Twenty years of existence for any organization is always cause for celebration, especially one that has done so much to shape the cultural landscape of Barbados.
Ruk-A-Tuk Inc., better known as Ruk-A-Tuk International, marked its anniversary on Sunday with an intimate gathering for friends and supporters at the Barbados Public Workers’ Credit Union’s auditorium on Belmont Road, St Michael.
Among the specially invited guests was Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, who praised the group for its tireless efforts, particularly those targetted at the youth.
“We have to take our young people . . . [and] give them the space where they can come and share . . . . The tradition of creating audiences is important,” she said in a brief address to the gathering in which reference was made to the Cultural and Historical Exposure for Kids in School [CHEKS] programme, which was the developed by the Ministry of Education under her leadership between 1994 and 1996.
However, Mottley lamented that it had subsequently come to an end.
Chief Executive Officer of Ruk-A-Tuk International Wayne Poonka Willock also highlighted the CHEKS, which he said taught tuk band, landship and stilt walking and provided a vehicle by which “we were soon able to include some of those students who reached a competent level of performance [in the ruk-a-tuk activities]”.
Willock, a retired teacher, also took the audience on a journey from the group’s inception to present day, explaining that it was formed after the demise in 1982 of The Yoruba Foundation, which was known for its African dance, rhythms and concepts. Wishing to build on Yoruba’s legacy, some members of the group decided to band together to form what is currently known as Ruk-A-Tuk International.
“We performed at various community functions and hotels for quite a few years. Dread on bass; Piff on percussion and bass; Ife as stilt walker, kettle and bass; Pitlum on kettle and bass and I on flute mainly,” he explained, while speaking at length about the early challenges experienced by the group.
He also joined with Jeffrey Wilkinson, who was one of the original members of the organization, in reminiscing about the group’s various performances on the local circuit, including on cruise liners, in hotels and at various cultural events, as well as its international travels to Asia, Europe and North America.
However, the highlight of the night was the presentation of several awards, including one that was made posthumously to the late member of the group Damien Dappa Taylor, who died in a tragic road accident late last year.
The organization also recognized Ian Griffith for being its longest standing, continuous member from 1986 and Winston Yearwood, better known as Cassius Clay, for his commitment, integrity, professionalism and competence.
Even though Willock was visibly proud of the accomplishments the organization has made, he also did not hide his displeasure over the way in which some aspects of the cultural sector were currently being handled.
“As I pointed out to current minister throughout the year, Government entities have continued to hire the same groups over and over again and then send them on tours,” he complained.
“What about the 40 per cent procurement that has been promised to the SBA [Small Business Association]? What about the SBA’s stratification of small business into small, media and micro?” he asked, suggesting that there was now need for another category called “peeny” to address businesses like Ruk-A-Tuk International “where there is little possibility of making the millions which are stated by so-called micro enterprises.
“Where is the $50 million for small businesses? Why can’t there be a fair spread of engagement with various organizations. I think each organization should be given opportunities for exposure without being exploited . . . . Nevertheless, I am hoping that such will change in the near future,” he added.