About the Anthony N. Sabga Award

I got a package in the mail about the Anthony N Sabga awards of which I am the 2023 arts and letters laureate (alongside Dr. Adesh Sirjusingh, Women’s Health Doctor, Trinidad and Tobago, the Public & Civic Contributions laureate, and Dr. Mahendra Persaud, Agriculture Scientist, Guyana, the Science & Technology laureate) and I wanted to share some of it.

Example, the 2022 laureates were Jamaican Marlon James (Arts and Letters), Christine Carrington of Trinidad and Tobago (Science and Technology), Surinamese Anushka Sonai and Barbadian Kim Jebodhsingh (Public and Civic Contributions), and  Shyam Nokta of Guyana(Entrepreneurship). James is, of course, a Man Booker Prize winner among other awards, but I’ve also been learning about the other laureates: e.g. about Nokta’s environmental management consulting business, started in a small room in his parents’ home, his environmental advocacy, and his advisory role on energy and climate change at the high level of both the government and private sector; and about how Sonai is literally a woman in tech paying it forward via a handful of for profits feeding in to non-profits that educate and empower across the Caribbean. Eligible territories are Trinidad and Tobago, where the prize is based, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States of which my country Antigua and Barbuda is a part. Each of the five eligible territories have nominating committees – who, from experience, create a dossier of their chosen candidate to submit.

Another of the publications received broke down the criteria like this – track record of consistently superior work, excellence in the opinion of a significant number of experts, potential for future development, and work (ideas etc) relevant to Caribbean particularities and models for future work. The selection process has three levels – the nominating committee, research review of credentials and achievements, and final selection by a regional panel of eminent persons. The laureate programme is considered to be Anthony N Sabga’s crowning achievement, “one which he hoped would pave the way for Caribbean integration and the recognition of home-grown talent.”

Each selected laureate becomes part of a college of laureates – the award itself is literally life changing but I’m not sure yet what being a part of the college of laureates will mean but, it’s quite a network. In my category alone, arts and letters, in addition to James, past winters are Trinidad and Tobago filmmaker Yao Ramesar, Guyanese writer and academic David Dabydeen, St. Lucian theatre producer Adrian Augier, Trinidad and Tobago journalist and researcher Kim Johnson, Lokono artist and archeologist from Guyana George Simon, Kittitian novelist and playwright Caryl Philips, Trinidad and Tobago musician and music professor Liam Teague, Guyanese academic and writer Paloma Mohamed Martin, Guyanese sculptor Winslow Craig, Trinidad and Tobago conductor Kwame Ryan, Jamaican writer and scholar Kei Miller, Trinidad and Tobago TV and film producer Danielle Dieffenthaller, St. Lucian sculptor Jallim Eudovic, Trinidad and Tobago documentarian Maria Nunes, and classical pianist Sean Sutherland of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The man for whom the award is named, Trinidad and Tobago businessman Anthony N. Sabga, died in 2017. Other activities of the ANSA McAl Foundation, financed with one percent of the profit from the Ansa McAl Group, include building a psychological research center at University of the West Indies St Augustine, the UWI Institute of Business of which it is a founding member, and a five-year hospice endowment and services focused on children, the handicapped, cancer, food and water, and book donations; and a contribution to the Diagnostic, Research, Education and Therapeutic Centre. Amazing to imagine the transformative impact of every Caribbean business similarly transferring just one percent of profits to philanthropy.

This year there was no selection in the entrepreneurship category. That’s an indication of the caliber of candidates and selectees; something that came home to me as I read another of the magazines in the package received, The Laureate 2021 edition has autobiographical essays by St. Lucian sculptor Jallim Eudovic, Trinidad and Tobago documentarian Maria Nunes, and classical pianist Sean Sutherland of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Inspiring and intimidating – the latter not because I don’t think I deserve to be named a laureate (I didn’t select myself and since the announcement was made my mindset has been set to receiving) but how do I tell my story? I know, a writer uncertain about telling her story. but honestly that’s on brand for me and their writing was so inspiring…it’s a lot.

Nunes wrote: “Our bodies are living libraries, living archives. This is the root and navel string of my work: the action of the photograph enters into conversation with lived memory, listening for what is being said to us today in the hands of a drummer, in the feet of a dancer, in the voice of a chantwel, in seemingly ordinary moments of daily living. Through my camera, I become both observer and participant, witness as well as active agent. What emerges in the images is often multi-layered and can take time to reveal itself.”

Whoo! Like, I said, it’s a lot.

And it’s weighty. After being named a laureate in 2019, Eudovic was named, in 2020, a goodwill ambassador for St. Lucia on visual arts and received his country’s medal of merit.

But what was grounding, reading these bios, beyond the obvious passion for the work and the commitment to craft was the reminder that the work continues.

Sutherland said: “There is a commonly held view in the classical piano world that, in order to be a successful pianist, one has to develop a solid technique by one’s mid to late teens. With my progress cut short, I have always felt left behind. However, Audrey challenged me a few years ago to keep honing my technique and to adopt a growth mindset, believe that I can actually improve. Having done so I am reaping the benefits as I am now playing repertoire that 20 years ago I never thought I would be able to play. I have always been drawn to projects both ‘professional’ and musical, that have impact. While I may not have exactly achieved my childhood dream, I have been able to share my love of music performing regionally and internationally.”

Dreams shift, and there is more to do, more growing, more learning, even as the spotlight brightens.


Additionally, just as I finished reading these publications I noticed, via social media, that the nominating period for the 2024 awards have opened. I’ll be adding it to our Opportunities Too page, but anyone may nominate a candidate and a candidate may nominate themselves. Details re criteria and nominating form here.


See also these links on Jhohadli:

I have News with a Capital NEWS

Media Updates re Anthony N. Sabga Awards for Arts and Letters

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and To be a Cheetah). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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