Monday 1 June, 2020

An equal place?

Arguably, the most powerful affirmation of this country’s national anthem is that every creed and race find an equal place. The impact of colonial settlement, exploitation and authority in the Caribbean since the late 15th century created a society of fundamentally uneven beginnings.

Some 57 years into Trinidad and Tobago’s ndependence, economic uncertainty, alarming crime statistics and wobbly institutional frameworks all provide apt context for the question of equality to feature prominently at the 2019 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

This year’s national annual literary festival will explore the theme 'Every Creed and Race' in debate and, with the support of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, through two of our beloved indigenous art forms, extempo and ole mas.

Opening day two (May 2) of the five-day festival is the panel discussion titled 'Do T&T’s laws and traditions undermine the promise of equality in our anthem?' Led by writer and activist Colin Robinson, this is a hard-hitting debate on issues of gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and human rights, with finance expert and commentator Mariano Browne, Independent Senator Sofia Chote and writer and commentator Attillah Springer.

Later that day, 2019 Carnival extempo finalists Black Sage and reigning National Extempo Monarch Brian London will meet again at the NALIS Abercromby Street Arcade to debate, in song, the theory and reality of equality in Trinidad and Tobago. On Saturday 4 May, participants in the festival’s third ole mas competition will interpret and present aspects of the Every Creed and Race theme using wordplay, costumes and performance. There will also be a special dedication to the late ole mas maestro Bunny Dieffenthaller.

“Of course, the festival is a space to develop and celebrate writers and writing, but it has always been more than that. It’s always been a platform to engage big ideas, to stimulate and elevate our thinking, and I dare say to help shape the wider conversation about issues we face as a nation, region and beyond. And what a treasure to be able to achieve this using our own oral and folk traditions!”, says festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown.  

The ninth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest takes place May 1-5 at the National Library in Port of Spain. More information and the full programme are available at

The festival title sponsor is the National Gas Company, lead sponsor is First Citizens, main sponsors are the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and One Caribbean Media. Massy Foundation, the National Lotteries Control Board, and UWI are sponsors.

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