Well, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Heading to the ripe old age of 28, I find myself questioning what my true purpose is as well. I have no grand ideas in my head about what I ‘represent’ or what I ‘stand for’. I know that in the not so distant future, a lifetime of writing essays and novels and creativity await me. I just don’t see myself being the irresponsible one to just abandon real life and be the starving artist. Well, for one, there is no way in hell I want to starve (as an artist or otherwise), and for another, while I might want to say screw it and abandon ship to go create, I have a set of rules inbred in me that prevent me from taking that leap. And thirdly, I give myself three months of no paid work, and I will be back on the job. And here is why:
There is a SORE lack of choice/options for those who indeed want to make their way of life one of art and creativity, and not one of the 8 to 5 variety. There is no support system in place for the person who wants to try out a different work hat.
Everyone pretty much has to hold on to an 8 to 5 job and squeeze in their natural talent whenever they can. Many give up their hopes and dreams, and natural talent in order to simply, stay alive. The support may be there with friends and family, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, there’s not much else. What is the government doing to help subsidize art in the country?
Yes, there is an institute of culture and history; however, I feel that perhaps it is more about pandering to the ultra-exclusive, one track art-forms that in itself is not true art. Does every book written or collection of poems and essays have to be about Belize’s history or fables? Can it not just be about life in general, or fantasy? I get that there are people who are all about the tropical, underwater scenes or the five hundred dancing rastas on the beach with grass huts on stilts, but what about those who have a completely different vision, and different art form and style? Don’t get me wrong, I can see where the now clichéd artwork languishing in galleries gained popularity. I like the colorful and traditional, but I want to see something else – give us all something new. It is almost as if those artists who have broken out into the public are so cautious, thankful to have gotten where they are, that they are afraid to try something new, lest they be shunned to the dark dungeons of obscurity. Now why would those in charge be so cruel?
Breathe new life into art. Break away from the tried and true mold, and do something daring. Whoever is in charge, give creativity a chance, encourage the different.
Many people have even made mention of the fact that several of the artists that stay on top are the ones who happen to know the right people, and can get away with something a little more outré, a little less staid and traditional. Some of them just happen to have loads of Daddy’s money to throw around, money that Daddy earned through the raping and pillaging of Virgin Belize. Said artists do nothing remotely worthy in life, so to justify an existence, ‘create’ drivel disguised as art and the pockets that get lined lap it up.
Am I bitter? You could say that. But I will give those people some credit where credit is due. They don’t shut up about themselves (artist = narcissist = duh). And we need to open our mouths and demand support as well. We may not be able to line pockets to get our names recognized, but we can demand gallery space.
How many talented people who just don’t know anyone, or have the resources to get materials to sculpt, paint, weave, sew, perform, type, publish, get lost in the wayside as they make way for the privileged few with more connections than talent? If the government isn’t making a big deal about its real artists, then no-one hears about them, and the cycle stays viciously, the same.
What about those so-called art dealers who ‘discover’ local talent in remote villages and towns? They provide a one hour a month class to prime the talent to create, then buy a piece at say, $100BZ. They then go where the real money lies, and try to turn around the same piece for $4,000BZ. Who is watching out for the locals being ripped off? Obviously, no-one.
So, here is my suggestion to our oft harried and pressured government. Who is in charge of culture? Whoever you are sir (you know and I know), how about you take some things into consideration.
By providing an outlet for artists and intellectuals, you give the young people a choice. You show them that if they want to, they can also succeed at what they love. Make art part of school (talk to your buddy the education minister; I know you have his number). Make events about culture, not only as YOU see it, or want to see it, but as how your people express themselves. Take every opportunity to promote the raw, local talent in Belize. This “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret” gimmick is wearing thin. The whole “melting pot” line we feed our visitors is getting blurred. We need something new; we need to utilize our most wonderful, natural resource: our people. And there are a lot of them waiting in the wings just ready to do the country proud.
Give people a chance to be themselves, and you will have a community of happier, well-rounded and cultured individuals.
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