Saturday, October 07, 2006

Passport pictures at Back in Times

Mr. Smailes’ photographs were partly stagnant

Alex Smailes looked smart and he was dressed for the occasion as if he was going to be photographed himself or participate in a sweat down later that evening. This was the driveway to SWWTU, Port of Spain, Trinidad, and an exhibition of his portrait photographs of regular fete goers who come to an event called, “Back in Times.”

SWWTU is ingrained in us and It is a Rite of Passage for some older Trinidadians. On the weekends and late at night, you can see couples coming out of their Datsun 260c cars, dressed to the hilt in their matching silver lamé or Caribbean blue polyester garbs designed especially by the family's tailor and seamstress. Here is a panache that stands out, and if this does not do the trick, an elaborate hair weave may make you bend your head backwards to catch a glimpse of a hairdo that took 12 hours to prepare. The lady majestically balances it on her shoulders as she walks and dodges portholes with her 6 inch high heels and white straps that wrap up her shin.

The Dance hall of SWWTU, where couples congregate towards the walls and permanently stain their clothes by perspiring in the heat of the dance.

“Back in Times” is an offshoot of Carnival, and a history of slavery where people mimicked their masters. It is an opportunity to masquerade in a fantasy where men are Manly, and women are Womanly. Also, it is the idea for Couples Only and more so to compete with a fashion style characterized by the SWWTU street posters, such as Lady in Red, Black and White Ball or Birth Night. And in the hall of SWWTU, Saga Boys and Lovely Ladies congregate towards the walls of the dance floor but freshly starched white trousers will be permanently stained by grooving to a slow tune.

A women holding on

Mr. Smailes’ photographs were partly stagnant with the exception a old women glued to her young catch. She is totally captivated by him and this is an essences of what Back in Times brings, otherwise, they looked like passport portraits. Later that evening, the work was removed by organizers of the Club. Trinidadians don't much care for dat type of art, but rather the feting one.

Top: Open gates at SWWTU. Centre: The dance floor at SWWTU. Bottom: A small gathering at a brief opening. A pan of the corridor and exhibition via a mobile video phone on youtube

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