The question of copyright and cultural industries
I read F. Skinner’s letter in the Stabroek News on April 26, 2012 which stated the ‘Enforcement of Copyright laws’ as a prerequisite for Cultural Industries. I absolutely agree. However, enforcement will require some Legislative changes in respect to the penalties instituted for breaking existing Copyright laws while extending its reaches to accommodate current IPR categories.
These applications are not prohibitive, coupled by education programmes for Law enforcement and Customs. People obey laws only when they are applied. I can assure Mr. Skinner that the document from which the article in Kaieture News on Mon 22, was extracted from, has been distributed to all the parliamentary parties including the State authorities of the said Ministry of Culture. Newspapers are an Archival source of reference so I will also address other aspects of Mr. Skinners’ letter.
Cultural Industries: embody a wide landscape of entities and have to be dealt with by cultivating the consciousness of those in authority. True, lawlessness and mediocrity have dominated our nation for the longest while and the PPP Governments have extended it to unprecedented levels.
Mr. Skinner mentioned Eddy Grant as an obvious source of venture capital, since a predominant component of the Cultural Industries humanity is Afro- Guyanese. The fact is CI will benefit all Guyana because Afro Guyanese do not have a monopoly on creativity, nature does not work that way. However, I know Eddie well; he has visited my home and has seen my work. We have discussed its potential, he has given me pointers but he is not in the Graphic Novel/ comic book business, this is a dimension that have its own rules.
As Skinner indicated; racism, Politics and a chronic self contempt left over from our recent colonial past are some of the hurdles that impede local initiatives. I can testify to that and I will even add an absence of sophistication and outright ignorance as an impediment. As for your reference to the post independence era, the private entities today are somewhat fractured, one has to be careful with who one approaches for venture capital collaboration, or your business can be a focus of money laundering. However, I have entered into Licensing contracts with a couple of businesses.
I will give an extended example of the indifference existing here that has frustrated many of my peers pushing irreplaceable talents to depart these shores. I waited some twenty seven months with crossed fingers to have the Library of Congress in Washington USA grant me a Certificate of copyright for a production of the folklore character Brer Anancy and I was ecstatic when I received it. Research and Development [R&D] of any Literature is imperative to its respect and content and in Guyana you have to finance everything oneself, thus, the need for IPR protection. I had no capital to go to press so I attempted to conduct a Concept license arrangement with the Ministry of Education.
This was 2009, as I presumed that the methods of edutainment were now common methodology almost everywhere. Soon enough, from the back and forth movement of letters, I recognized that they were not grasping what I was saying, though from their letters they seemed to approve of the production.
Aafter receiving a confusing Ministry letter on 15. May 2009 that was a proof reader’s critique of the work, I wrote explaining that what I was proposing was the application of how a popular concept and characters can be translated into their agenda. My final Letter was on the 27, May 2009 to which they ceased to respond.
February 2012 I visited a primary School in South Georgetown on request sent to ACDA to do a presentation of local folklore and History. I had produced and taken five full colour 18×27 posters of Artwork on local folklore and a mural that included Fort Nassau, as we were in the month of Mash. When I addressed the students none of them could identify any item on the posters. One teacher told me in a defeated, embarrassed mood, “ask them about Buju Banton and they will know that.”
A representative of the Ministry of Culture was there and I was sorry he left and did not witness this. True to the teachers’ prediction, the next student came up with a Hip Hop something and the students came alive. Incidentally one of the posters was an enlarged page of the selfsame Brer Anancy Graphic novel.
The teachers knew what was missing but even they could not anticipate the current stage of deterioration. When my son was in primary school one of the items that helped his attitude with maths was a Power Rangers [teen Sci-fi TV series j early mathematics book. A product of someone else’s Cultural Industries.
On Copyright; Petember Persaud invited me to a presentation on Copyright last Tuesday, I was disappointed at the presenter who claims to teach this subject at UG. This distinguished citizen told us that over the last six years there was a cultural renaissance in Guyana.
His audience began to grumble in disapproval I stood up and enquired what was he talking about, if he was referring to the frequent concerts featuring foreign artistes, because that was something totally different going on there. Nothing to do with the development of local Culture, or Cultural Industries. It was obvious that the presenter was comfortable with the current Status quo or did not fully understand the concerns of Creative citizens or empathized with them.
The presenter did commend a publisher in the audience whose condescending biases are well known. Most of the younger citizens left before the presentation was over.
I want to conclude by assuring Mr. Skinner that I have always looked within myself to help myself. Most of my work has been self published. You mentioned that ‘It is highly unlikely that Government will make this kind of investment. I am frustrated that we are unable to look within ourselves to help ourselves.
We are the ones that should be tasked with capitalizing on our cultural diversity and potential’. My request is based on the sound principles of entitlement. Governments are citizens elected to apply the resources of the Nation that are owned by the Nation for the benefit of the Nation.
The Jagdeo administration was by all means a rogue Government. I fully understand my right and that of every other Artist and Artiste/ Craftsman and Woman and creative mind that will benefit from the development of Creative Industries in Guyana. I refer to the idea of State participation; when I was in the USA an artist friend Prof. Scott Scykin upon seeing my portfolio had contacted a Foundation that extended grants that allowed a footstep in the door. In exchange one had to participate in certain workshop programmes, but because of my commitments to my then young children in Guyana 1 declined.
The State is not there to facilitate the children and the shadowy environment of state functionaries with illegitimate favours. From the beginning of recorded history Cultural Industries existed, and had access to the tribal economy or we would have had no Kemetic temple frescos, no Kama Sutra sculptures, no Benin masks or Mona Lisa.
The Billion dollar Cultural Industry of Marvel Comics-Entertainment Group started as a department of Candence Industries. I remember the colonial era, but I was brought up in the day of Forbes Burnham, Denis Williams, Stanley Greaves, Robert Naraine and many others who helped to decolonize this nation, thus, I will never surrender my historical right to legitimately inherit through perseverance what I am entitled to, not as one of that particular type of vender that sells his soul, but as a citizen who works some sixteen hours a day on his craft.
Cultural Industries sustain the identity of the nation and with the examples I have so far given failure to allot it its due would be foolish and unpatriotic.