The Rainbow Ladies

Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island nation state, home to 1.3 million people who are descendants of African, Indian, Amerindian, Carib, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Syrian, and Lebanese heritage. Personal and historical narratives of colonialism, indentureship, war, and globalization weave intricately to form the social fabric of this society that is simultaneously mixed and distinctive in its cultural diversity. Color is important because color is legacy, struggle, and victory. In Trinidad and Tobago, color is also unity, a shared history, and a shared present.

This project takes inspiration from the diversity of color that saturates the Caribbean narrative, seeping into everyday life through stories of politics, employment, family, and empowerment. Like the colors of the rainbow, the women in this project represent the sum of all parts of Trinbagonian society. Each woman is an embodiment of individual strength and resilience. She is unique because she is a product of her time and circumstance. She is also part of a whole, one of many crucial storytellers, a color in the rainbow. Sewn together, the photographs make up a shared Trinbagonian legacy whose power and potency emerges only when stories converge, like rain and sunshine. Through assertions of independence, family, and security, this project pays homage to the Rainbow Ladies, the marshals of the future.

Tunika & Zishka

Tunika a business adminastrator (30) & Zishka a nurse (31), “lime” in downtown Port-of-Spain 2 days before Carnival. “Having slept 2 hours last night and parting all day on a boat ‘fete’ today we are ready for another party tonight - not going to sleep until after Carnival! We love to party, because we know how to balance work, family and play time.”

Yema

Yema (36) is a teacher at a prestigious all boys school in Trinidad. "I remember, one day, my family and I were cleaning the temple and people had come to see my dad who is the village pundit (temple priest). It was an awkward situation because you're there cleaning, sweating, your clothes are all dirty. They were all just sitting there and because there was nothing else to do, they're just looking at you. It's like you're living in a zoo, and you are the main attraction. But they would come in and start teasing; in their mind they are teasing but really they are insulting. They started calling me "meek mouth" and things like that. Now mind you, I was a child, maybe 10 or so. I remember answering back to the people. And my dad comes and gives me two slaps and says, "Don't be rude to people!". And so you have these experiences that then begin to shape you, to condition you - what you think is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In a situation like that, for women, particularly East Indian women in Trinidad, we begin to develop a dual identity, having a public and private image of ourselves. So who are you really? You are struggling with identity. You live a divorced life."

Safiya & Kadisha

Safiya (15) & Kadisha (14) hanging out after school at their dad’s hardware store.

Ria & Dejhaney

Ria (31) & Dejhaney (3) enjoying the beach in Tobago a few days before Carnival. “The toughest thing for me here is being a single parent. Most men here in Tobago are nice but they are ‘beach bums’. They will choose the white tourist over black women any day because the white women do stuff that we won’t - like pay for dinner. But you know what? I am a single mother and I keep myself up because of my daughter.”

Leah & Laerive

Leah & Laerive from Sangre Grande, taking the ferry with their father from Port of Spain to Tobago

Feona

Feona (63) says, ”I am who you consider well-off. Nowadays, with the crime, I have to downplay myself. I don't like to show off. I used to live in the hills of Diego Martin but even there I wasn't safe. I was attacked my bandits who took all my jewelry and stole my car. This happened even though there were security guards stationed outside the gated community where I lived. I thought then about leaving Trinidad. But this is my home. I decided to move to a more low-key community where neighbors know each other, look out for each other. I can keep my doors open and not have to worry about bandits attacking me. I feel safer now."