Figure 1: The Caribbean Ties Exhibition Under the Ajoupa at the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community [photo by Ashleigh John Morris]
In January 2023, the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago facilitated the local launch of the “Caribbean Ties: Connected People Then and Now” exhibition in collaboration with the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community (SRFPC). This exhibition is the culmination of over thirty years of multidisciplinary research on the long-term dynamic relationships between past indigenous cultures and our current multi-ethnic communities. Caribbean Ties also invites its patrons to explore the role that the Caribbean’s indigenous peoples played and continue to play in the global story of humanity. It was developed through international collaboration with over 20 partners across the Caribbean and Europe and combines local, regional, and global perspectives.
Figure 2: Chief Eric Lewis of the Warao Nation (Trinidad and Tobago) viewing the exhibition with Warao Community Members [photo by Ashleigh John Morris]
This exhibition has been proudly showcased in several countries, including The Netherlands, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Eustatius, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Grenada, Suriname, Aruba and Barbados. Its modular design emphasizes the flexibility to adapt to venues from national museums to schools. The exhibition’s designers also encouraged adding artefacts, art and other objects to “localize” it. The Santa Rosa First Peoples Community added several elements from their collection, including photos, ceremonial attire, basketry, and hammocks. Community members also displayed food stuff like cassava, corn, plantains and others to represent the wide range of indigenous diets. However, the most significant addition to the exhibition is the ajoupa (tapia hut) it currently occupies. This venue symbolizes the resilience and ingenuity of the indigenous peoples, showcases the importance of preserving the cultural traditions of the Caribbean, and provides a unique setting for visitors to immerse themselves in Trinidad’s rich indigenous history.
Figure 3: Nelcia Hazel-Robinson, Administrator of the SRFPC rests after a successful exhibition launch [photo by Ashleigh John Morris]
The launch on January 17th included remarks from the Minister of Planning and Development, Hon. Penelope Beckles, Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Professor Corinne Hofman from Leiden University, Mr Raphael Varga van Kibèd, the Kingdom of the Netherlands Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and Margaret McDowall, Chairman of the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. The proceedings were blessed by SRFPC Payai Christo Adonis, followed by a welcome from Chief Hernandez. Chief Hernandez, Minister Beckles and other special guests gave remarks on the importance of cultural heritage preservation and promoting regional cultural exchange. Chief Hernandez especially praised the exhibition for its regional perspective, highlighting the connectedness of Caribbean indigenous peoples while also reaffirming the call for reparations for the historical injustices inflicted upon the ancestors. Other guests included Marie Hinds, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development, and Eric Lewis, Chief of the Warao Nation (Trinidad and Tobago). Cagney Casimire, the Mayor of Arima, and last but not least, the First People of Trinidad and Tobago, including Warao and Santa Rosa.
Figure 4: Professor Corinne Hofman, Leiden University (centre- left) Introduces the exhibition to His Worship Cagney Casimire, The Mayor of Arima (left), His Excellency Raphael Varga van Kibèd, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Trinidad and Tobago (centre-right), Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez of the Santa Rosa First People Community (right), and Ms. Marie Hinds, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development (far-right) [photo by Ashleigh John Morris]
The intersection of scientific research and the preservation of indigenous heritage is of utmost importance to the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Ties exhibition is an excellent showcase of the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions. It highlights the unique blend of influences from Africa, Europe, and indigenous peoples that have shaped the region into what it is today. We thank all responsible for this project and long forward to our continued collaboration. The Caribbean Ties Exhibition will remain at the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community Center until March 15th 2023 but will also be showcased in our capital Port of Spain, our second city San Fernando, and Scarborough, Tobago. Stay tuned for schedule announcements and updates.