Ramleela in Trinidad : 100 Years of the Felicity Open-Air, Folk Theatre Tradition
Ramleela is the story or Leela ('play') of the legend of Prince Rām of Ayodhya, India, battling demi gods, demons and king Rawan to rescue beautiful Princess Sita from Lanka. This ancient, epic story of the Ramayana; later narrated in Tulsidas's Ramcharitmanas, and introduced to the Caribbean by Indian, indentured workers, it has been flourishing as Ramleela, folk theatre, in Trinidad for over 130 years. It is performed continuously in the village, now town, of Felicity for over 100 years.
The residents of Felicity-a village carved out of former sugarcane lands, at the edge of the Caribbean Sea-have been performing their Ramleela annually for eleven consecutive days with the grandeur and panache of village pageantry. This particular production has been mentioned by two Nobel laureates; Sir Vidya Naipaul and Derek Walcott. Part I of the book deals with the issues that the immigrant East Indian community grapples with, in establishing their space and identity within the new landscape. Part II is centered in Felicity with its unique history, geography and demography. Part III documents the story, as dramatised; the circumstances of Rām's birth, his education and training, marriage, exile, trials and tribulations, battles, overcoming magic and illusion, his victory over king Rāwan and his triumphant return to rule the Kingdom of Ayodhya.
The story is presented through a combination of acting, vocal and instrumental music, supporting props, décor, lighting and costuming. Its multi-layered meanings have been explained through the use of masks and forms of masking, guise and disguise, at the physical and metaphysical levels.
The pageant incorporates burlesque, humour, satire, village commerce and entertainment on the fringe, a complete mela, attracting young and old, the religious and the secular. These multiple features have expanded the annual audiences of the Leela while enhancing the rich, diverse heritage of Trinidad and Tobago's cultural landscape in the 21st century.
|Publication Date||May 19, 2021|
|Publisher||Vani Prakashan-Vani Book Company|