LIKE The University of the West Indies lecturer Professor Donna Hope, we commend Mr Josef Bogdanovich’s effort to purchase the massive archive of Bob Marley and reggae memorabilia that Mr Roger Steffens compiled for more than five decades.
Mr Steffens, an American who has gained international recognition as a reggae historian, has been a friend of Jamaica for many years, and his impressive archive at his house in Los Angeles, California, has attracted many people, among them reggae’s elite and Hollywood stars like Mr Leonardo DiCaprio.
In May this newspaper reported the development between Mr Steffens and Mr Bogdanovich of DownSound Records, who is also the principal of Reggae Sumfest. Our story reported that the archive is to be housed in a facility to be constructed at Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay, the home of Reggae Sumfest.
Professor Hope was effusive in her praise of Mr Bogdanovich, saying that he should be commended for having the will and resources to acquire and bring the archive to Jamaica.
We join her in that commendation because we have, over many years, advocated the importance of properly archiving and preserving our history under a sustained, fully funded national programme.
True, a number of people and entities, such as the National Library, Institute of Jamaica, African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, and Jamaica National Heritage Trust, have been making commendable efforts — but think of how much more they could achieve if they were provided with adequate resources given their skill, expertise, and knowledge.
Quite frankly, the sparse attention that the State gives to this type of activity is a reflection of the limited appreciation our people have for the importance of preservation of artefacts, infrastructure, oral and written history and, indeed, our traditions.
We acknowledge that with pressing social and economic needs the matter of archiving our history will not readily be seen as important. However, it was our first national hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey, who reminded us many years ago that: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Our culture and heritage reflect and shape our values, aspirations, beliefs, and define our identity as Jamaicans. That is not something to be treated with scant regard.
There’s no denying that Mr Bob Marley and the members of his band, The Wailers, contributed significantly to the spread of Jamaican culture across the world. So too have many other artistes, some no longer with us in the flesh, and others still alive and blazing that trail.
Mr Steffens saw and appreciated those contributions very early. As such, no one should begrudge him any financial benefit for parting with his collection.
Mr Bogdanovich, we are told, intends to construct a world-class performance centre at the same property on which he plans to house the archive. If he is successful at doing so that property will not only benefit him financially, but also Jamaica, as it no doubt will become a major visitor attraction.
We wish Mr Bogdanovich well, and look forward to his project which represents the kind of big thinking that we have consistently insisted will lift Jamaica’s economy and improve lives.