Minister Cuffie's address at the Opening Ceremony of the Naipaulian Conference
October 29, 2015: The following is a statement made by the Minister of Communications, the Honourable Maxie Cuffie at the Official Opening of the Seepersad & Sons Naipaulian Creative Synergies Conference. Minister Cuffie delivered the opening address at the event which took place on October 28 at the University of the West Indies Open Campus in St. Augustine.
A pleasant good evening to you all!
It gives me great pleasure to welcome each and every one of you to “Seepersad and Sons: Naipaulean Creative Synergies.” This Conference is being coordinated by the Friends of Mr. Biswas in conjunction with the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies of The University of the West Indies.
The Ministry of Communications is happy to lend its support.
I must also extend a special welcome to all visiting conference participants. If this is your first visit to Trinidad and Tobago or if you are a returning visitor, I do hope that you enjoy your time with us.
Ladies and gentlemen, the works of the Naipaul family and more particularly the work of the eldest son, Sir Vidia Naipaul, have been the focus of many studies and conferences over the past two decades. This does not surprise me, due to the fact that Sir Vidia has been considered by many as one of the “finest writers in the English language of his generation”. In awarding Sir Vidia the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy referred to him a writer with “a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired.”
The work and impact of Sir Vidia and his family cannot be overstated and it is for this reason that the Ministry of Communications and the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago were excited to partner with Friends of Mr. Biswas and The University of the West Indies for this Conference which seeks to uncover the layers of ideas across the works of Seepersad Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul and Sir Vidia Naipaul.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago values the importance of preserving memories, enriching communities and nurturing our country’s heritage to support the cultural and intellectual life of all
citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. We are committed to leaving a greater impression on the minds and hearts of the people of this nation as we rebuild and recreate our sense of National Pride to embrace a wider concept of the arts.
The Ministry of Communications, having direct responsibility for both National Archives and the National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS) under its portfolio, pledges its unwavering support for the protection and preservation of our literary cultural heritage as an integral part of our identity. Recently, I read that in 2013, the five Shakespeare Homes in Stratford-upon-Avon recorded 818,000 visitors: a 7.4% increase from 2012. In fact, the Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “this is a fantastic achievement which reflects our on-going investment in making the Shakespeare homes – and his home town – a ‘must-see’ destination. Income from tourism is absolutely vital to support our work to conserve the houses and our world class Shakespeare collection, keep them open to the public, and make them meaningful and relevant for people now and in the future. We now have our sights set on reaching the one million visitors a year milestone in 2018.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we need to make Naipaul House and the Lion House in Chaguanas, the Stratford-upon-Avons of the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago is a country that has inspired the creative juices of two Nobel Laureates in Literature. The work of the Naipaul family, which we celebrate today, is revered and has great impact on not only Trinbagonians and Caribbean nationals but on the entire world. I therefore give you my commitment this evening that the Ministry of Communications, the line Ministry for the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago and NALIS, will work closely with the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, the National Trust and the Friends of Mr. Biswas to ensure that we continue to highlight the great work of this family and the wonderful heritage site that is, Naipaul House. We will all work together to engender greater pride and foster a deeper appreciation for the literary giants like the Naipauls and heritage sites such as Naipaul House.
Culture and the arts are of great significance to Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, the PNM Manifesto, which has been accepted as Government Policy, endeavours to make “Government a Patron of the Arts” by encouraging and supporting the local art and culture in all its forms so that we can create a national cultural enterprise of which we can all be proud. It is through Government’s commitment that I am sure that we will be able to nurture another Seepersad, Shiva or Sir Vidia. We should not forget that it was under this country’s first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, that a young VS Naipaul was commissioned by the Government to visit and write as he saw fit. That commission produced his attempt at travel writing, which we know today as The Middle Passage.
In closing, please allow me to extend congratulations and sincere appreciation to Professor Kenneth Ramchand and the other members of the Friends of Mr Biswas Committee for the excellent work that they have been doing to keep the rich work of the Naipauls, alive and relevant. Appreciation is also extended to The University of the West Indies for its support and collaboration on this Conference and the good work that it has been doing to advance literary and cultural studies in Trinidad and Tobago.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do hope that this conference fulfils all your expectations and that the next two days will be a rich and rewarding one.
I thank you.
Corporate Communications Unit
Ministry of Communications