A cultural policy is a civilising rite of the national being
Some of the hopefuls who have already registered for the Karaoke and Culture Fantasia
Some of the hopefuls who have already registered for the Karaoke and Culture Fantasia

A NATION our age must incorporate the enabling and protective policies that will allow the flow of its creative currents; policies which will allow the smooth transition of creative ideas to move from imagination to fruition. Unlike past ages, today the individual experience of a talented person can command debate, and based on the substance of its expression, can triumph and add to the human experience while utilising the legal framework of this age. This column was intended to shy away from politics, but because politics has imposed its tentacles in every sphere, politics will stand accused, and at times commended. In an issue of the political column ‘Peeping Tom’ in the Kaieteur News dated June 14, the writer attempted to address the creation of Cultural Policy for Guyana by stating that there is a difference between ‘Cultural Industries and the Industry of Culture’. The contents of this article suggest that the area of Cultural Industries has escaped the comprehension of the writer. Ruel Johnson- who is the subject ministry’s point man and chair of the stakeholders on Cultural Industries- responded effectively in letter dated June 17,2016.
In most cases in Guyana over the last thirty years, creative persons from within all industries have existed outside of the framework of any kind of legal or other recognition. If a team were to arrive in Guyana to shoot a short commercial movie; we have no structure through which they can pay taxes for that venture or any existing policy for an employment percentage of local talent. If a company shoots an advertisement anywhere in the world -including the Caribbean- that ad has an expiry date and is subject to royalties.
I have a friend who works in the insurance business, the company used him for an ad and has used that ad with him as the poster image for over ten years, without paying him anything more than the initial cost to shoot the ad. This is because we in Guyana do not have an existing cultural policy in place at this time to remedy any of the above economic discrepancies that deprive citizens from earning.
With a Cultural Industries Bureau collaborating with CARICOM nations on such exchanges, royalties would go to actors and writers. Of course, royalties don’t amount to much but collectively they can make a difference.
The ARTS are utilised ‘opportunistically’. Use the example of CARIFESTA X- 2008, the art community was pushed into the corner by state obstacles. Going to the National Cultural Centre was eclipsed by almost weekly imported acts; we had become an alcohol society. All cultural activity was stimulated by the taste of private citizens. The one person who can be credited with gathering the arts community for that occasion was Dr. Paloma Mohamed, because she knew and had worked with most of us over the years. She raised the anthem of Guyanese nationalism and we edged forward. Before that, there was no progressive government policy of engagement with the arts community. Many of us were seen and treated as extensions of the Peoples’ National Congress Reform (PNCR)- don’t ask me why. With Dr, Mohamed, came the designation of Director of Culture -in name only- because the PPP foisted a CEO, Nigel Dharamlal without any cultural knowledge base to direct CARIFESTA X. The rest is history. With such examples of creative backstabbing and impoverishment and with significant loss to the nation economically and aesthetically, how then can we begin the ’civilising’ of Guyana without both a Cultural and Sports Policy in place? The fact that none of the ‘Promoters’ have developed one local talent, as was done before when it was mandatory to include local talent at imported concerts is perhaps what led veteran musician Dave Martins’ article in last Sunday’s in which he spoke on the need for the reorientation of persons in the local music industry.
I have a friend who no doubt has the largest collection of Chutney songs in the country: Pete Ramkomar whose band, Pete’s Caribbean Fusion, band went into the Indo Guyanese market with original talent. Pete produced labelled cassettes, he sold one cassette to a record bar and they pirated his work and made the money he should have made, so he went out of that business. This was all because ‘we’ in Guyana neglected to see the economic value of Cultural Industries, and failed to do what is being done now, to produce a Cultural Policy, which smaller nations in the Caribbean have already put in place. Cultural Industries transcend our meagre markets, but with the current options for world trade, we have no sensible choice but to address our interests to get paid in every area through the establishment of an effective Cultural Policy.


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