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Cherysh La Touche, centre, who acted Gang Gang Sarah, punishes Dwayne White, left, who acted Monty Quashie for a short time by paralysing his legs as he visited the Silk Cotton Tree with curiosity during the gala opening of the Tobago Heritage Festival held at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. - David Reid
Cherysh La Touche, centre, who acted Gang Gang Sarah, punishes Dwayne White, left, who acted Monty Quashie for a short time by paralysing his legs as he visited the Silk Cotton Tree with curiosity during the gala opening of the Tobago Heritage Festival held at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – David Reid

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has said the falling of Tobago’s famed silk cotton tree in December 2020 not only symbolised the island’s struggles during the covid19 pandemic but also inspired hope in a people to rise from the doldrums.

In a pre-recorded address on Friday night at the opening of the 35th instalment of the Tobago Heritage Festival at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Augustine said reflected on the theme of the Tobago Performing Arts Company’s (TPAC) production, Treasures of the Tree, which was centred around the silk cotton in Culloden.

Kedisha Thomas, centre, who acted Ms Yvonne Yiede warns Levee Rodriquez, left, who acted Noel Quashie, and his brother Dwayne White, right, who acted Monty Quashie about going to The Great Silk Cotton Tree during their performance at opening of the Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – Photo by David Reid

“Treasures of the Tree: could not be more fitting for this opening night. The falling of our silk cotton tree at Culloden during the height of the pandemic was perhaps prophetic. It certainly was situationally ironic.

“In many ways it reflected our own societal struggles and ultimately losses to progress, to modernity and to covid19. But is also inspired hope, determination and a call to action to which many responded positively.”

He said whenever “one great tree falls, another seed must be planted in faith.”

“Indeed, one was planted and we are experiencing new growth and renewed recognition of our potential for even greater development.”

Zari Kerr, left who acted as Badru, warns a curious Dwayne White, centre, who acted Monty Quashie about the powers that existed under Tobago’s Great Silk Cotton Tree , at opening of The Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – Photo by David Reid

Augustine was referring to the work of the TPAC, which he described as “one of our positive examples of new growth, resilience and excellence.”

Delighted that the heritage festival has returned to an in-person audience, he said, “This pride goes beyond my presence as chief secretary. Tonight (Friday), I am a son of the soil seeing our heritage blossom once more, having been unceremoniously halted by the impact of the pandemic for the past two years.

Les Coteaux Folk Performers during their bamboo-styled dance at the Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – Photo by David Reid

“Tonight, she returns more colourful and beautiful as the biggest expression of our culture, our togetherness and our uniqueness, a reminder that we have much more to offer the world.”

“Our foreparents dug deep to summon the resilience needed in years past to bring us to this future. Without a doubt, so can we.”

Zari Kerr, centre, who acted as Badru, leaps into the air during her performance at the Tobago Heritage Festival held at Shaw Park Cultural Complex last Friday. – Photo by David Reid

Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris, who also spoke in a pre-recorded address, reflected on this year’s heritage theme, Reflect, Rebirth, Rejoice: Reigniting the Flames Of Our Legacy.”

Urging the audience to reflect on the strong and rich legacies of those who have gone before, Burris said she hoped the festival will also allow for a rebirth of interest in the authenticity and preservation of all our artforms “and that we will also reignite within ourselves and among each other the passion to honour and celebrate that which has made us who we are as a people.”

Cherysh La Touche, centre who acted Gang Gang Sarah, punishes Dwayne White, left, who acted Monty Quashie during the gala opening of The Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – Photo by David Reid

Burris said the festival’s opening production, which focused on the “famed and feared” silk cotton tree, should allow people to be taken on a journey to understand more deeply the stories that have shaped Tobagonians.

Tobago Festival’s Commission chairman Dr Charleston Thomas also spoke.

Dwayne White, right, who acted Monty Quashie, sings to bring out the protectors and spirits who lived in The Great Tobago Silk Cotton Tree at the Tobago Heritage Festival at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Friday. – Photo by David Reid

At the start of the show, the audience was introduced to the seven young women participating in the Miss Tobago Heritage Personality pageant on Saturday night at the Shaw Park Complex.

President of the Tobago Youth Council Janae Campbell won the competition last year in a pre-recorded show.