Isaiah Berlin, a Russian/British philosopher once wrote, ‘only barbarians are not curious about where they came from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, if so why, and if not, why not.’

There was a time when we in Grenada used to be  interested in our history and conscious of  where we wanted to go. In my opinion, the same cannot be said of us today. Some would say that it has not happened by chance but by design.  Irrespective of the cause, we need to create a new social order based on our historical and cultural realities, if we want to be able to deal with the problems confronting us as a people, especially the youth. Our culture must underpin every other aspect of our developmental thrust.

This past month April was deemed Heritage Month.  It should have been the opportune time to make a fresh start to educate our young people on heritage and culture and to instill in them a sense of national identity. Instead what we have had is pretty speeches coming from the Culture Minister with no programmes to back them up.

The present administration only pays lip service to heritage and culture. If they were serious they would have embraced the overtures of the Willie Redhead Foundation with respect to preserving, salvaging and promoting our built heritage. Any government that is serious about its heritage would have set in motion a plan to restore our  historic Parliament Building and Governor General’s residence instead of allowing them  to be overrun  by plants, refuge and rodents.

In Heritage Month, we  launched Carnival 2017, earlier than usual.  Given that Spicemas Corporation has publicly announced that it is in dire financial straits, the money spent to put on that sorry display at the Roy St. John’s Recreation Ground on Saturday 22nd could have been used to defray some of its debts.

In that same month, two important bills dealing with heritage and culture were rushed through Parliament with no consultation held with the people directly involved or the wider Grenadian society. I am referring to the Museum Bill; and the Spicemas Corporation Amendment Bill.

Pan Expressions put on by the Steelbands Association and sponsored by the National Lottery Authority was  a bright spot in Heritage Month.  I note, however, the absence of two bands – Rainbow City All Stars and Pan Lovers. What was the reason for their absence? Whatever problems steelbands are encountering leading up to a national competition should be known by an alert Cultural Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Pan Association so that assistance could be provided.

We have only nine steelbands in the country so we would like to see an increase and not a decrease in numbers.

There was the Maroon and Stringband Festival in Carriacou. Heritage month or no Heritage month, Carriacou has always been in the forefront when it comes to promotion, protection and preservation of our cultural heritage.

The present Minister of Culture has been an abject failure by any standard. She has nothing to show for her four years at the helm.

I pity the Cultural officers at the ministry because I know that they are eager to produce but all their initiatives are being frustrated by a regime that refuses to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to culture.

When last have we had an Arts Festival for our youth whom they claim they love so much? When last was there a Dance festival? The total cost of the department’s programmes for 2017 is a mere twenty thousand dollars but quarter million is given to a privately run music festival. This writer is not opposed to supporting initiatives that benefit our country but we must set our priorities right. We  must invest in our future today.

A National Democratic Congress government intends to:

– Introduce Performing Arts to the curriculum of all primary and secondary schools so that theatre, dance, music, voice training and comedy, can all be introduced to our children at a very early age.

–  Encourage and support the establishment of a School for the Performing Arts as one of our speciality schools where our youth with an aptitude for such activities can pursue the refinement and development of their talent at the secondary and post- secondary level.

– Provide institutional support to artistic and creative products, which have the potential for wealth creation and income generation for the artiste. Our objective is to support the artiste in his quest to earn a living from his God-given talent. New levels of support will be given to the Performing arts as well as the Visual arts.

– Encourage greater Public Sector investment in the Creative Arts including the establishment of a National centre for the Performing Arts through appropriate tax incentives.

– Actively seek out and embrace opportunities for the training of our artistes to hone their creativity as well as acquire capabilities in related disciplines.

– Reintroduce the National Arts  Festival for schools so as to encourage a spirit of healthy competition among our young artistes, and inspire them to be the best they can be.

Elwyn “Black Wizard” McQuilkin

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