Former president Sir Ellis Clarke and Prof John Spence were honoured by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) at its graduation exercise at O'meara Road, Arima, on Saturday. UTT president Prof Kenneth Julien made this disclosure at a breakfast meeting hosted at the National Academy For The Performing Arts, at Queen's Park East, Port-of-Spain, recently. Following the formalities, media personnel were taken on a tour of the facility, starting at its Keate Street entrance. Julien said: "We will be giving two honorary doctorates–one to Prof John Spence, former dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, who also writes regularly in the papers. We will also be honouring Sir Ellis Clarke...first president of the Republic."
He also spoke about the need to attract a pool of young talent for the Arts programmes, which are expected to get under way from March to September. Julien added: "It is quite an ambitious programme of teaching, lecturing, research and performing, dance, drama and theatre. We have a commitment to meet those tasks in a short period of time." "Soon this building...this Academy will be populated with staff and students. It is quite an initiative." He urged the lecturers to strive for international standards although they had the challenge of "starting from scratch." "You have to get young, talented people in the pipeline. It means outreach. Going outside to primary and secondary schools...going to the panyards. You have to identify talent. It is about creating, pushing them into excellence," said Julien.
Julien said the Academy was developed on the heels of initiatives like the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Theatre Company. To date, the Academy has shown its dedication to the nation's youth by staging a concert (November 17, 2009)–Creating A New Cultural Experience. Reigning calypso monarch Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust), Mohip and Edwin Ayoung (Crazy) entertained the young audience with their rendition of God Bless Our Nation. Sitarist Mungal Patasar gave a fine performance on the retractable stage. UTT's consultant Michael Cherrie spouted snatches of Shakespeare.
Touring the Academy
Leading the tour of the facility, were senior vice president Oliver Flax and Benn Ramnarine, security operations manager of UTT. They were joined by tutors, including programme Professor Kathy Gainham, Rana Mohip, Sonja Dumas, Nicole Wesley, Martin Raymond and Belinda Barnes. They were all optimistic the empty spaces would soon be furnished and occupied with students of the arts. Certificate, diploma and degree programmes will soon be made available. Ramnarine said there are 13 classrooms, two mini theatres and two dance rooms, which would cater to the students' artistic abilities.
He said the study of Ramleela, popularised by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, would also be introduced there. "There is a certificate programme in Pt Lisas," he said. Dancer Dumas said capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, described in detail by Brazilian writer Jorge Amado, would be introduced. She said they have already conducted dance workshops in Tobago. Wesley said they would be able to pick up the stage and take it to a venue. English Gainham said she was excited about the venture since, "There is so much talent here. I look forward to working with the students. I think this nation has the potential to do something extraordinary."