Barbados may be missing out on its share of a near $US200 billion global cultural trade due to its continued failure to preserve, formalize and market its indigenous products, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said.
Dr Byer-Suckoo told a seminar conducted by the Pineland’s Creative Workshop Monday, the losses would continue until the cultural product was refined into something that is internationally palatable.
Quoting figures produced by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the minister sought to make a link between the international trade agreements that Barbados has signed and opportunities available to the cultural sector.
“Trade agreements such as the economic partnership between the EU [European Union] and the African Caribbean Pacific [ACP] group, have created an enabling environment for significant trade in this sector if full advantage is taken of these opportunities. The potential of this sector is undeniable. UNESCO noted that by 2013, global trade of cultural goods amounted to 190.5 billion US dollars,” Dr Byer-Suckoo said.
A similar point was raised by Programme Manager for Education and Employment with the European Union Delegation Dr Stephen Boyce regarding the current state of the Barbadian cultural industry.
According to the EU official, there is a significant difference between recognizing the enormous potential of the cultural industry and putting the necessary steps in place to maximise the lucrative spinoff.
Boyce said the time had come for the cultural landscape to be expanded beyond the bounds of Crop Over and the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts. He also argued that structures must be put in place for the arts to be recognised as viable employment opportunity.
“Youth must be encouraged to seek careers in culture as viable professional options. We should also ensure that organizations that trade in culture are registered with the Barbados Accreditation Council and adhere to the national qualifications framework. So for example if you are in Pinelands [Pinelands Creative Workshop] and you have been drumming for the last ten years that needs to be translated into something, which can then give you further mobility within the sector,” Boyce said.
He stressed that by adhering to set standards, performers in the industry are likelier to be paid what they are worth.
“So someone knows if you come to them with a CVQ [Caribbean Vocational Qualification] or NVQ National Vocational Qualification] level of three or four, they can’t pay you a $100 for three hours of work because that is not what you would pay a professional in academia,” he explained.
The EU official also criticised the practice of centralizing facilities for the performing arts, and called for a repurposing of community centres into such facilities.
“Attention must be paid to the venues for performing arts. We need to recognise that having this one centralized area may be a challenge. There are opportunities for re-thinking existing community centres as multi-purpose hubs and facilities for performing arts,” he added.
Boyce said this would help reshape blocks with negative reputations, as well as revitalize urban rural communities.