This post is adapted from remarks given by Dr. Marielle Barrow at an IDB-hosted panel on Caribbean cultural industries at CARIFESTA 2017 in Barbados.
When we produce art, the act of creative expression does not make our work part of the Creative or Cultural Industries. It is the sharing, dissemination, exhibition or publication of that work that renders it accessible and available, that moves it into the realm of the Creative Industries. Further, monetizing or selling this product to derive economic gain squarely locates it as part of an industry. But there are many steps in moving cultural or creative expressions into the domain of Creative Industries. Mentalities, approaches to art work and determination can supersede the lack of industry infrastructure that creatives face within the region. The panelists of Youth Talk at CARIFESTA 2017 in Barbados — Dr. Keith Nurse, myself (Dr. Marielle Barrow), Andrae Greene, a Bahamian spoken word artist, and Anderson ‘Timeless’ Birch, a Barbadian DJ and radio host — engaged in a lively discussion with youth during CARIFESTA’s panel on the Creative Industries. Confronted with many of the same issues expressed across the region, Barbadian youth received the following advice from the panelists:
- There is no barrel: Caribbeans are often pinned as having a ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality. You climb on the other’s back to ‘make it’, i.e, in order to be successful. Dr. Keith Nurse suggested to us that the barrel has disappeared. We are no longer cloistered into a fixed space. In other words, with the advent of the Internet but even more so social media, limitations have fallen away.
- Lose entitlement: Dovetailing with this notion of letting go of a competitive or ‘beat down’ mentality (as Caribbeans would say), is letting go of the notion that authorities or society owe you something. Stop complaining. Rather than fighting for a chance to bid for a project knowing quite well that the same candidates get the opportunities, fight to hone your craft. READ. There is enough reading and video material out there and there are more than sufficient opportunities worldwide. With the Internet at your fingertips, these opportunities are available as well.
- Universalize: Creating a personal poem, or artwork that registers the pain of your trauma or that heals your hurt, does not make your poem or artwork ready for public consumption. There is some objective distance necessary where you universalize the themes within your work. Certainly, others have faced similar circumstances and your work can resonate with them but for this to happen, you have to do the work to take it out of the domain of the deeply personal and into the sphere of accessible.
- Do Quality: I’ll keep it simple. Know your craft. Ensure that it is top notch. Don’t settle for mediocre. Let others critique it. Refine it.
- Be confident in your product: Having produced a quality product, be confident in it. Learn to speak about it and tell your story. Be Bold. You will succeed.
- Be prepared: You never know when your big opportunity will hit. Put yourself out there. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, so keep walking, keep pushing, even when the going gets tough.
- Associate: It is important to surround yourself with like minds to keep you buoyed up but associating and creating a formal association or body is also important in lobbying for change, for raising your collective voice, for anchoring.
- Be Uploaders. Be Prosumers (Producer/Consumer): As Caribbeans, we spend far too much time consuming the content of others. We must become producers of content, uploaders rather than downloaders. While we cannot insulate ourselves by not consuming content, it is important to shift the playing field by uploading.
- Caribbean Cultural Policy Network (CCPN): Following Youth Talk and having been made aware of the recurring challenges faced by youth in the arts, cultural policy specialists from across the region met to discuss how to move the region forward. As part of the initial action of this professional network, we will host an Entrepreneurship indicator focused on Fashion, Visual Arts and Music in 2018, in addition to an online repository of information and a lobbying agenda.
- CCPN Youth: CCPN looks forward to welcoming a youth arm to ensure succession planning and the inclusion of their voice.
We took our own advice.