More of Barbados’ culture needs to be incorporated into the island’s tourism marketing strategy.
That was the view expressed by cultural activist and theatre artists Jennifer Sealy and Cecily Spencer-Cross, respectively, during Wednesday’s online tourism roundtable hosted by TRIBE.
According to Sealy and Spencer-Cross, the lack of activity in the entertainment sector over the past year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, has exposed the industry to the lack of truly sustainable and lucrative development.
Sealy cited the lack of activities devoted to Emancipation celebrations, outside the Crop Over season.
“Between June and August, there is that Season of Emancipation. I think that Barbados has been a bit late on the whole celebration of Emancipation [here]…. Just going to the Bussa [statue] and laying a wreath and having a ceremony, there is a lot more that can happen in this Season of Emancipation… a lot more to really market and target that season as something meaningful, where your heritage tourism comes in, in a big way,” she said.
Sealy said the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), which has also not taken place since 2019 because of the
COVID-19 pandemic, is an excellent portal through which many creatives have been given a stage to showcase their talents.
However, the director of dance group, Dancin’ Africa said that has still not blossomed fully.
“Out of our [Dancin’ Africa] success in NIFCA gaining gold, we had been selected to go to Barbados On the Water Festival [in Canada], Shanghai Expo 2010, Festival of the Runaway Slaves where Barbados’ culture was exported, but I do not think we have done enough with NIFCA to actually market it and develop it for tourism.
“Immediately following that is Christmas, so people come home to see their families, but there is much to be done to promote Barbados as a destination for people coming and experiencing [our culture], because that is what the whole cultural tourism collaboration is all about. It’s about sharing the Barbadian experience. I think that Barbados has a lot that can be explored. One of the things [we can do] in this downtime, when we are not getting into the festival, is to really begin to use our minds and reshape and think about what our products are going to be and what our brand is,” she stressed.
Spencer-Cross echoed Sealy’s sentiments, saying that many of the island’s festivals have not been leveraged to their full potential.
She also insisted that schools need to take a more active role in nurturing young creatives.
“Education has to be revamped. I think that the arts need to be part of a core curriculum, that every child should be exposed to drama from primary school through to secondary school. Yes, we have reached a point where you can do CXC Theatre Arts, CXC Dance, but the foundation for that is lacking. We have been doing things like creating a curriculum for the primary schools to have drama and dance on the curriculum, but it is slow in coming on board,” Spencer- Cross said.
“I think if you get persons enthusiastic and passionate about the arts, you are creating life skills because the arts instil life skills in young people of cooperation, and to be emotionally intelligent and explore their feelings. When you have people that are well rounded, I think you have a much more creative society.” (SB)