Trinidad – Traces (Session 03)

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)

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

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Trinidad – Places (Session 02)

Below is the second installment of my photo-project on Trinidad and Tobago. This time, my focus searched the boundaries of spaces and non-spaces. I identified non-spaces as marginal or liminal territories of functional spaces, which have been partly or fully abandoned either through forgetting or displacement. As many examples show, such liminal spaces generally become the transitional corridors between the human habitat and wildlife.

Places (2014, Trinidad)

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Squatter’s hut near the Western Main Road, which connects the capital Port of Spain and inland Arima. Altough squatting is illegal in Trinidad, temporary shacks tend to crop up on various pieces of land owned by the government. Average rent is high in Trinidad and since 1962, when Trinidad became and independent republic, increased urbanization left rural and off-road places abandoned.

 

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A domestic goat wanders off a nearby grazing field onto an abandoned basketball court in Buccoo, Tobago. While Buccoo is a frequented tourist destination due to the nearby coral reef, which is among the most well preserved coral reef areas in the Caribbean Sea, the village is struggling during off-season periods, when schools close and locals migrate to either Trinidad, or Scarborough, the capital of Tobago (also a regular destination to island-hopper ocean cruisers of the Caribbean).

 

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The Irons-family’s only cow stares from below a papaya-tree near the Blanchiseuse Road. The narrow freeway cuts through Trinidad’s Northern Range and yields access to quarry and deforestation sites. Uninhabited land in the forest along the road proves to be cheap land for many home seekers but entails sustenance farming.

 

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Another family’s cow grazes near the Western Main Road in Trinidad, where an abandoned Catholic cemetery occupies a portion of the land. Graveyards in Trinidad host “open” graves with simple styles. A lot of abandoned cemeteries can be found in Trinidad as well as in Tobago, a phenomenon symptomatic of the generational divide between pre- and postcolonial cultural and religious affiliations.

 

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A pelican in the center and young seagulls along the rims perch on a fishing boat on the northern coast of Tobago. Fishermen on the twin-island of Trinidad work early in the morning and tend to tourists in the afternoon, in a period which wildlife reoccupies its natural habitat.

 

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Fisher boys watch the sunset near Pigeon Point in Tobago. Since Trinidad and Tobago lie only 10 degrees north of the Equator, the length of days and nights remain balanced throughout the year (12 hours each). Sunset thus arrives before 6 p.m. every and sunrise commences around 6 a.m. Fishermen rest and rise with the sun and center their work around the important transitional periods of the day when sea life is the most active.