It’s day 3 and as we say in Trinidad; I real bun. Which is one of the reasons this post was uploaded so late in the day (thank goodness for the time difference). The professional pump here at the #festivalfringe in Edinburgh, Scotland is real and I will not quit. Like most other patrons at the #edfringe2016, my spirit is willing but Lord knows my body is weak. Nevertheless I am plugging along because there is too much to do and not enough time… which seems to be a major theme here at the festival.
Today the #WCC ambassadors participated in a workshop where we got into the nooks and crannies of international artistic work and collaboration. It was all kinds of intense; the vast difference in resources, structure and support that artists from different countries experience became quite apparent. But so did our similarities. It turns out that artists and cultural workers all around the world face the same challenges: nepotism in funding streams, confusion over the role of artists in society, the fact that art is not a ‘real job’ and the challenges of being taken seriously, especially when working with better resourced entities. It was all good stuff… so good that I actually cried. But let me explain.
Art can be an emotional thing. Artists get stereotyped as dreamers for a reason: we envision a life for ourselves that isn’t always widely understood. At the workshop today I was sitting next to a man named Jim who worked on a diaspora project around Europe; exploring identities and the effects of leaving a country and life behind. As he spoke it hit me why so many of T&T’s artists, writers, musicians and what have you’s leave home and never return. The diaspora isn’t running away as much as they are running toward something; their dream. And as Jim spoke about the experiences of refugees, Middle Eastern or African migrants who flee poverty, or North Americans whose languages are literally on the verge of extinction, the tears just hit me. Mind you I’ve never been the kind to pour over my cultural identity, but today I felt an incredible shiver of fear and guilt over the future of my dreams and where I might realize them; knowing full well that they may not ever happen at my beautiful, talent-rich, sweet Trinidad and Tobago.
I’m not alone. The real reason I was so late on my post today is because I needed to engage- I needed to celebrate my path with other artists after that small nervous breakdown; I needed a reminder that my dreams as a writer were valid. So although I stumbled with exhaustion, I went to a couple of nearby comedy shows.
And yet again, I connected with international artists who are just as worried, just as broke and just as confused as myself. In the midst of my journey I stumbled upon a quite clever sketch show which… let me just say included a song with the chorus;
‘Stop feeding my cat
I’m getting rather worried
he’s getting rather fat.’
That quote doesn’t do it justice. Please believe that although there were no more that ten of us in the audience, the performance was incredible. So all in all, as I’m sure you’ll agree, today, as the Scots say, was a bloody good time. And for the first time in a long time, I remembered that artists and cultural workers will create no matter where they are; and that I will always be from Trinidad and Tobago no matter where I end up or no matter how long I’m gone; whether it’s a week, a year or a decade. We are who we are and we, my friend, at home, abroad and in-between, are artists. Art is a home which transcends all locations. Art is everything, everywhere, and with it we can never be lost.
Rochelle Amour is an independent, non-fiction writer who is part of the current T&T delegation to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016. She will be live-posting the event. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleamour for updates.