CAROLINE TAYLOR: How do you think being a Tobagonian shapes the work you make, whether in film or in theatre?
JARED PRIMA: I think my connection to the unique stories and traditional practices of Tobago gives me an interesting and (if done well) an engaging twist to Caribbean content. I have been very observant and critical of our unique behaviors and practices in Tobago, and this has given me so many ideas for film and stage concepts.
CT: For visitors who’ve never experienced Carnival in Tobago, tell us a little bit about what it’s like.
JP: Carnival in Tobago is not as massive as it is in Trinidad. It is a more intimate display that focuses more on traditional “mas” and J’Ouvert. There is also a massive upsurge in the number of mud mas players on Carnival Tuesday, so much that it seems that Tobago is now the place to come play Mud Mas!
CT: What inspires you about traditional Carnival characters, and how have they inspired your work?
JP: I think it would be their historical emergence and the way their physical portrayals are continued manifestations of past resistance and mimicry. Each has a captivating story, which, to me, is content for an entire body of film work. The world which we are fortunate to escape to might also provide needed escape, satiate nostalgia, and so much more to international audiences.
CT: Which Tobagonian festivals are the most special for you, and why?
JP: It’s a tough choice but the Tobago Heritage Festival would be my favorite. This is a two-week festival which presents all of Tobago’s historical stories and traditions to a viewing audience. It takes patrons to the various villages to engage in the practices of my elders and ancestors. This festival is also ripe with stories, characters, even superstitions that would be fuel to any Caribbean writer and filmmaker.
CT: Which ones would you recommend people experience at least once?
JP: At least once in your lifetime, people should come to the island for the Tobago Heritage Festival. This is perhaps the only time of year to engage with the custodians of Tobagonian culture and come away with more skills and experiences than you would on a regular day. In 2018, visitors tasted traditional foods and learnt to make some of our sweets; children enjoyed tours all over Tobago and pulled seine, learnt dances and songs; patrons were able to come dressed in wedding wear and be part of the Tobago Old Time wedding procession. This time of year is the one time to put a Tobagonian stamp in your passport and to lose yourselves in our rich cultural history.
CT: What for you are the island’s finest heritage sites and experiences?
JP: We really do have some amazing spaces and stories. Beyond the amazing beaches, we have our Mystery Tombstone (Plymouth) with such a cryptic inscription that baffles and intrigues tourists. We also have massive silk cotton trees, but they must be visited after hearing all the stories of their mystical power, such as their ability to fly! Then, it would be remiss of me not to advocate for visitors to go to Charlotteville and escape into a new world, right on the island. Driving down into the village is like entering a whole new paradise. The people, the beautiful beaches and landscapes, the food! It is definitely a trip worth making.
CT: For those wanting to experience live arts and entertainment in Tobago, where would you recommend they go, what do you recommend they do? Who and which are the artists and groups people should look out for?
JP: Performances may be more prevalent during one of the festivals on the island, but during cruise season (November—April), characters and other performers can be seen lining the streets in Scarborough and Crown Point dancing and entertaining all visitors. Visitors can also visit the Facebook page of the Tobago THETA Company, one of Tobago’s most creative and dynamic performance companies. They usually post information of their pop-up performances, living museums and plays at various spots on the island.
CT: Where are your favourite places to dine on the island?
JP: I like Cafe Bistro on Store Bay Local Road; Barcode Sports Bar in Scarborough; and Overhang Bar at Crown Point has a nice kerbside grill. Honorable mention: I have eaten at Fairways Restaurant & Golf Lounge at Tobago Plantations and they are good!
CT: What will you miss most about home while you’re away?
JP: The beach! My family will be at the top of that list, but they will visit me often. What I will miss would be the interaction with my people. I am excited to learn and experience new cultures, but I constantly compare these new interactions to the way we islanders act. The specific behavioral patterns of people from different spaces intrigues me, but I will still miss my own people and the nuances that make us unique.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your work, and what your goals are post Fulbright.
I am an actor, director, writer, singer, creative content creator. I am currently in the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue my Master’s in Film Production at Florida State University. It is my intention to use this opportunity to creatively present my island and country’s stories, characters, and traditions through the medium of the motion picture. Fans can see my work on YouTube by searching for my company: Triple Spades Studios and checking out my first film projects, The Witness, which won an award at a Shorts Film Festival in Los Angeles, and REDMAN, which won people’s choice at eh Gattfilm Festival in Jamaica. Look out for the completion of my first two feature film projects: Midnight Robber and La Diablesse Lives, both thriller/horror features which present the traditional Carnival characters in interesting and dynamic ways.
To learn more about Tobago’s culture, festivals, and holidays:
- Tobago festivals & holidays
- John Arnold on Tobago’s arts, culture & festivals
- Tobago’s arts & culture: an overview
- Tobago’s best dining & liming spots | Roundtable
Written by Caroline Taylor