A renaissance deferred
May 17, 2007
THE stars never seem to be in the proper alignment for a full-fledged, broad-based revival of the arts in this country.
Good news in the sector seems to be inevitably followed by not-so-good news in another.
For example, the Theatre Guild – which a year ago seemed beyond repair or redemption – has seen its fortunes increase in recent times.
First there was the generous contribution by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company, to the tune of a $5 M commitment, towards the restoration of the old playhouse. A drama workshop, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was launched earlier this week, and there is evidence of another workshop due to start being funded by the Ministry of Culture.
However, even as hope begins to shine through for local theatre – proper local theatre, as opposed to the commercial fiascos staged regularly at the National Cultural Centre – other areas of the arts seem to be facing a marked decline.
All appears quiet on the literary front – there has been no significant event on the local literary scene in quite a while. The Guyana Prize for Literature Committee's 2006 submission deadlines have passed almost a full year ago and no word yet on whether a shortlist has even been drawn up, much less an award ceremony being held anytime in the near future.
More money has probably been spent on regional cricket over the last year – this despite the continued atrocious performances of the West Indies cricket team – than has been spent on the arts in the past five years.
Guyana deserves special attention for the lack of attention paid to its creative people. There must be something perverse about a society where the best new singers have to be discovered through a jingle competition; and where the highest paid creative writers are employed by a foreign health-focused organisation.
However, if corporate or international sponsorship is less than adequate, that is excusable since these businesses and organisations have no mandate to develop the arts.
The same cannot be said of government. It remains a glaring travesty that in a society with as rich a history and culture as ours, there remains no autonomous state-sponsored entity designed to incubate young artists, musicians and writers.
Guyana seems to be ailing from the same particular malaise that has affected so many post-colonial societies: a poverty of policy when it comes to handling artistic development. The irony of the withering of the arts in a time of unprecedented democratic freedoms – an era when we have been long free from the yokes of colonialism and dictatorship – is not one that is easily lost.
The deferral of the dream of an artistic renaissance in Guyana can only last so long before it becomes an impossibility altogether.