Wednesday 25th October 2006

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Ramleela Samelan in November

This year there has been a growth in the awareness of Ramdilla.

The University of T&T (UTT) will host Ramleela Samelan at the UTT Campus, Point Lisas Estate, Couva, November 10, 11 and 12. The inauguration will be on November 10, from 6.30 pm at the same venue.

This marks a growing interest in the need to meaningfully examine the worth of this aspect of Trinidadian heritage which has a history of over 120 years.

This year there has been a growth in the awareness of Ramdilla. It is significant, therefore, that UTT is hosting Ramleela Samelan under the theme Ramleela as we Know, Practice and Remember it. It is designed to discover the stories behind the making of the ten-day performance in the community.

These stories are very revealing of the community challenge that organisers face in mounting this complex performance. For one thing, it embraces, at least six languages: Avadhi, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Sanskrit, Creole and English.

The story of organising a performance of such magnitude is largely the story of a heritage which has languished for long outside the active sympathy of Government, corporate citizens and academic circles. This part of our national heritage has been outside the pale of an education designed to support the psychological, academic and artistic bases generic to this cultural expression. These forms of support are necessary to secure a greater understanding of the tradition and its contemporary value. It is removed from securing a mastery of the skills that could uplift the art forms that are embedded in Ramdilla.

The organisers and performers have done remarkably well to keep Ramleela/Ramdilla alive. There seems to be a welcome growing wind of change in the air. The inclusion of Ramleela/Ramdilla in Carifesta IX in Trinidad this year is perhaps an indication of this change. It remains for the organisers to come out of their creases and aggressively explore Ramdilla with confidence and an expanded vision of its potential.

Two educators from the USA, Professors Milla Riggio and Paula Richman, were my guests for Ramdilla 2006. They made their way from Connecticut and Ohio, respectively, to have a firsthand look at the events hosted in different communities. Their journeys, which had them criss-crossing Trinidad, left them animated at what they saw. Both have determined to return next year.

Richman, a student of the Ramayan for 20 years, edited the book Many Tellings of the Ramayan. She has visited Ramleelas across the globe and worked a must-read paper on Ramleela in Southhall. Riggio has directed one of her students to make a documentary on Ramdilla. She has attached herself to Matilda Ramleela.

It will serve the art form well for the host community to widen and deeper its interest in the performative and socio-anthropological features of Ramleela/Ramdilla. It will also be a sign that official circles and corporate citizens are not blind to the cultural life of a significant part of the population if some meaningful support is given to development of Ramleela/Ramdilla research, teaching and staging.

It ought to be help if all concerned understand the implications of Ramdilla as a source of cultural capital. Just one year ago, November 11, 2005, UNESCO declared Ramleela—also called Ramdilla in T&T—one of the 43 new masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.

There is a new realisation of self-worth and value of one’s heritage in T&T today. Ramleela/Ramdilla is itself receiving renewed interest in the host community.

The Ramleela seminar in November is therefore well-timed to serve this growing interest in the art form.

Designed to explore an examination of Ramleela/Ramdilla as it is practiced in T&T, Ramleela Samelan will mount, among other features, an interesting exercise to examine a wide range of home photos.

The Ramleela seminar therefore urges the community to bring along home photos for display and examination. This exercise will also provide participants with a methodology to carry out this exercise in their own communities.






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