For the final session of my Trinidad-series I decided to set off to discover Trinidad and Tobago’s Spanish and British colonial heritage as well as the cultural-material imprint of the nation’s immigrants from East India. A named this session “Traces” to reflect on the palimpsest-nature of Trinidad’s post-colonial social fabric, which presents itself in material forms in various points of the country.
Traces (2014, Trinidad)
Wet prayer cards lain on the ground besides the paved trail leading to the Hanuman Murti Temple in Trinidad. Prayer cards function as both the material artifact of religious self-expression and tokens of memory and remembrance.
A withered billboard displaying Guinness, the imported Irish beer from the British Empire in Moruga, the southernmost village on the isle of Trinidad. Although the advertisement still stands in the remote village, Guinness can only be bought in the larger towns’ and cities’ supermarkets. Behind the board, the towers of an old Jesuit church are visible. The Baroque edifice marks the spot where the first Catholic missionaries set foot on Trinidad following Columbus’s third voyage to the Caribbean in 1498.
Written sign on the metal railing of a roadside boutique. Besides major retail store chains, such as Hi-Lo, small markets and similar metal shacks are the distributors of common goods in Trinidad.
Barbed wire on top of the fence surrounding the campus of the University of the West Indies, near Millner Hall, the dormitory building which hosted our group of students from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Similar security measures have been imposed on various governmental and private buildings and properties. Due to the high crime-rate in Trinidad, the colonial legacy of physical boundaries is still prevalent throughout the tropical landscape of the young nation.
The T.M.L. Majid Mosque in Saint Joseph is the largest Muslim temple in Trinidad and Tobago, which provides space of worship to a relatively small East Indian Muslim population. Indenture workers arriving from the Bengali region of colonial East Indies during the 1850s and 1870s had been generally of Hindu affiliation. However, Muslim Indians have been recently accompanied by North African immigrants, also Muslims, who now occupy this large temple in the earliest settlement of Trinidad (Saint Joseph was inhabited by Spaniards as early as the 1520s).