Express Editorial : Daily

In the tide of the Caribbean Sea Tony Hall was the pool of still water that ran deep. Self-effacing and understated almost to a fault, Hall was an artist of quiet feet, watchful eyes and dramatic interiority.

In the hours since he died of a heart attack, the word most used to describe him has been “humble”. He was the man behind the scenes —a playwright who breathed life into his characters, a director who created a stage for his cast, and a guide who led generations of students through Caribbean culture and the theatre arts.

All of these came together in what Hall called the Jouvay Popular Theatre Process. The idea, as he described it, was “to find a universal performance model to facilitate ways to re-inject the essence of mas creation into the community, in a time when nascent capitalism is rapidly changing the modes of making and presenting the mas.” The search came out of Hall’s own quest to break free of his own plantation programming to reconnect with his instinctive self.

In a journey extending back to the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and through the long stream of Caribbean revolutions, he found his answer in Emancipation as an organising principle which made sense of Caribbean society. That was Hall’s “Jouvay”, his moment of awakening, as he described it in a presentation at Toronto’s York University in 2008. “From then on, anytime I am lost, unable to figure out where I am, or what to do, or where I am going, all I have to do is to meditate on the word ‘emancipation’ and my awareness deepens into a new consciousness of ‘seeing freedom and bearing witness to freedom’, the essence of ‘emancipation’.”

Being located in his own truth gave Hall a compass that directed his path into popular theatre, working with community organisations to bring before us the dramas that have shaped T&T society but which have languished from the neglect, denial and de-legitimisation that mark colonial society. He put the 1903 Water Riots on stage with Red House….Fire Fire!; he dramatised the birth and development of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union in Monster March and he put the 1937 Labour Riots right where it belonged—on the streets of Fyzabad.

In Miss Miles he resurrected the beaten-down body of Gene Miles and gave her a platform from which to confront us with our sordid story of corrupt power. In Jean and Dinah, he upended the Mighty Sparrow’s machismo to make the maligned women of the street the protagonists of their own story. With the production team of Banyan and Gayelle The Channel he ventured into film and television, nurturing an indigenous capability for telling our own stories.

Although his was a sometimes lonely journey, Tony Hall was not alone. He drew on a Caribbean lineage dedicated to the reparation of Caribbean humanity from the detritus of its horrific past. He was dazzled by the possibility of the new world he spied in us and saw art as the medium for the recovery of self.

Forsaking all others, he surrendered himself to the work of showing us as he saw us. Our condolences to his family and loved ones.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

The initiation of a Commission of Enquiry into the Government’s management of Covid-19, for which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is so passionately clamouring, would be instructive if it presented an opportunity for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to hear from her just how she would have managed this health crisis had she been in charge.

The hush-hush arrival of a “small donation” of vials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, flown in and apparently hand-delivered by courier to the Ministry of National Security, raises more questions than the number of vials involved.

I am repeatedly asked by various stakeholders whether Covid-19 vaccination could be made mandatory, so today I offer some initial thoughts.

This is not a clear-cut legal question and there are good arguments on both sides. There is no law, precedent or policy which governs the matter at present. Labour law, public health and human rights issues intermingle and ultimately, what is reasonable and in the majority interest would likely prevail.

I hope the Government considers giving a booster shot of the Sinopharm vaccine if supplies are available to this country. Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, said T&T will receive 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China this week.

Did the staff at the health centres know only 50 persons could have been be vaccinated per day? When they realised this, did they not think to register the names and telephone numbers of the other elderly citizens already in line from 5.30 a.m. who were sent home when the vaccinations ran out?

Why would a person willingly give up their family, job and community to embark on an illegal, dangerous journey to another country?

In the case of the Venezuelans, it’s because they are generally running away from unbearable, life-threatening circumstances.