Letters & Opinion

Artistes must get up, stand up and fight for our rights with the only weapons we have – and harming no one!

Image of Carlton Ishmael
By Carlton Ishmael

ART as we know it is an expression of creativity from the soul. But to achieve or gain popularity, or financial benefits, opportunity must present itself.

Despite what medium of art you choose, the needs are usually the same: access to raw materials at a reasonable cost, rehearsal space, a choice, instruments, outlets to perform — or better still, some type of contest, or regular exhibitions to display your talent.

The present education in culture does not offer any of these mentioned needs. To start with, the true creative people are not chosen, or selected to teach, or to do workshops in communities or schools as a means of earning a livelihood.

Such privileges are usually given to school teachers without a pinch of art in their veins.

Sadly enough, the few competitions available to make a mark are confined to calypso soca or the occasional karaoke contest, nothing in between, unless you are a member of a band. The hotel circuit has remained the same for decades as it relates to presentation, apart from some hotel staff performers.

Consider the fact that we have one cultural outlet furnished with the necessary props like chairs, lights and sound systems for a population of over 180,000 people and promoters have to spend an arm and a leg to feature any type of artists.

If you ask the entertainers of the past, they will confirm the monies paid then was better than it is today. Hi-Fi music has taken first place before live performances, foreign artists are paid in the thousands, while the locals can barely command a few hundreds.

No cash no training, all teaching outlets charge a fee to operate, as, to eke-out a living the tutors must charge for use of the rehearsal space or earn a little something.

The so-called cultural administration and Ministry of Culture have done zero development as it relates to art and culture but they spend what it takes to ensure that a selected few get paid for their occasional showcase. Yet they refuse to bite the bullet, or admit that nothing progressive has been done for the performing or visual arts for the last four decades.

The Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) has been going on for over four decades and some Caribbean countries have hosted it several times, but St. Lucia is yet to. We find monies for everything but the performing arts. Budget after Budget, Zero Investment; we change boards and appoint new directors, we call cultural things new names like the ‘creative industries’, we talk about ‘the orange economy’, yet things remain the same.

Consider Jazz as an Annual Festival being held here for more than thirty years and not even one jazz club. I still wonder when a ministry for strictly art and culture will be on the cards. But in the meantime, we talk art, but only give it lip service.

Consider that scholarships are offered in several areas necessary for survival, but check the situation as it relates to art scholarships, which is still very dismal.

We talk about people needing to be self-employed but we create only barriers.

The politicians have never learned to practice or observe the phrase from Bob Marley that they always use in opposition: ‘You can fool some of the people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ Nor will they remember the words that follow: ‘So now we see the light, we’re gonna stand-up for our rights!’

Few artistes will admit to having been fooled some of the time or all of the time, but they will all agree to most if not all I have written here, in which case, now that we continue to see the same light, all we have to do is to make one mind to stand up for our rights as cultural artistes who feel stifled by the lack of sufficient attention to our needs as national artistes seen and unseen.

All I can say to them (and to us) is: ‘Get-up, Stand-up and let’s fight for our rights! And let’s do so with the most powerful weapons we have: our talent and our will to keep standing and fighting — and without harming anyone.

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