Well, our national cultural industries proposition is now formally off and running, looking to Parliament’s gold medal at the end of the next few days. No, the exercise is not a sprint; it will most certainly be a marathon.
If in 2007 former Prime Minister Owen Arthur raised the bar for all his positive manifesting of benefits of the cultural industries, as its progenitor, then Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley with his extraordinary visual imagination took the fancy even higher. He may even have broken the bar,
in pushing it up higher.
Not that Minister Lashley sprang any “creative” surprises in his two-hour presentation, some distracting 3D effects notwithstanding, of the Cultural Industries Development Bill in the House of Assembly yesterday. We expected the usual reference to our superstar Rihanna as a justification for the efforts of the Government in this exercise, and the allusion to her millions earned as an inspiration for young Barbadians to take up musical entertainment as a professional career. And Mr Lashley did not disappoint.
That the “explosion of Rihanna on the world stage has shown Barbados what is possible, especially for the youth”, as Mr Lashley boldly stated, is unchallengeable. That that possibility translates directly to probability or guaranteed actuality is not.
We are happy and proud that our Barbadian darling RiRi could have earned US$200 million so far in her relatively short singing career, but in using our superstar’s success and good fortune as an impetus for her fellow youth, we must not lose sight of the fact that Rihanna’s circumstances have been unusual, and that this has contributed greatly to the magic she has become. We must state clearly that though the unusual can happen again,
by its nature it will not be commonplace, lest we engender disappointments
Still, all of us who have a deep interest in and a profound love for our cultural arts will welcome warmly and gladly the Minister of Culture’s getting the ball rolling, after the idea, touted some six years or so ago, had been left languishing more or less. But he and the rest of us must not become so full
of ourselves that we lose our heads in the clouds.
Dreams and goals we knock not, but we could not care less for fantasy –– and the more fanciful –– that would keep us from being securely grounded in what we do and in what we could practically and reasonably hope for in this business of the arts and entertainment. We cannot hope to successfully sell our general talent to the rest of the world, as Mr Lashley again and again proposes we must, when we fail to sell it to our very own nation and people; when the cultural purveyors among us would refuse supplying their own country with it.
And so, the moneys under the Cultural Industries Development Fund for the development of this cultural sector must be wisely allotted and prudently spent. The minister has already earmarked projects, provision of grants, support training and facilitators for such, and we look forward to the fine-tuning of these.
We advise that this $50 million initiative for the support of the new cultural industries initiative will require efficient management. Care must be taken that the bulk of this funding is not absorbed by bureaucracy and witless studies, leaving little for the actual productive practitioner of the arts and the cultural community at large.
It must be that Government spend –– as officialdom likes to refer to expenditure these days –– can see some return, if only in the long term; and this will only be feasible where our talent industry is developed to the point of sustainable international competitiveness. This will only be when Barbadian artistes are able to practise their craft to perfection, consequently seeing remuneration for it.
As our politicians further debate the Cultural Industries Bill, they must stay within the realm of responsibility –– away from the tempting glare of fantasy –– impressing upon our young talent that for all the money the Government is prepared to make available for the development of the industry, success will not come without hard work and application; and that mediocrity is not an option. The newly current pandering to the likelihood of the youth vote by politicians, through the acceptance of averageness as excellence, will not cut it.
And we must not continue to be seized of the notion that our indigenous folk music is not exportable and is unworthy of a berth in our cultural industries initiative; and that soca and whatever else passes for such is the only seller. But that is an issue for another occasion.
In the meantime, let us remember that the acceptability by all our people of the ideology and practice of our culture industry will be to a great extent the measure of our succcess.
We anticipate a growingly more sober discourse on this Cultural Industries Development Bill in Parliament as the days go by.