana sponsored by GAHFU
This weekend (4th of July weekend) GAHFU, Inc. is launching a 4-week campaign to collect donations from people who are interested in donating school supplies to the children of La Buga - Livingston, Izabal.


Please visit the website to find out more information on both events:

Caribbean Beat Weblog

Unfortunately excluded from a previous post inviting readers to visit some very engaging and fascinating Trinidadian weblogs was the blog for CARIBBEAN BEAT. Caribbean Beat is a very attractive magazine that is published once every two months and frequently contains articles that will be of considerable interest for those interested in learning more about the Caribbean region as a whole. Over the years, they have published a number of articles on indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, with particular reference to communities in Suriname, Dominica, Trinidad and elsewhere. The Caribbean Beat team, which includes editor Tracy Assing, herself a Carib of the Arima community, is responsible for also producing the blog mentioned above, as well as the Caribbean Review of Books and a number of other publications.