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FOR COMMON GOOD - Stories of Us. LEGACY (Part Two of Two) by Kamille-Ann Lynch-Griffith

By Kamille-Ann Lynch-Griffith

In 1999, Dr. Hollis Liverpool who was the Director of Culture in the Division of Culture at the time; where Emelda worked as Administrative Officer II, informed her of an opportunity to teach dance in the British Virgin Islands. As she was not one to let opportunities pass her by, she applied for the dance teaching position where she would be allowed the opportunity to live her dream and create a curriculum for Dance at the pre-primary, primary, and secondary school level which also included teaching full-time. The position started with two, three-month contracts in 1999 and 2000. She was officially offered the position after her second three-month contract in 2000 which was perfect timing as both her daughters were transitioning to different levels in their educational pursuits. With Kamille having just completed CXC (Secondary School Examinations) and Dawnn also having completed the Common Entrance Examination to gain entry to Secondary School.

Even though she left her dance school and company behind, for the time being, the transition proved to be seamless as Emelda was able to have Dawnn attending the BVI High School and Kamille attending the Community College. The family would spend the next six years in the British Virgin Islands where she would challenge societal norms and showcase the way of life of the country through the dance pieces she created with the British Virgin Islands (BVI) High School Dance Group. One of the highlights of her experience was participating in the annual BVI Festival’s country night, where she would dance with fellow Trinidadians living there.

Picture: BVI High School Dance Group

On returning to Trinidad in 2006, it became apparent that the dance arena was a very different landscape than what she had known in years prior - the folklore was no longer at the forefront. Emelda retired from the Public Service and was then offered a contract as Corporate Services Coordinator for the National Theatre Arts Company of Trinidad and Tobago within the Division of Culture. In 2008, Emelda became the President of the National Dance Association of Trinidad and Tobago where she hoped she would start the work of influencing standards in dance, creating opportunities for dance employment and most importantly, the preservation of folk.

This proved to be an uphill battle with many differing opinions on how this could be achieved. Emelda decided that attaining her Master’s Degree would assist her in being more forward-thinking in her approach to researching and presenting the information that grounded the folklore as a way of life for our ancestors and demonstrate the transition to performance art that we see now on the stage. As she looks towards reviving her school, she will be using the sum total of all her experiences to create something relevant for the preservation of folklore as well as the dance education of the next generation.

Picture: Emelda graduating with her Master’s Degree in Carnival Studies.

As her daughter, I have watched, listened, and participated in the dance that is my mother’s life work. For her, dance is a language that shows us who we are and I must agree as I have witnessed the ebb and flow of the dance community through the eyes of a child and then through the eyes of an adult.

There is a necessity for us as a society to accept that our identity is not only centred around Carnival and that all aspects of our culture are worth respecting and uplifting. My sister and I are her legacies. Through my writing, producing, and directing, and through my sister’s photography and graphic design we will continue to champion the authenticity of the culture of Trinidad and Tobago. It is my hope to continue the work of recording where we came from and hopefully, in knowing where we came from we can influence how we go forward.

Picture: Emelda Lynch-Griffith in full costume (currently)


Kamille-Ann Lynch-Griffith is a Film Industry Professional who participated in the Writing for Culture cohort of our FOR COMMON GOOD Arima x Louisville Exchange which was facilitated by Louisville Story Program which has become our 'Stories of Us' project.


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