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Saga Boy culture

Nuevos Vecinos, Madrid, España
Saga Boy culture

Many times there is negativity when people talk about TT, be it the problems of crime, difficulties in the economy or dissatisfaction with the public service.

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Omari Ashby, Carnival studies academic, wants to bring a positive vibe to TT with his T-shirt line, Saga Boy Culture, which highlights the aesthetic of the Caribbean.

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“For me, it is an attempt at optimism in a pessimistic atmosphere. There’s a lot of crime, a lot of people have been laid off, a lot of things we could look at and say, ‘wow we are in a mess’. Because of these things, we need to see the silver lining. I am looking at the opportunities to spread positivity. Can we mentor young people? Can we support our fellow countryman?

“We can do what we can to combat the negativity. These T-shirts are my push for our energy to be optimistic,” Ashby told Sunday Newsday.

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Saga Boy Culture’s logo is a silhouette of a fancy sailor. His view of a saga boy is a dapper young man who keeps his clothes crisp. Above all, Ashby wants his line of T-shirts to a be a positive voice for TT.

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Omari Ashby, creator of Saga Boy Culture T-shirts, with his “I from Sah Wah.”

“I make T-shirts that are very Caribbean. I find prints that would appeal to the patriotic. I use the watchwords discipline, production and tolerance in some of my prints. I use that Trinbagonian energy. I have one that uses rasta colours just to give the energy,” he said

Every now and then he lets his 11-year-old son, Djimon design a T-shirt to encourage him as a budding artist. He uses the money from the sales of those shirts to go towards buying art supplies for his son to teach him that art can help fund his dreams

Ashby has T-shirts with phonetically-spelt TT place names, such as: “I from Sah Wah” or “I from Tong.”

“My focus is a Caribbean aesthetic – the building of a beyond-patriotism brand. It is not just Trinidadian but the Caribbean energy that can change the world beyond the sun-sea-and sand cliché. We put a style to the energy. Our local brands are on par with any brand in the world,” he said

Designers Ecliff Elie and Peter Elias, for instance, could stand up against the international brands while proving uniquely Caribbean, he said

Ashby has been involved with the Carnival arts for decades. He is an adjunct lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine with a BA in Carnival studies and an MA in creative design: entrepreneurship, and teaches classes called Critical readings for the Caribbean and Introduction to Cultural Research

He was a founding member of Kindred, a popular rapso band in the 90s which is currently inactive, and only performs on special occasions

“We are still very good with each other, and if the right people ask, we would perform,” he said

He is also a music producer and a manager: he manages Sharlan Bailey, son of the late Winston “Shadow” Bailey, and the two run next rise studios. Bailey also wears Saga Boy Culture T-shirts frequently as part of their partnership

Omari Ashby‘s “Gratitude is a must,” T-shirt.

Ashby is an advocate for the legitimacy of Carnival. He has heard many people talk badly about Carnival, criticising it for being a “wotless” time, but he calls for a respect and reverence towards Carnival as a viable source of income for many in the economy. Caterers, event co-ordinators, musicians, sound engineers and many more gain employment through Carnival. He said Carnival also proves that the work ethics of Trinidadians are impeccable

“We move more than 100,000 people through Port of Spain every year. That takes a lot of planning and co-ordination. When Carnival is done – this year as an exception – Port of Spain is clean. To have a clean city on Wednesday morning is fantastic and we should have a clean city every day.”

He said negative stereotypes get broken time after time during Carnival. J’Ouvert for example, he says brings out the best in people. He played J’Ouvert with 3canal this year and observed the men in the band vigilantly looking out for the women, who were able to dress as they pleased and be as free in the band

“I saw someone look to act out of line and the men protected her. It is a glimpse of our best self at the time, and just a glimpse shows what is possible in our country,” he said.