Despite a general decline and disinterest in the creative arts industry in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia-born actor and writer Gandolph St. Clair believes there is still hope to reinvigorate the industry.
Described as the fabric of the Caribbean, St. Clair told St Lucia News Online SNO in a recent interview that ‘the artist’ still has a role to play in society.
“I consistently encourage youth of St. Lucia to get involved wholeheartedly in the arts and culture…there is hope,” he added.
St Clair, who was recently honoured for his contribution to the creative arts industry here and in the Caribbean by the Central Library, said there are many reasons for the general disinterest among the young Caribbean population in the arts industry.
“The two things happening is first the focus of education and the second is the mandate of the politics of the situation,” he stated.
The local writer believes that communication between Caribbean states is very important. However, he admitted this is not happening. Caribbean countries are not doing much to preserve and sustain the industry, he opined.
He said: “We have had a pragmatic approach to unification. We see the necessity Caribbean people need to be reunited; the only time that is displayed is during cricket.”
St. Clair said another issue affecting that unity among Caribbean states is the issue of race.
“There are issues of class syndrome and racial issues and they don’t want to integrate.”
He also mentioned that there is a break down in the family structure, which may be another factor for the issue. This, he said, could be fixed.
“The arts can recognise solace and joy and transformation,” he noted.
St. Clair questioned whether the Caribbean Arts Festival (CARIFESTA) has delivered on its objective. According to him, while the festival has to some extent brought together the various cultures of the Caribbean, little is being done to sustain these cultures. However, he urged Caribbean governments to make a more concerted effort to make the event a priority and make their contributions.
St. Clair noted that in order for this to happen, the first thing that needs to be done is for governments to strengthen the free movement of skills, so as to create a market for the arts industry. He asserted that more financial incentives need to be plugged into the industry, in order for it to be sustained. The local artist believes enough time has been spent around the table discussing and now is the time for action.
Meanwhile, St Clair told SNO he is appreciative of the little strides being made in St. Lucia to keep the arts alive. He praised the local film industry for their efforts to have youth involved in film-making. He noted too that there are groups and individuals who are trying to keep the arts alive, island-wide.
The tourism ministry has given direct financial assistance to artists here, which has gone a far way in sustaining and creating more opportunities for people wanting to work within the industry.
However, St. Clair said: “If it not controlled it can have effects… it can create tangible markets too and some of the challenges could be addressed. The Caribbean arts industry is considered one of the richest in the world. Caribbean arts stretches visual (including painting, photography, and printmaking) as well as plastic arts (such as sculpture) a nd film and acting.
The nature of Caribbean art reflects diverse origins from across the world, as artists have taken their traditions and adapted these influences to reflect the reality of their lives in the Caribbean.