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Author Topic: Trinidad Village....  (Read 3265 times)

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truetrini

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Trinidad Village....
« on: February 27, 2012, 10:15:20 AM »
Trinidad Village is a book written by a well known American Anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits.  This book addresses African survivals in his study of Toco, undertaken in 1946.

Herskovits analysed the cultural integration, the amalgam of Europe and Africa, which was Toco, with the emphasis on the retention and reinterpretation of African customs and beliefs.

For example, he found the diets of the people of Toco marked by certain dishes that came directly from Africa.  The most important of these dishes were sweet and salt pemi and sansam, pounded parched corn mixed with salt or sugar and eaten dry; cachop, a secial Yoruba dish, made of cornmeal baked in a pot rather than broiled.

Callaloo for which Trinidad is famous, is well known as an African dish over all the New World.  Accra, boiled saltfish dipped into flour, flavored liberally with pepper sauce, and fried in deep fat, is another well-known African inheritance.

Herskovits found also that the eating habits in Toco were African, and so was the sexual differentiation of labor.  The Gayap, the Trinidad version of the Haitian coumbite, is essentially African.   So is the papa-bois and the susu. the savings device of the people taken over without change of name from their Yoruba ancestors.

The high economic status of the women in Toco corresponded with the position of women in West African society.

The well known Trinidadian custom of legal marriage subsisting side by side with the informal union termed keepers, or, as the Trinidad wits would put it, the combination of de jure wife and de facto wife, which has provided the basis for extensive moralising both at home and abroad on the illegitimacy statistics, is seen by Herskovits as the translation in terms of the monogamic pattern of European mating, of basic West African forms that operate within a polygamous frame.

The shouters and the shango, the latter the God of Thunder of the Yoruba People, have come to Trinidad straight from Africa.

So have the traditions of burials, especially in respect of wakes, with which the Bongo is traditionally associated-as it is in the well-known calypso, "Tonight is the bongo night."

The prevalence of and the concern with obeah, magic and divination also have an African inspiration: the use of the frizzle fowl to detect any charm set against its owner, placing a broom upside down near the door, putting in front of a doorway grains of cereal to be counted, leaving a needle with a broken eye, a combination of the French loupgarou and the West African vampire.

Finally, most important of all, the calypso for which has become famous, the use of song to comment on current happenings, to phrase social criticism, to convey innuendo, is in the African tradition.  Herskovits writes:

   "Even though some of the music is cast in the mold of European folk tunes, and the words are in English, nothing of African purport or intent has been erased.  For despite its non-African form, this musical complex can be regarded as nothing less that a retention of the purest type."

These were the people who came in their thousands to the West Indies, though in relatively limited numbers to Trinidad during the slave period, to develop for the colonies of all the European metropolitan countries what a British writer in the middle of the 18th century described as "a magnificent superstructure of American commerce on an African foundation."

Taken from History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago

Eric Williams.