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The Cross Fertilisation Process
Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2003

By Stephen Kangal

I commend Lennox Grant's " Indianise, not creolise-way to go?" column (Sunday Guardian, 7 Sept. p. 29) for treating with the ongoing covert and overt Indo-Afro symbiosis or cross fertilisation of cultures in a dispassionate albeit possibly misleading manner.

But let it be understood that those who support the status quo do so from a strong beneficial interest in its preservation. Legitimate individual and/or group interests underpin most interventions, claims and counter claims. But generally under the guise of stating an intellectual or objective position persons tend to disguise their true motives or objectives. That is a strategy to self or group fulfillment. There is nothing wrong in this save and except the deception that is involved in the process.

For example Cudjoe has a group interest in changing the status quo on the ethnic composition of enrolment at UWI but not in those State entities /organisations/schools such John D and the Technical Institute where my African brothers/sisters, perhaps on merit and/or on the basis of the geographical location of the schools, are in the majority. Or perhaps he is seeking cheap public attention if not cosmetic adulation. Are there enough African brothers/sisters in T&T to constitute the majority in every facet of our multiculturalism?

Dr. Williams rejected the prevailing socio- economic-political status quo when he sought to gain political attention in 1956. He defended it post 1962 because he was the principal architect of it and stood to profit from and did profit from it politically for 25 years.

The cultural processes that underpin Afro-Saxonisation (managing European institutions), Indianisation, Americanisation, Jamaicanisation (soca, dub, chutney, Rasta, marijuana), Westernisation (cable TV) etc constitute the cultural dynamics that are severally impacting upon and configuring our multicultural character/ personality incrementally irrespective of the pseudo- purity of our original ethnicity. One has to examine the local music industry to determine and appreciate the deepening of the underlying cross fertilisation process.

Accordingly to indianise or africanise is neither the question nor the answer. But this hypothetical option is also a monumental over-simplification and misunderstanding of the subtleties of the cross fertilisation process that is endemic in most plural societies albeit more in some than in others. It is more a combination of both.

We have to come to terms with the effects of the Afro-Saxon (creolisation) heritage as outlined by gurudev Lloyd Best in his Express column (Sat. June 14/03, p.11):

"Ever since then, we've defined Afro-Saxon culture simply as the culture of Africans obliged to practice European culture and to operate European institutions in America. It is not that Afro culture and later Indo culture did not succeed in subverting the orthodoxy in any number of ways, subtle and unsubtle; but that has been central or mainstream process which we can fruitfully take as the point of departure for studying strategies of accommodation or refutation at different stages and moments..."

As both a multicultural and highly mobile society there is a broad spectrum of cultural values, attitudes, beliefs as well as individual and group behaviours that is in a constant state of interface, osmosis and accommodation. The media, internal mobility and being educated together in zoned schools are driving and intensifying the process. Let it be understood that Indians have learnt an enormous amount from my African brothers and vice versa. More than they choose to or are capable of admitting dispassionately.

Then there are the imperatives of geography that further complicate the explanatory paradigm. We are in fact addressing an iceberg question where four-fifths of the phenomenon lie hidden below the surface (the covert elements or what Lloyd Best calls the "subtle" ways).

Afro-columnists are all to eager to brand any and all links to India exhibited by Indo-Trinis as tantamount to disloyalty to T&T and as evidence of accepting the Indian sub-continent as Mother India. Sometimes I believe that my African brothers, like the white "massas", are uncomfortable with the propensity of the Indians for cultural persistence. Some such as Reggie Dumas place Indians and Africans pedagogically but mistakenly on the same cultural plane without appreciating that the strong cultural and religious links that Indians have with India are comparatively speaking absent between Africans and Africa. This is a statement of fact and not a value judgement. Indians can even trace the districts located in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from whence they came to the Caribbean.

Relations with India have been conducted at three dimensions: the nationality (political) level, the cultural and the religious. The latter two are the predominant and overriding building blocks and connecting links in the relations that keep the indentured descendants India-focussed. Accordingly political loyalty to India as Mother India does not arise.

The continuing interface between the Indian diaspora and India has been reinforced and sustained by the recorded music, the Hindi Language, films, swamis, missionaries, diplomatic personnel, film stars, musicians, vocalists, trade, tourism, ICCR and Gov't of India scholarships etc to say nothing of the cultural baggage that 6,000 years of Hinduism has impregnated in the psyche of the indentures as well as those of the other 20m Indians in the diaspora. A similar level of the density of interface and interaction is absent between Africans and Africa. This is not a criticism please- merely a well thought- out observation geared to a better understanding of our origins and our multicultural internal dynamics.

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