REMARKS BY DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT OPENING CEREMONY FOR CULTURE AND TOURISM MONTH
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2020
A CLEAR VISION FOR CULTURE
Good day and God’s blessings to you all.
I acknowledge the protocol which has already been established, and I again welcome you to the beginning of our very first Culture and Tourism Month. I will take this opportunity to give some context for the fusion of culture and tourism in the month of November and clearly articulate a very clear vision for culture during my tenure as Culture Minister.
Last year we had an energy filled, dynamic Culture week. Our schools did an awesome job of putting culture on display. There was recognition that the celebration of culture must extend beyond the walls of our schools, and, therefore, we began the very important work of expanding our activities into the community. The primary way that we did this was through a partnership with the newly formed Association for the Promotion of Arts and Culture or APAC. This organisation of young artists, primarily made up of young persons selected to attend Carifesta 2019, spearheaded the Delores Christopher Festival of the Arts. This event was a meeting point for different cultural art forms and artists. We had drama, storytelling, a jazz and fungi fusion, an Art display, a tour of old Main Street, poetry, the work of local authors, a fashion show, a sip and paint event.
This event was an overwhelming success, but we acknowledged that we did not have enough time to do everything we wanted to do. A one-week or two-week span was inadequate to celebrate the dynamic culture of the Virgin Islands. We had to expand to a month of activities.
There was a challenge with expanding; November is Tourism month, and we did not want to compete with the Tourist Board’s month long activities. This challenge actually presented an opportunity because Culture and Tourism have a natural synergy. The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association told us in no uncertain terms that Sun, Sea, and Sand is not enough; we must improve our product by providing more cultural activities. When we travel to any other destination, we want to eat their food, learn their history, listen to their music, buy their clothes, and view their dance and drama. The BVI should be no different. Our cultural offerings will take our tourism product to the next level.
We engaged the Minister and Junior Minister of Tourism, and they agreed. In fact, this is the direction we were moving with the cultural village in Carrot Bay. We also engaged the Tourist Board, and again, there was full agreement to move forward in unity. While events have been curtailed because of Covid and a December reopening, the ground work is being laid for a partnership that can serve us for years to come.
Culture will enhance our tourism product, but that is not the only benefit: Culture will provide a livelihood to our cultural artisans. We must do as other successful countries have done by being cultural creators and leaders.
Shakespeare was a playwright from England, and his work is taught all over the world. Their culture created livlihoods. Italy has pizza, and all over the world we have pizzerias. Culture created a livelihood. We don’t have to just focus on large countries, what about what Jamaica did with Reggae music. What about Trinidad and calypso. How many artists have come to the BVI to perform in the BVI and receive good money. We are about to order thousands of dollars of steel pans from Trinidad.
How popular is the Jamaican patty in the world. How many persons in the world know Bob Marley or Sparrow? How many persons associate dreadlocks with Jamaica and can say “Hey Mon… no worries”.
We must make BVI peas soup and fish in mayonnaise sauce just as popular. We must create poets and novelists that the world reads. We must create music that the world hears. We must create fashion that the world wears. We must create visuals that the world wants to see.
Culture is not static. I love the heritage dancers and the lashing dogs, but culture continues to grow and develop. We see African American culture giving us Negro Spirituals, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rap, Contemporary R&B and so on. We see fashion develop from when they wear wearing bell bottoms to wear they have rips in their jeans.
We must recognize that Showtime, Extreme, Primetime, Vibe, OMG are the continuous evolution of culture. Kristin Frazer, Markita Turnbull, and Akeem Stanley. Iyaz and Monea. Creative Arts, Krazy Threads, Nova Vita. We must create platforms for our cultural artisans. We must provide workshops for our young artists to grow and develop. We must have events that expose our talent. We must help artists secure financing to expand our production. We must expose our cultural artisans to what is happening in the region in hopes of exporting our art.
The Department of Culture must be the body that leads the charge. There must be a clear recognition that the Department, like any other department in government, has trained technical persons who work along with administrators to facilitate the needs of the sector. We need museum curators, trained dramatists, musicians, visual artists, those trained in creative writing, and other areas that can lead these efforts.
This can be compared to the way that the department of agriculture has agronomists, veterinarians, and laboratory technicians. We have begun attracting a new crop of young talent with persons like Anika Christopher, a young, talented writer. I am hopeful that we can add to our talented team in the future, and I am absolutely certain that the Minister of Finance, a former Minister of Culture, will help me to add the positions I need to revolutionize the Department.
I end my remarks by showing my gratitude to the Director of Culture, Dr. Katherine Smith. She is a like mind and kindred spirit, and we are completely aligned in our vision for culture moving forward. I am extremely pleased with what we have been able to accomplish thus far, and I am truly optimistic about the future. Please support and enjoy the activities throughout the month. I thank you for your kind attention and God bless you!