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Guyana’s cultural policy industry and creative ‘policy’ Part Two

Guyana’s cultural policy industry and creative ‘policy’ Part Two

Social & political short-sightedness towards cultural policy tools  ONE would have thought that in Guyana, the realisation towards the changing world of economics would have engineered a more progressive perspective towards rectifying the economic decline through the loss of traditional mass income, which in itself where those openings—the stevedores, cane-cutters, clerks, office assistants, now replaced by technology were still around. Their incomes would not still compete with the modern domestic accoutrements necessary for sustainable urban and provincial domestic stability, fatal economic- driven domestic clashes in the sugar belt and across our working world from as far back as 2004, are undeniable references. In the years before 1992, there was a stirring of acceptance for new ideas; ideas on new platforms were in discussion, how to deal with inevitable changes such as TV stations emerging and sustaining traditional forms such as our cinemas to which old school drama owed a big debt. My discussion with the now late Deryck Bernard towards a subvention for Arts-based businesses began back then.

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Though this is not a political article, it would be incomplete should I deny that politics, shaping mass consciousness does influence progress or retard it. I’ve written several times before about meeting the late President Cheddi Jagan at the NBIC Competition to define El Dorado thrown out to artists in the late 80s early 90s engineered by the top management of that bank, Mr. Conrad Plummer and Mrs Foo. The bank was filled with officials, diplomats and artists, when not recognising Mr Jagan I engaged him on his take of the pieces. I had in the same period published my comic book trilogy ‘Shadow of the Jaguar,’ that had an El Dorado background. His response left me speechless; he dismissed the exhibition with one sentence: “All this is just fantasy.” I then asked him his name, exchanged formalities and walked away.

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I discussed it with Dr Denis Williams later, and he explained the Orthodox Church’s severe exploitation of the Russian masses in support of its royalty for 400 generations; that was followed by the 1917 revolution which I knew of, but never paid much serious attention to, and their Communism that followed, a doctrine of a nihilist conceptualisation of managing humans, no God, no religion, no art, no independent thinking, no individualism, no room for unsanctioned imagination, only obedience to the State. It was the most inhuman concept I could ever imagine; not that we had any perfect ideas, but to stop having contradicting ideas was unthinkable. Communism was in itself as regimented as the Orthodox religion that it had replaced; it was a religion with political Gods, Stalin even had a hymn written to him. This was Janet Rosenberg’s gift to Guyana

This political concept ingrained in its local political adherences is not reconcilable with the advancement of the liberating ‘ARTS’, though their intoxication towards capitalist greed is apparently unabated. In 2014, Kaieteur News, July 12, Anil Nandlall made overall assessments against implementing copyright laws based on scare propaganda, drawing ambiguous references about failures of other CARICOM states to enforce copyright laws, thus to protect their own Intellectual property, where he derived his statistics from that political capacity to distort, as he totally ignored the millions in rtoyalties they were making a film set locations among other areas, announcing further that it is impossible, and not advisable to ratify copyright laws to Guyana

The fact is that the PPP is as alien to the diverse constituency that will benefit from copyright as is humanity capable of colonising an earth-like planet and moving there in a few hundred years. But in the discussed topic, they (the PPP and others) would like to, and do own media that will use local creative products free of royalties and licensed contracts, keeping talents in this country impoverished, so they construct uninformed recitations, saturated with lies to confuse those who haven’t taken the time to be informed in their own interest, seriously, with skilful omitting of their own ‘Demerara Gold’ and ‘Textbook piracy’ cases. Some two years ago, I sat with the late sign artist and band-playing musician ‘Gordon Critchlow.’ Gordon had, before passing, told me he had some important Cultural 110 Street pictures to pass on part of our tangible cultural legacy. But that’s lost now. We were with the recently passed Johnny Braff. Apart from learning that Johnny Braithwaite also carried the name Critchlow, I recognised the helpless pain of constant insult as he related when a music cart passed with his song blaring, redone and sounding good and being sold. His words captured his life and these times. He said, “Ah made many mistakes, but when yuh can’t even get royalties pon yuh own music, is real eye pass.” I didn’t yet catch the real gist of his statement when I informed him that “royalties don’t amount to much financially on the local scene.” He then snapped at me, “Is not the money man, is the respect in meh own country.” I understood him then, loud and clear

In 2014, September 13, Kaieteur News, Lurlene Lester penned an indirectly related analysis “Reading crisis: The continued failure by those in authority” Lurlene outlined the failure of the education system, and the fact that “When 68 per cent of children in the primary schools are unable to read at grade level, the entire country should be concerned and alarmed. This reality underscores the fact that there is a severe problem in the entire school system.” I did back then explore what this sister had written, and sadly she was confirmed as right. The problem had preceded her letter in all areas that literacy is the foundation of. Some of the victims of that failed system are young adults today. The arts cover a broad spectrum of human activity, that cannot heal all the wounds, but I have known illiterate musicians and other extreme talents, goldsmiths, furniture makers, through which raising the status of their inborn abilities to industry, will make a difference in a changing world and their world, because whether we like it or not, our working-class comfort world is gone

The advent of oil without a functional, skilled population will result in a self-serving local class system too pretentious to recognise that we are colonised by foreign creativity and licensed commerce. The Cultural Policy of Guyana will envelop all Arts that have emerged from the fount of Guyana’s Creole nature, encompassing memories from our diverse population beyond the beginnings of our nation, which collectively have morphed to reflect timelines that are its manifest Guyaneseness and identity. To this identity, the PPP has, again and again, revealed obvious apathy, cluelessness and disdain in too many ways that cannot be listed here, and all Guyana must fully grasp what is at stake. There are no comparisons and space for exhausting pointless gaff. There can be no argument that the Arts and culture have been the driving force of the ‘being’ and relevant nature of any nation to its own identity and to global posterity. As Norman E. Cameron, a profound son of this soil’s prophetic statement resonates “Those who are disloyal to their ancestry have less chance of creating something with a truly distinctive mark.”

In the pursuit of preserving and advancing Heritage onto economic spheres through a national Cultural Policy, it is necessary to understand the challenges that will locally present itself at various junctions, because we have never recognised our collective heritage, much less sought to understand its ‘value’ in respect to what is possible, with what is technologically available today, relevant to the state of the production of cultural products towards creating a niche expression on the global market place. In 2006, I bought a Newsweek magazine from then Universal Bookstore with the subhead ‘The Knowledge Revolution—Why victory will go to the smartest nations & companies’. Not that I felt that its analyses and predictions were cast in stone, but that it would be an interesting read on observation. But 2006 was hectic for me, the political hierarchy and its criminal allies had made Guyana a living hell and as a founder-member of ACDA, my constituency was under attack. I picked up the magazine recently to read on a trip by air to the interior, only to re-discover that what was globally local then, is even more relevant today. Next week I will visit and explore with you some salient aspects of its arguments, relative to our time and predicaments