'Be creative'

'Be creative'

Blackwood-Meeks calls for fresh thinking

Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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NEXT year has been declared the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development by the United Nations (UN). And, at least one Jamaican creative is calling on stakeholders to begin moving to Jamaican culture a primary engine of growth.

The call has come from folklorist and storyteller Dr Amina Blackwood-Meeks, who noted that over the years, Jamaica has built an enviable reputation on the world stage based on its cultural exploits, but the time has now come for this to be taken to the next level.

“The time has come for us as Jamaicans to sit down and recognise that what we have in terms of our culture is a pot of gold and has the potential to make Jamaica the first country in the modern world to use arts and culture as the base for national development. I have been doing my research for years and the only other country to have done this is Crete, and that was centuries ago,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

“It is time to look at the impact our culture has had on the world and think 'what if?'… What if this could be our sugar cane? I know that is possibly a bad analogy, but you get the reference. Our culture has great potential for economic, social and human development and it is time we explore it to its fullest,” she continued.

Blackwood-Meeks is, therefore, calling for a national think tank to look into the potential and possibilities of the creative economy being the country's engine of growth.

“We have to take culture out of the realm of entertainment purposes only and see it in its totality. That will require a shift in the mindset of many and that requires education and sensitisation on the topic. It is difficult for us to overcome the years of colonial thinking which has led us to believe that our culture is less than... our artistes have been able to make careers out of the culture, so now it is time to transfer that to a higher level. So we have to now come together and seriously discuss how we can leverage the arts and culture for national development,” she explained.

“We a joke! Look at all the inscriptions: Kingston declared a creative city of music, reggae music listed among intangible cultural heritage of humanity; and the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park designated World Heritage Site; we have so much; it is time for us to utilise them. The world recognises our worth; it's time for us to do so, and the time is now,” Blackwood-Meeks added.

In declaring 2021 the year of the creative economy, the UN noted the need to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, foster innovation and provide opportunities, benefits and empowerment for all and respect for all human rights.

It encourages all member states, organisations within the United Nations system and other international and regional bodies, as well as civil society, private sector, non-governmental organisations, academics and individuals, to observe the international year in an appropriate manner and in accordance with national priorities, in order to raise awareness, promote cooperation and networking, encourage sharing best practices and experiences, enhance human resource capacity, promote an enabling environment at all levels as well as tackle the challenges of creative economy.

Blackwood-Meeks was among the persons recognised with national honours and awards on Monday. She received the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service for her contribution to culture.

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