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Trying to Make a Dollar Out of Fifty Cents

Cultural Economics

I am most inclined to agree with Nicolette’s assertion that the Bahamian government should channel at least a portion of its immense tourist advertising budget towards local cultural development. However, even here there are reservations. I am not convinced that commissioning a Bahamian to create tourist entertainment will improve the authenticity of our art. That is, of course, if more authentic art is the desired result. I am reminded of the opening ceremony of Forum 2003, held in Nassau under the auspices of the Bahamas Association for Cultural Studies (BACUS). At that event, which was a conference for Bahamians by Bahamians, a forum for ideas on how to move the country forward, the College of the Bahamas choir decided that, of all the songs in the world to sing, the most appropriate was Raphael Munnings’ 1986 tourist-brochure song, “Bahamas Experience.”

The problem is that the line between what is produced for tourist consumption and what is made for Bahamians is as thin as wax-paper — it is so thin that we can hardly tell the difference ourselves. If the Day of Absence is really about tourist’s pleasure, if this is what we really care about, let us at least be honest about it. I sincerely believe that we should deal with our own cultural hunger before we worry about how to provide better shows for our visitors. Confusing the two will eventually bring us right back to the same emptiness, no matter how much money we throw at the problem.

Let me be clear, though, that I am not against the Bahamianization of tourist entertainment — far from it. Bahamians can be just as shallow as any one else, and if we are going to pay someone for trite silliness, let us pay one of our own. It is indeed possible that by investing in locally created shows we may increase the odds that some introspective dredging will be done. Unfortunately, it is far more likely that we will simply generate more of the same old, same old.

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#1 Day of Absence 2010: Introduction on 12.31.09 at 9:46 pm

[…] it’s generating some pretty solid critique. Over on Mental Slavery and on Bahama Pundit, Ward Minnis has taken apart the idea pretty thoroughly. In a nutshell the core of the critique is that (a) the concept is ill-founded and muddled, and the […]

#2 Day of Absence 2010: First Response – Clarity on 01.02.10 at 11:25 am

[…] critique(s) offered by Ward Minnis about the Day of Absence concept on his blog, Mental Slavery, and on Bahama Pundit, are both comprehensive and impressive. And he’s right, in several […]

#3 Day of Absence – Second Response: Quality on 01.02.10 at 6:26 pm

[…] by Nicolette Bethel on January 2, 2010 … are all Bahamian artists worthy of respect? The simple answer is no. Why should anyone respect bad poetry, bad writing, bad painting or poorly organized festivals? … Allow me to suggest that there are perhaps two reasons why Bahamians, on the whole, have not received much in the way of international (or local) acclaim for their art. The first is that average Bahamians, and the rest of the world, don’t understand us. The other, and more interesting, reason is that we are not that good. Ward Minnis, “Trying to Make a Dollar out of Fifty Cents”, p. 2 […]

#4 Day of Absence ‘10: 11 February 2010 on 02.06.10 at 5:32 pm

[…] The critique interrogates that very idea of respect. Articulated by Ward Minnis just in time for the new year, it questions the call to respect artists, particularly in The Bahamas, when artists themselves appear not to respect their craft as they should. It also questions the idea of absence, suggesting that good art, conscious art, art that challenges rather than anaesthetizes is already absent enough in our nation, and calling for a Day of Presence. And it queries the political resonance of the title of the day, resisting the parallel with the place of African-Americans in the pre-civil rights era. Here’s just a taste of it (but to fully comprehend it, you must go and read the whole thing on his blog Mental Slavery): […]

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