Syrian, Lebanese Heritage celebrated during National Patriotism Month

In the early 20th century, what is believed to be the last major group of immigrants to colonial Trinidad ventured from the Middle East, seeking refuge from the region’s political and economic turmoil. To support their families both in Trinidad and back at home, the menfolk peddled dry goods. The women, many of whom were expert seamstresses, sewed shirts and other clothing items. The growing community, armed with strong family values and the knowledge of operating silk and wool factories, played a pivotal role in developing this country’s textile industry and business sector.

Last week, our Syrian and Lebanese heritage was celebrated through an educational interview on two dance styles, one of which was featured at the “Colours of Consciousness” Concert last Friday. Michelle Hadeed, Cultural Chairperson of the Syrian/Lebanese Women’s Association, provided a comprehensive overview of the Dabke Dance and Bellydancing; the latter which has been popularized through film/television. The origin of the Dabke dance provided valuable insight into the values of the Syrian/Lebanese community. According to Michelle, who is also a second and third generation Syrian descendant, the dance literally translates to “stamping of the feet” and represents community harmony.

The dance originated between the 18th and 19th century when homes were built from mud. Due to exposure to the elements, cracks appeared in homes and the community came together to repair these fissures by stamping the mud until the fissures were repaired. To keep each other warm as the time passed, they will sing songs to accompany their feet movement.   This dance of solidarity and unity is evident today at celebratory events such as weddings and other special occasions, inherited from generation after generation.

Belly dancing was the second style of dance discussed during the interview, which is another celebratory type of dance. Performed to Arabic music, a female dancer accentuates the beat of the music with her hips, whilst her arms frame these movements with accompanying gestures. At formal performances, the dancer is usually dressed with a long flowing skirt or pants, fitted top, embellished with coins, jewels, and sequins.  Rebecca Elias Griffith, a well-known local belly dancer under the banner Lebanese Dance Rhythms, performed at the Ministry’s Concert last Friday with a stunning display of grace and beauty.

These dances embody the spirit of National Patriotism Month, a campaign which seeks to educate, entertain and engage audiences through explorations of our cultural diversity.

 

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