The Inaugural Trinidad and Tobago International Hill Rice Symposium and Festival is being hosted in commemoration of the bicentenary of the arrival of the Merikins to Trinidad, following the War of 1812 between the United States of America, and Great Britain. The arrival of this group of men and women, who are sometimes described as Black Loyalists, marked the beginning of rice cultivation in Trinidad. That tradition has continued unbroken through the past two centuries.
The cultivation of rice by the Merikins is historically connected to the more widespread economic enterprise in rice in South Carolina and Georgia in the United States of America and in what is now specificially the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Many of the original Merikin settlers came from those areas, bringing various agricultural practices with them, the principal of which was the cultivation of hill rice, also known as land rice, Creole Rice, or providential rice. The roots of these practices lie in the Rice Coast of West Africa, and the tradition has also been established in various parts of the diaspora, including Suriname, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
The Inaugural Trinidad and Tobago International Hill Rice Symposium and Festival seeks to bring together academics in multiple disciplines, as well as farmers and other grassroots persons to discuss various aspects of rice cultivation in West Africa and the Diaspora. It also celebrates through dance, music, song, spoken word and art etc., the practice of rice cultivation in West Africa and the Diaspora. Some rice dishes will be done by Gullah/Geechee Nation Chef BJ Benjamin Dennis. Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) will provide the keynote address at the symposium and will be an active part of the festival activities nationwide.
During this historic event, Queen Quet will autograph copies of her book,