Lynn Sweeting writes a wonderful post on art and the artist in a tourist economy.Some of you may be wondering why I called it the plantation. If you have, you're new to this blog, and you certainly haven't heard of Ian Strachan's book, Paradise and Plantation: Tourism and Culture in the Anglophone Caribbean. It's worth a look if you haven't.Here's what Lynn has to say:
It so happens that for ten or fifteen years I was a house slave on the tourist plantation, I was a Maryann sifting sand in a comfortable place. I wrote and published many stories for the tourism masters. Some said I was good at it. I was rewarded with a little public acclaim, and a trophy. I quite forgot I was a slave. I remembered again (or realized for the first time) when a story I wrote for the masters turned out to be a complete lie, and was causing outrage in Exuma. Obediently I had written that this community was happy that a huge influx of foreign yachts was coming through their harbor, thanks to a new marketing campagne. The truth was that these enormous boats were causing an environmental disaster, pollution was threatening to ruin a pristine ecology, and for added outrage, the people aboard these floating hotels never had to set foot in town, they spent not a penny. The islanders were in an uproar to see a story in the paper that erased them so effectively and so cruelly. I was horrified, and ashamed. That was the last story I ever wrote as a house slave on the tourist plantation.
Now, from one point of view, it's important that we tell good tales to our visitors, that we describe the happiness that comes from the five million-plus tourists who come to our shores. The trouble is, as Lynn describes above, we run the risk of obscuring the truth by telling these tales. Worse, the message we give ourselves is that our experience is worthless, our experience doesn't count; what matters is the packaging, and nothing more.I could write about how the Ministry of Tourism often falls into the trap of selling packaging and nothing else, but I've bashed that venerable institution quite enough on this blog. You only have to go back a few months to see the last discussion, and since we haven't moved much further from that point, I'll leave it alone (if you want to find the discussion, just put "tourism" into the search box up there and browse on your own time). This time I'll just let Lynn speak for herself.