The histories that the peoples brought from their motherlands and the unique culture that has evolved in the region are now under the microscope as regional policy-makers strive to chart strategies to financially maximise the benefits of our culture.
Under a category called `creative industries’, the Caribbean’s culture is being put on the front-burner as an ambitious alternative to the old economy that was constructed on commodities such as sugar and bananas.
The Caribbean’s brand is built on the foundation of its diverse sound of recognised genres of reggae, soca and calypso, in particular. The Caribbean is synonymous with Icons Bob Marley, Eddy Grant and the Mighty Sparrow, Dave Martins and the Tradewinds and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
Some policy-makers contend that though outsiders are extracting from and exploiting the culture of the region, Caribbean people lack the understanding of the power of their culture.
In Jamaica late last month, a group of senior journalists from across the Caribbean were in workshop with cultural icons and regional policy-makers to brainstorm the new concept of creative industries and how to extract the greatest good from the rich cultural heritage at our disposal.
The workshop, organised by the Commonwealth Association of Journalists, the Commonwealth Media Development Fund and the Jamaica Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (JAMPRO), was held at JAMPRO’S headquarters in Kingston, under the theme `From Creativity to the Creative Economy – How to get the business of Culture into the mainstream culture’.
Among the goals were:
* To sensitise policy makers and public opinion to the importance of the creative economy as a tool for economic growth, job creation, social inclusion, poverty reduction, export earnings and cultural diversity
* To ensure international media pass on clear messages on how this new development paradigm calls for innovative policy responses;
* To raise political and business awareness on how to foster the sector
Creative industries comprise the broad spectrum of music, craft, design, cuisine, fashion, fine arts, software, publishing, visual arts, advertising, film and video, architecture, broadcasting, art and antiques, computer games, and the performing arts.
Statistics released at the workshop indicate that annual growth rates of creative industries are four per cent for developing countries and seven per cent in advanced economies, and growth in the industries is pegged at 11 per cent of world GDP by 2015. The region’s music industry is pegged as the flagship of cultural businesses. Though figures may be conservative, the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) has reported that the global market for reggae music is worth some US$300M, while the music industry in Barbados alone accounts for about US$15M.
“Creative industries provide avenues for engaging youths and guarding against hopelessness and crime in some societies. Industries such as music, performing and visual arts, broadcasting and media, publishing, among others, can create new jobs, increase exports and improve the social and economic welfare of Caribbean peoples. However, the creative industries need to be embraced by governments and recognised for their contribution to Caribbean society and economy,” the CRNM said in a document on the region’s creative industries.
With the recognition that the `old economy’ continues to dominate the dialogue even as it buckles with the removal of preferential arrangements, those pushing the new economy point to the need for more resources to be allocated in order to derive commercial value for our culture.
This development must be constructed on the basis of accurate data reflecting the worth of the industries, synchronisation of the creative and capital branches of the business, national and political will, effective legislation and enforcement; an effective global marketing and distribution strategy, and the ability to negotiate holistically at the international level.
While an International Centre on Creative Economy is to be completed this year in Salvador, Brazil, Jamaica is pioneering the transformation of the Caribbean’s culture into the envisaged powerhouse through the creation of a hub there for the creative industries. It is in the process of planning to maximise the potential from the spotlight that would be placed on Jamaica and the Caribbean for Cricket World Cup.