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by Ras Tyehimba
November 11, 2005
Nubia sings at Moonlight Gathering
Oral traditions are a powerful aspect of our African heritage. There are many people in this country simply bursting with talent and ideas, but with very few places to express it in a comfortable space. The Moonlight Gathering held bi-monthly in Diego Martin was created to fill this void. The Moonlight Gathering was created to be a free flowing, relaxed forum for creative expression in all its various manifestations. Poetry, drumming, singing are an integral part of the night’s proceedings, however the power and energy of the gathering is in the fact that it is not just entertainment; it is not poetry for poetry sake, or songs for singing sake.
The genesis of the Moonlight Gathering occurred about three years ago, when a small group of us grew tired of the lack of availability of spaces in which we could express our various talents and views openly. There was a scarcity of events and activities that spoke of our history and our unique experiences in the social space. Given the talented array of poets, drummers, singers, actors, and artists within our informal network of friends we decided to create our own vibes.
Nubia singing 'Bring down the Power'
The gathering started small, with the first one being just 12 people. It slowly grew as more people began to become aware of it. Within the first year and a half, the gatherings happened on and off, but people started to request that it be more regular. This gathering has since been happening bi-monthly.
Given the Rasta/Orisha leanings of most of the core members, the gathering has a distinct African focus. It aims to draw from the best of the ancestral wisdom in building on the rich and powerful African legacy of oral traditions. In Trinidad and Tobago, African history and the general experiences of African people are neglected in the education system and mainstream media. Even though aspects of culture that is more associated with Africans, (such as calypso and pan) may be given attention, the narrow conceptualisation of culture means that these visible aspects of culture are not connected to the deeper understandings, struggles, and perspectives that underlie them. As a result, in the mainstream, culture usually translates into mere entertainment. The moonlight gathering however aims to connect the most visible aspects of culture to the underlying experiences and understandings so that people can get exposure to the perspectives they are denied in the mainstream. It is hoped that this will lead to a deeper understanding of culture and social reality.
The venue of the gathering is an important aspect of the vibes. It is held outdoors, in a natural setting. The river runs about 20 metres from the gathering space, with the fire and moon light adding to the ambience. Given the reverence and respect our early ancestors had for nature, the natural location fits in well with the overall focus of the gathering, . Many indigenous festivals were connected to natural phenomenon. It was by closely observing nature that early Africans first understood themselves in relation to the universe.
The philosophy behind the gathering involves building connections with communities all over Trinidad. A vibrant contingent of diversely talented people from the southern borough of Point Fortin makes the trek to Blue Basin to be a part of the vibes. Students from the University of the West Indies (UWI) attend, some of whom hail from other Caribbean countries such as Barbados, St Lucia and Dominica. Members of the Rasta and Orisha communities are also an integral part of the vibes. More recently, a Bobo Ashanti community from St Joseph has attended, making a powerful contribution to the session.
Bobo Ashanti brethrens
Though the gathering has a strong African focus it remains open to all people. African history and the experiences of African people are not only for African people but it is also beneficial for non-Africans to be exposed to these perspectives, especially given the mainstream hostility towards these perspectives. The Moonlight Gathering is part of a wider drive to foster self awareness and growth by presenting and encouraging persepctives that have been neglected, hidden, lost or misunderstood.
The next Moonlight Gathering is carded for November 19th. 2005.
Moonlight Gathering Album