The Arts and Humanities

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“THE arts and humanities define who we are as a people. That is the power– to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.” These words, perfectly said by former first lady of The United States of America, Michelle Obama, inspired me to write this week’s piece.

Out of approximately 90 students or more, 15 of us from my high school decided to pursue the arts. That is, enter into the humanities and/or arts stream (class). My interest in the arts began when I started to scribble amateur poems and do make-up looks in the 9th grade. This automatically brought my attention to the humanities stream, aka. ‘Arts Stream,’ because of the subject areas offered. I knew little to nothing about the field of humanities. It was and still is hardly talked about and is not as mainstream as the Science, Business, Agriculture and Tech streams. Not believable? Well, sadly, only two schools in all of Berbice offer the humanities stream.

The process as to how people process and document the human experience, can be described as the study of humanities. The way in which a person can express his/her self varies. Some of the different ways include: literature, art, music, history, language, religion and philosophy. I am certain that the highlights of much of the humanities stream in Guyana is through the experience of theatre arts. Theatre arts transformed my entire perspective of the arts, self-confidence and team work. My class participated in the National Drama Festival and held in-school productions. I also had the chance to showcase my make-up skills in all of the productions. The experience was even better, all thanks to our teacher, Ms Shaundel Phillips, who always supported us.

For parents reading this, you’ve been reading about my story. Perhaps, still wondering, what does the humanities have to offer your child? For starters, It gave me a headstart in my courses at university. If your 9th grade child has aspirations of becoming a lawyer, historian, geographer, social worker (social sciences), an actor, producer, then the humanities stream is the best place to begin that journey. I have done subjects that may come across as bizarre to many people. From Spanish to Geography, Theatre Arts, Caribbean History and English Literature. All in all, I can surely tell you that they have helped me and many others to be more aware of our culture, human way of life, human expressions, public speaking (through on-stage performances) and decision making. I do not think I would have been as successful, writing these column pieces along with my poetry and pursuing my passion for make-up, without the help of the Humanities stream.

To better understand what it’s like to be in the Humanities stream, here is Miss Sukranie Dookoo explaining her story: “ I remember being part of the Arts/Humanities stream at school and was asked quite often by several of my peers what the stream will do for me?
Theatre Arts being a core and important subject was often the subject of discussion for fellow students, who did not understand exactly what it was. It was generalised and labelled as just acting when it was much more than that.

Theatre Arts develop the personality, eliminating shyness, developing stage presence, a more confident and open-minded individual. Quite often people ridicule those who embark on such a journey, that it’s a waste of time. But how can you laugh at those wanting to be part of the arts or entertainment industry, when you sit behind a screen to view your favourite tv show, or listen to music. That’s laughing at your artists for doing what we want to do?

Theatre Arts are much more than your basic “get on stage and say a few lines.” As a young teen, it helps to mold your personality, lower self-esteem [sic], teach planning, how to deal with gruelling deadlines and improve analytical and thinking skills. To have an Arts stream in school is extremely valuable, this is where creative minds can flourish; how important it is to preserve Art and teach it. It gives you a taste of the real world and what it means to be part of a work environment. As a class, we faced many struggles, team-building exercises were frequent and it took us months to learn how to cooperate fully. But we did, because of the Arts. If I hadn’t done Theatre Arts, I would not have been the person I am today.

I believe every child is born an artist, overflowing with imagination and creativity. It is the environment and experience of that child that determine his/her perception and continuation of art. In fact, I believe Humanities combined with other areas of study are very vital, because it helps us to understand human existence. As George Lucas said, ‘’Sciences are the ‘how’, Humanities are the ‘why’– Why are we here, why do we believe in things we believe in. I don’t think you can have the ‘how’ without the ‘why’.”