Tobago culture takes centre stage at Fource Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rayshawn Pierre-Kerr Photo by David Reid

THE Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC) is open for business, said its artistic director Rayshawn Pierre-Kerr. She was delivering remarks on the opening night gala of the TPAC’s Fource Arts Festival at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, Lowlands, on May 31. The inaugural festival, which was held at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on June 1, celebrated Tobago’s vibrant cultural heritage in the areas of drama, film, music, and dance.

Music TT’s general manager Melissa Jimenez; founder and festival director of Africa Film TT Asha Lovelace; and veteran entertainer Sharon Phillips, were among the facilitators.

Pierre-Kerr said the TPAC offered limitless possibilities. “When you think about Fource, if nothing resonates, it is the TPAC’s way of telling you this is how we intend to engage and reimagine creative practice in Tobago and for future generations. TPAC is open for business,” she said.

“We are asking you. We are urging you to have the conversation. We want to talk to you about what is possible. We want to help you imagine the unique contributions you make to the national space.”

Addressing guests, including Deputy Chief Secretary Dr. Faith BYisrael, Pierre-Kerr said the company already had several hugely successful productions under its belt. These include the acclaimed 1970’s Lester Efebo Wilkinson play Bitter Cassava; the musical tribute to Calypso Rose (Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis) Queen of the Road; and the Broadway play Once On This Island.

Of the latter, she said, “We showed all of the country that Tobagonian talent is as good, is as powerful, is as sure, is as strong, is as resilient as talent anywhere else in the world.”

Pierre-Kerr recalled Fource was conceptualized from a “small table in a small room in Shaw Park,” some months ago, with the sole intent of bringing communities of creatives, technocrats, artistes, practitioners, arts enthusiasts, and investors into the same room to help bolster Tobago’s orange economy.

She said art is not static. “I don’t think it is frozen, stuck some time in the past waiting to be handled, waiting to be engaged or for the most part, waiting to melt. Art is in us. It is all around us. It is happening, and as a responsible society, we have a responsibility to happen alongside it.”

Pierre-Kerr also does not believe “art is as fragile as people think it is.” “It can take roughing up. It can do the things and have the conversations that people are generally afraid, nervous, or which they do not want to have. Art is by far the most regenerative, imaginative tool that human beings have been gifted with.”

She urged guests to participate fully in the workshops and sessions.

TPAC’s interim CEO and film director Jared Prima, in his remarks, also urged stakeholders to invest in Fource. “To our potential investors and international stakeholders, the Fource festival represents an unparalleled treat to support a world-class event that delivers both financial returns and significant social and environmental impact,” he said.

“By investing in Fource, you are contributing to the sustainable development of Tobago’s tourism sector, aligning with the UN’s goals for inclusive and equitable economic returns.”

Prima said the global creative economy is rapidly growing at an annual growth rate of nine percent and 12 percent in developing regions.

“This sector represents a significant opportunity for economic development with assets dedicated to sustainable investments, reaching a staggering US$31 trillion. The Fource festival taps into this vibrant sector poised to become one of Tobago’s flagship year-round events.”

He added the project will not only enhance Tobago’s cultural landscape but also bolster its economic growth by attracting tourists and creating jobs.

Prima said Fource also offers opportunities for cultural exchange and collaboration as well as educational and infrastructural development.

“Fource is not just a festival. It is a beacon of creativity and innovation.”