Walcott warns : Stabroek NewsRight, well I've been hinting at it for some time now on this blog, but now I think it's time to come out and say it straight. I've turned in my resignation as Director of Culture for the Bahamas Government. I had originally intended to leave at the end of this month, as of August 31st, but a series of situations have pushed the actual date back till the end of this calendar year, and turned the resignation into a requested transfer back to the College of The Bahamas. Courage!People who have heard sometimes ask me why. (People who know me and have known the tribulations of working as a cultural professional within The Bahamas government don't ask why; they ask when.)Derek Walcott, Caribbean Nobel Laureate for Literature, gives a very good reason why in his speech at the opening of the CARIFESTA Symposia. Here's what he says:
Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott yesterday implored the region’s governments to resist prostituting themselves to foreign investors, warning that giving into tourism-fuelled gentrification would spell disaster.“The prostitution is a thing we call development,” he said in stinging remarks delivered during an impromptu presentation at the grand opening of the CARIFESTA X Symposia, at the National Convention Centre. He warned: “Don’t let this continue, [because] something serious is going to happen.”
“It is terrifying, all around there are huge hotels we are going to leave as monuments,” he said, with obvious disgust. “We are not leaving museums or theatres, because the governments say they can’t afford it.”
Walcott took the view that investors should also be encouraged to put money into the development of cultural infrastructure, like museums and theatres. He also challenged regional governments to be more supportive of artists, saying that younger people needed to have access to more scholarships.Walcott, who had once famously called for the scrapping of the festival, was featured as the Distinguished Guest at the symposium. Nonetheless, he admitted that he still harboured serious reservations about the fate of artists afterward. Indeed, he blamed the regional governments and institutions for keeping artists in what he described as a state of deprivation. “Is this what we are celebrating?” he asked. “You are killing your artists.”
Walcott challenged regional leaders to pursue development of the arts simultaneously. Though he was not optimistic that the idea would be realized, he said it was important for them to adopt a change in attitude. He said there be should be no question of competing needs; that governments should do both.***He also suggested yesterday that the governments consider putting a moratorium on the festival in order to ensure that it is professionally organized and that it features the best people that the region can offer. “You need the best,” he said, before quickly adding, “But it is self deception, because what happens afterwards? What are their futures?"
There you have it. My dilemma in a nutshell. On the one hand, there are the people who tell you that the country needs you, that we have come a long way, that we are on the move and things are gonna get easier. "Why now?" they ask. The answer is simple, and Walcott has stated it plainly. Caribbean governments do not invest in their people. Caribbean people do not see any real reflections of themselves.On the other hand -- and this is the reality, while the other is simply the spin -- the bare naked truth is that The Government of The Bahamas (gold, red or green, the party in charge doesn't matter) is no different from the governments of all our neighbours when it comes to cultural investment. The Nobel Laureate has stated the truth, and there is no getting around it. The President of Guyana has stated the excuse, and there is no getting around that either. To remain in the post legitimizes the active underdevelopment of our people that all of our governments have made the central policy of their administrations. To remain in the post restricts the criticisms that I can make; and to remain in the post compromises, whether we like to admit it or not, the attainment of excellence in all that we do.