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Don t make joke. It s
Christmas already? The
twinkling giant Christ-
mas trees in the mall
blinded me. "What s the
matter with these peo-
ple? I wanted to scream.
It is only October---we re
getting ready for Divali
and All Saints. We re
looking for saris and
candles, not pastelles and tinsel. Not yet.
The other day the church choir near my place of
abode was cheerily singing manzaneras and aguinal-
dos, as if they had never owned a calendar. Did
nobody tell them they were too early?
Last December was the Year of the Drunken Green
Turkey, when my recipe for the stuffed bird went
awry, and I am still recovering from the trauma of
radio stations continue playing carols and prematurely
counting down the days to December 25, I shall
have to take desperate measures.
This is going to be the Year of the Disappearing
Magic Trick---I am cancelling Christmas. I am buying
a ticket and flying out to some place where they
never heard of black cake and ho, ho, ho. So far, at
the top of the list are Eritrea and the Galapagos
Islands, which has only turtles and lizards, neither
of which tastes good with raisins and pigeon peas.
"Try Russia, my brainy and beautiful friend Elle
suggested, slyly. "They don t celebrate Christmas
until January 7 because the Russian Orthodox Church
uses the Julian calendar. That will give you enough
time to wrap my present and invite me over for
I shot her a look that would fry her malicious
little heart if she had one, because she knows I hate
ginger beer and that it will be the dead of winter
in Moscow, and I would freeze my sense of humour
"Don t start booking my flight yet, I replied,
smoothly. "There are still sensible places like Thai-
land, Cambodia and the Maldives, which has the
most amazing coral reefs. I could take up scuba
diving instead of sorrel-brewing over a hot stove.
I heard her mutter "Scrooge under her minty
breath but I let the unfair accusation go without
reply because she was probably just vex because I
had discovered the subversion---someone, most likely
the Grinch Who Stole My Waistline, has snipped
a few days off every week between February and
September, causing a false sense of an impending
festive season. But by my calculations, it was just
Christmas a few weeks ago and an entire year could
not have slipped by already. Otherwise, I would
have lost the extra pounds I had gained last season
by now, instead I am sewing fresh elastic into all
my trousers. So that is proof positive that Christmas
is much further away than the paranderos and adver-
Contrary to the calumny spread by Elle, who
never met a celebration she did not overdo, I am
no Scrooge. I am just against force ripe festivities.
What ever happened to living in the moment?
October has its own charm, in a rainy sort of flash-
flooding way, and November is the birth month of
such cute, clever people as Whoopi Goldberg, Tina
Turner and Leonardo di Caprio.
No need to accelerate into an end-of-year shop-
ping-housecleaning-cooking-baking crash. Christ-
mas and the New Year will be here soon enough,
but in their own rightful blip in the time-space con-
tinuum. Now, did you know that the Kingdom of
Bhutan is known as the Last Shangri-La, where
Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic
Product is its national indicator of development?
Do you know why they are so happy?
Because they are Buddhists and so they are never
harried to the point of mental breakdown over too-
soon Christmases and jump-up New Years.
I shall send you a postcard from Thimphu.
Veteran artist Makemba Kunle says the
scourge of crime now gripping T&T was
proof that works of art no longer speak to
the consciousness of citizens, towards
shaping a better society.
"I am not satisfied that this work is doing
any good outside there at all. They say the
artist is working in some kind of way for
national development to help change the
place, to inspire people. More mothers cry-
ing. More people getting shot. Nobody cares
a damn. Everybody is going about their
business, hustling trying to making a living;
trying to survive or trying to dig out some-
body else s eye. My art isn t doing anything,"
He added, "I have to do it! I can t learn
computer science now, at this age. This is
what I was born to do and I m doing it, but
I have no false expectations. To me, art
today is not like yesterday. It has little effect
Kunle was speaking at the October 8
launch of Retrospective which featured
almost five decades of creative expressions
conceptualised and hosted by the National
Museum and Art Gallery on Frederick Street,
While he accepted the honour bestowed
onto him where his work would be made
available for public viewing over the next
three months, the celebrated artist said, "I
also accept it for many others who might
also be deserving of such a retrospective.
I accept it also on behalf of the weak ones
who didn t have the strength to keep it up
to maintain their creativity over the years.
I used to advise any young artist coming
to me, strengthen yourself because it is not
easy and over the years, I have seen a lot
fall by the way. There are some on the road.
There are some who call me every day for
help; some kind of spiritual sustenance. I
accept this tribute for those (artist)."
Lorraine Johnson, curator of the National
Museum admitted that very few things left
her speechless and that Kunle exhibit did
"Go see for yourself and when you are
walking through Makemba s work, pause,
listen...reflect, for that is what he is urging
us to do. And let s not forget to ask questions,
for that is what art urges us to do. This is
the first showing of Makemba s work here
at the National Museum and Art Gallery
and I feel that I must mention this because
it is worthy of mentioning," she said.
"Makemba has persevered for almost 50
years, not for this show, but for his own
philosophy; his own belief. Perhaps he has
read the words of Marcus Garvey, who
believed it would be philosophy, African
philosophy, not platonic philosophy that
would save this perishing race of ours from
the consequences of slavery and colonialism.
Whatever drives him, the message is clear,
we must too, be driven in all that we do,"
Let's not rush
Kunle's art perseveres despite crime
Celebrated artist Makemba Kunle shares a photo-call with Lorraine Johnson, curator,
National Museum and Art Gallery beside this work of art. Kunle donated the piece to the
people of T&T through the National Museum. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
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