A breath of fresh air in the arts scene
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BETWEEN unique gala and fashion shows and the innumerable, growing spaces for creative expression, it seems as though – at least for me – a fresh sense of importance and support is being directed towards the local arts scene. And you know, I am here for it!

Last weekend, I attended Gabrielle Mohamed’s “Spirits of the Mountain Crest” play at the National Cultural Centre. That was the first time since 2019 that I attended a play, and it was the first time in a much longer time that I attended a local play.

While I was there, it struck me that over the past year, there have been so many events and spaces that facilitated or promoted creative expression. And it has not been confined to the more traditional ways I think the arts have been promoted here in Guyana (like plays, cultural shows, etc). There are things like the increasingly popular hip hop and poetry nights by Franale, or just the vibe and ambience that the Black Magenta (née Georgetown Club) promotes, allowing local musicians, artistes and poets to just have that space to express themselves.

And it is just great to reflect on all of this, particularly since I’ve spent the last three years immersing myself in the Trinidadian arts scene (even when the pandemic posted me right back home). In fact, one of the better parts of studying in Trinidad was constant exposure to that thriving arts scene. Over there, in the Twin Island Republic, I felt there was always something going on. There was always some spoken word night, some creatives’ workshop or just creatives finding spaces to share their art, talent and/or ideas. Like, having up-and-coming artistes just jam in the university’s cafeteria seemed to be such a normal occurrence.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there have always been people quietly or not-so-quietly pushing the arts forward in Guyana. The Guyana Annual, this Pepperpot Magazine and the Guyana Chronicle’s Buzz publication, and our very many staple events have been integral in providing space for the arts. It’s just that seeing those constant and evident spaces for creative people in Trinidad was something that easily caught my attention. And now that I am seeing those spaces emerge more and more here in Guyana, I couldn’t be happier.

Creative expression helps people articulate their thoughts, feelings and ideas, our beliefs and values. In societies like ours, the arts have always been strong ways we communicate who we are (think about resistance through the arts, or how we skillfully used the arts to preserve our culture when under threat). And one cannot overemphasise just how important it is to allow this to flourish.

In addition to Gabrielle’s play, I participated in a filmmaking workshop hosted by Rae Wiltshire. In that space, I was fortunate enough to meet many of the movers and shakers of the local creative sector (Rae included!). And that workshop brought together actors, writers, technical folks and people like me who are just figuring out their creative voices along the way. Then there’s the Black Magenta. It is a hangout spot, but it isn’t just someplace you go to sit, drink something and spend time with your friends; as I mentioned, it’s a space that routinely features local creatives, offering them the chance to share their craft with the rest of us. All avenues provide the arts with space to flourish.

I can’t say if this breath of fresh air that we’re experiencing now is because we’re slowly coming out of the pandemic restrictions, and creatives are finding ways of cutting through the pandemic-induced drought. Or perhaps, some of it could be attributed to the infusion of some resources through the cultural/ creative industries grant. Whatever the case may be, I think the time is ripe for us to capitalise on the momentum and meaningfully support those in the creative sector instead of treating them as a mere afterthought or a simple addition to otherwise bland events.

If you would like to discuss this column or any of my previous writings, please feel free to contact me via email: vish14ragobeer@gmail.com

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