Guyana awaits the execution of the $20M pilot Guyana Fund for Cultural and Creative Industries (GFCCI); an initiative that was announced at the beginning of the year, with the purpose of providing support to local, budding artists. This publication reported last Thursday that half the year has elapsed and the Department of Social Cohesion, Culture, Youth and Sport, has not yet made awards to its applicants.
It appears there are obstacles standing in the way of the project’s execution, and local activist and artist, Barrington Braithwaite is resolute in his assertion that those are to be dealt with immediately. He said that, for young artists in Guyana, the funding is long overdue.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, Braithwaite said that lobbying for state funding for local artists had started decades ago, with Deryck Bernard, an academic and politician who passed away in 2008. Besides Bernard, artists like Braithwaite and Ruel Johnson (who serves as Cultural Policy Advisor to the Department of Social Cohesion) have also taken up the call.
Braithwaite, Johnson, and many other creatives have stressed to this publication how discouraging the local environment can be. Another point of contention is that of copyright legislation. It was announced last year as an initiative government will focus on, but the updating of same is yet to be taken up by the National Assembly.
Braithwaite said that other nations in the region are far past Guyana in terms of funding for the cultural and creative sectors; that they treat the arts as important as the sciences. The activist referred to writings by the late Dr. Odeen Ishmael, who was once a diplomat. Ishmael had noted the efforts by other countries like Trinidad and Tobago to fund the endeavours of its aspiring creatives. He wrote that the cultural industries are suited to aid in local development; that they are “people intensive and capital intensive”. They would, he added, have a domino effect on social cohesion, “since arts, culture and sports can offer meeting places in societies affected by political divisions and economic and social inequality”.
Braithwaite said it is obvious that Guyana has tremendous talent, though it is stifled by poverty.
The first attempt at an initiative to fund creatives by the state was by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in 2007 under the Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration.
Braithwaite noted that, while the principle behind that project was good, failure to implement it resulted in a very unfavourable situation.
The Sports and Arts Development Fund (SADF) was the subject of widespread controversy. An audit, which was conducted by forensic auditor Lester Bowen, had found that approximately $167M included in allocations by the budgets of 2012-2014 for the fund were not accounted for, or more than half of the total expenditure approved by the National Assembly. It has been referred to as a slush fund.
That incident was a setback for Guyana’s creative sector, for several years. Submissions have been made in previous budgets under the current administration, but this is the first year that a subvention was granted.
In a letter to Kaieteur News last year, Ruel Johnson had said that progressive initiatives like this one can “suffer from fairly avoidable implementation hurdles that endanger their long-term viability, particularly with regard to governance.”
The funding was offered for work across all creative industries; for marketing, distribution, branding and development of new cultural products; procurement of equipment; creation of intellectual goods, patents and copyrights; research and designs of innovative local products, like gaming, fashion and animation.
While the Department of Social Cohesion closed its advertisement and application process in March, it is unclear when the awards will be made.
Kaieteur News has received information that a committee had been formed to guide the execution of this project.
Director of Culture, Tamika Boatswain, told this publication that the awardees have not yet been decided on, nor has a timeline been set for the project to be brought to fruition.
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