Gender: A Tobago Perspective

Hello all, I am the administrator of the blog Maedaze which is a creative representation of my perception of fashion, I was born and bred in Tobago just like Billiereid20, so today I will be her guest blogger.

History has taught us that the man is supposed to be the principal breadwinner of the home while the woman is the caretaker and nurturer. Flash-forwarding to 2015, is this still applicable it-s-a-man-s-world-feminism-31877031-528-356to modern day society, more so a Tobagonian society? I think that this school of thought is becoming obsolete. With so many strides that women are taking and making, leaves little room for the monotonous, prescribed gender roles of women.

However, they are not to be blamed for what was inculcated into them.Growing up, I was taught to play with dolls and everything associated with frills. Pink was the emblem for a girl.  Girls were taught to be inside at a certain time, for this saying would 06647227434c1c10ea95ca3e423efddbalways be etched in my memory, “little girls must be seen and not heard of”.So what if I wanted to play with trucks or a car? Nope, that would be steering away from the perceived notions of what it means to be a girl.

Boys are supposed to be rugged and tough. Emblem: blue.

What if he wanted to don a pink shirt? Or cry from “tabanca”? Nope. that would be seen as weak or effeminate. But nowadays, I see them cladded in the colour pink as the new norm. Long gone are the days of “buller”, “fag”, or gay being associated with the colour pink. It’s about time, it’s just a damn colour.



I would never say that cooking and nurturing of the kids should only be subjected to women only. My mother always cooked for us. Never one day have I seen my dad do this, but he was the economic provider.


This system is still ubiquitous to Tobago but more women are doing it on their terms. I say, if you enjoy the traditional role of a man/woman, do it on your own terms.

check out these links for more information


The Black Yeats (For Eric Roach)

blackyeatsThough you were unsure of yourself, did not think that you were good enough, I see you Merton Maloney, I see you. You shouldn’t have been have afraid to shine. We all saw it.  Your love and appreciation for Caribbean landscape, has assisted me in seeing Caribbean people and Caribbean milieu in a different light. I salute you, jah, I salute you. Your eloquent use of the sky’s blues, the earth’s green and crimson red, summons all of our senses.

“He was the first to express in remarkable poetry and clear individual voice the vision ofcrb-10-eric-roach a precise and distinctive West Indian identity. He writes about his descriptions of landscape and people and suggests insights into nature, history and personality which are specifically West Indian in their inspiration and because wholly universal in their impact” (Roach, 9-10).  I saw what you did in Hurricane Hill and Carib and Arawak. Yes, Columbus and his men were brutal to the aboriginal people. Through this, you let us know the history and terror of the Caribbean.

“The best example of the disillusionment of the poets of the fifties could be seen in the change that had come over the work of Eric Roach between the time of Federation and 1974. After the dissolution of the Federation, Independence became for Roach merely a jagged fragment of the greater dream of a regional Dominion.” (Hall and Chuck-A-Sang, 90) Sighs. I know the disillusionment of the West Indian Federation dream, infuriated you. You saw the Caribbean as a “shoal of islands”, an archipelago. We were one. Say no more. Littering Earth’s Centre said it all.

images (1)I knew you were angry but I never once thought that you were that unhappy. At Quinam Bay, was the beginning of the end? You wrote that poem effortlessly, for we did not know that those were your genuine desires.

“Quinam Bay is the site of the suicide of Tobagonian poet Eric Roach who drank the poisonous weed killer, gramozone, and then swam out into the waters of Quinam Bay in South Trinidad”( Mahabir and Pirbhai, 154).

You have unearthed in me a new found love for Caribbean poetry. And for that, I salute you, jah, I salute you.


For Eric Roach,

Celebrating our Tobago literary giant


Our Centenarian 🙂

Works Cited

Hall, Kenneth O., and Myrtle Chuck-A-Sang. The Caribbean Integration Process: A People Centered Approach. Kingston: Miami, 2007. Print.

Mahabir, Joy A. I., and Mariam Pirbhai. Critical Perspectives on Indo-Caribbean Women’s Literature. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Roach, Eric. The Flowering Rock: Collected Poems, 1938-1974. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2012. Print.

Tobago Crab and Dumplings

crab and dumplings “No trip to that island would be complete without tasting the delicious coconut curried crab and dumplings” (Guides, 726). If it’s one thing that most people know, is that Tobago is tantamount with crab and dumplings. De-light and Thomas describes the local cuisine as a “crab cooked in its shell with a coconut curry and a sauce served with bland boiled dumplings” (39).This dish serves as a staple for many islanders as it is a sumptuous, mouthwatering meal. crab

The origins of crab and dumplings is quite unclear  being that Tobago changed hands about 33 times, so, this dish could have


emanated from any of the following: Africans, Dutch or Spanish just to name a few. However, some say the curry crab is Indian and the dumplings are of African origin. Cornmeal or white flour dumplings really depends on one’s preference. I know this may seem shocking coming from a Tobagonian but I haven’t always liked dumplings. Actually, it was only last year I started eating dumplings and it was only out of hunger that I did so.  The whole preparation behind it involved the hand too much and plus I always wondered why people would want to consume boiled flour. download

The idea was just too gross…Anyways back to the story. A few days before Harvest (a Tobago tradition), my father would buy crabs and store them in a bucket or barrel before the initial slaughtering. From what I’ve heard, storing the crab a few days prior its demise allows for it to “purge” itself. Hey, I am in no shape, form, or way a CHEF but what I do know is that the crab must be cleaned and seasoned well. I know that curry is used and NATURAL coconut, are two of the key components to this awesome delicacy. But I would really like to learn, so if you are reading this blog and you a damn good cook, I would be willing to learn (free).

Everyone has their own way of concocting this meal, but it more or less tastes the same (most times). “Shade”, much? (LOL). “To be frank, is not one of my favourites dishes. With all due respect to the people of Tobago, who I love dearly, this is one dish that I shall never attempt again. The crabs on Tobago are small, so contain very little meat. The dumplings are generally wet and sticky and the appearance of the dish is reminiscent of the contents of a baby’s nappy” (Tobago Cuisine) Where did this person go?!!!  He needs to have several seats. Clearly the person that made that unflattering meal, cannot cook. Here is one of the many ways to produce this meal, Mr./Mrs. “baby’s nappy” :

Kraig and Sen states that “this quintessential street food is found especially in Store Bay and in stalls such as Miss Jean or Miss Esme.”(357). Trust me, it’s a must have when visiting Tobago. As Kraig and Sen states, try “Miss Jean or Miss Esme”, for this local delectable and PALATABLE meal. 🙂


enjoy, from my culture to yours


Works Cited

De-Light, Dominique, and Polly Thomas. The Rough Guide to Trinidad and Tobago. London: Rough Guides, 2001. Print.

Guides,Rough. The Rough To The Caribbean: More Than 50 Islands, Including the Bahamas. Rough Guides, 2002. Print. 

Kraig, Bruce. Sen, Colleen T. Street Food Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. Print.

“Tobago Cuisine.” – a MyTobago Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.


“The Rasta Man Syndrome”

fs_Pigeon-Point-P1010400Growing up in Tobago, one never falls short of hearing myths, stories and tales. From ever since I was young, there is this one story in particular that I always hear, “White Women Love Rasta Man”. To say if this true or more so a myth, I guess an in-depth study should be conducted. Now, I don’t want to make any assertions, but here are some things that I’ve heard.

1. They love “the Dick”-  According to Senior, they:

“want it strongjamaican-man1

want it long

want it black

want it green

want it dread”.

This wholly describes how the white woman regards the black, Rastafarian male. From what I’ve heard, they value virility and lots of sex.

397930945_069095b5602. Sex Tourism- Many Jamaicans would be familiar with the phrase, “Rent- a- Rasta”.  Uteng and Cresswell describes the term, “Rent-a-Rasta” as “a woman who engages in transactional sex with a local man while on vacation in Third World destinations in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa as sexual predators and thus masculinized sex tourists”(135). This illustrates that this term “Rent-a-Rasta” is not only ubiquitous to Jamaica. Many white, middle aged women flock to Pigeon Point,  Tobago, where they themselves engage in “sex tourism”.

3. Sex Slaves- These women that come from predominantly European countries to Tobago for vacation, like to take these men back to their “mother country”, as sort of a gift in a sense to their other friends. There they have “orgy” parties and use these men as “sex slaves” in exchange for monetary gain. 

Well, if all of the above is true, I don’t judge a book by its cover. If these women want to come to Tobago or anywhere they please, to spend money for “good dick” that’s totally up to them.  Some, or better yet most people, view it as something taboo. At the end of the day, they are both aware and quite conscious about the agreement that they have  entered with each other.  “Rasta had become a play-thing for racist whites who paid for an exotic and erotic island fantasy”(Adijaye & Andrews,199). Whether for a “plaything” or for “love”, these women get their “erotic island fantasy” 🙂



Works Cited

Adjaye, Joseph K,  and Andrews, Adrianne R, Language, Rhythm & Sound: Black Popular Cultures into the Twenty-first Century. Pittsburgh, Pa.: U of Pittsburgh, 1997. Print.

Senior, Olive. Gardening in the Tropics: Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994. Print.

Uteng, Tanu Priya. and, Cresswell, Tim. Gendered Mobilities. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008. Print.




“The Misconception of the Tobago Woman”

beautiful-black-womanUgly, barbaric and “black”, are a few of the many adjectives used to describe us. For many years I’ve heard these outlandish ideologies from the Trinidadian male, with reference to the Tobago woman. “Tobago have any pretty woman?” Is it because our macro population is that of African descent in comparison to the “melting pot” society of Trinidad? Is it because we are not “dougla” or mixed with ¼ of white, Spanish or Chinese? Blame history, not us.

“The population of Trinidad increased fairly rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was due to the increase of immigration” (Brereton,12).Thus, under the regime of Indentureship,…/Both_bad__but_not_the_same-126746478 accounts for the ethnic diversities that are prevalent in Trinidad.

The word “miscegenation”, owes its etymology to the Latin root, misc which means ” to mix” , and the suffix genus, which is of Indo- European origin, and means “race”.” (Dunning, 114). Therefore, the constant interaction between the Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese during Indentureship, resulted in miscegenation,…/is-miscegenation-still-a-dirty-w which was inevitable.

But, how dare you judge us based on how we look. If you prick us, we bleed the same way as any heart palpitating human being.  Character and personality goes a long way, doesn’t these matter anymore?

Are you indirectly stipulating standards of beauty for us? We are perfect just the way we are. Our black is beautiful.

I say, you all have a misconception of the Tobago Woman. KENISHA THOM

This is Kenisha Thom. She is a native of Tobago who represented our country at both Ms. Universe and Ms. World. She is the epitome of a beautiful, dark-skinned woman who harnesses finesse, eloquence and poise. Who said Tobago women aren’t beautiful? TT

Hi. I’m Aviana Alleyne.“Oh, you’re from Tobago?”

lalalala“You don’t sound like a Tobagonian”.  “You’re really pretty by the way”. YES I KNOW. AND YES I AM FROM TOBAGO. This was a conversation that I had with a guy just last week. I don’t need a validation from any man to tell me that I am beautiful. I know that I am. So, to the metaphoric, “Mr. Trinidad”. “Tobago have pretty woman?” My response would always be “YES. PLENTY PLENTY”.

Xoxo Billie

Works Cited

Brereton, Bridget. Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870-1900. Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Dunning, Stephanie K. Queer in Black and White: Interraciality. Same Sex Desire, and Contemporary. Indiana University Press, 2009. Print.


“If Only Men Thought With Their Brains and Not Their Dicks”

Tanz_der_Vampire_sketch_by_brindlegreyhound“Aye clear d road, look “Bamboo Chook Me” coming! If he touches you, bite yuh ten fingers and walk on the other side of the road”. “Bamboo Chook Me” was known as the village’s Soucouyant. He was said to have sucked the blood of many villagers in their sleep, who would often awake with bite marks on their necks. In order to prevent him from passing, at a crossroads, place many rice grains in which he would have to count all in order to pass.


“Each culture has its prevalent tradition, whether oral or written, in a given time” (Sindoni, 58). Thus, orality and superstition are embedded in many cultures. The preservation of this oral culture is largely due to generations upon generations, who wish to safeguard this tradition. It is not alien to the Caribbean as this region harnesses a distinct and unique culture that is very translucent, for example in works of literature by Olive Senior, who often incorporates the famous Anansi, in the telling of her stories. Tobago is no different. The isle though relatively small in populace, possesses an inimitable oral culture because of its French, Spanish, Dutch and African influences, just to name a few, as the island changed hands approximately 32 times under the colonial regime of slavery .

There are so many stories that I can relay. Firstly, do you know how to keep a man? I’m guessing joseph-kuhn-regnier-woman-sitting-on-a-large-pot-illustration-from-the-works-of-hippocrates-1934-colour-lithothat the cliché answer is mind blowing orgasmic sex, catering to his every needs, cooking, and buying expensive gifts. Hold up. No. Back then, these women did not know about that. The real deal is, if you want to ” trap” your man, you give him something called “sweat rice”. According to Page and Luven, ” it is made by a woman who wants to capture the attention of a man or a husband who is straying by standing over a bowl of rice in which her vagina juices fall into the rice”(95)  …/sweat-rice-voodoo-spells-love-potions. Ladies. You squat over a boiling pot of rice where you allow your bodily fluids, especially your panty juices “to sweat” into the rice. Give him that to eat, and he is all yours. But wait, if your man prefers dumpling over rice, no worries. There is also a remedy for that. Left Hand dumpling…/sweat-cake-left-hand-fruit-cake.htm.  .  Basically the dumpling is kneaded with the left hand and similar to the “sweat rice”, it is supposed to “bazodee” a man . Mind blowing sex, “sweat rice” or left hand dumpling? Which is a sure guarantee to “trap” your mister? One way to find out 🙂 Dwhen17_1(1)If ever a child dies before they are baptized, they are what we call a” Douen” . They wander the earth especially forested areas. My grandmother always use to tell my mother, don’t call our names near dusk as the “Douens” would take our names and use it to call us and lure us away.

Maybe a damsel in distress? Pretty yet, scary, according to  the “La Dablesse” ” appears as a young seductress. she conceals her feet ( cow, horse or goat) hooves beneath her dress, which she sometimes lifts in the heat of her excitement” (Pradel, 153)lajablesse 2. But in the distance, she is really pretty. She wanders in lonely areas in order to locate her victims, where she plays the role of the damsel in distress. But not so fast. As soon as the men are close in proximity, she disappears with them and kills them. However, in order to subvert her deadly charms, according to my grandmother, the men can remove their clothes, turn them inside out, and put them on again. This could have all been prevented back then if men thought with their heads and not their dicks.

There are many other stories that I can delve into about the oral traditions of Tobago. Orality still remains an integral part of Tobago’s culture and preservation is key in retaining and preventing it from becoming a dormant art form.

Works Cited

Page, Kathy, and Luven,Lynne. In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body. Brindle & Glass Publishing, 2012. Print.

Pradel, Lucie. African Beliefs in the New World: Popular Literary Traditions of the Caribbean. Africa World Press, 2000. Print.

Sindoni, Maria Grazia. Creolizing Culture: A Study on Sam Selvon’s Work. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd, 2006. Print.


“Just A Stranger Passing Through”

This is just the “tip of the iceberg ” of my childhood reflections. I would definitely need more than eight blog entries to narrate my stories. I hope that you all enjoy what I have written and be sure to comment. Home is where the heart lies…Tobago, my home. drinking coconut

As a student at The University of West Indies, St.Augustine, when given an assignment that is quite flexible, I always somehow integrate my Tobago upbringing. I guess this is just natural instinct or more so a reflex, since I was born and bred there in the rural village of Mt. St. George. Growing up in Tobago was such a beautiful experience. The food, culture, beaches and the warmth of our people, shadows anyone who comes to visit our isle. Sigh. I don’t think that I would ever adapt to the Trinidad life. It’s too fast paced for me. I miss my home. Even though the proximity between Trinidad and Tobago is seemingly close, I sometimes I think that I am in another universe most times. We think that culture shock and its effects only bombard persons from two divergent worlds, but it happened to me. “Culture shock in all its diverse forms is completely natural and is part of a successful process of adaptation”(Marx, 3). Hmmm. Or is it?tobago culture Back home, everything is just so natural- that light-hearted, seductive, tranquil atmosphere. The cushioning from my parents both mentally and physically, instantaneously went out the door the moment I arrived at UWI. It’s like they placed me on a pirogue at Fort Grandby and pushed me over to swim with the sharks. As a Tobagonian would say or more so my mother, is “either you shape up or you ship out”, which simply means that it is either you adapt to the new changes or you can simply come back home and forego your dream(of course I chose to stay). From my observation, and anyone can beg to differ, even though we are one nation, we are completely different culturally. It’s a luxury to have non home cooked meals more than twice in a week at home in Tobago. It’s not the matter of affordability, but we prefer home cooked meals ( a wide array) in contrast to buying food. Even if it is on a Friday. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t buy food on a Friday but its kind of rare. From what I see, is one of  two things: Trinidadians hate to cook or they enjoy buying food and eating out. mango mango chenetteThe neighbouring feeling that Tobago oozes, I think, makes us so distinct from Trinidad. Just showing up at someone’s house uninvited is a bit rude, yes, but in our culture that’s totally acceptable ( I guess y’all wouldn’t be able to handle a Harvest  , “nah”). You pick from your neighbour’s fruit tree(steal most times) , especially during summer when mangoes and chenette are ubiquitous. You turn that mango into chow or into a stew(red mango).  But don’t try that in Trinidad(stealing i.e) because you might just get shot!
“Green Days by the River” sums up my childhood literally. It was school, river, river school. You would swear I was a “marki” (crayfish). Passing my step grandfather’s estate which was on the trek to the river, always supplied the lovely treats to fill our bellies.  I remember this one time when one of my male cousin decided that he would try to bully my sister,  little cousin and I. We lured him away from our uncle”s home and pushed him into a large acre of “scratch bush” (hahahaaha insert evil grin or face). His mother had to rub his entire body, (especially his ass) with Vaseline, in order for the itching to subside. After our tremendous victory, we passed by his house and laughed in fiendish glee 🙂 It seems like my tenure at school is never ending. I’m ready to “pack up shop” and head back home, not only to be pampered but to hang out with my friends. I haven’t really made any friends here as yet so I have not explored as much as I would like to. But, I intend to. It’s a must. I can’t be here for three years and basically live in a box. Home is where the heart lies…Trinidad would never be my home. I’m just a stranger passing through… xoxo Billie.

Works Cited 

Marx, Elizabeth. Breaking Through Culture Shock What You Need to Succeed in International Business. London: Nicholas Brealey Pub., 1999. Print.