<<exhibitions and events

6 March 2017

Let's Lévé

Shastri Maharaj Lévé profile

click on image to expand

Fringe event to Tobago Jazz Experience promises a special culture/fashion/cuisine Caribbean experience.
Leve 2017 was launched at Dianne’s Tea Shop on Long Circular Road in Port-of-Spain last Thursday (March 2) and promises to be an event to highlight Caribbean fine art, fashion, cuisine, culture, rum, rhythm, and even chocolate (Cocoa Republic has signed on) in one space — all as a forerunner fringe event leading up to the Tobago Jazz Experience, which takes place April 22-30.
This year the Tobago Jazz Experience includes a performing lineup of singers including Shabba Ranks, Grace Jones, Morgan Heritage, and D’Angelo. The festival celebrates jazz as well as T&T and Caribbean indigenous music.
The Leve event will take place on April 22 at Villa Being in Arnos Vale, Tobago, and is an invitation-only, three-hour event on the first day of the Tobago Jazz Experience.
The event launch last week was led by Dr Auliana Poon, an economist, the owner of the luxury villa, Being, located in Arnos Vale, Tobago, and the brainchild behind the Leve event. Poon, born in Morvant-Laventille and now based in Santa Cruz, is a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism.
Leve is the patois or creole word for “lift up”. The Leve idea, Poon said, seeks to harness the island’s gems in the form of products, people, brands, services and location. It aims to be the forerunner event that preps the Tobago Jazz Experience, and wants to brand Tobago as a five-star destination.
Poon loves her Caribbean roots so much that while living in Germany, she commissioned top fashion designer Meiling in Trinidad to make her wedding dress for her — there was just no way she was about to walk down the aisle in an Alexandra Fischer-Roehler, Johanna Kühl, or even a Karl Lagerfeld wedding gown; she preferred home-made Caribbean brands.
Poon is the force behind the tourism consultancy company Tourism Intelligence International (TII), which serves government and private sector clients in over 50 countries, with clients from South Africa, Palestine, Mozambique, Jamaica and Abu Dhabi. In a past press interview, Poon said: “For more than a decade, my consultancy, Tourism Intelligence International (TII), has been helping governments and tourism agencies around the world (Japan, Germany, Botswana) to develop blueprints for sustainable tourism. Indeed, sustainability is at the heart of every programme and initiative we develop or recommend.”
Poon said these countries understood how to expand through tourism and the export of talent, and we too must learn and understand that we are more than just energy in the ground.
“We cannot do what the Chinese did. We have to do what we know how to do and use what we have. And together we can build a bigger pie,” she said at last Thursday’s Leve launch.
“As an island, a Caribbean destination, we are not just about wearing short pants and drinking coconut water. That is not the image we want in the minds of people. The Caribbean is a brand and we want to sell brand Caribbean to the world,” said Poon.
“It is the energy of the people that will drive this country, this economy, and not the energy in the ground. We have got to get to that place where we are successfully exporting creativity, exporting talent, cuisine, art. It is just too easy to import and copy everything!”

“Life does not need another Rolex watch. Life needs the Caribbean. It is not just about selling talent, it is about selling a story as well. People love talent that comes with a story. We need… to believe in us.... Are we always going to wait until Forbes tells us we have something fantastic or unique? Could we not have seen that for ourselves?”
It was this spirit of Caribbean pride and a belief that what really constitutes culture is not part-time or annual festivals, but the ongoing movement, vibe and lifestyle of a people and a country, that Poon says she has incorporated in the creation of Leve, where luxury meets lifestyle in the sister isle of Tobago.
The pre-jazz fringe event Leve began in 2016. And already, it claims to be a prominent event on this year’s Tobago Jazz Experience schedule.
At the launch, German manufacturer Dr Christian Pottof-Sewing said what attracted him to the charitable initiative as an investor was the need to get away from the incestuous, self-congratulatory pose that most countries and cultures find themselves in, causing them to move backward when they should really be expanding and marketing the creativity that exists within as a brand. He said it’s not enough to just showcase T&T as a source of crab and dumplings or pan, but to showcase a much wider range of what and who this island produces.
The first Leve brought together creative personalities including fashion designer Claudia Pegus, decorated chef Debra Metivier, mas designer Brian MacFarlene and painter Leroy Clarke. This year, the talent includes Trinidadian-born master tailor and knighted designer, Sir Andrew Ramroop, in collaboration with DWW Creations (Distinguished When Wearing) and Ecliffe Eli Designs. Also participating are artist and teacher Shastri Maharaj, and one of the Caribbean’s top chefs and captain of the T&T Culinary Team, Adrian Cumberbatch, who will be making authentic local cuisine, including his famous chow lollies and his Plymouth Rock lobster chow shots.
Creative directors of the evening will be designers Richard Young, Dominic Laroche, and Diane Hunt. T&T’s very own YouTube sensation Rodell “Ro’dey” Cumberbatch will chaperone the event as MC. Trinidadian-Amsterdam based photographer Keron Riley will photograph the event. (With reporting by Bobie-Lee Dixon)