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Forget God and do it yourself

Monday, November 16, 2015
Irtha Daniel, a little woman who does a lot, displays some of her handmade art and craft.

My name is Irtha Daniel and I do many things!

I’m born and raised in Trinidad but I’ve lived in Tobago for the last five years. I first fell in love with Tobago’s beauty: every day you wake up, it’s such a beautiful day.

I live a pretty quiet part of Buccoo. Sunday School is my favourite liming spot. It’s open air, you have people selling craft and games. But a little after 3pm is my cut-off time. The music changes and the crowd changes and there’s a little seedy vibe and that’s the time to go home.

I have one child, a daughter, Terah-Leigh, who’ll be 15 soon. Her dad lives in Arima, in Trinidad. We’re not together but we’re friends now.

I came to Tobago to do community work with UNICEF on a pilot project in Speyside called “Nurturing a Child-Friendly Community”. Even though Tobago is so beautiful and so bountiful, you find that a lot of children are neglected or actually suffering a little bit.

People get so trapped in religion! Like, say, you need to get some papers by Monday, and you go to the office and wait for hours. And then you feel God has to do something for you. That’s a big part of our collective personality. If we didn’t have this “faith”, we’d get up and do things for ourselves. And, if we grew up with the attitude that we all had to do our jobs, we wouldn’t have God or the Devil to blame.

People are becoming a lot more materialistic in Tobago. A big part of the problem with us, as Trinbagonians, is what we think of as “progress”. I might have a flat screen TV or a particular car but that doesn’t mean I’ve done something; in fact, it doesn’t mean anything!

I was born and raised Catholic but my mom is now Buddhist. I’m not Buddhist, just open. I’ll go to Catholic church with my granny, if she asks me. My daughter was never baptised. Never vaccinated, either, but that’s a next story!

My faith is I believe in the universe and that we’re always learning and growing. And that’s the purpose of life. So it’s about having some moral responsibility to life, some honour.

I come from a very mixed family. I have Chinese, Amerindian, Spanish, some French and some African. I’m the fourth of seven children and the middle of three daughters. Neither the big nor the little daughter but the left out one in the corner! I’m also the brownest one, the one that looks the most Carib. Everybody else looks much more Chinese. Ever since I’m small, I’ve been a loner.

For the past ten years, I’ve loved making sandals, slippers, bags, woodwork, whatever I feel like and put my hands on. Being creative is something that comes naturally, not just to me, but to a lot of people in T&T.

My dad calls TV “the idiot box”. So we grew up reading and playing outside.

Art must make you see something in a new or different light. Otherwise it’s just telling me that the flower is pretty; and I know that already.

My dad and I are close. We talk on the phone all the time. He’s been living in the US for a long time. And the US is not high on my list of places to visit. I’ve never been.

The best part about doing many things is you really get to explore and open up different facets of yourself. As you realise you’re able to do something you only conceptualised, you realise you can do more than you think.

The down side of doing many things is not making a lot of money—and that could be “not a down side”, depending on how you look at life. I think it’s important to do what makes you happy, even if that means doing many things.

A Trinbagonian is a naturally creative person. Port-of-Spain [is] amazing: the juxtaposition of naturalness—and yet you see so many vagrants. It’s kinda gritty—but pretty. And that’s what I think makes us creative people.

T&T, the land itself, I feel so close to it. I’ve been to other places—London, Germany, Denmark—but I belong to this land. I could only be from this place.

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