Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Sparrow’s ‘late’ award upsets Clarke: Stop patronising our local artistes
Artist LeRoy Clarke has slammed the Government for its belated decision to award the Mighty Sparrow, Slinger Francisco, the Order of the Republic of T&T, saying it was only after the calypso king of the world almost died that its hand was forced. Speaking hours after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that Sparrow would receive the country’s highest award and that they would foot his US medical bills, Clarke said it was a shame it had to take his recent serious illness for the authorities to honour him. “We have to wait until Sparrow dead and come back alive to give him an award,” Clarke said at his book launch at the National Library, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday. “You see the point? He should die first and come back. Maybe I should fake it and go into a coma. Stop patronising me, man, stop it,” he added.
Sparrow, 78, spent several weeks in a New York hospital after he fell into a diabetic coma after a stroke last September. He returned home last week after his recovery and immediately made it known that while In T&T for Carnival, he would seek to make appearances at events in order to help pay off his hefty medical bills. Camboulay Productions, whose media partner is Guardian Media Ltd, had launched a five-part lecture series in part to raise funds to assist him with those medical expenses before the PM announced the Government’s intention to honour Sparrow. The group was seeking to raise at least $100,000.
Speaking after Gopeesingh and Rowley, Clarke said he had to live a rough life and accused the Government of paying lip service to the arts. Quoting the names of his books, Clarke said the people of the country were living in joyless days as they went about their business seemingly without any soul. “Get up, wake up to the parables of our joyless days. These are joyless days,” he added. He used derogatory language to describe the state of life for artistes and other citizens in the country and accused the politicians of not meaning what they said. He also spoke about the amount of money being spent on cultural ambassador and soca star Machel Montano, adding young people have so much energy but have nowhere to go. “Where are they going to go if Machel Montano is the symbol of success. Come on, if he is the symbol of success, where are they going? “He is an ambassador to fly free. I am not against him, you know. The poor little fellow, he is (being) used. Why you don't send men who have voices, who when they sit down they have a voice identical to the beauty, discriminating beauty of this place?” he asked.
Clarke claimed artists were not being allowed on radio and television stations to speak about their work. Another ailing artiste, Ella Andall, had given so much and now that she was ill, he said, there was no one to assist her. His own life, he said, was saved by musician Ataklan and his girlfriend, who visited him at his home weeks ago as his blood pressure was very high and he was unaware of it at the time. Clarke said homosexuality was a major threat to art and predicted that before the end of 2014 there would be a same-sex marriage in T&T.
Praise for the Chief
Among those in the audience for the launch of Clarke’s books, Parables of our Joyless Days and Symmetries of Words Made Flesh, were Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, artist Earl Lovelace and former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams. Gopeesingh, in his address, said the 75-year-old master artist, Clarke, grows more valuable to T&T as he produced new paintings and books. He said Clarke “presents the society with hard truth about itself, which may not be easy to digest at times but which is necessary to confront, if we are to overcome the many challenges we face.” Rowley also spoke favourably about Clarke’s contribution to T&T, describing him as “the best that T&T can produce.” He said Clarke was “a sobering intervention in my own life in the political landscape.”