May 31, 2023 Letters
The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports has a profound and very important national responsibility that has far-reaching implications that can impact the lives of thousands of people by the decisions and actions taken.
This mandate therefore should not be taken for granted and moreover, used by political actors to settle political scores by targeting and victimised specific individuals or groups that may share a different view from the ones they may subscribe to or supports a different political ideology from which they share.
The allegations being leveled towards the minister at the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports of political victimization, discrimination and marginalization towards people based on his perceived views of them and their political leaning is not the first time, for I have heard of such from several artists and the frequency of those allegations are most concerning, for it can have a negative impact on the industry.
I am confident that the honourable minister knows that the cultural arts industry plays a significant role in the lives of not just the thousands involved directly but also towards the economic, social, and political developments of every nation, and Guyana should be focal, for it contributes to the cultural identity and heritage of our six peoples and serves as a medium for individual expression and national advancement.
Additionally, the minister must know that those serious allegations he is being accused of will be viewed as some have already claimed and rightfully so, as political interference and blatant victimization, which poses a serious threat to the industry, its creative freedom, growth, sustainability and the one Guyana agenda.
Cultural arts are integral to the economic development of any nation. Creative industries such as film, music, theatre, and literature generate employment opportunities and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries. The cultural arts industry fosters innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship, and here in Guyana, it can be a significant source of foreign exchange earnings. The government and corporate Guyana must make deliberate efforts to invest in this industry. Cultural events, festivals, and tourism generate revenue for many economies globally and our country needs to also benefit from such, but political interference can threaten investments, patronage, and funding, causing a negative impact on the industry’s economic contributions.
I wish the ministry was led by someone with passion and foresight who understands that cultural arts are essential to preserving and promoting a people’s heritage and identity. Artifacts and cultural expressions such as music, dance, food, and literature tell the story of a people and their history.
These expressions are recognized and celebrated by the world, making a significant contribution to global culture. Given those public utterances and allegations, the minister must realize that political interference can restrict and manipulate cultural expressions, leading to a loss of authentic heritage and identity. The denial of funding or censorship of creative works can lead to economic disadvantages, social erosion, and the fading away of cultural heritage.
Our cultural arts should serve as a medium for individual expression and freedom of speech. Creative works enable artists to express themselves, their opinions, and their perspectives. They serve as a voice for the people and play a role in informing and shaping public opinion.
Political interference can hinder the free expression of ideas and thoughts. The censoring of artistic expressions can limit and restrict the diversity of ideas, leading to a cultural and creative gap. This is not what we need for this industry with tremendous and untapped potential for growth.
With the government’s ONE GUYANA slogan/agenda, the cultural arts can help to promote social integration, social cohesion, and inclusion, helping to bring all of our people together as one people. Cultural events, festivals, and cultural expressions serve as a meeting point for individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. Through these events, relationships and friendships are built, and people develop a mutual appreciation and deep understanding of different cultures. Political interference can hinder social cohesion and integration. It can create divides that cause conflict and limit the growth and development of people and communities.
The Ministry should not, and moreover, none of the key principals should target specific individuals who are talented because they may have said or done something considered to be offensive to them or because they are supportive of another political party.
And if so, so what! Performance art and cultural expressions encourage views and actions that challenge the norm to provoke and rattle the system. It encourages out of the box thinking. That’s what makes the industry evolve by pushing the envelope beyond societal accepted norms and people’s feelings and emotions.
Political interference has the potential to hinder and victimise the cultural arts industry, limiting its ability to make valuable contributions to society. Therefore, it is important that such interference is halted and stopped, and the creative freedom, growth, and sustainability of the cultural arts industry be protected. Our talented artists must be allowed the freedom to perform and earn an honest dollar. Everyone in Guyana deserves a living, so back off and let the artists breathe.
Hon. Jermaine Figueira.MP
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