Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An Original Member of the Rada Community

This is a book of poetry written by Trinidadian Roi Kawbena, a poet, drummer and cultural anthropologist. He was also a Senator in the Trinidad parliament in the mid-1990s.The book’s description states; "ORISHA SONGS FOR CELINA" is a unique collection of new poetry by this acclaimed Caribbean poet. He celebrates the life of his Great, Great Grand Mother: Celina Lockhart. (Circa 1800s). Born in colonial Trinidad during slavery, she was a devotee of the Orisha religion of the Yoruba peoples. Celina was a leading member at the historically famed RADA Yard community in Belmont, Port of Spain. Interestingly this community spawned influences for the modern day Steel band, Carnival, Calypso and Soca Music for which Trinidad is now renowned."
We believe that Lockhart Lane in Belmont is named in honour of Celina and her family.

Although Kwabena doesn't distinguish between Orisha and Rada, we are pleased that he recognized our unique contribution to the steelband, carnival, calypso and soca.
How great are we!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Why do you think we are still here?

So you read that Abojevi Zahwenu adopted Robert Antoine as his English name. He was also called Papa Nanee, possibly referring to his status as a Nan or prince. Today we’ll add another English name – he was also known as John. No one knows how and why he became a leader especially since the Rada were fewer in number than other African groups. Historians and anthropologist are still at a lost to explain how the community “survived with such strength and visibility to the present day.”  Why do you think we are still here?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

An Upset Roman Catholic Priest

Last week we returned to the library and discovered a few new things. Our family has always integrated Roman Catholic saints with their African rituals. However, back in 1873 one priest, Father Francois, was upset that we honoured the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Bernard. The priest was so mad that he raided our compound and took our clay idols!

How do you say cute?

This is one of the cutest pictures we have seen, Tanty Rosie and Arlene Antoine on Arlene’s first trip to Trinidad.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Uncle Kellman

We finally received a photo of Uncle Kellman, first son of Henry Robert and Camilla Antoine. Kellman was a fisherman and lived in Mayaro. He passed away in 1969 at 55 years old.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Anniversary Photo

Here’s a photo from Uncle Sedley and Mama Dolly’s anniversary party. How many people can you recognize?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Congratulations Tash and Bernard

Somebody had a big day on Saturday! Congratulations Tash! Welcome to the Antoine family Bernard! Our Dahomean ancestors recognized 13 different categories of marriage. This marriage would be called xadudo or ‘taking a friend into custody’ but it is considered a romantic relationship. Shh let’s not tell Bernard that if we were back in Dahomey he would be entitled to have multiple wives.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

R.I.P. Miss Sybil

It’s been a little over 3 months since our cousins lost their mom, Sybil Riley. Here’s a tribute written by her son, Martin Joseph, that was published in the Guardian newspaper. Please take the time to read it as it’s not only about Miss Sybil but it’s fairly instruction of what life must have been like for many women of her generation.  R.I.P. Miss Sybil

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Which Soca Star May Have Been Influenced by Us?

We know we don’t need to introduce you to David Rudder.  However, what you may not know is that David was born and raised in Belmont. He said that his music is influenced by growing up close to a panyard and Shango yard. Many of us remember David and where he lived, Layan Hill, which is close to Antoine Lane. Could he have been referring to our Rada community in Belmont, which was frequently incorrectly called the Shango yard?

Friday, 20 May 2011

An Antoine on BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend!

This is our very own Marita Robinson performing at last weekend’s BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. Marita is a 5th generation Antoine. Here’s this branch of the family tree: Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine ˃ Anselm Antoine ˃ Amora Antoine ˃ June Robinson ˃ Marita Robinson. Great job, Marita!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Kwe or Shrine

Here’s a picture of the kwe or shrine. In the old days we had three shrines. One for Sakpata or the earth group of gods, another for Ogu or god of iron and the third for Legba or guardian against evil. Abojevi/Robert Antoine's favourite deity was Sakpata. Some of us may have chosen Legba which had a clay model described as small, ugly and with a large penis.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What One Writer Said About Us

One writer, Gerard Besson, concludes that, “of the several elements today that comprise our very cosmopolitan nation, the Rada … as they have existed in Trinidad have contributed significantly to our overall national character and heritage. The existence, up until recently, of the Belmont Rada Community has helped in no small way to mould the personality of that very particular part of our capital, bringing to that area a special distinction.”
Gerard was born in Belmont so perhaps he has firsthand knowledge of the impact we have on Belmont, Port-of-Spain and Trinidad. Not too bad when you look at the simple, humble compound.
Take a look at the old door that opened to our greatness!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Rada: Root of a Dance Move

“Trinidad has had its own Rada community, in Belmont for example through which dances such as the yanvalou would become incorporated into the repertoire of dance companies.” So we are also the root of a dance move according to Trinidadian dancer/choreographer/singer Gene Toney! Take a look at this video which illustrates several dance rhythms including the yanvalou.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Drawing Attention since the 1870s

According to Prof. Rosanne Adderley from Tulane University in New Orleans we, the Rada community in Belmont, have been drawing attention and studied since at least the 1870s. That’s just a few years after the compound was established 1868. However, one of the first books published with some information on us was Trinidad Village by Melville and Frances Herskovits published in 1947. The Herskovits apparently recorded some songs but the quality was quite poor. However, we are still hoping to find it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Rada Bank

There is a report of two men stealing money from a Rada community chest in 1874.  An article appeared 2 years later in the Trinidad Chronicle when one of the convicted men, Cocombre, escaped from a prison work gang.  According to the Trinidad Chronicle, the Radas contributed small payments to the community chest to fund sickness and burials. After the robbery the community still didn’t trust a savings account in the public treasury but started to bury the chest and changed the location frequently.  This illustrates that it was more than rituals, but a real caring community.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Family Reunion O'Jays Style

Today we’re feeling a bit mellow. Most of you are too young to remember this but let us know if you like this old school O'Jays!  If you want to sing along the lyrics are below.

It's so nice to see
All the folks you love together
Sittin' and talkin' 'bout
All the things that's been goin' down

It's been a long, long time
Since we had a chance to get together
Nobody knows the next time we see each other
Maybe years and years from now

Family reunion (Got to have)
A family reunion
Family reunion
(It's so nice to come together) To come together
(To get together)

I wish grandma could see
The whole family
I sure miss her face
And her warm and tender embrace

And if grandpa was here
I know he'd be smiling for me a tear
To see what he has done
All the offsprings from his daughters and sons

A family reunion (Gonna have)
A family reunion (Ooh, ooh)
Family reunion
(It's so nice to come together) To come together
(To get together)

At least once a year we should have

Family reunion
A family reunion (We need to do it for the young )
Family reunion
(It'll be nice, it'll be nice to come together) To come together
To get together

Family reunion (Sister knows, heaven knows)
A family reunion (It's good to see you)
Family reunion (I said we are sinkin' hands, makin' plans)
(Maybe next year) To come together (Maybe next year)

A family reunion (Ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...ooh...)
A family reunion (We gotta have, we gotta have)
Family reunion (It'll be nice, it'll be so nice)
(To come together) To come together
(To get together)

You know the family is the solution to the world's problems today
Now let's take a look at the family
In the family the father is like the head, the leader, the director
Not domineering, but showing love, guidance
For everyone else in the family
Now if we could get all the fathers of the world
To stand up and be fathers
That would be great
Then we have mothers
Who are the right arm of the father
There's supposed to-to-to do the cooking
Raise the children, do the sewing
And help the father to guide and direct
Then there's the son
The son, most sons are like imitators of their father
So we're back again to the father
And he is guiding in the right way
The son is definitely gonna be alright
Then we have the daughter
Watching her mother
Be-because sooner or later she's gonna be a mother
And she'll have her own sons and daughters
It don't, it don't just stop there with the family or
Of-of yours or mine
It's a universal family
Under one divine purpose
And one divine father
That is if we all come together no matter what color, race, creed
Because that's all in the head whether you wanna believe it or not
'Cause you'll bleed

Family, family reunion

Friday, 13 May 2011

Obeah Conviction and Appeal

In 1868, Trinidad passed a series of laws banning the practice of obeah.  Obeah was defined as “the assumption of supernatural powers for the purpose of making money.” According to two books, New Negroes from Africa (Rosanne Marion Adderley) and African American Religious Cultures (Stephen C. Finley and Torin Alexander), Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine was convicted in 1868 of practicing obeah.  His conviction was not because of his Rada religious practices but as a result of offering “supernatural assistance” to individuals. Papers seized from his home included lists of names of some of the “leading citizens of Port-of-Spain.” This 68 year old man was sentenced to jail time and lashes. Antoine, however, successfully appealed his conviction by arguing he functioned as a religious leader according to the beliefs of his followers. Furthermore, this law should not apply to him any more than it should apply to a Roman Catholic priest.
More laws were passed in 1921 banning many elements of African religious practices including public dance processions, singing or dancing in public and private yards and drumming. Fortunately, the Black Power movement in the 1970s finally changed the perceptions of these practices and showed the importance of these traditions to the culture and history of the island.
Finley and Alexander stated that the Rada community was small and limited to the extended family of Abojevi Zahwenu and close neighbours. They also concluded that today the Rada practice is being replaced by Yoruba traditions. Let’s prove them wrong!

The North Deck - Maracas Bay

There are many us who are slowly beginning to experience warmer weather and we are thinking about our beach excursion to Maracas Bay as a family next year. We must stop here at the North Deck for an aerial view before we head to the beach. Here’s a teaser and what we’ll experience next year. Has anyone been here?

The Drums & Drummers

We have learned of two head drummers so far, Henry Robert Antoine/Dawendo and Vivian Baptiste. However, there were many other drummers. Here’s a select few.

Note: the background music is not Rada drumming.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Drums and Drummers

We have learned of two head drummers so far, Henry Robert Antoine/Dawendo and Vivian Baptiste. However, there were many other drummers. Here’s a select few:

Note: The background music is not Rada drumming.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Second Generation - Henry Robert Antoine

Henry Robert Antoine aka Dawendo is one of Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine’s son. Henry was head drummer and was ordained in a special ceremony in 1926 to the position of huto or father of the drums. He was the fourth in line after ZZisu, Gangwede and Hodonu.  It takes many years of practice to become a good drummer and even more so to beat the head drum or Towonde. He was a carpenter and loved tending to his vegetable garden. And as you may have already read, he was passionate about cricket and Garry Sobers. Towards the end of his life he lost his eight sight. Henry died on April 20, 1966 at the age of 88 and was buried in the family’s cemetery. Like his wife, Camilla, he too has a grandchild named in his honour, Henry Lewis Antoine.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The One and Only in the Western Hemisphere

We hold the distinction of being the only practicing Rada community in the western hemisphere. Scholars who have studied our community and Dahomean customs conclude that we “have succeeded in preserving a remarkable purity of strain.” Credit should be given to the subsequent generations for keeping the traditions alive, especially to Abojevi/Robert Antoine’s son, Henry. Henry was also the primary source of information for Andrew Carr’s book, A Rada Community in Trinidad which was the impetus for further research on us.

The Original Four from Dahomey

Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine arrived in Trinidad with 3 others, Padonu, Kunu and Alokasu. Padonu was a hubono or high priest and first to hold that position in Belmont. Kunu and Alokasu were male vodunsi or dancers. Kunu was a member of the West Indian Regiment and passed away in 1902. Alokusu's saint was Age, god of the bush, hunter and lover of dogs. The symbol is the bow and arrow. Kunu's was Awanga or rainbow. This saint never manifested after his death. It is said that Alokasu’s eyes were red and blood-shot when he was in the state of possession. He died in 1903. Alokusu's saint was Age, god of the bush, hunter and lover of dogs. The symbol is the bow and arrow. Kunu's was Awanga or rainbow. This saint never manifested after his death. There have been no male dancers since these men.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Happy Mother's Day Mamie!

One of Abojevi/Robert Antoine daughters-in-law was Camilla Antoine (nee Peters). She was married to Henry. Camilla was not a Rada but was raised by Rada godmother. We called her Mamie. She had 11 children but sadly she buried 4 of her babies as seen from her husband’s notebook. A year before she died at 82, her son, Kellman, passed away in his 55th year. She has 33 grandchildren and at least 71 great grandchildren. She was honoured by having one of her grand daughters named after her. Happy Mother’s Day Mamie!

Antoine Family Facebook Profile Video

This is a random sample of some of your facebook profile pictures. Now that we found love what are we going to do with it?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A River Runs Through It

The Antoine compound at one time also had a spring at the north-western corner, at the side of Uncle Theophilus’ house. The water from the spring was used in ceremonies especially in the ceremony for the initiation of a new dancer. The spring eventually ceased to flow but apparently when called upon the ‘saints’ were able to have the spring flow again for special ceremonies. Will it be rejuvenated next August?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Antoine Homes

All of the small, wooden houses on the Antoine compound have been replaced with homes such as these two. Currently there are 4 homes on Antoine Lane that are occupied by family members. The rest of us are dispersed in other parts of Trinidad, Canada, United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Antoine Family Cemetery

The family cemetery has been around since 1868 when Abojevi/Robert Antoine purchased the land for $135. It was built on 2 lots of land and is still operational today, after an hiatus of several years.  Almost all family members are buried there. Here’s what the cemetery looked like in 1952.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Compound in 1890

Here’s an artist rendition of what the Antoine compound looked like around 1890. The house in the forefront to the left is where Abojevi/Robert Antoine lived.  The small, white house with the red roof is the convent – where the dancers stay during the feast. To the left of that is the main house. The open area with the thatched roof is where the ceremonies were held and is called the tent. The private, family cemetery is the clear, open area at the top right of the sketch.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

What's in a Name?

Abojevii/Robert Antoine and Devi/Eleanor/Helena had five children together. They gave them both English and African names. Their daughters were Selande(Madelaine) and Wovode (Louisa).  Their sons were Yewonu which is a priestly name (Harris), Buko which means child with umbilical cord around neck (Anselm) and Dewendo  (Henry Robert) . Henry Robert has a great grandson whose middle name is Dewendo.  What name would you like as a first or middle name?
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