Letters & Opinion

Art isn’t the only answer

Image of Carlton Ishmael
By Carlton Ishmael

So often you hear of ministers of Government with titles that are supposed to represent a certain segment, or grouping in a society, but when you scrutinize and assess the workings of that Ministry or Department of Government, it seems to be lagging behind as it relates to meaningful development.

Take the so-called Department of Culture (or the modern-day name Creative Industries) and ask the artists or participants in that sector in what way they have been assisted or supported by the authorities of late and you will get a true picture of the neglect of that sector.

Frequently you hear pronouncements or plans articulated for the advancement of the arts, and by extension the artiste, but they seldom come to fruition.

Consider the size of the population and the number of individuals unemployed, would it not be nice to see the authorities, the ministry and the managers of the arts show slate?

Let’s start with a symposium, an inquiry or what-have-you, of what is needed in that sector, to get an account of what is missing, what has not been done or established in the interest of the artist. Can we determine the profitability of the arts and the outcome or satisfaction that it can bring to both countries and individuals?

We do not need to look outward in the initial stage, just creating local opportunities is a starting point — offering incentives, cash prizes and discounts on imported raw materials and the creation of various festivals, with production cost support. That can become the beginning of the nurturing of the arts.

Talent goes to waste in this country: no place to display, few places to perform and the cost of production or rental of space to develop a product is prohibited. The national budget does not include the visual and performing arts, apart from the input of cash in Carnival that is done purely for touristic purposes.

We always try to impress the visitors and never do it for our people first. I am not against the tourist trade, but it can become more artist-friendly. Where are the galleries that can be visited by visitors and locals alike? Where are the welcoming groups of musicians and dancers that can gain employment at our ports of entry? Where are the models or theatre presentations that feature our creativity and talent? Where do you find the craft markets that feature strictly locally made items? Where do people sample and taste the diverse culinary dishes we have?

All of that embodies art and culture. All these efforts will put food on the table and all these efforts will help keep lots of people engaged in doing something, rather than just chilling-out.

Art is not the only answer, but it can improve our economy and enrich the lives of many. The problem is, however, that our leaders and directors, ministers and the Administrators of the Arts and Culture do not believe in the power of the people or the arts.

We still would rather buy and sell, rather than create. No wonder, therefore, that our culture has become ‘Wine-and-Dine’. We have to believe in ourselves. We can become more than what we are at present and we must support local efforts.

The time is ripe to internalize. But we must have true and faithful representatives, especially at the top, because without policy change there can be no change.

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