I'm sitting in Nassau now, with life half back to normal, the desk suitably christened with the muttered invective and laughter that it takes to get me through a bureaucratic day, with CARIFESTA X behind and CARIFESTA XI straight ahead, a target whose bullseye we Bahamians ought to shoot. We've had four years to prepare, after all. We've studied two of the festivals, the two most recent, the two that have happened since the design and adoption of the New Strategic Plan. We've got the resources, if we agree to free them up.But do we have the will?I don't know. Five years in government incline me to believe that we don't, that the collective we have neither the vision nor the balls to do what needs to do to host the festival as we could, that we trust neither ourselves as innovators nor the Caribbean culture as a whole enough to regard this as a valid investment. Five years of watching the government waste my tax money on Madison Avenue advertising agencies who know nothing about us and who must be taught what elements to emphasize, and who sometimes get it very wrong ($12 million in supplementary funding midway through a tough budget year, this after the Bahamavention cockup, with no guarantee that a similar failure won't be the result of that $12 million reinvestment), five years of hearing that while an average of $2 million of my tax money is allocated to the development of our own indigenous culture (that's all, and I challenge you to find it in the National Budgets for 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, or 2004), about twice as much of that same tax money is spent on promoting Atlantis every year, five years of being told that we don't have the money to offer workshops in the Bahamian Family Islands for those people whose talents are discovered through the National Arts Festival, of being told that we don't have the money to fix the only government-owned performing arts centre (even though that centre collects revenue every week), that we don't have the money to hire dance teachers or to find government-owned quarters to house either the National Dance School or the so-called Department of Culture.We've got the resources; we send more than enough of them out of the country to promote a Bahamas that has nothing to do. We have yet to invest even a quarter of that money in ourselves here at home.Will CARIFESTA change that? I don't know. I rather doubt it, unless we ourselves change. Will we host CARIFESTA well? We are certainly capable of doing so; but that ability needs nurturing and investment, neither of which we have done for the thirty-five years of our independence. That ability needs faith in ourselves -- and that is something that we Caribbean people find in short supply.
For future reference, I'm closing out my commentary on CARIFESTA X here. There's lots more to say and share, but it'll take place over at the Ringplay blog, as it's largely theatre-related, and has to do with The Children's Teeth mostly. Check the blog: the RSS feed is here.