Nov 10, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – As the government approaches its first 100 days in office, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Charles Ramson appears to be one of a handful of new ministers who have stood out, particularly with regard to the ‘Sport’ aspect of his portfolio.
Ramson has undergone a rapid evolution from rookie politician to upstart political challenger to the status quo to oil and gas expert to Minister of Government. Judging from what appears to be successful engagements with various sports agencies over the past several months, he seems on track to achieving the sort of consensus within the sector, and sub-sectors, that has eluded his predecessors from both administrations.
Powerlifting, football, cricket, golf, basketball – there does not seem to be a representative sport group that he has not engaged over the past three months. Additionally, he has taken sport to depressed communities, from Tiger Bay to Agricola, hopefully that the recognition of the important role it plays in transforming communities as well as providing opportunities for individual growth of young people in those communities.
His engagement with the youth sector has been solid as well, even as the government is yet to put in place a substantive new Director of Youth. When that is done, we expect that the lapses in the finalization and implementation of the National Youth Policy, a victim of the sloth and incompetence of previous ministers again across political administrations, will finally be corrected.
This leaves us with the area of Culture. What this properly refers to is two areas: Cultural Heritage and the Creative Arts. Both these areas are themselves multifaceted, Cultural Heritage branching off to cover the two main sub-areas of Tangible and Intangible heritage, which also branch off further. For the purposes of this editorial, however, we will focus on the Creative Arts and the current context in which they currently operate, or don’t.
Which brings us back to government, the actions taken by Ramson in particular. So far, commendably, he has gone the route of structured patronage, putting State resources into a unity concert and now virtual versions of key initiatives killed off by his Granger administration predecessor, Dr. George Norton, including the National Drama Festival. While all this is good, patronage is not a substitute for policy-based development in the creative arts sector. It would be unsustainable in the pre-COVID era and worse so now. The reality is that COVID-19 lockdown measures and the economic slowdown have hit creatives harder than most other workers in the local economy since consumptive of local creative arts and products are heavily dependent on direct observation/consumption and disposable income.
What Minister Ramson is yet to do, and which is what he has to do soon, is to engage with the creative arts sector as meaningfully as he has done with the various sporting agencies. Granted, the sector is not as structurally sound as the sports disciplines, and getting together members of any single sub-sector in even a single meeting would like herding cats, yet it is for these reasons that all the more urgency needs to be taken in this regard. While the best medium to mature stage model for the creative sector is self-sufficiency, even as subsequent governments have weaned the sector on State patronage, without direct and substantial government intervention, the creative sectors in Guyana will be dealt a perhaps fatal blow.
We’re in November, for example, and no mention is yet being made of the National Calypso Competition for the Republic Anniversary celebrations next year. If no plan is in place, including a generous budgetary allocation for the competition, it might as well mean the death of calypso in Guyana. The Guyana Prize for Literature, killed off by the Granger administration, also needs revival – via the allocation of budgetary measures – or a generation of creative writers will be robbed of the most significant avenue for advancement this country had to offer. More than these individual ad hoc measures however is the need for a larger plan for culture in general and the creative arts in particular, especially a focus not only on the clear challenges but also the tremendous opportunities that exist for growth and innovation in the creative sector. Handled right, this could be Minister Ramson’s concrete evidence that he can do what his predecessors were both unwilling and unable to achieve.
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