Sugar has had billions in state support; cultural industries have been given nothing in 31 years
The question of the sugar industry has taken up more media space, both print and electronic than any other industry in Guyana over the past twenty years, and possibly further back, through headlines, letters, columns and articles. Worldwide, sugar nations like Cuba and recently Hawaii have moved away or diversified into other areas as the evolution of economic forces has demanded. In Guyana, cane-cutters are captive votes for the PPP, and we must conclude that the PPP can present no evidence that as a political group they can see beyond the façades they have erected. There have been volumes of letters in favour of the cause to sustain our sugar industry, an industry which has already consumed tens of billions of dollars for which there is no credible economic justification.
I am an artist/writer; about 24 years ago many creative persons were initiating a new legal industry, cultural industries. We were using precedents from across the Caribbean and the USA to form ourselves into positions for banking and contractual engagements. We were breaking new ground, throwing every available dollar into equipment and trade literature. We were learning the hard way, in many areas losing money, but there was optimism, and many private sector entities were trading social connections for better creative productions. It took the change of government in 1992 to convey to us that the livelihoods of some citizens could be viewed with indifference and contempt if they did not represent political assets. We had all begun to feel individual hiccups that derailed the ground covered. The creative arts association of which I was a member had entered a relationship with the Department of Culture through the late Denis Williams. As a result we would bring the arts to the then vacated Castellani House. We launched it with an exhibition, and Omawale, a fellow artist and a Guyanese of American roots invited Janet Jagan. That was it; we were detached from the facility, our ideas were hijacked, and we were not even sent a thank you note for initiating the idea. On the 10th Anniversary of the National Art Gallery, we were not even mentioned in its publication.
The whopper came collectively when the PPP government allowed pirate TV stations to close down the cinemas. The cinemas were institutions that launched many a drama group, housed vaudeville shows and visiting artistes from Mahalia Jackson to King Floyd. Many families depended on them for their livelihood, but these got no attention. I compare cultural industries because we are the only group in this country that have not merited or received the support of the state, support which is petitioned for by every other institution, even from the super rich for debt write-offs. Though we are not invisible, our work is applauded, but we remain undervalued, and the poorest group of professionals. Our condition is such, we too need a shot in the arm, because we exhaust our resources outside of the relationship with the state that our forebears have had across cultures for a thousand years.
In January 2012, ACDA housed a symposium on economic areas. I headed the one on Cultural Industries, and out of it a draft paper was compiled, and was given to every political party and to the PPP Ministers of Culture and Finance; neither of the two even acknowledged receipt of the document. A more comprehensive document has been delivered recently to a current authority with a much more cordial response. Our high rate of migration is taking over 80% of tertiary educated and talented citizens, whom some cultural industries could attract on their myriad support planes. Thus, some small portion of the budget which is in the grip of the traditional political obsession and is wasted on political expediency, should be transferred to this functioning but ignored area that has received no support for the past thirty-one years.
Star Broke News (Barrington Braithwaite)