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Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Olivia Grange, has cited the need for Jamaicans, particularly those in the Diaspora, to “take control” of the country’s cultural products which have figured prominently, globally, particularly in developed countries.
Noting that music is Jamaica’s most “dynamic and far-reaching export”, Miss Grange said the product has penetrated all corners of the globe, and had been pivotal in enabling the country to give the world “a new religion”, Rastafarianism.
She was addressing a culture workshop at the Future Leadership Jamaican Diaspora Conference, at the Mona Visitors Lodge, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, on Friday (August 7).
While highlighting the impact of Jamaican culture, globally, Miss Grange lamented the limited benefits which have been accruing to the country from this success.
“Foreigners are amassing more of the revenue from our cultural products than we are. We need to take control of our products, in spaces in developed countries where we live,” she stated.
Miss Grange said that of the US$100 million the American recording industry has estimated as the annual earnings from Reggae music, less than 10 percent returns to Jamaica.
The Minister said that there is an urgent need for Jamaicans to undertake marketing of the country’s cultural products, to ensure that the economy benefits. She invited inputs from delegates attending the conference, on: How can you assist in marketing our cultural products where you are?
She said that there is great need for entrepreneurs, businessmen, entertainment lawyers and managers. She used as an example Jamaican-based, British music mogul, Chris Blackwell, whose foray into local music resulted in the success of Reggae icon, Bob Marley.
Miss Grange said the Ministry’s policy on culture also incorporates activities to better position Jamaica’s fashion, to give it a high profile in the global market place. Noting the prominence the town of Champagne in France gained from being identified with their wine production, she expressed the desire to see the Jamaican brand fashion line occupying a similar position.
“We want to see the ‘world and His Wife’ wearing Jamaican designers with the same panache that they now wear Versace or Gucci. We have excellent designers here in Jamaica, and many of our models are on the catwalks in Milan, Paris, London, New York, South Africa, thanks to Pulse and Saint International,” she stated.
In the area of theatre, Ms. Grange pointed out that local productions continue to hold their own on stages around the world, particularly in North America, and cited the need for them to be taken across the world.
“We need producers, (and) we need impresarios to bring Jamaican products to the Diaspora, and beyond, for economic advantage. We need to create circuits for our major works and, in this same area, we invite you to come home more often and share in the dynamic creations we continue to mold here at home,” she urged the participants.
Regarding the visual arts, Ms. Grange proudly proclaimed that “we can speak of the excellence of our visual artists, who can hold their own in any place in the world.”
The Minister also pointed to what she described as the possibility of Jamaica “strengthening our festival economy,” noting that festivals are held virtually every month of the year.
She listed the National Festival of the Arts, Sumfest, Sting and the Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as smaller food and community festivals, some of which she suggested could be transplanted in the Diaspora, in much the same way that Trinidad has done with its carnival in Canada, the UK, and the USA
Miss Grange said that Jamaica’s cultural industries are growing, while the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Bank have acknowledged that the cultural and creative industries are the fastest growing industries, globally.
She noted that the UNCTAD World Creative Economic Report of 2008 stated: “creativity is synonymous with Jamaica.”
“We need to develop our music (and, by extension, culture) even further,” Ms. Grange urged the audience.