Slicing through the water like a breeze on a surface, quiet shadows slipped over the horizon. Approaching land, barely visible forms began growing into long bows, piercing the mystic Caribbean pre-dawn. Then, their silhouetted frames underwent a transformation, morphing into bodily expressions. Women and men, veterans and youth, dugout canoes paddling softly in unison, entranced, on a mission.

The vessels landing in Moruga, gave birth to an endless procession of spectral beings carrying with them: babies, hammocks, parrots, bows, ornately-tipped arrows, goats, thunderstones and cacao beans. The Warao. Each footfall, bare and graceful, moved along an invisible path — modern-day Indian Walk.

Long before the first cocoa estate on the island, Trinidad underwent a kind of exodus following the arrival of the first colonial ships and missionaries. Appalled by the criminality of these new people and their continued attempts to dissuade the Warao from their nakedness, free-love and their devotion to the wind, water, earth and flame — believed to be kept in stones, born from the crack of thunder and lightning — the Warao left their ancestral homes.

Year after year — until the mid-20th century — these wayfarers would summit Mount Tamana in Trinidad to commemorate their creation story. It is believed that when the great god, Jacahuna, was displeased, he summoned a great flood to wash out all the people. Two, a woman and man, survived by escaping to the top of Mount Tamana — where they settled, creating an entirely new human family from the multi-colored fruits of the Cacao tree.

Reaching the climax of their journey, pilgrims would bask in the collective memory of their origins; sucking beans and planting seed, setting cocotes and macaws free — embodying their tropical spirits as they climbed ever higher. Mimicking ancestors, the Warao would play like ghosts in the forest, re-enacting ancient movements and dramas, whispering and singing their fears and triumphs in their mother’s mother mother-tongue, Guarahoon.

For now, in a theatre of dusk and being, they were home. Soon, the Sun would retire behind the canopy and beckon all of them back to the beach. Having retraced their steps, they’d enter their vessels and slip away — as stealthily as when they arrived — into the sunset.

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