Thursday, 21 February 2008

Hello New York

It's all about relativity. I fly out for a week in New York city tomorrow morning and I am so excited that I am going to see snow for the first time in almost two decades. It goes to show that different is exotic. We are beautiful at this time of year but sometimes you have to have a city break to appreciate living on an island
My house is very quiet tonight as Hayley and Shoobie have been farmed out for the week and the cats are oblivious to the suitcases.

Who knew begonias had it in them?

I have several layers in my garden. The one that gets the most attention is my main level. Yet it is the lower end of the garden that always explodes in a riot of colour. This year is had been particularly pretty because I introduced pink begonias to the mix. They now flank the sides of the stairs that lead down to this level. The mix of bougainvillaea and begonias is the colouful front and the terrace is given height by heliconias and musa bananas.
Ever curious. What ARE you doing down there? The pink begonias are also lightly scented in the morning but strangely not at night. This is the front of my garden. I am a big believer in using mundo grass to hold my beds. I find without a good border, I lose all my soil in the rainy season. I also like the effect that it provides. This bed is difficult to handle as it receives blasts of blistering sun or full shade depending on the time of year. Again my begonias have done really well here. My grass on the other hand, is just beginning to grow after not receiving sun for the better part of six months.

Hello babies! Yes this is my brand new crop of cocoa seedlings grown from my mother tree. I also managed to germinated a batch of roucou or annatto but could not get them past the seedling stage. My congo or scotch bonnet peppers are also just coming in and I want to try and combine these with the more highly flavoured piri piri ones and make a Chutney pepper sauce.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Back in the Garden

It's been too long. For some reason, I went dry. But Carnival and Christmas are behind us and it has finally stopped raining and my garden is so beautiful tonight in the almost full moon that it is breaking my heart. These are shots from this afternoon as the sun was going down. My vandas have finally been given a reprieve from the deadly batchacs. I know it is but a temporary cease fire but I am enjoying the the white flag moment.
The very centre of this vanda is almost like a face.
Twins in the centre of the bougainvillaea

White Begonia or bread and cheese A brand new shampoo ginger. My very first flower.
Vanda back lit.
This is the first bloom of this orchid which I believe is a cattleya. It is delicately scented and if other years are anything to go by, it should bloom until about October. But it is never as fresh and pretty as it is on the first day.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Boissierre House Campaign

We can pressure the government to purchase this building but would the property then go the way of Milles Fleurs which is now a tragic eyesore. If the Prime Minister can mobilize the resources to do the level of construction that we see around us daily, surely resources can be directed to Milles Fleurs. And has anyone really looked at what is going on with Stollmeyer's Castle? And this is owned by the Government.
My understanding is that once the list is passed- even Government becomes accountable for their preservation. I believe a lot of ground work has been done, it is just to push it to the next stage. There is much dialogue about how many buildings the Goverment can actually purchase and turn into house museums. I think part of the solution may be looking to the private sector as they certainly have the funds- and try and force the administration's hand at giving them large tax incentives and others rewards for maintaining and preserving. Like so many others things, I'm not sure we can trust the public sector with such highly valuable heritage. But by making protection law, even the public sector will have to answer to a higher authority.
101 Tragarete Rd has just been preserved up to a very high standard at great cost- with no Government endorsement or acknowledgement. Resoration is expensive work.
The fire is hot, so to speak, right now. As there is so much attention on the issue now- let's see if we can rally support with clear requests directed to the Government.
I'd love to hear comments.
In speaking to the Heritage Council, the problem seems to be that this is the first list and the legal documentation is being created. Once this goes through, it should be fairly easy to get future buildings added.
This is an old article from the archives of the Guardian supplied by Judy Raymond that throws light on the current situation.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Boissierre House- How to Save it?

How do we save these beautiful buildings?
This is not a new question. The Heritage Trust Act was passed in Parliament in 1991.
How is it that in 2008 we are still campaigning against the destruction of the nation's architectural heritage?
Nicholas Laughlin, editor of the Caribbean Review of Books was the first to start this thread. Link to the Save the Boissiere House Website here for more information.
I am going to do a time line as I understand it.

1. National Heritage Trust Act passed in Parliament in 1991 with the intention of preserving houses like the Boissiere House.
2. A National Heritage Trust Council was established to manage this Act. A chairman and a secretary were appointed. All other members were voted onto the Council.

3. The first requirement of listing a property is the preparation of a dossier.
The dossier contains buildings identified for inclusion on the National Heritage List.
Each building submitted must include information qualifying its importance to National Heritage.
Areas include architectural style, historical facts and individual specs on the house.

4. After this is completed, the owners of the properties must be approached in writing to ensure that they are amenable to inclusion on the list.
This functions as a notification to list.
The owners do not lose any rights to the building- ownership is never an issue- the listing simply identifies that the building has historical significance and is protected by law. Once the property is listed, this enables the owner to access professional advice.
There is a plan for a fund to assist with appropriate maintenance and restoration of the building.
At the moment there are 25 buildings carded for listing.

5. The next step - Cabinet must instruct the Ministry of Legal Affairs to establish the necessary technical and legal procedures to establish an historically protected property.

6. Once this has been completed, the document must go back to the Minister of Culture and Social Development to re-present the draft to Cabinet for final approval.

7. When this has been done, the listing is placed in the Government Gazette for public perusal.

If there are no objections, it is approved.

Trying to pinpoint the project status is tricky. If we can identify where the process has snagged, conservationists can be precise as to where to apply pressure to expedite the saving of our vernacular architecture.

Why the crisis? Because yet another landmark building has been adorned with a For Sale sign.

Boissiere House popularly known as "The GingerBread House"

This cottage Ajoupa is marked by its green slate, steeply-pitched roof which is the main element. A large dormer gable is the most beautifully decorated with fretwork, the finest remaining example in Trinidad.

Gingerbread Houses, where possible, threw out diagonal galleries with a cupola or steeply-pitched octagonal roofs. At No 12 Queen's Park West these projections are incredibly beautiful and include a whole Chinese pavillion. The fretwork also achieved its ultimate here and the wood is heavily undercut and exaggerated so that the first impression is one of the lacework resembling a woman swirling a lacy dress.

Architecture of the Caribbean Trinidad's Heritage by John Newel Lewis. p.251

Original cast iron fencing that is in need of restoration as many areas have been lost.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Blue Devil Getting Ready

A Blue Devil is deadly serious about his mas

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Traditional Mas- Carnival!

Tomorrow is Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad is leaping and pulsing with that peculiar energy that takes over the entire island at this time. This year I have tried to find the Traditional carnival displays because this is where the traditions still live. My friend Abigail Hadeed is an amazing photographer and she has been documenting steelbands and traditonal mas for the last 20 years. I went out with her on Wednesday night for the Traditional Mas competition at Victoria Square. We saw Red Indians, Sailor bands, Blue Devils, Bats, Dragons,
Pierrot Grenades, Baby Dolls, Cow Mas and many more. These are closeups of Fancy Indian. I quote directly from the site
""> click on the text below to pull up the site.
Among the most spectacular mas costumes, Fancy Indians are based on the indigenous peoples of North America. The wearer decides how expensive or expansive he wants this costume to be. The headpiece in its simplest form, has grown over the years in splendour and size is worn with feathers sticking up, and more feathers making tails down the back. More elaborate headpieces are built over bamboo or wire frames supported by the masquerader's body. A masquerader's 'wigwam' is worked with ostrich plumes, mirrors, beads, feathers, papier mache masks, totem poles, canoes and ribbons. Bands of Indians can comprise a warrior chief and his family, a group of chiefs, or a group of warriors. The Fancy Indian is the most popular variety of Indian mas. A feature of this mas is the language or languages they speak, in a call and response pattern, possibly adapted from the Black Indians of the New Orleans Mardi Gras and their characteristic movements. Other kinds of Indians that are disappearing are generally known as Wild Indians. These comprise Red Indians (Warahoons) and Blue Indians, which have links with the indigeneous peoples of Venezuela. There are also Black Indians or African Indians.

The Midnight Robber is one of the most beloved colourful traditional carnival characters. Midnight Robber, is immediately identifiable by his extravagant costumes and distinctive speech, called “Robber Talk” The "Robber Talk" is derived from the tradition of the African Griot or storyteller, and the speech patterns and vocabulary are imitative of his former master and is characterised by its boastful, mocking style was derived from a variety of sources: the Bible, literary texts and school readers and speaks of the Robber's invincible ancestry as well as his terrifying exploits.

Abigail set up an impromptu outdoor studio with a backdrop. So my photographs are really thanks to her support system. To see this type of masquerade is truly good for the soul. People throw themselves into the spirit of their portrayals with a fervour that speaks of the restorative power of drama. I find it difficult to imagine that all of these talented perfomers are around me everyday as bank clerks and managers, grocery attendants and middle management. And on Wednesday morning it will be as if it never happened. That is the magic of Trinidad.
Robosomething - he was very successful- but I'm not sure what he was supposed to be.

Abigail shooting these members of the Native Indian band. The girl in pink is Trinidad by heritage but lives in New York and returns to play with her family every year. The diaspora returning home to live the culture.

Abigail showing some young subjects a shot.
Felix Edinborough has been playing Pierrot Grenade for many years. He is the master of this art form. Again says it better than I could- so I quote in full- Click on text to go to the site- it is well worth a visit.

The Pierrot Grenade is a descendant of the Pierrot known for his elegant costume and fierce fighting prowess with a whip or bull pistle, and was followed by a band of female supporters who fought on his behalf against other Pierrot groups.. Pierrot Grenade was a finely dressed masquerader and deeply supreme scholar/ jester proud of his ability to spell any word in his own fashion and quoting Shakespearean characters as Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Othello at length. Pierrot Grenade, is a satire on the richer and more respectable Pierrot. The Pierrot Grenade gown consists of crocus bag (burlap), on which strips of coloured cloth, small tins containing pebbles, and small boxes that rattle, are attached. He may wear a hat or a coloured head tie on his head, and his face is covered with a mask. The mask provides anonymity for someone who delights in making barbed comments on "respectable" members of the community. This Peirrot is dressed in a satin gown covered with bells hung, with a velvet heart shaped breasted piece bordered in swansdown decorated with sequins and mirrors. Under his velvet beret he wore an iron pot to protect him from blows of opposing Pierrots' short steel or lead lined whips. A long train of strips embroidered with gold braids, stockinged feet in light shoes decorated with swansdown and bells completed his costume. The Pierrot was eventually driven from the streets after numerous arrests and goal sentences for fighting. Pierrot Grenade (supposedly from neighbouring Grenada) inherited his predecessor's love of oratory (speaking).