Portia and Quao

Portia and Quao

Charles HE Campbell

Sunday, June 17, 2012

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FROM the early 1930s through the 70s, disparate strands of the national decolonisation movement -- including elements of the Jamaica Progressive League, Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and People's Political Party (PPP) along with many creative workers, such as thespians, actors, writers, visual artists, novelist and musicians — helped to develop the People's National Party and its programme and were later subsumed by it.

Through institutions like Jamaica Welfare and the hard work and perseverance of people like, Tom Girvan, Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams and a host of others, whom may not wish, at this time, to have their affiliation made publicly known, because our politics have become so tribal, the PNP played a pivotal role in facilitating Jamaica's cultural/artistic indigenisation, evolution and development.

Both Norman and his son Michael Manley, certainly understood the role and potential of popular culture, and the latter used it to his maximum benefit. His 1971 musical bandwagon was the most extensive island wide tour of Reggae artistes and musicians up to then. It was during the younger Manley's first term in office, when People's freedom of speech was given more latitude, that Reggae music and other popular cultural forms really synthesised, blossomed, gained the attention of the world and began to flourish internationally. The nucleus of our modern, creative-cultural industries went through its initial birth pangs, taking distinct shape and form.

Inexplicably, during their second stint in office, the PNP seemed befuddled by the increasing commercial success that the industry had achieved during the 80s. Its failure to register the Jamaica Reggae brand and protect our intellectual property as well as establish an Entertainment Encouragement Act, squandered the potential that the music industry created for the country to encourage and facilitate major investments, and the repatriation of considerable foreign exchange, generated in the international market place. In fact, although I was disappointed with how much they achieved, if one objectively compares the JLP's 2007 and 2011 manifestos with the PNP's, in both instances, one would have to concede, that the JLP's showed a better grasp of the status quo, and what was required to "tun up d ting".

Knowing that there are senior people in her party that are sceptical about the industry's real potential, I was taken by complete but pleasant surprise therefore, to hear the Prime Minister's announcement of the proposed National Commission on Cultural and Creative Industries, and the excellent rationale and terms of reference given for its establishment. To quote her, "whether it is our music, our cuisine, our dance and other forms of our artistic expression, they all represent significant value with tremendous economic potential". She went on, "this Commission will assist the government in establishing the enabling policy and legislative frameworks to maximise the benefits of the Cultural and Creative Industries".

Although di harse dun gawn tru d gate, betta late dan neva, this would be a quantum leap forward. The Prime Minister, however, needs to know that, given the PNP's recent history of inaction in this area, there are many naysayers within the creative sector. This is evidenced, for instance, by the almost total lack of public discussions on this potentially game-changing announcement. The industry is taking a wait and see attitude; action speaks louder than words... and please keep the charlatans and dilettantes off the commission.

On a more imminent matter, the Charles Town Maroon Council will be staging their 4th Annual International Conference from Thursday June 21st to Saturday June 23rd in Charles Town, Portland. Nineteen scholars from around the world will present papers on issues including Maroon history, identity, politics, culture and gender studies. On Quao day, June 23, the Nanny Quao Abeng Award will be presented to the granddaughter of the late Paul Robeson, on his behalf. This is an annual celebration of the Maroon Warriors' victory over the British troops in the final battle of the 1st Maroon war at Spanish River, which led to the signing of the 2nd peace treaty with the Maroons in 1739.

Email: che.campbell@gmail.com

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