Samelan in November
year there has been a growth in the awareness of Ramdilla.
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
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
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
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 Ramleelaalso
called Ramdilla in T&Tone of the 43 new masterpieces
of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.
There is a new realisation of self-worth and value of ones
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.