Tapping in local culture to propel development

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As Guyana commemorates 50 years since it made the institutional shift towards being a Cooperative Republic, there is much leeway to focus on culture and how this sector propagates the development of any nation.

“Culture has a very integral role in development,” the Director of Culture Tamika Boatswain told this newspaper recently. For her, culture is that intrinsic sense of community that gives people that thrust to work towards something ‘bigger than themselves’. More importantly, perhaps, she related that a nation’s development is inherently bound to the culture of its people.

According to the Head of the Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Heritage Centre, at UNESCO, César Moreno-Triana, “The role of culture at all levels in favour of economic growth, poverty eradication, sustainable development.”

Speaking on the contribution of the 1972 Heritage Convention to local development, Morena-Triana further elaborated that in addition to the benefits of spiritual well-being, heritage generates benefits that may contribute to the reduction of poverty and inequality of a nation. Thus, she concluded, culture and heritage is a powerful asset for economic development. She, however, outlined that these benefits that can be augured are not automatic.

Elucidating just how important culture is to Guyana’s development, Boatswain related that the creative sector is just one sector that comes out of culture and the creative sector is probably one of the largest sectors that Guyana has, because of the litany of sub-sectors it encompasses.

The Director of Culture, however, contended that Guyana is yet to fully tap into this sector, unlike other countries, like Trinidad and Tobago for example. In this context, she related that the Department of Culture will be using the grand celebrations that will be had during the string of activities organised for the Republic Jubilee to begin placing more emphasis on Guyana’s diverse and unique culture.

“The jubilee presents one of several great platforms where we can practise our traditions and art forms,” Boatswain explained.

Through this Jubilee, the ‘Mash village’ held at the D’Urban park aimed to provide a space where local creatives- whether in the culinary arts, craft, music, design, inter alia- could both showcase and market their products.

Opening this Mash village last week, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo related, “Where the exhibits are located, you’ll see local goods, beverages, craft, arts and artifacts on display, which would make us become even more proud of what we have become, and give us an indication of who and what we can be when we fully utilise our talents and resources to make things in Guyana and to use things that are Guyanese.”

But there’s not only this Mash village. In fact, every single event encompassed in the Jubilee celebrations- from the Soca and Calypso monarch competitions to the educational fora- has a functional role in promoting and preserving Guyana’s culture.

In this vein, Boatswain indicated that beyond the Jubilee, the Department will use the momentum generated to push for more focus to be placed on culture, and the creative sector. The key, according to her, is highlighting the nexus between culture and socio-economic development.