30 August 2012

Amerindian etching defaced.

Amerindian etching defaced.
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Aug 30, 2012 at 12:53 AM ECT

When Cristo Adonis, the Pyai of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, took a small tour group to the site of the petroglyphs at Caurita, he certainly was not prepared for the sight that awaited them atop the hill. The surface of the stone that bore the Amerindian etchings had been freshly dressed with oil paint.

Adonis had taken a group that included a teacher and an MPhil student of the University of the West Indies into the hills of Caurita to visit the famous site. According to Adonis, from the start of the trek, he noticed that the previously overgrown trail to the site had been cleared. This told him that people were in the area recently.

As they climbed their way up the hill, Adonis shared his intimate knowledge of the area to the group, describing the healing powers of certain plants, the significance of resident flora and fauna to indigenous cultures and climaxing it all with a dispensation on the Caurita Petroglyph.

When the group reached the site, shock registered on all their faces as they saw the desecration wrought on the surface of the stone. Some one or some people had painted the etchings in stark white oil paint.

According to Adonis, the indigenous community regards this petroglyph as having special spiritual significance and it is a large part of ancestral life that we are now beginning to understand.

"I felt my whole spirit gone!"

Usually when people visit the site they find that the etchings are slightly covered by mosses. This is always cleared away easily so that the figures could be discernible. For photographic purposes, chalk is used to highlight the depictions as this quickly and easily disappears soon after. The oil paint however has permanence.

Adonis had just recently deciphered an important part of the etchings that had previously gone unnoticed. Adonis recognised the hawk. The hawk is of spiritual significance to the Amerindian peoples, so too does the deer.

The more prominent depictions such as the deer, fish, portraits with ceremonial head dress, the waterfall and other figures have all been acknowledged by the indigenous community of present day Amerindian descendants. Etchings of the hawk however went unnoticed until the Pyai discovered it.

This discovery of the hawk by Adonis goes one step further in interpreting the petroglyph as a whole.

"This hawk was not oil painted over because whoever did this did not make it out. Thank God for that!"

The petroglyph at Caurita stands as a monument of special significance to descendants of Amerindian ancestry. The community is at present lobbying for this site to be declared a National Heritage Site.

Adonis has promised to make another trip up to the site to try to clean the oil paint off the stone.