Skip to main content

How coincidental was it that after news broke of the International Soca Monarch (ISM) being canceled on Friday, January 27, Prof Gordon Rohlehr passed away two days later. Failing to see the coincidence of both events is precisely why you should continue reading. Professor Emeritus, or retired Professor, Gordon Rohlehr, was one of the Caribbean’s most wise and astute intellectuals. While his research focused on the art of calypso, there was much more to the Guyanese-born literary critic who spent approximately 40 years at The UWI, St Augustine Campus. His scholarly work may be extensive but it contains a consistent thread that weaves social and intellectual consciousness into the origins and development of calypso. Instead of calypso, I’ll apply just three of Rohlehr’s most meaningful contributions to what is at stake in light of the ISM being canceled.



In a 2011 publication by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Rohlehr discussed laying the groundwork for identity construction in the Caribbean. For Rohlehr, preserving Caribbean cultural identity in the face of globalization needed to be a priority for individual islands. Carnival, of course, is one of the ways T&T preserves its culture and history. When Geoffrey Wharton-Lake, one of the ISM directors, confirmed there would be no competition this year he cited the Government’s rejection of a $10 million funding request. The news came as a shock, but the writing has in fact been on the wall for a long time now. Carnival in its current form is not a sustainable product – at least not if the Government is always expected to fund the lion’s share of the festivities. I agree with former organizer Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez that the cancellation of ISM is a symptom of a more significant problem. The problem is our dependency syndrome on Government handouts. As Rohlehr explains, developing culture and growth and adaptation of Carnival to current needs has been due to the masqueraders and mas designers. He notes the resuscitation of Jouvert by the lower middle class in alliance with the Port of Spain grassroots as an alternative to the pretty mas that belonged exclusively to the upper class.

See the entire article at: Trinidad Express