August 1st was Emancipation Day here in Trinidad & Tobago. A public holiday since 1985 its definition has recently been expanded as a recognition of the struggles of all the ethnic groups who came here in servitude. At its heart though it remains essentially a time of remembrance of the African Slavery Experience.
For several years now the Emancipation Support Committee has organized a series of week-long activities. This amalgamation of workshops, performances and trading normally concludes on the holiday itself, however as this year the holiday fell on a Sunday, the Fair ended the following day as Monday was also declared a public holiday. (Move to Trinidad and you’ll quickly realize that Public Holidays are serious business here!)
Free to the public, at the Hasely Crawford National Stadium, I had been building up curiousity and cautious excitement for the African Food Fair which was being conducted on the final day. The diverse cuisines of the African Continent have traditionally gotten short shrift on cooking shelves and general public awareness is still quite low. With the media often focused on stories of disease, starvation and political violence I have unfortunately realized that many people don’t think that Africa and cuisine are words that can, and should, go together. I hoped that the African Food Fair would help to champion various dishes that I had encountered in the past and promote them to a wider public.
My main concerns going in were:
1. Free Admission – Free admission always makes me antsy as I am never quite sure how much money to walk with. And I always wonder what the prices of items will be and if./how I can sample everything. Simple solution? Walk with how much an all-inclusive ticket would have cost and ration accordingly.
2. How African was African going to be? – My hope was that I would get to sample fare from various regions of the Continent. Even better if it would be from nationals of those countries (many of whom are here on diplomatic missions etc.). Would they and their countries be represented?
I’ll answer how I think these concerns were addressed at the end of this series 🙂
Sculpture at Hasely Crawford National Stadium by Pat Chu Foon (1931-1998). Commissioned for 5th World Netball Series.
Unfortunately, the elements conspired from early on to make sure that attendance would be far from optimal. Steady rains from the morning hours into the evening, alternated between torrential to a light drizzle with the sun never making an appearance.
I was unaware of it at the time, but by that evening some regions of Trinidad would be under 6 to 10 feet of water, experiencing the heaviest destruction that has been seen in years (and is still continuing unfortunately due to sustained storms).
Tomorrow Part 2: Cassava Fries & Kelewele